With many thanks to Katherine for creating such wonderful characters and allowing us to play with them.
Many thanks also to the generosity of the comma magician for her time and kindness. Any remaining errors are entirely my own Chapter Two
Joram entered the chapel, making his customary deep genuflection to the Presence there before sinking to his knees in front of the altar. He schooled himself to follow the counsel of his Michaeline confessor and to offer thanksgiving before battering heaven with his anxieties and demands.
He had long been grateful for the Fathers of the Church who, whether or not they were Deryni, had known the value of words committed to the heart so that feelings still not fully rationalised could yet be brought into prayer. And it was with genuine gratitude that he began the words of the ancient hymn of praise:
Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
We praise thee, O God :
we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee :
the Father everlasting.
Remaining on his knees, Joram reflected on what he had just heard from Cedric. With all his being, he prayed, for wisdom and grace that the heart of Rhys Michael might be touched, not by magic or deception but by the truth and by his genuine love for his brother.
But even as he prayed emotion was not far from the surface as he recalled the anger and distress that Javan had shared when he had come to see him the morning after his showdown with Rhys Michael.
They discussed the threat posed by the relationship between Rhys Michael and Michaela and talked through the various options, Javan gradually relaxing as they decided that with Michaela’s impending departure the immediate danger was over. Further it would be both prudent and positive to involve Rhys Michael more actively in the business of government, and Javan had become more hopeful as a workable strategy unfolded.
However, the priest in Joram was never far from the surface, despite the other roles that he had had to play, and without even needing to extend his Deryni senses he could see that something more was troubling Javan.
“Javan, I’ve never formally been your confessor and I’m not asking you for a confidence that you don’t want to give, but if it would help, know that anything you tell me as a priest, I hold to be under the seal of the confessional, whether or not I happen to be wearing a stole.”
Javan turned away, clearly reluctant to meet Joram’s eye, and a slight shudder of fear (or was it revulsion?) went through him. Keeping his hurt tightly shielded, Joram reminded himself sadly of the anti-Deryni propaganda which Javan had been force-fed during his years with the Custodes. Despite all his words, and indeed actions, which showed the contrary, he had been very young and impressionable, and it was not after all so surprising if some of the tainted fear remained. He was berating himself for having assumed too great a level of trust when Javan turned back to him.
Swallowing and forcing himself to meet Joram’s eye, he managed, “I’m sorry Father, it’s not you – it’s just that the confessional has never been a very safe place in which I can be honest.” Joram’s hurt was instantly dispelled by a wave of cold anger as he realised anew that nothing, not even the sacred bond of trust between priest and penitent, was holy to the former regents if it came between them and their lust for power.
“It’s not really a confession though, but you’re right -- there is something --, and I’m sorry if I have offended you.” Joram smiled negation as Javan continued, still struggling to look Joram in the face. “It’s just that I ...I want to ask you something and it’s impertinent to say the least.”
Joram was caught between a smile of relief and a sigh; “My Prince, any decent priest quickly gets beyond being shocked or easily offended. Besides, when so many believe me to be in the service of the Prince of Darkness, mere cheek is unlikely to upset me”
As he said this, Joram allowed himself to smile fully, although he was aware that it failed to disperse the shadow of sadness in his eyes. Unused as he had become to sharing his feelings with others, it was with mild shock that he caught a fleeting expression pass across Javan’s face, as though the latter had had a sudden bruising insight into the depths of hurt contained in the matter- of -fact words. But those depths were best shielded even from himself, and in any case this was neither the time nor the place for any feelings of his own. Reaching out very gently, Joram brushed Javan’s shields with the lightest of touches, and mutely invited the other to continue.
Reassured but still embarrassed Javan suggested hesitantly “I’m still not very used to this but... could you not just Read my thoughts?”
“I could, but I’m not sure that would help you to face whatever is bothering you. It’s like when you say your prayers, God already knows what is in your heart but it’s you that needs to voice them. Come on now, tell me!”
The blue eyes caught and held his although there was no hint of magical compulsion. It was not Joram’s Deryni powers that held him but the unseen aura of priestly authority undergirded with compassion for those burdened or confused. Suddenly embarrassment gave way to relief, and he blurted out, “It’s Rhys Michael’s taunt about having been a monk and knowing nothing about love. Charlan said something similar, too, months ago.”
At Joram’s raised eyebrow he hastened to add, “Oh, he
meant no offence, he would be mortified if he knew that I had even remembered. But Michaela looked at me with such contempt, and it’s what people think, isn’t it; that you’re not a proper man. I’m a king and I don’t even know what it is to be a man! Father, how did you cope with the crude jests and innuendoes?”
“Did” not “do”, Joram noted with dry amusement– clearly like all the young Javan assumed that advanced age protected Joram from any further such insults. But it would not do to laugh, and in any case the desire to do so was soon replaced by yet more anger; had not Javan faced enough battles without having this thrown at him by his own brother?
“It wasn’t really the same for me,” Joram said carefully, trying to give the issue the contempt it deserved while taking Javan’s hurt seriously. “I’m a Michaeline and they were powerful and battle-ready. Trust me, people were unlikely to insult you as a Michaeline when they knew you could pin them against a wall or run them through before they had finished speaking. And don’t forget that I was the son of a powerful Deryni Lord; my father was feared as well as admired”. The inner struggles were of course a different matter, and Joram was relieved that Javan’s question probed no deeper.
“What matters is that you have more than proved yourself to be a man and a king – if you don’t believe me, believe those who insisted that you be knighted.” Unable to keep all the emotion out of his voice, Joram said, almost pleadingly, “Javan, you have proved wrong those who said you were unfit for the crown, you have shown more courage than men three times your age, don’t listen now to those who think with a part of their anatomy other than their brain”. Shocked by the unexpected words, Javan looked up and for the first time in the conversation managed a weak smile.
Reviewing the scene in his mind and wondering whether if in any way his musings counted as prayer, Joram acknowledged that it was not only Javan’s distress that continued to touch him but his own anger. Even speaking to Javan, he had let his emotion show, if only for a moment; how was he going to manage to talk to Rhys Michael without the anger being obvious even to a human? He wondered again, as he had wondered many times over the years, whether it would have made any difference if they had been able to restrain their anger with Cinhil. For certain, the occasions had been few, and Cinhil had more than merited censure, but perhaps with greater patience he would have been less fearful of Deryni power and less vulnerable to those who played on that fear.
Bowing his head, Joram pleaded with God, that if Rhys Michael would truly be delivered into his hands, his self-discipline would hold. The Michaelines had taught that wrath had its place even in the life of a priest--the sword of the Archangel Michael wielded for righteousness’ sake. But not now. He would have maybe just the one chance; he prayed that he would prove worthy of it.
Finally crossing himself, he got to his feet. Niallan would attempt to touch Ansel’s mind once the community had settled for the night after Compline, hoping that Ansel too slept and would therefore be more receptive. If Ansel was in reach of a Portal, he could be with them by tomorrow; otherwise it might be more than a week. But hopefully by daybreak tomorrow they would know the truth or otherwise of Cedric’s rumour. Next Chapter--Chapter Three: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1270.msg10205.html#msg10205