Cedric is borrowed with Melissa’s permission from an old fanfic of hers that Annie sent me the link to. I’ve used him because he fits the role I need but also because he allows me to raise questions about how things work when those who have been part of a tightly structured authority system such as feudalism suddenly and traumatically find themselves outside the system. (Apart from by wearing Lincoln Green and living in Sherwood forest, that is.) Chapter One
It was barely an hour previously that Cedric had burst through the portal.
Cedric was a vital part of the network that Joram was developing, one of those untrained to arms who acted as his eyes and ears. Living rough on the run as he had for two years, he could read an area, getting the sense of local attitudes to Deryni and pin-pointing those who were most vulnerable, so they could be discreetly directed towards Revan and a new life. He could go unnoticed where others could not, especially now the unspeakable practice of using Deryni “sniffers” had all but ceased away from the royal court.
A trained healer who took some of the pressure off the still far too young Tieg in looking after the well-being of those in the sanctuary, a brother in Christ (as Joram often reminded himself, biting his lip), a brother in the struggle and a pain in the neck. He was indispensable, but as Joram was rapidly learning, being indispensable didn’t make people any easier to live and work with.
As a Deryni of noble birth, a priest, a member of a prestigious order of knighthood, the personal secretary of the man whom the world knew as the Bishop of Grecotha, Joram was used to wielding the power to command others. He was used, too, to obeying his superiors, learnt as part of the tight military discipline of the Michaelines. Looking back over his past life he would reflect that he had been like the man in the Gospel who could say “When I say to a man, ‘go!’ he goes, when I say ‘come!’ he comes” -- although with a wry twist of the lips he had to confess that it had never worked with Evaine. It had been how he had been able to live, albeit uncomfortably, with those things about which he had profound doubts, recognising that he too needed to bow to authority. What he was now having to learn sometimes painfully was how authority worked when ordering others to come or go might just as easily obtain the response “Why?”
Recruited in less than ideal circumstances several years before, Cedric still struggled in his relationship with Joram, soured as it had been from the beginning by the death of his friend Daffydd, compelled to act as a “sniffer”. Mercy killing though it had been, though the raid in which it happened had bought Cedric and his wife their freedom, still he resented it. He resented too Joram’s rank and background and even more Joram’s insistence on treating him with the same courtesy which he showed to all the residents of the sanctuary but which deprived him of the satisfaction of playing the despised peasant and usually led to an uncomfortable tension in his dealings between exaggerated deference and deliberate rudeness.
This time, though, Cedric’s attention had not been on himself but on the news he brought.
“Father Joram, Father Joram,” he had yelled as he all but threw himself from the portal, breathless as much from excitement as from haste.
Years of appalling news coming through a portal had taught Joram to remain outwardly impassive in the face of each new horror, his mind tightly shielded with the long-practised ease of a deryni adept, his much more vulnerable soul wrapped in a silently breathed prayer for protection and a mental sign of the cross. Thus guarded, he steeled himself to meet Cedric’s gaze.
Bizarrely the man was smiling; too full of the news he carried to stand on awkward ceremony.
“It’s Ansel, he’s managed to get Rhys Michael and...”
Still impassive, though his thoughts were racing, Joram decided that either his hearing or his reason had gone. He pushed back his chair and thrust himself to his feet, one hand automatically tidying the papers he had been reading whilst on portal duty,
“What in name of all that’s holy are you on about ...?
“It’s Ansel, he’s managed to get Rhys Michael!”
Not his hearing then, but his reason.
Cedric was obviously enjoying the opportunity gained by few of visibly disconcerting Joram, but the precarious hope that they all shared now that Javan was king was too precious for the game to be played for long.
“It’s being talked about everywhere – Rhys Michael has been kidnapped, and everyone seems certain that it is Ansel that’s responsible”
Taking a grip of himself, Joram poured a cup of wine for Cedric and another for himself then moved over to the fire and beckoned Cedric to sit with him on the curved wooden bench which edged the hearth.
Cedric sat and drank, glad of the warmth both of the fire and the wine. Ale was still his preferred drink, that and the fiery uisge beatha
“water of life” he had been introduced to in the more remote highland borders of his travels. He wondered idly how Joram got hold of the wine and how long it would still be available – and how some of these cultured folk would cope then. Still, that was not his problem. Now that the first drama of his news was over, he was content enough to wait for Joram to be the first to break the silence.
As Joram turned the cup in his hands, he reflected back to Javan’s concerns about his brother.
Oh, Rhys Michael was loyal enough, he had acted quickly to send for Javan as Alroy lay dying, and he had made it amply clear that he had absolutely no desire to take the throne. No, his loyalty could not be faulted; the real danger lay in his lack of maturity and his naive refusal to believe that the danger from the former regents was still active and real.
Alroy, God rest his soul, had been kept a child by the isolation and dependency forced upon him, any hope of independent thinking or action stolen from him by the drugs he was given. Javan, by contrast, had stolen back his birthright as a man and a king from under the noses of the regents. The magical heritage early awakened by Tavis, God alone knew how, had helped in part, but much more was owed to his own courage, to Joram’s great pride and joy.
Joram had not shared with Javan how much he feared Rhys Michael, concentrating on calming the young king. But fear him he did, and what he feared above all was the spoilt child whose thwarted desire Javan had so far managed to contain but which might yet bring all to ruin.
Rhys Michael was the golden child, the only one of Cinhil’s five sons to be untouched by the mark of divine displeasure. His first born Aidan having been murdered at Imre’s instigation, the curse clung to the twins that followed; Alroy whole but frail, Javan hale but club-footed, and even a man less guilt-ridden than Cinhil might have begun to search his conscience. As it was Cinhil stood no chance of seeing these misfortunes as anything less than the punishment he deserved from God. The birth of a healthy, whole son must have seemed to Cinhil, reflected Joram, if not a sign of divine forgiveness then at least an end to public humiliation and penance.
The death of the fifth son not long after their mother’s death in childbed complications was too commonplace an occurrence surely to haunt even Cinhil for long, but it did nothing to displace Rhys Michael’s sunlit place. Sunny-natured, a natural soldier, he was the model of the handsome warrior prince for whom popular excuses were made throughout history, and who perhaps were not expected to have to grow up too quickly. In the trauma of present day Gwynedd how many other fourteen year olds enjoyed the luxury of still being known by their pet names? That Rhys Michael was still “Rhysem” perhaps said it all.
Reflecting thus, Joram was aware of the repressed bitterness that threatened to rise like bile in his throat. He thrust it down but wondered how long before he no longer had the energy or, God help him, the will to stop the dam bursting. Even with all the discipline at his command, his face hardened involuntarily as he thought of those whose young lives had been cut short, amongst them his own nephews Davin and Aidan. Davin had at least died at peace, but even with all the horror Joram had witnessed he sickened at the thought of what Evaine and Rhys’s little boy had suffered.
And Rhys Michael had the pathetic nerve to claim that he was being ill-treated. It wasn’t as though Javan was refusing him Michaela, just asking him to wait. Again the anger surged like a black wave and again Joram thrust it down, thinking that what he really needed was his old long-dead Michaeline confessor to help him confront his demons. Niallan, wise, gentle, talented soul that he was, was far too good and godly.
“For God’s sake I’m getting as self-obsessed as the Haldanes!”
“Sorry? ...Father, are you all right?”
Joram thought for a horrified moment that he had spoken out loud but then realised that he had been far away in thought, and it was the length of his silence that had finally disconcerted Cedric in his turn.
“I’m sorry –
“If Gregory was here, he would make short work of my wool-gathering and your half-told story” – Joram looked up and caught Cedric’s eye and both men shared in a reluctant grin as they imagined the reaction of the erstwhile but now attainted Earl of Ebor who insisted on clarity of thought and coherence of action. Rightly so Joram acknowledged – the problem was that so much had had to be kept to himself that it became harder and harder to share his thoughts with others.
“Start again, you give me the full story and I will give you my full attention.”
The full story when told was short on detail and long on speculation but did have a core of fact. Rhys Michael, sent by the king as part of a fact finding mission, had indeed been set upon and kidnapped by persons unknown. This much was true, and popular opinion held that it was no doubt that it was Ansel who was responsible – all that Cedric’s very cautious Truth-Reading had been able to confirm was that people believed this to be true.
Joram knew too much to be swayed by rumour, but here in the privacy of the sanctuary, surely for once he could give way to hope.
“Thank you, Cedric, and for getting to me so quickly. Get yourself a meal and a proper rest before you go out again – I’ll speak to Niallan and ask him to get a message to Ansel as quickly as maybe.”
“Just one thing before you go; if it’s true, is there any hint of what Ansel hopes to achieve?”
“Well it’s the usual wicked Deryni, ain’t it?” Catching Joram’s look, Cedric suddenly became serious.
“You would know better than me, but my guess is he intends to bring him here hoping you can talk some sense into th...him (he’d almost said “the little idiot” but thought better of it) – it’s common knowledge he was the regents’ darling and someone needs to open his eyes.”
“Why would I succeed where his brother has failed?”
Cedric sensed a real question, and for the first time he began to wonder what really went on under the smooth exterior. So unsettling was the thought that Joram might be both far less and far more than he seemed that for once he gave him the honour he knew that Joram really deserved and the courtesy of a totally unguarded reply.
“You really don’t know, do you, my Lord, just what effect you have on others?”
Cedric rose, nodded his head in genuine respect, and left Joram to his thoughts. After a long time Joram got to his feet and made for Niallan’s study.
ETA: Link to Chapter Two--http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1261.msg10141.html#msg10141