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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen  (Read 4563 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« on: October 27, 2015, 08:49:43 pm »
Previous Chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1598.0.html


Chapter Seventeen

Late Afternoon
Eirian House
December 21, 2021


Jennifer DeLisle closed the curtains in the Queen’s living quarters at Eirian House in an attempt to block out the sun’s rays. At the small wet bar, Eilonwy Adams filled a goblet with dark red wine and brought it into the seating area, placing it upon the low table at the center of the space.

“I don’t expect Her late Majesty happened to have a shiral crystal around handy?” Heather asked Morgan as she guessed what Eilonwy and Jen were preparing to do.

Morgan snorted. “I’m not sure Araxelle would have known how to use a shiral if it came boxed with an instruction manual,” he informed her. “Although I’ve got a small one in my travel bag if we need it.”

“I think the wineglass ought to serve,” Eilonwy said. She looked up at the others gathering around the table with her. “All right, I think I want to try this two different ways. First, let’s see if we can scry for the wooden box itself. Heather, you were the only one of us who actually saw that memory; do you think you got a good enough look at it to know what to scry for?”

The Healer nodded. “I think so.”

“And just in case the box actually doesn’t contain what we think it does, it might be good to cross-check by scrying for one of the pieces of missing Haldane regalia,” Eilonwy added.  “I say one piece rather than the whole set just in case, by sheer bad luck, they aren’t actually all in the same place.”

“I think maybe I’m missing the significance of the regalia,” Heather admitted. “I mean, I’m sure they’re quite valuable, but why would Duke Henri have taken the risk of sneaking off with them? I understand trying to protect the true heir, but surely Her Majesty could have come back for her crown jewels at some later time?”

Jen glanced at Morgan, who stated, “Family legend has it that certain pieces of regalia are instrumental in the ritual magic used to empower each new Haldane sovereign upon his or her accession.”

“Oh. And Her Majesty’s Accession Council is coming up very soon, yes?” Heather asked. “So I take it you need them back before then?”

“Well, we wouldn’t absolutely need them before then, but as soon as possible would be best,” Morgan said. “Without the power assumption ritual, HM would be as vulnerable as any other untrained Deryni until she could be taught how to use her powers the regular way. With it, she’d have the instant ability to access her full potential without the need for years of training, down to instinctive knowledge of even some of the most esoteric lore. I trust you can see how this has given the Haldane sovereigns an advantage over the centuries?”

“Oh.” Heather absorbed the information and its implications before asking, “Did you go through the ritual, Your Grace? You’re a Haldane.”

He shook his head. “Not one of those Haldanes. Traditionally only the reigning monarch assumes the Haldane power, although the heir may have his--or her--potential activated earlier. I don’t think Prince Kelric ever did, though. At least he never got his ear pierced that I noticed.”

“And that’s significant?” Heather asked.

“One of the pieces of missing regalia is the Eye of Rom,” Jen informed her. At the Healer’s blank look, Jen gave Morgan a baffled look. “Surely Gwyneddan schools still teach this stuff in history class?”

He shook his head, and Eilonwy gave a short laugh. “No, Jen, we don’t get ‘Secret Esoterica of the Haldane Monarchy’ in high school, sorry. Or even at uni, unless you’ve had Da as your history professor, and even that subject was not one he normally touched on in his class lectures. It was never meant to be public knowledge, after all, though a very few Deryni historians--Da included--made a point of trying to preserve such knowledge from accidental loss from generation to generation by passing it on to the most promising students they tutored. And thank God for that or the knowledge might have been lost forever with the Rhemuth Castle bombing!”

“It might have been lost forever even without that,” Morgan mused darkly. “After all, it would have been in the best interests of Araxelle’s heirs to have that knowledge neatly forgotten so that no one in future would notice they weren’t of the true Haldane line. It’s the sort of discovery one nearly has to go looking for in order to make, after all; it’s not like even the Registry database does an automatic cross-check of everyone’s DNA to check for legitimacy. So even under the most normal of circumstances, only a select few would have known for certain that the Haldane regalia bear more than a purely symbolic significance, although the more ritually-minded among us may have suspected this, and even of those who knew beyond doubt that they play some key role in a Haldane’s accession, exactly what role they played was generally a matter for speculation outside of the sovereign’s Inner Circle.”

“And all of Araxelle’s Inner Circle died with her, I would think,” Eilonwy observed, “aside from yourself, Sir.”

Morgan settled into position across from her. “I wouldn’t have said I was in Araxelle’s Inner Circle, really, although I was in the Prince of Meara’s, since Kelric and I were agemates and grew up together.”

Jen gave him a quick glance, keeping her thoughts well shuttered. In her concern for her friend Sophia, she had nearly forgotten until just now how close the Duke of Corwyn had been to the deceased members of the Royal Family, and how much grief he must be experiencing as well. Perhaps, if anything, his burden might feel all the greater for being suppressed due to feeling a need to remain strong for Her Majesty. She felt a surge of empathy for the man and quickly looked away, shielding her thoughts, not wanting him to notice and mistake the emotion for pity.

“All right, then,” she said, extending her hands to either side to clasp Morgan’s and Eilonwy’s. “Heather, could you focus all of your thoughts on your vision of the box you saw in Duke Henri’s car? Once you’ve got the image fixed in your mind, if you could share that with the rest of us, I think it might work best if we all focus on it while His Grace does the actual scrying. That is, if you wouldn’t mind, Your Grace. Being the only Haldane among us, I figure you’re the most likely to find what we’re looking for, since you’d stand the closest chance of being at least somewhat attuned to the items already.”

He chuckled. “Let’s just see what happens. The more you go on about it, the more of a long shot it all seems, and I’d rather not get too caught up in considering our chances of failure. Healer?”

“All right, I’ll give it a go.” Heather closed her eyes, trying to draw from her own recollection of Sophia’s shared memory of the box and picture it as vividly as possible for everyone else in the circle. After a few moments she felt Eilonwy give her hand a slight squeeze, which she took to mean that Eilonwy could see the vision as well, though no one else seemed to react right away. She was beginning to wonder if there was something more she might need to do, something she ought to try to amplify her energies and increase the power of her sharing, when the Duke began to speak. “Out of darkness into the light, come forth,” he said quietly, and then there was silence, though Heather began to sense a faint pull on her energies and sensed that Morgan was drawing upon them--and probably from the others in the circle as well--to extend the range of his search.

After a few minutes, he asked equally quietly, “There, is that it?”

She opened her eyes. In the center of the wineglass a reflection of the carved box shone dimly. It appeared half buried, with some dark mass resting beside it--fallen leaves, perhaps? It was hard to make out, exactly. She thought it was outside; spots of light and shadow dappled the carved surface, as if perhaps wintry sunlight shone through tree branches overhead. The wood was no longer the lustrous, dark polished surface of her vision, but weathered and almost gray.  “Where is that?” she whispered.

“My guess is that it’s right where Duke Henri met his death,” said Eilonwy, equally quietly. “I know his car was retrieved from the shallow ravine he drove into when he fell asleep at the wheel, but the weather was mild that day. Perhaps the windows were down, and the box was thrown out during the impact, or maybe a door flew open.”

“The bonnet of the car was crushed and the front windscreen shattered,” Morgan added quietly, “so with the car having fallen forward, the box may have fallen out that way as well. The photos made front page news, and someone forgot to hide the paper from Kelric and Stefanie, so you can imagine how shattering that was for them.”

“Ouch,” said Jen with a sympathetic wince. She gave Morgan’s hand a small squeeze. “Do you think you could cross-check now to see if you can find the Eye of Rom?”

“It might help if I could remember what it even looks like. I was only ten at Araxelle’s Coronation, and not exactly paying attention to her jewelry,” he answered.

“Maybe I can help with that.” Jen closed her eyes, focusing on one of the clearest photographic images of the Eye of Rom that Eilonwy had managed to turn up during her Internet searches. It was a stunning close-up of the earring in full color. She Mind-Shared the image with the others in the circle, and after a moment she sensed Morgan drawing upon her power again, scrying for the missing item. This time the search took longer, but at last he stopped with a sigh.

“I can’t see a thing, sorry,” he told them.

Eilonwy smiled, “Oh, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Sir. I just realized, you wouldn’t, would you? Not if it’s spent the past twenty years shut up inside a wooden box.”



Early evening
Northwest of Eirian House
December 21, 2021


“So the Duke of Corwyn drives a black Gryphon Charger 3Z?”  Jen took a curious look around the sleek sports car. “With a dark green leather interior?” She laughed. “What, was the dealership out of emerald green leather?”

Morgan rolled his eyes. “I would have thought the darker color scheme would appeal more to your ‘Darkling Duke’ fanbabe sensibilities,” he quipped in return. “Reach into that glovebox and find the road atlas, would you? If you’re riding with me, you might as well make yourself useful and be the navigator. And for the record, this was Kelric’s car. One of them, anyway. Mine was blown to Kingdom Come at Rhemuth Castle, so HM gave me this one to use until I have time to order a replacement.”

“Oh. Sorry.” She paused for a moment, not sure how to convey her sympathy, or if it would be better just to let the moment pass. “I imagine you and the Prince of Meara must have been close.”

“Very.” Morgan kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead in the gathering darkness.

Jen got the strong sense he’d prefer to let the topic drop, so she cast about for some safer subject of conversation. “Do you think we’ll be able to find the right spot after all these years? After all, an accident site that’s over twenty years old isn’t going to have very much in the way of identifying markers left.”

“Well, no, there won’t be any recent skid marks or broken guard rails at this late date,” Morgan agreed. “But when we get closer to the location, that atlas should come in handy as something other than a mere road map.”

“Are you sure we should have left HM in her present state?” Jen asked. “What if she wakes up and asks for us?”

“Healer O’Flynn says she’s likely to sleep the rest of the night,” Morgan assured her, “and your friend Eilonwy is still there if she wakes up and needs anything. Anyway, if I stayed cooped up there one more minute, I would have gone stark raving mad. I need to be doing something, so at least this is something more useful than tacking up photos of Sybilla on every target at the range and then going all berserker on them.”

“Sounds like an interesting idea for stress relief, although I think I’d suggest programming her into a VR game instead.  But you’re right, this excursion will hopefully be more productive. And for once you shouldn’t have to dodge the paparazzi, since the Healer had a chance to fix your face before we left.”

“Oh, thanks!”  Morgan laughed.

“No, I meant . . . .” Jen giggled. “Sorry, that was badly phrased.” She gave the Duke a sidelong glance, still not used to seeing him as a freckled redhead, although she had to admit his new appearance was less likely to draw undue attention if they happened to draw some motorist’s glance at a traffic stop.

“We should be nearing the turnoff for Arx Fidei,” Morgan said. “Let me know if you spot the sign, since it looks like we’ll need to take a turn in the opposite direction within a mile after that one.”

“Oh my gosh, really? The Arx Fidei?”

Morgan gave her a quick glance. “I imagine so. Why, is there something special about Arx Fidei?”

“That’s where the shrine to Saint Jorian is located, isn’t it? Not to mention the seminary that produced your very distant cousin, Archbishop Duncan McLain. Possibly Bishop Denis Arilan as well, though I’d have to go back through my history notes to be sure.”

“Bishop who?”

“Early Twelfth-Century Bishop of Dhassa. Oh, never mind, I’m probably making your eyes glaze over.”  Jen stole a look at the Duke, who appeared to be having difficulty containing a smirk. Glamour spell or not, some things never changed, it appeared.

“I think there’s our sign just ahead,” Morgan said. “No time to stop by the Abbey, sorry, but at least now you’ll know where to find it.”

Jen gazed wistfully down the side road as they passed the turnoff to Arx Fidei.  “I think I can just see the spire of the Abbey in the distance above the treeline,” she said.

“Lord have mercy, woman, if you’re like this over some ancient abbey, I can hardly wait to show you Coroth Castle. You look like an eager puppy anticipating a treat, hanging out that window! Am I going to have to get you a bib?”

“Easy enough for you to take your own history for granted!” Jen told him as she tore her gaze away from the side road disappearing into the distance behind them. “You’ve probably got wine in your cellars as old as my country.”

“God, I hope not; it would be vinegar by now!” Morgan grinned. “But I take your point.” He peered into the growing darkness. “Jen, check the atlas; I think that’s our turn just ahead.”

Jen found Arx Fidei on the map, then gauged where they were in relation to that landmark. “Are you looking for the Cloome Pass road?”

“That’s the one.”

“Then yes, I’d say you’ve found it.”

Morgan veered off on the smaller road. “Good. We should be just about halfway there, then. So what happens if this regalia we’re looking for isn’t in the box Heather described?”

“Then I guess we improvise.  I’m sure it’s possible to invest a Haldane Queen with her powers without it, but I’d rather not attempt to recreate a Power Assumption ritual from scratch if we don’t have to. Sir Will might have had the requisite knowledge to do that sort of thing on the fly, but I don’t. Eilonwy knows more than I do about ritual magic, but I doubt that Haldane Empowerment is a regular part of Deryni training even in Gwynedd.”

“There might be someone more qualified on this Camberian Council that HM recently made an unexpected acquaintance with. They do owe her a rather large favor; perhaps she can call on them for help?”

Jen shook her head. “I’m not sure I would advise that unless there’s no other recourse,” she said. “There’s very little that’s actually known and recorded about the Council’s workings, historically speaking, but there’s a great deal of rumor and conjecture to suggest that they can sometimes be rather . . . sketchy in their dealings. Granted, I’m sure a lot of that had to do with the particular personalities on the CC at any given time, and the modern Council might be more willing to work with The Haldane with no strings attached, but just going by how they’ve tended to act historically, I’d say there’s more likely to be some quid pro quo if we end up having to go to them for help. Now, individual members of the Council might be safer to ask, as long as they’re not working on behalf of the entire group. That’s where things sometimes tend to go pear-shaped.”

“Are you aware that Lady Maureen is on the Council?” Morgan asked. “And also Father O’Shiele and Lord Arilan. I would say HM is already at least somewhat influenced by the CC, for better or for worse, so let’s hope they’re less ‘sketchy’ than some of their predecessors.”

Jen’s eyes went wide. “Lady Maureen? Are you sure?”

“She was one of the survivors of the Council chamber attack that HM treated at Tre-Arilan a few days ago, so that seems confirmation enough for me.”

“Oh!” Jen pondered this new information for a moment. “Well, I would trust Lady Maureen for certain, if we have to go that route, though I’d still rather not.” She shook her head in dazed astonishment. “I suppose that must have been what Eilonwy meant when she said her mother has colleagues in certain circles of influence. I wonder if Sir Will knew, or if she joined the Council after his death?”

Morgan laughed. “From what I’ve heard of Sir Will Sheehan’s level of esoteric knowledge, let alone his profound knowledge of Gwyneddan history, my guess is that he was actually on the damn Council! If his wife wasn’t already on it when he died, maybe she took his place.” Taking in her expression, he grinned. “You look gobsmacked.”

“I am! Sir Will’s the one who taught me about what little is known of the Camberian Council, and why the aims of the Council and the Haldane dynasty haven’t always tended to coincide! There’s always been tension in that relationship, from what I was given to understand, yet Sir Will was one of the most loyal men to the Crown I’ve ever known. I’m not sure how to reconcile all of this in my mind.”

“Perhaps ‘It’s complicated’ sums things up?” Morgan arched an auburn eyebrow at her. For all the changes Healer O’Flynn had made to his appearance, Jen noticed the real Morgan’s expressions still somehow managed to show through the facade. “I know people tend to prefer less complicated answers, but sometimes life doesn’t always fall into neat little patterns. It’s not all Custodes vs Michaelines in the modern world.”

Jen smiled. “So you know at least a little bit about history, it seems, if you know about the Custodes Fidei and the Michaeline Order. Maybe you’re not entirely hopeless.”

“Not entirely.” Morgan’s eyes--his own pale green eyes set in the stranger’s features--took on an amused twinkle. “I used to have a set of action figures, growing up. I think they were meant to be generic knights, but Kel and I took a set of markers and colored their surcoats so they’d be the Custodes and the Anvillers, and we’d have full-on wars in the back garden, pretending Rhemuth was under siege and we had to defend the Castle. Maybe not the most historically accurate scenario, especially once Kelric got the bright idea to blow the Custodes army to bits with some fireworks, but jolly good fun.” The smile faded as the reality of the week’s events came crashing back in on him, and he looked away sharply, swallowing hard, his gaze focused more intently on the road. “Damn it, none of this should be happening!”

“I know,” Jen said softly. “On second thought, maybe a battle royale inside that VR capsule in the Eirean House rec room might not be such a bad idea when we get back. You may not think it serves any ‘useful’ purpose, but it would probably feel pretty darn good to go all medieval on a few targets’ bums.”

Morgan chuckled. “On their bums? Such salty language, young lady!”

“Well, we can’t all be saints like you.”



Early evening
The Royal Astari Hotel
Penthouse suite
December 21, 2021


Peter Astari stood at the large picture window overlooking the City of Rhemuth and the devastated Castle beyond. The neighborhoods adjacent to the Castle had been reopened to traffic as the City moved from a state of emergency to something more closely approaching normalcy, although security around the City’s perimeter was still pretty tight and Peter felt sorry for anyone trying to arrive or depart via the public Portal at Market Square, given the lengthy queues. Not that he could see those long lines from his vantage point, but he’d heard the horror stories from the few tourists who had managed to get past the security blocks to check into the hotel in time for their Christmas Week holiday sightseeing or visits to local friends and families.

Not everyone would be deriving much joy from the holiday this year, of course. The O’Malley family might never see the Christmas season in the same way again.

Maureen approached him with a glass of MacRorie’s Old in her hand. “A farthing for your thoughts?”

He took the glass she offered, taking a sip from it while drawing her close with his free hand, kissing her lightly on the brow. “How very fortunate I am,” he murmured.

She smiled up at him, led him away from the window to his couch and settled onto it beside him. He slipped an arm around her and she nestled into his side. He savored the moment. Something had changed between them in Marbury--he couldn’t quite place his finger on what, or when, or why--but Maureen seemed more amenable to his courtship of her now. Courtship? He almost laughed as the old-fashioned term sprang to mind, but it suited her, this delightful bundle of contradictions who had managed to charm his jaded heart and find a chink in his defenses.

“How is Colin?” she asked once he’d had a few moments to fortify himself with the smooth Border distillate.

“Far from well, although I’m glad I finally managed to talk his mother into taking me up on my offer. He’ll be better served at the RHR despite everything. Healer Dr Al-Sayid has made arrangements to keep the boy’s identity under wraps, so that should help. Of course, anyone working directly inside his mind will know who he actually is, but it shouldn’t be necessary to reveal his true name to those who are simply caring for his physical needs, so there’s much less danger of his presence there slipping out to the public at large somehow.”

“That’s good,” Maureen said, curled up in his warmth as she sipped on what looked to Peter like a ridiculously tiny amount of white wine.  “I hope you learned something useful when his mother allowed you in to visit him this morning?”

“Don’t let all that strong drink go to your head,” he jokingly warned her, ignoring the question. “I’d hate for that wine to turn you into a wild woman who might take advantage of me.”

She chuckled. “If you thought there was any chance of that happening, you’d probably be trying to talk me into taking a few sips of your MacRorie’s Old.”

“No.” He gave her a small squeeze. “When you finally have your wicked way with me, I’d prefer you completely sober.”

“You’re distracting me from my question, Peter.” She smiled, though her eyes remained serious. “Did you learn anything from Colin’s mind that might lead back to whoever orchestrated the Rhemuth Castle bombing?”

“Possibly.” He took another sip of his drink. “Sweetheart, I spent a small eternity this morning wandering around inside the mind of a little boy who has spent the greater part of the past week buried underground in a dark box. I’ve shared what I learned with DI Hamilton’s investigative team this morning, and I’ll share it with your son-in-law as well either later tonight or first thing on Tuesday, but just now I very much need to be Anywhere But There. And trust me, there are some things you are far better off not knowing.  But I did get some good glimpses of the two men who snatched him off the street, as well as a brief look at one who seems to have been in charge of the operation, and I think Devlin was correct in his suspicions.  I’d want to see some recent photos to be sure, but the third man I saw in Colin’s head looked very much to me like he might have been Eric Armitage of Humanity Ascendant.”



Late Evening
A mountain road near Cuilteine
December 21, 2021


Jen turned on the map light as Morgan rummaged through the center console looking for something that he might use as a dowsing tool. After a moment, he retrieved a paper clip and a short length of string. Tying one end of the string to the paper clip, he let it dangle a couple of inches below his fingertips. “Map?”

Jen opened the road atlas to the page showing the section of road they’d stopped alongside of. Morgan dangled the paper clip over the map. It hung straight down for a few seconds before starting to swing. Jen observed that it appeared to swing further in one direction than the opposite. He moved the paper clip about half an inch in that direction. Again, the paper clip momentarily stilled, as if seeking new bearings, then began to swing again, this time not as strongly, although it still seemed to swing slightly more in one direction than the other. Again he moved the clip a very short distance. This time, after a moment the paper clip slowly swung around in a circle before coming to rest above a particular section of road.

“Would you say that’s stopped somewhere between mile marker 158 and 159?” Morgan asked.

Jen peered at the page in the dim light. “Looks like that to me.”

Morgan nodded, snapping off the map light and easing the car back onto the road again. “That’s only about five miles ahead.”

They continued in silence for a few more minutes until they passed by mile marker 158.  Morgan slowed the car, looking at the landscape for some familiar landmark that might help them pinpoint the exact site where they should begin looking for Duke Henri’s crash site.

“There.” Jen pointed at a rock outcropping on the opposite side of the road from the ravine. “Isn’t that the boulder we saw in some of the long range shots of the accident scene?”

“Yes, I think so.” Morgan slowed the car even more, checking to make sure there was no oncoming traffic before crossing over to the narrow strip of grass and gravel on the opposite shoulder of the road and parking there. “I figure this side of the road should be safer than trying to pull over and park at the edge of the ravine,” he said. “Ready?”

Jen looked out dubiously at the frigid surroundings and zipped up her winter coat. “As I’ll ever be. At least it’s not snowing.”

“There is that.” Morgan moved to the back of the car and opened the boot. Pulling out some climbing gear and a helmet, he exchanged his shoes for boots with more gripping soles.

Jen walked back to join him. “You’re sure you know how to use all of that equipment safely?”

“Yes.” He adjusted the helmet strap. “Might want to bring a torch; there’s a spare one in the car under your seat.”

“A tor--Oh, you mean a flashlight?”

He glanced over at her, the amused look back. “Were you planning on flashing someone with it?”

“What do you mean?”

“This isn’t Americia, love. It’s a torch.” He grinned.

“Shall I set fire to it, then, and stick it in a wall sconce?” Jen asked as she went back to the front of the car to retrieve the item in question.

“I’d much rather you didn’t. Henry might want it back. Got your phone on you?”

“Yes, why?”

“In case you should need to call for emergency backup. Not that I’m planning on doing anything stupid, but one never knows. You know our location, and the closest town is Cuilteine.”  Morgan gave the road one final sweeping glance for oncoming traffic before crossing over to the edge closest to the ravine. He switched his helmet light on, his gaze sweeping the area, looking for something sturdy to serve as a suitable rappel anchor.

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

Morgan nodded. “I did a bit of search and rescue before becoming the Duck of Corwyn. Besides, it’s really not that much of a drop here. Just ten or twelve feet at most. I could probably get down there without the equipment, but I’d rather not take the chance, especially in the dark.”

“I don’t think getting down without it would be the problem so much as getting back up,” Jen observed.

Morgan grinned. “Well, there’s that too.”  He finished securing his ropes. “All right, if you want to be useful rather than just decorative, could you shine that torch right around there?” He illuminated the spot he was referring to with his helmet torch.  “That would really help.”

“If you fall, what should I do?” Jen asked.

“Well, that would be what your phone is for, isn’t it?” He started over the ravine’s edge. “Stop being such a Nervous Nellie!”

He descended carefully, not that it was all that much of a descent, until he found solid footing on a ledge of fairly level ground. This appeared to be the area where Duke Henri’s car had gone over; even in the darkness illuminated only by the light of his helmet and Jen’s torch, he could see small bits of rusty metal that remained from the accident. He went over this ground in a systematic grid, carefully examining every bump that might be a half-buried box.

“I think it was under a tree or something like that,” Jen called down to him. “Remember the dappled light?”

There were some shrubs at the edge of this level ground, near where the ravine face took another downward plunge. Morgan turned his attention there, following gut instinct now, until his helmet light shone directly on something that poked up from a small pile of half-rotted leaves and other debris.  He knelt and pried at it with a gloved hand, and the surrounding earth released its treasure.

Standing, he looked up at Jen briefly, then opened the box.

“Oh, my God! Did we actually find them?” Jen stood near the roadside edge above him, her hands pressed over her mouth, elation in her eyes. Morgan grinned up at her, holding the box up to give her a better view of its contents before shutting the lid and sliding it into his jacket pocket.

“Coming back up. I think I’m fancying some coffee or a bit of hot cocoa now, aren’t you?”



Late night
Eirian House
December 21, 2021


Eilonwy Adams ushered Father Devlin into the Queen’s presence and then discreetly left them as she retreated into Sophia’s bedchamber to give them a little privacy. “I’m sorry, Father. I’m afraid this is getting to be a habit.” Sophia smiled apologetically at the priest whose nocturnal meditations she had interrupted.

“At least Mrs Adams didn’t catch me in my robe yet when she arrived, so that’s progress,” Devlin joked.  “And your suite is much more comfortable than the Chapel Royal.”

“Yes.” Sophia grimaced. “I really ought to look into seat cushions; those pews are rather hard, have you noticed?”

He chuckled. “I’m usually a little busy doing other things during Mass, Ma’am, so I can’t say I’ve really made a study of how hard the pews are.”

“Well, at least in here we can sit on comfortable 21st Century chairs, or at least late 20th, so I won’t feel like I’m doing penance before I’ve even started speaking,” Sophia joked. “Which reminds me, I don’t suppose you brought your . . . ?” She drew a vague loop-like shape in the air with her finger, as though her mind had suddenly gone blank and she’d forgotten the word she was looking for.

Devlin laughed. “You mean my stole? As you can see, I’m actually wearing my collar this time.” He fished in his pocket and drew out the purple silk travel stole.  “Yes, I did. Mrs Adams indicated that you have a great deal on your mind tonight.”

“You might say that.” Tears welled up in Sophia’s eyes, and she blinked them away rapidly, pinning on a smile.

The priest allowed the silken strip to unfurl between his fingers, kissing the gold embroidered cross on the back of it before slipping it over his head.  “So, how can I help?”

Sophia gave a humorless laugh through her tears. “I really don’t know where to start, Father! Do I begin with finding out this week that I’m the bastard child of the King I thought was my grandfather, or that my mother wasn’t even related to me? Or should I just start with the part about me being Deryni, and that the first use of my powers was to kill my dear old murderous Grandmama?”



Midnight
Eirian House
December 21, 2021


“Is Her Majesty still awake, Henry, or has she turned in for the night?” Morgan asked as he and a sleepy Jen DeLisle arrived at the door of the Queen’s private apartments.

“I believe she’s still up, Sir.  Mrs Adams sent for Father O’Shiele to attend to her about two hours ago, and he hasn’t left yet. And how did your mission turn out?”

Morgan opened his jacket to reveal the small wooden box concealed within. “Quite well, thank you. Oh, Doc here has your torch. I persuaded her not to set fire to it.”

Jen pulled the flashlight from her coat pocket. “The poor man thinks he’s funny,” she informed Henry in a stage whisper.

Henry pocketed the tool, opening the door for the two new arrivals. “His Grace of Corwyn and Doctor . . .DeLisle?” His voice rose on an inquiring note as he stared momentarily at the sight before him before regathering his wits.

The Queen lay sprawled across her sofa, partially swaddled in a cozy throw blanket, fast asleep, wet tendrils of hair still glued to her damp cheeks giving evidence of recent tears. Father Devlin sat slumped in his chair nearby, his stole neatly folded but not yet put away. He’d evidently nodded off as well, but at their entry he sat abruptly upright, looking momentarily bemused as his mind struggled to make sense of the unfamiliar room, but upon seeing the Duke of Corwyn his awareness of his surroundings returned. He stood a little too abruptly, but a sudden dizzy spell nearly made him fall back into his chair.

“The Queen’s asleep,” Dev said unnecessarily before a yawn assailed him.

Morgan’s lips twitched. “So I see, Father. I’m not surprised. She’s had an emotionally exhausting day.”

Sophia stirred. Her eyes opened slowly, but upon seeing her cousin before her, she sat up. “Eilonwy said you were off to look for the box from my memories. Did you find the regalia?”

Morgan slid a quick look at the chaplain, but Sophia intercepted it, understanding his meaning. “Father Devlin already knows.”

“Ah.” Morgan slid his hand inside his jacket, withdrew it again holding the wooden box. Falling to one knee, he opened the lid to reveal its contents to his Queen.

She reached a finger towards the regalia within, almost but not quite touching them, her features suffused with awe, although when she finally spoke, a light hint of dry humor tinged her words. “Cousin, this had better not be your idea of a marriage proposal, or I’m afraid I shall have to decline.”

Jen burst into laughter as Morgan all but sprang back onto his feet. “Not just no!”



Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1605.0.html
« Last Edit: November 01, 2015, 07:17:36 pm by Evie »
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2015, 09:46:34 pm »
Nice chapter - so many Morgan Moments - *sigh*

They have the regalia, but traditionally, the sovereign decides the assumption ritual.  Since Araxelle never really assumed the powers, and therefore might have a problem passing them on, now what?

You will reveal all, when it is time.   ;D
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2015, 10:04:02 pm »
Nice chapter - so many Morgan Moments - *sigh*

They have the regalia, but traditionally, the sovereign decides the assumption ritual.  Since Araxelle never really assumed the powers, and therefore might have a problem passing them on, now what?

You will reveal all, when it is time.   ;D

Traditionally, that's true, but it's not a requirement. For instance, when Kelson was presumed dead and Nigel was incapacitated almost immediately afterwards, neither of them anticipated Conall needing to be empowered so soon, but that didn't stop Alaric, Arilan, etc. from coming up with an appropriate ritual regardless, even to the point of having to replace the lost Eye of Rom with a star sapphire earring, since Kelson was still wearing the original earring.
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Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2015, 11:51:13 pm »
For Conoll's empowerment, remember that Alaric had already empowered two Kings.  He knew all that was involved. Also, when Conoll's was completed, I recall someone questioning if they had really done anything for Conoll in the ritual, almost as if they sensed that he had already been empowered. Being empowered earlier with out the Regalia may have led to Conoll's evilness. It is the possibility that the regalia instills the responsibilities of the Kingdom along with the power that it brings forth. To quote my favorite comic hero " With great power comes great responsibility." I believe it is the regalia that gives the responsibility and that is what makes it so important.


I felt pretty sure they would find the box at the crash site.  The only place where it would have remained unfound for years. I am just glad no one had to go swimming in icy water for it. I feared Jen was going to have to do a body warming spell on his Dishiness. Not that she would have minded. I don't think.

I am sympathetic with Morgan for feeling his loss in this chapter.  I was starting to think he was a little aloof over nearly being dead along with the people he knew best.  I knew he was being strong for Sophia's sake, but it is nice to see the crack in his exterior when she is not around.

I grinned at the black Gryphon Charger 3Z.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2015, 11:53:02 pm by Laurna »

Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2015, 06:22:58 am »
Am appalled by a Royal duke who sits so lightly to his history - you need to find someone to give you personal tuition, your Grace. :o
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2015, 12:36:29 pm »
For Conoll's empowerment, remember that Alaric had already empowered two Kings.  He knew all that was involved. Also, when Conoll's was completed, I recall someone questioning if they had really done anything for Conoll in the ritual, almost as if they sensed that he had already been empowered. Being empowered earlier with out the Regalia may have led to Conoll's evilness. It is the possibility that the regalia instills the responsibilities of the Kingdom along with the power that it brings forth. To quote my favorite comic hero " With great power comes great responsibility." I believe it is the regalia that gives the responsibility and that is what makes it so important.

Conall was already showing evidence of extreme self-centeredness even before Tiercel got hold of him.  Think back to his visit to Transha and his attitudes, for instance. All that the secret empowerment did was give him enough power that made it harder for others to keep his natural selfish tendencies in check. Even if he'd been empowered with all of the traditional regalia rather than just two-thirds of it, I think he still would have remained rotten at the core.  After all, IIRC there have been times previous to his empowerment where only two of the three insignia were used, but the ritual still worked and there wasn't any detrimental effect to the monarch being empowered.

Quote
I felt pretty sure they would find the box at the crash site.  The only place where it would have remained unfound for years. I am just glad no one had to go swimming in icy water for it. I feared Jen was going to have to do a body warming spell on his Dishiness. Not that she would have minded. I don't think.

I think the traditional, low-tech method of warming someone in danger of hypothermia is direct skin-to-skin contact, but while Jen thinks His Dishyness is quite dishy, I'm sure she feels rather relieved such drastic measures were not necessary with a man she's known for less than a week.  :D

Quote
I am sympathetic with Morgan for feeling his loss in this chapter.  I was starting to think he was a little aloof over nearly being dead along with the people he knew best.  I knew he was being strong for Sophia's sake, but it is nice to see the crack in his exterior when she is not around.

Yes, even though Morgan (like many men) is not someone given to breaking into tears easily, especially around others, that doesn't mean he doesn't feel their loss very deeply.  And feeling he has to be strong for Sophia's sake would only add to his burdens.

Quote

I grinned at the black Gryphon Charger 3Z.

Thought you might enjoy that!  ;D

Am appalled by a Royal duke who sits so lightly to his history - you need to find someone to give you personal tuition, your Grace. :o

Are you volunteering to provide his personal tutelage?  :D

Rest assured that he does care deeply about that history, and is more knowledgeable about it than he lets on. He just can't resist an opportunity to tease the cute, wide-eyed Americian tourist beside him!
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2015, 01:15:34 pm »
Great chapter, we are learning so much! Loved His Grace the Duck's car, agree so many marvelous Morgan Moments, pleased he knows about fan babes. I like that we are now seeing tiny bits of his grief; his experience being IN the castle when it was bombed, finding out afterwards the horrific loss. I am sure he is repressing and controlling the post-traumatic stress. Peter echoed this after his time with Colin. I liked Sophia's line of with which trauma should I start?

I am so glad they found the Regalia! Interesting comment that the regalia encourages the responsibility -- I think that applies everywhere. The passing of power, handing over the keys, the gavel, the new business card, the diaper bag, signing the marriage certificate and the mortgage documents. Sigh.

The relationships are coming together-- I mentioned before that this story is as much about love as anything else. Love of country, love of family, romantic love, and the twists, often so awful, of thwarted love.

Thank you for another great chapter.
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2015, 01:30:05 pm »

Conall was already showing evidence of extreme self-centeredness even before Tiercel got hold of him.  Think back to his visit to Transha and his attitudes, for instance. All that the secret empowerment did was give him enough power that made it harder for others to keep his natural selfish tendencies in check. Even if he'd been empowered with all of the traditional regalia rather than just two-thirds of it, I think he still would have remained rotten at the core.  After all, IIRC there have been times previous to his empowerment where only two of the three insignia were used, but the ritual still worked and there wasn't any detrimental effect to the monarch being empowered.

I've said it before, but Nigel should have sent Conall off to be fostered elsewhere; perhaps with Auntie Jehanna's people in Bremagne, or to the Hortic Court, or Llannedd-Howicce.  He would have been just one noble page among others.  True, he would have grown up (probably) to have been a jerk, but not the complete monster he became.  (The whole point of the fosterage system is that at a certain stage a boy's own father is not always objective enough to know what's best for him; Nigel was very good at training and molding young nobles, but he missed the signs of what Conall was turning into.)

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2015, 05:43:05 pm »
Great chapter, we are learning so much! Loved His Grace the Duck's car, agree so many marvelous Morgan Moments, pleased he knows about fan babes. I like that we are now seeing tiny bits of his grief; his experience being IN the castle when it was bombed, finding out afterwards the horrific loss. I am sure he is repressing and controlling the post-traumatic stress. Peter echoed this after his time with Colin. I liked Sophia's line of with which trauma should I start?

I'm sure as "The Most Eligible Bachelor in Gwynedd," Morgan knows about fan babes all too well.  ;D

Yes, strong and stoic as he might try to be, he can't shut off his feelings forever.  And as you'll see in upcoming chapters, he's been struggling with grief issues and suppressed feelings for quite some time--recent events have just been sort of a "Round Two" for him.

I really hope to unpackage Peter's backstory some more in a subsequent story.

Quote
I am so glad they found the Regalia! Interesting comment that the regalia encourages the responsibility -- I think that applies everywhere. The passing of power, handing over the keys, the gavel, the new business card, the diaper bag, signing the marriage certificate and the mortgage documents. Sigh.

There is that. Some people live up to the increased responsibility that such rites of passage signify, and others unfortunately don't.

Quote
The relationships are coming together-- I mentioned before that this story is as much about love as anything else. Love of country, love of family, romantic love, and the twists, often so awful, of thwarted love.

Thank you for another great chapter.

Thanks for continuing to read it!  And yes, the various forms of love are a recurrent theme throughout this story.


I've said it before, but Nigel should have sent Conall off to be fostered elsewhere; perhaps with Auntie Jehanna's people in Bremagne, or to the Hortic Court, or Llannedd-Howicce.  He would have been just one noble page among others.  True, he would have grown up (probably) to have been a jerk, but not the complete monster he became.  (The whole point of the fosterage system is that at a certain stage a boy's own father is not always objective enough to know what's best for him; Nigel was very good at training and molding young nobles, but he missed the signs of what Conall was turning into.)

While I doubt fosterage would have entirely cured Conall of his self-centeredness, it certainly might have helped to curb it. Though who knows?  Rory and Payne both seem to have turned out well despite their lack of being fostered out, but then again, they probably all had different personalities from the start, and grew up according to their individual bents. Child raising is hardly a one-size-fits-all sort of thing, though, and it's possible if Nigel had been more aware of the signs that his firstborn was turning out to be a major brat, he might have taken some sort of corrective measures sooner.  Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, and since Conall was his firstborn, Nigel and Meraude were also less experienced parents with him than with their later children, which might have contributed to any mistakes they may have made.
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Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2015, 02:13:08 am »
I think the problem for Conall probably starts when Kelson becomes king so suddenly and the difference in their status and roles moves from being not that disimiliar to being poles apart. Kelson is empowered and is catapulted into manhood  (not without it's price for him psychologically as we see from his petulant reversion in KKB) whereas Conall remains a "mere" squire and is excluded from the centre of the action. He barely appears in the first trilogy and the first close up of his character is the arrogant princeling at Transha in TBH.

He has obviously failed to cope with the speed at which Kelson has moved away from him and probably needed moving out of the situation entirely -to Bremagne or Llandedd as suggested. However I don't think Nigel can be blamed given that at this point in the story Gwynedd is facing Schism, civil war and invasion. Conall is left to get on with it  - but that is what happens in wartime.

Conall also has the pressures of being the eldest to deal with -something Nigel has no experience of - there are a couple of nice glimpses of the relationship that Nigel might have had with his adult son as they watch Duncan's age my move out at the beginning of TKJ had things been different. I think the irrtrievable harm happens when Dhugal comes on the scene  And Conall is pushed even further out. Again Kelson's mishandling of this is surely due to his having had to grow up too quickly.
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Offline drakensis

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2015, 03:21:24 am »
It's hard to underestimate the degree to which young men can be self-absorbed little snots.

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2015, 07:32:52 am »
I think the problem for Conall probably starts when Kelson becomes king so suddenly and the difference in their status and roles moves from being not that disimiliar to being poles apart. Kelson is empowered and is catapulted into manhood  (not without it's price for him psychologically as we see from his petulant reversion in KKB) whereas Conall remains a "mere" squire and is excluded from the centre of the action. He barely appears in the first trilogy and the first close up of his character is the arrogant princeling at Transha in TBH.

Part of the problem, also, was that as Kelson's first cousin about the same age, Conall expected (and was probably implicitly or even explicitly told by the adults in his life) that he was supposed to be a surrogate brother to Kelson, and then he was pushed out of that role by Dughal, who wasn't even blood-kin.  He wouldn't have been normal if he hadn't resented the situation at least a little.

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2015, 07:33:45 am »
It's hard to underestimate the degree to which young men can be self-absorbed little snots.

As a former high-school and middle-school teacher, I can say that it isn't just young men.

Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2015, 03:04:49 pm »
It's hard to underestimate the degree to which young men can be self-absorbed little snots.

As a former high-school and middle-school teacher, I can say that it isn't just young men.

A fair point, Elkhound. Adolescent human beings of both genders are frequently self-absorbed and snotty.
 
Enjoyed this chapter, Evie! For all the reasons mentioned by other  commenters. Morgan  is clearly filled with feeling about the sudden loss of most of his relatives. Including his close friend, Prince Kelric. It was as if suddenly Alaric were deprived of Duncan.  He has certainly been a staunch supporter for Sophia in the current difficult circumstances, but they're both hurting.  Enjoyed the thought of two young Haldane boys completely obliterating their toy Custodes Fidei. =o) Take that for the murder of King Javan, you little...toys!

Poor Jen, surrounded by Gwyneddan history, in the company of Haldane royalty, and no time to indulge her curiosity properly. =o)

I have the uneasy feeling that another disaster is on the horizon, but maybe that's just me. It's been a couple of days since the whole Camberian Council was gassed...Malcolm isn't just sitting on his hands, I'm sure...

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Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Seventeen
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2015, 12:23:55 pm »
Yes, for Morgan Haldane, losing Prince Kelric was much like it would have been for Alaric if he'd lost Duncan, or perhaps Kelson losing Dhugal (or vice versa).  Don't worry, Jen will have a chance later to indulge at least some of her historical curiosity.  And no, Malcolm hasn't stopped plotting, though what he has in mind might take a few more days to set up.
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