Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 49973 times)

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Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #555 on: September 11, 2018, 01:11:58 am »
Earl Brendan cursed the enemy. Fully understanding, Prince Javan finished forwarding his latest Rapport from his father. For Brendan, part of the news was dire. A spy had reported just an hour ago that the whereabouts of the youngest Morgan had been uncovered; somewhere in the mountainous high country of Meara, deep in the dungeon keep of the Pretender Queen. Also in the keep was the youngest son of the late Grand Duke Teymuraz, the self claimed Grand Duke Valerian Phourstanos -Furstan. Javan almost did not pass on the most confidential portion of this information. “The youngest son of Alaric has been changed. His memories are subverted. It is reported that he hates his family.” The pain on Brendan’s face hurt Javan’s heart. “Brendan, my father has told me to withhold this from you. He decided it would be best if you were not the one to go after your brother. Your position between Prince Albin and I is assured. I will send others to seek Washburn and to bait him out if we can.”

“Your Highness, you know I have to go. For my love of my mother, for Kelric, and for Washburn, I have to do this.”

“Do you? Are you sure? His Majesty insisted that I refuse to let you go. Just short of making it an order, that is. Lord Brendan, You and the king are really close, We are brothers by marriage. You know right well and trust the instincts of my father. You might not heed my orders if I hold you back, but I think you will do as your father's best friend asks of you.”

Brendan was stunned for a momement, then he stammered. “My King, nay my friend, asked me to find my brother, your brother by marriage, just yesterday! Just this little bad news and you expect me to sit back; let other’s handle this? What is the fear? That my youngest brother has turned against me, that I would not have the wherewithal to overcome him?” He stopped his pacing and stared at the royal prince for a hard moment. “At least I am motivated to not outright kill him, as others who have been sent out to find him might do. I presume this spy has orders to kill Wash, if it comes to the survival of the Duke of Corwyn vs the Corwyn Spare. Don’t look so shocked. Yes, we always called him the Spare, but it was in jest. Wash knew that, he never resented it. I can not believe an assassin could manipulate that jest into a vengeful abhorrence.”

It was Javan’s turn to bite his lip, not wanting to fully repeat what the spy had said about Washburn’s mind. “You have it right, the spy is under that order. The sons of Teymuraz are in no way to ever have influence over Corwyn. The survival of Gwynedd relies on our southeastern duchy. Kelson has already requested of Kelric to renounce Washburn from the line of succession.”

“What!” the earl of Marley came closer to Javan. “He won’t do that! There is no proof of treason in anything Washburn has done.”

“Not as yet. The renunciation is meant to reduce any chance of a future betrayal. Look, Brendan, we are talking here, just you and I, no one else knows of this. If I force you to stay with the army, you will stay? You will get to Kelric’s side that much faster.”

Brendan chewed his lip, turned and paced the small wooded area beside where the army had chosen to rest for an hour before finishing their march to Cuilteine. The army had moved much faster than anticipated, with only one eight hour break in the last twenty-four hours. All the men seemed anxious to get into Meara. There were no complaints thus far about the walking distance or the speed. The army was fit and that was something to be said for the Kelsonian training centers.  Training centers to which Sir Washburn had been a leading member.

“If Kelric renounces, Wash, our young brother is lost to us. He will have lost his value as ransom. The Mearan resistance will either subvert him to act under their banner, or they will kill him outright. All efforts of rescue will be pointless.” Brendan had hit on it, that is why the king had put a halted to his search. “No, I know Kelric better than that. He won’t do it. Not without cause. I am going north on the Cuitreine road. I am going to find my brother and I am going to bring him home. We will work out his memory problems after he’s back in Rhemuth.”

The royal prince of the realm studied the earl for a long minute. In the background his guards were getting anxious about this long solitary conversation. “That is what I told my father that you would say. That is why he left the ultimate decision in my hands. I won’t make an order you would be forced to disobey. That should not be on your conscience, too, not with all that you are going to need to deal with.” Javan pulled the wine skin off his belt, he took a long swig of the good quality wine. When it was half empty, he took a small blue veil out from his pouch. He poured the contents into the wine skin, capped it, and shook it well. Then he handed it across to his friend. “I think you know what I just put in here. If you do find Wash, and he is deranged, have him drink from this. Meresha may keep you from helping him, but it will keep him from harming you. The orders from my father are that I insist upon this much. If it comes to choosing between you or Washburn, you are the one who must survive.”

Brendan angrily took the skin from Javan’s hand. ”We will both survive! That is my vow!”

“A vow I will hold you too.” The prince began walking toward the guards and their horses beyond. “When we reach Cuilteine. I am sending Lord Jaxom north to assess the ruins where Lord Sextus holds guard on the portal. The ruins lie on lands bordering Trillshire. Jaxom knows the people and they respect him.” Unlike everyone on this march, Brendan could not help but think. Javan must have been thinking the same, for he gave a smile, the first one since his Rapport with his father. “Use Jaxom to help you find what you need. He is… well you know what he is… but at least he had some respect for your youngest brother. Those memories may not have been tampered with in Washburn, Jaxom may be the connection to finding the real Wash inside.”

Brendan shook his head and gave an irritated laugh. “So you found a legitimate means of freeing yourself of that pompous loot.”

“Why, yes, I believe I have!” Javan said, clapping the older man on the shoulder as they entered the company of the Haldane lancers.
« Last Edit: September 11, 2018, 01:50:37 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #556 on: September 11, 2018, 10:45:08 am »
*Again, thanks to revanne for Columcil's true words and to Evie for keeping!*

“Lord Darcy,” the priest said when he reached the well. “A private word wi' ye, if I might.”

Darcy Cameron studied the priest's face for a moment; whatever Father Columcil's inner thoughts were, he was hiding them well.  He nodded to Robert, who looked puzzled as he arrived at the well.  What could the good Father have to tell that Robert should not hear?

"Perhaps we should go over by the stable," Darcy said. 

"I'll wait here, Lord Darcy," Robert said quietly.

When they reached the stable, Darcy wasted no time with preambles.  "What has happened?"

Father Columcil took a moment to order the news and instructions relayed by Archbishop McLain.  "Dowager Duchess Richenda just missed finding Sir Washburn when she portaled to the old Michaeline ruins south of Droghera."

"Bloody hell," Darcy said.  "How?"

Columcil explained what had happened in the ruins.  Darcy listened closely, committing every detail to memory.

"You'll have to explain Portals to me at some later time, but I think I get the general idea."  He looked thoughtful.  "Are we to proceed to the ruins?  I admit, I'd like to see them for myself, see if we can find anything useful."

"His Grace didn'a state tha'" Columcil said.  He realized he probably should have asked, but the ruins had been overshadowed by the next information his grandfather had relayed.  Columcil watched Darcy closely.  "There was more news; Lady Aliset had gone missing."

Columcil was accustomed to Darcy's normal pale complexion; he was not prepared for the young man's face to fade to a deathly white.

"Sweet Jesu," Darcy said.  "I have to go back."

Columcil shook his head.  "The king commands us to continue for'ard; you're no' to return ta Rhemuth."

"I will return to Rhemuth," Darcy declared, his face set, his defiance returning his face to a more normal colour.  "You and Robert can continue on, and I'll find you once I know Aliset is safe."  Darcy turned as if to enter the stable for his horse.  "I've faced the king's judgement before for Aliset, and I am willing to do it again."

Columcil laid a restraining hand on the younger man's shoulder.  He could feel the tension there.  "Aliset is safe," he said.

"How can you know that if she is missing?" 

"Squire Robert showed up in th' king's Council Chamber just after noon."  Columcil waited, knowing it would not take Darcy long to figure it out.  It didn't.

"She shifted into Robert, didn't she?"  He didn't wait for Columcil to answer.  "That's what was bothering me, but I set it aside."  He looked up at Columcil.  "She knew the name of your horse, and there was no way Robert would have known.  He only met you for the first time as we left Rhemuth, and you never mentioned Spean by name."  His face darkened as dismay turned to anger.  "How could she endanger herself this way?"

"We'll ask her," Columcil replied with a calm he did not feel.  "Mebbe it's best that I do the asking, rather than ye say words that ye can'ne aye tek back." Darcy said nothing and strode toward the well; Columcil hastened after him.

Aliset saw them coming, and could see by the angry look on Lord Darcy's face that the truth was known.   Aliset squared her shoulders; she did not regret the decision she had made and would stand behind it.

"Lady Aliset," Father Columcil began, "We have...."

Darcy cut him off.  "What in the nine circles of Hell were you thinking, woman?"  he said angrily, standing with balled fists on his hips and sounding dangerous.

"Easy, lad" Columcil admonished.  "And keep yer voice doon," he added firmly.

Aliset's brown eyes flashed and she looked at him squarely, although the ice blue eyes she faced looked as stormy as his northern seas.  "I was thinking," she said coldly, "that you needed my help, magical help only I can provide."

"I've managed without magic before," Darcy said hotly. 

"So, the time I spent training you was a waste?"  Aliset was becoming less calm. 

"Of course not!  But now I have the added duty to keep you safe on top of everything else.  You should have stayed in Rhemuth." Darcy was still angry but managed to drop his voice down a level or two.

"And I was safe there?"  Aliset asked. 

"That's because I wasn't there to...." He stopped and glared at her, unable to avoid the trap her words implied.

Aliset took a deep breath to calm herself.  "You did not object to my help when we travelled before, even after you knew I was a woman.  I held my own," she added, her voice firm.

"That was before I loved you!" Darcy snapped, and Columcil thought he heard a note of desperation in the voice.

"Then you know how I feel, you dolt!"  Aliset snapped back and stopped, startled at her own words.  They stared at each other.

"Peace," Columcil said, placing a hand on each of their shoulders.  "Breathe."

"I couldn't let you go against as skilled a Deryni as Valerian with so little knowledge," Aliset began, visibly making an effort to collect herself and trying to interject reason into the discussion. 

"I'm not going against Valerian," Darcy said, sounding a little calmer.  "I'm to find the fortress.  I'm still not sure what we are to do then; I wish I was."

"Exactly my point; you don't know, and anything could happen.  Look at all the harm he has caused so far."

Darcy sat down on the step he had vacated not that long before.  "Oswald had a part in all this too, as I'm sure you remember.  But he is allied with Valerian."  Darcy nudged a stone with the tip of his boot and looked up at Columcil.  "I'm forbidden to take Lady Aliset back to Rhemuth, that is what you really meant earlier, isn't it?'

"Aye, it is," Columcil admitted.

Darcy sighed and looked at Aliset.  "First I had to bring Washburn's horse; now I have to bring you."  He saw Aliset's eyes flash.  "Beg pardon," he added quickly, "I mean no offense.  But could this mission be made more complicated?"

"Aye, it could," Father Columcil said.

"I'd like to bloody well know how," Darcy said grimly.

"The two on ye are ta be betrothed," Columcil said.  Darcy's jaw dropped and Aliset gasped.  "The queen and the senior ladies of her court are concerned that Lady Aliset's reputation is now tarnished beyond repair."

"Now hold on a minute," Darcy interrupted, immediately protective, as Aliset snapped, “What bloody business is it of theirs?”

Columcil raised a hand to stop them.  "’Tis very much their business, I’m afraid, my Lady; you seem to have forgotten that you are now the king’s ward.  Archbishop Duncan suggested that your betrothal was the only option, unless a'course, Lady Aliset, you would prefer the veil."  In truth, his grandfather hadn't mentioned that, but it had occurred to Columcil.

Aliset stole a quick glance at Darcy and shook her head immediately.  "No, Father, I would not."

"King Kelson agreed to the betrothal.  He'd read Darcy's letter wi' 'im stating his intention to put his suit forward for yer hand in marriage when he returned."

Darcy blushed as Aliset stared at him.  "I wanted to make sure I had a chance for it," he said.  "Father Columcil," Darcy said firmly, "God knows I am willing, but I will not agree to a marriage Lady Aliset  does not desire of her own free will."

Aliset hesitated; she had not prepared for this eventuality.  She had been worried that King Kelson would select a husband for her that she barely knew.   Someone years older who would expect a meek, compliant wife.  Someone content to raise children and stay in the background of her husband's life.  She knew now that would be very difficult for her.  She looked at Darcy, who had risen from the step and was regarding her with concern.  At least she knew this man loved her, deeply, and she did care for him, more than she had believed.

"I…well…um…Yes, damn it!”  She looked apologetically at Columcil.  “Sorry, Father, I meant I am willing also.”

Columcil nodded.  "I aye believe it be for the best.  Mebbes though" he said, looking back toward the abbey church, "this'll no be the best place for it.  I'm thinking the both of ye'ud prefer fer Lady Aliset ta resume her true form;  I know I'd be more comfortable an she does."

Darcy managed a smile.  "That would be a bit awkward otherwise, now wouldn't it?  And we really should be away and heading north."

"What about the small church with the square tower we stopped at after Droghera?"  Aliset suggested.

"Oh, aye, I remember that place," Columcil said.  "I doubt I'll ever forget it."

"I don't think any of us will forget it, and it's just about where we should be stopping for the night."  Darcy looked at the priest and the squire.  "We're agreed?"

Within a short time they were riding through the gates of Arx Fidei and heading north.
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 #557 on: September 13, 2018, 11:54:48 am »
Dhugal allowed Richard’s men their moment of celebration as they crowded around the new knight. Their genuine delight in his honouring warmed his heart as he hoped fervently that Richard’s sense of failure and betrayal could at last be put to rest. But true celebrations would have to wait for resolution of the plight in which the realm now stood, and after just a few minutes he sent the men about their business, to work or rest, and chivvied Richard back up to the castle, although in truth, with both exhilaration and fear now past, exhaustion had begun to set in and he came willingly enough. On entering the bailey Dhugal sent a man to bring food and drink to Richard's quarters and, putting aside Richard’s protests, walked him there himself and waited until he lay down on his bed.

With a sternness to his voice that was only half in jest and giving his subordinate a long hard look he said:

“If you move from that spot, other than to use the gardrobe, before I send someone to rouse you, I truly will have you clapped in irons and you can explain to Rory in Laas why the captain general of my fleet needs a tether and is clanking like a blacksmith's forge.”

The new Sir Richard looked back at him, the shadow brought by his forced treason gone from his eyes, and barely got out between his yawns,

“I’ll be explaining to his Highness why I’ve not moved from my bed the entire voyage more like. I could sleep for a month”. He smiled and reached out his hand towards Dhugal’s and, when Dhugal responded by enclosing it in both of his, he brushed his lips against the back of Dhugal’s upper hand and said simply, “Thank you, your Grace.”

Satisfied, Dhugal nonetheless had a guard stand discreetly where he could keep sight of the door to Richard’s quarters, and only then did he allow himself to return to the Ducal quarters and Mirjana.

Once again he marvelled at how gracious the fates -or God, as he supposed his father and son would have corrected him - had been in granting him such a wife out of what had been a time of terrible tragedy for them both. He had half thought that Mirjana would lose her calm assurance at the news that Teymuraz’ wicked kin were again assailing the land that had become her sanctuary, but, though she paled and crossed herself murmuring a prayer for protection to St Michael, once they came out of their rapport, she at once set about caring for him rather than sapping his already far too deleted energy by seeking his comfort and reassurance, happy though he would have been to give it. She did for him very much as he had done for Richard, then sat on the edge of the bed and allowed the comfort of her caresses to sooth her husband. When his responses became more passionate, however, she kissed him hard on the lips and pulled away telling him to save his energy to fight with the king’s enemies. Then she pulled a brychan up around him and left him to sleep.

Judging by the angle of the sun shining through the bedchamber window it must have been many hours past noon when a squire knocked at the door and entered, sent by Mirjana to rouse him and bearing a tray laden with bread, cold meats and ale.

“Her Grace says that all but two of the ships that left this morning with Master Seamus have just returned into the harbour and Master Seamus is even now making his way up to the castle.”

Dhugal swung his legs down to the floor and made to rise, but found his way blocked by the squire’s deferential but determined bow,

“Begging your Grace’s pardon but her Grace says that you are to go nowhere afore you have eaten. Her Grace has sent a guard to intercept Master Seamus and will see him looked after.”

Dhugal smiled at the young man and dutifully did as he had been bid, finding that once he began to eat he was indeed hungry and he made short work of both food and drink.

“Thank you, Sean, now please return to her Grace and tell her that I will be up on the battlements with Master Seamus.”

Dhugal found Seamus in the buttery, but the food and drink with which he had been supplied sat untouched by his side and he was agitatedly looking at the door. As soon as he saw Dhugal he jumped up and  would have gone to his knee had not Dhugal grasped his hands,

“Seamus! Thank God you are back, and most of the boats with you. I feared you would have had sight of the enemy boats and gone after them. I’m afraid I wasn’t thinking straight when I gave you your orders this morning.”

“Nay, yer Grace, we saw nothing o’ them, not out at sea leastways, an’ wi’out a means of speakin’ ye, an’  the Cap’n gone, I was thinking it would be small use to ye ta lose ye half yer fleet on what would most like ha’ bin nought but a wild goose chase. (( Enemy ships are already out of sight of Seamus, yes 123, no 456. Dice roll 2 so yes. 6104kqwb8w)).

“I can only repeat, ‘Thank God’ for your common sense, and commend your actions though I fear that I shall still have to relieve you of your command as Captain General.”

Seamus looked unsure for a moment then grasped Dhugal’s meaning and his somber features lightened for a moment. “The Cap’n’s alive! Mary Mother, how? Are all on ‘em safe, or just himself? But I dinna understand after what the puir souls at Loch Mhir tellit us.” Seamus’ mouth twisted as though he was struggling with nausea before he managed to say,

“Ha’e ye seem himself, yer Grace?”

“Yes, and it’s quite a tale. But best come from himself, I think, when he has slept. But it would seem that you, too, have a tale to tell which is maybe not as good as I first hoped. Come, let’s go to the battlements where we can be undisturbed and look out at the sea. But first, we have time for you to eat.”

“Thank ye, sair, but I’ve nae stummach fer food.”

Dhugal looked anxiously at the man stood  before him. He did in truth look as though he wanted to be sick and Dhugal wondered what on earth could have upset him so thoroughly. He was well acquainted with the harsh life at sea, having both received and given out physical punishment, and in recent years, as trade grew and the boats travelled further and further afield, there had been more than one run in with pirates. He could well believe that Richard’s fire boat had given rise to casualties, but again the sight of death and injury was part and parcel of life in these tough borderlands, and Seamus would have grown up hardened to such sights. Nor could it be fear of his own reaction. Seamus had faced that down in the hours before dawn when he had brought news of Richard’s actions, and he had admitted calmly enough to having taken his own decision not to seek out any of the enemy fleet which might have escaped.

Here was not the place to question further so without further ado he turned and led the way out into the bailey. He noted that the local villagers were already dispersing, Mirjana must have interpreted the various bits of information while he slept and decided that the imminent danger of invasion was past. She had everything well in hand and once the fleet had sailed under the able leadership of Sir Richard, and the increasingly obvious competence of the man before him as second-in-command, he would be able to focus his attention on supporting Kelson in whatever way the king required. Pray God that they would lose no more of those close to Kelson ( for he feared that Washburn was truly lost) but if the worst happened then the king’s blood brother would not be found lacking. But first he needed to find out what was ailing Seamus.

He ushered Seamus before him up the steep narrow steps onto the battlement walkway where they could be sure of being private, yet easily within call if he was required. Once they were out of earshot of the nearest guard, he stopped and leant out over the battlements so as not to force eye contact or exert any form of arcane coercion.

“Come on, man, out with it! What can have happened to you today that can possibly be worse than the display of temper you had to endure from me before dawn?”

His attempt at humour raising no response, Dhugal began again in more measured tones,

“I’m supposing that what you found in Loch Mhor was not pretty,” but was interrupted by Seamus blazing out vehemently,

“Pretty, ma Lord! Wha’ I saw there the day was a glimpse o’ hell itself, tho’ the de’il had made sairten he was no there ta suffer wi’ his victims. They’d gone, all o’them, the captains o’ the undamaged boaties, tekin’ wi’em the hale from them that ‘a’ bin burnt oot and leavin’ the burnt and broken bodies wi’out food or tendin’.”

Still not looking at Seamus, Dhugal interjected gently,

“Sadly such things get overlooked in war.”

Seamus muttered something that Dhugal had to strain to hear,

“Ye wouldn’a, ma Lord. Ye would’a tended to the wounded, even if ye had nae choice but to leave them. Ye would’a tended to them afore ye left.” Then he spoke more strongly and half-turned towards Dhugal as though this would cost him a deal to say but he had to say it.

“Ye’ll mind when ye had me flogged?”

Dhugal turned too at that and put his hand on Seamus’ arm,

“That’s long gone and set aside by the record of your service since. By me and Richard at least, and I dare now hope by you.”

“Och, I’m nae sayin’ this richt! I’ve nae held it against ye, ma lord, leastways no’ since I got some sense into ma heid and kenned what danger t’ all a young fool who wouldn’a do as he was bid would ‘a’ bin oot at sea. But I mind well that ye sent a body t’ tend t’ me, and offered a healer t’  tek away some o’ the pain if I’d ask pardon of ye and Master Richard.”

Seamus’ voice trailed off and Dhugal saw that his pallid face was growing red and he finished gently for him.

“But you refused, enduring every last throb and then, once you had healed, came of your own free will, admitted your fault and sought pardon on your own terms.”

Again Dhugal could hardly hear Seamus as he muttered,

“Arrogant wee gomeril that I was.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I would have done exactly the same. But why are you saying all this?”

Seamus again seemed to force himself to speak but he lifted his head and looked at Dhugal.

“Because I ken well enow that those that do wrong desairve t’ be punished, but no’ in the way that was done t’ those puir souls in the loch. Their lords had nae time nor thought t’ tend t’ the wounded, but they’d time t’ tek the whip to them that were already burned, for no’ being able t’ stop flames from burnin’ tha’ came oot o’ nowhere.”

Seamus drew a deep breath as though willing the memory and the nausea it aroused back down and laughed bitterly.

“Ye ordered me to kill those that wouldn’a surrender. Aye, we killed a score or more this morn, gie’ing mercy t’them who were beggin’ for it. I left twae ships back in the loch, wi’ those who could care for those that mebbes ha’e a chance o’ life. Guid help us all, ma lord, if these de’ils come t’rule o’er us here. If that’s what they do t’ those that fecht for them, what’ll be done to us that fecht against them.”

Dhugal tightened his grip on Seamus’ wrist but could offer no comfort. Once many years ago he had seen Mearen brutality at first hand, and he knew, through what Kelson and Mirjana had said, and what Sean Derry had never said, of the unspeakable cruelty that was the dark side of Torenthi customs. Perhaps, if Seamus would be willing to allow him to read what he had seen, he could share it with Kelson, and the images of what their enemy was truly like could spread amongst those with whom they came into contact, especially on the borders of Meara where men might be in doubt who they should be fighting for.

“I will see what can be done for them, and if they will swear to live peaceably here find homes for them. I doubt most of them want more than a quiet life, and a lord to protect them. We could do with more hands to bring in the harvest with our men gone.”

Dhugal stood for a moment then looked Seamus full in the face before speaking.

“You are fully free to refuse what I am going to ask of you; this is an asking between the two of us, and not an order from duke to captain. I think that the truth of the cruelty of our enemies, that you have seen today, should be shared with his Majesty and if report is spread by our armies as they go into Meara, might help to make men think twice before they join the rebels. Will you allow me to Read what you have seen direct from your mind.”

Somewhat to Dhugal’s surprise Seamus nodded his head immediately,

“Aye I’ll do that, yer Grace and right willin’. To tell truth, it’d be a sight easier than tellin’ ye more o’ it. An’ I hope I’m no’ steppin’ above ma’sen but if mebbes we could use ma wee bittie medallion here,” he pulled the medallion of Our Lady, Star of the sea, out from under his shirt as he spoke, “t’would be a way for ye t’ keep in touch wi’ me on the Cap’n’s behalf. Beggin’ yer pardon if tha’s presumptious o’ me.”

“That’s not presumption, just the common sense I’m learning to expect from Richard’s second-in-command.”  He thought, though did not say, that it would also save him from having to suggest some form of arcane link with Richard which had always been his intention, but after the abuse of Richard’s mind and will in Rhemuth would be out of the question.  He had always known that Seamus shared the mysterious “second sight” of the borderer, but the readiness with which Seamus made the suggestion about the medallion made him ask,

“Have you done this before?”

“Aye, or leastways summat like it, as bairns wi’ our Jamie. It was one o’ the things that Grandda teached us, and then wished he had no’ when we used it fer more mischief. No’ wi’ a Deryni like yer Grace tho’, I’m no sure tha’ I’ll be able fer it.”

“Do you trust me?” Dhugal realised that until today, though he had come to trust Seamus, he had been fairly sure it wasn’t reciprocated. He had been wrong it seemed, either that or the experiences of the last twenty-four hours had made Seamus see things differently. At any rate Seamus replied, slowly but with certainty,

“Aye, I do that, yer Grace.”

((Dhugal creates rapport with Seamus. Advantage rolled, Dhugal is skilled, Seamus is Deryni though with no real training, and both are eager for the rapport 2+3+6=11 4ps8gsk3ct))

“Come and stand in front of me then, here in the corner of the wall. Relax as much as you can, and let me do the rest.”

Seamus did as he was bid and leant back against Dhugal who put his hands against the other’s temples. As he entered Seamus’ mind, it came as no surprise to discover the presence of shields, though they were undeveloped enough that he could have broken through them if need be. He would not have done that though, and there was in any case no need as, after a moment’s hesitation, Seamus sank back further against his shoulder and the shields rolled back. The sights that had so distressed Seamus were right at the forefront of his memory and needed no sifting but hit Dhugal with the full force of Seamus’ revulsion. Bodies floating in the water, blackened and raw and already beginning to bloat; boats sound enough below the waterline but all bearing witness to the ravages of fire in their rigging and on deck. And on the decks lay the injured moaning desperately for water and for an end to their pain. He saw the open wounds, with flesh hanging from heat flayed skin and gashes and broken bones where men had been hit by falling rigging. It was clear that, as Seamus had said, no attempt whatsoever had been made to dress or treat the wounds but the injured had been left behind like refuse on a midden. Worst of all, and what made Dhugal almost gag even in trance, were the men lashed to stumps of masts, their burnt skin clearly laid open by savage whippings. For his own peace of mind he probed a little further and Saw the men of his own fleet beginning to tend to the injured, giving mercy to those beyond help. This was not war, this was a massacre and, as Seamus had said, this was the treatment meted out to their own men. Any in Meara who saw Valerian and his ilk as a liberation could think again. Please God this could be used to deter at least some.

Although he had asked no leave, he blurred the worst of the memories for Seamus - he might have been able to show him how to shield them off but there was no time - and then taking the medallion in his hands murmured the words that would help to reactivate the link before taking his hands away from Seamus’ temples and steadying him as he returned to normal consciousness.

Seamus looked momentarily startled and his eyes began to loose focus again as he obviously probed the edges of his memory and found that they were not so raw. Then he turned to Dhugal and with obvious relief in his voice said,

“Thank ye, yer Grace. I’ll mebbes get some sleep noo.” Then, recollecting himself, added hastily, “If yer grace has nae mair need o’me that is.”

“The state you’re in, I wouldn’t trust you in charge of a coracle, let alone the pride of my fleet. Off with you, take some food if you can, then, for the love of God man, get some sleep. You need to sail for Laas on the morning tide. I’ll have you and Sir Richard” - he smiled at Seamus’ start at his use of the title but didn’t elaborate -”woken before dawn. I’m no mariner but I’ve learnt enough to know what orders I need to give to have the fleet ready and waiting for you.”

He held out his hand in dismissal and Seamus went to his knee and kissed it before turning and making his way back down the stairs. Dhugal stood for a long time, staring out to sea  wondering what the fleet would meet with in Laas and how Rory was fairing, before turning and making his own way back down.
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 #558 on: September 13, 2018, 01:21:50 pm »

Ellia, a runaway girl from the servant quarters of a small barony hanging on the border between Eastern Meara and the Culdi Highlands, ran to escaped certain punishment from those in the walled keep that now lay a league behind her.  Her cheeks were wet, not from fear of what she had done, but for fear of what the future would do to man of ransom, like the one she left behind. He was so strong, yet so misused. If she could have helped him escape, she would have. At the very least, she helped him survive one night and she prayed he would survive into the days to come.  Why had she done it? It had been more than desire. True enough that physique of his was not one seen every day.  After his bath, the girls had laughed and teased each other over just who got to bathe which parts of him, but that really hadn’t been the reason. No, Ellia was sensitive to people's needs, she always had been. She hid it well, but she could tell when someone was faking it or if they really were in need. This man needed an escape, of that there was no doubt, but more than this, he needed to remember to survive. His ordeal had brought him to a point where he had lost his will to live. She had seen in him a desire only for death before he caused betrayals to his honor. As she slept with him, she had realized the depths of his fear of becoming a betrayer. Only tight Deryni controls over his mind had kept him from harming himself in desperate efforts of escape. Those controls were unbreachable by her own small talents.

Ellia was not Deryni. She knew about those people and their ways. Not always God given ways as they would like to portend. Her grandmama had been the village seer, a woman who could  find water underground when droughts set in; who could warm her hands producing sparks to light a flame. She could sense people’s emotions and know when they lied. Ellia had learned much from her grandmama. Some called it second sight but her grandmama called it the blessings of mother nature.

Ellia had not planned to slip into the prisoner’s cell this last night. She had planned to spend the night gossiping with the other girls about the warrior in their midst. Then to dream about holding such a man as he. It was only supposed to be dreams, no more. But then she’d drawn the short straw that night to go to the kitchens to bring everyone back a pitcher of warmed mead, one that the chief allowed the girls every night. She never got that far. The seneschal had seen her in the corridor, he had called her over. Fear filled her mind only to find the seneschal placing a full goblet of wine in her hands and ordering her to follow him down to the cells in the dungeon. Was it really the Deryni prisoner’s touch that had made her moments later slip back into the cell to see him? Yes it was. But not in the way everyone thought. He had not possessed her with that touch, rather he had provoked her need to help him. His sad melancholy words of forgiveness for her bringing such devastating drugs to his mouth had set her heart to pounding. How could she not have come back to him? How could she not.

The dawn was lighting the road ahead of her, she would have to be mindful of riders. Someone might send a search party after her. That brute Otis would for sure. He had been sulking around the female servant’s room when she had tried to return in the predawn hours. He had been drinking and was full on jealous of the prisoner and the bath the girls had given him. When Otis  caught Ellia out of her room, he went into a rage. He didn’t believe Ellia’s story about fallen asleep in the prisoner's cell. Ellia’s save came from the other girls who pulled her in their room, slammed their door in Otis’s face, and bolted the door tight. Theirs was the one key not on the guards key ring, for obvious reasons. The girls had gathered around Ellia then to protect her. They heard her tale of going back in the retrieve the goblet, getting locked the prisoner’s cell, and then drinking some of the wine only to fall asleep to the drugs with in it.

The girls had oohed and awed over that for a minute, just like they had after giving that warrior his bath. Not so gullible, the senior girl looked Ellia straight in the eye and asked, “Amaryllia Aldan, tell us what really happened!”

Ellia shied, but then she whispered. “I kept the him alive by keeping him warm, for I swear to you, he was on the brink of a cold death after what the Seneschal had given him.”

The girls went mad with speculation then, Ellia said no more, but her blush was enough to give her away. “You're  getting out of here, before day break!. Before Ottis returns! He will kill you and you know he will. That warrior is a prisoner for ransom. He is a high nobleman, but he is in no position to lie for you, nor to protect you. And neither can we.”

Quick as they could, the girls had bundled up Ellia’s things in a blanket. They tied the bundle to her waist and threw a cloak over her shoulders. The senior servant girl and one other took her down the the pastern door. While the other girl distracted the guard on duty the senior girl stole the keys of the post and opened the heavy set door just a crack. The moment Ellia had slipped out the door, it shut hard behind her, the lock turned to its home. After which Ellia had no way of turning back.

She had two hours of running down the road,before the forest ways began warming to the light of the new day. Amaryllia slipped off the road and into the trees. It was rough country, but she had grown up here. She knew once she reached the creek, she could follow it down to the stream; this would wind its way to Droghera. That is where her sister lived with her husband. She could seek refuge with them. The cheese-maker had an attic room, they would surely let her stay in. A cheesery would not be as harsh a task master as the baron’s estate had been.

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #559 on: September 15, 2018, 03:15:44 am »
Columcil mused that it was as well that he was comfortable with his own company for it was clear that neither of his companions was likely to be making easy conversation. Aliset as Robert had taken her usual deferential place at the rear as befitted a squire, but that had not been at all to Darcy's liking.

"How can I protect you riding back there, woman!" He had snapped.

"I'm not yours to protect !" Had come the equally barbed reply. "You've been dismissed from my service and we're not yet wed."

"Leave her be, lad.I doubt we're in any danger here." Columcil had advised and got a glare for his pains as Darcy swept by to take the lead. They had ridden in stony silence since, leaving Columcil praying fervently that once these two were wed the emotion which now could find its only outlet in anger would find its expression in mutual passion. Though he was celibate, he was neither naively innocent nor a prude, and he much preferred the thought of bedding down with the horses by night and ignoring what other sounds might come his way than riding by day in this icy silence.

After a while Darcy reined Sigrun in and came to ride beside Colcumcil on Shadow, slowing the pace to a walk. By the look on his face, he was looking for a target for his frustration, and it appeared that he had found one in Columcil.  Well better himself than the lady.

"I'm not sure that this is the right thing we are doing." Darcy began. "What if the king has someone else in mind for Lady Aliset. I know what my hopes are but I didn't  expect them to be granted like this. I don't want to get her into more trouble than she's got for herself. I can live with royal disapproval  for myself, but I'm not prepared for her to live under its shadow. I'm beginning to wonder if this is not all your idea and nothing to do with Archbishop Duncan or the King."

"I can assure ye tha' his Majesty..." Columcil was beginning reassuringly, but Darcy interrupted,

"No offence Father, but maybe our stay in Rhemuth has turned your head just a little? You're a country priest after all, and though his Grace the Archbishop has been kind to you, I doubt that you are as close in the King's counsel as you maybe think. I'm prepared to believe his Grace told you about Aliset but I'm beginning to have my doubts about the rest."

Darcy 's tone had moderated to a kindly condescension which Columcil found far more annoying than his anger. Why was it people only said "no offence" when they were intending  to be offensive. Darcy had a fair point though, and it spoke well of him that he was determined to do right by Aliset. There was really only one way to reassure him, it would mean breaking confidence but so much had happened that he hardly thought it would matter.

"Yer concern fer yer lady does ye credit lad, and it's no a bad thing t' be a wee bit wary - mebbes if we'd aul bin mair canny puir Washburn wad be wi' us noo. An' ye've nae dout the reet o' it tha' th' Archbishop would'na be sae open wi' me wi'oot good reason."

Columcil stopped to draw breath and realised that Darcy was staring at him. just stop  blethering and oot wi'it! he told himself.

"Look, lad, yer a Deryni, so read the truth o'this. I cannae prove it ta ye, but I swear 'tis God's own truth. Archbishop Duncan is ma grandsire and he's kennt o' me since afore I was ordained. His Grace o'Cassan sired me tho' he'd nae mair idea o'it than ye til these few days gone. So aye, y're in the reet o' it, I'm a wee priest from the country, but it's no ma swellit heid that's talkin' when I'm tellin' ye wha' ma grandda's orders for ye are."

With that Columcil let his pride and irritation with Darcy get the better of him. He whispered to Shadow and the stallion sprang with ease into a canter leaving Darcy staring with his mouth open.

« Last Edit: September 17, 2018, 11:12:43 am 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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #560 on: September 17, 2018, 03:50:59 pm »
*My thanks to revanne for getting this started on a better path after setting the stage with her previous scene, and to Evie for skillful editing, insights into Aliset, and for knowing how to spell "braies." *

Darcy Cameron sat astride his horse, his mouth still agape, watching Father Columcil ride on ahead of them when Aliset reined in Spean beside him.

“You’ll catch a fly soon if you sit like that,” she quipped.  Darcy’s mouth snapped shut.  “What did you say to annoy him so?”

“I told him what I thought was the truth, but nothing is what it seems to be….”  His sentence drifted off.

“And that was?”  Aliset prompted, uncomfortable with the confused look on Darcy’s face.

“It’s not my right to tell,”  he said firmly.  “We’d best not let him get too far ahead, but we’ll give him some space for now.”   He fought down a momentary urge to turn Sigrun around, head for Desse, and sign up on the first ship that would take him.

They rode that way until Columcil slowed Shadow as they approached the valley.  Darcy drew alongside and said simply, “Beg pardon, Father, for my presumption.”

“Nay,” Columcil said.  “I’ll fault no man for speaking his mind.”  Darcy nodded and urged Sigrun forward, resuming his place in the lead.  Aliset looked at the priest questioningly, but when he said nothing more, slipped in behind him in her proper place as squire.

The sun was grazing the tops of the trees as they approached the church with its square tower.  The valley seemed peaceful, washed clean of the mayhem that had occurred on their last visit.  Much quieter than the current turmoil in Darcy’s mind as he tried to make sense of everything and finally gave up.  His life would be what it would be.
Darcy could not stop himself from scanning the grounds for man-traps and trip wires as they dismounted.  He detected nothing amiss, to his heartfelt relief.   They tended to the horses’ needs first, and Aliset retrieved the script she had brought from Rhemuth.  She then walked toward the church with the others.
“You’re still minded to become formally betrothed?” Father Columcil asked as they reached the steps leading into the church.
“Aye, Father,” Darcy said and looked sidelong at Aliset, feeling a pang of guilt for his earlier temptation to flee.
“I believe we have already stated so, Father,” Aliset said formally.  “I would like a few moments to prepare myself and make some…adjustments, if you don’t mind?”
“You can slip around the corner near the tower.  I’ve a few things to tend to myself,” the priest replied.
“I’ll keep watch,” Darcy said.  “From here,” he added quickly, in case he had given offense again.
Aliset nodded and moved off toward the tower, caught up in her own thoughts.  Suddenly she turned and said, “I promise not to run off.”
“Nay,” Darcy said.  “You run towards trouble; I’ve never seen you run away.”
Aliset’s eyes lit with unexpected humour.  “And you are trouble?”
“Usually,” Darcy admitted.  For the first time in that long afternoon, Aliset smiled at him.
Columcil reflected that they deserved each other, but kept that thought to himself.  He opened the church door and entered to make his own preparations, including a moment of prayer if he had the chance.

Darcy looked in the direction of the tower, but Aliset had already disappeared around the corner.  He stood quietly for a bit, gazing across the valley to quiet his thoughts.  After partial success, he removed his cap and laid it to one side.  He used both hands to sweep the numerous strands of pale hair away from his face and then slapped hose and tunic vigorously to remove as much travel dust as possible.  The noise prompted the priest to come to the door to see what was amiss.

“Beg pardon, Father,” Darcy said for the second time that day.  “I was just trying to make myself a bit more presentable.”  He straightened his plain brown tunic.

“You look better than the last time we were here,” Columcil suggested.

“Aye, not so torn and bloodied, for sure.  Still,” Darcy added wistfully, “I should be wearing an Isles’ kilt and doublet. Of course, it would help if I actually owned both.  When all this is over and Sir Washburn safely rescued, I may have to make a few adjustments of my own.” 

“There is something to be said for adjustments,” the priest said, looking beyond the younger man.

Darcy turned and looked at the woman who approached them.  Aliset wore a blue linen gown, still wrinkled in places from being crammed into her script.  Around her slender waist she had tied a simple girdle.   She had released her hair from her border braid and it cascaded in brown waves to reach below her waist.

“Breathe,” Columcil said softly.

“I’m not sure I dare.”   Darcy bowed deeply as Aliset joined them before the door.  She nodded and held her hands loosely clasped before her.

“Shall we proceed?” Columcil asked.

“Wait,” Darcy said suddenly.

“Lord Darcy?” Columcil asked, the incredulity clear in his voice.  Aliset looked startled.

Darcy turned to face her, took both of her hands in his own and went down on one knee before her.  Aliset’s eyes widened as Darcy took a deep, steadying breath.

“Aliset de Mariot,” he said.  “I can only offer you what I am.  But I pledge to you to do my best to make you happy, even if we don’t always agree.   And I pledge to do my best to keep you safe from harm, even if at times you make it a bit difficult.”  He paused for breath.  “Most of all I pledge to love you with all of my heart, for the rest of my days and beyond, if you will consent to walk beside me as my wife.”

Aliset looked at the man kneeling before her, his face serious, his sincerity clear to be seen in his pale blue eyes, and felt a sudden surge of tenderness.  She had not anticipated this moment when she’d left Rhemuth, but now that it was upon her, she realized she wanted nothing more than to be this man’s wife.

“I will,” she said.  “I freely give my consent to walk beside you as your wife.”

Darcy lifted her hands to his lips and kissed each one.  He rose to his feet.  “Let us proceed, good Father.”

Father Columcil studied them both for a long moment.  “I’ve a mind to just go ahead and marry you and be done with it.  You’ve both declared your intentions clearly enough.  I see no good reason to drag it out, and God alone knows what the next days will bring.”

Darcy and Aliset looked at each other, both hesitating to answer first.  This was unexpected, and neither of them were prepared for it.  Shields snapped into place to hide their innermost thoughts.  Aliset took a deep breath and answered first, lowering her shields as she did so.

“I am willing,” she said. 

Darcy lowered his shields as well, not realizing at first that he had raised them.  “Aye, I am willing.”

Father Columcil opened his cherished prayer book and began, hoping God would grant this couple contentment in the lifelong commitment they now made.

 It all proceeded smoothly, until Columcil asked for the ring.

Darcy looked startled.  “Ring!  I need a ring.”  He looked down at the Heir’s ring on his right hand and started to remove it.

“No,” Aliset said.  “You need to keep your ring, in case we are separated.”  She pulled the small ring on its chain that he had given her out from the front of her tunic. “This one will do.”

“But it’s so small; it won’t fit you.”

 “It will fit well enough.”  She slipped the ring off the chain and placed it on Columcil’s prayer book. 

At the priest’s nod, Darcy took the ring and slid in on the little finger of her left hand.  It made it as far as the second knuckle and lodged firmly. “We never do anything quite the normal way,” he said.

Aliset laughed.  “I doubt we ever will,” she replied.

Amen, thought Columcil.

Then it was done; they were rightfully married before God.  Darcy hesitated a moment to kiss his bride once he was given leave to, not sure how she would react.  His kiss was gentle, and if it lasted a little longer than he intended, Aliset did not object.  Father Columcil led them inside the church to the altar which he had already prepared for the wedding mass.

“Father Columcil,” Darcy said as they left the church.  The day had passed into twilight.  “Will you join us for our wedding feast?”

“You brought us a feast?”  Columcil asked.

“Well, not exactly.  I did not manage to find us a fine wine, or any wine, for that matter. I did manage to convince one of the kitchen staff that we needed a meat pie for our travels.”  Darcy looked at Columcil.  “I might have mentioned that I was travelling with an aging priest.”

Columcil looked heavenward and then asked, “I don’t suppose you brought ale as well?’

“I might have a drop or two somewhere.”  Darcy retrieved his sea bag and carefully withdrew a large, cloth-wrapped meat pie. 

“How do you do it?” Aliset asked.

“The Quartermaster taught me well.”  Darcy grinned at her.

They sat comfortably on the grass before the church.  Darcy served them large portions of meat pie and cups of ale.  At first the conversation was awkward, but Columcil told them some amusing and slightly scandalous tales of his childhood in Transha, resulting in giggles from Aliset and chuckles from Darcy.  As the conversation began to fade, Aliset noticed Darcy staring beyond them into the darkness.

“Do you see someone?” Aliset asked quietly.

“No one here,” Darcy replied.  “I was just imagining that Sir Washburn was here and wondering what he would say to all of this.”

“He would congratulate you both,” Father Columcil said, “And give you his best wishes.”

“Maybe,” Darcy said.  “Or be telling tales not fit for a bride.”  At the look on Aliset’s face, he added contritely, “Or maybe not.”  After a moment he said quietly, “Aliset, if you would prefer, we could wait until we find an inn with a private room….”

“Nay, Darcy,” Columcil said into the silence that followed. “‘Tis better not to wait.  An unconsummated marriage can be challenged.  Best not to take the chance that Oswald turns up to make a claim to her.”

“I’d kill him,” Darcy said.

“You still might, when all is done, but not tonight.  There’s nothing wrong with a soft bed of heather, and I’ll bed down out of the way with the horses.”

Aliset realized that what Columcil said was true, and she wanted Oswald to have no claim to her!  She wished she had more time to prepare, to calm the nerves that almost had her shaking.

“I will never force you, Aliset,” Darcy said softly.  “You have my word.”

“I know you would not,” Aliset said.  “I must agree with Father Columcil; we”

Darcy found a secluded spot near the square tower and spread a blanket over the heather.  Father Columcil blessed the simple marriage bed and then withdrew as he had promised.  Darcy produced a second blanket to lay over the first. 

“I’ll be over there until you are ready.”  He pointed generally at some trees and walked quietly away.

Aliset’s hands were shaking as she removed her clothes and slipped between the blankets.  She was beginning to wonder if Darcy was going to return when he reappeared wearing only his braies, the rest of his clothes draped over his arm.  With his pale colouring, he could have been a ghost, but his muscular chest and arms, scarred in several places, reminded her that he was not.

He deposited clothes and braies not far from the blanket and slid in beside her.  She felt the warmth of his body as he lay there.  Quietly, he slipped his arm under her shoulders and moved to pillow her head on his arm.

“Do you remember how to find the North Star?” he asked her.

“Yes,” she replied, her voice puzzled at the question.

“Tonight, I’ll show you how to find south,” Darcy said.

Aliset stared at him, wondering if he had gone mad!  A lesson on the stars on their wedding night?

Darcy was undeterred.  Soon, the quiet assuredness of his voice encouraged Aliset to relax, and by the time he completed the lesson, and it had been a short one, Alset was feeling much more comfortable.

Darcy shifted his position to look into her eyes.  “Precious Aliset,” he said as he gently kissed her left eyebrow.  “You are the only star in the night sky I will ever need,” he kissed her right eyebrow,  “To always guide me safely home.”  He kissed the tip of her nose and then kissed her lips.

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

 -- Old English Litany


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