Link to previous Chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1469.msg12566.html#msg12566Holy Saturday
Eventually he could bear no more; the ordinands had been given permission to attend the monastic hours of prayer throughout the night if they wished, and so Duncan slipped down the night stairs to hear the brethren sing Prime. After the office was ended, many of the monks remained for their own personal time of meditation. Duncan, too, stayed where he was, on his knees, although a mental state conducive to prayer proved as impossible to attain as had sleep. Glancing vacantly around, he noticed that some workers from the city were making their way into a side chapel to hear the first Mass of the day. Feigning confidence, he moved across the Cathedral as though to join them, but instead slipped out of the postern in one of the side doors into the Cathedral grounds.
He walked at first at random, glad at least for the physical release provided by the exercise, but aware that the hours had done nothing to assuage his seething fear; indeed it was becoming a red-hot anger. Once, in the Smithy, at home in Culdi Castle, the young squires had watched while the blacksmith began the lengthy process of forging a new blade. Bored by the wait, one of the boys had tossed an old horseshoe into the pit of boiling metal whilst old Leof’s back had been turned for a moment. None of them expected the column of molten metal which shot into the air, scattering widespread globules of burning iron, ready to sear whatever they touched. Thankfully, the smithy had been as neatly ordered as everything else under Duke Jared’s command, and the beaten earth floor caught and contained the shower, with just the smell of scorching to bear witness to a potential conflagration. A furious Leof had grabbed the terrified culprit by the ear and marched him off to the guardroom where he received the painful consequences of his stupidity. So shaken had they been by the thought of what might have happened that none of them had had any sympathy for the chastened culprit, not even the sore and bruised boy himself.
That memory resurfaced for Duncan now; he felt that he was as near to bursting out as had been that seething molten mass. He did not dare stay anywhere where there were others, fearful as he was that a stray thought sensed, or glance misdirected, would be enough for him to lose all self-control. And he had no way of knowing whether the loss of control would be simply of his human emotions, or would trigger his Deryni powers, with God alone knew what consequences for himself and others.
His thoughts took off again on their endless circling, giving him no attention to spare for his surroundings, until he was forcibly returned to the outside world by a sharp pain running up his leg. He had walked straight into a knee high rock, and looking up found he was now standing close to the Cathedral quarry. The stone for the cathedral itself had been hewn from the rock here many centuries before and was still worked to provide matching stone for repairs and improvements. Set as it was at the edge of the Cathedral grounds, but screened from them by a wide band of woodland, so as to preserve the peace of the precincts, Duncan realised that here he could at least find a physical outlet for his turmoil. The ground was scattered with rock fragments of all sizes. Choosing the largest he could find, he balanced it in his hand, walked to the edge of the quarry and hurled.
He was unusually physically fit for a seminarian, Jared having made it a condition of his permission for Duncan to seek ordination, that he continue with at least some of the strenuous training suitable to his rank. Nevertheless, sooner than he might have expected, exhaustion began to slow him down, though it was perhaps more a consequence of lack of sleep and emotional trauma than physical tiredness.
As his movements slowed Duncan mentally took himself to task; born a leader of men as a Duke’s son, trained to spiritual discipline and intellectual rigour, was this really the best he could do? He must gather his shattered composure and force himself to think. But first he must pray, or he was no kind of priest at all. In his pocket was the precious book of hours that his mother had given to him on his last birthday, precious in workmanship with its fine tooled leather binding and gilt edged pages, still more precious in that it represented Vera’s gift of her son to the Church. What was the cost of that gift to her he wondered, but then rebuked himself. He needed to close down his emotions, not open himself to more heart-wrenching speculation.
Crossing himself, he dropped to his knees and began the office of Terce taking refuge in the rhythm of formal prayer before offering the longing and anguish of his heart in more inarticulate supplication. When eventually he rose, he noticed for the first time that the ground was soaked through with the gentle spring rain that was still falling. He regretted that he had not thought to bring a cloak with him, but there was little he could do about that now. He needed to think through what he was going to do, and do so before he returned to the Cathedral. With this new mood of rational determination he moved under the partial shelter of a large pine tree, recognising that there was no sense in getting any wetter than he needed.
“Duncan, you’ll make a fine priest but you must learn not to allow your actions to be led by your emotions.” How many times he had been thus chided, and he had been grateful for the remembrance during the long sleepless night, when his heart had screamed at him to throw his potential priesthood back in the face of the Archbishop. To do so would be to break that same heart, and although a little voice had whispered to him, “God is taking your priesthood from you just as he took Maryse,” he had retained enough sanity to recognise that, at least, as the voice of the tempter.
No, he would not offer his broken heart and broken vows --made as yet only privately to God but all the more binding for that—to the likes of Alexander Darby.
His fear of the stake he would never master; what person with any imagination whatsoever could? He would simply have to pray that he was never brought to the time of trial, and that if he were, he would have the grace to remain faithful as Jorian had remained faithful. Alaric had spoken of how Jorian’s eyes had sought a cross but deprived even of that comfort by the spite of his enemies, had folded his arms crosswise on his breast, true to his faith and his calling even in unspeakable agony.
Why though had God not protected Jorian? What was the point of praying, as surely Jorian had prayed, if such prayers were not answered? But what if the answer was that Deryni, even half-breed, secret Deryni like himself, truly had no right to the sacrament of ordination? With a bitter little half-smile worthy of Alaric, Duncan acknowledged that he would know the answer to that one soon enough. But deep in his heart he truly believed that he knew the answer already, and it was not the answer that the Church of Gwynedd gave. He knew with all his being that he was called to serve as a priest, and believed as truly that God would honour that. It was in obedience to that calling that he must swallow his pride and anger and kneel before Darby.
But he was disobeying the laws both of the Church and of the Kingdom. Even as a child, Duncan had been one for obeying the rules, and had been roundly teased for it by both Kevin and Alaric. His rare moments of disobedience had swiftly been followed by confession, punishment and forgiveness. This was an act of disobedience for which he could neither make confession nor receive absolution, although he suspected that the weight of it would lie on his heart as effective as any penance. And then there was the matter of his vow of canonical obedience to the Archbishop. As the son of a feudal lord, Duncan had been well schooled in the sanctity of such promises – they were the sinews that held their world together. But even were he to swallow his hatred sufficiently to place his hands within Darby’s and kiss his ring – and do that he must - his inward reservations and the dishonour they brought both to him, and to the vows themselves, would be another burden for him to bear.
Duncan sighed ruefully; he had laid the problem out as rigorously as any of his teachers of logic could have demanded, but that had provided only a partial solution at best. This was supposed to be the most joyous time of his life, the priestly equivalent of a wedding, but instead he was out here, in the rain, tearing his heart out. Shifting his position against the tree, and grimacing as his wet habit slid across his shoulders with the movement, he shivered and became aware of his physical discomfort. Exhausted and soaked through – the gentle drizzle, was, as his nurse had incongruously but accurately, been wont to say, “wet rain” - to add to his misery, he was suddenly achingly hungry.
As his senses turned outward again he heard the crunch of footsteps over the dead leaves and cones and fear came flooding back.
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