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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 60311 times)

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Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #585 on: November 04, 2018, 11:28:25 am »
Fiona paced restlessly around her chamber, thinking about what she had heard and what she needed to do about it. Should she try to warn the baron about his son’s plot? How would he react? If he confronted Michael, he would surely reveal how he had learned about Michael’s plans, and that would put her in a bad position. It was possible that it would cause Michael to move sooner, and she thought he had support, not just from his friends but also from manor staff. She had noticed a number of new faces among the servants, men she did not know and who might be rebel allies.

 The baron’s long time steward had retired during the summer after long and faithful service. She did not care for the new man, Maclin, a withdrawn and secretive man who carried out his duties efficiently enough but who rarely spoke and who seemed to be watching them. She had recently surprised him in a remote part of the manor house where he had no reason to be. When she asked him what he was doing, he had replied that he was exploring as he needed to be familiar with all parts of the manor to be able to manage it efficiently. But she did not trust him.

In addition, she had been worried about the baron’s health. He had aged during the summer, tiring more easily and looking more frail. Uncle Mac, her name for him since she had joined his household six years before, had always appeared vigorous and capable despite is age, but the constant arguments with his heir and worries about the growing rebellion had taken their toll. She was afraid that they might restrain both the baron and her, keeping her from being able to get word to anyone of the situation at the manor.  No, her choice to slip away from the manor and try to reach Sir Roland and through him, Iain, was the best decision.

Having confirmed her decision in her own mind, she had to focus on her preparations and move forward. She needed a way to disguise herself, to look like a young man. She thought she could use some of Michael’s discarded clothing which he had outgrown. She needed hose and a tunic and a cloak and a cap to cover her hair.  She would need food, a means of protecting herself on her trip, and a horse.

She needed to have her route mapped out in her mind. Fortunately, she loved riding and had been allowed to explore the lands surrounding the manor widely and knew the area well. The manor was not far from the Mearan border, between Culdi and Trillick. She would need to head west along the Cuilteine road  toward Ratharkan. She knew that Iain’s retreat was in the mountains east of Ratharkan, in an isolated area near the Gwynedd border. She was sure she could find it. However, the Cuilteine Road was a main route into Meara and she would need to avoid bands of travellers, particularly soldiers, official looking parties, or neighbors who would recognize her. She could make use of several smaller roads and paths that branched off the main road but roughly paralleled it. It should not take her more than a day or possibly a day and a half to reach her destination.

She needed to find suitable clothing. She carefully opened her chamber door and listened. All was quiet so she hoped everyone was asleep. She slipped quietly through the halls to the back stairs used by the servants to reach the kitchen and scullery. Through the scullery was a door leading outside to the nearby washhouse. Carefully shielding her candle, she entered the washhouse and looked around. To one side, on a shelf, she saw clothing that appeared to be removed from regular wear. She found two pair of hose and a plain tunic that Michael had used when going hunting. She took them and retraced her steps. In the kitchen, she provided herself with two small loaves of bread, some cheese and a few apples. Then she returned to her chamber, carefully securing the door and placing her candle in a corner where its light would not be readily seen from outside.
She removed her own clothing and put it away so when the room was searched, it would look like she had prepared for bed as usual. She then put on the hose and tunic which fitted well enough to pass as her own. She braided her hair in one braid and pinned it on top of her head, she would take a cap from the main hall to hide the braid. She packed the food in her bag and took her water skin to fill it as she left.  She wanted to be away at dawn, to be as far away as possible before her absence was discovered. If all went well, she should have several hours before she was missed, and no one would have any idea where she had gone. She secured her knife in the belt of her tunic, picked up her bag and waterskin and snuck out of her chamber, securing the door. At the bottom of the stairs, she turned briefly to add her bow and quiver of arrows to her equipment. As she passed through the main hall, she took one of the caps hanging there and put it on, hiding her hair. She also took an old cloak of the baron’s that was plain but warm.

She crept silently out of the manor heading for the stable. The darkness was just beginning to lighten, enabling her to find her way. When she reached the stable, she quickly filled her waterskin and then moved down the row of stalls to stop by a sturdy bay horse named Edric, who was steady and reliable. She would take him  instead of her own Arondel, who was too high bred to be a squire’s horse. She quickly saddled him and led him from the stable toward the approach road to the manor. As soon as she felt safe, she mounted and walked him down toward the main road. She looked back at the sleeping manor but there were no signs of life. She had accomplished the first  part of her plan. She reached the main road and turned toward the hills and Ratharkan.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2018, 01:58:58 pm by DerynifanK »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #586 on: November 14, 2018, 01:21:11 pm »
Lady Aliset Cameron tried not to be distracted by the shifting patches of late afternoon sunlight that pierced the trees and danced across Father Columcil’s back and Shadow’s massive rump.  While the path was wide enough for them to ride comfortably single file, they still had to dodge low branches and watch out for obstacles on the path.  Aliset could not see much of anything forward beyond the priest, thought she knew Darcy was in the lead moving them forward. 

They had started out along the open path that wound through the valley shortly after the courier left the valley church.  The day had grown warmer as the sun rose higher in the clear sky, and they were all uncomfortable when they paused at midday to allow the horses to drink from a cool stream not far from the path.  Darcy had kneeled by the stream, pulled off his dark cap and plunged his head into the stream up to his shoulders.  He rose dripping, but looking refreshed.  Aliset had resisted doing the same and used her scarf to wash her face and neck, but Father Columcil  had followed Darcy’s lead.  They had allowed the horses to rest while they ate a simple meal of bread and cheese washed down with the clear water from the stream.  Although they had not tarried long, they were not as far along as Darcy would have liked.

When they came upon an old farmer working in a nearby field who waved at them as they passed, it was Father Columcil who took the time to ride over and exchange greetings.  Darcy remained stubbornly on the path, impatient at the delay.  Aliset reined in beside him but quickly turned to ride over to the two men when Columcil signaled.  Darcy muttered something under his breath that Aliset chose not to hear as he followed her.

“Good day to ye,” the old man said as they drew up beside Columcil.  “The good Father here says you be heading toward the old ruins just this side ‘o Droghera.” 

“Aye, we are,” Darcy responded, not sure of the wisdom of telling someone where they were headed.

“If ye want to get yerselves out ‘o the heat, there’s a shady path to the right that’ll take a good hour off yer journey.  It’s just beyond that low rise.”  The man pointed forward along the path.  “We use it in the fall to get our vegetables to the Cuilteine road and markets a bit quicker.”

“Our thanks,” Darcy said with a nod. “We’ll watch for it.”  Father Columcil gave the old farmer his blessing and then they were on their way again.

They had indeed found the path where the old farmer had indicated.  It entered the trees that grew along the edge of the mountain on their left.  It was the promise of an hour to be saved that finally convinced Darcy they should follow it, though they had lost just short of a quarter hour convincing him.

Now Aliset swatted at another fly that buzzed just above her head.  It was cooler among the trees, but apparently the flies liked the cooler air as well. She drew rein quickly when Columcil stopped in front of her.  Darcy maneuvered Sigrun so he could look back at them both.  The patchy sunlight glittered in his pale hair; he had given up on the cap due to the heat.

“It looks like we come out of the trees just ahead,” he said as he flicked a fly away from his nose.  “Although we have a couple of hours of light left, I’d rather stop sooner and get a fresh start on the ruins in the morning.”

“You’re no worried about trolls scampering about in the night, are you?” Columcil asked.

“Trolls?”  Aliset asked, giving Darcy a curious look.

“There are no trolls,” Darcy stated firmly as he scowled at the priest.

“Not that we’ve found so far,” Columcil replied and winked at Aliset.

“I’ve missed something, haven’t I?”  Aliset looked from priest to husband.

“Nothing of importance,” Darcy said hurriedly and turned his horse forward again.  “Let’s move on.”

The trees began to thin and soon they were moving through the valley grasses again. Now that there was more room, they spread out to ride three abreast; Aliset in the middle with Darcy and Columcil on either side.  Darcy pointed ahead.

“The Cuilteine Road and the cutoff to the ruins should not be much farther.”  He looked around and spotted a copse of trees set off to one side that would shelter them, at least partially, from anyone coming down the valley.  “I propose we camp by the trees.  Once we are settled, we can discuss how best to proceed with Aliset’s scrying.”

When they reached the trees, Darcy rode his horse to the tallest, stood in his stirrups and hauled himself up on the lowest branch.  He climbed a bit higher and stopped to survey their surroundings.  Columcil took Sigrun’s reins and moved her away.

“Are you looking for trouble?” the priest asked.

“I’d prefer not to find trouble, but I’d rather find it before it finds us.”  Darcy looked in all directions, found nothing amiss, and confirmed the location of the Cuilteine Road.

“There’s a better way, Darcy,” Aliset said as she moved to one side.  She extended her senses to detect any presence of others.

((Aliset 2d6 roll to see if there is anyone near.))
jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6
4:26 PM D<@•derynibot> 1, 3 == 4
((Failure to detect anyone near))

Relieved to discover no others nearby, she dismounted and began to unsaddle Spean. Darcy descended back to the lower branch, swung by his arms for a moment and then dropped lightly to the ground.  Aliset took a moment to shift back into her own form, since there was no one else to see her but her husband and the man she was now beginning to consider her own priest.

It did not take them long to set up their small camp.  They arranged bedrolls and saddles in a makeshift circle with a good view of the valley stretching toward the Cuilteine Road.  Darcy handed Aliset his sea bag so she could retrieve the remains of the meat pie from the night before, while he filled cups with ale. 

“What do you need from us, love, to help you with your scying?” Darcy asked Aliset a short while later as he dusted the last remaining crumbs of crust from his tunic. 

Aliset felt her cheeks turning pink and Darcy grinned at her.  “We’ll need to set the wards first,” she replied. 

“You’ll need the Quartermaster’s ward cubes,” Darcy said and reached for his sea bag.  He still could not think of them as his own ward cubes now.  He handed them to Aliset.

“Do you want to try to set the wards?”  Aliset asked before she accepted the ward cubes from his hand.

“Nay,” Darcy said with a shake of his head.  “But I’ll be watching you closely and remembering all.”

“Do you always remember everything?” Aliset asked as she took the ward cubes from him.

“Aye, usually,” Darcy replied.  “Except for little things like your birthday, if you ever tell me when it is.”  His ice blue eyes took on that mischievous look that was becoming very familiar to her. 

Aliset smiled and began to place the cubes where she wanted them.  Father Columcil realized just how little the two newlyweds knew about each other.  Hopefully their discoveries would be pleasant ones and not disconcerting.

Aliset began the ritual, closely watched by both of her companions.

((2d6 roll for Aliset to successfully set the wards))
jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6
4:27 PM D<@•derynibot> I'm back! 1, 6 == 7
((Success!))

Fiat lux!”  The air shimmered where the dome rose around them.  Aliset pushed the cubes a little farther back to increase the protected area.  The horses remained outside the dome, safely tethered and contentedly grazing.

Aliset untied the small pouch with the foreign ward cubes and spilled the cubes into her left hand.

“I need a cup full of ale,” she instructed Darcy.  “Red wine would be better, but we’ll have to make do with what we have.”  She sat in the centre of their protected space.

Darcy filled the cup and handed it to her.  “Try not to slosh it like I did,” he said.  “We don’t want to waste good ale.”  He sat down beside her.

Aliset gave him a withering look and suddenly realized that he was nervous.  “I don’t think we need to worry about that,” she said reassuringly.  “I have done this many times.”

Columcil sat across from her.  “I hope you don’t mind one more student,” he said.

“Not at all, Father.  The first step is to enter a light trance. I’ll use the cubes as a conduit to the owner, focusing on the depths of the cup to find him.”  She took a deep breath and began.

((Aliset roll for success at scrying))
jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6
4:28 PM D<@•derynibot> I'm back! 3, 2 == 5
((Failure!))

Aliset increased her concentration, but nothing appeared before her eyes but the smooth surface of the ale in the cup.  She stopped and took a deep breath and then let it back out in frustration.

“What’s wrong?” Darcy asked.  “Does the ward prevent you from seeing beyond it?”

“No, I have set it to allow us to reach out but allow nothing in.  Perhaps I am more tired than I thought from today’s ride.”  Aliset sat a little straighter as if to deny that this might be true.

“Do you want to try again?” Columcil asked.  “Darcy or I can give you additional support.”  Despite the situation, he almost smiled at how quickly Darcy’s hand moved to gently grasp her right wrist. 

“Yes,” Aliset replied and once again centred into a trance, aware of the additional strength available now from Darcy. Her left hand tightened around the ward cubes she held, her mind willing the owner to make his presence known.

((Aliset tries again to discover the owner of the ward cubes))
<jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6
4:28 PM D<@•derynibot> I'm back! 5, 4 == 9
((Success!))

Slowly, a face began to appear on the surface of the ale.  There was nothing remarkable about it, other than the odd tonsure barely visible along the crown of his head.  He wore a priest’s robe and a simple wooden crucifix hung from a leather cord around his neck. He sat at a table, gazing intently at something.  Suddenly his eyes opened wider, and she thought she felt his piercing stare concentrating on her own face!

With a startled cry, Aliset broke free from her trance.  If it had not been for Darcy’s steadying hand, she would have dropped the cup of ale.

“What is it, Aliset?  What has happened?”  he asked urgently, taking the cup from her hand and pulling her closer to him, his arm around her shoulders.

For a moment, Aliset closed her eyes.  She knew it was impossible for someone to have reached her through the wards, but she could not shake the feeling that the man had made some type of contact.  She took a deep breath and opened her eyes, though she remained safe in Darcy’s embrace for a few moments more.

“Let me show you what I saw.”  She extended her hands palm up to both of her companions.  They laid their own hands on hers and she shared the likeness of the man she had seen and the eerie feeling of contact.

“He looks to be a foreign priest,” Columcil said thoughtfully when she had finished.  “Though I’ve not been about the world enough to know where he’s from.”

“His surroundings tell us nothing,” Darcy said. “He could be anywhere, but I’ll know him for sure if I see him.  I don’t like the possibility that he might have seen you.  I wish you had stayed as Robert.”  He paused to look at her and added, “Well, almost.”

The day had passed into twilight by the time they finished discussing what Aliset had seen.  Once he was reassured that it would be no strain on Aliset, Darcy decided they should remain under the protection of the wards for the night; there were no objections.  Father Columcil decided he would try to contact Archbishop Duncan in the morning, hoping to catch him after his early devotions.  Tonight Columcil did not need to bed down with the horses, as the scrying had left them all wary of potential trouble, no matter how unlikely that was.  Darcy slept next to his wife nonetheless, his sword ready at his side and his arm protectively around her.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #587 on: November 16, 2018, 05:01:29 pm »
It took Duncan many minutes to calm his distraught king, and more still to help him sift through his self-accusation in the confession that followed, before Kelson would finally accept the words of absolution.

“You are sure that I will not be sinning even more by daring to receive the sacrament.” The look of pain in Kelson’s eyes, red and bloodshot with weeping, tore at Duncan’s heart but he put the sternness of his archiepiscopal authority into his voice as he replied,

“I am sure that you will be sinning in refusing to accept His forgiveness.” So speaking he turned again to the altar and genuflecting deeply, remained on his knee for a long moment before retrieving the ciborium and once more offering the King one of the sacred hosts which, at last, was not refused.

Kelson remained on his knees for a long time with his head bowed but eventually he looked up and smiled at Duncan.

“Forgive me, I didn’t mean to impose such a tantrum on you, especially this early in the morning.”

“You are welcome, my Prince, and believe me I’ve dealt with enough tantrum throwing in my time to know the difference between that and your genuine distress.”

Duncan’s tone was full of gentle reassurance although he could not quite suppress a grin as in his mind’s eye he saw Alaric grimace at him and say Meaning me I suppose! He allowed his grin to broaden as he added to the king,

“I told you that I was not assigning you any penance, more than the one that you will impose on yourself in your dealings with Alaric’s sons, but I think that I will place one imposition on you.”

Kelson looked up warily, not sure how to take this change in Duncan’s manner, but, emotionally raw and vulnerable though he still felt, risked a little gentle teasing of his own.

“And what does my Lord Archbishop require of his humble penitent?”

“Only that you make amends for terrifying the wits out of poor young Samuel, who was serving mass for me, by acting as my acolyte and assisting me to disrobe. And then, spending an hour with me having a leisurely breakfast in my quarters here.”

“The first willingly, I’m not yet so proud, I hope, that it is not an honour to serve my oldest friend. But the second… I have a war to conduct, and more men to send to their deaths….”

For a moment, Kelson struggled hard not to break down again, then he swallowed deeply and got to his feet, though he avoided looking at Duncan. He would have made his way into the vestry but Duncan put his hand out to detain him, circling his wrist with his fingers.

“If you are needed then you will be found readily enough. And Javan does not need to come home victorious only to find that his father has fretted and starved himself into the grave. You are too thin, this once at least I will make sure that you eat. Please let me serve my oldest friend, too.”

“Alaric used to tell me that what most annoyed him about you was that not only did you always have the last word, but you were usually right!”

Kelson choked a little on Alaric’s name but he smiled as he looked at Duncan and bowed his head in submission.

An hour later Kelson was again in tears as he sat in Duncan’s private chamber, but this time his tears were those of mirth.

“Oh, I can just hear his brogue as he complained about ‘Yon randy stallion, no gettin’ his share o’the action’ and then being horror struck as he woke up enough to realise who he was speaking to. Not words you would want to share with your grandfather or your archbishop, even worse if they are one and the same person.”

Duncan wiped the tears from his own eyes, though he looked a little sheepish as he did so.

“I hope that he’ll forgive me for telling you when next we speak, which reminds me, I felt his mind touch mine earlier there in the chapel but he did not press when there was no response. I’ll try to contact him later when we are finished... and you can swallow that apology right back down, and do him the credit of knowing him for the good priest that he is. He will ask no questions.”

“Yes he’s a good man, and no doubt right to go ahead and get Darcy and his lady wedded and bedded. I wish I could tell Dhugal about Washburn’s stallion though, he could do with a laugh too, after the horrors that Seamus shared with him.”

Though his eyes were still wet with mirth Kelson looked sombre again.

“Tell me Duncan, in what have I sinned that this horror should be visited on me and my people? Why does God allow such suffering?”

Duncan was gathering his thoughts to answer the question that so many asked and to which there was no answer, at least not this side of eternity, when there was a deferential knock on the door and one of the royal squires put his head around the jamb.

“Forgive me your Grace, your Majesty, but there is a letter here.”

“The squire came fully into the room and bent his knee respectfully to both, before tendering the parchment he held to the King, who however made no immediate move to take it, but instead eyed it warily. He turned to Duncan,

“Who is it from, I wonder and why has it not been presented by a courier in person?”

Whoever had instructed the squire had obviously expected some reaction of the kind because the young man spoke as though repeating something by rote.

“Begging your Majesty’s pardon. My Lord Arilan gave it to me and ordered me to seek out your Majesty. He told me that the courier was being detained under guard, though not as yet under duress, and that the letter had been carefully examined for any poison or traps. I am to tell you, your Majesty, that My Lord considers that it is safe for you to read it. He will attend your Majesty in person, if your Majesty so requires. By your Majesty’s leave…”

The squire bowed and withdrew, obviously relieved he had managed to convey such an important message.

Duncan looked at the obviously important letter with the same wariness as Kelson, but managed to keep enough of his previous mood to quip,

“Maybe you should ask Seisyll to stop putting the fear of God into your squires. At least there is no fear of “your Majesty” forgetting who you are.”

Kelson smiled vaguely but was already unrolling the scroll. He read rapidly, as years of reading letters full of platitudes had taught him to do, but there was nothing platitudinous about this letter. With a cry of anger he threw it from him and clenched his fists together, clearly only with difficulty restraining himself from giving physical vent to his anger. Finally he managed to get out,

“How dare he? How the **** dare he? After what he has done to Washburn. God, if I could only get him here, I will make him suffer the tortures of the damned until he reverses what he has done and then send him to know them for real in hell!”

After a pause he said more restrainedly, looking at Duncan,

“Forgive me, Father. But if you read this you will understand.” Bending, he picked up the parchment and handed it to Duncan, before once more clenching his fists as though he wished they were grasping the hilt of his sword, which in his mood of penitence he had left off before leaving the royal apartments for mass that morning.

Duncan read the letter, and as he did he understood all too clearly what was driving the King’s anger.
 
((Quoted word for word as written by Bynw)).
Your Gracious Majesty, Kelson, King of Gwynedd and Meara

I bid you greetings and pray this finds you in good health. I am known as Feyd and like your Lord Iain, I am high born and a master spy. Sir Washburn Morgan was alive the last I saw him. And his jailor is well known to you. He is in good hands. I have given him the means to escape and the means to keep him alive while he is in the captivity of Grand Duke Valerian and Lord Brioc, if he still lives, the father of the Mearan Pretender Queen.

I believe that your subjects may have acquired some or all of my Ward Cubes. Although I have not confirmed this and it may send you running back to the ruins of that Michaeline tower. The Portal there has been changed by someone other than myself. So I dare not risk going there myself.

 The purpose of this letter Your Majesty, is to strike a bargain. The return of the Ward Cubes in exchange for valuable information. Some of which you may already have given your spy in the mountains. But I shall give you what I know.

The following Lords are in league with Grand Duke Valerian and the Pretender Queen:

(( list of lords known to Feyd having been working with Valerian prior to the abduction of Washburn, seeing the coming and goings at the mountain fortress ))

You will find that some of these Lords are feigning Loyalty to your person and even marching in your Royal Armies towards Laas.

As a token of faith and goodwill. In the seal below I have embedded a message. I tell you truthfully that this is not a trap or trick to harm you. The seal contains a Portal location to the estate of Baron du Chantal. And how to bypass it's trap. There will be archers guarding the Portal but there are very small in number as the Baron and his forces are with your army heading to Laas.

“Well!” Demanded Kelson, “Am I not right to be angry! That Washburn has escaped owes nothing to this man.That his mind is still twisted against me and his family, or so Iain tells me, is owed solely to him, and God knows if it can be put right. He has caused me to play Judas and he would strike a bargain with my “Gracious Majesty”, would he?”

The honeyed sarcasm on his tongue sounded more deadly than his anger and Duncan knew that even he would have to tread carefully with the King in this mood, justified though it was.

“I would suggest Sire, that before all else you should speak to Lord Iain. He is named by this Feyd. No, I believe no ill of Darcy’s brother,” - this swiftly, as Kelson’s brows drew together in a frown-  “but we are dealing with a Deryni beyond the skill of most of us, judging by what we have seen thus far. He is clearly deeply dangerous as foe and possibly even more as would be friend. Iain may be able to help you see more clearly. And I will seek to speak to Columcil and hear what it was he had to report to me.”

Kelson slowly unclenched his fists and gave a bark of sardonic laughter.

“See, right again, Father Duncan. My instinct is to tell him to go to hell, he and his information with him. I do not strike bargains with such as he.” Centuries of Haldane pride surfaced in Kelson as he spoke these last words but then he bent his head towards Duncan almost in supplication,

“But I do not only have myself to think of. Or even Washburn. God forgive me, I have sent the ward cubes by courier with instruction to give them to Darcy. And he will give them to his lady wife to see what she can discover.  Wayward chit that she is, I would not have her fall into the hands of this man. And Darcy and your grandson would, I have no doubt, throw their own lives away to protect her. Let us both do as you suggest”.

Kelson turned fully towards Duncan and dropped to his knees before him,

“Of your Grace, another blessing before I go?”
« Last Edit: November 16, 2018, 05:06:06 pm by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #588 on: November 16, 2018, 07:30:45 pm »
As her horse continued along the Cuilteine Road, the sky gradually brightened and the landscape on either side emerged more clearly. Fiona noted thick trees to her right and the Cloome Mountains gradually giving way to rolling foothills as she rode toward St. Brigid’s Abbey, where she would seek shelter for the night. She planned to continue toward Trurill,where she would turn off to the south to reach Sir Roland’s holding. She hoped to arrive there by around noon of the following day. There had been few people on the road so far, but as the morning advanced and the day grew lighter, the number of people she passed had increased. Twice, she had been forced to leave the road, once to avoid a patrol and once to avoid a small party of neighbors who would surely recognize her.

As the day advanced, there were more people on the road,  and the possibility of being recognized increased. She considered leaving the main road and taking a less used road that roughly paralleled it. However, that would definitely slow her down, and she wanted to reach St. Brigids before dark. She planned to ask for shelter for the night there. The next morning she would have only a half day’s ride to reach Roland and Maev’s holding.

About an hour past noon, she decided to find a place to rest and water her horse and eat some of the food she had brought. She had already covered a respectable distance toward her goal, and she began to look for a suitable place to rest. After a short while she noticed the sound of running water to her right. She turned her horse’s head toward the sound, and forcing her way through some thick bushes, she entered a small clearing where a creek tumbled over stones between banks lined with ferns and more bushes. There was an area of thicker green grass which would provide grazing for her horse. She dismounted and led him to the creek to drink his fill, then tethered him loosely to allow him to graze. She made herself comfortable on the grass, leaning against a rock warm from the sun, and ate some of her bread and cheese and an apple. She then drank water from her waterskin. She relaxed for a brief time, reviewing her plans. She then refilled her waterskin, packed away the remainder of her food, remounted and rejoined the main road.

The road narrowed ahead, and thick trees and brush crowded the edges. As she approached that part of the road, the bushes rustled, alerting her to possible threat. As a precaution, she slowed Edric and unslung her bow, taking an arrow from her quiver. Three rough looking men appeared. Two were mounted, and the other one was on foot. There were no other travellers in sight, and they moved quickly to block her passage. None seemed to have swords, but she could see knives in their belts. One of the mounted men had his hand on his knife.

In a rough voice he addressed her: “Now why would a young sprout like you need a good horse? As you can see, we need another horse. If you get off and back away, we will take this horse, and you will come to no harm”.

Fiona backed Edric away a few steps and quickly nocked an arrow to her bow. “Stay away from me or I will shoot. My friends are not that far away and I will soon have help.”

The ruffian drew his knife, laughed harshly, and gestured threatenly toward her.” I don’t believe you have any friends near. We have been watching this road, and no one else has passed.” The one on foot moved toward her, reaching his hand toward her reins.
((Fiona Initiative Test:
06:49 <derynifank> !roll 2d6 for Fiona
06:49 <*derynibot> 4,3==7
Ruffians initiative test:
06:50 <Derynifank> !roll 2d6 for ruffian leader
06:50 <*derynibot> 2,2==4))*
Fiona makes her move

Fiona quickly hauled Edric’s head around and spurred him toward a narrow side road she had  just passed.  As she galloped down the road, the two mounted attackers spurred their horses after her. She hoped Edric was fast enough to outrun the thieves, but he was bred for endurance, not speed.
 
The road went down a slope toward a valley, widening as it descended. The ruffians pounded after her, beginning to narrow the gap between them. She looked for any alternative that would help her pull ahead and escape. A short distance ahead she saw what looked like the end of a  lake with ruins rising out of the water. She recognised the Michaeline ruins,  having been here once in the past with Uncle Mac. The road appeared to skirt the lake, and between the road and the lake, she saw a camp of what appeared to be soldiers or guards. As she galloped toward them, she cried out, “Help, help, these men are trying to rob me!”

A tall man who appeared to be a leader gestured toward several of the men and shouted a command, “Pursue those thieves and capture them. Bring them to me!’ The men quickly mounted and galloped toward her. The thieves had already seen the guards and were riding away, back up the track toward the main road in an effort to escape. If they regained the main road they could quickly turn off and melt into the dense forest and rough terrain that bordered this part of the road. The soldiers passed her as Fiona continued toward the camp. Although she would have preferred to avoid them, she owed them thanks for their help. If she tried to avoid them, it would only arouse the very suspicions she hoped to avoid. She didn’t want their leader asking too many questions. She was quickly among them and reined in her horse. The leader, who was clearly a member of the nobility, reached up to grip her horse’s bridle. The young squire lit down and held onto the horse’s reins.

“What is a young squire like you doing alone on the Cuilteine Road? Are you by chance acting as a courier although you seem young for such responsibility?” He studied her closely while waiting for her answer.

“No, I am not a courier. Actually I was hurrying to join a group of friends for an afternoon of hunting. I was late as I had some extra duties to complete. I had sent word to them to go ahead and I would soon catch them up. But I was later than I thought to be and have not caught up with them.”

“Where are my manners?” The young man nodded to her, “Lord Jaxom Trillick.. And you are…”

Fiona inclined her head, “Ben Andrews, squire to the Baron of Dumbarton. I thank you again for your assistance. I still hope to join my friends.”

Jaxom frowned and  held himself stiffly, appearing offended. “Do you not doff your cap in the presence of your betters?” Suddenly he reached up and grabbed off the offending cap. Fiona’s braid tumbled down her back. Looking astonished, Jaxom blurted, “But you’re not a squire, you’re a woman!  What on earth are you doing riding alone disguised as a young man? Whatever your reputation, you will certainly be ruined. What can have induced you to engage in such a venture? You need to explain yourself.”

Realizing she had no choice, Fiona told him of overhearing a treasonous plan by the baron’s  son to seize the manor where she resided, confine the elderly baron, and hand the manor and all its assets to the rebellion as he turned his coat and joined his fortunes with the Mearan rebels. “I have to get word to King Kelson about what is happening and the planned treason. I was riding to the holding of a trusted friend who could help me find a way to reach the king.”

His attention was briefly diverted as the men he had sent after the thieves reappeared, entering the camp and reining in. The guard, Hamish, who had ridden with them, reported to Jaxom; “Sorry, my Lord, they had too big a start and disappeared into the dense forest on the other side of the road. We did try beating the bushes, but fortune was against us and we did not raise them. At least we have driven them off.”

Jaxom returned his attention to the young woman,“You cannot continue on this crazy venture. I cannot allow it. You will have to remain here with us. We will need to return you to the manor and find out what is happening there.”

Fiona confronted him angrily, “You have no right to detain me! I am grateful for your help with the attackers, but that does not mean you can tell me what to do or order my actions. I need to continue my journey to find a way to reach the king.”

Jaxom gripped her arm tightly, repeating his assertion that he could not allow her to continue alone on an unsafe route. Their voices got louder as they argued. Suddenly another voice interrupted the continuing wrangle. “What is happening here!”

All parties turned toward the voice. They saw a  lord, accompanied by a squire and a priest. ”You, cursed seaman!  What are you doing here? You are not part of this mission. You were left behind in Rhemuth when Prince Javan’s army marched out! How did you get to this place?”  demanded Jaxom in an angry voice.

“Father Columcil and I are on a mission for King Kelson. Young Robert is serving as my squire. You left Rhemuth with the Prince’s army. Why are you and your men here separated from the army? You should be marching to Laas with them. And why have you seized this young woman?”

“.Prince Javan sent us, along with Earl Brendan, to assess the ruins, the last place he was known  to be, and look for clues to what happened to Sir Washburn. We rescued her as she was being pursued by ruffians trying to steal her horse. As you can see, she was disguised as a young man, riding alone. She says she learned of treason planned by  the son of the baron at whose manor she was living, and she  was trying to reach a trusted friend who could help her reach King Kelson and inform him of the plot.”

Darcy turned to the young woman and asked, “Is this true?” The young woman was staring at him in amazement.” But you’re Iain, and you are the person I need. Don’t you recognize me, Fiona, your cousin? And why is this man calling you Darcy?”

Darcy studied the young woman who was claiming to be a cousin, unknown to him but apparently known to his brother. She obviously knew enough about Iain’s activities on behalf of the King to expect that he would be able to help her to reach Kelson and inform him of the planned treason.  As Darcy exchanged looks with his companions, he heard Aliset’s voice in his mind; “We should help her.”  He then turned to Jaxom, “It seems that we have a situation here. We need to hear everything that this young woman heard and communicate with the King. We also need to determine how best to provide her  protection until we receive Kelson’s orders.”

Darcy again addressed Fiona, “Where were you headed when you encountered the thieves, and what was your plan?”

Fiona studied Darcy and his companions as well as Jaxom, whom she certainly did not trust. She still could not understand why Iain didn’t appear to recognize her, nor did he correct Jaxom who addressed him as Darcy. She was feeling confused. He certainly looked like Iain, but he didn’t behave as she would have expected Iain to behave. However, she felt that she had to trust him. “ I was trying to reach the holding of Sir Roland Althorpe. As you know, I had stayed there before, and I was sure he would remember me and help me reach you. I was certain you would know what to do with the information I have and how best to share it with the king.”

“Perhaps it would be best if we made camp here and discussed this further after we are settled,” suggested the priest.

Darcy smiled, “I think the good father has the right idea.”  He turned to Jaxom, “I think it might be best if the young lady joins our party. It will relieve you of responsibility for her, and the presence of a priest in our party will help alleviate concerns about her reputation. We will be able to get in touch with Kelson and share her information with him more quickly than you could”

Jaxom was silent, considering his mission here, to assess the ruins and help find clues to what might have happened to Sir Washburn. That was his main responsibility and if he succeeded, it was more likely to lead to favor with the king and advancement.  That was more important than dealing with another young woman whose reputation was doubtful. He nodded shortly to Darcy, indicating his assent to his proposal. “I agree, it is more important that I complete my mission, and the good father is better equipped to deal with the young woman and her situation.”
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 08:10:39 am by DerynifanK »

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #589 on: November 19, 2018, 05:03:18 pm »
Columcil busied himself taking care of their horses, taking particular care to check over Edric, murmuring to the horse as he checked his hooves,

"Ye'll be awright here, ma laddie. Dinna fret yersen that ye're no a fancy beast, ye'll be in guid company wi' ma Spean here."

No doubt that his high and mighty lordship would look down at him even more if he could hear him, not to mention that it would normally be a squire's role to do such menial tasks but he really could not have cared less for Lord Jaxom's opinion. It was odd though, how their paths kept crossing, maybe the Good Lord was trying to teach him humility and charity. Sad to say the lesson was failing to take! The thought had barely left his head when he heard the high imperious voice calling,

"Father ..."

There was a pause as though Jaxom was trying and failing to recall his name before he continued,

"A word with you if I might."

Think o' th'deil an' he appears was Columcil's thought and the words he spoke aloud were scarcely more conciliatory.

"Aye, if ye wish, but it'll ha' ta wait till ah've finished wi' these beasties."

Jaxom's expression showed his outrage and he would have liked nothing more than to pay the man back for his insolence save that he would not so demean himself. One day though, when he had received the proper reward for his services, there would be more than one score to settle. As it was, swallowing his anger, he made his way over to where Columcil was.

"A word to the wise, Father."

"An' that'ud be?"

"The use of the correct form of address to your betters for one thing."

Columcil turned and gave a low bow, saying as he straightened,

"I crave your Lordship's pardon, an' it please your Lordship."

His grandfather would have recognised this immediately for the contempt it was, but Jaxom merely took it as his due and nodded a condescending acknowledgment before continuing,

"I am uneasy about this arrangement, although I cannot take time from the vital commission that His Royal Highness has given into my hands to pursue the doubtless foolish fancy of a silly girl. However I advise you to keep a close watch on that Darcy. He has already ruined the reputation of one young woman and, undeserving though this chit is, I would not have the same happen to her. Once these hostilities are happily concluded, I am prepared to give the Lady Aliset the benefit of my good name, and I doubt not that His Gracious Majesty will allow me to give her the favour of accepting her hand in marriage. I can hardly offer the same to every foolish maiden who crosses my path."

Jaxom gave an affected bark of laughter and puffed out his chest.

All desire to provoke the man left Columcil, and it took every ounce of his spiritual and emotional strength to restrain himself from slamming him into the ground. Thank God, truly he thanked God, for the niceties of protocol. Bowing low again he managed to get out through his teeth,

"As your Lordship says."

"Well see that you do. I am not without influence with His Royal Highness and I am sure that you would not want His Grace the Archbishop to hear of any dereliction of duty on your part."

Columcil heard Jaxom's retreating footsteps but he did not dare to straighten up until he was sure that the man was out of arm's reach. Barely able to think straight he needed to find a way of calming himself.

Giving one last pat to Edric and murmuring, "Ye're a guid lad, but no' wha ah need the noo," he slipped his hand along Shadow's crest and gentled the stallion to his knees.

"Just a minute ma beauty then ye can run yer heart oot. But I'm no' so young as I was an' I canna climb up ye wi'oot saddle or bridle wi'oot a wee bittie help. Tha's it. Up naw ma lad."

Columcil tightened his legs around the stallion's flanks and took a firm hold of the flowing mane, then feeling the longing and frustration in the horse's mind he send thoughts of encouragement and release. Within seconds they were off, flying back down the road as though demons from hell were after them. In truth Columcil knew that the demons of anger were in his own heart, but perhaps even this short gallop, which was all that he could allow himself and Shadow, would shake them off for long enough for them to part company with Jaxom.

The look of shock on Jaxom's face as he sped past was some consolation.










 








Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #590 on: November 19, 2018, 06:41:38 pm »

The tip of the Sword of Lendour whirled from left to right, then in multiple flying figure eights. The hilt passed from right hand to left hand in a fashion that did not inhibit the speed of the blade. The steel’s sharp edge always leading to cut the air with a soft whistling sound.  The feet of the man wielding the broadsword never stood still. Always stepping forward, backward, left to right, then right to back, and forward again. Imaginary foes fell away from the blade in fast successions as new imaginary foes entered the field. The man was fast; the blade faster; faster than the eye could follow. Having striped down to breeches and boots and not much more, the afternoon sun glistening off the sweat of well turned muscles of the knight’s upper torso.

Sir Washburn had been practicing for an hour and than for another hour more. He had needed this exertion more for his mind than for his body. After four days of confinement, this was a blessed release. To be free, to move with a sword in hand, to contemplate victory over his captors. His concentration was keen. To those who watched, his moves were percise. But not to him. From time to time, his old masters would call to him from the heavens. Step left, not right! Balance boy, balance! Foe at your back. Now at your left. Two before you. Balance if everything! They steal your balance, they steal your soul.   His balance had been stolen from him by a man named Feyd, and he fought until utter exhaustion to get it back.

“Enough!” called a man’s voice. Sir Iain Cameron was sitting on a short stone wall near the house. He stood as he made the call.  The blade slowed to a stop and turned to face the baron.

The pretty honey-colored haired girl sat near his rescuer. She watched wide eyed, wearing a simple straw-colored gown with a mended rip along the front side of the gown. Lady Maev had suggested that morning that Sidana either mend the gown herself, or she could wear it torn, which would lower her status even further than the simple home spun wool fabric did. Washburn actually thought it most becoming on the girl as it was the same color as her hair, which currently lay loose about her shoulders. Lady Maev was standing behind the girl trying to comb it out in the sun, her hair had been washed that morning and was finally dry enough to put a comb through it. Although Sidana didn’t think so, as she whispered curses under her breath at every tangle that needed to be combed out. “My ladies in waiting don’t pull my hair,” the girl would say.

“Your ladies in waiting must have been very bad at their job, because you couldn’t have gotten this many tangles in one night’s sleep.”

“Sleep?!” this girl questioned. “There was no sleep to be had in this hovel. I tossed and turned all night, fretting on that rock of a cot you call a bed.”

“Surely your mother taught you to braid your hair before going to bed.” Maev replied, refusing to acknowledge the jabs of this pretentious child.

“My mother died when I was young,”  the girl said grimacing at another tangle.

“I am sorry,” Maev responded. “That explains a lot,” she said under her breath.

Sidana shot her a harsh look over her shoulder. Which caused her hair to be pulled and she yelped.

Washburn’s  eyebrows went up as he looked from the girl over at his rescuer. “She is going to be no end of trouble. We can not keep her here long, before she is found.”

“Just waiting for orders. We should be safe here for at least one more day,” Iain claimed. He had been keeping his eye on the road that lead past the home throughout the day. Wash had learned that Truill would be found if they followed the north-leading road through the woodlands and down the hills. Baron Jass was one of  the only men who knew of Baron Iain’s hideaway. No one else but the king would think to look for the Lord of Isles here on the border to Meara. 

Sir Roland came and went, in and out of the barn and the fields doing his chores and he too kept an eye on the landscape all round. The day was quiet. In this secluded place, one would not know that the kingdom was being ripped apart and that men were turning the land all around them toward rebellion and war.

Washburn walked over the water barrel and dunked his head in it. In a swift immersion, bristling at the shock of the cool water, he swung his head up and whisked his hair back with his hand. “I won’t go back to Rhemuth. Not even if the king order’s it.” He said this with a determined gaze at Iain. “I want answers. And I want to finish what I did not finish yesterday.” The knight held up his sword before him, making it a promise to catch the man who had paid for his capture. Then he decisively sheathed the blade. That the others all relaxed as the weapon was homed was not lost on the knight. But he was never a man to turn on his friends nor his family. Even family who had treated him poorly over the years. He had loyalties and training enough to know one did not turn against blood relations. Though he was forced to wondered just what had caused them to turn against him. Years of bad treatment were accumulating in his mind and only his sword practice had kept those thoughts at bay. He needed to keep doing things to stop his memories from playing images that were old, yet he swore he had never seen them before.

That was the trouble. What was real and what was false. So many images conflicted with one another. It was driving him mad. The only way to avoid it was to keep busy, to do things with his hands, to keep physically occupied. This sitting still was a torture. “We need to find Lady Aliset.“ he said with a glare at Iain. “I feel she is in danger. Whether it is from Oswald, or Valerian, or even Feyd, I can not tell. But I feel it in my bones. We shouldn’t be sitting here.  We need to find her.” And to find Darcy and Columcil. he thought to himself.  How he missed the few people that he knew he could trust.

“Those people you just named who are searching for Aliset. Those are the people who are spending an exorbitant amount of time and energy looking for you and for her...” he looked across at the pretender queen. “Lady Aliset has other watchers. You are the one at greatest risk and you are my responsibility. Until I am told otherwise, we sit tight, and we wait for further orders.”

“Damn your orders.” Washburn said, knowing full well that Iain could not be budged and that there was nothing for it but to wait.

Sir Roland was whistling to a black and tan colored dog calling a small herd of sheep to be herded out of the lower field and to be brought into the barn. “Let me help you with them.” Wash called out. He tossed his black tunic over his head as he turned from Iain. Resetting his sword belt over it,  he then headed to the gate to pull it open and to let the first of the sheep run through.

Busy, he just had to keep busy. Working the farm was good wholesome work. That, at least, kept his tortured thoughts at bay.

 

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KK Chat -- 18 November 2018 by DesertRose
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