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Author Topic: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight  (Read 4683 times)

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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« on: December 21, 2015, 10:09:29 pm »
Previous chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1636.0.html


Chapter Twenty-Eight

Around noon
In and around the Cathedral of Saint George
City of Rhemuth
December 31, 2021


On the morning of the last day of the year, the Household, visiting dignitaries, and various representatives of the Gwyneddan noble households processed from Rhemuth Castle to the Cathedral for the final funerary service. They filed into the seating areas reserved for them as the people of Gwynedd watched--many among the throngs of mourners who lined the streets outside the Cathedral grounds, thousands more on the large screens that had been set up in nearly every park and public space in Rhemuth, and millions more watching the broadcast from the privacy of their own homes.

One foreign dignitary, the representative from the Royal House of Camberia, was missing from the procession, though very few viewers noted his absence at the time. Of those few, some gave the matter little thought at all, although some--especially those who had professional or personal reasons for noticing such details--found his failure to appear as scheduled rather worrisome. However, there were other distractions at hand that morning.

Inside the cathedral, the start of the funeral service was slightly delayed because the Archbishop, still uneasy over the large numbers of firearms that the Royal Armsmen insisted on bringing with them into a house of worship, had decided at virtually the last minute to specify a large number of restrictions as to what sorts of weapons were to be allowed and how they were to be carried. The Armsmen had lodged an immediate protest with the Queen’s Champion, who had swiftly informed His Grace the Archbishop that until the Cathedral had been made fully secure both inside and out, the Queen would not be in attendance at the funeral. And if the Queen was not in attendance, there would be no funeral that day. The matter had been quickly mediated by Rhemuth’s Auxiliary Bishop, Sarah McLain, who was finally able to make Archbishop Drummond understand that anyone meaning to do harm to Her Majesty was hardly likely to check his weapons politely at the door in accordance with last-minute policy changes, so although she quite sympathised with his qualms about the matter, it seemed more prudent to allow those tasked with the already difficult job of keeping their Queen safe to do their work without further delay or hindrance.

The brief delay meant that outside of the cathedral, other plans being set into motion continued on as originally scheduled, since none outside those walls knew of the behind-the-scenes drama that had caused a slight postponement in the Queen’s arrival. Thus it was that when noon came, certain persons in the crowds outside launched their attack--one that was far less organized when it happened than it might have been if their leader had not been arrested just three days earlier, but what they lacked in leadership, they made up for in enthusiastic improvisation.

Clouds of red vapor began to fill the air at various locations throughout Rhemuth, the unexpected display quickly drawing the attention of news crews and spectators away from the large screens showing the scene inside the Cathedral, at least for the moment, as the puzzled onlookers tried to figure out what the red clouds were. Many believed they were simply part of the memorial display, Haldane Crimson bursts of mist set to go off along the procession route and wherever else mourners were gathered in order to signify . . . well, no one was exactly sure what they were meant to signify, but what else could they be? Others, realizing that the strange red clouds had nothing to do with the planned observances of the day, swiftly retreated from the expanding mist, the fear engendered by the recent Castle bombing stirring them to flight. In the crowd, several members of law enforcement took special note of exactly where the red clouds were emanating from as they waded into the midst of the gatherings to apprehend those who had set them off.  Many of these responding police officers were well-prepared for the attack, wearing gas masks and other protective gear.

Two in particular made their way towards a large cloud of brilliant red not too far from the Cathedral entrance. “I don’t understand,” said one of these men to the other. “M-Gas isn’t normally bright red, is it?” DI Adams had never actually been up against a merasha gas attack except in simulation--the stuff was frightfully rare, thank the saints!--but to the best of his memory it was nearly colorless.

The other man smiled, or so Adams surmised by the crinkles appearing at the corners of his eyes beneath the mask’s goggles. “It’s not M-Gas. But it does make a lovely ‘come and get me, I’m a would-be terrorist’ marker, doesn’t it?”

They tackled the man who had set off the gas bomb, handcuffing him and marching him to a waiting vehicle. Once he’d been secured, Patrick removed his mask. “They stole the wrong gas?”  He grinned. “Fortunate coincidence, or did you arrange that?”

DI Strachan shrugged modestly.  “When I heard the first rumors about the HA’s plans a week or so ago, the Chief said it was all a lot of fuss over nothing, but I didn’t want it on my head if the rumors turned out to be true after all. So I might have rung up a cousin at the military base where the M-Gas was stored to let him know what I’d heard, and to see if they’d had any tanks of the stuff come up missing. They hadn’t yet, though there’d been some suspicious activity in that area they’d already taken notice of, so they might have pulled a bit of a switch, especially after I hinted that might be helpful.” He grinned.  “That stuff’s harmless, mainly water vapor with a bit of concentrated color added in. Non-toxic color, though I don’t know how well it washes out of clothes, or for that matter, skin, so we may have a few severe cases of ‘Red Rhemuthitis’ in the local population over the next fortnight.” He winked. “Nothing lethal, just a trifle embarrassing.”

DI Adams shook his head. “Brilliant, man. Freaking brilliant!”



Just after noon
The Cathedral of St George
City of Rhemuth
December 31, 2021


Once the Archbishop’s qualms had been laid to rest--And just in time, too, or there would have been a second funeral on the day’s schedule, thought Morgan--and everyone had taken their places, the music changed to a royal fanfare heralding the Queen’s arrival. Armsmen Henry Carlisle and Michael Prior, in full dress military uniform for the occasion, solemnly escorted her from sacristy to nave, seating her next to her cousin before taking their places standing behind and slightly to the side of both.

Despite the fact that Morgan was well aware of where the various guards, both seen and unseen, who were charged with keeping Her Majesty and himself safe throughout the service had been stationed, as well as where the various members of the Camberian Council had been located, he still felt vaguely nervous about having his back to most of the people in the room. Thus it was that with his senses projected outwards to assess his surrounding for himself and assure himself that there was no nearby threat, he first sensed a familiar presence he had last--and only quite recently--sensed in Coroth. Caroline Whitfield was here! At least he devoutly hoped it was Caroline--the newly-integrated personality--and that Alisandra had not somehow managed to escape the layers of blocking placed upon her by her Healers, not to mention the iron-tight control Caroline had held over the remaining vestiges of that persona that had once controlled her when Morgan had last seen her in his physician’s care. She was quite well shielded. That in itself did not necessarily mean she was a threat, but it did mean he could not read her intentions.  Technically she had not been invited to the state funeral, so he could order her escorted from the building. He recalled, however, that the Queen had instructed at Council that if Caroline chose to act against the Pretender, she was not to be stopped unless her actions were likely to imperil others around her. Perhaps she had turned up with the intent to defend Her Majesty after all, or at least to seek out retribution against Malcolm of Camberia. If so, she was doubtless disappointed that Malcolm had yet to put in an appearance.



Shortly afterward
The Cathedral Sacristy
December 31, 2021


Six people had come through the Cathedral’s Transfer Portal along with Her Majesty, but only two of those had continued on to escort her to her seat in the nave. The other four remained, to the consternation of the two guards assigned to keep watch over the Portal.

“You four need to move along,” one of them said brusquely, laying a warning hand on his weapon. “The service is about to start, you wouldn’t want to be late.” He attempted to put a note of command in his voice, but to his surprise he found the four interlopers tightly shielded.

The man he’d addressed replied soothingly. “We mean no harm, but in light of recent threats against the Queen’s life, Her Majesty has requested that we remain here to assist you in guarding the Portal.’

The other guard glanced at him uncertainly. “He’s dressed as a Royal Chaplain,” she whispered to her companion. “Surely it would be all right?”

The first guard, having Truth-Read Father Devlin’s statement, frowned in confusion. He believed the man, yet for some reason he felt the need to resist the order. But disobey Her Majesty’s order? He could not, yet for some reason he knew he must.

The four newcomers, in the meantime, took up stations at the corners of the room.



Close to the same time
The Cathedral Nave


The service had just started shortly after the Queen’s arrival when a message came over Her Majesty’s Armsmen’s communications links, and the two men glanced at each other with a frown. Michael Prior discreetly readied a weapon for use while Henry Carlisle Mind-Spoke to the Queen. Your Majesty, there may be an intruder on the premises. I’ve just received word that one of our guards has not reported in from his post at the designated time. That’s being checked out now, but we haven’t many Deryni guards on hand to respond to a possible Deryni threat, so would you like me to divert some of the Council members from the Sacristy Portal for back-up?

Sophia thought swiftly. She’d been nearly certain that the Pretender would choose to arrive through the Portal, but what if she’d been wrong? On the other hand, what if this was just some pre-planned diversion to draw security from the Portal so Malcolm could have unimpeded access? Or perhaps the failure to report in was truly just an accident, due to a stopped watch or some such mishap? Time was passing, time that she could not afford to waste if this lapse signaled a genuine threat. Divert one of the Council to the appropriate post. But which one? Mr Astari, I think. He leads them, so surely he’d be up to the task. Where is this potential breach?

The crypt entrance, Ma’am.


The crypt entrance.  If Malcolm Atherton-Haldane was here and had managed to subdue or do away with the guard stationed there, that meant he could be somewhere directly beneath her right now. Sophia suppressed a frisson of fear and silently relayed Henry’s message to Morgan.



Moments later
The Cathedral Sacristy


“Something seems to have happened at the crypt entrance,” Peter Astari reported to his fellow Councilors. “A guard there hasn’t checked in. Sergeant Carlisle has just asked me to investigate.”

“The crypt? But why would an intruder wish to get in there?” Lady Maureen asked, puzzled. “Is he thinking of attacking Her Majesty after the service, when the coffins are brought down for burial?”

Devlin laid a hand on Peter’s arm as Peter passed him on his way to the door. “There’s an access panel from the crypt directly to the nave. Several, in fact. If he’s down there, he could potentially come up from any of them. Shall I go with you?”

“No, Her Majesty requested that the rest of you remain here just in case this is nothing more than a late check-in or a diversion.” Peter attempted to exit the sacristy, but was suddenly stopped by the two guards.

A skirmish ensued, Lady Maureen and Lady Alicia taking on the human guard, with Lady Alicia calling upon her military training to take the lead in that endeavor. She grappled with the guard, attempting to wrest her firearm away and providing the distraction that Maureen needed to sidestep them both and render the guard unconscious. In the meantime, Father Devlin and Peter Astari took on the Deryni guard, who originally attempted a more arcane style of defence, but found his concentration broken by being set on so abruptly by two-on-one odds. He attempted to bring up his pistol but found it kicked out of his hand. It flew across the floor but thankfully did not fire. Astari took advantage of the momentary distraction to cold-cock the guard.

Astari gave Devlin a startled look. “Glad that thing didn’t go off! I wouldn’t have thought one could kick that high whilst wearing a cassock.”

“It’s not recommended, but desperate times call for desperate measures. He was pointing it straight at you, so I was trying to deflect his aim, but I hadn’t counted on him actually dropping the thing.  Run on, then; I think if HM has ordered us to remain here, we’ll use the time to figure out why these two guards seemed so eager to prevent you from seeing what’s going on down in the crypt. But call if you need back-up; I’ve got a sinking feeling there’s little need for us to remain here if it turns out the person we’re meant to guard against has already found a way in.”

Maureen, while the two men were overcoming the Deryni guard, had swiftly done a psychic probe of the unconscious human female’s mind, checking to see if the guard had acted on her own accord or if she’d acted under a compulsion. “She’s been tampered with,” she told Father Devlin. “Alicia, I haven’t had much experience with dealing this sort of thing, have you?”

“Just a little. Karim would be the one to ask, really. But let’s see what I can manage.” While Alicia checked the human guard’s mind, Father Devlin did the same for the unconscious Deryni, making similar findings. He did his best to block the trigger areas, but a more thorough removal of the compulsions would have to wait. Instead, he touched another area of the man’s mind to ensure he would remain unconscious for the next few hours or until a Healer could be sent for him. After a quick consultation with him, Alicia did the same for the human guard.

“Did anyone bring Ward Cubes?” Devlin asked. Maureen and Alicia both brought forth their personal sets.  Hauling the two unconscious guards to one clear corner of the room, he had Maureen set her wards around both, to keep whoever had set their compulsion (probably the Pretender, Devlin guessed) from being able to retrieve and revive them if he should come back this way. Alicia, on the other hand, set her wards around the Portal itself.  The ward would alert her if anyone should attempt to use it in their absence.

“Does anyone else beside Peter have a communications link to let the Queen’s Armsmen know what has happened?” Devlin asked.

“No, but I might be able to reach Peter,” Maureen admitted, blushing slightly.  “We’re not all that far from the crypt entrance, so I think my mind link with him should be able to cover the distance.” She focused on that link, hoping to mentally share what had happened after Peter’s departure.



At the same moment
The crypt entrance


Peter was otherwise engaged at the moment, finding a dead guard where a live one ought to be. Another guard had made the discovery at nearly the same moment, and Peter had had to do quite a bit of fast talking to assure the man that he was not the murderer, but fortunately a quick communication from Henry Carlisle at just the right moment had assured the guard that Peter really had been sent by the Queen as a Deryni backup to assist in his investigation, as he’d claimed.

The short delay in entering the crypt might have ended up saving both their lives, as just as they started to head down the short passageway leading down to the cathedral’s undercroft, a loud burst that felt like a small explosion occurred just ahead and around a corner, within the crypt proper. Once they recovered their equilibrium, both men raced into the crypt to find it empty, although wafts of smoke drifting through what remained of an access panel above left no doubt about where the intruder had escaped to.  Peter cursed fluently under his breath. The Pretender--for Peter had no doubt anymore that it must be he--had exited the crypt right into the heart of the Cathedral, on the same side of the barrier ward as Her Majesty and the Queen’s Champion.



That same moment
The Cathedral Nave


Despite having realized the likelihood of her rival for her throne being somewhere below the nave mere minutes earlier (although he’d either been too well shielded for her to confirm her suspicion or he was artificially augmenting his psychic shields somehow), Sophia was still startled to see Malcolm Atherton-Haldane abruptly emerge from one of the crypt’s access panels set into the floor of the cathedral. The panel came flying up with a clang and a blast of light and smoke before the Camberian Pretender emerged from below, apparently levitating until his feet cleared the opening, revealing to those in the front rows that he was actually riding a sport hoverboard. As Henry and Michael dashed forward to interpose themselves between the invader and their Queen, both firing off quick bursts from their weapons that should have immediately pierced skin, he laughed before making a quick swatting motion with focused power and intent that was not quite enough to sweep them off their feet, but they found themselves needing to concentrate on holding their ground.

“Did you truly think I would have shown up without some basic protection, gentlemen?” he asked almost amiably as he stepped closer. “Step aside, vassals, it’s my cousin your little Queen Bee I’ve come to visit. I believe she’s laid claim to something that is rightfully mine, and I should like it back now.”

Sophia stood. “If you are referring to Gwynedd, then you are quite mistaken. King Reginald’s Act of Attainder against his son Prince Halbert and any future descendants was extremely clear on the matter.”

“And Princess Adelia Haldane’s--my mother’s--marriage into the Atherton-Haldane line restored our birthright!” claimed the Pretender.

“Also highly debatable, since although Adelia’s marriage was intended to heal a rift in Gwyneddan/Camberian relations, the original Act of Attainder was not waived in the betrothal contract. In fact, Princess Adelia specifically renounced her place in the Gwyneddan succession as one of the terms agreed to before Alaric III consented to the marriage. Reluctantly, I might add,” Sophia countered.

“In any case, it’s immaterial,” Morgan Haldane said, having risen to his feet and stepped forward as the Queen and Pretender were verbally sparring. “Even if the Act of Attainder had been nullified by Princess Adelia’s marriage into your House--which I agree with Her Majesty that it was not--that would only make you fourth in line to the throne, not the rightful King of Gwynedd.”

Malcolm’s icy gaze swept Morgan scornfully before making a seemingly idle perusal of the audience seated behind the young Duke. Most of the onlookers were either frozen in stunned shock or highly agitated, some beginning to surge out of the cathedral in panic, others streaming forward, wanting to intervene but cut off from their Queen by the barrier ward. His glance fell upon one woman who had none of these reactions, but whose gaze met his steadily. His heart leapt in delight, but he made himself focus on the young Corwyn stripling once again.

“And you must be the Corwyn youth. I suppose I must concede the point, though there is an easy enough solution to the dilemma.” He gave the younger Haldane duke a cold smile.

“For once I quite agree with you,” Morgan said, “which is why I challenge you to a formal Duel Arcane as Queen’s Champion to Her rightful Majesty Sophia the Second of Gwynedd.”

The Pretender’s smile grew to a feral grin. “You challenge me?  How droll! Youngling, you make this far too easy. But why bother with formalities? If you’re so eager to die, I could just take care of it without all the traditionalist nonsense. I aim to please, you know.”

He raised a hand and began to utter a spell, but found himself unexpectedly unable to complete the utterance. Turning, he found himself facing four Deryni entering the cathedral behind him via a side entrance. Three of them were silently mouthing some sort of preventative counterspell while the fourth raised a warning hand towards him.

“I believe you will discover that the Gwyneddan people still cherish those traditions you dismiss as nonsense, Duke Malcolm. And one Deryni tradition that has continued from ancient days is the right of the Crown--or, in this case, the Queen’s Champion--to call upon the services of the Camberian Council for fair arbitration of disputes and Duels Arcane. Her Majesty had the foresight to request our aid in anticipation of your arrival, and therefore we present ourselves to assure that both challenger and challenged will conduct these proceedings in a fair and above-board manner. Or we will take matters into our own hands.” Despite the mild delivery, Peter Astari’s warning was clear. It was underlined by the arrival of the rest of the Council, whose delay in joining the others had been caused by the necessity of having to make their way around the barrier wards by exiting the Cathedral and re-entering through the same door the others had entered.

“You bloody dare!” Malcolm snarled.

“Yes, we bloody well do!” Peter replied. “May I remind you that this is Gwynedd, a civilized nation that adheres to the rule of law, and not simply the law of survival of the fittest! If you would fight for Gwynedd, the first thing you must learn is that this Kingdom will not stand for tyrannical rule. But I believe the Queen’s Champion has offered to do his best to make the question moot. Do you now accept his challenge?”

Malcolm studied the unexpected interlopers, wishing fervently that Alisandra had managed to complete her mission to kill the interfering Council busybodies rather than bungling the job.  Still, now that he’d spotted her in the audience, perhaps there was a chance for him to turn the tables. After all, his claim to the Gwyneddan throne could hardly be contested once he defeated his rivals in a formal Duel, but if he must fight on their anal-retentive terms, he might as well wipe out both of his rivals in one blow. He and his Queen could then pick off the individual members of the Council later, now that he had seen them and could identify them later. Or could he? To his annoyance, he found himself unable to focus clearly on their features. He shook his head, turning back to his challenger, irritated.

“I believe that as the challenged, I am allowed to set the terms of the duel?” he asked in a voice deceptively mild considering the anger brewing deep within him. “Very well then, here are my terms. I agree to take on the challenge of the so-called Queen’s Champion of Gwynedd. As the challenged, I decree that this Duel shall be to the death, and that it should be a double duel. To clarify, I agree to the challenge by Morgan Haldane, but only if Sophia Haldane joins us in the circle as well. And to my own side, I call my vassal Alisandra to support my claim to Gwynedd’s throne.”

“But . . . .” Sophia whirled on Peter Astari in shock. “He can’t do that, can he?”

Astari looked profoundly unhappy, but there was nothing technically illegal in the terms Malcolm had set. “I’m afraid so, Ma’am; as the challenged, it is his right to set the terms of the Duel, although the Duke of Corwyn can always withdraw his challenge if the terms are not agreeable to him. And as far as the Council’s arbitration is concerned, the challenged’s vassal is also allowed to refuse to participate in the Duel--just because she has been named in the proposed terms, that does not bind her to agree to participate--though of course she may suffer repercussions for such refusal that we would not be able to prevent. Unless, of course, she chooses to call upon our aid, but not being a subject of Your Majesty’s Kingdom or even a citizen of one of the Ancient Kingdoms, that matter would be more properly referred to Camberia’s own Council.  Such as it is.” A wry tug at his lips spoke of his own personal feelings toward that less than august body.

Morgan glared at the Pretender as he weighed the options. His aim had been to protect Sophia from any challenge, not to draw her into one and risk the loss of both rightful heirs to the throne of Gwynedd in the process. Yet not to fight Malcolm now meant never knowing a moment’s peace or safety until the man lay dead, his body produced as proof that he would never again emerge from the shadows to threaten Sophia or, for that matter, himself.

Sophia gave him a measured look, appearing to have come to the same conclusion, and took his hand. He squeezed hers, considering their odds of survival. Malcolm had the clear advantage of experience; Morgan’s main hope had been in having had more formal (though not necessarily better) training than the Pretender’s, and perhaps in having younger reflexes and greater endurance. But Sophia was untested, completely untrained, and though in theory she had been given the fullness of her Haldane powers during her Empowerment ceremony, those powers were as yet completely untested.  And calling the former Alisandra into the Circle might be more of a detriment to Malcolm’s plans than he realized, but Morgan still had his qualms about her intentions. If she had not truly become integrated into a completely Healed Caroline Sheraton-Whitfield, that would leave him and Sophia doubly vulnerable in the Duel Arcane, facing off against a trained assassin in addition to the Camberian Pretender.

“If I am to be drawn into this challenge, Mr Arbitrator, may I set a few more terms of my own, since it appears I am now being directly challenged by the Pretender?” asked Sophia.

The Councilors appeared to confer silently, though the conference was extremely brief. “This is an irregular circumstance, but we are agreed that you should have that right, Your Majesty.”

“Very well, my terms are these. The Pretender has specified that the Duel is to be to the death, yet that was before he also drew me and another participant into his terms. Therefore, the issue of how to determine a clear victor needs to be clarified. If both parties of one side are killed during the duel, then that would indicate a clear victor and the protective wards will come down at that time. If, however, the duel leaves only one survivor alive on each side, then the remaining combatants shall be held under separate wards until the people of Gwynedd can choose for themselves which Haldane they wish to confirm as their sovereign.” She smiled at Malcolm’s nonplussed expression. “Perhaps you have different ways in Camberia, but in Gwynedd the Crown serves the people of this kingdom, she--or he--does not subjugate. As the Council Arbitrator stated earlier, the people of Gwynedd will not abide a tyrant.  If you wish to rule this Kingdom, you must win her love and respect.”

Malcolm whirled to protest Sophia’s terms to the Council arbiters. “I have already specified this duel is to be to the death! This is a clear violation of my terms!”

Peter Astari shook his head. “As Morgan Haldane’s Challenged, you had the right to set terms for the original challenge. Since you chose to issue Challenge to Her Majesty and called upon your vassal to second you, they too have the right to set terms to this secondary Challenge. However, this does not fully negate your terms of dueling to the death. In the event that the sovereign must be decided by the people of Gwynedd, then whichever participant is not chosen will die via lawful execution as a Pretender to the Throne. Since it is highly unlikely that either of you is willing to allow the other to simply walk free after this Duel, I trust this amendment to the terms will be acceptable to both parties.”

“I accept the amendment,” stated Sophia. Malcolm remained briefly silent as he pondered his options, then he added, “As I have included my vassal Alisandra to second me, she should have the right to set final terms.”

Peter nodded. Turning to the Camberian woman, who had been ushered in by Lord Arilan, Lady Violet, and Elspeth McIntyre while the previous terms were being set, he asked her, “Do you agree to participate in this Duel, and if so, do you wish to set any final terms?”

Malcolm’s vassal--or former vassal?--glanced briefly at the two Gwyneddan Haldanes, her features expressionless and shields fully raised, giving no hint of her personal thoughts.  She turned back to the Council.  “I am willing to participate in the Duel. I have no further terms to add, as it appears that anything I might have wished to add has already been covered, and my understanding is that I am not allowed to fully negate any previously set terms, only modify them?”

“That is correct,” Peter confirmed.

“Then I accept the terms in full and have nothing further to add.”




Next chapter:  http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1642.0.html
« Last Edit: December 26, 2015, 09:20:05 pm by Evie »
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Offline drakensis

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2015, 12:05:30 am »
Well that's going to be interesting.

Good kick from Devlin and a very dramatic entrance by Malcolm. In the event this goes down to an election I don't think much of his chances against Sophia or Morgan - which is Sophia's thinking no doubt.

Offline TKnTexas

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2015, 01:34:01 am »
This is so tense.  This story is keeping me on pins and needles. 
Thomas Hill

Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2015, 06:18:08 am »
Finally! Love the buildup of the tension. Gas switch is great. The duel reminds me of another one from canon.
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-Eight
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2015, 08:34:05 am »
I love his rising up on a hoverboard.  A bit of levity--no pun intended--to break the tension.

Offline Marko

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2015, 09:00:26 am »
This smells quite a bit like the duel that Wencit started.  I hope it has the same result.  Wencit thought that Rhydon of Eastmarch was on his side.  However, Rhydon was not Rhydon.  Not-Rhydon was actually Stefan Coram and only let Wencit know that after he had poisoned the entire Torenthi group in the duel arcane.  Malcolm has brought in someone he believes to be loyal to him.  Caroline Whitfield, aka Alisandra, lately has shown that she will do whatever is necessary to foil the plans of Malcolm.  One only hope that she continues do that.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2015, 09:15:51 am »
OK, believe it or not I feel better now.  I was sure Sophia would have her chance to prove her powers and right to rule in a dual arcane, but I was worried that Morgan would have to be incapacitated (surely nothing worse!) for this to happen.  Wonderful strategy!

Still anxiously anticipating how this will turn out.
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2015, 11:03:07 am »
I hope Malcom survives the duel, but is defeated.  Sophia should put his head in a crock of vinegar and send it to Cambria.  Collect.

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2015, 12:30:32 pm »
Quote
we may have a few severe cases of ‘Red Rhemuthitis’ in the local population over the next fortnight.” He winked. “Nothing lethal, just a trifle embarrassing.”

DI Adams shook his head. “Brilliant, man. Freaking brilliant!”

I smiled at Red Rhemuthitis, after I had first read it as rheumatitis, and thought everyone was going to come down with arthritis instead of a simple rash.  ;D

OK, believe it or not I feel better now.  I was sure Sophia would have her chance to prove her powers and right to rule in a dual arcane, but I was worried that Morgan would have to be incapacitated (surely nothing worse!) for this to happen.  Wonderful strategy!

Still anxiously anticipating how this will turn out.

Jerusha, oh yes, I am so there right with you. Thinking Morgan would be in terrible trouble, if we were ultimately needing to test the success of Sophia's empowerment. I believe in a totally fair duel, Sophia/Morgan would beat Malcolm/Alessandra.  Holding my breath to see how fair Malcolm intends the duel to be, and which personality his second has taken on.

Loving it, Evie.

Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2015, 01:20:24 am »
Well that's going to be interesting.

Good kick from Devlin and a very dramatic entrance by Malcolm. In the event this goes down to an election I don't think much of his chances against Sophia or Morgan - which is Sophia's thinking no doubt.

That's exactly what Sophia is thinking. She intends for at least one legitimate Haldane to survive this Duel, come what may. Granted, if Malcolm manages to kill or at least mortally injure both of them, an election becomes a moot point . . . .

This is so tense.  This story is keeping me on pins and needles. 

Tell you what, you can find out what happens next as a belated Christmas present.  ;)

Finally! Love the buildup of the tension. Gas switch is great. The duel reminds me of another one from canon.

There's a good reason for that.  I drew fairly heavily from a couple of canonical duel scenes for inspiration, as you'll also notice in the next chapter.

I love his rising up on a hoverboard.  A bit of levity--no pun intended--to break the tension.

The pun may be unintentional, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  :D And the main reason for him using the hoverboard rather than calling on Deryni powers to help him jump up through the access door was that I figured he wouldn't want to expend any of his power unnecessarily immediately before his faceoff with Sophia. He's overly confident and arrogant, yes, but not entirely stupid.  So a hoverboard serves his purpose nicely without any costly energy drain that he might regret later in the midst of battle.

This smells quite a bit like the duel that Wencit started.  I hope it has the same result.  Wencit thought that Rhydon of Eastmarch was on his side.  However, Rhydon was not Rhydon.  Not-Rhydon was actually Stefan Coram and only let Wencit know that after he had poisoned the entire Torenthi group in the duel arcane.  Malcolm has brought in someone he believes to be loyal to him.  Caroline Whitfield, aka Alisandra, lately has shown that she will do whatever is necessary to foil the plans of Malcolm.  One only hope that she continues do that.

One can hope.  At this point, only Caroline knows for certain which side she is on, and she's not telling!

OK, believe it or not I feel better now.  I was sure Sophia would have her chance to prove her powers and right to rule in a dual arcane, but I was worried that Morgan would have to be incapacitated (surely nothing worse!) for this to happen.  Wonderful strategy!

Still anxiously anticipating how this will turn out.

We shall certainly see.  Of course, you do realize having both Haldanes in the duel at once, in a duel that requires at least two deaths (either both combatants for one side, or one death from each side with an election to determine which survivor will be the victor), does not necessarily guarantee a completely happy outcome for our brave young Royals?  *evil grin*

I hope Malcom survives the duel, but is defeated.  Sophia should put his head in a crock of vinegar and send it to Cambria.  Collect.

That would certainly be an interesting outcome.  I'm not certain Aubrey would be interested in paying cash on delivery for a pickled Malcolm head, though.  :D

Quote
we may have a few severe cases of ‘Red Rhemuthitis’ in the local population over the next fortnight.” He winked. “Nothing lethal, just a trifle embarrassing.”

DI Adams shook his head. “Brilliant, man. Freaking brilliant!”

I smiled at Red Rhemuthitis, after I had first read it as rheumatitis, and thought everyone was going to come down with arthritis instead of a simple rash.  ;D

OK, believe it or not I feel better now.  I was sure Sophia would have her chance to prove her powers and right to rule in a dual arcane, but I was worried that Morgan would have to be incapacitated (surely nothing worse!) for this to happen.  Wonderful strategy!

Still anxiously anticipating how this will turn out.

Jerusha, oh yes, I am so there right with you. Thinking Morgan would be in terrible trouble, if we were ultimately needing to test the success of Sophia's empowerment. I believe in a totally fair duel, Sophia/Morgan would beat Malcolm/Alessandra.  Holding my breath to see how fair Malcolm intends the duel to be, and which personality his second has taken on.

Loving it, Evie.

LOL!  No arthritis epidemic, fortunately. Though did you actually use the words "fair duel" and "Malcolm" in the same sentence?  It's a very good thing the Camberian Council is there to enforce the rules, since even cagey old Mal can't take on all eight highly trained CC members in addition to two Haldanes.

It's still not too late for Morgan and/or Sophia to wind up in terrible trouble, though.  This is an Evie story. Muahahaha!  ;D

OK, so all teasing aside, looks like the climactic battle is set to be posted on December 26, with the final chapter and epilogue going up on New Year's Eve, which is even more perfect timing than I originally anticipated!  (Posting the first chapter two days earlier than originally planned and having to split one overly long chapter into two ended up changing my original posting timeline slightly.) Not every loose end is going to be neatly tied off in the remaining two chapters, of course, but if they were, that wouldn't leave anything for me to build on for a sequel set a few months down the road, now would there?
"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!

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2015, 06:12:11 am »
So looking forward to a sequel!  :)
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 Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2015, 10:34:25 am »

I hope Malcom survives the duel, but is defeated.  Sophia should put his head in a crock of vinegar and send it to Cambria.  Collect.

That would certainly be an interesting outcome.  I'm not certain Aubrey would be interested in paying cash on delivery for a pickled Malcolm head, though.  :D

I was thinking of the time on "Grimm" when Nick sent the heads of the Reapers (assassins) packed in dry ice back to the their master with a note "Next time, send your BEST!"

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2015, 11:26:05 am »
SEQUEL? 

YES!

PLEASE, YES!

Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #13 on: December 24, 2015, 09:31:05 am »
Where is Jen? This is history In the making and I am sure she would want a front row seat. Plus would want to be there to support Sophia and her Duck.

Is the hoverboard one that might explode? Or the batteries wear out?

I cleared my calendar for Dec 26. Thank you for posting and please have a very happy Christmas!
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 Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Twenty-Eight
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2015, 10:59:04 am »
Jen and Eilonwy would certainly be there. They would be seated in the visitors section, probably just on the other side of the barrier ward set up to protect the crowd from any tricks Malcolm might have up his sleeve.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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