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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six  (Read 4626 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« on: December 11, 2015, 11:12:54 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1631.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Six

Morning
The Chapel Royal
Eirian House
December 27, 2021


“Grant, Lord, that we who are baptized into the death of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ may continually put to death our evil desires and be buried with him; and that through the grave and gate of death we may pass to our joyful resurrection; through his merits, who died and was buried and rose again for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Sophia watched as Father Devlin received the coffins of her loved ones into the Chapel Royal, sprinkling them with water as each one was carried into the chapel by the few surviving members of the Armsmen Corps that had served them in life.

“Amen.” Sophia mouthed the word along with the others around her, although she was more focused on trying to hold her emotions in check as the two tiny coffins of her nephew and niece came into view now, the armsmen carrying all six caskets representing the Royal victims of the Rhemuth Castle attack to their central position in the chapel.

“‘I am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord. 'Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,'” the priest continued.  The last of the coffins--empty, Sophia knew, aside from a few scoops of Rhemuth Castle dust in each, mixed in with the ashes of the mingled human and Deryni remains those scoops may have contained--was gently placed into position before the congregation.

Father Devlin glanced over at her briefly then, his striking blue eyes filled with empathy.  Returning his attention to the coffins before him, he began to pray. “God our Father, by raising Christ your Son you destroyed the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. As we remember before you our sister Araxelle, our brother Kelric, our sister Stefanie, our sister Simone, our brother Aidan and sister Araxia, we ask your help for all who shall gather in their memory. Grant us the assurance of your presence and grace, by the Spirit you have given us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

“Amen.”

Surviving representatives of the two Royal Households represented carried the palls forward, draping the late monarch’s coffin first with the Royal Standard, then the Prince of Meara’s coffin with a pall bearing the arms of the Haldane heir.  The Princess Stefanie’s pall, bearing a lozenge showing her to be a daughter of the House of Haldane, came next, then Simone’s, the Princess of Meara’s pall, with the Haldane Lion quartered with her father’s MacEwan arms displayed on MacEwan tartan. The tiny coffins of her twin infants were draped last in snow white palls bordered in gold.

“On Mount Zion the Lord will remove the pall of sorrow hanging over all nations. He will destroy death forever. He will wipe away the tears from every face.”

Sophia knew Father Devlin’s words were her cue that it was time for her to add her contributions to the memorial. She stepped to a nearby table holding the royal regalia and other mementos.  Picking up the cushion that held the Crown worn by Araxelle at her Coronation--recently retrieved from the Rhemuth Castle Keep for the occasion along with several other items of regalia--she placed it at the head of her late mother’s coffin, followed by cushions bearing Kelric’s Mearan coronet and tiaras for her sister and sister-in-law. On Aidan’s and Araxia’s coffins, she placed framed portraits taken of them in their christening gowns. Blinking back tears, she stepped back to make way for Morgan to step forward to place the funerary wreaths at the foot of each coffin.

He made his way back to her side afterwards, his hand clasping hers, giving her strength even as he drew strength from her firm grip.

“God of all consolation, your Son Jesus Christ was moved to tears at the grave of Lazarus his friend. Look with compassion on your children in their loss; give to troubled hearts the light of hope, and strengthen in us the gift of faith, in Jesus Christ our Lord,” Father Devlin prayed.

“Amen,” the congregation responded. The priest continued on with the Requiem Mass, Sophia only half heeding him as she made her responses by rote, for her mind and heart were in the past, taking refuge from the morning’s torment in happier memories. Later, in solitude, she would add her own fervent prayers to those being offered up this morning, but for now she must be Queen of Gwynedd, the source of hope and strength for her people, and grieving queens could not afford the luxury of public tears.



Her hand was cold in his. If it were not for the strength of Sophia’s grasp, Morgan might have mistaken her grip for that of yet another family corpse.

It was nearly time for the Eucharist, nearly time for his irregularly scheduled crisis of faith. Ever since his parents’ untimely death three years earlier, he had struggled, wavering between belief and doubt, faith and fury, denial and acceptance. His chaplain at Coroth had assured him such struggles were normal, were as much a part of his grieving process as the initial shock that had given way to irrational feelings of rage at his parents and desolation over what he’d felt was their abandonment of him, never mind that their deaths were the result of an accident, happening through no fault of their own. The anger had turned its focus in time from his parents to God, a white-hot anger that had over the past three years begun to mellow into a red-hot ember, then gradually to a dark coal, barely warm anymore.

But now it flared again, threatening incandescence.  He’d come through the loss of his parents and had learned to move beyond it, growing stronger in the process, yet the transforming power of his grief had seared away his innocent faith and trust even as it had forged him into the man he’d had to become to take his father’s place as Corwyn’s Duke. He did not wish the same gut-wrenching pain upon his remaining cousin, this pale young woman by his side who despite being Queen of Gwynedd now was still (and ever would remain in Morgan’s heart of hearts) his sweet baby cousin Sophia. He didn’t want the pain of loss to harden her as it had done to him, yet he felt helpless to help her through her grief when he had barely managed to muddle through his own.

In this case, at least, he realized that his fury was misplaced, that God had not been the one to reach down from Heaven to smite their remaining family. No, that act had been perpetrated by a mere mortal. No matter who that person was, or how powerful he might be, Morgan would find him someday, would see justice done. He owed Sophia that. He owed them all that.

The Eucharist was not a time to be contemplating thoughts of vengeance, a part of him recognized, but try as he might, he could not refocus his mind to thoughts of forgiveness and mercy. Perhaps someday, but not yet. Not now. Could God meet him where he was rather than where perhaps he ought to be? Who the hell knew? His faith hung from a fraying thread so thin he was not even sure how much the question mattered to him anymore, more practiced out of habit than conviction, yet maybe like his anger that, too, might flare back up again someday.

‘Vengeance is mine,’ saith the Lord. ‘I will repay.’ The thought came to Morgan out of nowhere. Perhaps it was nothing more than a whisper from his subconscious; after all, he and God were hardly on speaking terms anymore. He knew better than to think it was a divine directive for him to take vengeance into his own hands, though; unlike some, he knew the context of the verse.

Fine, God, feel free to get right on that! Maybe then I’ll believe in a loving, caring God again.



Morning
The Royal Astari Hotel
December 27, 2021


Right now, Malcolm Atherton-Haldane knew that the streets of Rhemuth were already beginning to fill with bystanders--both locals and tourists--hoping to catch a glimpse of the historic funerary procession scheduled to make its way up the Market Road from King’s Landing, stopping before the half-ruined Rhemuth Castle before turning onto the King’s Way towards the Cathedral of St George.  He could see the route from his vantage point in one of the deluxe hotel suites on a high floor of the Royal Astari Hotel. Closer to noon, his driver would take him there, to the foot of the Castle where he was to assemble with the other foreign dignitaries sent by their respective nations to pay their final respects to Her late Majesty Araxelle and the rest of her extinct brood. Malcolm could hardly wait to see if Lloyd O’Malley’s handiwork had been worth the extortionate amount he’d paid Eric Armitage for arranging it.

No, on second thought, he could hardly argue that it hadn’t been worth every mark. The thought of six fewer Haldanes--well, five Haldanes and one MacEwan unfortunate enough to have married in--brought a smile to his face.  A ruined castle was only icing on the cake--regrettable yet necessary.  He hoped enough of it had survived the bombing to be rebuilt as a fitting monument to his eventual reign.  He’d quite like to live in Rhemuth itself, where he could keep his eye fully on the running of his new Kingdom. Eirian House was a little too far on the outskirts for that purpose, although it would certainly do for the beginning years of his reign.

But first, there were the remaining two Haldane pups to contend with.

He selected his favorite of his Camberian military uniforms, the deep blood red tunic and black trousers of the St Uriel’s Lancers, and began to outfit himself for the day’s events.



Mid-Morning
Eirian House
December 27, 2021


After the Requiem Mass, select members of the Eirian House Guard bore the draped and adorned coffins back outside, their surviving Armsmen walking alongside their erstwhile charges, to the hearses waiting to transport them to the river side of the palace grounds, where they would be loaded onto the Royal Barge for their final journey to Rhemuth. Sophia and Morgan, as surviving family and chief mourners, followed immediately behind the hearses, and behind them followed those members of the Royal Household who had survived the Rhemuth Castle bombing. As the small cortège began their progress towards the jetty, a lone piper began to play, the poignant notes of The Queen’s Lament piercing the otherwise keen silence that surrounded the funeral party.

They reached the Royal Barge as the final notes of the lament faded in the cold air and grew still. The coffins were brought on board, the late Queen’s first, with the rest brought on in order of precedence, their armsmen and senior staff, including the Lord Chamberlain, accompanying them. The Duke of Corwyn, with a deep bow to his cousin then, requested leave of Sophia to join them. Despite her heaviness of heart at being parted from him at such a painful moment, she gave her assent; it had been decided earlier that morning that he would be needed to help safeguard their loved ones’ remains during their procession through the City later that morning en route to the Cathedral. Or rather, he had decided this, upon hearing of the escalated threat of violence at some point during the funerary observances, and he had claimed his right as Queen’s Champion to stand in her defense and that of their family. Sophia had not had the energy to argue the point, despite her private belief that Araxelle and the other members of her family were quite beyond anyone’s ability to harm further. She understood his need to do something, anything, besides just remaining at Eirian House feeling as helpless as she did. She was not allowed to join the procession beyond the palace grounds, of course. Her personal armsmen and the Eirian House Guard had nearly gone collectively apoplectic at the very thought, given the uncertainty over whether there might be a merasha gas attack that morning or not. DI Strachan had spent half the night with them already as it was, informing them of the extent and implications of the rumors that had been reported and helping put into place eleventh-hour stratagems for deflecting any such plot before it could be put into motion. The City Police had been apprised of the threat as well and had made several last-moment changes to their already tight security plans. But despite all that, Sophia would not be permitted into the City of Rhemuth until the day of the state funeral itself, and even then she would not be allowed to ride in procession, but would be escorted under armed guard through the Cathedral Portal just long enough to attend the funeral itself before her return to the safety to Eirian House. The Archbishop, the Lord Chamberlain had reported with a derisive snort, had been quite vocally opposed to the notion of the Queen’s Armsmen transporting her through the sacristy whilst bearing loaded weapons, but a memory shared--more like imposed--upon the officious clergyman by her irate cousin of what it had looked and felt like to be buried alive under tons of Rhemuth Castle rubble had quickly altered the man’s viewpoint.

The rest of the Royal Household embarked upon a second barge which would follow the first one to King’s Landing, just a short distance outside Rivergate. As the passengers filed on board, a glow on the Royal Barge caught Sophia’s eye, and she turned to glance back at it. Morgan and the Earl of Culdi had warded the deck, protecting its precious Royal cargo and its living passengers from potential attacks from the riverbanks it would pass on its way to Rhemuth. The ward’s golden glow gave off an ethereal, almost heavenly light. Once the final passenger had boarded the second barge, two Deryni members of the Eirian House Guard warded that vessel as well.  As the glowing barges cast off from their moorings and began their trip downriver, a gun salute began, the sound carrying over the flowing water and lifted on the river breeze to the ears of Heaven.

Not all had left her behind, though. Eilonwy had stayed to be here for her throughout this most difficult of days, as had Jen. Father Devlin also had felt his place as her chaplain was here rather at the Cathedral, and while some of her personal Armsmen had gone to pay their final respects to her late family, Henry and Michael had refused to leave her side. Heather O’Flynn had remained behind as well, both in case she might require a Healer’s services and because of her safety concerns for her young daughter.  And Morgan, once the day’s observances had been completed, had promised to return to Eirian House later in the afternoon once the royal coffins had been safely installed at the Cathedral under vigilant guard.  Sophia sensed the silent support of her tiny entourage as they stood with her, watching the barges disappear from sight around a bend in the river.



Late morning
City of Rhemuth
December 27, 2021


The remaining survivors of the Rhemuth Castle Household and Guard joined the funerary cortège as the barges docked at King’s Landing a short distance outside of Rivergate. Those of the Rhemuth Castle Guard who had escaped injury or had come through their recent ordeal relatively unscathed now lifted the coffins from the Royal Barge to load them onto gun carriages for the overland portion of the procession through the streets of Rhemuth. The streets were lined with people, but unlike at previous royal funerals, they were separated from the procession not simply by the usual police barricades and vigilant constables, but also by a gossamer-fine shimmer in the air between sidewalks and street, so nearly imperceptible as not to obscure vision, yet hanging like a protective curtain to keep any threats from onlookers at bay. The people of Rhemuth might watch their beloved royalty pass by, might view the mourners following alongside and behind them, but to venture too close to the energy barrier risked encountering an unpleasant tingle at best or a jolt so severe as to lead to immediate unconsciousness if one were so foolhardy as to attempt to force one’s way beyond it.

Morgan noted the addition of this new warding approvingly. This had been one of the suggested innovations of DI Strachan, who although possessed of no Deryni powers of his own, had shown no hesitation to take advantage of Deryni as well as ordinary human methods of securing a perimeter.  The energy expenditure must have been formidable, though. Morgan wondered how many Rhemuth Deryni had been called upon to assist in shielding the procession route, and of those, how many either lay half-comatose in deepest slumber after the exertions of their work, or were functioning on borrowed energy by means of fatigue-banishing spells that would send them crashing into an equally deep sleep just as soon as the procession was over and the crowds had dispersed.  Of course, human volunteers might also have been used to augment the energies needed. God knows from the look of the crowds as far as his eye could see, there would have been no shortage of those to call upon!  He made a mental note to himself to share this memory with Sophia later; she’d certainly want to find some suitable reward to Strachan for his innovative thinking.

The Cathedral bell began to toll, the mournful sound echoing through the otherwise surprisingly quiet city. It felt to him as if the entire world was focused on their passing now, the City one single living organism breathlessly awaiting the arrival of the slain Queen who had once been its heart. Awaiting also the resuscitation of its new Queen’s arrival. It was to be disappointed this day, at least; like Christ in his tomb, only the dead would reign in the Cathedral as the family lay in state for three more days until the state funeral and their interment in the Haldane crypt.

The wheels of the gun carriages on the ancient cobbled streets, the measured tread of mourners’ steps and the clip clop of horses’ hooves echoed off the walls of the surrounding buildings in Market Square and the route beyond it, for instead of turning at that point towards the Cathedral, the carriages continued forward, making for the bottom of the hill below the main gatehouse of the ruined Castle. There, the Dukes of Carthmoor, Cassan, and Claiborne joined Morgan, along with the heads of the various noble houses throughout the Kingdom or their chosen representatives if those heads were unable to come in person to pay their respects to their late sovereign and her family. Behind these, foreign dignitaries from the other Ancient Kingdoms and indeed from throughout the modern world fell into place, with representatives of various Gwyneddan military regiments bringing up the rear.

A cannon salute from the Castle wall overlooking the Eirian River signalled to the procession and its watchful audience that it was time for the procession to change its course, making its way now up the King’s Way towards the Cathedral of Saint George in the distance. He could see its proud spire gleaming in the sunlight, beckoning to them, the eerie cry of the tolling bell plaintive in his ears as they drew ever nearer.  At the Cathedral steps waited the Archbishops of Valoret and Rhemuth, along with other princes of the Church, ready to receive the earthly remains of the departed souls the carriages conveyed.

They had arrived. Morgan nodded brusquely as he received the murmurs of condolence from the two Archbishops, quite relieved when they moved on to extend their sympathies to the Earl of Culdi, who as Her late Majesty’s Lord Chamberlain had served her loyally for two decades as the head of the Royal Household, and who had served Nigel Haldane with equal fidelity before that. As select survivors of the Rhemuth Castle House Guard lifted the coffins with gentle care to carry them into the Cathedral and lay them on the large catafalque set up in the nave, Morgan stood close by, the lone member of the family present as silent witness to their care in paying their respects to the fallen in this final duty.

The others processing with him filled their respective seats, and while the cameras were placed discreetly, Morgan knew that those not admitted within the Cathedral walls were still looking in from screens set up throughout the City, at Eirian House, around the Kingdom and indeed the entire world. He knew this, yet for the most part he ignored it, his attention focused now not on his surroundings, not on the brief service that had just begun, on the censing or the asperging, but narrowed down to his steadfast gaze on the polished casket representing the mortality of his childhood companion, the brother of his heart. Morgan would get through this somehow, would ground and center his very being on being here for Kelric now. He should have died with him--but for the mere accident of a headache and mild fever that had sent him early to his bed, Morgan would have died alongside his royal kindred--but this day he made a choice not to simply survive by mere accident but to live with intent. If he had been spared from death, then he must have been spared for a purpose. Surely his life must have meaning, if only he could discover what that meaning might be.

The choirs’ voices lifted in song, bringing Morgan out of his reverie. As hymns went, it sounded suitable enough, certainly angelic enough for the ecclesiastical environs surrounding him. Kel’s personal tastes had leaned more to classic rock than any sort of classical or church music, but the thought of the Archbishop’s probable reaction to the choir belting out the lyrics to a rock ballad forced Morgan’s lips to twitch into a reluctant smile.



Just after noon
St George’s Cathedral
City of Rhemuth
December 27, 2021


Malcolm pondered the security measures he had observed during the procession to the Cathedral. The shimmering barriers between the bystanders and the street had come as a surprise--none of the intelligence he had received had reported anything of the sort.  That might throw a kink in the works with the Humanity Ascendant diversion, though perhaps not. After all, they were merely to soften the resistance--primarily the Deryni resistance --and that could be done easily enough against any Deryni law enforcement or other busybodies not already within the barricade. The wards might also prevent those outside them from getting into the Cathedral soon enough to prevent his own plans.  True, he'd hoped the merasha gas would also incapacitate those inside the Cathedral, but he could always figure out some other solution for that.  He had three days to plan, after all.

One thing he needed to determine would be how best to put himself within easy reach of his Haldane rivals when the big day came. He had originally thought to arrive like any other foreign dignitary, but another annoying discovery had been the presence of some sort of shield wall between most of the invited guests and the area where the Queen of Gwynedd would presumably be seated alongside her ducal cousin. It was as discreet as the faintly shimmering wards between the crowds and the street, but powerful nonetheless. However, they didn’t seem to be the usual sort of dome-shaped ward (or, actually, spherical--a dome would have been easy enough to undermine in a building built over a crypt!), but more of a vertical barrier between the two Haldanes and those who had joined them to memorialize their fallen. That was a possible vulnerability, if only he could manage to enter the cathedral from the other side of that energy wall.

He sent out a probing tendril of thought to sense what sort of warding magic had been used to erect it. Ward cubes seemed not to be involved. Ritual magic, then? How was it being sustained? Or was it illusory? No, he doubted that; they’d not chance their sovereign’s life on a mere mirage. It didn’t appear to be crystal magic. The Deryni of Gwynedd weren’t all that sophisticated in their use of jerramán crystals at any rate; that had become more of a Camberian speciality in the past century or two. Normally he would be intrigued, but today he was more annoyed than anything else.

The Cathedral almost certainly had a Portal in its sacristy; they nearly all did. And the sacristy would certainly be on the other side of the wall.  He did not know the specific psychic signature for that Portal, but someone here surely would. The trick would be finding the right person from whom he could glean the necessary information. The Archbishop wouldn’t know--he was a mere human--and any of the Deryni clergy associated with the Cathedral would doubtless be too well protected for him to gain access to their minds easily.

Not everyone with access to such information would be as well shielded, however. And it was possible that at least one or two of his sleepers had managed to gain the information that he needed sometime over the past few years. He would send out a general call. It was high time they were mobilized anyway.



Early afternoon
The Queen’s private apartment
Eirian House
December 27, 2021


Only a small number of the Queen’s Household had opted to remain at Eirian House, and of those few, those closest to Sophia were currently gathered in the small seating area of her private apartment, filling her sofa and chairs or lounging on pillows Jen and Eilonwy had managed to scrounge up. Ostensibly, they were gathered to watch the live broadcast of the brief service taking place at the Cathedral. Primarily, they were there to lend Her Majesty their emotional support. Devlin was not quite sure how he’d ended up sequestered in here along with the Queen’s Inner Circle, although he supposed it was natural she’d want her chaplain close by on this of all days, and after all, that’s why he’d stayed behind rather than joining the others in the Cathedral.

The memorial was nearly over, and as the organist began to play a medley of selections specifically selected to reflect the lives and something of the personalities of those whose lives they commemorated that day, Devlin closed his eyes, leaning back in his chair as the swelling melody of Haldania filled the room. A wave of exhaustion swept through him. Come to think of it, he’d fallen fast asleep the last time he’d sat in this chair, hadn’t he? Maybe he ought to check it for a sleep spell. The whimsical thought made him smile slightly.

The music did an abrupt shift to something equally familiar to Devlin, yet much more unexpected, and his eyes popped open in surprise. The organ chords played a new melody, one that brought him back several years to when he was still a seminarian. He had never heard the song played in quite this way; it normally featured an electric guitar, not a pipe organ! The Queen, apparently noticing his reaction, gave him an amused look.

“Rainbow Unicorn Anarchy?” Devlin asked, struggling not to laugh at the inclusion of a metal band’s music in the medley.

She smiled. “Kelric’s favorite band. He and Morgan somehow managed to con their armsmen into letting them go to one of their concerts when they were eighteen. Stefanie and I had to listen to him play endless renditions of Night Riders over and over again all summer. Played quite badly, I regret to say. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned; I may have intentionally ‘misplaced’ his guitar later that year. In the lake.” The smile blossomed into a reminiscent grin, although the memory turned her misty-eyed as well.

The music segued into something more modern, a tune whose title he couldn’t quite recall, although it was one that had been quite popular in the past year or so, he knew that much. He wondered which of the Royal Family that one was meant to represent. Princess Stefanie, maybe? It was a catchy tune, capturing the late princess’ sunny personality, and he caught himself starting to hum it under his breath.

The music morphed again, this time the tempo slowing, the notes crooning an ancient border ballad from the Princess of Meara’s native Claiborne. A love ballad, Devlin thought, but one in which the lovely young lass had died all too soon. An apt choice, given the circumstances.

And then the lullaby. He glanced at Her Majesty, relieved to see that Eilonwy had anticipated the surge of sorrow that he could feel sweep through the grieving Queen at that moment when the music played for the infant prince and princess. The lady-in-waiting took Sophia’s hand in hers, squeezing it lightly in support.

The music ended. Devlin, catching Eilonwy’s eye, silently asked her, Would she prefer for us all to stay, or might it be better for her to have some privacy for a little while?

Eilonwy, looking only briefly startled at the unexpected mental query, glanced briefly at the Queen, apparently silently communicating the question, before replying. Yes, she could use a bit of time to herself now. Although she’d like for you to stay, Father. I’ll remain close by should you need me; I’ve lots of cards and letters back there that could use sorting through anyhow. A subtle tilt of her head indicated the door of Her Majesty’s bedchamber.

The lady-in-waiting shared a brief, silent communion with her counterpart, Jen DeLisle, after which the two women began to tactfully shepherd the others out of the Queen’s suite until only the two of them and the priest remained. The ladies disappeared into the adjoining room, leaving the door cracked slightly open, though near enough to closed to assure Her Majesty’s privacy.

The Queen leaned forward to pick up the remote control, switching the screen off. Devlin reached into his pocket in order to ensure his stole was there and ready for use if she should require his official services, but seeing the motion, she put up a staying hand with a faint smile. “No need, Father. It’s not really a priest I’m needing at the moment so much as just someone to be with me who has the good sense to know when to speak and when to just shut up, and you’ve got better instincts when it comes to that sort of thing than most.” She chuckled. “Is that a Deryni talent or a priestly one?”

He laughed, feeling absurdly flattered. “A little of both, I suppose.”

She leaned back wearily. “Morgan will come bursting back in here in a bit, and while I love my cousin dearly, he is not exactly what I’d call a quiet soul.” She grinned.

“Ma’am, under the right circumstances I’m not exactly what anyone would call a quiet soul either,” Dev remarked.

“At least your ‘right circumstances’ aren’t all the blooming time!” Sophia quipped. She studied him curiously. “Though I can imagine Lord Arilan dragging you into a fair bit of mischief now and then when you were growing up.”

“That might have gone the other way around at least half the time,” Devlin confessed. “James can have a thoughtful, contemplative side when he’s not being a hellion.”

“And you can be a bit of a hellion when not being all thoughtful and contemplative?” the Queen teased him.

“Guilty as charged, Ma’am.” His blue eyes lit with silent laughter.

“When we’re in this apartment or otherwise in private, you can stop ‘Ma’aming’ me. It’s expected in public, I know, but in private it makes me feel old enough to be everyone’s mum.” Sophia stood, making her way to the tiny kitchenette off the sitting area. “I’m trying to resist the urge to have a glass of wine this early in the day for fear I’ll only use it to self-medicate, but can I get you anything while I’m in here?” She pulled a cola fizz from the mini-fridge.

“That looks good, M--” He broke off the title he’d started to use out of habit. She laughed, pulling a second bottle out of the fridge.

“Sophia. It’s really not that difficult a name, I promise.”

Easy enough for her to say; he wasn’t used to calling royal personages by their first names! “I’ll do my best. Those foreign polysyllabic names confuse me, you know,” he joked.

She handed him one of the soft drinks. “Don’t give me that, I’m sure you’ve learned at least some Greek and Latin, and if you can handle ‘polysyllabic,’ you ought to be able to get through ‘Sophia’ without stumbling too badly.”

“I think I can avoid making you feel twice your age in private if you can remember my name is Devlin.”

She sat again, her thoughts returning to the memorial service.  “That organ arrangement for the Rainbow Unicorn Anarchy song was Morgan’s choice, but Kelric would definitely have approved.”

Devlin took a sip of his drink, amused anew at the memory of the odd medley of music. “I went to one of their concerts around ten years ago, I think it was. James had a date, but his plans fell through, so I got invited to use his spare ticket at the last minute. Don’t worry, though; I won’t haul out my guitar if you’ve a habit of dumping them in lakes.”

Sophia laughed. “I’m sure I could resist the urge now. It wasn’t just the bad playing, it was the near-constant repetition of the same song over and over again, coupled with the fact that he was being quite annoyingly eighteen that year. And I may have been just a bit of a brat as well.”

“Just a bit, if you gave his guitar a burial at sea, so to speak. What was the age difference between you two, if I might ask?”

“Four years. He was just a few months older than Morgan. And Stefanie was the middle stair step.”

She needed to talk about them, Devlin suddenly realized. That’s what this was about, not just some odd whim to have him over for cola fizz. She needed to be able to talk about her family with someone who wouldn’t react to the mention of their names with the sort of uncomfortable, half-embarrassed reaction that too many people assumed when faced with talk of death or grieving, shying away from the topic as if mortality was somehow contagious.

“So tell me about Princess Stefanie,” he prompted. “I know I’ve heard that pop song before that the organist played for her, but I can’t quite place it . . . .”



Evening
Tre-Arilan
December 27, 2021


They’d found him! James Arilan studied the computer screen with mounting excitement. His hunch had been correct--Eric Armitage had shed his real name during his visit to Americia--but a recent transaction from his Eric Harvey account had gone to pay a Mr Edward H. Albritton ‘for services rendered,’ and later that same evening Mr Albritton had paid for expedition for a Gwyneddan passport, allegedly to replace a stolen one. The Gwyneddan passport had been delivered and signed for by priority mail earlier that morning, and just a few minutes ago a ticket for Edward H. Albritton had been purchased for one-way travel from New Rhemuth, Americia, to the Rhemuth International Airport in Gwynedd.  Everything at first glance might have seemed quite legitimate, aside from the unfortunate fact that the real Mr Edward H. Albritton, born in Nyford on March 23, 1960, had died three years since, and as far as James was aware (he’d have to ask Devlin for sure), no passport was required to enter either Heaven or Hell.  No, James would stake all he had on the recently resurrected Mr Albritton being one and the same man as Eric Harvey Armitage. The bastard who’d been responsible for the Rhemuth Castle bombing was on his way back home, and by God, James intended to nail him!




Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1636.0.html
« Last Edit: December 16, 2015, 11:45:21 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2015, 11:46:43 pm »
I hope James nails Eric Armigage, too. Using extremely long, painful nails. =o) To the immense consternation of Malcolm and Eric both.  I suspect Malcolm will find his way behind those wards somehow, but I think he'll find Sophia a much more formidable obstacle to his plans for rule.   

DI Strachan has clearly been earning his pay, lately. But of course, we all want a good, climactic battle. I hope Viper gets her licks in against Malcolm before the end.

Giggled like crazy at the funeral music played to honor Prince Kelric.  Very touching about the two dead babies, though.

Melissa
You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!

Offline drakensis

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2015, 03:22:45 am »
Looks as if Malcolm is going to play the duel arcane card. Which has historically gone badly for those going up against a mainline Haldane. I suspect he's underestimating Sophia but then again, he does have to consider Morgan so he's likely to have something in mind.

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2015, 01:24:19 pm »
KINGDOM GAZETTE EXCLUSIVE PHOTO!
Prince Kelric seen, 3rd row right of center, last Saturday night, at Rainbow Unicorn Anarchy concert! The prince appeared in incognito with only his underage cousin, Earl Morgan, to accompany him. Later inquires proved the Royal heir had skipped out of a charity event and had bribed his arm-guards to attend the famed band's legendary concert. Witnesses said, Prince Kel was seen bobbing his head and lip singing to the group's iconic Rock ballad Night Riders. Young Morgan was heard to more than lipsinc, said a witness from the second row. 

Quote
the thought of the Archbishop’s probable reaction to the choir belting out the lyrics to a rock ballad forced Morgan’s lips to twitch into a reluctant smile.

Kel and Morgan,  Morgan could not help the wholeness that had come from their exploits of youth. The two were brothers-in-arms in the midst of a world that wanted to follow them and tag them for every little thing they did. Their mamas' had done well to keep them in-check,  But once in a while, more often then was told, the two escaped and found comradery in the escaping. Those are memories Morgan would always cherish. Those are the moments no one would ever take from him.

Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2015, 02:22:30 pm »
Love it Laurna.
"All the world’s a stage,
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 DesertRose

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2015, 02:43:36 pm »
That's classic, Laurna!  LOL!
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

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

Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2015, 03:25:31 pm »
Brilliantly bittersweet,  Laurna, thank you. 
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2015, 08:31:36 pm »
Wonderfully put, Laurna.

I confess I almost lost it at the two small coffins and the lullaby.

Somehow I don't see Malcolm doing a dual arcane - I don't see him putting himself at risk. He would sacrifice everybody else, but he would keep himself safe for another day.  We'll see as the story plays out, of course.

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

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Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Six
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2015, 03:48:58 pm »
I hope James nails Eric Armigage, too. Using extremely long, painful nails. =o) To the immense consternation of Malcolm and Eric both.  I suspect Malcolm will find his way behind those wards somehow, but I think he'll find Sophia a much more formidable obstacle to his plans for rule.   

DI Strachan has clearly been earning his pay, lately. But of course, we all want a good, climactic battle. I hope Viper gets her licks in against Malcolm before the end.

Giggled like crazy at the funeral music played to honor Prince Kelric.  Very touching about the two dead babies, though.

Melissa

Kelric might have been a royal Prince, but he was "just a regular guy" too.  :)

Yes, DI Strachan seems to have managed pretty well, especially given the lack of advance notice to plan everything.  Makes me wonder if he hadn't already done some "What would I do if I were in charge and if there ends up being anything to these rumors?" pre-planning even before the royal summons.

LOL at literally "nailing" Armitage. But he's just a puppet, not the puppet master, so maybe we should save those nails for later.

Looks as if Malcolm is going to play the duel arcane card. Which has historically gone badly for those going up against a mainline Haldane. I suspect he's underestimating Sophia but then again, he does have to consider Morgan so he's likely to have something in mind.

He tends to underestimate them both, though despite that, I suspect he's still got some plan up his sleeve for dealing with both "Haldane pups." Not to mention he's probably counting on them having pesky little attributes like integrity and honor that he lacks, which might make them more inclined to play by the rules when it comes to arcane conflicts..

KINGDOM GAZETTE EXCLUSIVE PHOTO!
Prince Kelric seen, 3rd row right of center, last Saturday night, at Rainbow Unicorn Anarchy concert! The prince appeared in incognito with only his underage cousin, Earl Morgan, to accompany him. Later inquires proved the Royal heir had skipped out of a charity event and had bribed his arm-guards to attend the famed band's legendary concert. Witnesses said, Prince Kel was seen bobbing his head and lip singing to the group's iconic Rock ballad Night Riders. Young Morgan was heard to more than lipsinc, said a witness from the second row. 

Quote
the thought of the Archbishop’s probable reaction to the choir belting out the lyrics to a rock ballad forced Morgan’s lips to twitch into a reluctant smile.

Kel and Morgan,  Morgan could not help the wholeness that had come from their exploits of youth. The two were brothers-in-arms in the midst of a world that wanted to follow them and tag them for every little thing they did. Their mamas' had done well to keep them in-check,  But once in a while, more often then was told, the two escaped and found comradery in the escaping. Those are memories Morgan would always cherish. Those are the moments no one would ever take from him.

Lovely, Laurna!  And yes, Morgan would cherish every memory of his heart-brother Kelric, but especially the funny ones of them getting into youthful mischief together. ;D

Wonderfully put, Laurna.

I confess I almost lost it at the two small coffins and the lullaby.

Somehow I don't see Malcolm doing a dual arcane - I don't see him putting himself at risk. He would sacrifice everybody else, but he would keep himself safe for another day.  We'll see as the story plays out, of course.



We shall see.  Malcolm doesn't mind using "expendable" lackeys to do his bidding up to a point, but he also didn't manage to live this long in Camberia without being able to do his own dirty work, and I think he'd want to win "his" throne himself, if only (to his way of thinking) to help make it clear to the people of Gwynedd that he won the Crown fairly by right of challenge for his birthright.  (Since, of course, he considers the Atherton-Haldanes to have been the rightful heirs to Gwynedd all along, and Aubrey has made it clear enough that he has no interest in ruling Gwynedd but won't stand in Malcolm's way if Malcolm's plot pays off.)
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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

 

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