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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen  (Read 8533 times)

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Online Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« on: October 22, 2015, 08:47:31 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1596.0.html


Chapter Sixteen

Morning
The Royal Hospital, Rhemuth
December 21, 2021


Jen DeLisle regretted having had little more than a few rushed moments to enjoy the briefest of visits to historic Coroth Castle, since the Duke of Corwyn had brought her through the Transfer Portal there just long enough to ask one of his staff if Healer Heather O’Flynn had stopped by the Castle that morning or if she’d returned to the Royal Hospital in Rhemuth already. She’d barely had time to give her surroundings more than a wistful glance when they were off again, although after a quick glance at Jen’s face the Duke had laughed, promising her a more leisurely visit on some future occasion. She was resolved to hold him to that promise; it had been sheer torture to stand in the very heart of Duke Alaric’s and Duchess Richenda’s ancient Keep, in the part of the old castle that was strictly off-limits to tourists, and yet not have the chance to explore it to her heart’s content!

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house,” Duke Morgan had teased as they’d stepped back onto the Portal stone. Jen had been trying to think of some suitable quip in response when he’d pulled her through the Portal to the location where they stood now. She clutched at his arm, her stomach lurching back into place, her mind forgetting whatever it was she’d been about to say.

“Are you all right, Dr DeLisle?” he asked, the amusement wiped off his face as he regarded her with concern.

She regained her equilibrium, snatching her hand back quickly lest he mistake her intentions and think she was attempting to play up to him. “I’m fine, Your Grace. Sorry. I just find Portal leaps very disconcerting!”

“Yes, they can be quite gut-wrenching, can’t they?” The pale green eyes regarded her with a sympathetic twinkle. “Fortunately we’ve landed at the RHR, so if you think you’re about to be sick, please warn me first so I can call for a nurse whilst I dodge.”

Welcome to the Royal Hospital Rhemuth’s patient Portal. Please clear the Portal square to allow other patients access, an automated voice requested in dulcet tones. The two complied, stepping out of the public access Portal niche into a room only slightly larger. Two guards stood sentry at a door leading into the hospital’s main atrium.

“Please queue up for the retinal scan,” one said in a bored voice before belatedly recognizing the Duke. “Oh, sorry, Your Grace! You can pass through.”

“Scan me first.”

“Oh, it’s truly not necessary, I recognize you . . . .”

Morgan raised a censuring eyebrow at the man. “Because you can detect a shapeshifter without technological help?”

The guard subsided, wearing a chagrined expression at the implied reprimand. Morgan stepped onto a set of painted footprints on the floor, facing the security scanner. Flustered, the man pressed a button to initiate the scan. A moment later, another automated voice said Haldane, Morgan Alexander. Deryni, Registered. Gwyneddan subject. Entry permitted. Morgan’s lips tightened almost imperceptibly as he stepped off the painted footsteps and to the security gate, where the second guard gave him a quick crystal rod scan. “Your Grace, if you could please place any metal items in the basket . . . .”

Jen, wondering how the security system would identify a foreigner, stepped onto the footprints. The retinal scan ID’ed her. DeLisle, Jennifer Anne. Deryni, Officially Verified by Nation of Origin. Americian citizen. Temporary visa approved 011221, expires 011222. Healthcare eligibility approved. Entry permitted. A little wide-eyed, Jen stepped off the retinal scan area and followed Morgan through the security gate, submitting to the weapons search in silence. On the other side of the gate, Morgan set his thumb print on a small reader that would allow him to reclaim his weapons on the way out. Jen was quietly amused to see the small but lethal collection the guard deposited in a nearby locker. “Good heavens, is Corwyn that dangerous to live in, Your Grace?” she joked.

“No,” he replied, “but Rhemuth evidently is these days.” The smile on his lips didn’t quite reach his eyes, and Jen belatedly remembered that when he’d last been on the hospital premises, it had been as a patient after the Rhemuth Castle attack. Suddenly what seemed like excessive security precautions for a public institution made a lot more sense. In the slowly returning sense of normalcy of the past couple of days, despite having spent most of the previous day and night in the palace of a young Queen whose entire life was currently in a state of upheaval, she had somehow nearly managed to forget that the Kingdom of Gwynedd was still under a state of national emergency.

“I’m sorry, that was thoughtless of me,” she said quietly as she followed Morgan to a nearby lift.

A more genuine smile lit his face briefly. “No worries, I’m sure you’re not used to being escorted around by a man who carries a set of throwing knives, a pistol, and a boot knife on his person.”

“Ever consider a sword, sir?”

“I have several, but they make hailing a taxi a bit of a problem.”

Jen laughed. “Do dukes hail taxis?”

“Rarely, but it’s been known to happen.” The lift doors opened, and she followed Morgan through them. He punched the top button and it rose, the doors reopening in front of a nurses’ station with a sign above it reading “Psychiatric Medicine.”

Morgan stepped up to the desk. “Is Healer Heather O’Flynn available?”

A senior nurse with a starched uniform and a starchier personality looked up at him over the tops of her reading glasses. “I’m sorry,” she answered, sounding anything but.  “Visiting hours do not start until noon.”

“We’re not here to see a patient. We need to see the Healer, please.”

“Access to the Healer during business hours is by appointment only. Do you have an appointment?” Her expression looked dubious.

“We do not, but we are here on official business to convey a priority request for Healer O’Flynn’s services.”

“And you are . . . ?”

Morgan reached into his back pocket, pulling his wallet out and wordlessly flipping it open to show his photo ID.  She peered at it for a moment, then looked back up at his face with wide, startled eyes.

“Her Majesty Sophia the Second requests and requires Healer O’Flynn’s services. If it’s not too inconvenient.” The Duke’s voice dripped with steely politeness.

“Oh!  Oh yes, sir! Your Grace!” Turning scarlet, she turned to a younger nurse who had just returned to the station. “Where is O’Flynn?”

“Room 752, ma’am.”  Giving the visitors a curious glance, she did a double-take of recognition as she caught Morgan’s eye. “Ah . . .Shall I go find her, Your Grace?”

“Please,” he replied with more courtesy and less steel, charming her with a smile. She blushed, bobbing respectfully before walking swiftly back up the corridor in the direction she’d just come from. Morgan leaned casually against the counter, pointedly ignoring the senior nurse while he waited.



Later Morning
Eirian House
December 21, 2021


“And when did you first become aware of the block, Your Majesty?” Healer O’Flynn jotted down a note on the small pad she kept in her lab coat pocket.

“Earlier this morning,” Sophia informed her. She glanced over at Eilonwy. “Eilonwy Adams was removing--what did you call it, Loni? A ‘child control’?--and she spotted it.”

Turning to Eilonwy, Heather asked, “And did you try to touch the block at all?”

“No,” Eilonwy answered. “I figured it would be best to leave that to a trained Healer.”

The Healer nodded her approval. “All right, Ma’am, let’s have a look.” Heather put the notepad back in her pocket and moved to stand behind the Queen, cradling her head gently in both hands and closing her eyes to enter light trance. Establishing rapport, she deftly insinuated a questing probe beneath the paper-thin shields, her psychic touch gentler and more practiced than Eilonwy’s had been. Sophia still felt a slight sensation of pressure, but it was barely perceptible. Her shields instinctively began to tighten in response, but Heather quietly said “Shhhh . . ,” adding a nonverbal suggestion to relax. Sophia felt herself growing slightly drowsy as her body obeyed the impulse and ceased resisting the psychic probe.

Heather worked in silence, deepening the rapport and sorting through the various avenues of memory, professionally sorting through yet not directly viewing those thoughts that Her Majesty would wish to keep private. It was a tricky balance, this level of Mind-Reading, but Heather’s profession called for her to walk this tightrope often.

At last she reached the blocked section of memory. She gave it the lightest of psychic brushes. “What do you feel when I do this, Ma’am?” She didn’t really have to ask the question--as her own mind encountered the blocked area she could feel Sophia tense up, a tiny frisson of suppressed anxiety welling up in her. Heather withdrew her touch just a fraction, and Sophia’s anxiety eased.

“I felt . . . I think that was panic, just for a moment. But I’m fine now.”

Heather paused in her work. “Ma’am, whatever is blocked is probably an extremely sensitive and quite likely painful memory. If you’d prefer, I can wait until we have more privacy before I unblock it.”

Sophia looked around the room at those present--her cousin Morgan, Eilonwy, Jen, her armsman Henry Carlisle, all waiting respectfully for her command.  All were people she trusted completely. She felt a moment of trepidation, but it was not due to their presence. Her anxieties had more to do with whatever the Healer she had summoned was about to find locked away within her mind.

“No, I’m fine. I . . .  I think I would prefer to have the support of others close by. Unless they would be more comfortable elsewhere?”

Eilonwy and Jen immediately sat, silently indicating by the action that they were willing to remain as long as Sophia wanted them there. Morgan moved closer to his royal cousin, offering his hand for her to hold. Henry remained dutifully at his post, but an empathetic smile lightened his features briefly as he watched his young Queen.

“Well, I think that answers that question,” O’Flynn said. Re-entering trance, she delved back into Sophia’s mind, gingerly probing at the block to see how it was set up before, with a deft mental tweak, eliminating it completely.

There was a momentary hush, then a shrill keening sound before the Queen burst into loud sobs. “Mummyyyyyy!” Morgan knelt, gathering her in his arms, muffling her cries into incoherence with his shoulder.



It was several minutes before Sophia was in any shape to relate to anyone else what memories had been restored to her.  Healer O’Flynn, after the first few anguished cries, used a calming spell to ease the grieving Queen’s pain. “Your Majesty,” she said quietly, “if you’ll permit now, I’d like to put you in a hypnotic trance for a few minutes. You need to process the unblocked memories properly, the way you would have if you’d been allowed to deal with them fully at the time, and then I can blur them permanently if you choose.”

Sophia nodded her assent. Heather continued on. “I will be asking you to talk about what you’ve remembered. Do you still wish to have others present when that happens?”

The Queen, after another long moment, nodded again. “Morgan needs to be here, I think. And I need . . . Oh God, yes. They can all stay.  Just . . . I think none of this had better leave this room.”

“All right, then.” Heather held her finger in front of her own nose, holding the Queen’s gaze. “Look at me, watch my finger. Try to let your mind simply drift.” She began moving her finger slowly towards the Queen. “Just drift backwards from this moment, let your thoughts drift away like leaves in a stream . . . 3 . . . 2 . . .1 . . . .”  She briefly touched a fingertip to Sophia’s forehead between her eyebrows, and the Queen’s eyes drifted shut.

“Sophia,” Heather said, deliberately avoiding the formality of titles, “We are going back to the moment that has come uppermost in your mind now. How old are you?”

“I’m six.” Sophia’s hands fluttered briefly, as if she was trying to hold up six fingers but the effort was too much for her in her trance state.

“Six years old!” said Heather. “And where are you? Can you tell me?”

A tiny sniff. “I’m in Grandmama’s bedroom”

“I see. Can you tell me what is happening in Grandmama’s bedroom?”

Another sniff. “She tried to kill Mummy.”

Heather paused to absorb the shock of that information. “Can you tell me more about that?”

“Mummy was angry and Grandmama was angry back.”

“I see. Do you know what they were angry about?”

Tears began to well up beneath Sophia’s closed eyes, wetting her lashes and spilling down her cheeks.  Sophia’s armsman, wanting to respect the Queen’s privacy in the face of such painfully intimate recollections, discreetly slipped out of the room. Morgan reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, moving to wipe her tears away, but Heather held out a restraining hand.

“Grandmama killed Daddy and tried to kill me too. She doesn’t love me, just Kelric and Stefanie.”

Heather pressed her fingertips against her lips, thinking hard. Once she was able to speak levelly, she asked, “Why do you think that, sweetie?”

“Because she says I’m not Daddy’s little girl, I’m Grandpoppy’s. She says she did it for Mummy, but Mummy got mad and said she did it for herself. That they all hid Grandmama’s lie for too long, not just Grandpoppy’s, and Mummy said she wouldn’t stand for it no more.”

“Do you know what she meant by that?”

Sophia gave a little shrug, shaking her head.

Heather studied her a long moment. “How did Grandmama try to kill you? Can you tell me more about that?”

Sophia hunched in her chair, tears flowing down her face. Morgan, struggling not to touch her, quietly stood and walked over to the window with his fists crammed into his pockets, unable to watch his baby cousin in such pain.

“We were going to see Lady Violet. Daddy said we were going to visit her for a nice, long visit. I told Grandmama goodbye, and she asked me where we were going. I told her and she got mad at Daddy. But then she got happy again and gived me a pretty, shiny rock to give to Lady Violet, and we left. But then we falled asleep and Daddy died, and Mummy said it was Grandmama’s fault.”

Heather tried to make sense of this explanation. “Can you show me the pretty rock?” she asked, placing her hand in Sophia’s and braving her roiling emotions to try to see the events that had transpired from the young Princess’s point of view.

The vividness of the memory nearly knocked Heather physically backwards. She could feel the smoothness of the jerramán crystal in her palm, see its brilliant shine as it glowed from within. It was so pretty, and she wanted to keep it, but she was a good girl and knew better than to steal, so she would see it safely to Lady Violet. Lady Violet was nice; she liked Sophia and would sometimes let her sit in her lap. She smelled good. Grandpoppy had liked Lady Violet too, before he died, and she missed Grandpoppy. Losing him had made them both sad, and Lady Violet had gone away not long after that. Sophia wanted to make her happy. She wanted that even more than she wanted to keep the pretty rock.

She put it in her pocket and they left, she and Daddy. Daddy felt strange, like he was afraid of something, but maybe he was just angry--yes, that had to be it, for he and Grandmama had just had an awful row. Daddy put their luggage in the boot and the pretty wooden box in the front between them, and they drove away. It was a long drive, but a fun one. Daddy was in a better mood once they left Rhemuth. He sang her funny songs from Joux and called her his precious angel, and reminded her to be very good when they got to Lady Violet’s house. But then the road got too twisty, and Daddy had to stop singing because he needed to mind the road, so Sophia took the rock out of her pocket and watched it glow in her hand and let it sing to her. The pretty rock sang to her, and she felt sleepy, and next thing she knew she woke up in hospital and Daddy was dead.

The more clinically detached portion of Heather’s mind examined the psychic resonances of the crystal, detecting the sleep spell imprinted on it. She withdrew from that portion of memory, resisting the temptation to simply sift Sophia’s mind for the rest of the story, knowing the importance of Sophia processing the memories and integrating them properly with the rest of her storehouse of knowledge.

“Sophia, how did your Mummy find out that your Grandmama gave you the pretty rock?”

“I told her.”

“Can you remember when you told her?”

Sophia shrugged again. “I don’t know. After I got home from hospital. I wanted to know if Lady Violet ever got her rock, because Grandmama wanted her to have it.”

“I see. And then what happened?”

“Mummy asked me what rock, and I showed her a picture in her head, and she started crying and went off to find Grandmama. And I was scared and I didn’t want her to be mad at Grandmama, so I followed.  They were yelling at each other, and Mummy said she knew Grandmama meant to kill me too, and she wouldn’t stand for it because she loved me and none of it was my fault. And Grandmama said not to be stupid, that Nigel’s bastard brat would be a threat to Mummy’s own children if anyone ever found out the truth about me. So then Mummy said I was her child, just like the others, because she loved me, and if Grandmama couldn’t be trusted then maybe it was time to let the world know about me after all, and that she was tired of hiding Grandmama’s secret.”

Heather considered this information, trying to see how it fit in with the rest that Sophia had shared. “And is that when your Grandmama tried to kill your Mummy?”

Sophia’s lips trembled. “Yes. She said Gwynedd didn’t need a weak Queen, and she wasn’t going to let Mummy ruin everything. And then they fighted and Grandmama was killing her.”

Heather’s voice softened in sympathy for the distressed child. “But your Mummy fought back, didn’t she? Did she have to kill Grandmama?”

“No,” Sophia said quietly. “I did that.”



Afternoon
Eirian House
December 21, 2021


Healer O’Flynn had blurred Sophia’s memories after that, sending her to bed and leaving her in a deep, dreamless sleep afterwards to recover from the sudden onslaught of recollections. Her companions left her to her sleep, keeping her bedroom door cracked open so they could hear her should she need anything, and retreated to the seating area of her living quarters.

Jen poked her head out the door briefly to inform the two armsmen that Her Majesty was now peacefully resting, since she could sense their agitation over the Queen’s distress from clear across the suite. Henry’s eyes were suspiciously red-rimmed, and Michael’s boyish features were unusually somber, but both nodded their acknowledgment of her message, and their tension seemed to ease slightly.

Morgan still stood at the window, fists still clenched, although now they lay upon the windowsill.  In a low voice, he growled, “I want to kill her. I want to kill the frigging bitch that did this to her, except that she’s already dead!” He slammed both fists against the sill, making the glass rattle. “Damn it!” He whirled, crossing over to the chair that Sophia had vacated, and half fell onto it, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, his fingers clutching both sides of his head.

“Is Father Devlin still here at Eirian House?” Heather asked.

“Yes,” Eilonwy said. “I could call him here. He probably needs to know what has happened, although Her Majesty did say . . . .” Her voice trailed off uncertainly.

“I’m sure she’ll confide in him soon enough,” Jen said quietly. With a glance at Morgan, she added, “Can I get you anything, Your Grace?” She made a tentative gesture toward the wet bar, although he didn’t lift his head, so she was unsure whether he saw her or not.

He lifted his head after a moment. “Yes. How about that harpy Sybilla’s head and an ice pick?” He stood and made his way over to the bar, surveying its contents. “Wine, wine, and wow, would you look at that? Wine.” Slamming it shut, he turned and leaned back against the counter instead, eyes closed.

“I think there’s some Vezairi port stashed around here somewhere,” Jen offered, “though I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. Sophia doesn’t need to wake up to find us all totally wasted.” She blushed as she belatedly remembered the elevated company she found herself in now and that the fun-loving girl she knew from university was now Queen of one of the most historic Ancient Kingdoms of the Western World. “Her Majesty, that is.”

Morgan returned to his chair, snorting an almost-laugh at Jen’s self-correction. “No worries, we all know who ‘Sophia’ is, and I think this is about as private a setting as it gets.” He leaned back, closing his eyes. “So, let me see if I’ve got the sequence of events sorted. Both Nigel and Sybilla were diddling other people, and somehow Nigel’s daughter ended up getting adopted by Sybilla’s to hide the fact he didn’t have the good sense to keep his dagger sheathed. That should have left everything neatly sorted, but then Prince Dolan died, and Araxelle--whose sperm donor was God only knows who--becomes heiress of Gwynedd, but then she can’t be Empowered because surprise, she’s not even a Haldane! I imagine that family conversation must have been interesting afterward! So she fakes it as best she can, not wanting the whole world to know that Mummy Sybilla couldn’t keep her pants up. Nigel dies, and Araxelle carries on bravely because you just do, I suppose, in that situation. But then, what, Sybilla just couldn’t leave well enough alone? That’s the bit I’m not sure I’ve got yet.”

Heather looked thoughtful. “In Her Majesty’s memories, Duke Henri seemed frightened when they started their road trip. I wonder why? I mean, I get why he might be angry about being asked to participate in a cover-up, but he’d been doing so for at least six years already by that time, passing Princess Sophia off as his own child, so did something else happen to frighten him or set him off?”

Eilonwy pondered the Healer’s questions.  “That is odd.  And why were they going to visit Lady Violet? Do you suppose . . . might she be Sophia’s real mother? I mean her biological one, at least; not meaning to diminish Araxelle’s relationship to her, since it’s clear that she loved Sophia as her own.”

Heather remembered something else that she’d not thought that much about at the time, but in light of what she’d just seen in Sophia’s memories, now she wondered if it might be relevant.  Or was she just grasping at straws, imagining a connection where none existed? “Begging pardon,” she said almost apologetically, “but a few days ago I happened to overhear a conversation between Her Majesty and John McIntyre’s daughter. I believe he was an armsman to Duke Henri who died in some sort of assassination attempt. Some anti-monarchy protester who had lost the plot, according to the news accounts anyway, but I only barely remember when that happened, I was so young at the time. Does anyone happen to recall how long ago that was?”

“About . . . twenty, twenty-one years ago, maybe?” Morgan mused. “It was maybe a month or two before Henri’s accident--well, what we all thought was just an accident before today, at any rate. I wonder, though, now that we know that he didn’t simply fall asleep behind the wheel on his own, was the first attempt on his life just some random event, or did Henri have some reason to think that Sybilla was behind it and that she was likely to have another go at him?  At least now we know why Henri had Sophia with him all the way out in the mountains near Cuilteine. Not exactly a regular Sunday’s outing from Rhemuth, is it, Cuilteine? I’ve always wondered about how the hell Henri ended up driving a car off a mountain road in an area miles from anywhere, much less Rhemuth, but if he was trying to hide the true Haldane heir from Sybilla, that makes more sense.”

“Who is ‘Lady Violet’?” Jen asked.

“Lady Violet Estridge, I would imagine,” Eilonwy told her. “She was a famous Court beauty back in the day, not to mention Araxelle’s Mistress of the Robes, and one of Sybilla’s ladies-in-waiting for years before that, I think, though I mainly know about any of that from old archival photographs. She had some absolutely stunning photographs, though. Vintage gowns to die for. Surely she’s not HM’s mother, though; she’d be what now, in her seventies?”

Heather shrugged. “Nigel was only in his fifties when he died, and that would put him in his seventies now, if he’d lived.  Assuming Lady Violet was younger, maybe she went through a late menopause. I can imagine someone throwing caution to the winds in her late forties, assuming that ship has sailed, especially if her cycles are no longer regular, only to fall pregnant unexpectedly.  Happens more often than people think. It’s not as if people suddenly lose all interest in sex the moment they turn thirty, after all.”

“Thank God for that,” Eilonwy joked, “since my husband just turned thirty-one last month!”

Morgan gave a half laugh, his humor not quite restored, but his mood perhaps just a tiny bit lighter than it had been a few minutes earlier. “Now will someone please tell my steward that so she’ll stop frantically trying to get me to breed?”

“Maybe try introducing her to a few highly unsuitable women, Your Grace, and ask what she thinks of each of them for the future Duchess of Corwyn,” Heather joked. “She may well start frantically begging you not to!  All right, so we’ve established that Lady Violet might potentially have been Her Majesty’s mother, although I should think we’d want a bit more evidence to support that theory than the known facts that she was stunning and Nigel’s pecker still worked,” Heather remarked. “But can we at least work out if Lady Violet Estridge actually was the same Lady Violet that Duke Henri was intending to bring Her Majesty to on the day he was killed? I don’t suppose anyone here would happen to know if Violet Estridge lived anywhere near Cuilteine at the time, or somewhere that would place Cuilteine on a probable path if the Duke was traveling there from Rhemuth?”

“I don’t know, but I can certainly try to find out,” said Eilonwy, firing up her laptop. Jen watched as her friend’s fingers flew over the keyboard. After just a couple of minutes, she looked up. “Apparently the ancestral home of the Estridges is Cloome Hall, about midway between Cuilteine and Ratharkin, in a valley that cuts between the Cloome and Rathark mountain ranges. So yes, they’d have been right on track for a visit to Lady Violet Estridge.  Judging from the distance from Rhemuth, I’m guessing it might have been around a two to two-and-a-half hour drive, maybe?”

Heather nodded. “All right. And they brought luggage with them, so it’s clear they intended to stay for a while. I wonder what was in the small wooden box. A travel lunch, maybe?”

Baffled silence greeted the question. Heather looked around at the uncomprehending faces around her. “Oh, that’s right! You didn’t see that part of the memory. I couldn’t understand what Her Majesty was trying to tell me about the rock--or, rather, I suspected I did understand, but I wanted to make sure that she was talking about a jerramán crystal--so I took a more direct look at that bit. I saw Duke Henri put two large suitcases in the boot just before they left Rhemuth, and he handed Princess Sophia a wooden box when he got in. It ended up on the seat between them. Sorry, didn’t mean to sound so cryptic.”

“Oh my God, I wonder . . . .” Jen’s eyes lit up with excitement.

“Wonder what?” Morgan asked.

“Think about it!  Imagine you’re running away from a dowager Queen whom you believe has recently tried to kill you, and you’re bringing the rightful heir to the Haldane throne to visit her real mother. Why would you bring her there, and what might you bring with you?”

“Well . . . .” Heather looked baffled. “I’d bring her there because that’s her real Mum, for one thing, and presumably she’d want to keep her safe . . . . “

And because she’s a powerful Deryni,” Eilonwy added. “More powerful than the Queen Mother was, I should think. The Estridges have been full-blooded Deryni for generations, as they’re proud to tell anyone who asks them.”

“Yes, right,” Jen said, “and what would you take with you, if you meant to protect the true Heir and perhaps even put things right again?”

Morgan’s eyes widened. “The Haldane regalia? Bloody hell, you don’t really think . . . ?” He sat in stunned silence for several long moments before reaching a hand out to Heather. “Healer O’Flynn, would you please Show me this box?”




Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1600.0.html
« Last Edit: October 27, 2015, 08:51:02 pm by Evie »
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Online Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2015, 10:29:42 pm »
!WOW!  Regal dysfunction at it's worst!   Poor, poor Sophia caught in the middle of that. And poor Duke Henri.  I need to read this again!

Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2015, 02:23:41 am »
Like Laurna, I need to read this again.    Awful though it is, it's good to know that Sophia was loved by her, in effect foster, parents.   
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2015, 02:27:41 am »
So who blocked those memories, Araxelle wouldn't have been able to......
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2015, 07:23:05 am »
The plot thickens.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2015, 08:05:04 am »
!WOW!  Regal dysfunction at it's worst!   Poor, poor Sophia caught in the middle of that. And poor Duke Henri.  I need to read this again!

Yes, it's an . . . interesting family dynamic.  Sophia might want to keep Healer O'Flynn on hand as the Royal On-Call Therapist.  :D

Like Laurna, I need to read this again.    Awful though it is, it's good to know that Sophia was loved by her, in effect foster, parents.   

Yes, Araxelle was a decent, caring woman, despite her parentage.  And Henri loved Sophia as his own as well, despite his misgivings at being coaxed into participating in the royal cover-up.

So who blocked those memories, Araxelle wouldn't have been able to......

Actually, even though the Haldane empowerment ritual failed for her, Araxelle (like her mother Sybilla) was a Deryni in her own right, albeit not as powerful as someone like Lady Violet nor as well trained.  She just generally chose not to use her powers in anything more than the most passive, unobtrusive ways, such as Truth-Reading, and only trotted them out on occasion because failing to use her powers at all might have raised problematic questions as to whether she was actually a Haldane.  Although Araxelle being quite inconveniently dead now makes it difficult for the story to show her reasons from her point of view, one might speculate that something extremely traumatic in her life (like, say, maybe having to fight for her life against her own scheming mother and watching her adopted six-year-old child using Deryni powers to kill in her defense?) might have scared her off using her own Deryni powers except in the most benign of ways for the rest of her life.

The plot thickens.

Yep. You should have seen me in the writing process as these plot twists kept popping up, leaving me wondering how I was going to unravel all of this!  ;D

"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2015, 08:51:08 am »
Wow. This has become even more twisted. I hope that Lady Violet has the box in safekeeping.

What is the significance of the boy Colin?

I liked the Portal automated security mechanism. I like how you describe Gwynedd just modern enough for the story and keep familiar rituals and drinks.
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2015, 09:35:16 am »
I liked the Portal automated security mechanism. I like how you describe Gwynedd just modern enough for the story and keep familiar rituals and drinks.

One can't imagine some fantasy worlds brought up to the 21st C. with the fantasy elements more-or-less intact.  Try to imagine Westeros or Middle Earth or Valdemar given that treatment, for example.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2015, 12:14:30 pm »
I now have a mental image of the Rohirrim as a (relatively ) benign chapter of Hell's Angels riding motorbikes instead of horses.
The Shire/ Gondor in their different ways  would be how some Americans see Britain. One small scale rural idyll with quaint inhabitants,  the other archaic splendour; Lothlorien and Rivendell are deserted and as for  Mordor and its denizens there are  all too many appropriate candidates I fear.
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And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
As You Like It.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2015, 12:19:45 pm »
This is a wonderful chapter, Evie!  So much to like, so much to ponder....

Morgan's reaction to Sophie's memories was so very - Morgan!  Outraged, angry, and ready for a touch of vengeance for the wrongs done.  Excellent portrayal.

All those metaphors while deliberating the royal philandering.   ;D

Now I want to know what the "official" spin was on the death of Sybilla.  That would necessitate the block on Sophie's memories, especially since she had been so truthful in telling what she knew to her family.  You could hardly leave even the remotest possibility that she would say, "No! It was me!" to the wrong person.  I suspect it was Lady Violet that placed the block.

As for Dowager Queen Sybilla - she would have fit in right nicely with the Atherton-Haldanes.



From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2015, 01:00:13 pm »
Wow. This has become even more twisted. I hope that Lady Violet has the box in safekeeping.

What is the significance of the boy Colin?

I liked the Portal automated security mechanism. I like how you describe Gwynedd just modern enough for the story and keep familiar rituals and drinks.

You'll find out more about the box very soon.  As for Colin, he's the only one who can verify or contradict certain suspicions about who might have been behind the bombing (besides his father, I mean, since Colin was kidnapped to use as leverage to force Lloyd O'Malley to participate in the plot even though it would be a suicide mission.  Lloyd wasn't quite that hacked off with the royal family on his own). He may not consciously know the details the investigators need, but he's witnessed enough to have some pertinent knowledge stored in his memories. Which means, of course, that there are certain parties with a vested interest in that knowledge never coming to light, which was why Colin was left to die.  Of course, there are equally good reasons besides wanting to know the truth about the bombing why someone might want to see him found alive, not the least of which is that a young Deryni child could be very useful to someone with few if any scruples. Imagine what he could be trained to become, in the right hands?  :)

I like the near-future technology to some extent, but some aspects of it, like that Deryni Registry, creep me out quite a bit because of the potential for civil liberties infringement if that information is misused.  As much as I love information and technology, I'm also cynical enough about human nature to figure if there's any possible way to misuse either, mankind will find some way to do so.


One can't imagine some fantasy worlds brought up to the 21st C. with the fantasy elements more-or-less intact.  Try to imagine Westeros or Middle Earth or Valdemar given that treatment, for example.

One advantage to futurizing Gwynedd is that the original fantasy Gwynedd didn't have any mythological creatures hanging around in it, with the possible exceptions of things like stenrects which one gets the impression have to be magically conjured. They're not the sort of beast likely to be encountered when just out in the forest hunting.  It's more like our actual Middle Ages were than most other fantasy worlds, except that some of the people in it can actually do magic, but even some of that "magic" is at least pseudoscientific in nature.  There are telepaths, minor acts of telekinesis, etc, but no one is out there flying under their own power, turning people into frogs, or much of anything that would require more than a focused act of the mind and the will plus a very strong amount of innate psychic ability. So it's a sort of magic that translates more plausibly to our modern world than what I'd call the "Bippety Boppety Boo" magic of most fairy tales.

I now have a mental image of the Rohirrim as a (relatively ) benign chapter of Hell's Angels riding motorbikes instead of horses.
The Shire/ Gondor in their different ways  would be how some Americans see Britain. One small scale rural idyll with quaint inhabitants,  the other archaic splendour; Lothlorien and Rivendell are deserted and as for  Mordor and its denizens there are  all too many appropriate candidates I fear.

There's probably a reason for that.  I'm sure that Tolkien, like most good authors, was following that ancient dictum of "Write what you know."  And that's true even when writing fantasy--no matter how fantastic one's creations are, they still need to be based on something the author and readers can relate to.

This is a wonderful chapter, Evie!  So much to like, so much to ponder....

Morgan's reaction to Sophie's memories was so very - Morgan!  Outraged, angry, and ready for a touch of vengeance for the wrongs done.  Excellent portrayal.

All those metaphors while deliberating the royal philandering.   ;D

Now I want to know what the "official" spin was on the death of Sybilla.  That would necessitate the block on Sophie's memories, especially since she had been so truthful in telling what she knew to her family.  You could hardly leave even the remotest possibility that she would say, "No! It was me!" to the wrong person.  I suspect it was Lady Violet that placed the block.

As for Dowager Queen Sybilla - she would have fit in right nicely with the Atherton-Haldanes.


Morgan is one of my favorite characters to write dialogue for, I must admit, even if I have to keep my internal censor on "High Moderation" sometimes to tone down some of his vocabulary choices.  You should see some of his comments that didn't make it into the story!  ;)

While the characters haven't said so outright, I think it most likely that it was Araxelle who set the block.  Violet would have had too much experience and training to set a complete mental block on Sophia, knowing the potential damage that might do, whereas Araxelle would just barely have the knowledge and training to set one herself, but not the experience or understanding to know what she was doing was potentially harmful to her daughter.  (And biological relationships aside, she very much thought of Sophia as her own daughter.)  She would have feared the repercussions that a revelation of the truth might have had, so she would have been motivated to protect the secret, not to mention protecting Sophia (as she would see it). Sybilla's death would have been ascribed to natural causes--a sudden heart attack or stroke, maybe.

And yes, Sybilla does seem to fit right in with those dastardly Atherton-Haldanes, doesn't she?
« Last Edit: October 23, 2015, 01:40:55 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2015, 01:59:16 pm »
Morgan is one of my favorite characters to write dialogue for, I must admit, even if I have to keep my internal censor on "High Moderation" sometimes to tone down some of his vocabulary choices.  You should see some of his comments that didn't make it into the story!  ;)

I had the privilege of being on Evie's beta team for this story, but I had to shoot down one thing Morgan said as not allowable by the rules of the forum.  It was appropriate to character and situation, though.

Also, with regards to this chapter and being on the beta team, you should have seen me pick my jaw up off the floor when I read the bit about Sophia being the one to end Sybilla!  Poetic justice, that.  :)
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2015, 02:49:49 pm »
Morgan is one of my favorite characters to write dialogue for, I must admit, even if I have to keep my internal censor on "High Moderation" sometimes to tone down some of his vocabulary choices.  You should see some of his comments that didn't make it into the story!  ;)

I had the privilege of being on Evie's beta team for this story, but I had to shoot down one thing Morgan said as not allowable by the rules of the forum.  It was appropriate to character and situation, though.

Also, with regards to this chapter and being on the beta team, you should have seen me pick my jaw up off the floor when I read the bit about Sophia being the one to end Sybilla!  Poetic justice, that.  :)

LOL!  Yes, Morgan's second-draft outburst at finding himself King of Gwynedd was probably better suited to being on the front lines of a war zone than being in a Forum post during peacetime.  But you're the one who said his first-draft "Oh, hell no!" sounded too US Southern for Morgan Haldane, so I just changed it to what he'd really say to keep the dialogue flowing until a more suitable alternative could spring to mind.  ;)

And yes, there were several moments when getting to see a real-time reaction from my beta-readers as I was writing (either via the comments sidebar or the chat window) was absolutely priceless!  ;D

"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #13 on: October 23, 2015, 03:11:51 pm »
Morgan is one of my favorite characters to write dialogue for, I must admit, even if I have to keep my internal censor on "High Moderation" sometimes to tone down some of his vocabulary choices.  You should see some of his comments that didn't make it into the story!  ;)

I had the privilege of being on Evie's beta team for this story, but I had to shoot down one thing Morgan said as not allowable by the rules of the forum.  It was appropriate to character and situation, though.

Also, with regards to this chapter and being on the beta team, you should have seen me pick my jaw up off the floor when I read the bit about Sophia being the one to end Sybilla!  Poetic justice, that.  :)

LOL!  Yes, Morgan's second-draft outburst at finding himself King of Gwynedd was probably better suited to being on the front lines of a war zone than being in a Forum post during peacetime.  But you're the one who said his first-draft "Oh, hell no!" sounded too US Southern for Morgan Haldane, so I just changed it to what he'd really say to keep the dialogue flowing until a more suitable alternative could spring to mind.  ;)

And yes, there were several moments when getting to see a real-time reaction from my beta-readers as I was writing (either via the comments sidebar or the chat window) was absolutely priceless!  ;D

Indeed.  :D
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

James Herriot (James Alfred "Alfie" Wight), when a human client asked him if animals have souls.  (I don't remember in which book the story originally appeared.)

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Sixteen
« Reply #14 on: October 23, 2015, 03:33:31 pm »


As for Dowager Queen Sybilla - she would have fit in right nicely with the Atherton-Haldanes.


And yes, Sybilla does seem to fit right in with those dastardly Atherton-Haldanes, doesn't she?

Nigel should never have married Sybilla. He should have sent her packing back to the Atherton-Haldanes.  But then poor Araxelle would have been born in Camberia where the good lady would never have survived the onslaught of her true father.  It seems Araxelle did the very best she could do, under such circumstances. But for a 6year old to have to save her mother.... No wonder her mother wanted to block her from that knowledge.  I do hope Sophia has enough support and strength to accept the truth now.

Quote
She regained her equilibrium, snatching her hand back quickly lest he mistake her intentions and think she was attempting to play up to him. “I’m fine, Your Grace. Sorry. I just find Portal leaps very disconcerting!”

“Yes, they can be quite gut-wrenching, can’t they?” The pale green eyes regarded her with a sympathetic twinkle. “Fortunately we’ve landed at the RHR, so if you think you’re about to be sick, please warn me first so I can call for a nurse whilst I dodge.”

Before all the tensions begin, Morgan's comment about "Whilst I dodge." brought forth a smile. If it had been Sophia feeling sick, he would have been right there holding her up. but from Jen, he is playful and willing to "Dodge" away.

 

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