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Author Topic: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16  (Read 2018 times)

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Offline Laurna

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Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« on: June 18, 2013, 05:40:40 am »

Previous chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1089.0.html

Chapter 16 -  WIC 11.30.985   5th Coin

A dusting of white illuminated the ground under the dawning sky.  The rain, which had fallen at the start of their campaign, had changed with the temperature’s drop to the season’s first hail.  In unspoken misery, each member of the small team gave their thanks to the heavens as the hail turned to snowflakes and the icy whiteness began to collect on shoulders and horses’ backs.  Three hours into the journey, the dawn broke over the winterized trees, and the men of Cynfyn saw their road disappear into the river at the west end of the Festil Pass. 

Just two months earlier, the battle at the east side of the Festil Pass had been on dry riverbed sands.  After many weeks of torrential rain, the riverbed had become a catch-all for the floodwaters coming off the mountainside.  Today, the river raged within the confinement of the cliff walls of the pass.  From out of the narrow ravine, the water spilled forth, becoming calmer in the wide expanse of the west valley floor.  The team of ten riders leading five extra horses stood on the river’s south bank.  They stared across the water at the north bank where the road resumed.  To continue on to the Convent of Saint Clair, they had to cross the river.  In the dawning light, the water appeared calm enough to make the attempt.

Stepping their horses down into the chilled water, the Lendour Knights and men-at-arms forged across the shallowest portion of the river.  They soon discovered that the center deepened to a horse’s belly, and for three horse lengths, each rider fought the under-current.  Although the rocky fall downstream was over a mile away, the thought of it was enough to keep each man attentive to walking his horse diagonally against the surge.  The shallower waters on the far side made the final climb from the river’s edge a relief.  Without mishap, the whole team completed the crossing.
 
They rode another half hour up the north road, climbing over a hill, and then dropping into a clearing in the midst of the trees.  Here they were protected from the wind and from the view of the convent, which they knew was just up and around the next bend.  The Knight Captain called his men to a halt.  Only Sir Dillon moved out alone.  Here the nine men would wait for Dillon to return.

Knowing they had time, Washburn ordered everyone to check their gear, rub down their horses’ legs, and then settle down around a campfire with their breakfast.  The animals they tended to were not the fancy destriers of the knights, but plain dull brown coursers.  The horses needed to be spry and at the ready for the moments ahead.  They were fine.  It was the riders who had no way of drying their dark leather leggings or pouring the water out of their boots.  Only one man attempted to remove a boot but found it nearly impossible to pull the icy wet leather back on.  At least the thick fur cloaks kept the snow off their head and shoulders and gave some semblance of warmth to the layers of cloth under their chainmail.

Periodically, Dillon sent a mental note about the happenings in the convent courtyard, which he watched through the east gate grille.  As arranged, Sister Vivian had purposely left the grille open and had promised to unbar the gate when the time was right.  The morning hours slipped by, the storm eased, and the air cleared of the snow flurries.  In the hour before noon, the movement inside the grounds increased, and finally Dillon announced that carriages were being hauled from the west side stables and horses were being geared for travel.

Washburn ordered his men out of the fur cloaks and into the garb of the brothers of Saint Foillan’s.  The grey cassocks slipped over chainmail and swords.  The grey cowls were pulled long over their faces, covering the chain mail coif and adding some barrier from the elements.  The bright red and white tunics of the house of Cynfyn disappeared.  As everyone remounted, the group had transformed into a cluster of monks on their drab, sturdy horses en route home to the abbey. 

Artimus settled into his old working saddle uncomfortably.  He fiddled with the long priestly robe as it caught in the stirrup, nearly ripping the garment to get it free.  Wash had to turn to hide his amusement.

“How can we possible fight in this attire?” the lieutenant said to no one in particular.  Many of the men echoed his sentiments.

“That’s the idea, we’re not planning on going in fighting,” the Knight Captain replied.  “Father Pernal has asked us to avoid violence if possible.  That is why we delayed our rescue mission until today.  I had the banns for my wedding announced two days ago in the Cathedral.  On the same day, invitations were sent to the nobility of Lendour.  One of those invitations was delivered directly into the hands of the Abbess, with a note from Jessa requesting the Abbess’s presence at tomorrow’s Nuptial Mass.  We do not know how the Abbess has responded to this news.  We may be overreacting and she may do nothing.  However, both Jessa and Sister Vivian believe she is capable of many atrocities when she is angered.  The possibility of her starving the women in their locked cells was mentioned.”  Wash scowled with disgust and then looked around at the personally chosen men of his team. 

“Therefore, my good men, we are here to liberate five women whose lives have been placed at risk due to my marriage.  We are waiting for the abbess to leave for Cynfyn; which I have word will be soon.  We have clergy within the convent to give us aid.  Father Pernal has positioned himself among the monks in the stables and Sister Vivian is within and has obtained the keys to the cloister.  Both have assured me they can escort the five nuns into our protection once the Abbess has left the grounds.  If all goes as planned, we can be safely back to the river before the abbey monks even know we were here.”  The commander smiled.  Inwardly he knew that this plan was too easy to work.  He had contingency plans that the good father might not approve.  However, he did agree with Monsignor Pernal’s ideals that the least amount of fighting would be preferable.  All the men were under orders to disarm, not to kill, unless no option remained.

Artimus pulled his dirk out and slipped it into his sleeve.  Then he checked the other dagger in his boot along with the short sword tied to the saddle under his left leg.  At his commander’s questioning gaze he replied, “I’m under orders to see you safely back to your betrothed.  Muir is holding me accountable for the bridegroom’s wellbeing.”  The determination in his face was quite clear.

The smile on Washburn’s lips turned genuine; his wedding day was one day away.  Bishop Michael of Cynfyn had agreed to preside over the celebration of uniting the lovely Jessa and him for all life.  It had taken seven days before the first letters of consent had arrived from Rhemuth and then an additional four days before news came from Tralia.  Sir Ronald had returned with letters for Jessa from her mother and from her eldest brother, Baron Jathurn Kyriell.  Accompanying those letters was a formal letter addressed to the Earl of Lendour.  Muir had teased Wash ruthlessly before he broke the seal and read the words of approval.  Washburn was getting all he had asked for.  All that remained was to free five nuns from their long captivity. 

“Gentlemen, we have a job to do.  The weather has turned to our advantage.  Let us complete the task before us.  The lives of five women hang on our next actions,” he announced to his men.  “We will sleep well in our beds tonight knowing we have rescued them from oppression and handed them safely into Bishop Michael’s protection.  One of these women is my aunt; should all go well, each of you will receive an honor for rescuing a member of the earl’s family.  Tomorrow we will all enjoy a full day of celebration.  I will expect every one of you to join me in a toast when we tap the new barrels that Chambray’s alehouse has gifted to us.”  The commander’s voice was charismatic and challenging.

“Huzzah!” cheered the men before him in unison.

A sound came from the trail ahead and all quieted at the commander’s upraised hand.  Dillon sent a mental word to be ready.  A minute later, he rode out from the bend in the road.  He, too, was dressed in monk’s garb.  The edge of his tunic was splattered with mud, as were his horse’s legs.

“The path is very bad in spots,” he said, racing up to the Knight Captain’s side.  “Fortunately the worst spot is in a narrow grotto just before the gates.  If you keep the horse’s legs under you, there is nowhere to fall.  Nevertheless, it is a strenuous climb to go up and a ten-foot slip to go down, so we won’t want to be caught there unaware.  That, however, is not our main trouble,” he pronounced, handing a crumpled parchment over to Wash.

Unfolding the letter, Wash first saw the anonymous mark that Father Pernal had chosen to use.  Then his eyes went back up to read the quickly scrolled words.   

“As I write this, the abbess is preparing to leave for the Cathedral at Cynfyn.  She is in a foul mood.  Twelve nuns were to accompany her to the celebration, but she has ordered all four of the covered carriages prepared for the journey.  Just now, I have learned that our five cloistered nuns have been roused and informed to make ready for the travel.  I do not know what the abbess has in mind, but it cannot be good.  I will be at the east gate when you arrive.”

“Nothing is ever easy,” Washburn remarked as he handed the letter over to Arty. “Let us keep a steady pace up the road.  And keep it quiet, I don’t want to alarm the convent before we get there.”  Letting Dillon lead the way, Washburn started up the ill-used road.  They were a good quarter hour from the east gate.  The plans were changing.  Now they had to get into the convent courtyard before the carriages left for the west road.  Fighting was inevitable.

The east gate opened the moment they were in range.  The Lendour Knights came to a halt just inside the empty staging grounds where the stable monk, Father Taft, came anxiously forward.  The moment they entered the gates, Arty took two men with him to the bell tower to make certain no one rang the alarm. 

“We delayed them for about ten minutes more,” the priest called urgently to the knight captain.  He held a hand against the bay’s flank to keep from being stepped on.  “The abbess is not herself.  It is odd to me that she decided at the last moment to add several nuns to travel with her entourage.  I understand the five had not been out of the cloister in years.  She told them there was no reason to bring any baggage as where they were going their needs would be meet.  Yet the other sisters had packed for the three-day gathering.  The five nuns were gathered together and seated in the last carriage.  There were several monks attending to them, and Monsignor Pernal has concealed himself among them.  Sister Vivian has also slipped into the last carriage, unseen.  Go quickly; they left only a few minutes ago.  Catch them before they reach the abbey gates!”

Artimus came out of the bell tower, indicating all was secure.  He left one man there to be sure no one rang the church bell.  Two more men were assigned to open the west gate and to hold it for the team’s return.  There was little chance they could get beyond the abbey.  The only route out was the way they had come.  The reins of the extra horses were handed into Father Taft’s care.

“Keep the sisters clear of the courtyard.  When we come back, hell's fury will be on our heels!”  Wash yelled out as he spurred his horse into a canter.  Six of his men followed his lead out of the opening west gate.  The cattle fields before them were clear.  The carriages had gotten further then Wash cared for.  They rounded a hillock and the walls of the abbey loomed in the distance.  Halfway between, the four vehicles moved along the road.  Spurring their horses into a full gallop, the Lendour warriors ate up the distance between them.  Just as the first carriage reached the abbey gates, the men on the wall realized the monks racing up behind were not monks at all.  Calls went out and the abbey bell rung in alarm.

Wash cursed under his cowl as the escorting brothers turned their mounts to cut his team off.  All except for one.  Pleased that no one else noticed, Wash watched that one monk turn his horse to the side of the last vehicle.  A moment later, he saw the driver being pulled from his seat and thrown to the ground.  That same monk raced forward to the head of the four-horse team and pulled them away from the abbey.

The true monks and the impersonating monks clashed two hundred yards out from the gates.  All were quick to discover that neither group was whom they seemed to be.  The ordinary abbey priests brandished swords and shields, surprising the Lendour men, while the Lendour warriors threw back their robes, exposing chainmail under Cynfyn tunics and knightly long swords.  The clash when the two forces met was punctuated by a resounding clamor of metal striking metal and horses screaming in the confrontation.  In the opening encounter, half the abbey monks found their selves tumbled to the snow.  The remaining few fought valiantly, but were quickly overwhelmed.

With but one blow from the flat of Washburn’s blade, an opponent fell to the ground dazed.  While the Lendour men confronted the last knot of monks, Washburn spurred his courser onward, racing to the wayward last carriage.  He came level with the window and looked inside to see the faces of the frightened nuns staring out at him.  Was one his aunt?  He did not know.  At least when he saw Sister Vivian, he knew he had the right vehicle.  As expected, the monk at the lead horse’s head was Father Pernal.  Pernal was hauling on the stubborn four-horse team, but could not keep them from wanting to follow the other carriages into the abbey gates.

Wash raced forward and grabbed a rein from the loose harness.  With it, he pulled the team over hard.  As they made the full turn around in the road, he heard Arty’s call.  The knight was warning of the churning of men and horses seen through the gates.  The moment the third carriage cleared the opening, a mass of riders galloped outward.  The race was on.

Pernal once more had control of the lead horse.  He had them trotting back up the road toward the convent.  Wash slapped the wheel horses with the flat of his sword.  The horse whinnied and leaped, pulling the whole team into a gallop; the women yelled out as they were jerked around inside.  Racing away from Saint Foillan’s, the Lendour men flanked the rear of the vehicle.  They slashed and cut at any of the brethren that came up too near from behind.

“Burn the Deryni!”  Wash heard over the clatter of hooves and harness rigging.  The voice, as from a nightmare, was all too familiar.  Wash looked back, not at all surprised to see Father Harmon on a large grey, carrying a flaming torch over his head.  Among the fervid mob behind them, a few held burning torches above their heads.  The monks were faster than the carriage horses. In groups they dodged forward; men with swords guarding those with the flames.  The Lendour men held them off, but one caught the back of the wagon on fire and another managed to swing his torch near the window opening, catching the curtains with its flame.  There were screams inside.  The carriage veered left and right until the fabric flew out the opening and onto the churned up road.  Still, the back of the carriage was alight with flame.  Only the wind from their forward momentum kept it to the back of the wooden vehicle.

Wash screamed at the team, using mental skills to push them faster.  They rounded the hillock and viewed the open gates of the convent before them.  One abbey monk made it to Washburn’s side; the edge of the monk’s sword grazed across the mail of his left arm.  Wash grabbed at the cheek strap of his foe’s bridle.  He yanked the bit from the horse’s mouth, sending the animal into a rear.  His men charged up from behind.  It was Dillon who jammed the hilt of his sword into the brethren’s side, throwing him and his horse to the ground. 

With the burning carriage at the lead, the team entered the convent gates with all seven Lendour men close behind.  Two monks managed to slip through the gates before they closed hard against the rest of the abbey’s men.  Those two were at a sudden disadvantage and were quickly set upon being beaten down off their mounts.  Dillon herded them to the side and kept them on their knees.  Father Pernal hauled up on the lead carriage horse.  The front team whinnied and reared in panic.  The wheel team snorted and stomped.  All four horses smelled the fire they could not see beyond their blinders. 

The flames flared up across the roof and sides of the wooden vehicle.  The women inside screamed, desperate to escape.  Wash and Arty both leaped from their mounts.  Pulling off his cassock, Washburn beat away the flames from the carriage door.  Three of the younger women leaped from the opening and were pulled to safety by the men.  Two of the nuns were older, of an age with his aunt.  Both were slower to move to the carriage door, but once they came in reach of the men they were quickly carried away from the danger.  Sister Vivian was the last to disembark; her hands showed burns where she had grabbed the curtains to toss them away from the others.  Father Pernal lifted her out and wrapped her hands in fresh cloth the moment he saw them.

The Knight Captain ordered men to secure the west gate.  Word quickly came back that the gates were successfully barred closed, and they would hold from the mass of men already accumulating beyond.  The Lendour team had a few minutes to put back some semblance of order to their rescue effort.  Although it would not take too long for the abbey brothers to either work their way over the north hill or to acquire ladders to climb the wall.  Washburn posted men on the wall to watch for either occurrence.  He saw to it that Dillon and Ronald escorted the two captured monks to a storeroom, locking them in.  In addition, he appointed others of his men to help Father Taft unhitch the unruly team of horses and move them clear of the spreading flames.  The commotion brought the convent nuns out from their hiding in the church and main buildings.  The Knight Captain indicated for Father Pernal to arrange the nuns with buckets in a line from the well.  He doubted they could douse the flames but at least they could keep them from spreading.  The ice and snow on everything was a blessing to confine the fire to its source.  At least no threat appeared to come from the sisters in residence.

Wash turned his attention to the nuns who’d been pulled from the carriage.  Two were younger, of an age with Sister Vivian.  They flitted anxiously on the side, disbelieving what had just occurred.  The third was of middle age, her face showing maturity under the wimple.  She spoke calmly to Sir Artimus, obviously hiding her discomfort at talking to a man; her hands kept twisting at the strand of her prayer beads.  The two older nuns sat on the ground together, with pale, age-lined faces under their grey wimples.  One was frail and thin, showing her fear.  The other’s face was round with wide blue eyes.  This nun surveyed the men before her with interest.  Was one of these women his aunt?

Wash knelt before them.  “May I ask if one of you is Sister Meris?”

“I am she,” the more observant nun claimed.

“Then am I correct when I ask if you are a Cynfyn, sister of Erwin?”  She nodded at his words.  “I am your nephew, Washburn Cynfyn.  I have come to take you to the castle.”  He raised his voice for all standing around to hear.  “For your protection, all five of you will need to be moved to the castle.  From there you can discuss your placement with Bishop Michael.  However, none of you may remain here any longer.”

“I do not understand,” said the middle-aged sister.  “We were going to the Cathedral at Cynfyn already.  Why did you turn us back”

“You were never going to the city,” Father Pernal said loudly from behind Wash as he came back to the center courtyard.  “I heard the brothers as we left the gates.  The last carriage was to be detained at the abbey.  The occupants to be incarcerated, judged, and if found to be Deryni, then they were to be denounced as heretics against the Church.  Absolution in the form of fire was already awaiting any Deryni that lay hidden, unknown until now, in the very bosom of the Virgin’s house.”  Pernal’s face was very severe with anger.  “My lord, their ashes were to be your wedding present from the Abbess after tomorrow’s Mass.”

There was a terrible silence across the grounds.  A younger sister swooned; Arty caught her before she fell.  It was Sister Meris who broke the silence.  She took her nephew’s hand and used his strength to stand.  With a strong voice, she announced, “If this is so, then we are in your debt, my lord… in debt to all who came to our aid.”  She nodded to all those standing before her.  “I see we have a long path yet to travel. Sisters, it is time we go.”

“Who among you can ride?  We have quiet palfreys; if you can ride, you will find them pleasant animals.  Sister Vivian, there is one for you as well; it would not be safe for you to stay.  Aunt, I think it best you ride with me.  Sir Ronald, I’ll have you escort Sister....”  He paused, looking at the second older nun.

She perked up.  “Sister Lynn, my lord,” she informed him.

Wash smiled at Ronald’s discomfort.  He needed Dillon’s and Arty’s sword arms free if they were to get out of this.  “Men, be sure to adjust the stirrups for the women, and check the girths.  The way is muddy and all will need a secure seat.”

Sister Vivian pointed to Father Taft.  “The good father will need to join us as well,” Sister Vivian said.  Wash agreed to the addition.  He confirmed that the three younger nuns could ride and that each was settled securely into her saddle.  The women all rode astride; there was no room for the delicateness of riding sidesaddle today.

“Mount up!”  Washburn called to his men.  “We have a bad trail ahead of us, and I want to be south of the river before the brothers of Saint Foillan try to stop us.”  Sixteen horses settled their riders on their backs.  Two rode double.  Dillon was the first out the east gate, and Arty was the last.  Washburn, with his aunt settled before him, found a middle spot in the cavalcade of equines.

The snow covered the eastern road, making it difficult to find footing on the downward trail.  The going was slow.  In some spots, the water had worn the road away to just rocks, while in other places, the road mired down in mud and the horses sank to their fetlocks, unsure.  They came to the ten-foot mudslide where each horse had to go down alone.  As the multitude of hooves churned up the mud, the path worsened with each passing.  The palfrey of the middle-aged nun slipped with feet flailing to catch its balance.  The sister clung on only by a handful of mane.  The dark palfrey injured a leg and had to be relieved of his rider.  Father Pernal volunteered to take the sister double with him.  Washburn held his aunt tight as his horse sat back low on his haunches and slid down the ten feet.  The four men-at-arms between him made the slide with no further mishap, as did Arty bringing up the rear. 

The Knight Captain signaled the line to move on.  It was taking too long to get back to the river.  Only after they past the clearing of their earlier stop, did the road widened for faster travel.  At the crest line of the next hill, they could see the river traverse the valley below.  That was when the convent bells rang their alarm across the mountain pass.  The sound was a motivator for the team to move forward; they all knew that pursuit would not be far behind.

The sight of the river loomed through the breaks in the trees and became increasingly more visible as they got closer to the valley floor.  Seen in the full light of day, the water looked wider and swifter than it had at dawn.  Those who saw it for the first time frowned with fear and apprehension.  Washburn was most of the way down the hill when he saw that Dillon was already guiding the first nun’s disagreeable horse across the water.  The smaller horse splashed and fought the current as it sunk to mid-chest.  Dillon’s larger courser, on the down-river side, held the palfrey from slipping and washing away.

Ronald and Father Taft surrounded the next nun’s horse.  They grabbed the mount’s headstall and led it down into the rushing stream.  Horses whinnied at the cold water, and Sister Lynn clung tight to her escorting young knight.  Father Taft seemed a bit unbalanced, as the water splashed against his knees.

Washburn had no time to see them climb the opposite bank; sounds of a defiant charge came from behind, beyond where Sir Artimus brought up the rear of the team.  All six men-at-arms gathered at the bottom of the road.  They were determined to hold the road to give the others time to forge the river.  Wash signaled Sister Vivian and Father Pernal with the forth nun to start moving across.  The sooner everyone was clear of the dangerous waters, the better.  The bay Wash rode stomped on the river’s bank as he spurred the unwilling animal forward.  The howls of men charging the line made Wash turn back just in time to see Artimus race through the cluster of waiting defenders with two armed monks at his flank.

Unstoppable, they broke through the men-at-arms and attacked Artimus just as he turned.  The knight dodged the first attacker and then extended a swift jab at the following man.  Arty’s long sword slid across the shield of the monk.  Both knight and monk came side by side, grappling to throw the other off his mount.  The first attacker reeled back to add his weight to the fray.  The swing of his blade connected across Arty’s extended sword arm.  The jarring force dented the mail of the knight’s upper arm and bruised it to the bone, costing the lieutenant his grasp on his weapon. 

Washburn jumped his steed into the fight.  His long sword struck the cowled monk’s head, knocking the man senseless to the ground.  The violence shocked Sister Meris; she clung to her nephew’s left arm and cowered against his chest.

There was no time to placate her sensibilities.  Together, Arty and Wash pulled the second monk from his horse.  With a yell and kick, Wash scared the animal down the riverbank.  Both knights looked up as a dozen more monks raced down the road to stop them.  Half of these monks displayed the episcopal regiment insignia on their shields.  The Knight Captain knew the regiment’s abilities all too well from the siege at Rengarth.  Just a few months ago, they had fought side by side.  These few men were part of that highly trained guard.  Today they maintained a ferocious zeal in their yells as they charged the thieves stealing their nuns from the convent.  Wash doubted they knew the sisters had been slated for the pyres.  He prayed it was not possible that these men who had fought at his side last season could turn on all Deryni so easily.

Having lost his long blade, Arty pulled his short sword from under his leg.  “Get across the river; we have your back,” Arty yelled at his commander just as he turned back into the melee.  Wash had no choice but to spin his courser around.  He sheathed his sword, grabbed his reins in his right hand, and wrapped his left arm about his aunt.  He forced the animal into the river.  Too quickly, the horse slipped, dunking Sister Maris and Sir Washburn in waist deep.  The bay kicked against the river bottom several times, squealing and anxious for solid ground.  The current carried them downstream several feet before the bay found a shallower river floor to make better footing.  Wash calmed the animal down before urging him back across the current.

A great splash of water came from the north bank; two horses escaped the battle in the mud and charged in the Knight Captain’s direction.

“Hold on!”  Wash yelled at his aunt over the sounds of the horses surging toward him.  He had just enough time to draw his broad sword and spin his horse around to defend against the first swing that had been aimed at his back.  He and his attacker exchanged a strike and a parry, Wash at the distinct disadvantage of protecting the older woman seated before him.  His opponent’s next strike went wide as the Abbey horse slipped on the uneven riverbed floor.  Washburn took that small advantage.  His sword slammed the other’s arm, jarring the other’s grip on his sword.  The monk was disarmed; his sword fell to the depths unseen.  The rider yelled a litany of curses as he retreated several steps, fumbling for something within his robes.

The second rider lunged toward the Deryni lord.  “Devil take you and all your Deryni heathens!”  Father Harmon proclaimed. Washburn look up into the face of hate.

“Your hate has driven you mad!”  Washburn yelled back.  “We are men and women of flesh and bone just like you.  Deryni have done you no personal harm.  Leave off, priest; don’t put me in a position to kill you.”

“What do you know of harm?  Your kind meddles in devilry and steals the will of men from their souls!  I’ve seen the Torenthi Deryni force men to tell their secrets and beguile brother to kill brother.”

“That was the Torenthi,” Wash yelled across the rushing water.  “They are the enemy, and we have defeated them in battle.”  He spurred his bay downsteam, away from the mad priest.  “That evil does not live in the hearts of the Deryni of Gwynedd.  You, yourself, poisoned a man’s mind to turn on his friends.  That makes you the same as your enemy!”  Washburn yelled angrily.  “Even so, I would have peace with you.  Leave off, Monsignor!”  Wash demanded, wanting to put an end to the intolerance and hate.

Father Harmon was too gone in his delusion.  “The devil take all of your kind back to Hell!”  He charged his destrier at Washburn’s smaller mount.  The Father was neither swordsman nor horseman; his intentions were to knock the mail-clad knight into the current.  The grey’s chest smashed into Washburn’s right leg and his teeth bit down on the bay’s neck.  During the collision, the attacking priest’s blade swung wildly across at Aunt Merissa’s head.  The nun screamed and ducked away as the bay reared from the bite.  Aunt Merissa slipped from her seat and it was all  Wash could do to deflected the force of the Father’s sword and grab his aunt’s waist with is off hand to hold her from the fall.  As his bay came down from his rearing, Wash took a desperate chance that might cost him his own balance to jab his spurred heal fiercely into the grey’s shoulder. 

Surprised, the trained destrier reared, kicking in warhorse fashion at the bay’s haunches.  The Lendour bay leaped further downstream out of the grey’s reach.  But now the bay was in deeper water, he whinnied and struggled for the south bank. Water splashed over the two riders, Marissa lost her balance again, and Wash held on to his aunt and to his balance with all his might.  In the same struggle for balance, the Physician Monsignor did not have the same strength, his warhorse reared high and the rider’s feet slipped from his stirrups.  The other man in the water could have steadied the priest, but instead he was too intent on the throwing dagger in his hand.  The dirk flew free across the water, aimed at Washburn’s back.  At the last moment, the blade tipped low, harmlessly skimming the Knight Captain’s armored hip instead.

Wash looked up to see Dillon in trance on the south river bank.  The second lieutenant smiled after the dagger fell to the water, doing no harm. 

There was more yelling in the middle of the river where the priest flailed, half off his mount.  In the rushing current, the priest’s unbalanced floundering pulled the grey stallion off its feet.  Caught in a sinkhole, both rider and horse went under.  The horse came to the surface, but for a long moment, the Monsignor did not.  Only once did Wash see an arm and head break the surface for air, but it was not air that the priest breathed in, and he sank out of sight caught in the river’s undercurrent.  The falls downstream would be reached in short time.  If the river did not drowned its victim than the plunge on to rocks would finish the job. 

The sound of battle to the north continued.  Looking up, Wash watched the skirmish on the river’s edge.  The tumultuous mass of horses and men circled each other, kicking up mud and water and obscuring the view.  Men went down, and it was impossible to see who was who in the confusion.  Wash urged his horse on; as long as he held his aunt, he would be useless in the fight.  She was aware of the danger and did nothing further to distract her nephew from his goal. 

The commander listened to the splash of water and the grunt of horses behind him.  Several horses plunged into the floodwater.  Wash could not spare the moment to look back as he climbed the river’s edge, his bay jumping the berm of the reed-covered slope.  Dillon was instantly at his side, assuring himself of the aunt’s and the commander’s health.  With a nod, he turned back to the river.  In the need to help defend, Dillon leaped his courser back into the water to assist Artimus and his men-at-arms as they fought for their escape.

“Father Pernal!”  Washburn called to those huddled together on the south bank.  “Get everyone moving down the road quickly, as fast as you dare.”  He dearly wanted to join the fray, but there was no time to move his aunt to another protector.  He held his sword at the ready and waited for the others to cross the river. 

Men in chain mail fought in the current.  A horse slipped, taking two others with it.  One was a man of the commander’s.  The chainmail, cumbersome and heavy, hindered the men from finding their footing in the four-foot deep water.  Two men managed, the third did not.  A Lendour horseman charged through the waters to rescue the swimmers.  Both monks and the castle guardsman gratefully grabbed at stirrups and leathers, to be pulled back to slower water.

The realization that the Lendour man had saved two of their own from drowning struck several of the monks already reevaluating the fight.  Many were unhorsed, while others were injured, but none had died in the chaos.  The monks soon realized the Lendour men only fought to escape.  Without their antagonistic leader, nearly all the religious men turned from the fight and fought the current back to the north bank.  Still, a small contingent splashed in the water as they struggled to defeat one man.  Wash could now see Artimus was the man taking their abuse. 

Arty was in a desperate position, dagger in one hand, short sword in the other.  He was outflanked by the last two monks.  Both were determined to get some retribution out of their failed attempt to recapture the Deryni nuns.  With a vengeful swing, one monk made a solid cut against Arty’s  coif, knocking the lieutenant forward over his horse’s neck.  Dillon came up just then behind this attacker.  His angry swing with the flat of his blade caught the man at the back of his head.  The rider fell forward on the horse’s neck, unconscious, and his horse turned back to the northern shore in his confusion.  Furious, the last monk cursed the two Lendour knights, but he was subdued by Dillon’s presence and backed away to help his unconscious brother return to the river’s north edge.  Falling into his own concussed delirium, Arty slipped from his courser’s neck.  Dillon grabbed a handful of tunic and forcibly set his semiconscious friend back on his mount.

The Lendour men-at-arms who had chased the retreating monks from the water turned back south to help the two knights.  Together, they crossed the remainder of the stream.  Eight men on six horses wearily climbed up the south embankment as one.

When the water had been escaped, Dillon stopped Artimus to check on his friend.  Arty blinked his eyes with some semblance of awareness.  He lifted his head unsteadily, reassuring himself that Wash was safe.  “I promised Muir I would return you to your bride in one piece,” he managed to mumble.

“Aye, and you’re my best man.  You had better hang on, my friend, or my lady will have my hide if you don’t stand as witness in the cathedral.”  Washburn pulled his gauntlet off his hand and raised his fingers up to the Lieutenant’s forehead.  He sent a dose of energy to his friend, allowing Arty to settle easier in his saddle, and at the very least stay conscious.

The numbing effects of the cold water made it hard at first call to evaluate other injuries in the rescue team, but a quick count had all eighteen of his people accounted for, although two horses had defected to the north bank.  Wash ordered everyone on the west trail to get clear of the watching eyes of the Abbey men before those men decided to pursue them further.  Soon catching up with the others, Washburn ordered a stop to assess the injuries and to rearrange the riders.  Few wounds were serious, most requiring only a quick, tight bandaging.  Sister Vivian gave up her mount and doubled with Sir Artimus, keeping the wounded man in the saddle.  Another guard, on Washburn’s orders, rode double with the younger of the nuns.  When all were ready, Wash ordered the riders back on the downward trail.  There was only two hours left of the short winter day with a full three-hour ride before them.  The shelter from the castle walls seemed an eternity away.

Next chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1098.0.html 
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 02:32:47 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2013, 09:05:42 am »
So close to safety, yet still so far away! I will be on the edge of my chair until the next chapter.

Well done!  I must confess, I am not sorry Father Harmon did not survive.  As for the Abbess -- grrr.  >:(
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2013, 08:07:28 pm »
Leave us on tenterhooks like that!

As for the abbess--let the women she imprisoned take care of her personally.  Put her in a locked room with them and don't open the door for half an hour. 

It would be justice.

Offline Evie

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2013, 11:16:26 am »
We're in the home stretch now!  :)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2013, 06:05:06 pm »
Leave us on tenterhooks like that!

As for the abbess--let the women she imprisoned take care of her personally.  Put her in a locked room with them and don't open the door for half an hour. 

It would be justice.
Maybe Camber can pay our evil abbess a ghostly visit to set her straight.  Farewell and good riddance to bad luggage...aka Father Harmon.
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Coins of Memory - Chapter 16
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2013, 08:46:16 pm »

Maybe Camber can pay our evil abbess a ghostly visit to set her straight.  Farewell and good riddance to bad luggage...aka Father Harmon.

I thought that the expression was "good riddance to bad rubbish."

Or perhaps let her be torn to pieces by wolves.  Female wolves.  B*tches for a b*tch.

 

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