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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 63542 times)

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Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #585 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 #586 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.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #587 on: November 21, 2018, 08:42:35 am »
“I wonder what upset Father Columcil,”  Lord Darcy Cameron said to Aliset as he watched the country priest, without benefit of a saddle and with both hands gripping the flying mane, charge down the road on the big black horse.  “Oh nevermind, there’s Jaxom, walking away from the horses.  Answer enough.” 

“I don’t understand how the man can be so consistently annoying,” Aliset replied as she set her bedroll and pack on the ground. 

“It disguises his lack of any redeeming qualities,” Darcy said dryly, earning him a smile from his wife.  Although she still appeared to be Robert the squire, the smile he saw was hers.

Darcy had selected a spot slightly away from the makeshift camp set up by Jaxom’s men. Rather the Earl of Marley’s men, though Darcy had not seen the Earl since they arrived.  He was likely still up in the tower in the ruins.  Darcy would have liked to be up there himself, but he suspected that any clues to Washburn’s whereabouts were either already discovered, or obliterated.  He would need a chance to speak to Earl Brendan to find out what had been discovered.

His immediate concern was what to do about Lady Fiona.  He glanced toward the young woman who sat on the ground by her bedroll, looking up at him expectantly.  For a moment he closed his eyes, searching back through memories he had only recently regained, searching for anything to do with a cousin named Fiona.

((Darcy eidetic memory, success on 4, 5, or 6.))

Jerusha!roll 2d6
@derynibot1, 3 == 4
((Failure. Sigh….))

Try as he might, no memory of her surfaced.  He opened his eyes and studied her for a moment.  She was several years younger than he was.  Perhaps he had been too young to have ever heard her mentioned.

“You should go talk to her,” Aliset said as she nudged his arm.  “Imagine how she feels after her encounter with those ruffians and then Jaxom.”

“You should come with me,” Darcy said hopefully. 

Aliset shook her head.  “At least she thinks she knows you; she’ll be more comfortable with you.”  This time she shoved gently against his back, prodding him forward.  Darcy wondered if he might have more success with the ruffians, or even Jaxom.

With a barely audible sigh, Darcy walked over to Fiona and sat on the ground beside her, resting his arms on his upraised knees.  Jaxom’s less than gentle removal of her cap had loosened some of her pale hair from her braid; the wind blew the strands across her face.  She pushed them back impatiently with her hand. 

Darcy recognized the gesture; they might be related after all.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #588 on: November 24, 2018, 06:05:55 pm »
Fiona watched as Darcy selected a campsite some distance from that of Jaxom and his men, not too far from Earl Brendan’s men. He, Columcil and Robert unsaddled their horses, and Columcil took charge of them, leading them a short distance away to the lake to allow them to drink their fill. He then prepared to tether them so they could graze while he groomed them and checked for any problems. Fiona had also unsaddled Edric and allowed Columcil to lead him away with the other three horses. She watched, thinking it a little odd that the priest not the squire was tending to the horses. However she had more pressing concerns.  Like Darcy and his squire, she placed her bedroll on the ground near theirs. She seated herself on the ground, wrapped her arms around her knees, and waited.

She saw Jaxom walk over to where Columcil was caring for the horses and speak to him. Jaxom appeared  irritated but then he seemed to be in a constant state of irritation. After a short interchange he walked away. Suddenly. Columcil  bolted down the road on the big black horse without benefit of saddle or bridle. Whatever Jaxom had said had certainly upset him.

She was still very confused about the man before her who looked like Iain but didn’t act like him and didn’t seem to know her. As he walked over and sat beside her, she turned her head to study him.  Physically, he certainly looked like Iain, but she didn’t really feel certain about him.  Although she had not seen Iain much recently, she didn’t feel that his reactions and responses to her would have changed that much. She certainly hadn’t changed so much that he would not recognize her!

Darcy spoke, “I realize that this is all very confusing. I need to start with an explanation. Do you remember that Iain had a younger brother named Darcy who was supposed to have died at a young age?”

Fiona was quiet but then said: “I do remember hearing a story several years ago about a younger brother who died in a fall from a horse at a young age. However, you never mentioned him nor did my aunt when I lived with her. Of course, she was already in failing health when I went there and your stepfather kept her apart from the household saying she was unable to manage the household or care for me as her niece and ward. As her health worsened, I rarely saw her.

He smiled at her. “ I am not Iain, I am actually that lost younger brother. I am Darcy, and I have only recently returned to Gwynedd after twelve years at sea.”

Fiona stared at him with wide eyes; “I don’t understand. How could you be that long lost brother?  How could you have been a seaman, and why did everyone think you had died? I don’t see how that could happen.”

Darcy answered her,“Our stepfather is a greedy and evil man. He wanted the title and land for himself. He lied to anyone who asked, saying that I was wilful and disobedient and required punishment. I was often locked in my room under the pretense that I was stubborn and refused to change my behavior. I saw few people. My stepfather had replaced my father’s steward with a man of his own choice. I don’t know what happened to Roland, who was our steward for years. He also replaced many of the old servants with his own people. They fear him because he is cruel and ready to punish, withholding rations and using the whip freely.”

Darcy continued, “My mother, your aunt, was very much under the thumb of my stepfather. She knew he was ambitious, but she did not know when she married him how ruthless and cruel he could be in pursuit of what he wanted. She was terrified of what he might do to her sons. She kept Iain away in Rhemuth, but she couldn’t protect me. He kept her isolated, read any messages she tried to send, and replaced her servant with one who spied on her. He tried to force her into bearing him a child . He desperately wanted a son who would replace us and become baron. Her only defense was to feign illness. As you know she did become really ill and she died.”

“When I was ten, a merchant ship put in at Isles. My stepfather sent for the ship’s captain and asked if he had need of a cabin boy or another seaman in training. He offered the captain a large sum of money to take me on. His only condition was that he never allow me to return to Isles. The captain accepted the money and took me to the ship. I started a very rough  apprenticeship without understanding why I was sent away or why no one came to get me.” Darcy looked at her a little sadly as he paused in his tale. “Six months later, my stepfather sent word to Rhemuth that I had been killed in a fall from a horse. No one, including Iain,  knew I still lived.”

Darcy continued, “I spent twelve years at sea. It was rough life but not a bad one. I worked my way up to chief navigator on the ship, a responsible and well- paid position.  However, on my last voyage, the captain became ill and died. A new captain assumed command of the ship, and he preferred his own navigator. I decided it was time to seek my fortune elsewhere. I sought employment as a man-at-arms, and that is how I met Father Columcil, in completing my first mission, escorting to Rhemuth a young lord who was in danger. While in Rhemuth, I was involved in events that led to my being noticed by the king. Columcil and I were given the mission that led us here to the ruins,  trying to help find Sir Washburn Morgan who was abducted by enemies of the king to be used in advancing the rebellion. I hope you will tell me what you have learned and what happened at the manor where you were living. The more information we can give the king the better for his successful suppression of the rebellion.”

Fiona was silent as she considered his words., Father Columcil came nearer where they were sitting. He and Robert had stayed apart to allow them privacy for their conversation. Darcy turned to Columcil looking a little desperate with an appeal in his eyes;. “Perhaps you can reassure this young lady of my honesty and fealty to the king.”  Columcil hastened to assure Fiona of both his and the kings trust in Darcy.

Fiona took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and looked Darcy in the eye, “ I am going to trust you. Things at the manor have gotten steadily worse over the last several months, ever since the rebellion began to gain ground. The baron’s son, Michael, has become more and more eager to join them. He and the baron have had increasingly loud and violent arguments, until the baron threatened to disinherit him if he did not give up the idea of joining the rebellion. I overheard Michael talking with two men, one of whom is his best friend. I did not recognize the other voice. He was complaining that he had argued until he was hoarse with no success. He told them that he intended to lure his father to a distant part of the manor on the pretense of inspecting a problem with the roof.  He would then lock him in and keep him confined while he assumed control of the manor. He would give out that the baron was ill and unable to manage the estate. He even had a physician sympathetic to the rebels who would support his claim. He would then join the rebellion, pledging the resources of men and property to them. He expects to gain titles and additional lands through service to the rebels without waiting to inherit from his father.”

“I didn’t know what to do,” she continued.  “I thought about trying to warn the baron, but Michael had infiltrated the servants with men of his choosing, and I suspect that anyone trying to support Uncle Mac would soon be overcome. Michael doesn’t trust me as he knows I am loyal to the king, and he has been watching me. I couldn’t see any way to get a message out. After careful thought, I decided that my best option was to try to reach Iain.  Sir Roland, the knight you remember in service to your father, is steward of  Iain’s holding in Meara, and I was sure he would know how to reach Iain who would know how best to reach the king. I decided to slip away and ride for Iain’s estate in Meara which Roland manages for him. I was on my way there when I encountered the thieves, then the guards here at the ruins and finally your party.  Will you help me reach Sir Roland?”

Darcy looked at Columcil who had been listening to Fiona’s story. “We will certainly do our best to assure that your information reaches the king as soon as possible. There are those here who can reach advisors close to the king without having to ride further. Give me time to confer with the good father and see what can be done.”  Darcy and the priest moved aside to confer, beckoning the squire to join them. Fiona thought this a little odd, but she was too anxious to give it much thought. After  several minutes of quiet talk which seemed to take forever, Darcy returned to Fiona; “Father Columcil has a contact in Rhemuth who is close to the king. He will be contacting him tonight and will share your information with him. It will then reach the king as soon as possible. We will also let him know your present situation and that, for now, you are with us. We will be awaiting his orders as to how we should proceed with our mission. I think you should remain with my party until we receive the king’s orders. We will see that you are safe.”  Fiona looked at the three of them, then nodded her acceptance of Darcy’s proposal, at least for the time being.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2018, 06:16:35 pm by DerynifanK »
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #589 on: November 27, 2018, 02:59:59 pm »
Sir Iain Cameron woke as the first rays of sunlight peeked through the edges of the window shutters in his small room.  He opened the door quietly so as not to startle the two men sleeping on pallets before the hearth.  He was not sure how deeply Sir Washburn slept, but he knew his passage to the outside door would not go unnoticed by Sir Roland.

Iain stepped outside into the new morning and paused to appreciate the scene around him.  He was Isles born and bred; it’s rugged, rocky coasts were home to him.  Yet he appreciated the simple beauty of this holding with its pastures just beyond the wooden gate.  The black and tan dog padded over to him and nuzzled his hand, eager to get to work herding the sheep out to pasture. 

“Roland will be up soon,” Iain said as he stroked the soft head.  “But you can come with me while I look around.”  The dog happily walked beside him as Iain circled the house and scanned the road approaching it, glad to see that it showed no signs of recent human passage.  By the time they made their way back to the shed, Sir Roland was up and whistled to the dog to help him with the sheep.  Iain had to smile at how quickly the dog abandoned him to get on with the day’s business.  With a cheerful wave to Sir Roland, Iain turned and entered the shed.

He made his way to the back of the shed to the storeroom.  He was inside checking that the ward cubes still protected the Portal when he felt the call come.  Quickly he sat on the room’s only chair and reached inside his shirt to withdraw the medallion.

”Your Majesty, how may I be of service?” Iain sent to the familiar touch of the king’s mind.

“I have received a most disturbing letter from a man called Feyd.  He states you and he are both master spies.  What can you tell me of him?”

“If Your Majesty would be willing to share at least a part of the letter, I would be better able to make sure I have the information you need,” Iain asked cautiously.

“Never one to pass on an opportunity to gain a little more information,” Kelson responded dryly. 

“I have always thought that is one reason I am of value to you, Your Majesty.”  Iain clearly heard the king’s mental snort, which he took as a good sign.

Kelson of Gwynedd quickly shared the contents of the letter and shared a mental image of the two seals.  Iain was surprised that Feyd had used the seal of his order, but that fact gave Iain more leeway in what he could share.

“Master Feyd is a very skilled and dangerous man,” Iain sent after a moment’s thought.  “I would call him more assassin than spy, but he is master of both.  He is neither a man to trust or a man to cross, but his word has worth up to a point.”

“And that point would be?” Kelson asked.

“Don’t get between him and a mission he intends to complete.  And don’t cheat him.”  Iain shared the images of Feyd’s attack on Lord Brioc.

“Lord Brioc lives?” Kelson asked.

“Surprisingly yes; the odds of his surviving were not good.  Feyd is not adverse to playing with his prey.  Did you receive Feyd’s ward cubes?”

“Aye,” Kelson responded. “And I sent them back north to your brother and Lady Aliset.  I thought she might have more success scrying for Sir Washburn and his captor since they were closer to him.”

“They were closer?”

“I sent Lord Darcy and Father Columcil north to find the fortress.”

“They brought Lady Aliset with them?”  Iain asked, a trace of disbelief in his question.

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

Iain mentally brought himself back the his king’s original question.  “You can trust Feyd to keep his word unless circumstances change, and they put him at a significant disadvantage.  Master Feyd kills for a living, but he takes no particular joy in it other than the fact it pays very well. I also think he enjoys the game.  What concerns me is why he is willing to give up valuable information to get his ward cubes back.  I understand the value in ward cubes attuned to their owner,” Iain added hastily.  “But no dealing with Feyd is ever as straightforward as it might appear.  I also have concerns for Darcy and his companions for as long as they have the ward cubes in their possession.”

“So you might agree to Feyd’s proposal?”  Kelson asked.

“I might,” Iain responded cautiously.

“Thank you, Sir Iain.  I will have further orders for you by nightfall.  You and your party will likely be moving out.”

“We shall be ready,” Iain said.

“Oh, and by the way, I should probably inform you that your brother and Lady Aliset are now married.”

“Sire?” Iain asked, clearly taken aback by this revelation.

“He made a good choice,” Kelson said enigmatically and broke contact.

Sir Iain Cameron sat staring at the medal in his hand.  Finally, he tucked the medal back into his shirt and briskly rose from the chair.  A conversation with Sir Washburn about the Lady Aliset de Mariot was definitely in order.
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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #590 on: November 30, 2018, 02:42:19 pm »
Lord Darcy Cameron watched as Aliset skillfully turned the patch of leather he had found in the bottom of his sea bag and a good length of braided cord into a creditable sling.  After the look she had given him when he made his second suggestion as to how she should proceed, he quickly decided to offer his advice only if she asked for it.  She hadn’t asked.

“Let’s walk away a safe distance, and I’ll try it out,” Aliset suggested after a last tug to assure herself that it would hold together.

“Should I stand in back of you or in front of you?” Darcy asked innocently.

Aliset gave him a withering look.  “Another question like that and you’ll be my target!”  Her look softened as he grinned back at her.  “And do give me enough space; I’d really like to avoid cracking that thick skull of yours.”

“That would suit me as well,” Darcy assured her.  “A coney for the dinner pot would be welcome.”

“Maybe I’ll try a larger target for my first shot.” 

“Ah, back to my skull, then!”

“Stop!” Aliset admonished while trying not to laugh.  “Must you always carry on so?”

Darcy smiled, deciding that was the safest answer.

Aliset selected a stout stump at the edge of the trees for her target.  Darcy moved back to what he judged would be a safe distance, and Aliset loaded the slingshot with one of the stones from her belt pouch.  The first swing was a little shaky, but the third swing was solid, and Aliset loosed the stone.  The stone hit the stump a little higher than she had planned, but it was a solid hit.

Darcy’s intended congratulations were cut short by an all too familiar voice.

“Can’t you make better use of a squire than this?” Lord Jaxom Trillick asked, the disdain in his voice evident.

Aliset turned and bowed; Darcy did not.   

“A skilled shot can bring down a man when needed,” Darcy replied curtly.  “The sling needed repairs, and Robert has seen to it.”  Darcy nodded to Aliset as if in dismissal, and she started to return to their camp.

“Hold on,” Jaxom said.  “Robert, I need you to assist my squire in setting up my pavilion.  It appears we will be spending the night here, although I can’t imagine why.”

“You’ve brought a bloody pavilion?” Darcy burst out.  Aliset gave him a warning look.

“Come with me, Robert,” Jaxom said, ignoring Darcy.

“My lord?” Aliset asked, pointedly asking Darcy’s permission to accompany Jaxom.

“Will you be alright?”  Darcy sent to her. 

“I will be fine,” she answered, though she felt a sudden knot in her stomach.

“Aye, go on,” Darcy said aloud. “But call if you need me and I’ll be there at once.”  The possibility of his wife being alone in a pavilion with Jaxom, even though she was well disguised, did not sit well with Darcy. But he could think of no good reason to refuse Jaxom his squire’s assistance.

Aliset bowed to Darcy and took a deep, steadying breath as she followed Jaxom.  She would finish this task and be away as soon as possible.

***
Darcy watched as the two squires raised the pavilion.  At first, Jaxom left them alone to accomplish the task, but when he realised they had neglected to attach the pennant to the centre pole, he made them haul it back down and fix the issue.  At one point he thought he saw Aliset heft one of the side poles like Father Columcil might raise his stout staff, but perhaps it was his imagination.  He hated to admit it, but once Jaxom took charge, the pavilion was completed quickly.

Darcy was not pleased when he saw Jaxom motion for Aliset to accompany him inside. The front flaps were open, so Darcy could see them both clearly.  Nevertheless, he stood, ready to intervene at the slightest provocation.  He saw Aliset stiffen, give Jaxom a curt bow, and stride angrily back toward him. 

“What has he done?” Darcy asked when Aliset reached him.  He was aware that Fiona was watching them intently.  Father Columcil had withdrawn to an area nearer the lake, presumably to make contact with Archbishop Duncan.

Aliset’s brown eyes flashed with anger.  She waited a moment before speaking, not wanting her voice to carry farther than her husband.  “Lord Jaxom drew me aside to advise me to look out for Fiona, since you could not be trusted to conduct yourself properly!  He even referred to you as ‘that Darcy!’”

“Did he now?” Darcy asked quietly. 

The calmness of Darcy’s response caused Aliset to pause again before continuing.  Maybe she should not share the rest of the conversation, but she could not hold it inside.  “He said you completely ruined my reputation, but he would do his duty and consent to marry me to salvage it. And,” Aliset stopped to draw breath.  “He is sure he can tame my willful ways!”

Darcy’s eyes took on a dangerous, icy hue, and his hand moved to the hilt of  his sword. He turned his gaze to the pavillion, where Jaxom sat at a low table.  “Not if he’s dead.”

“No, Darcy,” Aliset said urgently and grasped his arm.  She looked for Father Columcil, but he had not yet returned.

Darcy heeded her plea.  “I know,” he said, though his hand stayed on the hilt of his sword. “It would not do, and I’ll do you no good swinging from a tree for murder with you far from safety.”  He moved his hand to lay it on top of hers.  “Still, it seems that’s a lot of information to pass to a squire he barely knows.  He seems more concerned with trashing my reputation than protecting yours!”

Suddenly Darcy and Aliset remembered Fiona, who was staring at them both.

“Is something wrong?” Fiona asked.

“Actually, something needs to be put right,” Darcy said.  “I think I should pay Lord Jaxom a visit.”

“No,” Aliset replied quickly.  “We need to pay him a visit, and you can make the proper introductions.”

Darcy looked at her for a long moment, considering what she implied.  “Are you sure?”

“I am,” she said firmly.  “This has gone on long enough.”

“Poor man,” Darcy said and smiled.  “I doubt he’ll ever realize all that he has lost.”

***

Darcy paused for a moment outside Lord Jaxom’s pavilion, shielding Aliset from view as she shifted back to her true form.  Robert’s clothes fitted her a bit differently after the transition.  Darcy had hesitated to leave Fiona behind, but when he saw Father Columcil in the distance returning to their campsite, he was able to reassure her that she would not be alone for long.  He held out his arm to Aliset, who laid her hand upon it, and they both stepped inside the pavilion.

“Lord Jaxom, a word, if you please,” Darcy announced. 

“It does not please me,” Jaxom replied, not looking up from the parchment that lay before him on the table.  “As even you can see, I am busy.”

“But I have been remiss in proper decorum,” Darcy said.

“It’s what I, and everyone else, have come to expect.”  Jaxom looked up and suddenly stared.

“Lord Jaxom, may I present my wife, Lady Aliset Cameron.” 

Jaxom’s stool fell backwards as he rose to his feet, his anger clearly evident.  “How dare you!  This is absurd; King Kelson would never permit such a travesty!”

“We have His Majesty’s blessing; we were married properly by a priest and are fully wed.”  Darcy’s voice remained even, but his tone had an edge to it now.

Jaxom turned his fury on Aliset.  “You have put yourself beyond redemption, marrying this poor excuse for a nobleman, if he is who he claims to be!”

“You forget yourself, Lord Jaxom, and you grow tiresome,”  Aliset responded, her voice cool and controlled.

“You had no claim to her, and your actions proved you unworthy to even consider such a notion,” Darcy said.  “You will now stop sullying my wife’s good name and mine as well.”

“Over my dead body!” Jaxom said hotly.

“Aye, I can arrange that,” Darcy returned.  Aliset’s hand tightened on his arm.

“There will be no bodies here,” said a voice from the pavilion’s entrance. 

Still keeping a wary eye on Jaxom, Darcy turned with Aliset to see who had entered.  He had never seen the man in the lead, but the red hair and noble bearing suggested it was the Earl of Marley.  Behind him stood Father Columcil, with Fiona in tow.

"My lord,” Darcy said and bowed.  Aliset hesitated, aware of the awkwardness of attempting a curtsey in Robert’s clothes.  She settled for a slightly abbreviated bow.

“Earl Brendan,” Jaxom said and bowed, confirming Darcy’s guess. “These two claim to be husband and wife; I question the truth of the claim.”

“I can vouch for the truth of it,” Father Columcil interjected.  “I’m the priest that married them proper.”

Brendan Coris, Earl of Marley, studied the men and lady standing before him.  He had no liking for Jaxom, but he needed the man and his knowledge of the people they were moving among.  Darcy Cameron had his own mission to fulfill, and Brendan fervently hoped for his success.  As for the lady….

“This will now stop,”  Brendan announced. “I’ll not tolerate bad blood among my own men.  I want your word, from all of you, that this goes no farther; it will not be discussed or referred to again. Lady Aliset, I think it wise for you to continue in your guise as Robert until such time as it is no longer necessary, and you can take your place properly beside your husband, Lord Darcy. Your word, all of you.”

All went down on one knee, including Fiona, before the Earl of Marley, pledging their honour to make their peace and maintain it.  As they turned to leave, Aliset shifted back into Robert’s form, shielded from view by the canvas of the pavilion and Darcy’s back.  Darcy quietly asked her to go with Columcil and Fiona, before he turned and bowed again to Earl Brendan.

“My lord,” he said.  “If I might have a word?  I should like to know what you have discovered in the ruins above.”  Earl Brendan nodded his assent, and Darcy followed him to a spot they could speak privately.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 02:44:12 pm by Jerusha »
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Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #591 on: December 02, 2018, 11:46:01 pm »
“Tell me what you know about Lady Aliset de Mariot.”

Washburn perked up as Lord Iain Cameron spoke the lady’s name; the baron had just entered the manor from outside. Anxious to know if Iain had learned something new, the knight bristled with concern. “Has she been found? Do you know if she is safe?” The spoon Washburn was holding was forgotten and absently placed back into his bowl of morning stew.  His full attention turned toward the owner of this manor as Iain took the seat across the table from him.

“She is safe,” Iain assured.

Yet there was a hint of caution in the baron’s voice, which put Washburn on edge rather than easing his mind. “Where is she? Is she in Rhemuth?”

“No….”

“No...? Then how can she be safe? We must go to her! When I last saw her, she was in the arms of her assailant, being carried away! I must know she is alright!”

“Sir Washburn….”

“If Oswald has touched her, I will kill him!”

“Washburn, she is safe.”

“Your words don’t lie, but you’re not telling me the truth, either. I hear tension in your voice. You can not know how much I have worried over her! Even more so than for myself. You must….”

“She is with my brother Darcy, alright? Calm down!” Iain was leaning forward against the table, trying to judge Washburn’s reaction.

Wash sucked in a breath, realizing the baron had been very close to forcing his will to settle his rescued prisoner’s anxiety. Wash had to know what was going on, yet he realized losing control would only deny him those answers. Deliberately, pushing the bowl of stew away, Washburn spread both hands out over the table’s surface and then leaned back in his chair, straightening his back. As calmly as his voice could sound, he asked, “Darcy has her under his protection? I know if she is with him, she is in the best of hands. Are they heading back to Rhemuth?”

“Sir Washburn, I see from your reaction that you care very much for this lady. Are you in love with her?” Again Iain’s voice was hiding something in his tense tone.  And too, the directness of the question was a bit startling. What was happening?

Wash tilted his head and looked across at Iain. He saw the close resemblance of the two brothers, yet he was keenly aware of their differences in their mannerisms. “It is your brother who is desperately in love with her. But to answer you, yes, I love her, but like that of a brother for his sister. Lord Alister was a close friend. In his good memory, I have vowed to protect his sister as I would my own sisters. That I last saw her in distress has weighed heavily upon my mind.”

“Aye, a damsel in distress brings out the gallantry in all of us. She was in distress when you joined up with her in Culdi, was she not? She was already in Darcy’s company then. Yes? Did my brother fall in love with her because she was a damsel in distress?”

Washburn could not stop the laugh that came out. “Damsel-in-distress? Not Lady Aliset. In those first days, your brother thought he was escorting Lord Alister, a young man who had lost his family to ambitious men who would not stop at murder.  Darcy knew he protected this young man from assassins, yet he knew nothing of the lady hidden beneath the guise of her brother. She had been very strong to hold that visage.  When I met up with them, Lord Alister was in full control of the situation. I did not even learn of Lady Aliset playing her twin until much later. Darcy was very surprised to learn of it himself, after which he vowed himself to stay steadfastly her protector. A lady In need? Yes, but not in distress. Why are you so concerned about your brother’s choice?”

Iain avoided a direct answer. Instead he asked, “Would it distress you to learn that Darcy was given a royal commission to find you? Lady Aliset was to remain safe in Rhemuth after her abduction was thwarted. I realize now that you have not heard that she had been rescued by His Grace, Duke Dhugal in the library.” To hear this was such immense relief to the recent prisoner that he barely heard Iain’s next words. “You should know that the duke was heart-sick that he was seconds too late from halting Master Feyd from taking you. The tension in Rhemuth since that moment has been palatable. I have been told the Lady Aliset was as equally upset. Perhaps even more so, because she felt some responsibility for your capture. From a letter she left behind in the queen’s tower, she confirmed how she felt the need to help in the best way she knew. She took it upon herself to join Lord Darcy and Father Columcil on the royal commission they had been given. I am told Lady Aliset took on the form of my squire, Robert, and rode out with my brother and the priest. They were not aware of her disguise.” Iain’s eyes were open wide, watching the man before him carefully, looking for the Lendour knight’s response. The baron obviously could not understand why a lady would do that. 

At first the news brought a smile to Washburn’s face. “That is so like her,” he replied, remembering all too well the bravery of the de Mariot lady. “Aliset is a strong lass, very capable of achieving her goals. She also has a caring heart and is deeply loyal; she would not let someone she loves go into harm's way if she could be of help in any way.” But then his smile faded and he could not hide the anger rising in his voice. “King Kelson gave your brother and the good father the mission to find me? When I was held in an impossible place like Valerian’s dungeon? Is the king mad? Don’t I have brothers who should have shouldered that responsibility? But no. One brother has disowned me and the other brother is, God knows where, probably gone back home. Thusly, leaving Darcy, Columcil, and Lady Aliset, my only true friends, to enter the dangers of the dragon’s lair to rescue me? That is insanity!”

Lord Iain leaned forward as he tried to explain. His voice remained calm, though Wash could sense that he, too, had not been happy to hear of Darcy’s orders. “Their mission was to find the fortress. Darcy had the coordinates by charting the stars. His job was to find it and report back-- understand, at first we did not know that you were there. It was something of a long shot. I was following Lady Sidana to her place of residence. I was undercover there when I discovered you were the anticipated prisoner and that I was in the same fortress to which my brother was seeking. Then orders came from the king that Darcy was to stand by and assist me if you could be freed.”

The youngest son of Alaric leaned forward, muscles tense. “We need to find them before they become fodder in this rebellion. We have sat here too long!” Washburn stood up, pushing the chair back hard. Only his quick hand kept it from tipping over.

Iain was holding both hands out as he, too, stood. “It is alright, I have an idea where they are. We can use the portal to get to them as soon as I can get the Portal Signature from Lord Sextus.”

“What are we waiting for?”

“... We await the king’s orders; we should be receiving them soon. I am certain that my brother is capable of looking after his wife until we arrive.”

“Wife? Darcy and Aliset are married? Has something finally gone right in all of this?” Washburn saw the nod and smile as Iain confirmed the news.

Lady Maev was the first to come forward. She had come down the ladder with Sidana while the men were talking. “Your brother is married? That is wonderful news,” she said, giving Iain a curtsey.

Lord Roland moved to a locked cabinet. “This calls for a toast,” he said, bringing forth a special bottle of port. The label of Vezaire gave everyone a moment of appreciation. Using the distraction, the pretender Queen of Meara side-stepped to the door. With freedom her goal, out the door she ran.


Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #592 on: December 03, 2018, 02:04:15 pm »
Sir Iain Cameron sensed Sidana’s movement as he raised his glass of port to toast the marriage of his brother and Lady Aliset.  He allowed himself the pleasure of downing the excellent beverage before striding out the door after her.  He could stop her instantly with the controls he had placed in her mind, but he hesitated to demonstrate how completely under his control she was.  Especially in front of Sir Washburn.

“Let me go!  Let go of me!”  he heard Sidana cry as he reached the yard.  Sidana looked in his direction and tried to kick the captor that held her fast.

Iain grinned; bless Roland’s dependable dog!  The black and tan dog held a portion of Sidana’s gown firmly in his teeth and was attempting to pull her back toward the house.  Sidana gripped the gown in both hands and was trying to pull it away from the dog.  The dog, skilled at herding sheep, easily avoided her kick.  Good thing Maev had provided a sturdy, homespun gown to withstand this type of punishment!

Iain was no longer grinning as he moved forward and took hold of her arm, his grip tight but not tight enough to bruise.  Roland whistled to the dog, and the dog let go of the dress and ran back to his master.

“Just what do you think you are doing?” Iain demanded.

“Are you so addled you can’t figure it out?” Sidana spat back at him.

Iain turned her towards him, changed his grip and heaved her over his shoulder.  He turned abruptly and marched her back to the house, ignoring the flailing fists beating against his buttocks and her demands to be released.  Washburn, Maev and Roland, standing just outside the door, quickly moved aside to give him room to enter.

Sir Iain dumped her unceremoniously on the table.  Maev followed and removed Washburn’s forgotten bowl so Sidana could not use it as a weapon.  Iain grasped both of the young girl’s arms to hold her firmly in place; there was anger in his ice-blue eyes. He resisted the impulse to shake her.

“You are a fool,” he said, forcing her to look at him and not turn away.  “This is not some town dwelling where you could run to find the watch.  How far do you think you would have gotten before some man, or group of men, found you on the road?”  His eyes held hers.  “If they were brigands like some of those I have met here, I’d be finding you body in the bushes beside the road after they finished with such a pretty little prize.” Iain’s words were harsh, as he intended them to be.

“I am the Queen of Meara!  No one would dare harm me!” she replied defiantly.

“Who would believe that you are?  Your father and the Grand Duke have kept you hidden, a rumour of hope dangled in front of those willing to be tempted.  A promise of reward sparking the slaughter of innocents in Ratharkin!” 

“Sir Iain,” Maev cautioned. 

“How many more will die for your cause, Lady Sidana?  How much death does it take to make a queen?” Iain’s voice was hard.

“That’s not my fault!” Sidana screamed at him.

“Then whose is it, my Lady?”  Iain’s voice was suddenly calm.  “Think on that as you spend the rest of this day confined to the loft.  Lady Maev, if you would please escort her up.”

Iain removed his hands from Sidana’s arms and then placed one hand on her forehead. Sidana winced, although there was no pain.  When Iain had finished, Meav gently took hold of Sidana’s arm and helped her slide off the table. 

“There will be no more escape attempts, Lady Sidana,” he said.

Sidana preceded Maev up the ladder, not quite meek, but unresistant.  Sir Iain Cameron picked up his glass, filled it with port, drained it and strode out the back door.
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Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #593 on: December 08, 2018, 08:56:00 pm »
Fiona continued to sit near the area where she had put her bedroll and supplies. She stared ahead, chewing her lip and thinking intently. She considered the consequences of her flight from the manor to try to reach the King  with her information about the intention of the baron’s heir to join the rebels and to pledge all the assets of the manor to their cause. She was very concerned about what might be happening to the baron and his wife. Michael intended to confine his father in a distant part of the manor while he assumed his father’s position and duties as baron.

But what if the baron resisted, not only verbally but physically? Would Michael actually harm his father? She was afraid that he had become so deeply involved with the rebels that he might have less control than he thought, and that he might be forced to cooperate with them if they decided to physically occupy the manor. The rebels were known to be violent and power-hungry.

When her absence was discovered, what would they do? They would not know where she had gone, but they would suspect she had ridden for help. She was afraid that they would implement their plans more quickly to avoid interference. She was also afraid that this might lead to physical injury or even death for the baron.

She needed to return to find out what was happening and to help Uncle Mac and Aunt Olivia. But she needed help. She wouldn’t be much use alone, but who could she approach to assist her? She was still confused as to what exactly was happening here at the ruins, and she had no idea which of those present she should approach. Even though she had decided to trust Lord Darcy, her cousin, she didn’t really know him at all and could not be sure of his reaction to a request from her for a rescue mission to the manor. Also, Darcy had no men-at-arms to support such an effort. Lord Jaxom had men with him, but she did not trust him and felt that his main goal was his own advancement

She had been paying little attention to what was happening around her. She noticed that Darcy and Robert had gone aside and appeared to be testing a sling that the squire had made. Then she saw that arrogant young man, Lord Jaxom, walk over to them and heard him take Lord Darcy to task for his squire’s activity.  He then ordered Robert to come with him to help his squire in erecting a pavilion he had brought with him. Lord Darcy nodded permission when Robert appeared to ask his approval.

Fiona continued to watch, distracted by the scene before her. Once the pavilion was erected, Jaxom beckoned Robert to come inside. After a brief exchange, Robert left the pavilion, striding angrily back to Darcy. They spoke together in low tones, appearing very tense. She saw Darcy’s hand go to the hilt of his sword and Robert place a hand on his arm as if to restrain him.

Suddenly, both turned to look at her. She returned their look, asking, “Is anything wrong”?.

“We need to speak to Lord Jaxom, but I’m not sure about leaving you here alone while we do so” Darcy replied. 

Fiona glanced over toward the lake where she had seen Father Columcil earlier;  “I’ll be fine. See, there is the good father returning. I will remain in his company until you return.” Fiona had noticed that the priest was trusted by the others, and that they listened to his advice and counsel. He might be the best person to approach about her problem. She felt that, with his help, she might be able to convince others to ride with her to rescue the baron and free his land from rebel control.

As Fiona continued to gaze intently at Darcy and Robert, she saw what looked like a tremor in the air around Robert and his appearance seemed to change from that of a young man to a young lady. Fiona gasped. She had heard of the ability of some Deryni to shape shift and take on the appearance of another person, but she had never seen it done. Robert must surely be something more than a simple squire. Together the two of them stepped into Jaxom’s tent

Father Columcil came near and sat down beside her, beginning to speak and ask her what was happening. They both heard angry voices and saw Jaxom start up from his seat abruptly, turning over his stool. Suddenly, a tall, red haired man stood in front of Fiona and the priest. His approach had been masked by the angry confrontation taking place in front of them. He beckoned to them to follow. Columcil appeared to know him and stood promptly to accompany him, reaching back to help Fiona to her feet. Fiona didn’t know who the red haired man was, but he was obviously a person of rank and influence. When they entered the pavilion,  Darcy, Robert, and Jaxom bowed respectfully to him, and she heard Jaxom address him as Earl Brendan.

The Earl demanded a pledge from all of them that they would make peace among themselves, and there would be no more discussion of Darcy’s relationship with the young woman or Jaxom’s insistence that the young woman should have been under his protection. Fiona went to a knee with the others as they gave the required pledge, although she still did not understand the situation. As they rose and turned to leave the pavilion, she again noticed that tremor in the air as the lady again became the squire, Robert.  Darcy held back and said a quiet word to the Earl. The Earl nodded and Darcy followed him  away from the tent to a more private area.

Fiona returned to her previous seat by her bedroll. Father Columcil again sat down beside her  as he noted that she still looked somewhat distracted. He decided that it was important that she be told the story of what lay behind the discord.

 “I’m sure you are findin’ all o’ this confusin’. I think I need to try to explain things a wee bit. The lady who is posin’ as the squire, is the Lady Aliset de Mariot. She first assumed the form o’ a young man when she was trying ta escape t’ Rhemuth after her kinsfolk were done ta death by a cousin who wanted ta tek their land and title. He speired ta force her to marry him ta strengthen his claim. She was tryin’ ta reach the King ta ask his protection and fer justice fer her kin.  Sir Washburn Morgan was escorting her at the request of his brother, the Duke o Corwyn. Darcy was escortin’ the young lord as a man-at arms fer protection. I was also traveling to Rhemuth and became the fourth member of the party. We didna find out the young lord was really a lass until we had gone some way on our journey. Lord Jaxom and his men joined us later in the journey at the direction of the Duke.”

“It’s a gey lang tale  but we did reach Rhemuth, and the lass was able to tell her story to the King who took her under his protection. However, a wee bit o’ time after our arrival in Rhemuth, Sir Washburn was kidnapped, we think by an agent for the rebels, and there was a attempt to kidnap the lady which didna work, thanks be ta God. We’re here noo ta support the search fer Sir Washburn. Earl Brendan is his brother and is directin’ the search here. We know he was held here for a time, and they are searchin’ for clues as to where he was maybes taken from here.”

Columcil continued, “Lord Darcy and the lass came ta care for each other on the long and hazardous trip ta Rhemuth. Then the king decided ta send the both o’ us, along with Darcy’s squire Robert, on a mission ta advance the search by findin a hidden fortress in Meara, a stronghold of the rebels.  Because o’ his experience as a navigator of ships, Darcy would ken how ta to find its location. However, one o’ the men behind the rebellion is a powerful and ruthless Deryni. Our Lady de Mariot was afraid for Lord Darcy when or if he did locate the fortress and had to confront this man. In an act of real courage, she decided to replace the real Robert and accompany us so she would know what was happening.. Of course, as soon as it was known that she was ridin with us, her reputation would be in ruins.. Once it was known what she had done, the king directed that it was best that they be betrothed to protect her. They  were committed to each other, and in view o’ all the present uncertainties due to the rebellion, I advised that they should go ahead and marry. They agreed, and I wed them. Jaxom had been insistent that she was ruined because she had traveled with us to Rhemuth. Jaxom was arrogant and condescending and insisted he would marry her to save her reputation, but she refused him. His behavior led to the lass nearly being kidnapped by an agent of her family’s murderer. Hence, the the bad blood between the two men.”

Fiona was quiet as she considered the story she had heard.  “I do understand what is going on a little better. I do know the danger to all of us as a result of the rebellion. I would do anything to help. But as I told Darcy earlier, I am really worried about what is happening at the manor. Baron Stuart is well respected in the area. Having his heir join  the rebels and try to give them the manor would be a big loss for Gwynedd. The loss of the baron himself would be a big blow to those still loyal to the King.”

She looked at Columcil appealingly. “I don’t know which of those here I should approach to ask for help. Do you think I should try to approach Earl Brendan?  Do you think he might help?” “Freeing the baron and his manor would prevent the rebels from getting a toehold in Gwynedd itself. “

“Dinna fash yoursel, Lassie,” replied Columcil. “Gi me a bit o time to think it over and consider what’s best ta do. I’ll need to talk it over with Darcy too, once he comes back. ”  Fiona nodded and sat quietly beside the priest, trying to be patient while she waited for Darcy to return. But patience is not one of her strong points.

After a short time, Darcy reappeared and walked over to them.  Father Columcil drew him aside and they spoke together quietly.  Darcy glanced over at Fiona then beckoned to her to join them. “I understand your concern for the baron. I do think Earl Brendan is the best person to talk to. However, his focus at this time is finding and freeing Sir Washburn, not only because he cares for his brother, but also of the great concern over what his captor intends to do with him. We are sure that the rebels are behind the kidnapping and they intend to use him in some way against the King and Gwynedd. Finding him has to be a priority. I’m not sure he can spare men to rescue the baron and free the manor of rebels. However, I think you should present your case to him and let him judge. Wait here with Father Columcil and let me see if he will hear you.”  With that Darcy turned and retraced his steps toward the Earl’s tent.

After several minutes that seemed to last forever, Darcy stepped out of the entrance to the tent and beckoned to Fiona. Fiona walked up to the tent and Darcy ushered her in. The Earl was seated at a table but stood as she entered. Fiona curtsied. The Earl spoke to her: “ Mistress McIntyre, I understand from Lord Darcy that you have some important information for the King concerning what has been happening at the manor where you have been living and danger to the Baron whose manor it is. Please take a seat and tell me your concerns.”

Fiona took a deep breath and repeated to Earl Brendan  what she had overheard Michael, the baron’s heir, say of his intention to confine his father, assume his father’s position and join the rebellion, committing the men and resources of the manor to them. She expressed her fears of what would happen if the baron resisted as she was sure he would. She emphasized her belief that losing the baron and his assets to the rebels would be a significant blow to the kingdom, giving the Mearans a toehold in Gwynedd itself.

 The Earl heard her out in silence. When she had finished, he sat quietly for a few moments. Then he spoke: “I understand your concern and agree that the situation needs to be addressed. Unfortunately, I cannot turn aside from my current mission to deal with it. I will communicate what you have told me to the King, and consider what is best to do.  It is possible that I can send a small force under the command of one of the other nobles here.” Earl Brendan stood. “Mistress McIntyre, I understand your concern and rest assured that I will address it as expeditiously as possible.” He glanced past her to Darcy who had been standing quietly beside the tent entrance while Fiona told her story. ‘Lord Darcy, will you please escort Mistress McIntyre back to your camp. I will make my decision known as soon as possible.”

Not long after Darcy and Fiona had returned to their camp, they saw Lord Jaxom enter the Earl’s tent. Earl Brendan had summoned Jaxom to discuss the situation as he had knowledge of the area and its people. Lord Jaxom entered the tent and bowed  deeply. “You sent for me my lord?”

“I did,” Brendan replied. “Please take a seat,” he indicated the stool across from his own seat. “Tell me what you know of a Baron Stuart whose manor is not far from here. I understand that he is much respected in this part of the kingdom, and that he is known to be fiercely loyal to the King. But I have been told that there is a conflict with his heir who favors the rebels.”

“I do know the baron and I have visited his manor with my father. It is true that he is highly respected in this part of the kingdom. I have met Michael, his heir, but I do not know him well. I am appalled to hear that he plans to join the rebels. It would be a disaster if he joins the rebels and invites them to occupy the manor. I am willing to do whatever you need to prevent this, my lord.” Jaxom stood, holding himself erect.

Lord Brendan addressed Jaxom: “Thank you,  I want you to prepare your men and be ready to ride to Baron Stuart’s manor. I have been told that it is possible that the baron has been confined by his son who is giving out that the baron is ill and he is acting in his stead. I have also heard that there are an unknown number of rebels at the manor hidden among the servants. I will have more precise orders for you when it’s time for you to leave, Return to your men and be ready to ride at my order.”

Jaxom bowed. Yes, my lord. We will be ready at your command.” Jaxom exited the tent and strode back toward his camp
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

 

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