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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five  (Read 6709 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« on: December 06, 2015, 07:18:14 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1627.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Five

Early evening
The Dining Room
Tre-Arilan
December 26, 2021


“I thought we weren’t planning on meeting again this soon?” Lady Alicia Coris groused as she took her place at the makeshift Council table. “And wasn’t there some plan for having our Council chamber fully secured in time for our next meeting?”

“That was the hope,” James Arilan confirmed, “But you know what they say about best laid plans. Personally, I’d love to have my dining room back--it’s a good thing I didn’t have a dinner party planned for this evening!--but once you hear Father Devlin’s news, I think you’ll agree this couldn’t wait. We’re just waiting on Lady Violet to arrive.”

“In that case, you need wait no longer, dear boy. I am here.” Violet Estridge took the remaining seat at the table.

“All right,” Peter Astari said, “Let’s hear this urgent news, then. Unlike you, James, Maureen and I did have dinner plans tonight.”

Everyone turned toward Father Devlin. He regarded them soberly. “I have been informed this afternoon that agents of Humanity Ascendant are planning some sort of disruption on the day of the Royal Funeral, and that whatever is in the works will involve another gas attack.  This time, however, the toxin used will not be acrinious gas, but most likely something more Deryni-specific.” His blue eyes swept the circle of faces around the table. “Word on the street is that Humanity Ascendant will launch a merasha gas attack designed to debilitate all of the Deryni present for the funeral, and that all of the HA cells in the greater Rhemuth area have been called upon to muster up and equip themselves for this attack. Now that she has been Empowered, the potential victims of such an attack would include the Queen as well. We must find out more about this plot so that we can stop yet another terrorist attack from happening.”

There was a brief tumult of loud reaction in the room, but once the outcry began to die down, Elspeth asked, “Do you think there is any chance of a postponement until Anti-Terrorism gets to the bottom of this? Surely they’ll have heard word of such activities by now and are already doing something about it? But I’d think a public safety threat is more important than a bunch of religious mumbo jumbo, anyway, so can’t the Cathedral ceremony just wait a bit longer?”

“Hopefully Anti-Terrorism have heard some reports already and are doing something about it, although just in case they’ve not, I plan to call in a report as soon as this meeting is over,” Father Devlin said. “I can’t imagine there’d be that much sudden activity involving an organization like the HA without Anti-Terrorism sitting up and taking note, though if they are doing something about it, I don’t think they’ve notified Her Majesty of the danger yet, which makes me really wonder why. I’d have thought she’d be the first person they’d report any hint of a threat to.  As to a postponement of the funeral, though, that’s another matter entirely. I don’t get the sense that our new Queen is one to give in to terrorists, although granted, the fact that a plot of this sort would affect every Deryni in attendance, not simply herself, might sway her decision.”

“I agree,” James said. “I think she’d wish to proceed with caution, but we can hardly postpone the funeral indefinitely, and that may actually be what Humanity Ascendant is hoping to do. The Kingdom would have difficulty bringing full closure to the previous reign before the ceremonial laying to rest of our late Queen, and without that sense of closure, it would be difficult to plan ahead for the Coronation. Not to mention we need to have a Coronation sometime in the near future, yet even if the Queen should decide on changing the funeral date, or having a closed service and only allowing the public to view a broadcast rather than paying their respects in person, that would only mean Humanity Ascendant would likely shift their plans to Coronation, or the Queen’s Birthday, or whatever other large public gathering might be planned in future. So I don’t think HM is likely to shift her schedule around the possibility that someone might use the occasion as an opportunity to create mayhem. Taking precautions to protect HM as well as the public despite the known threat, however, that I can see happening.”

“We need to have our own plan in place,” Peter Astari opined, “just in case Anti-Terrorism somehow manages to drop the ball on this.”

“Father Devlin, when you do report to the authorities,” said Maureen thoughtfully, “I would suggest you contact my son-in-law Patrick Adams to do so. I believe he is still at Eirian House, so that might be most convenient for you anyway, but if you simply ring it in to Police Headquarters, I’m not entirely sure I’d trust the A-T Chief to take your warning seriously. He’s notoriously suspicious of Deryni; even if he wouldn’t fully condone the Humanity Ascendant plot, he may have some sympathies toward a group of people who want to ‘put Deryni in their place,’ or ‘keep them in line,’ as he might see it.”

“Surely he wouldn’t be supportive on an attack on the Queen, though?” Lady Violet protested. “It’s one thing to be anti-Deryni and quite another to condone treason! Surely the man’s not that stupid?”

“I assure you as a Deryni who has had the dubious pleasure of working with him, he is quite nearly that stupid,” Lady Alicia stated. “Although he probably wouldn’t view it as condoning treason. Actually, he might get it in his head that allowing a merasha attack to take place would be doing Her Majesty a favor by pre-empting any renegade Deryni from trying anything on with her while she is outside the safety of Eirian House. Remember, the public thinks of Her Majesty as Haldane, not Deryni, and they don’t always have it fixed firmly in their heads that there is a great deal of overlap in what that means, both genetically speaking and in terms of powers manifested. As long as the Chief thinks of HM as ‘one of us’ rather than ‘one of them,’ it may not even occur to him until too late that the Queen would be made equally vulnerable in a merasha attack. So no, I don’t think he’d knowingly condone treason, but yes, in my opinion he really is that stupid, or at least that ignorant of the possible consequences of inaction.”



Early evening
Coroth Keep, Fourth Level
December 26, 2021


“What hap--?” A flash of memory returned to Heather as she sat up and took in her surroundings. Jennifer DeLisle hovered anxiously over her. “Wait, where’s my patient?” She struggled to stand, but was stopped by Jen.

“No, wait, it’s not safe! His Grace said to remain in here and keep the door locked until he returns or sends someone to let us know it’s safe to open it. There’s an intruder in the Castle . . . .” Examining at the bump at the back of Heather’s head, Jen added, “Though I suppose you already know that.”

“Yes.” Heather closed her eyes and did a quick self-assessment. She felt drained, but that was to be expected, given the sudden expenditure of power required to shield herself from her attacker’s psionic energy blast. She’d hit the wall with a fair amount of force as well, although her self-examination reassured her that she had not suffered any fractures or concussion, just some bruising. It had been the pain of the energy blast and the sudden shock to her system caused by that and by the force of slamming into the wall that had caused her to pass out, not any serious injury. She’d been extremely fortunate, all things considered. Or just maybe Saint Camber had heard her prayer after all.

“Who was my attacker, do you know?” Heather asked. “I think he picked this room specifically; he was after Mrs Whitfield. All I can remember is that he was tall and had an accent. Camberian, I think.”

“I don’t know who he was,” Jen stated, “though I’m sure His Grace will soon find out.”

Heather stared at Jen curiously. “Is that His Grace’s undershirt?”

Jen blushed, belatedly remembering Morgan’s odd actions before they’d entered the secret passage in pursuit of the intruder. “Um, yes. I have no idea why he--ah--lent it to me.”

“I think I do. Ancient Derry area protective magic.” Heather touched the embroidered gryphon on Jen’s chest with a fingertip to confirm her guess. “Tell me he’s wearing a matching shirt?”

Jen’s blush deepened. “Um, no, there wasn’t time. He just went in shirtless.”

“Oh, crap!” Heather grabbed Jen’s hand. “Help me up; I’m sure someone’s going to need a Healer soon, and let’s just pray it’s not going to be His Grace.”



Early evening
Coroth Keep, Third Level Corridor
December 26, 2021


“Jeannie FitzWilliam, you daft little idiot,” Morgan muttered as he checked on his fallen staff member, “don’t you dare die on me, or I’ll kill you!” Despite the harsh threat, his touch was gentle as he checked her pulse and breathing before prying her fingers off the spare undershirt she held. His face paled as he noticed a few torn fibers, and he unbuttoned the top buttons of her uniform shirt to check her for further injury. A dark bruise above her heart area confirmed his suspicions. She’d taken a bullet, or would have had she not been clutching his shirt against her chest at the moment of impact.

Blood trickled down the back of her scalp and neck, and at the moment that worried him even more.

He considered carrying her to the castle infirmary, but he was afraid to move her. But then he remembered there was a Healer one floor up, at least if she had regained consciousness. If not, then she’d need medical help too, but first things first.

His steward Martha arrived on the scene, and Morgan rose to his feet. “Keep an eye on Jeannie; I’m going up to let Jen know it’s safe to come out and see if Healer O’Flynn is in any condition to help out here. But just in case she’s not, please summon the physician on call as well.”

“I’m on it, sir,” Martha replied, her two-way radio at the ready.



Early Evening
Coroth Castle Infirmary
December 26, 2021


The medics arrived on scene to move Jeannie onto a gurney and transport her to the castle infirmary just after Morgan went upstairs to check on Heather’s condition.  He unlocked the secured room to find Heather conscious and eager to check on her patient. Caroline Whitfield was in the infirmary as well, so after a quick check to ensure the Healer was truly as unharmed as she claimed, Morgan escorted her and Jen to that area of the castle.

Heather used a fatigue-banishing spell to ease the exhausted feeling brought on by the energy drain of having to defend herself against her attacker. She knew she would sleep like the dead later, but for now it was necessary; she’d be of little use to anyone if she couldn’t function properly as a Healer.

“Where is the physician on call?” Morgan asked as soon as they’d arrived at the infirmary.

“He’s checking on those two patients you bug-zapped, sir,” said a medic, “but he’ll be heading straight back here to attend to Jeannie.”

“Healer O’Flynn is here, if you could show her where Jeannie is, and then she may require some medical assistance as well. Whether or not she objects,” he added as he saw Heather open her mouth to do just that. Heather, realizing it would be useless to argue, stifled the protest she was about to make. It wouldn’t hurt to accept a bit of analgesic pain relief, she decided, rather than expend any more healing energy on herself than was absolutely necessary.

“Yes, sir. Right this way, ma’am.”

Jeannie’s injuries, it turned out, were worse than her own, yet not nearly as severe as they might have been, Heather decided once she compared the bruising on Jeannie’s chest with the amount of damage done to the undershirt that the Duke of Corwyn had retrieved from her patient and was now wearing. There was a section of fabric on the right sleeve cap that was only lightly frayed, but given Heather’s knowledge of how the protective magic stitched into that undershirt worked, that meant that the bullet the shirt had deflected was fired at point blank range and would likely have killed Jeannie instantly had she not been protected by the arcane stitchery. She also had a concussion and a skull fracture--from the look and feel of the injury, she’d probably banged her head on the door handle behind her with great force as she’d been knocked backwards by the bullet’s impact.

These more serious injuries would need to be dealt with first. Heather slipped into a Healing trance, and with a quick prayer to Saint Camber began to work, stopping the bleeding and moving the bone fragments back into place.



Early evening
A secure room near the infirmary
Coroth Castle
December 26, 2021


She couldn’t explain what had just happened to her, what it was that had brought a sudden mental clarity even as it had jolted excruciating pain through every fiber of her being, but for the first time in years she felt almost . . . whole? Was this what wholeness felt like? Maybe that wasn’t the word she was looking for, not exactly, but she was no longer lost in a fog, trapped somewhere within her own mind, a helpless prisoner of her body. She was self-aware again, but more than that, she was back in full control of herself in a way that she hadn’t been in a long time.  Even when she’d thought she’d been in her right mind, she now recognized there’d been that other malignant presence lurking deep beneath her conscious self, the presence that she’d been unaware of but which had lain dormant until awakened to take complete control of her.  That presence was still there, its memories fully available for her to access, yet now it felt locked away somehow, encapsulated beneath protective shields. Protective to herself, that is--to Caroline Alisandra Sheraton, her real self. Or perhaps to Caroline Whitfield--here in Gwynedd she supposed that was now her legal name, not that the poor man her half-self had married was likely to want her back after what she’d done to him!

The malignant form of Alisandra was still there, deeply buried like an entombed viper, but Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield had full control now. She did not intend to ever give it up again.

Fragmentary memories of the past few days flitted through her mind, and she assembled the pieces one by one until she had strung them into a sequence that made sense.  She heard the click of the door lock and opened her eyes to find a man in scrubs and a white lab coat approaching her.

“Are you a doctor, sir?” she asked, her first fully lucid question in some time.

“I am. You’ve had a very nasty jolt. I need to check your vital signs. How are you feeling?”

“I feel . . . wonderfully aware.”  She smiled. “Is this Coroth Castle?”

The doctor paused, but evidently decided there would be no harm in answering the question. “It is.”

The enemy of my enemy is my friend, Caroline reminded herself, or at least a powerful potential ally. “Then could you arrange for me to see the Duke of Corwyn?”



Early evening
Another high security room
Coroth Castle
December 26, 2021


The prisoner, Morgan had been told, was doing as well as any man might be expected to do who’d just received a severe jolt to his neurological system while under the influence of merasha. Morgan could not quite find it in himself to be sympathetic, under the circumstances.

He faced the man now, his pale green eyes sizing up the bleary-eyed stranger before him. Despite the drug coursing through his bloodstream--or perhaps because of it--the man’s expression was hostile. No surprise there.

“Who are you?” Morgan asked, a steely note of Truth-Say in his voice. He could sense the man’s attempt to resist the command in his voice, but the merasha in his system made his resistance vulnerable and his shields fragmentary.

“T-Torrence, Gr-gregory M.”

Interesting. Most civilians would probably have named themselves by first name then surname, Morgan mused; was this man in a military branch or some other form of service? “Who sent you, Torrence?”

The man’s eyes widened briefly before he passed out. Morgan cursed. Whoever had sent him had probably placed him under a compulsion not to share that information. He attempted a brief psychic probe to see if he could slip inside the fragmenting shields long enough to obtain the information he needed,  but within a split second he realized that he couldn’t sustain a mental link without the merasha disruption affecting him also. He withdrew.

Morgan studied the unconscious man, a grim expression on his face. He strongly suspected that Torrence’s master must be the same person who had created the Caroline/Alisandra multiple. Someone somewhere--probably in Camberia--wanted his asset back, and had sent Torrence to find her. That someone, Morgan now suspected thanks to Karim’s information, was possibly the heir to the Camberian throne, Malcolm Atherton-Haldane, but he needed more tangible proof. Whoever their master was, it was certain he was no friend to Gwynedd. Morgan could not afford to ignore the threat that the Camberian mastermind presented; if he had two lackeys under his command here in Gwynedd, chances were high there were others as yet undiscovered. What, besides seeking the destruction of the Camberian Council, were they sent here to do?

Whatever else they might have been sent here for, undermining Sophia’s hold on the throne of Gwynedd had to be the top priority on their mission list, Morgan was certain. But how could he find out what their exact plans were without setting off the Death-Trigger their master was quite likely ruthless enough to have placed within Torrence’s mind, given how many such triggers he’d planted within Caroline/Alisandra? And how much time did he have left to discover the answers that he needed?

There was a discreet knock on the door. “Your Grace?” a voice said from the other side. “One of the other patients is asking to speak with you, sir.”

With a snarl of frustration, Morgan left, setting a guard on the door with instructions to inform him the moment the prisoner regained consciousness.


Early evening
A secure room near the infirmary
Coroth Castle
December 26, 2021


Outwardly Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield looked no different than she ever had, yet there was a serene look to her expression that Morgan had never seen there before.  Heather stood behind her, her eyes closed as she held her hands lightly to either side of the patient’s head, but as Morgan entered she opened her eyes, an excited glow on her face. “Your Grace, as crazy as this might sound, thank you for the electroshock therapy to my patient.” She grinned. “I’m not sure why or how, but the sudden jolt to her neurological system seems to have done something to accelerate her healing. May I give you a proper introduction to Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield, sir? The real Caroline.”

“All right . . . . So what does this mean, exactly?”

Caroline stood, dropping into a deep curtsey. “It means I remember who I am now, Your Grace, and everything that has happened to me. And I request political asylum. I will share everything I can remember with you, but I will need your protection if I do.”

Morgan raised a skeptical eyebrow. “And why would you do that?” he asked, openly Truth-Reading her.

“Because you are your Queen’s Champion. And because I want nothing more than to see your true enemy dead at her feet. Your enemy and mine.”



Late evening
The Queen’s Receiving Room
Eirian House
December 26, 2021


Chief Detective Inspector Sir Edmund Arnold stared up at the Queen on her dais in growing alarm. He did not recognize the man standing to her right, although he assumed due to the clerical collar that he must be the Queen’s chaplain, but both of them seemed to be favoring him with looks of disapproval, and he hadn’t any notion of what he could have done to merit such treatment.  He glanced at DI Adams, who had summoned him unceremoniously from his cozy flat just minutes earlier with a “Request and Require” notice and trotted him off to the Public Portal for an urgent meeting here at Eirian House, but Adams hadn’t been very forthcoming when pressed for the reason behind Her Majesty’s peremptory summons. He’d merely said it was a matter of national security.

He was not left to wonder for long, for as soon as he’d managed to bow to the Queen and stammer out his greeting, she returned his polite words with a cool smile. “Sir Edmund, it’s good of you to attend me for this meeting.  I am informed through certain other channels that there is a high likelihood that a merasha gas attack on the public is being planned by Humanity Ascendant to coincide with some part of the funeral ceremonies taking place over the next four days.  What can you tell me of this threat, and is there a reason why you have not seen fit to inform me of it before now?”

The Chief blanched.  “Well, there have been reports of such rumors, to be sure, Ma’am . . . Your Majesty  . . . but hardly any credible ones!  They’ve been duly noted, of course, but we could hardly steer too much manpower away from more serious avenues of investigation . . . .

“More serious than a threat to the general public during a State Funeral, sir? How so?”

“Well . . . ah. . . the evidence shows that the Rhemuth Castle bombing was committed by a man named Lloyd O’Malley . . . .”

“Yes, so We have been told, but surely O’Malley’s involvement has been proven as much as it can be by now, has it not? His DNA was found at the epicenter of the bomb site, when it shouldn’t have been anywhere within hundreds of miles from Rhemuth.”

“Uh, yes Ma’am, it has been.  And his financial trail is currently under investigation, as Detective Inspector Adams can attest.  He’s been working that angle quite diligently.” He gave a discreet glance around the room,  his gaze falling on DI Adams, who confirmed his words with a nod from the corner where he was seated. The Chief frowned, wondering if Her Majesty ever planned on inviting him to sit or if he was to be left standing all night.

“So I don’t understand. Are you saying you only have the manpower to focus on a single investigation at a time? What is it that precludes you receiving any new information that might have a bearing on the same case? That is, I assume the reason the HA is mobilizing for my family’s funeral is that they hope to complete the job, so one might think all the detectives working the case might have a need to know of new developments? And yet DI Adams tells me he had not been informed of this latest threat until I spoke to him earlier this evening. Why is that, Sir Edmund?”

“Well--ah--we have looked into the new rumors, of course, but there is no reason to suspect Humanity Ascendant of any malice, Ma’am. It’s just the sort of innuendo that often comes up at such times of high stress.  People start imagining threats where there are none.”

“I see.  So despite the connection that has been made between Humanity Ascendant and Lloyd O’Malley, you do not think the current threats against Our House are credible?  Why not?  I assume you’ve at least looked into whether any of Our military supplies of merasha gas have gone missing?”

The Chief wiped some sweat off his brow.  “Well . . . ah . . . I’m afraid that the . . . uh . . . merasha gas supply is still under investigation, but as soon as I have those answers . . . . “

“That is under investigation?  That’s very good news, sir. Although I return to my earlier question, when were you planning on updating me on the upgraded threat and the updated status of your investigation?” The Queen smiled, although the Chief failed to be reassured since something in her expression put him in mind of a cat toying with a mouse.

He suddenly realized whoever had been putting these thoughts into her head must be some meddling Deryni trying to turn the young and inexperienced Queen’s head against her wiser, more experienced, and very loyal human subjects such as himself. He must not allow her to be swayed by such notions as she’d obviously been spoon-fed.  Here was his chance to set the record straight.

“Your Majesty, it is obvious to me that you have been been misinformed of the severity of the claims against Humanity Ascendant by some misguided individual or group.  I am certain they mean well.”  He was hardly certain of that at all, actually, but if he meant to placate her, it surely wouldn’t hurt to humor her. “But any danger to Your Majesty or the populace has been greatly exaggerated.  Humanity Ascendant sometimes uses annoying tactics, it is true, in order to engage people in a dialogue on the need for equal rights for humans and Deryni, but they are hardly a terrorist organization. Why in the world would they wish to disrupt the upcoming ceremonies with merasha gas? What purpose would that serve?”

Sophia of Gwynedd stared back at him for a moment, doubtless taking his observation to heart, judging by the arrested look on her face.  But then, leaning forward, she asked him, “What purpose did it serve, sir, when they kidnapped Colin O’Malley in order to force his father to wear a suicide bomb into Rhemuth Castle to blow up my family and most of the Royal Household? Damn it, man, can you still think they are not a terrorist organization?”

“But . . . Your Majesty, you simply must be careful who you listen to and leave this investigation to the professionals! There is no credible evidence of those two incidents being related at all!  Whoever was behind the O’Malley boy’s kidnapping, the two events are almost certainly coincidental, and even if they are not, we have no evidence that the kidnappers were associated with the HA at all!”

“You have no such evidence because none exists, or because you did not bother to look? Because, sir, I have a police report from Marley which differs very markedly from yours in that respect.”
 
He tried to think if he’d seen such a report cross his desk. Well, come to think, there’d been that dossier that had been hand-delivered from Marley HQ by that sexy red-haired Army captain--what was her name again? The forensic geneticist . . .  Ah yes, Captain Coris, that was it. But it was all speculative stuff, based on the memories of a traumatized boy and some reports of a civilian Deryni who should not have been mixed up in the matter at all. No doubt he wanted to cast a bad light on the HA, though; many Deryni were against humans taking their proper place in society, after all. Maybe he ought to take a closer look at that file once he returned to the office, just to see what sort of spin was being placed on the investigation by Her Majesty’s interfering Deryni advisors.

“Ma’am, you must understand, even if someone claiming to be a member of the HA was involved in that crime, anyone can claim to belong to an organization. But I am far from convinced that any actual Humanity Ascendant members were involved in Colin O’Malley’s abduction.  Why would Humanity Ascendant seek to commit treason?  They are Your Majesty’s loyal subjects! It’s far easier to believe that the bombing was committed by a rogue Deryni acting alone, or possibly with the aid of other rogue Deryni.  All of the evidence points in that direction.  O’Malley used to work for the Crown, he was dismissed three years ago for cause, and he’s held a grudge ever since.  If his son’s kidnapping was connected to the bombing in any way, then perhaps other enemies of the Crown might have used that grudge as well as his son as leverage to convince him to act in their shared interests, but that’s no reason to implicate Humanity Ascendant in those goings-on. Although others might have wished to implicate them . . . .” He let the implications sink in. Surely she would understand that there were certain elements of society who might wish to place the HA in a bad light to steer the spotlight of close scrutiny away from their own actions.

“I see.  Yet the financial trail DI Adams has been pursuing seems to show evidence to the contrary.  How do you explain that, sir?”

“Well, he did a preliminary rundown, yes, but it failed to make a case for any actual connections between O’Malley’s activities and any actual terrorist groups, so I’ve asked him to sort through his findings again..”

“Make his findings support your preconceived notions, you mean?”

“Yes, Ma’am . . .I mean no, that’s not it at all! But you must admit the evidence needs to line up with the known facts of the matter?”

“Sir, excuse me if I seem to know very little of investigative work, but I was under the impression that the evidence was to be used to determine the facts of the matter? If the ‘facts’ are merely assumed and the evidence made to fit, how do we know they are indeed facts?” She sighed.  “You admit that the rumors of a Humanity Ascendant plot have been reported to you, even though you don’t judge the threat to be credible. Who reported those rumors to you, Sir Edmund?”

“Well . . . Ma’am, I believe Detective Inspector Barclay Strachan could tell you more about that angle, for what it’s worth. I think it was some street kids in the St George Street precinct who originally called the reports in, but you know how those lads are.  Always trying to stir something up for the fun of it.”

“And what is DI Strachan’s analysis of these reports? Does he take them seriously, or does he think the threat is exaggerated also?”

“Well, Ma’am, I’m certain I’ve no idea on what he thinks, but he’s not brought them up to me again after I informed him there was no need to. He may have kept a file on them, Ma’am.”

“I’m certain he has, Ma’am,” DI Adams said, speaking up for the first time. The Chief had nearly forgotten he was there! “Strachan tends to keep an open eye and ear out for any leads, no matter how tenuous, and makes careful note of them in case they should prove useful at some point.”

“Right then.” Sophia steepled her fingers, thinking. “Diana Layton starts as my private secretary tomorrow afternoon after the procession to Rhemuth, but that’s leaving things rather too late, so Eilonwy, would you please ring up DI Strachan for an emergency meeting with the Armsman Corps and Eirian House Guard tonight and ask him to come prepared to remain at Eirian House until the end of the week?” She smiled at the Chief. “We’d really like to hear his take on all of this. We would hate to trouble you any further with this matter, Sir Edmund, since you don’t believe the threats are credible, but for Our own peace of mind We shall Request DI Strachan to attend Us to determine what additional security measures might need to be brought to bear between now and first light.  As for you, Sir Edmund, you are dismissed.  Paddy, please show your Chief to the Portal and escort him as far as Rhemuth, though I will need you back here directly once you’ve brought him through. I assume he will be able to make his way home safely from the station.”



Night
Coroth Castle
December 26, 2021


The ketil drip was a risk. The powerful drug would help to neutralize the merasha in the prisoner’s system, yet the lack of merasha’s disrupting influence could make Torrence more dangerous to his captors, not to mention more resistant to interrogation. So after a brief conference with the visiting Healer, the physician added a few milliliters of pentothane. The pentothane would lower Torrence’s inhibitions, making it more difficult for him to resist psychic suggestions or to keep his guard up and his thoughts fully shielded.

Pharmaceuticals were not the only weapons in their arsenal against Torrence’s defenses, however.

Torrence awoke to find he was not alone, yet the person in the room with him was neither a medic nor the despised Duke of Corwyn. Instead, the woman he had journeyed to Coroth to find and return to his master sat before him, studying him with a trace of a smile. “It’s about time you woke up, Greg.” She stood. “Ready to leave?”

He felt groggy, confused. “I’m sorry?”

The Viper gave him an impatient look. “Am I going to have to leave you behind, then?”

“No, no! Just give me half a sec.” Torrence shook his head, attempting to shake off his mental fog. “And here I thought I was going to have to carry you out of here over my shoulder!”

“Looks to me more like the other way around now,” the woman said. “Did he drug you?”

That would explain his odd lethargy. “He must have, the bloody bastard!”

“Typical.” She placed her arm around him, allowing him to lean against her. It was a delightful feeling, being allowed to wrap his arms around the lithe form he’d so admired from afar. As if she’d read his thought, she shared an intimate smile with him, reminding him of the days not so long ago when she strode the catwalks as Shera Alexander, desired by many, including himself, but possessed by their master alone. He dared not hope to enjoy too much of her even now--he didn’t have a death wish, and Malcolm Atherton-Haldane was not one to share!--but surely His Grace would not begrudge him indulging in the momentary fantasy that she was his to own, if only for the moment. Shera--or Alisandra?--whatever the Viper wished to call herself at the moment, she seemed indulgent enough of his whim, for her smile merely grew. He realized that the drugs he’d been given must have weakened his shields significantly, for his thoughts to be so readily apparent.

“Sorry,” he muttered.

“No need to apologize,” she soothed, helping to steady him on his feet. “I need you to bring me up to speed on everything that’s happened since my capture, though. Do you think you can do that?” Step by step, she began to help him towards the door.

“It’d take too long,” he said, his voice slurring.  “Escape now, explain later.”

“You could just show me,” she invited, brushing a tendril of thought against tissue-thin shields. “I know Malcolm had a special mission in mind for us, but that damned Corwyner captured me before I was able to get all the particulars.”

Torrence knew what their lord had in mind--the overall master plan, at any rate, if not all the specific details. She was right, it would only take seconds to share what he knew, if he allowed her to peek into his mind. Why not? She was on his side in this.

The moment her mind probed his, he recognized his error, but by then it was too late. He tried to pull away, stumbled as she let him go abruptly. “Bloody bitch!” he yelled.

The door opened, and the woman who’d played him for a fool sauntered out. He attempted to charge out of the room after her, heedless to anything else but his desire for vengeance, but found his way blocked by the Duke of Corwyn. “You’ll die for this!” he found himself screaming as he went for Morgan’s throat. “When Malcolm Atherton-Haldane is on the throne of Gwynedd, I’ll have your bloody duchy and your head on a silver salver!”

Morgan Haldane answered the taunt with a swift right cross, felling Torrence. “I think not,” the Duke replied, his voice dripping with contempt. As the Camberian made an attempt to stand, Morgan lifted him to his feet with his shirt front only to fell him once more with a quick punch to the solar plexus.

“Happy Boxing Day,” Morgan said as Torrence lay gasping like a beached fish. “That one was for Jeannie.” 

Two guards offered the Duke their crisp salutes as he strode past them and the door slammed and locked, cutting everyone off from Torrence’s view.



Night
Coroth Castle
December 26, 2021


Heather O’Flynn had already left, gone to spend the night at her mother’s house before returning with her daughter to Eirian House the following morning. Morgan gave Jen a rueful smile as they prepared to return to the palace. “This was not exactly how I anticipated the rest of this evening playing out,” he told her.

“You certainly know how to show a lady a good time,” Jen joked. “Rare antiquities, priceless art, scenic overlooks, grand hair-raising adventures . . . .”

He laughed. “Hopefully your next visit will be a little more sedate.”

“I’m invited for a next visit, then?”

“Oh, absolutely! It’s not a proper tour until you’ve seen the lushly embroidered underside of Duke Alaric’s four-poster bed canopy.” Unholy mischief gleamed in his eyes.

“You mean the one that’s on display at the downtown museum, I hope?” Jen asked. “Or am I going to have to smack you?”

Morgan grinned. “Sophia told you about that, did she?”

“No, I’m a historian; did you think I’d visit here without doing some basic research first? So tell me, does that pick up line usually work for you?”

“I don’t know, I’ve not trotted it out before. Does it work for me?”

Jen snorted. “In your dreams, Corwyn.” She stepped onto the Portal stone.

“Wait, I nearly forgot! Just one more thing,” Morgan said as he stepped onto the Portal beside her. “Raise your arms for me.”

“Why?” Jen asked in bewilderment as she complied. A moment later she had her answer as he whisked his undershirt over her head and stuffed it into his duffel bag. “That’s better. I’d have let you keep it, but those things cost a flaming fortune.” As she gaped up at him, he chuckled. “By the way, you’re really cute when you’re flustered, Doc.”

“Morgan Haldane, do not make me hurt you!”

He gave her an insufferable smile, drawing her close to pull her through t-space with him to their destination.




Next chapter:   http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1633.0.html
« Last Edit: December 11, 2015, 11:14:07 pm by Evie »
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Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2015, 08:16:12 pm »
Ahah! An important new ally has been gained. Being bug zapped is good for you! Who'd a thunk it?   Not to mention important new information has been obtained to fight Malcolm Haldane when he decides to put in an appearance. 

I almost felt sorry for Sir Edmund while he was being questioned by Queen Sophia. But then I got over it. I have a feeling D.I. Strachan is about to get a significant promotion at work if his information is useful to the Queen.

Melissa
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2015, 08:17:57 pm »
Wonderful, wonderful chapter!  the plot ball is picking up speed....

I'm glad Heather and Jeannie are OK.  I'm not entirely sure I would trust Carolyn/Alisandra/Viper completely, but the information she gathered from Torrence will be worth the risk, I'm sure.

I think I would like to send Sir Edmund into t-space and not let him back out.  Or turn him into little mouse for HM's kitten to "play" with.  Lovely inquisition scene!

Liked the ending exchange between Jen and His Grace.  I'd be happy to fall for that pick-up line.   ;D
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2015, 11:17:18 pm »
Thank you Evie!  Excellent chapter, many threads are coming together. I was happily surprised to see Morgan healing Jeannie. She is truly the Duck's Champion. I really hope she will get well and dance at Morgan & Jen's wedding and eventually find her own Duck.

So the real Caroline is coming together, literally. I thought Caroline seeking asylum from the Queen’s Champion was a brilliant move. This is a good example, in my opinion, of the whole being so much better than the sum of the parts. Now that Morgan knows the plan, what will he do? I also liked the scene where Sophia was being the queen – we have been privy to her rise and with these scene, she is fully the Queen, responsible for the well-being of her subjects and holding her staff accountable. She will be formidable. How soon will the Council bring her on board? Couldn't believe the "why aren't we back in our Chambers yet?" noise, when there has been so much going on. Sigh.

Last item for this post, I would like to order a chemise from the place in Derry, please. You can PM me their address if that is easier.
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Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2015, 03:07:30 am »
Great start to a dark and dreary Monday morning
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2015, 01:28:14 pm »
The Atherton-Haldanes had better watch out, as Queen Sophia and her ducal cousin are about to open up a few cans of whoop-a@@ on them.

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2015, 03:31:27 pm »
Quote
He laughed. “Hopefully your next visit will be a little more sedate.”

“I’m invited for a next visit, then?”

“Oh, absolutely! It’s not a proper tour until you’ve seen the lushly embroidered underside of Duke Alaric’s four-poster bed canopy.” Unholy mischief gleamed in his eyes.

Agreed, the tour of Corwyn is incomplete,  that embroidery is a must see. And I'll lay odds it was embroidered by the nimble fingers of the then countess of Derry. If you think the modern shirt from Derry is protective, I will bet that ancient bed canopy has all sorts of protective spells. It would not have survived a thousand years if it did not. 

As to the second part of the next visit. hmm. It will all depend on the duke being dishy or being ducky! We shall have to see.

Good for Sophia. 

Offline DesertRose

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #7 on: December 07, 2015, 08:50:19 pm »
Two guards offered the Duke their crisp salutes as he strode past them and the door slammed and locked, cutting everyone off from Torrence’s view.

I get the impression that those salutes were gestures of respect as much for Morgan's boxing skills as for his rank, LOL.

Shiral, I too almost felt sorry for Sir Edmund, except that his dipstick attitude is not to be borne, so he thoroughly deserved the dressing down he got from HM.
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Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2015, 05:50:48 am »
Elspeth asked, “Do you think there is any chance of a postponement until Anti-Terrorism gets to the bottom of this?

In my role as Gwyneddian Cultural Advisor (thank you for that appointment, Evie. Does it mean I get to liaise with Morgan?) I'm sure that there is a Gwyneddian equivalent of a stiff upper lip and "keep calm and carry on." I cannot imagine that anyone in authority would want to give any terrorist organisation the huge propaganda coup of thinking that they could dictate how and when Sophia and her people could mourn for their murdered royal family and lay them to rest.
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They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts."
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2015, 03:03:43 pm »
Ahah! An important new ally has been gained. Being bug zapped is good for you! Who'd a thunk it?   Not to mention important new information has been obtained to fight Malcolm Haldane when he decides to put in an appearance. 

I almost felt sorry for Sir Edmund while he was being questioned by Queen Sophia. But then I got over it. I have a feeling D.I. Strachan is about to get a significant promotion at work if his information is useful to the Queen.

Melissa

Yes, I somewhat suspect Sir Edmund's career has hit its apex and is headed for a rapid decline.

Wonderful, wonderful chapter!  the plot ball is picking up speed....

I'm glad Heather and Jeannie are OK.  I'm not entirely sure I would trust Carolyn/Alisandra/Viper completely, but the information she gathered from Torrence will be worth the risk, I'm sure.

I think I would like to send Sir Edmund into t-space and not let him back out.  Or turn him into little mouse for HM's kitten to "play" with.  Lovely inquisition scene!

Liked the ending exchange between Jen and His Grace.  I'd be happy to fall for that pick-up line.   ;D

Hopefully in a modern reproduction of the original bed, unless you enjoy sweeping up splinters!   ;D

I'm not sure I'd want to face Sophia when she's channeling her inner irritated-Kelson. 

Morgan agrees with your assessment of Caroline.  She came across as sincere during his Truth-Reading, but still, who knows what might still be lurking beneath surface appearances? Only time will tell.

Thank you Evie!  Excellent chapter, many threads are coming together. I was happily surprised to see Morgan healing Jeannie. She is truly the Duck's Champion. I really hope she will get well and dance at Morgan & Jen's wedding and eventually find her own Duck.

So the real Caroline is coming together, literally. I thought Caroline seeking asylum from the Queen’s Champion was a brilliant move. This is a good example, in my opinion, of the whole being so much better than the sum of the parts. Now that Morgan knows the plan, what will he do? I also liked the scene where Sophia was being the queen – we have been privy to her rise and with these scene, she is fully the Queen, responsible for the well-being of her subjects and holding her staff accountable. She will be formidable. How soon will the Council bring her on board? Couldn't believe the "why aren't we back in our Chambers yet?" noise, when there has been so much going on. Sigh.

Last item for this post, I would like to order a chemise from the place in Derry, please. You can PM me their address if that is easier.


You can try O'Flynn Embroidered Armour, Ltd., 115 Chervignon Street, Derry QR7 3FP, Kingdom of Gwynedd.  I think the email address is oflynnembroideredarmour@derry.kg.  (I'm half hoping a spambot will actually try that email address!)

Just to clarify, Morgan didn't actually Heal Jeannie, if that's what you meant, though he did administer first aid.  He's been trained as a first responder in his Search and Rescue days.  But he's not a Deryni Healer, hence his sense of urgency in seeking out assistance from either Heather or a physician.

The CC is just getting a little antsy since they're not used to meeting every few days like they've been doing since the bombing.  The stress can get a bit wearing, not to mention the meeting frequency rather disruptive (having to explain frequent absences from their day jobs can get tricky, especially for those CC members who aren't self-employed and have office jobs with standard work hours).  True, the delay in getting their regular meeting place back is a small problem given the larger scale things they have to deal with right now, but the sooner they can fall back into their regular pattern, the less stressed they'll be and the easier it will be for them to cope with the larger things on their plate.

Great start to a dark and dreary Monday morning

Glad to brighten the day!  :)

The Atherton-Haldanes had better watch out, as Queen Sophia and her ducal cousin are about to open up a few cans of whoop-a@@ on them.

Could be, wabbit!  ;D

Quote
He laughed. “Hopefully your next visit will be a little more sedate.”

“I’m invited for a next visit, then?”

“Oh, absolutely! It’s not a proper tour until you’ve seen the lushly embroidered underside of Duke Alaric’s four-poster bed canopy.” Unholy mischief gleamed in his eyes.

Agreed, the tour of Corwyn is incomplete,  that embroidery is a must see. And I'll lay odds it was embroidered by the nimble fingers of the then countess of Derry. If you think the modern shirt from Derry is protective, I will bet that ancient bed canopy has all sorts of protective spells. It would not have survived a thousand years if it did not. 

As to the second part of the next visit. hmm. It will all depend on the duke being dishy or being ducky! We shall have to see.

Good for Sophia. 

Yes, I'll lay odds that Richenda ordered those bedclothes from Celsie at some point, or they'd have long since rotted away by now.  But even the most powerful of Deryni magic would have faded significantly after 900 years, I'd imagine.  I'm sure the present-day Duke of Corwyn orders his protective undershirts from a descendant of Sean and Celsie, though not necessarily the present Countess of Derry.  Heather is an O'Flynn from a modest middle-class family, not the direct Derry line, yet she's got at least a passing acquaintance with that form of magic, even though she doesn't do it herself.

Two guards offered the Duke their crisp salutes as he strode past them and the door slammed and locked, cutting everyone off from Torrence’s view.

I get the impression that those salutes were gestures of respect as much for Morgan's boxing skills as for his rank, LOL.

Shiral, I too almost felt sorry for Sir Edmund, except that his dipstick attitude is not to be borne, so he thoroughly deserved the dressing down he got from HM.

LOL!  Yes, I'm sure the Duke was already high in his household's estimation, but that would have raised him up another notch or three.  ;D  And it's hard for me to feel too sorry for Sir Edmund, given that I spent most of the story wanting to throttle him.  ;)

Elspeth asked, “Do you think there is any chance of a postponement until Anti-Terrorism gets to the bottom of this?

In my role as Gwyneddian Cultural Advisor (thank you for that appointment, Evie. Does it mean I get to liaise with Morgan?) I'm sure that there is a Gwyneddian equivalent of a stiff upper lip and "keep calm and carry on." I cannot imagine that anyone in authority would want to give any terrorist organisation the huge propaganda coup of thinking that they could dictate how and when Sophia and her people could mourn for their murdered royal family and lay them to rest.

Sophia certainly doesn't intend to give in to terrorists. Though now you've got me wondering what the Gwyneddan equivalent to a "Keep Calm and Carry On" sign might be, and what sort of creative countermeasures Deryni might have come up with during a wartime Blitz.  :D


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Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2015, 05:01:17 pm »
http://eskipaper.com/images/keep-calm-and-carry-on-9.jpg

I can't see why the Gwyneddian one shouldn't be the same as the British as I imagine the Crown would have the same official symbolism. (This was an exhortation used during WW2 and in recent years has been reproduced in a number of appropriate and inappropriate ways!)

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Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2015, 05:43:45 am »
"You can try O'Flynn Embroidered Armour, Ltd., 115 Chervignon Street, Derry QR7 3FP, Kingdom of Gwynedd.

Seriously impressed with the correct British style postcode. The only thing is the first two letters refer to the nearest Postal town (here for instance we are CH49 as our nearest main sorting office is Chester) so am trying to come up with a town in Derry for which the abbreviation would be QR? Any creative ideas folks...?
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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.

Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2015, 12:48:48 am »
"You can try O'Flynn Embroidered Armour, Ltd., 115 Chervignon Street, Derry QR7 3FP, Kingdom of Gwynedd.

Seriously impressed with the correct British style postcode. The only thing is the first two letters refer to the nearest Postal town (here for instance we are CH49 as our nearest main sorting office is Chester) so am trying to come up with a town in Derry for which the abbreviation would be QR? Any creative ideas folks...?

Um...errr...Queensridge?
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Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2015, 02:12:18 am »
Or Quantockridge.   The Quantocks are a range of hills in the south west of England, so they have slipped a bit, but possibly more evocative than a queen with a permanent frown (Sophia isn't going to spend her whole reign interviewing Sir Edmund).  Either that or someone has seriously bad writing and it should be DR7.
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Five
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2015, 01:19:34 pm »
Well, I was thinking more along the lines of a geographical feature rather than a permanently furrowed brow. LOL!
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