Chapter 4 — Investigation20 July 1138, just outside the estate of Sheele
By mid-afternoon, the guardsman who had been sent back to Valoret to get a carriage returned with a small but fairly comfortable-looking two-horse conveyance. The captain of the guard helped Alaric get Duncan into the carriage, and they returned to Valoret just as the sun was setting, ten men having been left behind at Sheele. Archbishop Bradene, looking tired and angry, was waiting at the Cathedral stables, flanked by a couple of younger men in clerical attire, when the carriage, guarded by his own guardsmen, pulled into the cathedral close.
“All right,” Bradene said to Alaric as the duke dismounted. “What happened?”
“It’s a long story, Archbishop,” Alaric said, handing the reins of his borrowed horse to a stablehand. Morgan walked over to the carriage and opened the door. Duncan was reclining but awake, and the sight of the normally fastidious bishop shocked his superior. His clerical attire was absolutely filthy almost beyond hope, and his brown hair was matted with horse dung, straw, dirt, and blood.
“Good God!” Bradene exclaimed. “I’ll ask again. What. Happened.”
“Calder of Sheele had him abducted and hauled to Sheele, and he was going to kill him, in short. I got there just as Calder had a knife on him.” As Alaric was explaining, the captain of the Archbishop’s guard unceremoniously hauled one of Calder’s two henchmen off the back of his saddle as his lieutenant did the same for the other. “Calder is dead. I’d apologize for killing a churchman, but honestly right at the moment, I don’t much care who he was, given what he did and was about to do to my cousin.” Alaric looked at Bradene, who did not seem terribly upset to hear of Calder’s demise, and then looked to the two guardsmen holding up the semi-conscious men from Sheele. The stockier of the two had a look of confused resentment on his face, and the slimmer man seemed simultaneously confused and frightened. “These two helped him. I knocked them out, but they should be ready now to answer any questions you have, Your Grace.” Alaric paused. “Oh, and the Earl of Sheele knew about it; he told me he didn’t, but he was lying.”
“I will make sure His Majesty knows about the involvement of the Earl of Sheele. As to these two, I think Father Drummond here can handle the early stage of questioning them,” Bradene said, indicating one of the priests, a tall dark-haired man of about twenty-five. “Father Ramsay is a physician, and I’d like him to look at Bishop McLain.” The other priest, a short, stocky man in his mid-thirties, stepped forward to help Alaric get Duncan out of the carriage. “Father Ramsay, I think Bishop McLain would like a bath, and I know physicians find it easier to work on clean patients.”
Alaric looked torn between following Father Ramsay to keep an eye on Duncan and following Father Drummond to find out why these men had been willing to abduct a bishop for someone intent on murdering said bishop. Bradene made the decision for him.
“Go with your cousin. I’ll go with Father Drummond and get a clerk to record the proceedings for you. Incidentally, Father Drummond is Deryni, so he will be able to Truth-Read these two as well as you could,” Bradene said. “Well, maybe not quite as well given age and experience but nearly as well, and he’s not anywhere close to as angry as you are right now.”
Alaric caught up to Father Ramsay, who was not walking terribly quickly because he was helping Duncan, who still seemed a bit woozy between the effects of the head injury and the merasha hangover. The duke stepped beside his cousin, slipped an arm under him, and helped the priest-physician get his patient to a clean room with a large bathtub. Two boys of about ten years were carrying hot water in buckets from the kitchens and emptying them into the tub. On a table nearby there was a bar of soap, a small rough cloth, and a larger length of linen.
The physician helped Duncan out of his filthy attire and into the bath. “Sit there a moment, my lord, whilst I get someone to get these horrible clothes out of here.” Duncan lowered himself into the tub gratefully. The water was cool enough to be comfortable but warm enough to soothe away his aches. When another young servant came from the laundry to take the clothes away, Father Ramsay examined the wound on the back of Duncan’s head.
“How does this feel?” he asked, probing with gentle hands.
Duncan winced slightly. “Not too bad, really. Not comfortable at all, but not terrible either. It feels bruised, but I suppose that’s understandable.”
Alaric spoke up. “I—ah—I Healed the head wound as best I could, Father, so it was
worse. It still needs to be cleaned, though.”
“What day is it anyway?” Duncan interjected suddenly.
Alaric regarded Duncan with some alarm. “What day do you think it is?”
“Well, it was the eighteenth when I went for my ride, but I’m fairly sure it’s at least the nineteenth by now, maybe the twentieth,” he said.
Alaric sighed in relief. “It’s the evening of the twentieth.”
Duncan winced again as Father Ramsay began to clean the bruised, bloody area on the back of his head, just below his tonsure. When the warm clean water slid over the soapy spot, Duncan sighed. “That feels a world better.” He reached for the bar of soap. “May I wash my hair please?”
“Let me do it, Bishop,” Father Ramsay replied. “You’ve taken quite a hit, going by the amount of dried blood I just washed off, so you need to rest, but don’t fall asleep yet.” The physician paused. “I assume you were unconscious for a time?”
“Yes,” Duncan replied as the younger man soaped his hair. “But I wasn’t sure for how long, as you probably guessed by my asking the day. They also dosed me with merasha, so that muddled my mind quite a bit too.”
“Close your eyes, Bishop; I’ve got your hair full of soap and I don’t want it getting in your eyes,” Father Ramsay instructed. Duncan complied, and the priest washed and rinsed his hair with the gentle but sure hands of an experienced physician.
Alaric took the small cloth from the table near the bathtub and helped his cousin wash the rest of his body. Father Ramsay helped Duncan stand in the tub then helped him dry himself with the larger piece of linen. One of the young boys who had been filling the tub returned with a clean but mismatched pair of curt-hose, a linen undershirt, a pair of braies, and a plain black cassock. The clothes did not fit Duncan particularly well; the shirt was too large, the braies too small, and the cassock clearly sewn for someone shorter as it ended a few inches above his ankles, but Duncan felt immensely better for being clean and in clean clothing, however ill-fitting. The bishop sat there in his stocking feet while the other boy who had filled the bath returned with Duncan’s own riding boots, freshly polished.
A young man, possibly a seminarian, came to the door of the room and led Alaric and Duncan to adjoining rooms in the guest quarters of the palace. Father Ramsay made himself a pallet on the floor of Duncan’s room after he and Alaric helped Duncan into the bed, which was made with fresh linens that smelled of lavender and summer sun.
“Your Grace, you need to rest. You’ve had what sounds like an extremely strenuous day. I will stay with Bishop McLain, and I’ll wake you if I need you, but you should try to sleep,” the priest-physician said as he got his own bed linens in order.
Alaric nodded, seeing that Duncan was comfortably settled. “Very well, Father, and thank you.”
Father Ramsay smiled. “You’re very welcome. Oh, incidentally, you said you Healed Bishop McLain’s head wound?”
“I think you did a wonderful job under the circumstances. He should be fine now, although I expect he has a headache and probably will for a few days. But someone should stay with him and make sure he’s all right; that’s my night’s work. As a physician, I’ve wished I
were Deryni and a Healer, or at least that there were more Healers around.” Father Ramsay paused. “And our good bishop here is working to get more Healers and other Deryni trained; why would you want to put a stop to that? Healers are a blessing from God.”
“I have no idea, Father, and thank you. I’m just glad that my cousin is safe.”
“Your cousin is glad of that too and really
glad to be clean.” Duncan’s voice came from the bed, his tone light and ironic. They all laughed.
“Father Ramsay is right; I need some sleep too,” Alaric said. “So I’ll say goodnight to you both.”
In his own room, Alaric found that some considerate person had left him a large basin of hot water, soap, a cloth, and a towel. He stripped off his road-battered clothes and bathed as thoroughly as he could given that he did not have a tub. He put on an old linen shirt and braies that he kept because the fabric was so soft, then donned black linen breeches and a plain tunic. He walked quietly downstairs to the sacristy and stepped on the Portal.
In Coroth, Lady Richenda was seated not far from the Portal square, quietly stitching on a chemise of Briony’s. Seeing her husband on the Portal, she dropped the embroidery project and almost ran to him. He embraced and kissed her, then he took her hands and entered rapport with her simply because it was easier than explaining his day in words.
Richenda’s eyes were as huge as chargers. “Oh, darling!” she exclaimed. “Is Duncan all right? Are you?”
“A bit the worse for wear, especially Duncan, but he’ll be fine, and I’d be great if I could stay here with you, but I have to go back to Valoret and sort out this mess,” he said, leaning forward to kiss her hair.
She nodded, somewhat disappointed but understanding. “Of course, love. Much as I love having you at home, when duty calls…”
He smiled lovingly and kissed her again, this time on her lips, and he took his time about it. Lifting his face reluctantly, he held her close for another few moments then returned to the Portal. “I’ll come back as soon as I can, even if it’s another brief visit like this to let you know what’s happened.” She nodded again and smiled at him.
“Give my love to Duncan, and let him know I’m praying for him,” she said. “Now go, before I don’t let you leave.”
Alaric laughed, blew her a kiss, and disappeared back to the sacristy in Valoret. Once there, he walked back upstairs to his guest room, stretched out in the bed, and fell asleep nearly as soon as he was horizontal.
That same evening, in another part of the Palace of the Archbishop of Valoret, Father Drummond regarded Calder’s henchmen severely, while the Archbishop himself stood behind and off to the right, also looking at the men with distinct displeasure. A clerk of about twenty years sat at a small table, rapidly scribbling notes.
“Let’s start with names,” Father Drummond said. “Who are you?”
The one of the pair who was larger and stockier did not speak. The smaller one said, “My name is Thomas Fitzgerald.” The older man finally spoke. “Shut up, Tom. Don’t tell them anything.”
From behind Father Drummond, Archbishop Bradene laughed mirthlessly. “You don’t seem to appreciate the seriousness of your situation. You participated in a conspiracy to kill a bishop; you’re just lucky you didn’t succeed.”
“He’s no bishop,” the stocky man almost spat out the words. “He’s Deryni.”
Bradene raised his brows. “In case you missed it, the Statutes of Ramos were overturned several years ago. He is both, and you helped someone who wanted to commit murder, which last I checked was a mortal sin.” Bradene took a deep breath. “Now, you and your friend here can do one of two things, as I see it. You can cooperate and throw yourselves on the mercy of the Church, or I can turn you over to His Majesty, who I can assure you will not look kindly at all on your behavior. Father Calder was the only one involved in this that I know of who could claim benefit of clergy, and he’s already facing divine justice.”
The smaller man seemed to deflate as Bradene continued. “Now, do you want to tell me exactly what happened, or do I let King Kelson’s men have at you?”
The one who had identified himself as Thomas Fitzgerald began to explain as the other one looked sulky and recalcitrant. “We were in Meara with Bishop Calder and Archbishop Loris—”
“Father Calder hasn’t been a bishop in quite some years now due to his own treason, and as for Loris, he was as good an Archbishop as you
are a man,” Bradene snapped. Fitzgerald looked chastened. Bradene looked at him, waiting for further explanation.
Abruptly, the stockier one spoke. “I don’t recognize your authority to do a damn thing,” he snarled. “You were party to the Haldane’s plot against the Archbishop and Queen Caitrin. I don’t have to obey you or that upstart who calls himself king.”
Bradene gave another bark of cold laughter, then turned to Father Drummond. “I think the king’s men will be here sometime tomorrow. Perhaps these two need a night to contemplate their sins. I will of course obey the king’s will with regard to these men, since there doesn’t seem to be any need for ecclesiastical trial here.” He paused. “Perhaps one of the king’s interrogators will be more successful.”
Fitzgerald started to speak again. “No, Your Grace, please—” he begged, as his friend violently lurched at him and hissed another “Shut up!”
Bradene started to leave then turned back to Father Drummond. “Separate them for the night.” He put a hand on the door latch. “Oh, and make sure their rooms are not close to each other,” he added as he left.
Father Drummond stuck his head out the door and summoned a few of the archiepiscopal guardsmen who had been waiting outside the door. “Did you hear His Grace’s instructions?” he asked. The senior guardsman nodded. “Then I’ll leave you to it.”
The young priest caught up to the departing archbishop, who asked, “Did you get anything?”
“Well, the one called Fitzgerald is honestly afraid, and the other one isn’t lying about their loyalties. I would need closer contact with him to get his name, though,” Father Drummond replied.
“I think we’ll just let the king’s men handle these two,” Bradene said. “I will naturally keep an eye on the proceedings, but I’d honestly rather see these two hang than suffer any punishment the Church can deliver except excommunication.”
By late the following morning, a contingent from Rhemuth had arrived, including to Bradene’s initial surprise King Kelson himself. Bradene then remembered that Duncan had been one of the king’s tutors in his childhood and his confessor for a time as well.
When the king’s interrogator, a Borderer named Joshua MacIntosh, who was accompanied by two priests and five royal soldiers, got to Thomas Fitzgerald’s cell, he found a very cooperative subject who began to confess almost as soon as the interrogator opened his mouth to ask questions.
MacIntosh began, “So I’m told you’re Thomas Fitzgerald.”
Fitzgerald nodded and began to talk. “The other man who was with me is Royston MacAlister, and he is too stupid to talk,” he said on a nervous laugh. “He’s the one who actually hit Bishop McLain; I drove the cart.”
“You do realize that I am Truth-Reading you. So far you’re doing really well, but I’ll know immediately if you lie to me.” MacIntosh realized that he need not be stern with this one, but he wanted the clearly frightened man to know exactly what was happening.
“Yes, I assumed that the king would have a Deryni question us—me.” Fitzgerald paused. “We—Roy and I—were hired by the Earl of Sheele to help Bish—Father Calder to get to Bishop McLain first, because Father Calder hated him so.”
“The Earl of Sheele hired you to help Father Calder? Why?” MacIntosh asked.
“Father Calder is—”
“Was,” MacIntosh interjected. “Father Calder is answering to God’s justice right about now.”
Fitzgerald nodded and continued. “He was Lord Kenward’s cousin, and apparently Lord Kenward doesn’t much care for Deryni, so it didn’t take much to convince him to help Father Calder bring down some prominent ones—and their allies.”
“All right, and why was Calder in such a hurry to get to Bishop McLain?”
“He—Father Calder—had consumption, and he didn’t trust his fellows to get to McLain before he died of that.”
“Who are those fellows?” MacIntosh asked.
“Nevan d’Estrelldas, Gilbert Desmond, and Mir de Kierney. Raymer de Valence was part of it in the beginning, but he died a few weeks ago.”
“Interesting. So this all began in Meara during the rebellion?” MacIntosh led.
“Yes. They had all hoped that Que—that Lady Caitrin and Lord Sicard’s men would defeat Kel—King Kelson’s and that they would be richly rewarded for supporting her. When things went the other way and they were punished, they became resentful and began to write letters to each other, meeting at times in person, to try to find a way to at least ruin the people they felt were responsible for their downfall.”
“And what persons would those be, the ones these miscreant former bishops felt were responsible for their loss of status?”
“Well, obviously, McLa—Bishop McLain. Also Bishop Arilan, Bish—oh, now he’s an archbishop—Cardiel, Bishop Tolliver was high on the list since he was always tolerant of Morgan—”
“You mean, His Grace the Duke of Corwyn?” MacIntosh interjected in a chastising tone.
“Yes, the duke of Corwyn,” Fitzgerald corrected himself. “Actually, His Grace was on their list too.”
“The duke of Corwyn was a target?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Fitzgerald confirmed. “Archbishop Bradene, for spearheading the repeal of the Statutes of Ramos, was also one they wanted dead. The last one I knew of was the king himself, but I don’t know how they thought they’d get to him.”
“And who else besides these former bishops was involved in this conspiracy?” MacIntosh asked.
“They all had hired men, like me—and Roy. I don’t know all the names of the hired men.” Fitzgerald paused. “You’d have to ask them.”
“Oh, we will, never fear that,” MacIntosh said on a smile. “And where might we find Fathers d’Estrelldas, Desmond, and de Kierney?”
“Bisho—Father d’Estrelldas was to go to Coroth, de Kierney was headed for Transha last I knew—oh, the duke of Cassan was also on the list, since he’s Bishop McLain’s son—and Father Desmond is on the way to Rhemuth; he was going to go after His Majesty, I think,” Fitzgerald admitted.
“Well, His Majesty is here, as is the duke of Corwyn, but someone needs to get the word out to the others whilst we round up the involved parties,” MacIntosh said. At that, one of the priests who was monitoring the interrogation nodded to the king’s interrogator and left the room.
When the priest found Archbishop Bradene in conference with the king, Alaric, and a very tired-looking Duncan, he bowed to all the men and gave a quick but thorough report of what had transpired in the interrogation. Bradene was outraged to find out that he was a target, and he immediately sent a page for Father Drummond so he could notify Cardiel in Rhemuth, Arilan in Dhassa, and Tolliver in Coroth. The priest informed them of the list, and Duncan started.
“I need to talk to Dhugal,” Duncan said, sounding almost panicky.
Kelson, who was sitting between Alaric and Duncan, placed a comforting hand on his former tutor’s shoulder. “I’ll do it, Bishop. You need to rest.” Kelson, seeming fairly calm under the circumstances, picked up a pendant of shiral that hung around his neck, centered himself with a few deep breaths, and made the contact.
” he sent.
In Kierney, the duke of Cassan was eating his midday meal when he felt Kelson’s voice in his mind calling his name.
“Kel? What’s going on?
” he asked in Mind-Speech.
“You’re in danger. There’s a priest called Mir de Kierney who is on his way to Transha looking for you to kill you. It’s a long story, but de Kierney and some old friends of his tried to kill your father, and you’re on their list, too. You need to protect yourself, and maybe you can find him before he finds you. I’d like to have a chat with someone who saw fit to conspire to kill half the Curia and at least two of my dukes—they were after Morgan too,
” Kelson explained quickly.
” Dhugal asked. “They tried to kill my father?
“Duncan’s fine now. Alaric got to him in time.
” Kelson reassured Dhugal. “He’s a little the worse for wear, but he’s safe and sound. He’s right beside me, in fact. I can bring him into the contact if it’ll make you feel better to talk directly to him.
” Dhugal was saying in Kelson’s mind even as he felt Duncan’s familiar presence enter the link.
” Duncan began. “I understand Kelson has brought you up to date on what’s been happening.
” Dhugal replied. “Are you really all right?
” Duncan’s voice sounded tired but slightly amused. “I have a splitting headache, I’m tired, and I’m getting over a merasha hangover, but I’m fine. Really. Now you see to yourself. His Majesty and Alaric are here to watch over me.
” Dhugal said. “Kel?
” Kelson replied instantaneously.
“I’m sending some men to Transha now, and I’ll let you know as soon as I find this traitor priest. You said the name was Mir de Kierney?
” Kelson confirmed.
” Dhugal said again. “Let me say farewell for now, and I’ll be in touch.
” At that, all three of them ended the contact.
Dhugal barked orders to his men, sending his kinsman Jass MacArdry to lead the expedition to find the priest.
At the palace of the Archbishop of Valoret, Duncan sighed tiredly. Kelson did not miss the bishop’s exhaustion.
“What we need to do now is round up these priests and find out who they hired. Bishop Duncan, why don’t you go rest? You’re obviously the worse for wear, and you don’t absolutely have to be here right now,” Kelson said.
to know what’s going on,” Duncan said stubbornly through his fatigue.
Alaric interjected. “I promise I’ll let you know every single detail, but Kelson is right. You need to rest.”
Duncan sighed again and relented. “All right, I’ll go back to my room. You’d better keep that promise though, Cousin.”
Alaric smiled. “Of course.”
When Duncan, followed by the watchful Father Ramsay, left the room, Bradene said, “All right then. Your Majesty, I will without question turn over the hired men to the king’s justice. The priests I reserve judgment on until I speak with them, but it’s likely at this point that they’ll end up in your courts as well, as for treason and a conspiracy of this magnitude, I’m well within my rights to deny them the benefit of clergy. I’ve considered excommunication, but I’ll reserve judgment on that concept until I actually speak with the men in question. What do you want done with the two we already have, Fitzgerald and MacAlister?”
“They’re both subject to execution, but I’m inclined to be more lenient toward Fitzgerald since he was so informative once he realized the game was up. However, they will face trial in a proper court, and they should have access to a priest before they meet whatever end,” Kelson said. “I may ask my uncle Prince Nigel to preside over the trial, because I don’t particularly trust myself to be impartial.” Kelson paused a moment then continued in a tightly controlled voice that depicted his anger much more clearly than a shout. “As to Lord Kenward, I’d like to talk to him personally, but I may leave that to MacIntosh because he
won’t want to pull out the Haldane sword and decapitate him on the spot.”
Bradene nodded. “Very well, Your Majesty. On that note, I think you and I both have a search to organize. I’ll place my guard at your disposal of course; I think they would be best suited to guarding these reprobate priests once we have them, and they will naturally give the clear indication that not only are you looking for them but so am I. These criminals will find no refuge in my