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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven  (Read 7571 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« on: December 16, 2015, 11:43:55 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1633.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Seven

Morning
Tre-Arilan
December 28, 2021


“Good morning, Mr Carbury,” said Healer Dr Karim al-Sayid from the Transfer Portal niche at Tre-Arilan. Beside him, her eyes downcast, stood an alarmingly familiar blonde woman whom Carbury had only seen once before but would certainly never forget.  “Might we enter?” the Healer asked him.

Carbury’s eyes widened. “You want to bring her back here? Are you out of your bloody mind?”

The woman looked up then, meeting his gaze with a rueful smile of understanding. “I can’t very well blame you for that reaction; under the circumstances, I wouldn’t let me in either. And I’m sure you can imagine my own hesitation in coming back through this Portal, after what happened to me the last time I attempted it! I mean you and yours no harm, sir. Truth-Read me, as I know you must. I’ve only come in hopes of helping Tom. If there is any way I can help Healer Dr Al-Sayid in reversing the damage I have done to him, I owe him that.”

Carbury had been Reading her and could sense the truth of her statement, yet still he turned a disbelieving eye toward Karim.  “Are you certain it’s safe? What if whoever tampered with her to begin with manages to get through whatever blocks you’ve set? I can’t just give her the run of His Lordship’s home!”

Karim nodded his acceptance. “I suspected you might see it that way. Could we bring Tom down here, though? It’s just necessary to have him within touching distance; the location of the work isn’t important.  And I wouldn’t allow her anywhere near him if I weren’t absolutely convinced he’ll be safe.”

Carbury considered this proposal before giving a grudging nod. “I’ll have a word with His Lordship. Wait here.”

There was hardly any choice, Karim mused as he watched Carbury’s departing back. Having seen what Tre-Arilan’s Portal wards were capable of, he had no wish to revert from being an invited guest to an unwelcome intruder! Nor did Caroline appear at all interested in testing the limits of Carbury’s grudging hospitality, given how tightly she had her arms tucked into her body to minimize the chance of even an accidental brush against the wards.

The butler returned shortly afterwards, carrying a folding wheelchair down the stairs with him.  At the foot of the stairs, he opened it and returned upstairs.  A few moments later, he came back into sight, assisting Lord Arilan as the two men carried Tom Whitfield down the stone staircase and set him gently into the wheelchair. Arilan glanced over at Karim then with an upraised eyebrow.

“I hope you know what you’re doing, Karim, because if all Hell breaks loose I shall be very put out,” James said as he allowed them through the wards. He stepped back, maintaining a wary vigil as he watched Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield enter the undercroft of his home.

Tom had remained mostly expressionless as his hosts had moved him downstairs, but as his wife approached him now, some vestigial memory of her surfaced and he shrank back in his seat. Caroline’s eyes filled with tears. “Shhh . . . ,” she soothed, taking his hand in hers. Karim entered the link with them, both to observe Caroline’s psychic working and to assure himself and their hosts of Tom’s safety throughout the process. What she did within Tom’s mind, he would also see, and if there’d been something he missed in his work with her and she were to prove less benign than he expected, he would stand in the gap between her and Tom to prevent him from coming to any further harm.

Tom’s shields were stronger than they had been when he’d first come into Karim’s care, but Karim used the Healing controls he had set to lower them now just enough for Caroline to do what she had come to accomplish.  Deftly she entered her husband’s mind, working swiftly to eradicate each of her compulsions and controls as Karim unblocked them for her. Since Karim had not been the one to set them, he’d been unable to remove them completely without risk of setting off the Death-Triggers she had embedded in them, but now those were neutralized as well.

A growing awareness of her actions and a greater return of his memory filled Tom as each area of blockage was cleared, and while he grew less agitated, yet the emotional pain of understanding just what she had done to him upswelled into a flood as the memories surged back into place. Karim put Tom to sleep then. Caroline glanced at the Healer. “You will blur those memories for him, won’t you?”

“I will,” the Healer assured her.

Doing a final check to ensure she’d left nothing behind of her earlier work, Caroline withdrew from Tom’s mind.  “His healing should go faster now. Please tell him I’m sorry.”

“You could tell him that yourself, you know.”

She shook her head. “No, there is something else I must do first.” She straightened. “Lord Arilan, we saw on the news earlier that Eric Armitage was arrested this morning. Would you please inform Her Majesty that Armitage was not the true mastermind behind the Rhemuth Castle bombing?  He was paid to orchestrate that attack, but she has a greater enemy that she needs to be quite wary of.”

“The Atherton-Haldanes?” James asked.

“Duke Malcolm, specifically,” she replied, “although Aubrey is hardly her friend either. You are aware of his plans for Friday, then?”

“No, not precisely,” James reluctantly admitted. “I knew of his connection with you, and had come to suspect there might be some sort of connection between him and Humanity Ascendant as well, or at least that there was some sort of Camberian connection with the O’Malley kidnapping, but proving it has been more of a challenge. What is he planning?”

“I can’t say exactly what he plans to do, because I don’t know that either. But I do know he plans to kill your Queen, and if he can manage to do so at the State Funeral, that would be his chief aim.  He’d love the feeling of triumph such a public showdown would bring him. Though even if you manage to discover his plans in time to stop him, she will never be safe as long as he is alive.  He wants a Kingdom for himself--Gwynedd, that is, not Camberia--and the only way he can gain it is to eliminate his rivals.  Both of them.”

“Not all three?” James asked, skeptical.

Caroline shook her head. “Aubrey doesn’t want the hassle of reigning over two Kingdoms. Camberia presents enough challenges for him. Not everyone there is happy to be under Atherton-Haldane rule, especially the human underclass.  And that, by the way, is who Humanity Ascendant think they are dealing with in Camberia. Armitage has no idea it’s actually a High Deryni lord pulling his strings. I’m sure that will be a nasty surprise.”

“I had wondered why the HA would ally themselves with a Camberian Deryni.”

“Don’t get me wrong, your Humanity Ascendant group is a malignancy of its own,” Caroline warned. “Their chief aim is to rid your Kingdom of all Deryni influence, at least in any places of power. Once they achieve their aims here, their hope is that the Human Kingdom of Gwynedd--or perhaps the Human Republic of Gwynedd, since some of their number are agitating for that as well to prevent the possibility of another Deryni House attaining the throne-- can eventually help the oppressed humans of Camberia to liberate my kingdom also. Duke Malcolm has been playing their discontent quite skillfully for his own aims, getting them to do much of his dirty work for him in hopes no one will think to make the connection.”



Late morning
St George’s Cathedral
City of Rhemuth
December 28, 2021


The four Dukes of Gwynedd standing at the four corners of the large catafalque in the nave of the Cathedral presented a very tempting target for Malcolm Atherton-Haldane, but not quite tempting enough. For one thing, their little Queen was not with them, and while he would enjoy wiping out all of Gwynedd’s dukes in one blow, Sophia Haldane was his primary target at this point, and it would hardly help his cause if he were to spook her and cause her security team to put her even further out of his reach.  The vigil area was also warded, although the wards could possibly be breached if Malcolm were willing to put forth a determined enough assault. The Royal Armsmen, both those concealed and those standing in clear view, would present more of a problem; they’d hardly stand around and simply watch if he were to try such a thing, so if he wished to attack during the vigil, he’d need to return with a much greater force. But also, despite the throngs of Gwyneddan mourners and tourists swarming through the Cathedral to pay their last respects to the Haldane ash-bins on display, not to mention the long queue forming outside, there simply was not enough public coverage of this event.  It was true that the vigil was being broadcast live, but that was not the main event that most of the public would tune in for. No, making his move during the State Funeral would get him the full attention of the Gwyneddan public, much less the world at large, so he was content to watch Corwyn’s Duke from a distance, well-shielded to prevent any from discerning his private thoughts.

His unwillingness to make his move just yet would not prevent him from sizing up the man, of course. He studied Morgan Haldane with great interest. This, then, was the young stripling who was the current heir apparent to Gwynedd’s throne? Yes, he appeared fit enough, and even from his vantage point at some distance across the large nave Malcolm could sense the aura of leashed power radiating from the man, a charismatic presence that drew the eye. But he was still quite young, with less than half of Malcolm’s age and experience. He had potential, Malcolm grudgingly admitted, at least as much so as one of his own sons. It was almost a pity he’d not live long enough to develop it further.

But he was not just here to study Morgan Haldane. Malcolm turned his attention back to his surroundings, gathering information with both physical and psychic senses on the Cathedral’s layout, vulnerabilities, and the locations of its current defenses.



Afternoon
The Queen’s private apartment
Eirian House
December 28, 2021


“Blasted little nuisance!” Despite the severity of her words, Sophia was more amused than annoyed by the feline she found climbing halfway up one of her sitting room curtains. She gently detached needle-sharp claws from the velvet and lowered the kitten to the ground.

“That’s it, you could just name her Nuisance,” Jen suggested.

“Not Byzantine enough,” Sophia stated. “Surely we can figure out something a bit more Medieval Greek than that!”

“Let’s see here . . . .” Eilonwy did a name search. “You might call her Theodora, after the famous Empress.”

“What does that mean, Lover of God?” Sophia asked as she took her seat again. The kitten promptly jumped into her lap and began to climb up onto her shoulder. “Lover of Heights is more like it!”

“Having scooped out her litter box this morning, I’d propose a pronunciation change,” Jen commented.  “What about ‘The-Odorous?’”

Sophia groaned. “Next suggestion?”

“You might consider Artemis,” Eilonwy suggested. “Hopefully she’ll turn out to be a huntress.”

“That’s a thought,” Sophia answered. “Or what if we consider name meanings first, then figure out what the Greek might be for those words and see if we can come up with an interesting name that way? What’s Greek for ‘cat’?”

“Hm.” Eilonwy did a search. “Looks like that comes out to something like ‘Gata’ or ‘Gati.’”

Sophia shook her head. “I don’t think so. What about ‘gift’?”

Eilonwy searched again. “All right, not sure what the differences in nuance are, but that could be either ‘Doro’ or perhaps ‘Charis’ or ‘Charisma.’”

Sophia laughed as the kitten began to purr and nibble at her ear. “Well, she’s certainly got charisma! I rather like Charis, actually.”

Jen laughed. “You’re a Haldane, Sophia! Are you sure you want to name your cat after a Festillic Pretender?”

Sophia grinned. “Well, let’s see . . . she’s been here three days and already thinks she runs the place, so that part seems to fit! But I thought the Kelson-era Festil was named Charissa?”

“Yes, but that’s from the same root word,” Jen said. “Your kitten would have at least one other thing in common with the historical Charissa, though.”

“Oh? What’s that?”

Jen grinned. “Getting owned by a Haldane.”

Sophia winced. “What is this, bad Americian joke night?”

There was a knock on the door. Sophia detached the kitten from her shoulder. “Enter!”

Henry poked his head into the room. “Lord Arilan requests an audience, Ma’am. He says it’s urgent.”

The Queen glanced at Eilonwy, handing the kitten off to her to return her to her enclosure in the bedroom for the time being. “All right, send him in.”



Late afternoon
Her Majesty’s Private Office
Eirian House
December 28, 2021


“Has the Duke of Corwyn returned from the Cathedral yet, Diana?” Sophia asked her new private secretary as she prepared to meet with the Camberian Council in the Royal Council chamber. Not that Sophia had made it known to her staff that those who would be arriving for the meeting were in fact members of the legendary Camberian Council, but the Portal guards on duty had been discreetly informed that Her Majesty would be calling a special security council that afternoon and that they were to direct anyone on the invitation list directly to her Council Chamber. Lord Arilan and Father Devlin had been tasked with sharing the Portal coordinates with those Council members who did not already know them--Sophia had no qualms over sharing such privileged information since she knew her Portal security measures would easily screen out unwelcome arrivals regardless of their knowledge of the Portal address should any of these Councilors become personae non grata in future--and she had been kept apprised of the recent arrivals, but Morgan thus far had not put in his appearance. She would have preferred to meet with him prior to the Council meeting, for she wanted him to be there, both due to his role as her Queen’s Champion and because she wanted her heir apparent to be well aware of those with whom he would be meeting. After all, given the sometimes tempestuous nature of the relationship between the House of Haldane and the Camberian Council, she wanted him to be well aware of that Council’s current membership.

“I don’t believe so, Ma’am. I have let the Portal Guards know they are to send him here the moment he arrives. If you need to head to Council, shall I just have them direct him straight there instead?”

Sophia gave the clock a quick glance. “No, he still has three minutes to--” A knock on the door heralded someone’s arrival, and as she and Diana Layton both turned towards the sound, the door opened. “The Duke of Corwyn, Ma’am,” one of Sophia’s new armsmen announced, stepping aside to allow him entry.

“Sergeant Sims in the Portal Room said you requested me?” Morgan asked Sophia before taking note of the woman standing behind her. He gave Diana a brilliant smile of welcome as he recognized who she was.

“Yes,” the Queen answered. “We’re meeting with the Camberian Council in three minutes. I want you there. I’m sorry there’s no time for you to change, but given the topic of discussion, your military uniform ought to serve admirably as a reminder to all present that you are the Queen’s Champion. I’ll fill you in on what Lord Arilan has learned this morning on our way to Council.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he said, the bright smile fading into complete seriousness as the gravity of Sophia’s demeanor communicated itself to him. Glancing at the late Princess of Meara’s former secretary, he added, “It’s good to see you again, Diana; let’s catch up later, shall we?”



Late Afternoon
The Royal Council Chamber
Eirian House
December 28, 2021


The Council had fully gathered and were engaged in quiet discussion amongst themselves by the time Sophia and Morgan entered the chamber together. Two seats had been left empty--the one at the head of the table with the Haldane ensign on it, and another to the right of that one.  All stood as the Queen and her heir entered the room, remaining standing until Sophia had taken her seat and signaled her permission for the others to do the same.

“Good afternoon, My Lords, Ladies, and Gentlemen. I trust that Lord Arilan has already informed you all of what he learned this morning?” Sophia asked as she looked around at the faces gathered at her Council table.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Father Devlin answered for them all, his expression unusually grave.

“Good. I have also brought the Duke of Corwyn up to speed on the latest developments. Might I trust that whatever points of difference that the Camberian Council may have had with the House of Haldane in the past, none of us here would be in favor of either of the Atherton-Haldanes of Camberia attaining the Throne of Gwynedd?”

“Dear God, no!” Elspeth exclaimed. “Either of those two despots make you look like a staunch republican by comparison!”

Despite the gravity of the situation, the Queen worked to suppress a laugh. “Coming from you, Miss McIntyre, I will consider that a compliment.” Or at least less of an insult, Sophia wasn’t entirely sure which. Turning her attention back to the others at the table, she added, “Malcolm of Camberia was at least indirectly behind the attack on your Council chamber just eleven days ago. Thanks to the quick thinking of Lady Alicia and those she called upon for aid, you all survived what could have been a slow and painful death. I’m sure I need not go into further details about the toxicity of acrinious gas. I am glad to have been in a position to lend assistance in some small way during what I realize must have been quite a harrowing time for every one of you.”

As her gaze landed on Lady Violet, she sensed a faint hint of amused approval from the woman who had given birth to her. At least one member of the Council had noticed her veiled hint that Haldane assistance had been rendered to the Camberian Council and assistance would now be requested of them as well.

“You are so very like your father, Your Majesty,” the elder Councilor said with a slight smile. “If you have not already been so informed, then both as a Haldane and a Deryni you have always had the right to call upon the Council’s aid in formal arbitration of a dispute, regardless of whether we happen to owe you a favor or not.”

Peter Astari frowned. “Lady Violet is right, Ma’am, that is your right, and I believe I speak for us all in saying we would be glad to render our assistance in whatever way that we can. However, you need to realize that unlike most Gwyneddan Deryni who have been raised to revere our people’s traditions, whether they are aware of the Council’s existence or not, Malcolm of Camberia is a rogue Deryni who plays by his own rules. I can’t see him showing up to challenge you in a formal Duel Arcane, properly arbitrated or not. He’s more likely to use subterfuge and ambush as a means of getting his way.”

“I can’t see that either,” Morgan said before Sophia could reply, “which is why when Duke Malcolm shows up for that attack--and I have no doubt he will show up in person, given his aspirations--I plan on issuing a formal challenge to him as the Queen’s Champion.  And that, as I understand it, is where the rest of you would come in.” He looked to Sophia, who nodded and continued the explanation of the plan that she and Morgan had briefly discussed en route to the Royal Council chamber.

“We think it most likely that Malcolm will make his move at some point during my family’s funeral. Eirian House is too well protected, but as a visiting dignitary representing Camberia, Malcolm is already on the list of people approved to enter the Cathedral on Friday. Of course, since he was in attendance there yesterday as well, he already knows about our current security arrangements, including the barrier ward, so there is a good chance he will seek to enter the Cathedral by means of the sacristy Portal. I hope so; using the Portal would put him on our side of the barrier, which would help to protect the rest of the gathered mourners from potential harm. Either way, rather than blocking his access, I would rather allow him to make his way in. That way at least the fight will be on our ground and terms rather than on his. There will already be several Deryni armsmen on hand throughout the service, and they will render assistance as needed if Malcolm should begin an attack before Morgan has a chance to issue formal challenge, but having seven more highly-trained Deryni present might help serve as a deterrent against Malcolm taking unduly rash actions.” Sophia smiled at the Councilors. “I doubt he really wants to make a last brave stand as a lone attacker against a dozen or more irate Deryni.”

“Malcolm Atherton-Haldane has many years of combat training and experience under his belt,” Father Devlin reminded Sophia and Morgan, looking troubled. “I realize the Duel Arcane, assuming we can get him to agree to the terms of one, is probably the best solution for safeguarding everyone else in the Cathedral if Malcolm is determined to stage a royal showdown, but it’s hardly going to be safe for Your Grace.”

“I don’t believe that an assurance of my personal safety came very high up on the list of perquisites when I assumed the mantle of Queen’s Champion, Father,” Morgan replied. “Believe me, Her Majesty has already tried to talk me out of this part of the plan, but she knows that this is the only time we are likely to know enough about his plans beforehand to have the upper hand in a fight.”

“It would be better if you could somehow maneuver Malcolm into issuing the challenge,” Lady Maureen said. “That way at least you could set the terms, as the one challenged. If you set the terms, Your Grace, you could choose to fight only to first blood, or until one opponent is unconscious--something that stops short of a fight to the death, at least--and with the stipulation that if Malcolm loses the challenge, he will submit to the Queen’s Judgment.”

Lady Alicia shook her head. “Even though Malcolm Atherton-Haldane isn’t one to play by the rules, he is no doubt aware of what the rules are. I can’t see him issuing first challenge and allowing Morgan to set the terms. It’s just not his style.”

Lord Arilan sighed. “I have an idea. It’s sneaky and underhanded, and I absolutely loathe it, but given that Malcolm isn’t one for dealing with us on civilized terms, what if we were to deal with him on his barbaric ones?  Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield’s loyalties appear to have changed, and from what I understand, she’d like nothing more than to get her own back at Malcolm Atherton-Haldane for all he’s done to her over the years. So what if the Duke of Corwyn were to issue his challenge, but while Malcolm is still crowing over getting to set the terms--duel to the death, winner takes Gwynedd, and all the rot you know he’s going to pile on--we just make sure he remains focused on His Grace long enough for Mrs Sheraton-Whitfield to attack him from behind? If he notices her there at all, he’s bound to assume she’s still an ally and won’t be expecting an attack from that quarter. We’ll all be there to shield everyone else in attendance from any stray energy surges. If she succeeds in killing him, we won’t have to worry about Malcolm any longer, and if she fails, His Grace can still continue with the challenge as Queen’s Champion, yet against an opponent who has already depleted some of his energy fending off an earlier attack, thereby strengthening His Grace’s odds of winning the Duel.” Seeing the appalled stares of everyone else gathered at the table, James blushed. “I did warn you it was awful, but that’s how he would think if he were in our place.”

“You’re completely right, Lord Arilan,” Sophia said, “yet while it’s helpful to understand how my enemy thinks, I would much rather we not seek to emulate him. Although if Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield should choose on her own accord to move against Duke Malcolm, I won’t stop her, so long as her plans don’t increase the danger to my people.”

“All right, Ma’am, how about this?” Father Devlin ran his fingers over the prayer beads in his pocket as he spoke. “Hopefully the Queen’s Champion will win the Duel against Malcolm, if it comes to that. But I am willing to stand as his second if it should come to that. Should Malcolm win against His Grace of Corwyn, I could then immediately issue another challenge against him. He would hopefully be tired enough from his first duel to give me an advantage in the fight, but if he should win both duels, at least that should leave him sufficiently exhausted for a third challenger.”

“Which would be me,” James said, grinning at Devlin. “Have I mentioned that I like the way you think?”

“And in the unlikely event he kills all three of you, he shall then have to face me!” Lady Violet declared. “He may laugh himself to death thinking he’s facing a crazy old bat, but he won’t lay a finger on Her Majesty without a fight from me.”

Elspeth rolled her eyes. “You are a crazy old bat, Vi.  But count me in too.  Not because I approve of your silly old monarchy, but because the bastard tried to have us killed, and who’s to say he wouldn’t try again?”

Maureen and Alicia both grinned, glancing at Peter, who stated to Her Majesty what they were all agreed upon. “Ma’am, you might as well just post a sign telling us where to form the queue. No matter what differences we may have had with the House of Haldane in the past--or even with each other--we’re quite united in this matter. No self-respecting member of an order that reveres Sanctus Camberus Defensor Humanum is going to ever lay out a Welcome mat for Malcolm Atherton-Haldane! Yes, we will defend your right to rule to the best of our abilities.”  Sobering, he added, “Though I ought to warn you, there will come a time--if not now, then someday in future--when you will need to face down a challenge to your Kingdom, and you will need to do it for yourself. I realize that you have been Empowered as a Haldane Queen, yet that power will never be fully yours to wield until it has been set by the catalyst of a challenge against it.”

“I know,” said Sophia softly, blinking away the tears which had sprung to her eyes at the show of loyalty before her. “And I would not ask such service from you, though I am grateful for the offer. I am Gwynedd’s Queen, and I know my duty to my people.  I will ask from you that you give my Champion your full support, guidance, and prayers in these next few days. Hopefully that will be enough to see him through whatever lies before us, but if not, then if my Champion falls I will accept no other to take my place in the circle against the Atherton Pretender.”



Night
St George’s Cathedral
City of Rhemuth
December 29, 2021


He’d finally found the right vulnerability to exploit.  Three of the sleepers he had created over the years had managed to infiltrate the Rhemuth Police Department.  Of those three, one--a human male--had been tasked with street security and crowd control during the funerary procession into Rhemuth, and he had already been assigned similar duties during the State Funeral. It seemed unlikely he would turn out to be of much use, yet Malcolm used the sleeper’s controls to assign him the task of finding and exploiting any weaknesses in the perimeter security that he might manage to find.

The second police sleeper he’d discovered on hand was more advantageously placed, one of the security sweepers assigned to protect the Cathedral itself. She’d had access to certain key codes that might prove useful to Malcolm in gaining entry to the Cathedral and some of its less frequently accessed areas. If he could conceal himself somewhere on the Cathedral grounds well enough in advance of the heightened security that would be put into place on the actual day of the funeral, gaining access to the youngling Queen was already half accomplished.

The third of the police sleepers had been Deryni, and his mind had contained the greatest prize of all. Malcolm had been delighted to discover the Cathedral’s Portal Signature hidden away in the mind of this security officer, as well as confirmation of its exact location, which would provide him with a ready means of entry and exit from the Cathedral. The Portal was under guard, of course, but this sleeper possessed high enough rank to arrange for the guard schedules to work to Malcolm’s advantage. He gave the man instructions to assign the Portal watch for the morning of the funeral to himself and the other sleeper assigned to Cathedral security.  They would be there to witness his arrival, but due to his compulsions they would make no move to stop him. If others were present, his two sleepers could be used to subdue the other security forces.

The beauty of this plan was, none of these three had any idea they were sleepers. They would Truth-Read as loyal subjects of their Queen, and even pass all but the deepest of psychic scans until the time came for him to put them into action. There was a chance, of course, that someone else on the security team might think to test them with such a probe before the funeral day, but that was all right. He’d already acquired the information he needed, after all. Having to fight his way through to the Cathedral would be a bloody nuisance, but hardly an insurmountable obstacle. A few jerramán crystals would soften things up nicely.

Malcolm Atherton-Haldane smiled. There were days when he truly loved his work. This was one of them.



Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1639.0.html
« Last Edit: December 21, 2015, 10:10:59 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2015, 01:54:32 am »
The tension is building up nicely and it's good to see that HM and her advisers are one step ahead of Malcolm. Hopefully he will have time to realise just how seriously he has underestimated this "little Queen".

I love the way the CC jostle for precedence to be the one who gets to defend Sophia.

"“I hope you know what you’re doing, Karim, because if all Hell breaks loose I shall be very put out,” James said."
Indeed so, my Lord!
"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 Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2015, 06:05:41 am »

Just checking back through dramatis personae I noticed someone I don't think we have met yet, which makes me think that Malcolm has something devious up his sleeve that even the Camberian council haven't thought of. 
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2015, 10:59:17 am »
I do want to see Sophia turn Malcom into a smear of grease on the Cathedral floor to be mopped up by the cleaners.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2015, 11:31:17 am »
I do not trust Diana, and have found it curious that as private secretary, she was not in Rhemuth Castle somewhere as part of her duties to the Princess of Meara when the bomb went off.  (Not that I am that familiar with the duties of a private secretary.)  Could she be one of Malcolm's sleepers? (Rhetorical question, no answer required.)  I hope Morgan does not have a chance to "catch up" until well after Duke Malcolm is defeated. 

« Last Edit: December 17, 2015, 11:42:42 am by Jerusha »
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 NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2015, 12:03:20 pm »
Lots going on, worried about the sleepers. Great that the CC stated they could be called upon, and would take action, loved the queuing up to fight lines! Glad Caroline helped Tom although worried about what could happen next for him. Agree fair challenge Duel Arcane is unlikely; Malcolm does not play by rules, the rules or any rules. Will Caroline step out as a distraction? I agree with Jerusha; I do not trust Diana, which I think was discussed in a comment on a previous chapter.

Malcolm does not know that Sophia is empowered and he thinks that Morgan will be the one to defeat. I don't think he knows that CC is also coming down on him; don't think he is aware of the united front. I liked that Devlin also stepped up. Does anyone on the good side know about the sleepers? Where is Patrick in all this?

(Sophia needs to defend herself to bring her powers to the forefront? I don't completely understand)

(apologies that I am not always commenting; was traveling with new phone that I could easily read updates but forgot pw to log in for comment!) (yes, this means that I am still checking every morning for updates...) (and at some appropriate point please tell me that Jeannie is recovering... )
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2015, 12:17:58 pm »


(Sophia needs to defend herself to bring her powers to the forefront? I don't completely understand)


I think the idea is that the full power of an Haldane is activated by an urgent need to use it.

Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2015, 12:23:02 pm »
Now that you mention it....we haven't properly met Diana. She hasn't said anything and we have no idea what she looks like...... Hmmmmmm.  Not getting blown to bits with the royal family is not necessarily an indication of disloyalty, of course.  But where was she, at the time?  Was it just luck, or did she know not to be in the palace at the time?  Oh dear...if she and Morgan "catch up" I hope it won't be in a way that leaves him incapacitated.... Why am I worried about this? Oh,  only because of who wrote this story. =o)

Really enjoyed all the CC lining up and being ready to fight Malcolm.  =o) But I think the honor of doing away with him belongs to Sophia to avenge her family's deaths.

Melissa
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2015, 01:20:19 pm »
Sometime google "Most Punchable Faces".  I think that a Gwynnedian version would include Malcom Atherton-Haldane.

Wouldn't it be great if Sophia took him out not by her Deryni/Haldane powers, but with a good, old-fashioned left hook to the jaw?

Offline DesertRose

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2015, 01:46:35 pm »
Wouldn't it be great if Sophia took him out not by her Deryni/Haldane powers, but with a good, old-fashioned left hook to the jaw?

Well, Morgan at least has already shown us he can do that.  :D
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

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

Offline revanne

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2015, 02:15:07 pm »
"I do not trust Diana, and have found it curious that as private secretary, she was not in Rhemuth Castle somewhere as part of her duties to the Princess of Meara when the bomb went off."

I find it quite plausible that Diana would have been left behind in Ratharkin to deal with correspondence and manage the complexities of a royal diary whilst her employer was away. Whether or not she is a sleeper... depends on how devious you think Evie's imagination is ;D

I do wonder about Araxelle's wisdom in thinking that a Haldane visit to Camberia would ever be a good idea and maybe that is partly responsible for Malcolm's contemptuous opinion of Haldanes.
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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-Seven
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2015, 02:38:26 pm »
I love this five-day cycle of posting a new chapter and watching everyone's paranoia start amping up....  LOL!  ;D

No time for one-on-one replies this afternoon, so I'll just address the questions that won't be explicitly addressed anywhere between now and the story's end.  Yes, thanks to Heather's Healing powers (not to mention Morgan's first aid and the attentions of more conventional medical staff prior to Heather's arrival on the scene), Jeannie made a full recovery.  Since Jeannie was dealing with only commonplace physical injuries (albeit some severe ones) and not an illness, poisoning, or psychic attack, I meant for the scene showing Heather was attending to her injuries to imply that she would end up fully Healed once the Deryni Healer was done with her.

Also, as to why Diana was not killed during the Rhemuth Castle attack, the simplest reason is that she would have had no reason to be in Rhemuth at the time.  She worked for the Princess of Meara, and the Prince and Princess lived and worked at Ratharkin.  As you'll recall from early on in the story, they were only visiting the Queen at Rhemuth Castle for a brief pre-Christmas visit prior to setting off on a goodwill tour of Camberia, hoping to improve Camberian/Gwyneddan relations.  (This planned trip is mentioned very early on in either Chapter One or Two, and later mentioned again by Aubrey in a conversation with Malcolm.)  They wouldn't have needed their entire staff to go along on the trip with them, just their armsmen and maybe just a few other key staff.  If a private secretary was needed, one would probably have been sufficient for a short trip overseas, so they'd have taken Kelric's.  So Diana was most likely either at Ratharkin or en route to her family's home in hopes for an extended Christmas holiday of her own when Rhemuth Castle was attacked.

For that matter, although there were many casualties of the Rhemuth Castle bombing, not all of the staff who worked there ended up dying in the blast.  Some were too far from "ground zero" and merely sustained injuries ranging anywhere from severe life-threatening injuries to mere scratches, depending on how far from the central part of the Castle they were.  People in the Keep, the lower gatehouse, or the far end of the lower bailey might not have had any injuries at all if they were inside and out of reach of flying debris. A few simply got phenomenally lucky (it happens, even in real life incidents of this sort), and of course there would have been off duty personnel out visiting friends for the evening, gone to their homes for the night, or dropping by their favorite pub. So that is how there were enough Rhemuth Castle survivors to have joined the funeral cortege accompanying the bodies from Eirian House to Rhemuth Castle in the previous chapter.

Did I leave Diana's photo off the Dramatis Personae list?  My bad!  I'll go add it right now.
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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2015, 02:53:25 pm »
And of course, Morgan himself was in Rhemuth Castle and survived the bombing (albeit by suspending himself under wards), so it is well established that it is possible.
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #13 on: December 17, 2015, 02:58:50 pm »
"I do not trust Diana, and have found it curious that as private secretary, she was not in Rhemuth Castle somewhere as part of her duties to the Princess of Meara when the bomb went off."

I find it quite plausible that Diana would have been left behind in Ratharkin to deal with correspondence and manage the complexities of a royal diary whilst her employer was away. Whether or not she is a sleeper... depends on how devious you think Evie's imagination is ;D

I do wonder about Araxelle's wisdom in thinking that a Haldane visit to Camberia would ever be a good idea and maybe that is partly responsible for Malcolm's contemptuous opinion of Haldanes.

Just saw this after I posted my reply.  In order to avert further potential confusion for US readers, I'm pretty sure revanne means "diary" in the more UK sense (Diana keeping track of the Princess's schedule, especially of upcoming events) rather than the US sense (Diana keeping a journal of the Princess's innermost thoughts and feelings as well as recording her day's events, which would be an odd duty to assign to a private secretary, no matter how close the Princess might have been to her staff).

As to Malcolm's opinion of Haldanes, I think you're right that any peaceful overtures would have been regarded by him as signs of weakness, but also remember that not all Camberians can be judged by the few we've seen in this story. There are some Camberians who are not at all like the Atherton-Haldanes and would welcome an end to two centuries of cold war if not overt hostilities, and even those who still hold a grudge against Gwynedd would mostly prefer to avoid an actual war with the mother kingdom, so a goodwill visit by the Gwyneddan Haldanes might have been seen as a reassuring sign that the Haldanes and Atherton-Haldanes intended to play nicely rather than run with scissors.  And left to his own druthers, that would probably have been Aubrey's original intent, but of course greedy Malcolm just couldn't let well enough alone.
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Offline DesertRose

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Seven
« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2015, 03:07:12 pm »
And left to his own druthers, that would probably have been Aubrey's original intent, but of course greedy Malcolm just couldn't let well enough alone.

Aubrey rather strikes me as too lazy to be as malevolent as Malcolm.  It's not a case of him being less evil, it's a case of can't be arsed.  (At least, that's my take on him.)
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty, and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans."

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