Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 38831 times)

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Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #495 on: July 07, 2018, 02:25:12 pm »
Columcil had left the King's withdrawing room still supporting Lord Jaxom. He was glad that this had prevented him from making anything other than the most perfunctory of  bows in the King's direction, given that what he had actually wanted to do was to shout,

 "Bletherin' idiots the lot o' ye!" at those seated at the table.

He had not been so gut wrenchingly angry for a very long time. As a youngster he had been prone to fits of temper, driving his mother once, he now remembered, to let slip "just like yer da!" but she had immediately clammed up and the skelping he had received had driven any thought of asking her any questions out of his mind. And the years of training in self-discipline which he had received as a priest had meant that he rarely gave way to his anger.

Now he was quite simply blindingly, burningly furious. Young Washburn, who they all seemed to look down on, or at least the lad thought they did, was in God knew what straits, thanks to this pillock who seemed to have nothing between his groin and the baron's circlet he would one day wear, missing out on a heart or a brain. The man -and even in his thoughts Columcil nearly spat the word - was driven purely by lust and pride and his only punishment was that charade of a staged apology which any fool should have known would end as it had. And now it was poor Darcy likely to face punishment for doing what any decent man would have done. While he, Columcil, was expected to do the Christian thing and heal this, this creature!

Still thinking maledictions against the King and his grandfather -aware but too angry to care that at least in his thoughts he was committing lese-Majeste, clerical insubordination and getting close to blasphemy- Columcil marched Jaxom along the passageway to the infirmary, those they met taking one look at his face and deciding that it was safest to stand aside to let them past.

Jaxom too was angry. He had had time to recover from his fright in the dungeon, his pride already beginning to gloss over the memory of his humiliation. He had done what was asked of him with becoming dignity, and done his duty by the lady by warning her against further tarnishing her already dubious reputation whilst doing her the honour of offering her the protection of his company. He hoped that the presumptuous scoundrel would be properly punished, though he was unlikely to be here to see it. Tomorrow he could put all this behind him, and let Prince Javan see his true worth, as they rode out together.

He had little time for this rough country priest, and could not begin to understand why he seemed to be made much of by his Grace the Archbishop, and might in other circumstances have been disposed to be affronted by his presumption. But he had been witness to his healings, and as long as the man could do his job, he was prepared to be gracious enough to accept his ministry.

At least the man was not trying to talk to him, thought Columcil, or God help him he'd be sore pressed not to punch him too. And he really needed to pull himself together or he would not be able to heal him, and even  angry as he was, he did not want to have that sin on his conscience. As it was, when next he made his confession, he'd likely be wearing out his knees and his rosary in penance.

He knocked softly on the infirmary door and politely nodded to the sister who opened to them, vowing to himself to make a great effort to avoid the border brogue that others seemed to find so hard to understand.

"I've a healing to perform, Sister, would you be so kind as to show us to an available room. "

The young sister nodded, dividing a bobbed curtsey between the priest and the injured man, a lord by the look of him.

"Yes, of course, Father. Come this way please."

Columcil gestured Jaxom to go first and followed slowly behind, praying that he would be given the grace to overcome his own sinful thoughts. As they entered the room to which they were directed, his eyes fell on the wooden crucifix and he felt further humbled. Christ had prayed for his killers to be forgiven; who was he to resent healing for a fellow sinner? "Lord, I am not worthy," he prayed desperately.

Speaking to Jaxom for the first time, Columcil found that he was able to be gentle enough.

"I will need to touch the wounds, so you will need to strip down to your hose. I will try my best not to cause any further pain but please try to relax as much as you can."

As Jaxom took his finery off and revealed a body that was tanned, the marks of the scars and bruises of hard training evidence that there was more to him than the popinjay that was all that Columcil had previously  seen, Columcil found it easier to think of him as any other suffering human being to be healed by the grace of God. The dressing covering the wound at his side had marks of fresh blood on it and Jaxom  winced as Columcil pulled it off, revealing a thrust that was still raw and angry. He nodded to Jaxom to lie down on the pallet and knelt down beside him. He had half expected some sign of disdainful hesitation at following his instructions, but Jaxom had lain down obediently and without a word.

((Columcil  heals Jaxom 5+3=8 3xj8g5vf8v ))

Columcil  bowed his head and prayed for grace, blessed himself then making the sign of the cross on Jaxom's brow allowed himself to slip into healing trance. He felt Jaxom relax beneath his hands and first moved his fingers over Jaxom's face moving the bone and cartilage of his nose back into their proper alignment. He slipped his hands round the back of Jaxom's head and then down his shoulders willing the blood to flow strongly and ease the bruising away. He no longer even remembered that it was Darcy who had inflicted these wounds nor as his hands moved into the wound at Jaxom's side, that this had been inflicted by Washburn in his desperation to save Aliset. He prayed that no infection had got into the wound for though it had been dressed it was a day old and the edges were raw and weeping. The edges closed under his fingers and knitted well together leaving only a slight red line but he could not be entirely sure that the internal wounds had healed so well. He would have probed further but Jaxom had begun to move restlessly under his hands and as he himself came out of trance he found that he had no desire to prolong the contact any longer than was absolutely necessary.

((Hit points recovered "1d6" : 2.   2t9lvfl5jp. Probably full healing given the nature of the injury but leaving open the possibility of complications in the future ;-) ))

"You should have sought healing for this earlier." Columcil chided him, as he helped him to sit up and swing his feet around to the ground. "There is no virtue in unnecessary suffering."

To his surprise rather than take offence at the sharpness of his tone Jaxom went white and the usually proud set of his shoulders slumped as he looked at the ground. Tonelessly he replied,

"I was forbidden to do so by his Majesty, until he bade me do so, that the pain might serve as a penance for me." He looked up, though he would not meet Columcil's gaze.

"He also ordered me to seek a priest for confession. Will you hear my confession, Father?" He laughed angrily. "If I am to be further degraded it might as well be in front of one who has already seen me suffer humilation."

Without waiting for a reply Jaxom slipped off the pallet onto his knees at Columcil's feet giving the priest no option. Columcil had to fight himself not to step away, but he knew he had no choice. He could hardly say,

"No. I find you dispicable and I would as soon lay you flat."

He reached into the breast of his cassock and brought out a thin strip of purple silk which he brought to his lips before slipping around his neck. Well if Jaxom had had his penance, so now did he. As Jaxom began the formulaic words, "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned," Columcil's eyes went to the crucifix and he too repeated them in his heart.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2018, 03:13:23 pm by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #496 on: July 08, 2018, 01:21:54 pm »
((Laird Seisyll is Ritual trained, he is attempting to set a trap on the City Portal that is in the White Rose Boarding house cellar. 2d6 if a 5 or 6 is rolled then the dice are summed and that is the Portal number. The trap will be made so that it instantly ports the person back to where they came from. Results 6 + 5 = 11 Verification Number: 11rfrk69db.  Kind of a waist of a good roll. Funny how that happens. ))

Laird Seisyll felt the tingle of Power surround his hands and then a  surge over the portal stone. Even his hand fire had dimmed with the amount of power that he managed to summon to trap the stone. It was a good trap. Benign in most circumstances. Unless attuned, it would simply push the jumper back to where they came. Only if the jumper was unable to return to whence they came, then it was set to pushed the jumper on to it’s sister portal, the one at riverside. That part was easy, as the two Portals were already attuned to each other as they had been for centuries. What would be tricky was jumping into the Riverside portal trap without feeling for it before hand. Until the trap there was fully dismantled and reset to something less dangerous, the jumper had best beware.  As for jumping out, unless you were attuned to it. Under most circumstances, one could not. ((Roll must be greater than an 11))

Seisyll attuned this portal to all of his blood relatives, that was easy enough. He even could attune it to Earl Brendan as his aura was still present in the stone.  Whether to attune the landlord or not was a difficult question. One that would have to be given by Royal Permission. As to the goods in the Cellar, that to would have to be decided by Royal decree as well. It would take many wagons to empty the full contents of the cellar if the King chose to confiscate all the goods. Best make a tally sheet of what was here. So that he could make full report to Kelson and then the landlord will have to present himself before Kelson’s next court to determine the fate of his goods.  At least no arrests would be made, as the landlord was willing to concede to what ever the king decided.

((Oh and PS. During the last night Brendan had tried to dismantle the Riverside Portal trap, but he had failed. I rolled for this several days ago,
03:38 Brendan Brendan attempting to untrap the portal. need a sum of 11.
03:39 Brendan !roll 2d6
03:39 derynibot 5, 2 == 7))
The untrapping of the Riverside portal failed. So unless someone else can roll an 11 before the disarming wears off at midnight, and which point it will need to be disarmed again before it can be untrapped. Small silly details.  :P))

Offline Bynw

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #497 on: July 08, 2018, 04:23:00 pm »

During the ride from Ratharkin, the Grand Duke speaks with Lord Brioc de Paor of Trurill. "Master Feyd will be arriving at our mountain fortress soon. And he will have the son of Alaric Morgan with him. Our assurance that the Haldane's will keep their distance during the campaign. The love that Kelson shows to the Morgan's is to be our advantage. See to it that Master Feyd is promtly paid for his task. There is to be no bartering with him, he is to be paid what his contract states."

Brioc de Paor, the father of the Pretender Queen of Meara listens to the great Deryni Lord, the Grand Duke Valerian, his future son-in-law. "My Lord, Master Feyd asked for nearly a King's ransom in payment. And we are getting only a knight of the realm for it. Surely we can lower the coins we must deliver."

Valerian's eyes narrow abit as they ride. "Listen to me carefully Brioc. Pay him want he wants and get him out of our castle as quickly as possible. The Portal will need to be retrapped after he leaves so he cannot return without us knowing." There is a tad bit of fear in the Grand Duke's voice that is noticed by Lord Trurill.

"We do not wish to anger the House of Baordah," the Grand Duke pauses as he remembers another Deryni that had cheated the Torenthi Order of assassins and what was found of him later. "There is no cheating the Black Order of Death without becoming a target yourself. Pay him quickly so he takes his leave quickly. There will be no more discussion of this."

The Grand Duke and his future father-in-law ride in silence the rest of the way.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #498 on: July 09, 2018, 01:10:25 pm »
The sound of the cheering from the people of Ratharkin followed the Queen’s party until the gates of the city closed behind them.  Archer suspected Oswald had kept the crowd stirred up to make a good impression. 

As soon as the road turned east to follow Llyn Tywyson, the lead knight furled the royal banner of Meara.  Archer doubted they wanted to continue to advertise the presence of the pretender queen as they traveled, though a party lead by four knights would hardly go unnoticed in the local area.  The order of the riders changed as they traveled farther from Ratharkin.  Grand Duke Valerian and Brioc de Paor moved ahead to ride together, and Queen Sidana moved back to ride with her two ladies. 

The road along Llyn Tywyson was well maintained, so they set a brisk pace.  The Captain of the guard looked back at Archer, reassessing the new man in the group.  So far, he could find no fault, but time would tell.  “Keep up, Archer,” was all he said before turning back around.

“Aye, Captain!” Archer said and touched the bottom edge of his cap in a soldier’s salute.  He needed to appear competent enough to remain welcome within the party, but not so competent as to draw unneeded attention.

In general, conversation was minimal; the group were concentrating on reaching whatever destination they were bound for.  Archer did notice an intense conversation between Valerian and Brioc.  The noise of the horses and harness prevented any chance of overhearing what was said, and Archer could not see their lips, but he noted that Brioc seemed annoyed.  Momentarily, Valerian’s noble posture did not look quite as confident.  It passed almost immediately, and Archer could not be sure he had seen it. 

Archer was surprised they continued at the current pace without slowing for the ladies to rest.  If he judged their position correctly, they were almost at the spot where the Tharkane River flowed into Llyn Tywyson.  He soon saw that his reckoning was correct.  They continued to follow the road along the river for a short distance until the lead knight signalled for them to slow.  He turned them onto a rutted path that lead to an old gatehouse.  Years before, there had been a small barge here to take travelers across the river.  In summer, when the river was no longer swollen from the spring rains, it was shallow enough to ford easily.  The barge had become unprofitable, and the wood salvaged for other uses long ago. The gatehouse remained, though the walls were sagging, and most of the thatched roof was gone.  A weathered shed behind the gatehouse appeared to be in better condition.  The men began to dismount.  Brioc helped his daughter down from her horse, and two of the knights assisted the other women.  The soldiers dismounted as well; Archer was glad for a chance to stretch his legs.

“Archer! Elwyn!” the Captain called. Archer and another of the soldiers secured their horses to a substantial, nearby bush and came forward.  “Take her Majesty’s horse and the others,” he indicated the Grand Duke’ horse and the others of the royal party, “and water them at the river.”

“Aye, Captain,” responded Archer.  Two of the knights removed the saddle bags from the horses before the reins were handed to Archer and Elwyn.  The knights moved toward the shed as Archer and Elwyn led the horses to the river.  Archer turned as subtly as he could to watch as the queen, her father, Valerian and the two ladies followed the knights to the shed.  The two horses he was leading were eager for water and now demanded his full attention; he could not watch longer. 

The horses drank thirstily, and Archer casually looked back toward the shed.  There was no sign of movement.  Stopping the horses before they could drink more than was good for them, he and Elwyn guided the horses back to the others.  The two knights returned empty handed from the shed, and there was no sign of Sidana, Brioc, Valerian or the two ladies.  Surely, they were not having a private lunch inside the shed!  Could there be a Portal here?  That would explain much.

The Captain gave the soldiers leave to look to personal matters and partake of the rations that were provided from one of the bags on the pack horse.  Archer sauntered toward the shed, but his senses told him he was being watched closely.  He went no further than the nearby brush and relieved himself.  Any opportunity to edge closer was forestalled by the Captain calling for them to mount up.  Archer hastened back to the others.  No one seemed perturbed that the rest of their party did not rejoin them, and Archer asked no questions. 

The four knights again took the lead, followed by the Captain and the soldiers.  Now each soldier led a second horse, Archer’s the same dependable pack horse as before.  They forded the river and followed a path that led toward the Rathark Mountains. 

Elwyn looked over at Archer.  “You’re not afraid of heights, are you?” he asked.

“Not so far,” Archer answered. 

“Good thing, and best hope it stays that way.  It gets steep where we are going.”  He laid his hand across his brow and leaned over as if looking a long way down.

Sir Iain Cameron urged is mount forward.  He hoped it was as sure-footed as the pack horse seemed to be.  The sheer cliffs below Isles’ Castle had never bothered him; narrow mountain tracks might be another matter.  Perhaps he was being teased.  Either way, he would soon find out.  The goal was Valerian; he would focus on that above all else.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #499 on: July 10, 2018, 12:29:14 pm »
For the ladies of Rhemuth Court, the morning was not proving to be any less stressful than the day before. Quite the opposite; eminent war was seen at every instance, including the pendant for His Royal Highness, which several women rushed to finish the last of the edge embroidery. The one moment of reprieve had been that knock-out of a blow from the Heir of Isles, who fiercely defended the Lady de Mariot’s reputation from that loot of a worm, even at the wrath of the King. Now that had been solid proof that Chivalry was not dead. Duchess Grania wanted to hug the seaman in thanks, but sadly, it had occurred in the presence of the king in his castle where laws reign. If it had been anywhere else, in a less regal venue, say a smaller castle’s great hall or a lively pub room or some other place where lords need not maintain an air of calm and decorum befitting their ranks before the king of the land. Well than, Lord Darcy would have been honored for what he had done. Just now, that young lord was contained in his brother’s apartments, not knowing his future. Leaving the poor Lady Aliset to brood over what possible future she might have. If others heard of Lord Jaxom’s accusal, whether they believed him or not, the the young maiden’s reputation  was in ruins. Her lands stolen her reputation sullied, what did the girl have left? Grania told her for the fifth time, she had the backing of the royal ladies at court. With the support of the Duchess of Southmarch, the Duchess of Corwyn, and the Queen of Gwynedd this small setback would be corrected and her reputation improved upon. Grania gave Aliset her word.

All too quickly, there after, it became known throughout the castle that the Haldane lancers with the collective armsmen called forth from the duchies of Haldane and Cathmoor under Prince Albin would be ready to march at noon. Those two armies  were seen to be camped beyond the north walls of Rhemuth. Even now the camps were seen to be coming down as men prepared to march North.

Aliset’s hands had been too shaky to handle a thread and needle with any accuracy. Grania had pulled her to the window bench and returned to her the book of poetry from her chivalrous defender. The words on the opened pages seemed to ease the lady’s distress.  There beside her, the duchess found her own needlework in the token she intended to bestow upon her husband at his leaving.

Nerves seemed under control until the moment Grania’s eldest brother appeared in the Queen’s tower. He requested their mother come apart from the ladies, to join him in another window alcove. Earl Brendan’s face was far more tense than Grania had seen him be in decades. He held his mother’s hands between his with a firm grasp. Their words were few, their rapport was long. Then his arms surrounded his mother in a tender embrace, his check leaned against her hair as the older Dowager Duchess crumpled into his chest. Brendan held his maman, comforting her with words that he knew were not enough. Giving up, he pulled his mother to her feet and walked her over to his sister. His eyes beseeching that Grania find a way to ease their mother’s pain.

“Lil sis, I know you have much on you plate. But know that you, second only to the queen are what the men of this realm go to war for and stand for. With all three of your brothers and your husband in Meara, I need you above all others to believe that our cause is right and just. We will see that this rebellion is squashed and that our kingdom and our family is not compromised. You need to hold our home in your stong heart so that we have what we need to come home to.”  Brendan came forward, hugged his youngest sister, sat his mother down in the settee beside her, and bowed deeply to both ladies as he gave his farewell. “I will find Washburn, I will see Kelric and Javan safe and victorious; both our families will be well and whole again. This I do swear!”

After he had turned and left, only then did the Dowager Duchess of Corwin turn to her daughter and lay her head upon her daughter’s shoulder. “All my boys,” she sobbed. “He took my husband, my love, my happiness. Now he will take my sons, the very men I boor from my own loins. I’ve tried to be strong. I can’t do it anymore, I can’t do it!” And with those words the matriarch of their family cried a torrent of tears.

Grania wanted to cry too, for they were her brothers and her husband who were marching to Meara. “Brendan, Kelric and Javan are all strong men, loyal to family and king. They will prevail, maman, you must believe that they will.” She said the words not just to convince her mother, but to convince herself, too.

“My youngest, he was loyal and strong too. But now..., his soul blinded… that is what the note said. What does that mean? Is it possible that he could be turned from all that he loved? No one would ever have accused him of disloyalty, not ever. What if brother has turned on brother. What do i do?!  What do I do….?” Her voice faded into the folds of Grania’s sleeve.

Queen Araxia came then to sit beside her eldest friend. She gathered Richenda’s clinging arms and brought them to surround her own shoulders. In her weeping  Richenda barely noted the change from daughter to friend. “Grania, the love of my son,” the queen said in quiet tones. “Go. Go to your husband. Tell him, no show him the love you have for him. Show him what is in your heart. There is precious little time. Know that it is often the man who has love to sustain him, is the man who finds his way home. Show him that there is more than just children between you. He is yours and you are his, that with faith and prayers we will help to guide him. Now go child, go to Javan. I have your mother in my care.”

Grania stood, her knees weak as she curtsied. Then finding hidden strength, she rose up, kissed the check of her mother and the check of her mother-in-law and ran for the door. A guard followed as she hurried down the hall to her own apartments.

Araxia guided Richenda away, back to her own rooms. 

Lady Aliset sat silently in the morning sun, which streamed through the latticed window. She consider the fate and expectations of women in hard times like these. There was so little that they were allowed to do, other than give their support and their love to their men. Hold the home front and give the men reason to come home. Certainly there must be something more that women could do. She may not have realized it then, even a week ago, when she was merely trying to escape a woman's fate, but she did realize it now that a woman could hold her own in a group of men if given the chance to do so. She had been one of them, and they had respected her for it. What could she do if she was given that chance to be a man again?
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 02:08:48 pm by Laurna »

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #500 on: July 11, 2018, 07:02:51 am »
Columcil came out of the infirmary wishing that he was in reach of the holy well dedicated to St Winifred that lay only a few miles to the north east of St Melangell's shrine. He wanted nothing more than to wash the taint of the royal court off him. He imagined for a minute being totally immersed in the ice cold pool, then purging himself, body and soul with a draft of the bitter spring water.

Rhemuth might be as beautiful as rumour made her, the King was awesome in his majesty and power, both temporal and magical, but the place was corroding his soul. Nothing had gone right since they arrived. Washburn had been treated like an errant school boy and excluded from the king's council leaving him vulnerable; Aliset had been separated from those who had been her best protection and left open to harm and threatened shame and Darcy, true and loyal to her to the depths of his being, faced royal censure for doing what no-one else had had the courage, or it seemed the will, to do.

And he himself had been fooled into believing that his grandfather thought well of him, when all that he was was a convenient tool. Having to hear Jaxom's confession had been the last straw. Oh, it had been honest enough as far as it went, but the man remained totally oblivious to his real sins of arrogance and selfish desire, and he had all too obviously come to see his coming
service in Prince Javan's company as a sign of royal favour. The penance the man needed was a month shovelling muck from the bottom of garderobe shafts; the hour on his knees which had been the worst that he could impose on him in the limited time left before the army marched out, would probably only serve to impress him with his own piety.

He had had enough. He would seek out his grandfather the Archbishop, ask for the recognition of St Melangell's as a healing shrine that had been the purpose of his journey, fetch Spean from the royal stables and turn their faces to the west.

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 #501 on: July 11, 2018, 01:15:54 pm »
Darcy Cameron pulled one of the chairs closer to the window in his brother’s apartment and opened the window to catch the morning breeze before the day became too warm.  He watched the activity below.  He’d been at sea too long not to recognize the signs of men readying to ship out, or in this case, march out.  There could be no doubt that Prince Javan’s forces would be leaving soon.  Carts creaked as they were moved off to be loaded with provisions.  Men stood in small groups for short periods and then dispersed to reform again into new groups.  Riders arrived with messages for the leaders closeted with the king; other riders left with instructions for the leaders outside the gate marshalling the men.   Controlled mayhem created from good order and discipline.  Darcy sighed and then startled at the knock at the door.  He crossed the room in quick strides and opened the door to find Robert standing there.

“King Kelson commands your presence,” Robert said.  His face was mostly expressionless, but Darcy thought he saw a hint of sympathy in his eyes. 

“Well, let’s get this done with.”  Darcy buckled on his sword, closed and locked the door.  He no longer needed to be shown the way to the king’s withdrawing room; the path had grown too familiar.  Robert walked at his side, saying nothing.

Robert knocked on the withdrawing room door and stepped inside to announce Darcy. Darcy whisked stray strands of pale hair back from his face and squared his shoulders.  He would not have done anything differently; he would pay the price.

Robert opened the door wider and motioned him forward.  The king sat alone at the table at the end of the room.  Prince Javan was absent; Darcy surmised he was working on the logistics of departure.  Darcy approached halfway to the table, bowed and then went down on one knee.  At a nod from the king, Robert remained just inside the door.

Kelson studied the young noble before him for a long moment.  Pale blond pale hair, icy blue eyes, calm demeanor.  This was not the first time Darcy had faced discipline. 

“Lord Darcy,” Kelson said.  Darcy bowed his head briefly in acknowledgement.  “There are some things We can turn a blind eye to but brawling in Our presence is not one of them.”

Darcy looked mildly surprised.  “I freely admit to striking Lord Jaxom,” he said, “but I would hardly call it a brawl.”

Kelson gave him a hard look.  “If We call it a brawl, it is a brawl.”

“As you wish, your Majesty.”

Kelson thought Darcy was coming a bit too close to impudence; but he had not crossed the line quite yet.

“We cannot send you north with Prince Javan.  You are aware that Lord Jaxom accompanies him; We do not need skirmishes among Our own men.”

Darcy nodded and remained silent.

“We are removing you from your employ as Lady Aliset’s man-at-arms.  You will instead escort Father Columcil back to Saint Melangell’s.  Robert O’Malley will also accompany you.”

Kelson saw the young man’s jaw clench in anger.  His face, however, became an impenetrable mask.  Sir Iain had the same skill.

“Who will ensure Lady Aliset’s safety, if I am not here?” Darcy asked, his voice not betraying the turmoil he felt inside.

“She is under Our protection.”

Darcy looked at the king levelly; he did not need to say what he was thinking.

Under other circumstances, Kelson would have been furious at the perceived rebuke.  But the man had reason to be concerned.  What had happened earlier should never had occurred.  “We were complacent; adjustments have been made.”

“Has Lady Aliset given her consent?” Darcy asked.

“As We stated, she is under Our protection,” the king said firmly.

“I will trust in your judgement, your Majesty,” Darcy said, the tone of his voice giving nothing away of his inner thoughts.

“That is the official explanation for your absence,” Kelson continued after a moment.

Darcy’s face showed a hint of surprise.  “Your Majesty?”

Kelson motioned for Darcy to rise.  “Your official mission is otherwise.”  Kelson picked up the parchment on the table before him.  The edges were still crumpled.  “You need to be aware of this.”  He held it out for Darcy to read. 

Darcy took the parchment from the king’s hand and read what was written.  The carefully controlled mask of his face cracked.  His hand convulsed, and the parchment was crumpled for a second time. “What does this mean, your Majesty?  What does it mean that his soul is blind?”

“I suspect Sir Washburn is under the mental controls of the man who captured him. Just as Lord Jaxom was, but probably far worse. He is in a very precarious situation, and We can make no direct move to rescue him.”

‘Do you want me to find, him, your Majesty?” Darcy asked.

“No, that task is given to Earl Marley, though officially his looking for the man who captured Sir Washburn.  He rides out today with Prince Javan.  Your task is to find the fortress.”

Darcy looked thoughtful.  “I believe I can do that, your Majesty.  But what do I do then?”

“We believe that Washburn will be taken to the fortress, which is likely under the control of Grand Duke Valerian. Your task is to maintain vigilance, watch for any opportunity to assist in setting Washburn free.” Kelson paused for a moment.  “If you succeed, or if Washburn leaves on what appears to be his own accord, stay with him and report on his actions.”

Darcy gave the king a sharp look.  “Sir Washburn is to be considered a danger, if he is free?”   

The King of Gwynedd nodded, wishing he could deny the fact.  “Valerian is a very powerful and ruthless Deryni.  You need to be aware that if Sir Washburn has fallen into his hands, Sir Washburn can no longer be trusted.  Duke Alaric Morgan defeated Teymuraz in a dual arcane,” at Darcy’s blank look, Kelson added, “a battle of magic. Valerian will use the son of Alaric Morgan to the worst possible outcome to exact revenge, even against Washburn’s own brothers.”

“Am I to stop him, if it looks as though he might succeed in any treachery?”  Darcy did not like asking the question.

“Aye, you are.  Can you do that, if it is required?”  Kelson asked solemnly.

Darcy did not answer immediately; finally, he replied.  “I will if I must.  But surely Sir Washburn is not totally lost to us?  There are things we can do?”  The distress in Darcy’s voice was clear.

“That is why Father Columcil travels with you.  His Healing talent may be able to unravel, or at least mitigate, whatever has been done to Sir Washburn.” 

Darcy considered all of this.  “How will I keep you informed of our progress?”

“You understand rapport?” the king asked.

“Aye, your Majesty, but my success at the skill has been limited.”

“I’m sure you will improve with time, but time is a luxury we don’t have.  Father Columcil will report your progress to Archbishop Duncan.” 

Darcy nodded.  “When do we leave, your Majesty?”

“After Prince Javan has departed; probably not until tomorrow after things have died down a bit.”

Darcy asked one final question.  ”Your Majesty, does Lady Aliset know I will be leaving?”

“Queen Araxie will inform her.”

“Your Majesty,” Darcy said carefully.  “By Your leave, I would prefer to tell her myself.” At the king’s questioning look he continued.  “I would want her to know that I am not abandoning her without cause.”

Kelson considered the request and nodded.  “Very well.  You are no longer confined to your brother’s quarters, but I want no further trouble.  We have enough to deal with as it is.”

“Aye, your Majesty.”  Darcy bowed and backed toward the door. 

“Lord Darcy.” The king spoke before Darcy reached the door.

“Your Majesty?”

“How many of the stripes on your back were due to impudence?” Kelson asked.

“A few, but then I learned to be more subtle,” Darcy responded.

“Keep working on that,” Kelson advised.

“As you command, your Majesty.”

Robert opened the door and followed Darcy out.  Kelson Haldane watched them leave and hoped he had picked the right man.
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 Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #502 on: July 13, 2018, 12:43:10 pm »
Just sleep, he told himself, don’t wake up, please, just don’t. Trouble was, he was consciously saying this to himself, so it was too late to continue on in a dream state. Well-aware, he tested his mental senses to see if he could learn where he was before he actually awoke.  The lack of that ability hit him hard. The world beyond his closed eyes was devoid of all perception.  He was blind. The life-energies that he knew permeated from every living thing was just not accessible. This quelching of his Deryniness, a sense he had never lived without before was as horrific to him as was his captivity.

Sir Washburn Morgan opened his eyes in order to discover where he was.  He saw the scattered stones all around him, the noon sun glaring down from the missing roof of this old Michaeline ruins. Recognizing his surrounds brought a sigh of relief to his lips. At least his captivity had not progressed to the next stage. He felt fortunate that the hot sun did not beat down on him; his bed furs lay in the shadow of the small protrusion of what was left of the overhanging roof. Near him also in this shaded area, his captor leaned over a small black leather bound book, his quill marking off a small check list and he scratched additional words on the facing page. That his only companion was Feyd and not the dreaded Grand Duke of Treachery made Wash smile a greeting to his assassin captor.

“I am so happy to see you. I feared I would awake in a far worse place than this.”

Feyd just shook his head. “Oh that will come soon enough. Tomorrow morning in fact. I am sure the fortress dungeons will be wonderfully drafty and cool, much better than this heat. Then there is the stank of that place. That will give your senses enough to occupy your mind. You will be grateful then, that you can not feel the misery of the other prisoners, men that have managed to survive in there since the fortress’s take over last year. I was amazed to see that some still lived. I assure you, you will be quite happy about having taken the drug that dulls those senses. I almost wish I could have, when I was last there.”

“You have a strange way of looking at the positive.” Washburn said dryly.

Feyd gave his captive a wide scary grin. “I am so glad we are starting to understand each other.”

Despite the heat, Wash shivered. At first he thought it was uncontrollable fear overwhelming him, but then as his stomach revolted, he realized this was a much more physical reaction to the drugs he had awoken from. Muscles barely reacting to his desperate need, Wash rolled away from Feyd, scrambled awkwardly to his feet-- amazed to discover they had not been retied-- and then he stumbled the few steps toward the far corner, a place hot in the glaring sunlight. There he wretched and wretched until his whole body ached and his head pounded.  When he thought there was no more, he wretched again. Shaking all over, Wash was surprised to see Feyd standing next to him, looking concerned. The assassin poured water onto a cloth and handed it over for him to wipe his face and hands. He even offering the water skin for him to drink from and clear his cloying throat. At first Wash pulled his hand away from the skin. Being drugged again made him want to wretch more.

“It is clean water. You are dehydrated. You need to drink this.”

“I would like to trust you, but we both know I can not.”

“Trust that I need you whole at delivery tomorrow, so that I will not get cheated out of my full payment. I will have my payment, and it will be in full.”

Wash nodded at that, took the offered goat's bladder and drank a huge gulp before he could discover if he'd been betrayed or not. Amazed, the water was as Feyd said it was, it was cool and clean. Wash took two more gulps before Feyd took the skin back. “Not so fast, you’ll make yourself sick all over again. Your a Healer, you should know this.”

The knight wiped his mouth one last time and gave a sarcastic laugh. “Was a potential Healer, you mean. You have taken that away from me.”

Feyd gave him a penetrating look for a moment, one that Wash could not decipher. “Oddly, I don’t think that I have.”

“Have? What?”  The pounding in Washburn’s head was easing, but not yet gone. There was much about his captor he could not understand.

“Your Healing ability, there in lies a mystery.” Feyd motioned for Wash to return to the shaded furs, his gaze still had a queer look as he watched the knight stumble back.

Briefly Washburn gave a full glance at the sun drenched ruins, looking again at the low spot in the wall, but then remembering the drop that was beyond the wall. Reluctantly, Wash followed Feyd and sank down to the furs on his knees. “Wish I had discovered Healing so much sooner than I did. I could have studied it and learned it. That is something I would like to do before I die. I do not know if it is just because I finally succeeded at it, but the feeling of accomplishing such an act of compassion was --exhilarating. I mean to Heal rather than to wound was simply a Blessing of the Soul.” Wash put his face in his hands for a moment. Knowing he might never feel that Blessing again. “You wouldn’t understand.”

Feyd’s sudden grasp on his arm froze Wahburn in fear, but all he felt were fingers rubbing his skin under the cut in his tunic. There was no pain in that moment of harsh abuse and Wash looked down at his own arm remembering the cut that had been there but was there no more.  Yesterday, he must have imagined that he had been cut, Jaxom’s sword must have missed him. Only the cut of sleeve fabric remained: that and dried blood. Feyd looked troubled and Wash could not grasp to understand why. 

Feyd sat down in the shade opposite, gathered back up his journal, he began making new notations.

“Is that for this job of yours or the next one?” Wash asked curious to know what was being written.

“The next job, it is complicated. All the pieces have to be fit together perfectly.”

“Planning would be key, wouldn’t it. So I am sure you must already have this job planned to the “T”. Is there nothing I can do to spoil those plans.”

The scholar part of Feyd looked up amused. “I am sure you think that you want to spoil my plans. But the truth is, you need to see my plans carried out to their full fruition. Stop trying to best me. It will only lead you to more harm. And I assure you, what I have in mind will be the best outcome for everyone. Well everyone else, anyway.”

“That is wonderful,” Wash responded dispondantly. “Happy to do my part.”

The scholar actually laughed. “I like you, I really do.”

“I’m a likable kind of guy, never one to betray a friend or be disloyal to a vow. Of course, I can not recall any vows taken, so how can I be disloyal. As for friends, I remember so few that I am sure I will not be betraying any of them. So what the heck! Are you going to tell me what it is that you want me to do?”

‘In do time,” Feyd said with a grin. “For now, I have things I need to work out. Why don’t you find something quiet to do. Like… like read that scroll I gave you. That way you can say you studied Healing before you die.”

Wash raised his eyebrows, not liking one bit of the doom and gloom of his near future. “You said it was poorly translated, impossible to read.”

“True. The monk who transcribed it was at least sober through the first half of the writing. The closer he got to the bottom, the more drunk he got, until no word is legible. Look, we only have one afternoon. The first half of the scroll should keep you plenty occupied, you can learn and I can get some of my work completed in peace.” He looked at Wash like he was a taskmaster scolding an errant child.

Wash rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whatever you say, Master.” He found a more comfortable means of sitting and pulled the scroll out from inside his tunic. A cursory glance through the long roll proved the first half was indeed legible. The lower half was a mix of good and bad words, the bottom was a language all unto its own. Rerolling it back to the top, he began to read.

The opening was a list of physical body parts and organs and what each did to support the function of the body. Skin- the largest body structure to armor and protection against all outside influences. Muscles and tendons-hundreds of individual forces that pulled and relaxed to move the body each with its own fine tuning of the bodies motion. Skeleton-the inner frame that gives form and stability. Intestines-that which digests foods and absorbs the substance need for living and pass out that which is waste. Liver- the largest organ that takes the good humours found in the digested food and lets the body utilize what is needed. Kidneys-that pull the bad humours out of the blood and collect those ills in the urinary bladder to be discarded. Heart and  Blood- the life force that carries good humors and bad humors to every part of the body.

These were all things that Wash knew, yet it was interesting to see it written in this way. Moving down the scroll the subject turned to finding a Healer’s balance of energy and in using the hands to guide that energy to the location where it could be used. Centering and focus was the most important: the soul had to be calm to find that balance. Wash had experienced this, too. Father Columcil had showed him how to find that calm. The thought of the good father, made Washburn smile. He really had liked that Healing Priest. He hoped he found what he had sought for in Rhemuth and that the man could return to his home untarnished by the events Washburn had submitted him to. “May blessings go wherever you go, good father,” Wash said under his breath. When Feyd looked up from his writing, Wash shook himself and went back to his scroll.

He could not practice what he read, he wished that he could but he remembered all that he had done to learn to Heal. He read on. Healing wounds was the simplest tasks explained first. It was bringing the normal process of the body’s repair to  do in moments was would normally take much time. The techniques described were interesting and Wash read this several times.  Next was setting bones. This was more complicated. It took knowing what the proper bone alignment should be before beginning. If a question arose about what that alignment should be, the scroll recommended studying the opposite side of the body injured. Noting that it would be a mirrored image but it would show how to envision in the mind the broken bone whole. Wash had yet to try this. He stored the information in the back of his mind for the day that he could try it.

The afternoon moved on and Wash did not even notice that Feyd had moved from his writing and was again mixing a new recipe of herbs.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 12:57:26 pm by Laurna »

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #503 on: July 15, 2018, 04:11:12 am »
A nofc kake arizicy, ome moc co re accenbceg ok cefceg xicwouc a Nafcek op Wealimq bkefemc, if cwe Weazimq arizicy op Boxek Rzovsimq. Cwe Rzovsimq op Gekymi Boxekf is refc zeakmeg pkon a Nafcek Weazek xwo vam imfckuvc amg ketekfe amy ganaqe cwac cwe fcugemc nay vaufe gukimq cwe zeakmimq bweaf….

Washburn had skipped down to the first two sentences of the last two paragraphs on his scroll.  The misplaced lettering made him feel dizzy and he wanted to be sick all over again. What was this monk who wrote this on; some hallucinatory drug for sure. Not just a mere alcohol. The reminded the Lendour knight that he would welcome a cool ale about this time.

Not trusting anything other than the water skin that Feyd carried with him, Wash at least let himself have a good swallow of the water.  He rubbed his eyes and he looked around him. The afternoon was getting on. He had just spent more time studying one writing than he had ever spent in one sitting before. But it beat the alternatives. Learning this scroll was a thousands times better than being drugged unconscious or thinking on his doomed future. Tomorrow, he would wish that he had killed himself today, there was no denying that he was headed for Hell, in this world and the hereafter. He should have jumped off that wall. Why had he hesitated? That had been his one moment, likely his only moment to escape his future. Yet as bad as he knew his future was to be, the more he had hope that something would change. He did not believe he was worthy of a Miracle, yet he could not give up Hope. Just the word alone was enough.

“Hope!” he said loud, before he took another swallow of water. Not to upset his captor, Wash purposely cowed a little from the man's gaze and went back to studying his scroll.

Back to the middle of the scroll he read a very brief description of medicines. The scroll did not elaborate, as these were covered in other non-Deryni writings. But it did stress one medicine that could only be made by a Deryni Healer.

“Talicil is the mainstay of the Healer’s pharmacopeia. It is a fever reducer and it cleans bad humours in places of open wounds in the skin. If ingested in wine, it controls fevers of the body.”

A recipe followed: listing several ingredients. Then it explained that the mixture was to be flash boiled by the skill of a Deryni. The layering to be separated, the upper portion discarded and the lower thicker portion to be flash cooled to a paste before the two layers could mix back together again.  Washburn gathered up his courage. “Do you have these five herbs listed here?” he asked the scholar.

The scholar Feyd looked at the recipe. Since it was his scroll, he already knew what it said. “I do, but I don’t want to waste my energy making that. We don’t need it right now.”

“What if we do need it? If I can not heal and something happens, this ointment is the best defense for staying well. You said you wanted me well for tomorrow.”

“So what now? You are planning to attempt an escape, again; planning to hurt yourself and fail. Stupid! That is what that is.” Feyd glared at Wash with a flash of anger. “Of course I won't make the Talicil. So you had best not injure yourself in any way. Any wound in that dungeon will fester and rout. Better to stay healthy until you can take the Blue Fyre and escape? That is what you should be concentrating on, getting vengeance for your father’s murder and escaping with your life.”

Wash very much doubted that that opportunity would present itself. “Forgive me, beloved father,” he said under his breath and turned his back on his tormentor to continue his study of the scroll.

After the recipe, he started to notice the words began to be misspelled. He did his best to overlook the misspellings at first.  With each new paragraph the misslettering increased. 

“Calicil can be used boch copically and indjesced….”*

“Che ocher inporcamc Healing drugs are- sphagnun noss amd pemicia, a bluish powder chac is excracced fron nolds, amd Namdragora for sedaciom….”**

Washburn gave up on that paragraph, he had no experience with medicine. What good would that ever do him. He hoped the rest of the scroll explained more on how to Heal, how to find the proper balance. But all he read were more misspellings.

“Wamd placenemc is crucial to Wealing. ‘Cu es namus samacio nea--cwou are ny Wealing wamd upom chis world.’ Cwe placenemc of the wands closesc to che sice of Wealimg brimgs che balamce of good Wunours co che area meeded nosc...”***

Wash wanted to scream and throw the scroll away. What good did it do to study gibberish. In his frustration he felt light headed and dizzy.  He would have loved to ask for a slice of bread, but how could he dare it. Better to be sick than to be drugged. If it weren’t for the drugs he wouldn’t be sick, he corrected himself. He looked down at the scroll once more. An odd sensation of a hand covered his. Letters seemed to highlight on the sentence he was reading and change shape. Like in a dream he could read the words inscribed there.

“Hand placement is crucial to Healing. ‘Tu es manus sanatio mea--thou are my Healing hand upon this world.’ The placement of the hands closest to the site of Healing brings the balance of good Humours to the area needed most...”

Washburn read the whole paragraph on the using of hands in Healing and he was more than a little awed by the pair of hands that rested upon his own.

((*Does Wash recognize that all the letter "T" are misspelled as "C" in the second half of the scroll. This is disadvantage roll because he is drugged and one less pip than his usual 4,5,6 success, yet he is still intelligent and able to think well, so therefore success with a 5 or 6. Rolled = 4 - he would have figured it out if he had not been drugged - Verification Number: 4zd5kb260s, no luck))

((**Does Wash recognize that all the letter "M" and the letter "N" are swapped in the second half of the scroll. Same reasoning as above. Rolled 4 - again he would have figured this out if he had not been drugged- Verification Number: 2bnr5hr3bk, no luck))

((***Does Wash recognize that all the letter "H" is misspelled as the letter "W" in the second half of the scroll. Same reasoning as above. Honestly some misspelling has to trigger that there is a code. Fingers crossed. Rolled 5 Verification Number: tl753b9m20.  YES!  seen on the 3rd letter change in the second half of the scroll. ))

« Last Edit: July 15, 2018, 11:17:38 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #504 on: July 15, 2018, 03:19:09 pm »
"What now, my Lord?"

Startled, Darcy Cameron looked  at  Robert O'Malley.  He realised that he had been staring blindly at the preparations being made for Prince Javan's departure.  They were standing at the base of the castle steps.  Darcy knew what he needed to do next; he simply didn't want to. 

"I need to speak to Lady Aliset," he said finally.  "There's no point in putting it off."

Robert nodded and they crossed the courtyard to the Queen's Tower, giving way as required to those intently focused on their pieces of the puzzle that would be turned into the formidable force of men marching off to Meara.

The guard gave them permission to enter the hall.  Robert spoke to a young page, who bowed respectively to Darcy and left to deliver the lord's request to speak to the lady.  Darcy tried to gather his thoughts into some sense of order and decide how best he could tell Aliset what the king's verdict had been.

She came too soon, accompanied by the page and an older woman.  Darcy and Robert bowed, and Aliset nodded her acknowledgment.  She was looking intently at Darcy, not understanding the guarded look on his face.  Darcy spotted a padded window seat not too far away.  He motioned toward it and stood until she seated herself.  Robert, the page and the older woman remained a discreet distance away.

"Please sit, Lord Darcy," Aliset said.  "Tell me what the king decided."

Darcy took a deep breath; he wanted to speak carefully, perhaps dispassionately, to make this easier for Aliset.  "The king has removed me from your service," he blurted out, unable to contain his own despair.  "He's sending me away to escort Father Columcil back to Saint Melangell's."

"No!" Aliset exclaimed.  "That's not fair."  She held out her hand, not caring if they were being watched. "Show me."

Darcy hesitated, wondering what he was allowed to share and what he was not.  But Aliset deserved to know at least something of the mission he was leaving on.  He placed the palm of his calloused hand on hers and rolled back his shields.

(No dice roll required; Darcy has gained experience in this basic skill by now.)

Aliset said nothing as the images rolled across their rapport.  At the end, she squeezed his hand and then withdrew from his mind.

Aliset's mind was filled with a whirl of emotions: despair that Darcy would not be at her side, anger that what had happened to her and Jaxom's part in it had caused this, and finally fear for Darcy's safety.  He was no where near trained enough in magic to face someone like Valerian, or even Washburn.  She shuddered.

"My Lady, don't despair," Darcy said quickly.  "Father Columcil  and I will be fine, and Saint Nicholas willing, we'll bring Sir Washburn safely home."

"I know you will do your best, Lord Darcy," Aliset said, "but you are not skilled enough in magic to counter whatever you may face.  When do you leave?"

"Tomorrow, probably as early as possible, though I have not spoken to Father Columcil yet.  I don't know if he has been informed."

"That doesn't give us much time," Aliset's face looked determined.

"My Lady?" Darcy asked, uncertain what she intended.

"I'll need at least several hours with you this afternoon."

Darcy looked alarmed.

Despite the situation, Aliset giggled.  "To give you as much training in magic as possible.  I'll concentrate on what is likely to help you the most.  And I'll probably need to adjust your training controls a bit."

Darcy looked doubtful.  "Will it be allowed?"

"I'll speak to Duchess Grania.  And it's not like we'll be left unsupervised."  Aliset thrust her chin in the direction of the older woman, Robert and the page.  They stood watching the pair on the window seat, maintaining discreet vigilance.

Activity at the entrance to the hall drew everyone's attention.  King Kelson entered;  Darcy and Aliset quickly stood to bow and curtsey as did the rest of the people in the hall.

Kelson spoke to one of several pages who suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  "Please ask the queen and Duchess Richenda to join Us on the steps.  Prince Javan is about to depart."

The pages scurried off to deliver the message.

"We should also go to watch," Aliset said to Darcy.  "It is a most impressive ceremony."
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 #505 on: July 15, 2018, 04:34:08 pm »
Columcil drew a deep breath and relaxed as he drew in the familiar aroma, the aroma which spoke to him of peace and simplicity. He supposed that he should have gone to the midday office in the Cathedral but there was always the possibility that the Archbishop would be there and he had no wish to attract his attention. In fact, in his present frame of mind he was not sure that he even wanted to be in the nearer presence of God, or at least not God as he seemed to be worshipped in Rhemuth. Give him the God of the fields and meadows, the God who had granted sanctuary to Saint Melangell as she fled from a forced marriage.

He had thought that he was bringing Aliset to sanctuary but those who had claimed the right of protection had all but allowed her to be abducted while of those who had truly sought to protect her, one had given his freedom and most like his life in her defence, while the other faced royal discipline for daring to protest the sullying of her good name. And the one whose pride and lust had opened the way for her would-be abductor was even now preparing to ride out in company with his Prince, flags proudly flying.

He was sorely tempted to rid himself of this fancy garb, dress himself in his old cassock, travel-stained as it was, and simply ride out though he supposed that, bound by obedience as he was, he really must seek audience with the Archbishop before he left. First, though, he had sought solace here with the pure in heart. Breathing deeply again he savoured the aroma of the hay scented air and buried his face deep in Spean's mane.

"Your father used to do this when he was angry or distressed. That's how I knew how to find you. You have his way with beasts."

Columcil had been aware of another human presence for some time, and who it was, but damning protocol he had chosen to ignore it.

"Your gentle lady here would not begrudge me just a little of your attention, I am sure."

As the voice continued Columcil realised that he was not going to be left alone, but blessed St Melangell!, he would not let down his guard this time. He raised his head and turned towards the Archbishop, who was dressed in the plainest of cassocks, and who appeared quite content to be standing alongside him in Spean's loosebox. Don't let him draw you in, he warned himself, and as formally as though they had been in the King's withdrawing room he sank to one knee and taking the episcopal hand, though Duncan had not extended it to him, kissed the ring.

"I crave your Grace's pardon. Your humble servant, my Lord."

"I would prefer to be greeted rather less formally as your grandfather, I doubt that these beasties will give us away. Please stand."

"As it pleases your Grace." Columcil stood but there was no lessening in his rigid demeanour and Duncan sighed. This was going to be even harder than he had thought.

"I think it is fairer to say that the manner of this conversation is as it pleases you. Give me leave a moment," this as Columcil made to protest, "I understand why you are angry, but please do us all the credit of understanding that the King has no choice but to discipline Darcy much though he would prefer not to."

"The King's grace mun do as he pleases." Still there was no unbending in Columcil's tone and Duncan could no longer contain his exasperation.

"Of course he can't. That's the whole point! Part of the reason why he is so angry with Darcy is that he wanted more than anything else to hit Jaxom too. If he could have acted as a man and not the King he would have thrashed the daylights out of him."

Speaking with difficulty, his brogue slipping back in, Columcil allowed. "I ken well enow tha' Jaxom wasna' ta blame fer tha' some evil yin had control o' him. But ta let him ride oot wi his Highness, his heid swellin' wi' the pride o' it, whiles Darcy, puir loyal Darcy, is na dout bein' hauled o'er the coals doesna sit well in ma gut."

"That is why I have come to speak to you." Duncan looked almost pleadingly at Columcil as he continued, "Can we go somewhere a little more private. There are things you need to know and although there is no-one here at the moment with all the activity around Prince Javan's departure we cannot count on that for much longer."

Columcil still bore his look of ice-cold respect but even as his mouth was opening to speak Duncan's pleading look turned back to exasperation and he snapped,

"If you say, 'As your Graces pleases' one more time, I swear I will punch you as hard as Darcy punched Jaxom. Merciful God, you are as bad as Alaric ever was for getting me riled up. Trying to sort all this out will take a miracle, the King is at his wits' end and you getting on your high horse is the last thing we need."

Spean stamped her front feet hard as though she knew that Columcil was in some sort of trouble and she didn't like it, and, as if in response Washburn's great stallion reared in his own box and neighed angrily.

Duncan smiled sheepishly, "Not my best ever phrasing in the circumstances. Now, please, can we go before your defenders really decide to teach me a lesson."

Columcil knew that it was his own anger that had unsettled the horses and things could only get worse before he was through with what he had to say. He did not want harm to come to either of them; Spean had carried him faithfully and he had come to have a great fondness, too, for Shadow Dancer. Irrational though it might be, he felt that allowing Washburn's beloved mount to injure himself would be a further betrayal of the young lord. Despite himself he could not help but admire his grandfather's courage in coming to speak to him like this, and his refusal to hide behind the authority of his office, What he had said about the lack of privacy was true enough. He still could not bring himself to acknowledge their relationship but he searched for a less provocative form of assent than he had previously used, acknowledging that he had deserved a far more severe reprimand for his mannner of speaking,

"I'd truly no' like that ta happen, m'lord. Och, I ask yer pardon for ma insolence ta ye. I just dinna ken wha' ta mek o' all this."

As Columcil made his apology, to his horror he found that he was on the edge of tears and bowed his head to hide his eyes, hoping that it would be taken for a gesture of submission, though he knew that Duncan was perceptive on too many levels for there to be any chance of that.

Duncan knew better than to offer any comfort but merely said,

"For a number of reasons I should like to take you to the Cathedral sacristy. We can be private there and there are things that I need to show you, as well as the explanation you deserve. I fear we shall all be in need of pardon before this is over. Shall we go?"

Columcil patted Spean one last time, extending calming thoughts to both her and Shadow, and followed Duncan out of the stables feeling that he had just sabobtaged his best chance of escape.

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)


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