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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 65245 times)

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Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #570 on: October 06, 2018, 05:26:10 am »
The Baron of Isles had his full focus on the Portal stone under his palms for several minutes. Shaken by what he learned, he sat back on his haunches, his hands brushing his knees as if to wipe the filth of the stone off his hands. The trap Valerian had placed here had a bitterness in its essence. The grand duke had had cause; his future father-in-law had just been stabbed and poisoned by a man Valerian feared. It was a telling moment during the prisoner’s exchange and payment, where Valerian’s overt respect for the master assassin became clear. Iain wondered if the grand duke knew about the Black Order of Death. So very few did. Perhaps it was mere happenstance that the Order had picked up the contract for kidnapping a Morgan. He supposed that if another assassins’ guild had picked up that deal first, they would have backed out the moment the Order became involved. Most likely, Valerian had put out the word with his discreet underworld contact. It was a simple deal, a large payment for the kidnapping of a high noble, the target being the youngest son of Alaric Morgan. Upon successful delivery of this man, he would pay. No Morgan, no deal. Most likely Valerian experienced dismay over Master Feyd’s first response that he would complete the deal. At which point the deal was in play, impossible to stop. To Iain’s viewpoint, Brioc’s double-cross on the payment and Valerian’s quick responding over-payment proved to Iain just how unsettled Valerian had been by Feyd’s close proximity. At that point it had nothing to do with Morgan and everything to do with ridding themselves of Feyd. The strength in the trap on the portal stone was further proof of it.

Iain took in a steadying breath. What all this meant was that even with every effort he could muster, he would not be capable of breaking this trap. It would take a master of the arcane and several subordinates supplying energy to succeed.  Iain avoided Sir Washburn’s stare as he spelled out the problem. “Valerian has trapped the Portal in such a way that only himself and a few of his trusted advisors can leave here. I don’t think we can leave this way.”

“What!?” Washburn exclaimed, just remembering to keep his voice down. “This is madness! We need to be out of here before someone finds us!” Wash scanned the upper gallery. There would be an entrance up there from the third floor; a guard could patrol the gallery at any moment.

“Actually, we need someone who is attuned to this thing to find us,” Iain corrected Wash. ”What our lives will depend on is just how few we can attract as we bait the hook for the right man.”

“What about him?” Washburn asked, pointing to the felled guard.

“He’s a bit too dead and a bit too human. What we need is a Deryni, one who's been granted permission to come and go from here. We will need some part of him anyway: a hand, a finger, or a cup of blood should be an activating trigger to the portal. Just like what was used in the library annex when you were abducted.”

“A hand, you say.” The knight raised in a chivalrous court winced at the prospect. Killing in battle was one thing. Taking off a hand was punishment meted out by prison guards, not knights of the realm. “If it means our escape, then I can get that if there is no other way.” Washburn considered the methodology. “Who will our target be? How do we get them in range of being abused?”

“We use her,” Iain nodded toward SIdana. She was standing silent and still, outwardly as pretty as a doll, inwardly as ferocious as a caged lion. “Let’s pray we can handle those who come when we have her make the call. We can’t afford to waste too much time either. We need to escape before Valerian returns and finds us. I don’t relish an arcane battle with him.”

“He murdered my father,” came the dangerous clear tone of Washburn’s low voice. He would take up that battle in an instant. Yet after a moment, he brushed aside that vengeance. “We are better off making our escape with her than taking the risk of battle with Valerian.” He settled on agreeing to Iain’s plan. “Could we kidnap the girl’s father? Lord Brioc might not be as human as he claims. His daughter surely is not.”

“Wouldn’t want to attempt kidnapping him. When the girl left her father’s side, he was protected by a guard detail and a physician. Like I told you, we don’t want to go up the stairs. We need the right person to come to us.”

“You’re certain we can't break the portal trap with our combined efforts?” Washburn knelt down with his knees at the edge of the stone. He placed his sword on the floor beside him and then set both palms flat against the cold black granite. Using every effort that he had, he focused on the stone and searched for the portal’s signature.

He got nothing, other than knowing a portal was there; the signature itself evaded him.

“That is a waste of your energy,” Iain chimed in. “We don’t have the stamina to break down this portal trap. There are two knights with the grand duke and a lady or two close to Sidana. I am betting they are Deryni and they each can use this portal.”

The thought of harming a woman did not set well in Washburn’s mind. “Two Deryni knights, you say? I can best two at once. Would be better if you can manage to get the attention of only one of the two. If they bring the guard detail with them, that could be our downfall. Would it be easier to escape out the window?” Washburn sighed.

Iain considered that option for a moment. There were windows along the length of the south wall.  Windows that faced the courtyard and the gate house of the fortress. No one was scaling that wall without being seen. Iain could see Washburn making the calculations of escaping by foot. Both men came to the same conclusion at the same time. That was impossible. The portal was their only means of escape.

The Lendour knight took in a deep breath and let it out. “There is one other solution we have not considered. I swear to you that I will never be a prisoner again. Death first, or Madness!” He hissed the last word under his breath. His left hand reached into his tunic and fished out a leather cord. At the end of the cord was a smallish green-capped wine skin. “I don’t think this is the right time in which Feyd meant for me to use this. I think he wanted me to use it against the Grand Duke Valerian. Yet, I can think of no greater need than escape. One drink….” He caught his breath as he said it, then bolstered his determination. “One drink might give me the power to diffuse the portal trap. Two drinks would for sure. I could take on both knights at once if I had to after drinking two gulps of Blue Fyre.” He backed off a little from that thought. “Two is madness for sure. I’ll drink one gulp then and take my chances.  If it were just me, I would not take the risk at all. Easier to fall on my sword and be done with all this.” His sense of chivalry kicked in; he looked up at the pretender queen. What he saw was a beautiful woman in need. Not the enemy, but a pawn of the enemy.   “We have her, a great prize, indeed. If I do this, you can get her away, yes?”

“Wait, I’ll take the drink.” Iain held his hand out for Washburn to give it to him. Even under Iain’s compulsion to follow his orders, Wash hesitated. Something in the back of his mind kept him from handing across the wine skin. “Damn Feyd! Unless you want to fight me for it, I don’t think I can let you have it. I am not even sure I am supposed to have it just now; again something tells me ‘No’.” Almost fighting with himself, Washburn brought the flask to eye level. He closed his eyes, concentrated on steadying his racing heart beat and put his fingers over the cap, willing his fingers to pull out the stopper.  The madness that Feyd had described could not be worse than his last day spent back in that dungeon. He wouldn’t live long in anyway, he had made a deal with the assassin to kill him if madness was to be his fate.

His fingers never pulled the cap free, for in that second a current of air stirred above the stone. Where there had been no one a heart beat before, now a man was standing there-- a dangerous man that both Iain and Washburn instantly identified. The arriving Deryni was a few heart beats behind the other men to realize what was happening. It took those few seconds for him to recovered his equilibrium from the portal jump he had just made. Those seconds cost him much. The man before him was leaping forward; a man he knew as one of his guards. Still sharp from the necessary focus of making the jump, Valerian’s perception bounced off the guard's shields. This guard had not declared himself as Deryni to the captain. An enemy hidden in his ranks? There was another man kneeling behind Valerian, apparently human and harmless for he felt no shields there. In time that man could be handled. But not the charging spy, Valerian could not pull his sword before the guard crashed into him. ((-1-))

Iain was sharp and fast, taking advantage of the confusion in the grand duke’s arrival. Before anyone could pull weapons into play, Iain tackled Valerian's knees and knocked him to the floor. ((-2-))

The son of Teymuraz slammed his back against the polished stone. His landing put him within arms reach of the kneeling Lendour knight. It was then to his chagrin that Valerian recognized Morgan. Fury was in Morgan’s eyes. The sight of his father’s murderer sent Washburn’s heart to pounding. His mind screamed, Take the blue Fyre, take it now! Only he knew right well it was too late for that. The drug didn’t act instantaneously. This second was all he had to correct the horrors of the many days just past. The element of surprise would be lost if he didn’t attempt that which he could do. If the man recovered his wits before he tried, he may not get that chance again.

Washburn dropped the wine-skin back on its cord. His sword beside him wasn’t what he sought. His bare hand grabbed what he needed, the back of the enemy's collar. With a fist full of fabric, Morgan hauled his father’s murderer closer to him. Knowing his new talent well enough, he touched the top of Valerian’s head and searched for the trigger point. ((-3-))

He was too anxious, he needed his Healer’s calm. A man unconscious would have been easier to work with, or so had said that deciphered scroll. Calm was evasive, and so too was this man whom he was holding. Washburn clenched his fist to stop Valarian’s struggle to get away. Valerian didn’t make it, Iain pounced on the duke with determination and agility. ((-4-))
__________________
Rolls for round one of the fight:
((-1- Initiative test between Iain and Valerian. Rolled during second writing. First rolls were a tie. Second rolls in play
Iain   12:19 PM !roll 2d6
12:19 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 6, 1 == 7 gains initiative
Valerian  12:20 PM !roll 2d6
12:20 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 5, 1 == 6))

((-2- Iain’s attack Rolled during first writing
12:52 AM !roll 2d6
12:52 AM  <•derynibot> I'm back! 3, 5 == 8, successful hit))

((-3- Washburn’s attack from behind with 6XP success on 3,4,5,6
12:52 AM !roll 2d6
12:52 AM  <•derynibot> I'm back! 2, 2 == 4 failed blocking attempt, darn))

((-4- Valerian struggles to get in an attack on either man
12:25 PM !roll 2d6
12:25 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 1, 3 == 4 failed hit))
______________________

Iain was fastest again. His palm slammed over the grand duke’s eyes.  The full might of his mind slammed against Valerian’s shields. ((-5-))

Valerian’s body tensed as he strengthened those shields against this new attack. ((-6-))

Iain’s bombardment was as insistent as a battering ram against the gates of the mind. Valerian cowed by the pain. But the pain itself was not debilitating. Valerian reestablished his focus. He stilled his body, gathered his strength, and struck back like a cobra with a single shock wave that scorched the hand of the man who had been touching him. ((-7-))

 The Deryni guard was thrust away, his bombardment had come to an end. Paces away, he staggered to keep his feet under him. His hand cradled to his chest his head pounding from the blast.

A break in the violence prevailed for a second.  Valerian strengthened his shields and recovered from the full energy outlay of his attack.  In that second, Washburn's nemesis was distracted. That was all that Washburn needed. Focusing down with every ounce of calm he could muster, Washburn touched the side of Grand Duke Valerian’s head and released the blocking trigger. ((-8-))
____________________________

Rolls for round two of the fight:
((-5- Iain still has initiative. He is ritual trained. If he uses arcane power to attack Valerian, 2d6 roll success on 4,5, 6
12:28 PM !roll 2d6
12:28 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 3, 6 == 9 success hit))

((-6- Valerian save test from Iain’s attack
12:29 PM !roll 3d6
12:29 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 2, 1, 4 == 7 failed save test))

((-7- Valerian is spell master 3d6 arcane attack
12:30 PM !roll 3d6
12:30 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 5, 5, 3 == 13 success hit))

((-8- Washburn;s attack from behind. Rolled during first writing. 6XP to block Valerian success on 3,4,5,6
2:05 AM !roll 2d6
2:05 AM <•derynibot> I'm back! 4, 6 == 10 successful blocking))

_______________________________

For a moment in time, all three men froze. Iain assessed his injury and began to stand, bringing the girl over to stand behind him. Valerian lay still as a dead man in that moment.  He could not comprehend the sudden lack of shields and magic that prevailed through his body. And Washburn pulled himself back out of his Healer’s trance.

Iain was the first to move. His dagger was pulled from his boot and held firm in his hand as he once more used his lean agility to leapt at his enemy. He would take Valerian out, here and now and complete the job Kelson had paid him for. ((-9-))

Unsteadily the duke clawed his way back to his knees and braced himself to stand. His mind was filled with confusion; what had just happened to him? The dagger plunged into the duke’s side, then was pulled out, dripping in blood before Valerian could react. Staggering away, he tripped into Morgan. Horror filled his eyes, and he realized it was the son of his old enemy, who had done this to him. Morgan by some ancient mythical power had stripped him of his magic. ((-10-))

Valerian’s need to recapture Morgan and make him reverse what he had done gave him berserkers’ strength. ((-11-))

The clout of his fist caught Morgan hard in his ribs. Ribs barely Healed splintered anew. Morgan fell back in a breathless huff. Knowing he still carried Morgan's voice commands, Valerian leapt at the man’s throat and yelled, “Return to me my magic.”

Washburn struggled for breath, as hands clasped his throat. The fortunate thing was he couldn’t center into his Healer’s trance to comply to the command of the Grand Duke. That calm was an impossibility. “Get free of him!” was a second command from Iain. Neither command had president over the other, yet only one could be achieved in that instant. Washburn rolled to the side to free himself of man’s hold. Iain stood at the Portal Square, he kicked Washburn’s sword within reach of the knights outstretched hand. His fingers grasped the hilt, thrusting it up between himself and his attacker. ((-12-))

The blade missed its mark but it forced Valerian to jump away. 

The return swing of the blade was fast as lightning. Even before Wash had found his feet to stand, the sharp point pierced silk and chainmail and slipped through the ribs of his father’s murderer. “For you, papa,” Washburn yelled, pulling the blood-covered blade free of the man who staggered back to escape the sword’s reach. ((-13-))

_________________________

Rolls for round three of the fight:
((-9- Iain still has initiative. Dagger mastery 3d6 roll.
12:44 PM !roll 3d6
12:44 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 5, 4, 4 == 13 successful hit))

((-10- Initiative tests between Washburn and Valerian
Washburn first 12:41 PM !roll 2d6
12:41 PM  <•derynibot> I'm back! 6, 1 == 7
Valerian 12:42 PM !roll 2d6
12:42 PM  <•derynibot> I'm back! 5, 4 == 9 wins initiative))

((-11- Valerain only has his fist to fight with so disadvantage 1d6 roll
12:47 PM !roll 1d6
12:47 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 6 == 6 Great successful hit))

((-12- Washburn attack with his sword 3d6 mastery
12:53 PM !roll 3d6
12:53 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 1, 2, 2 == 5 Failed hit,  really?))

((-13- Washburn  Sword Mastery gets second attack with 6XP success on 3,4,5,or 6
12:55 PM !roll 3d6
12:55 PM <•derynibot> I'm back! 6, 5, 3 == 14  successful hit))

_________________________________

Fists on the door were pounding with a horrible racket.  Above in the gallery, feet were heard to be coming across the floor, faces were seen to  look down upon the chaos. There was no time to make a grab for the retreating enemy. For a moment, Washburn feared he had failed. He had not managed to sever the man's hand, nor even a finger. Had he failed in supplying their escape? He would have chased after Valerian, if not for Iain’s yell. 

“I have the portal signature, come away NOW!”

Wash jumped up from the floor, grunting as he did so. No time for the pain, no time! A quick glance at the gallery showed men moving into place, a short bow or two were being fitted with arrows. With great effort, Washburn leapt the few feet to land on his knees within the square of the Portal stone, falling against Darcy’s brother. The girl was already braced against Iain’s chest, his left hand firmly placed over her eyes. Blood of the trap’s maker was smeared across the faces of both of them. Washburn got the idea instantly. He rubbed his fingers along flat edge of his bloodied blade, then smearing the redness over his face. He had no shields to worry about, which reduced the timing of their escape. In the instant Iain’s hand touched him, the spy balanced the energy of the portal stone and wrapped it around all three of them. The trap was misled into accepting the three as the one attuned to it.  In that instant, vertigo swarmed Washburn’s mind. The jump was made. One heart beat, two heart beats, and suddenly they were standing somewhere else.

Iain collapsed as they reached the new place. Washburn already on his knees fell forward, both hands grasping at the reed carpet which hid this new portal’s edge. He daren’t waste time, not if he wanted his escape to succeed.  In a rush of what seemed like madness he pushed everyone away and then tugged at the reed matting until if was free of a chair’s feet that had held a corner down. He pulled the mat to the side, and then dropped back to his knees, desperately pulling a small bag from his belt. From it he spilled out four white and four black cubes. A deep breath and then another, and he willed himself to an inner calm. They had a minute, maybe two, before Valerian would find one of his Deryni knights and have the portal scryed for their escape route.

Calm, he told himself, calm. The Healer’s training from Father Columcil had taught him how to center even when emotions were high.

The thought of the good father did wonders for his nerves. Think of each cube and give them their name. Place them just so, then touch the corner to its opposite. What mattered here were opposites. The positive and negative of power. Nothing was good or bad on its own, all things could be brought into balance with the effort of the mind. The blocking power was the same as this. It was bad to have blocked the girl, and he knew he would reverse that soon. Blocking Valerian, that had been the greatest achievement of his life. Building confidence in himself, he placed the four shining ovoids onto the corners of the portal stone. With the powers of his ancestors, he called out the words, “Primus, Secundus, Tertius et Quartus, Fiat Lux!”

The shimmer of red glowed over the portal stone in the center of the room.

“What have you done?” Iain asked, having used the time of the making of the Ward Major to recover his own strength.

“A trick I learned from Feyd,”  Washburn replied. “I am giving us a chance to keep our new found freedom.”
« Last Edit: October 10, 2018, 01:39:51 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #571 on: October 08, 2018, 12:12:05 pm »

“What have you done?” Iain asked, having used the time of the making of the Ward Major to regain his feet and his hold on Sidana.


“A trick I learned from Feyd,”  Washburn replied. “I am giving us a chance to keep our new found freedom.”


Sir Iain Cameron stood slightly to one side of the portal stone, gripping Sidana by the shoulders..  Actually, he was using her to keep himself upright; a wave a vertigo that threatened to turn into nausea almost overwhelmed him.  This would not do. 


“I’ll remember this trick,” Iain said to the Lendour knight still on his knees on the other side of the Portal, which now shimmered under a red protective dome.   


Washburn nodded and began to rise to his feet, almost tripping on an edge of the reed mat.  The quick turn to recover his balance caused a sharp pain in his ribs. The room they stood in was a small storeroom. The reed mat covered the center of the dirt floor.  There were storage barrels and two chests along the back wall. A barred window with an open shutter let in the afternoon light. The only furniture was the chair.


Iain changed his grip to Sidana’s arm and moved forward to open the door.  He did not pause to listen first or check for another’s presence.  He walked boldly through.


 The smell of hay and horses was a blessing after the stink of the dungeon.  Washburn looked around to see that they were in the back corner of a large shed.  Two horses were stabled in simple stalls; both looked to be of good breeding.  There was another large space that held several barrels, and tack that needed mending hung on pegs. 


“Hold where you are!” a man’s voice commanded as the large wooden door at what must be the front of the shed swung open.  Washburn reached for his sword.


“Hold,” Iain said quietly to Washburn, and Washburn stopped with his hand hovering above the hilt.


Damnation! Washburn cursed inwardly.  Will I never be free of another’s control?


“Roland, it’s Iain, and I have brought guests.  Well, one former prisoner and one hostage,” he amended. 


A man came forward with a sword held confidently in his hand.  He was of middle height, clothed in a plain brown tunic and hose.  His face showed the wrinkles of a man just past his prime, but he walked with the confidence and carriage of a fighting man.


Roland stopped and stared at the three in front of him.  Sir Iain looked to be hovering on the edge of exhaustion, favouring one hand and with blood smeared across his forehead; a beautiful young woman with a similar blood smear was standing silent and watchful beside him, and a tall, well-built man watched him warily.  This man’s clothes were dirty, and he smelled of the grave.


“Sir Roland,” Iain said.  “We are in need of food and sleep.”


“And perhaps a bath,” Roland added.  “You’ll bring them to the house?”


“Aye,”  Iain answered.  “Hopefully we will not need to stay for long.  Be watchful; if anyone approaches by any means, I need to know at once.”


“Of course, my Lord.”  Roland turned and led them toward the doorway.  He noted that Iain maintained his grip on the woman’s arm; she walked quietly beside him, and he recognized the signs of someone under another’s control.  Sir Iain had no need to be subtle about it here.  The other man followed behind, his manner restrained, looking like the movement caused pain.  Did Iain control them both?


They left the shed and headed toward the back of a sturdy home typical of a country craftsman, though more isolated than most.  The yard was well maintained; there was a woven pen to keep a few chickens from roaming freely through a sizable vegetable garden.  A well-stocked herb garden was planted on the other side of the worn path that led to the door.


Washburn thought he saw a face glance at them from the side of the rear window.  It drew back quickly.


“All’s well, Maev,” Roland called as they approached the door. 


The door was opened by a stout woman of a similar age to Roland.  Her face looked kindly, but her eyes were sharp.  Her grey gown was covered by a large linen apron and her hair covered by a matching kerchief. 


“It’s good to see you again, Lord Iain,” she said as she greeted him with a slight curtsey.  “Though I have seen you looking better.”


“You have no idea how glad I am to be here,” Iain replied.  Sidana, still in Iain’s grip, gave the woman a haughty stare.  Washburn nodded in acknowledgement as they passed through the doorway.


Inside the house was neat and tidy.  There was the main living area with a stone fireplace and hearth against the outside wall.  A sturdy wooden table was flanked by benches and two chairs.  A second room was walled off for privacy, although the door stood open.  A ladder gave access to the upper loft.  Not quite as simple a dwelling as it seemed from the outside.


The woman looked at Washburn and picked up a wooden bucket. “I’ll start heating the water,” she said in a pleasant voice.  Washburn looked abashed and Iain managed a tired chuckle.


 “If it makes you feel better, I probably smell just as bad,” he said.


Sidana looked at him with disdain.  “You do.”


Iain shrugged and considered his options.  Should he tell Roland and Maev the identity of his “guests”?  Roland had served him faithfully as his steward for years, and no woman was more capable than his wife, Maev.  Or cunning, if she needed to be.  Both Washburn and Sidana were a danger; Washburn because he was a danger as long as his memories were still distorted, and Sidana, pawn or not, because she was the Pretender Queen of Meara.  He made his choice; the more they knew, the better they could ensure his safety and theirs.


“A moment,” Iain said, and Maev halted just inside the door.  “Lady Sidana, may I present Sir Roland Althorp and his wife, Lady Maev Althorp. Sir Roland is my steward here.  Sir Roland, Lady Maev, may I present Sir Washburn Morgan, former prisoner held under duress in the fortress of this lady, Sidana de Paor, Pretender Queen of Meara….”


“My proper form is address is ‘Majesty.’ and I am no pretender!” Sidana hissed, unable to raise her voice to the level she wanted due to her captor’s controls.  “You forget yourself!”


“I forget very little,”  Iain said dryly.  “Including the fact that Sir Roland served nobly with the forces of Gwynedd in the last Mearan Rebellion and was knighted for it in the field.  Do not mistake him or his wife for an ally.” 


With little ceremony, Maev returned to her task, not reacting to the message sent to her from Iain.  I will pass some control over both of them, especially Lady Sidana, to you shortly.


Iain guided Sidana to one of the chairs, and she sat obediently, although her eyes continued to glare.  He then approached Washburn.


“Lady Maev is Deryni,” he told Washburn.  “I will give her enough control over you, and more over Sidana, to ensure you can do nothing to harm any of us here or lead others to us.  I know how much this chafes, but I owe it to....” He paused, almost referring to the king and then deciding on a better approach.  “I owe it to Darcy to get you both safely delivered to Rhemuth or to someone who will get you there.”  It occurred to him that Lords Seisyll or Jamyl might be good choices for the latter.


Sir Washburn started to bristle with resentment when Roland exclaimed, “Your brother Darcy?  Is he alive?”


“Apparently so,” Iain replied. 


Washburn saw the smile that almost split Roland’s face in two. If the man was so pleased that Darcy still lived, perhaps he should trust them, at least for now. He could not really fault Iain for his caution. 


Iain looked thoughtful.  “I will, however, ease up a bit, if you will give me your word to keep within these rules I have set.  I want you capable of acting with me, if events slip beyond our control.  I have no idea how much your mind has been altered, but I will trust your word if you give it freely.”  As much as I dare, Iain added to himself.


Washburn looked down at the smaller man that stood before him, so much like Darcy.  There was a good chance he could block his powers if the right moment presented itself, but to what purpose?  Again, he was left with no idea where he was, and what would happen if he attempted to contact any of his brothers?  Would they even bother to rescue him?


“You have my word, freely given.”  Washburn reached out and gripped Iain’s hand.  Iain winced; he had almost forgotten the scorched skin.  He remembered it now.  “I can Heal that,” Washburn offered.


Iain shook his head.  “We both need to rest, and I would suggest you Heal your ribs first.  You will want to be recovered enough to enjoy Maev’s stew.”


Washburn touched his ribs gingerly.  “Good clean food will be welcome.”


Iain nodded and waved Maev toward them after she had stirred the wood below the pot of water that hung on the iron hook above it.  When she reached them, Washburn felt the lady’s touch against his still unshielded mind; she was skilled, but gentle.  More gentle than Iain, at least.  Iain and Maev went next to Sidana, who looked resentful.  The pretender queen’s face did not relax as the new controls were added, but she remained compliant, her defiance still apparent in her eyes.


Iain noted the movement as Roland went out the back door.  Soon he heard the familiar sound of his bathing tub being dragged to its accustomed spot.  By rights he should bathe first, but he was too tired and had no desire to drown.  Maev was stirring something in a second pot that hung over the fire, and the scent of her meat stew became tantalizingly evident.  But he desperately needed sleep first.


“Maev,” he said.  “I need some sleep.  Pray wake me before dinner.  Just before,” he added.


Maev shook her head.  “Not until I see to that hand.”  She ignored his protest, and ladling out some of the water into a bowl before it became too hot, bade him to sit at the table.  Iain might have protested, but he knew the woman too well.  Washburn looked amused as Iain meekly sat and allowed her to clean the hand and apply ointment from a small jar. She bandaged his hand, but not so tightly that he could not grip sword or dagger if needed.  Iain mumbled his thanks and then headed to the adjoining room.


The room was furnished with a simple bed and several chests.  Sir Iain Cameron, Baron o’ Isles, managed only to remove his boots before he fell back across the bed, asleep before he could raise his feet from the floor.

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 #572 on: October 09, 2018, 01:52:54 pm »
The water turning hot over the hearth and the bath tub set a few feet away looked so inviting. It was not near as palatial as the bath Washburn had recently taken, but this one was clean and did not come with evil eyes upon him. In fact, Wash felt no restraint about stripping out of his clothes and kneeling into the tub, of course keeping his back to the ladies. If the pretender queen was offended, he honestly did not care. With lye on a sponge, he happily rubbed himself down.  And let the soapy water fall into the tub. Sir Roland came over to pour clean water down his back to rinse the soap and the dirt away.

“Why, may I ask, do you have a short spot of hair at the top of your head?  Some nefarious magic that they needed a clump of your hair for?” the old knight asked.

Wash let out a frustrated sigh, but then in a bright change of moods, he laughed and turned back to Roland with a genuine wide smile. “Tis my own folly, that.” Wash replied. “I thought impersonating a priest would do us some good. Turns out it didn’t. Just made me look funny. Someday, I will have to find Father Columcil and apologize for my audacious behavior of impersonating one of his brethren. He may set my penance for 50 Hail Marys or worse. At the time, he was very forgiving about it. Father Columcil is the best of men. As is Iain’s brother, Darcy. I miss them. I hope Rhemuth is treating them well.” Then Washburn’s smile faded. “Aliset!” he whispered under his breath. “No, what I hope is that they have left Rhemuth and have found that vivacious young lady. There are not many women like that one.”

Happily ducking under that last ladle of rinse water, Washburn stood from the tub and excepted a blanket over his shoulders that he wrapped fully around his body. He made one small attempt to find his Healing ability to remove the pain and bruising over his ribs. But the exhaustion of the day was unforgiving, Healing was untouchable at the moment.

Lady Maev tossed his pile of clothes in the bath water and added more lye to give the clothes a goodly soak. When she picked up the green tunic, her nose twitched at the smell. “This is the finest heavy silk I’ve ever seen, putting this to launder may shrink the weave."

“Good!” Wash said with a hint of disgust in his voice. “Shrink it, so I can not wear it again. I hate green!” he added with true venom.

Roland bristled at that. “Green is your family colors, is it not?”

“Exactly!” Washburn confirmed. With out his shields, his hate spilled out to those who could sense it.

“I will see that the tunic is well-shrunk. You be easy on that subject,” Maev said softly with a hint of controlled power in her last words.

Abashed, Washburn  hung his head low, “My apologies to you, Lady Maev, and to you, Sir Roland. I forget myself, sometimes.”

Roland went over to the stew pot and ladled out a fresh bowl then handed it across to the tall knight. With merely a wrap for clothing, it would be inappropriate for him to sit at the table, near the young pretender queen. Washburn sank down on the fur rug before the hearth and accepted the bowl of stew. “Smells wonderful,” he said, while staring at it, yet he did not dare to pick up the spoon.

“Tastes as good as it smells, I assure you,” Maev said as she washed his clothes. But still Wash did not eat it. Misinterpreting his hesitation, Maev commented, “Sorry, I do not have the spices that you courtly folk are used to.”

Wash held the bowl up to his nose, it did smell so good. “Plain and simple is best. Spices hide all manor of evils. Like merasha or mandragoria. I ask you for truth. Are there any drugs in here?”

His hosts looked at him horrified. “Truth read, what I say,” Maev finally responded. “There is nothing in there but mutton, carrots, onions and green beans, I added a dash of salt and pepper for flavoring. I’ve not else to add. And I would most certainly never drug you.”

“Thank you, Lady Maev, I sense your honesty. I am so very, very hungry.” With that he spooned up a mouthful and made pleasant humming sounds as he tasted it and ate it down. He had a second helping before he was done. Maev hung his clothes before the hearth to dry. The green tunic looking sufficiently smaller. “Sell that and make yourself a gold coin or two,”  He said nodding with approval “I’ll wear the black shirt and trousers when they are dry.” Then he curled to his side on the rug and was happily asleep in a non-drugged sleep before he had even found a pillow for his head. Maev rolled up a second blanket and placed it under his head. She touched his unshielded mind and reinforced his sleep. Unless someone woke him, the freed prisoner would not awake until dawn the next morning.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #573 on: October 10, 2018, 06:50:21 pm »

Sidana de Paor, Pretender Queen of Meara, looked with disdain at the sleeping man stretched out near the hearth, wrapped only in a blanket.  She watched the even breathing for a moment and then looked up as Lady Maev placed a bowl of steaming stew before her and set a spoon beside it.  Next she placed a round of fresh, brown bread in the centre of the table. Sidana wrinkled her nose in disfavour. 


“There is nothing wrong with simple, wholesome food,” Maev said calmly.


“I suppose you will force me to eat it.  I seem to have no choice in anything, now,” Sidana responded. 


“Only if I have to make that choice,” Maev said evenly. 


Sidana reached rebelliously for her belt knife to cut off a piece of bread.  “Hold,” Maev said firmly and reached over to remove the knife from her hand.  Even after establishing his controls, Sir Iain must have been totally exhausted not to have checked for anything Sidana could use as a weapon!  She cut a slice of bread and placed it before Sidana but kept the knife. She would search for any other items that could be dangerous before her guest retired for the night. Sidana cautiously tried the stew and after the first taste, decided she was hungry and ate steadily.


Iain Cameron stepped out of the adjoining room and looked at Lady Maev with mock reproof.  “You were to wake me for dinner.”


“You were next on my list, my Lord,” she replied and smiled.


Iain looked down at the sleeping form of Washburn.  “Did he leave me any?”


“I think there might be an onion or bean left,” she said as she took a clean bowl down from the shelf and filled it with hot stew.


Iain accepted the bowl and sat it down at the far end of the table.  “I shall endeavor to sit downwind, if it please you,” he said to Sidana. 


“Little pleases me at the moment,” Sidana replied. Delicately she soaked the end of her piece of bread in what was left of the broth in the bottom of her bowl.


Iain made short work of his first bowl of stew, broke off a chunk of the bread and wiped his bowl clean with it.  Sidana frowned.


Are you deliberately trying to annoy her?  Maev sent as she filled the bowl again.


Iain grinned.  I may have misplaced my manners back in her dungeon.


Maev shook her head at him indulgently and turned to Sidana to remove the empty bowl before her.


“Would you care for some more, my Lady?” Maev asked.


“No, I think not,” Sidana replied coolly.


“‘No, I think not, my Lady,’” is perhaps what you meant to say?”  Iain suggested.


Sidana said nothing, but her eyes shot daggers as she looked in his direction.


“I think perhaps it would be best if our guest retires for the night,” Maev said, forestalling further debate..  “I’ll put her on the spare pallet in the loft.  I’ll sleep as usual up there and Roland will sleep down here tonight.” 


“Pallet?” Sidana exclaimed, clearly aghast at the idea.


“It will be clean and comfortable compared to your dungeon floor,” Iain said mildly.  Maev gave him a look as she shepherded the younger woman toward the ladder. 


Roland entered from the back door.  “She’s prickly enough, Sir Iain, without stirring her up more,” he said, comfortable enough in his lord’s service to reproach mildly.


“Aye, you are right, but I’ve seen too much death already in her Mearan rebellion, and there will be more before it’s over.  She blithely sits and preens while those behind her manipulate her into more than I think she bargained for.  But enough talk of rebellion.  I want a refreshing bath to wash more from me than dirt.  And I’ll need your help, if you don’t mind, to contact the king  afterwards.  He needs to know what has transpired.”


“Of course, my Lord.  I am at your disposal, as always.”

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 #574 on: October 22, 2018, 12:54:24 pm »
Kelric Morgan, Duke of Corwyn, dipped the quill in the ink bottle and then hastily added his signature for the dozenth time to another parchment giving out orders for the following day. This last order doled out provisions for the troops. These were the orders that kept their small army of men, six hundred strong, in disciplined ranks toward the city of Laas. In the current climate of the Province of Meara it was a task not as simple as it should be. Duke Kelric was the highest ranking noble, thusly he lead this army. Although his own men were few, making up but one small battalion under Baron Sieur II de Vali. Nearly all the men came under the rule of Earl Duncan Michael McLain of Kierney or Baron Jass MacArdry of Truill and Culdi.  Kelric sprinkled sand across his inked signature, than he shuffled the parchment to the stack of signed orders for Baron de Vali to attend to. His attention turned back to the center of the camp table; another parchment glared at him under the candle light. Requests from Munroe’s battalion to join under Korben’s men. This gave Kelric pause, he had thought to move the men to Baron de Vali’s leadership to give strength to his own men, but perhaps Korben would be a better choice, given that Korben was a boarderman and knew this land like the back of his hand. Lord de Vali was a Corwyn man, a good one, but not as well known by Munroe’s battalion.

Kelric frowned as he considered Captain Munroe’s death, the first loss of one of his men in this rebellion. At mid afternoon, their front men had come upon an ambush. These Mearan rebels were more widespread than had first been told. Kelric’s, Duncan Michael’s and Jass’s men had been harassed in half the small bergs and villages along the road out of Ratherkin, mostly by obstacles meant to slow them down. Carts and plows abandoned on narrow parts in the road. Caltrops and spikes scattered in river crossings where they could not be seen under the water. Kelric’s scoots were good, they reported these findings well ahead of the army’s arrival. However, the clearing of this things took time, time that was not affordable.  After two days they had only marched one-third the distance to Laas; a courier could have gotten there and back again in the same time. Ambush had been a concern at every obstacle, at first the rebels had remained distant and unseen, that is until late on this day when arrows had been lobbied at them from a crest of a hillside. Most arrows were deflected, few did damage. Only one had been fatel and that wasn’t even from the initial surprise attack. Kelric had given the first warning of enemy on the hill sides. Captain Munroe vigorously lead a cavalry charge up the hill, successfully scattering the rebels. Monroe took that one fatal arrow as he crest the hillside. Hours later, the loss was felt by many as camp was set. Kelric considered the request on the parchment before him. Sir Korben was a good leader, one of Kierney’s best. He had proved himself today charging down the pair of men who had taken Munroe’s life. Making the decision, Kelric put his signature to the request and placed it atop the finished pile. One last parchment before him and he blindly signed it, tired of it all and ready to be done with this necessary but unwelcome part of his duties. Kelric’s lips turned upward as he recalled how much his father had hated this part of his duties as well.

Duncan Michael McLain strode over to the duke with a pint of Cassan ale in his hand. “If your done we should call it an early night. We need to get these men to Laas, and that means a hard march tomorrow.”

“Agreed,” Kelric said absently picking up the last page, glancing at it quickly before moving it to the finished pile. When he read the ending paragraph above his signature his hand froze, his eyes bulged and he forced himself to read the paragraph in full. 

Kelric Alain Morgan Duke of Corwyn, by request of King Kelson of Gwynedd, do I hereby revoke the hereditary rights of succession to the second son of Alaric Morgan, for reasons listed above. One Sir Washburn Alaric Cynfyn Morgan is removed from the rights of inheritance from the Morgan family line. His rights of succession  for himself and for any progeny of his loins for the Duchy of Corwyn and for the Earldom of Lendour are hereby revoked as of this day the eighth and twentieth day of July, in the year of our lord 1064…

“God’s Blood!” Kelric exclaimed.  “I thought I ordered this to NOT be scribed. Who wrote this?”
 
Baron Sieur II de Vali stepped from his own work by the tent entrance. “Your Grace, I heard you give the orders for this to be written out for your approval after your contact with his majesty, I do not recall you rescinding that order.”

Kelric sighed, remembering too well the poor timing. “I had second thoughts at noon. I gave the order to Monroe to have you informed. That would have been before the attack.”

The duke frowned at his signature upon the parchment. Here was legal rights to remove his brother from the line of succession and thusly relinquish his brother’s noble standing from all but his knighthood. Washburn was fourth in line to the Morgan claims, Kelric’s three sons had presidents. His king had reminded him of the danger Washburn’s captivity posed to his sons, the king’s grandsons. They would be targets for the enemy for so long as Washburn remained in the enemy’s hands. If, as the spy Iain had reported, Washburn was to be subjected to reconditioning to become the enemy’s hand, and to produce progeny that were loyal to the sons of Teymuraz than he became a threat to all his blood relatives. The enemy planed to use him to gain control of the Duchy of Corwyn.  Removing his brother from the succession legally, by order of the king, removed the threat. It made sense from a dynastic point of view. But this was his baby brother. The boy he had to raise up as his own son when their father had been killed. What the king had not said but what was known by both men was this order also reduced the value of his brother in ransom which in turn would likely get him killed. In no way did Kelric wish for such a thing. Yet, his signature glared up at him from the parchment he had just signed.

Duncan Michael looked over his shoulder, “I understand your sorrow in this, your grace. Think on it,  sometimes, it is a higher hand watching out for us. There may be good reason that you have put your signature to this.  I know you had cancelled the order to have this written, I heard you then. But here it is anyway. You’re distraction was not my intention just now, but I am glad you have put your name to it. When Washburn is returned to us, you can reverse what is written here,“ the earl said solemnly offering the pint of ale. Both Baron Jass and Baron Sieur gave small nodes of agreement. 

“Can I?” Kelric asked rebellious and perplexed. He shook his finger in frustration at all three men, refusing both their offered advice and the offered ale. “Some things you can not take back once they are done. This damage might be reversible legally, but the damage to my brother and our relationship would be irrevocable. I can not and will not do this to the man, he deserves better than this from me. If he proves himself to be a betrayer, than that would be cause to sign this. I don’t have that proof!”

“It is already signed by your grace’s hand,” Duncan Michael dared to state.

Kelric’s fingers turned white knuckled as he grasped the edge of the parchment. He lifted the signed order up before him. Three men stood watching him, each feeling his pain, but each believing this was the best course of action.  Just then, the silver eyes of the duke flashed, the the center of the parchment with the order upon it burst to flame, as the flame grew the duke’s hand tossed what was left into the brazier at the table’s side.

“No ale for me tonight.” Kelric was determined that he was in the right. “I need a clear head to make contact with the king. I will explain my actions to him and to no one else.”
« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 03:16:41 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #575 on: October 24, 2018, 02:01:38 pm »
The tableau on the Portal stone - a guard standing with Sidana de Paor hugged to his chest, the prisoner on his knees, all three smeared with Valerian’s blood - seemed frozen in time. And then it was gone.  The lone arrow released from a bow in the gallery above struck the empty stone dead centre, danced across it and slid to the wall.

Guards poured through the door.  Two grasped Grand Duke Valerian by the arms as he started to collapse.  Desperately, Valerian struggled to remain upright, reeling more from the loss of his powers than his physical injuries.

“Find them,” he bellowed.  “Find where they have gone; I must have them back!”

The captain of the guards, realizing what was needed, sent for one of Valerian’s Deryni knights.  Valerian, pale and shaking, refused to be moved to his quarters, the need to know where the man who had taken his magic had gone greater than his need for his wounds to be treated.  He did allow himself to be seated and have the wounds in his sides quickly bound to stop the blood flowing down his sides.  He took a deep breath; he could not centre without his powers, but he could at least try to regain some control of the situation.

The Deryni knight entered, closely followed by Lord Brioc’s physician.  He bowed briefly to the Grand Duke.

“Find the signature of the Portal this one was last used to reach,” Valerian commanded, his voice sounding weaker with each spoken word.

The knight nodded and kneeled at the edge of the Portal stone.   He spread his hands flat on the surface and concentrated deeply.  “The only destination signature here is for the Portal at Ratharkin,” the knight said.  “There is no other.” 

“Follow immediately.  Have Lord Oswald turn Ratharkin upside down until they are found.”

The knight nodded and motioned another man to join him.  They drew their swords and held them ready as the knight took them both to Ratharkin.  Only then did Valerian allow himself to be assisted to his study.  He focused on the pain to keep his panic at bay.  Washburn must be found and forced to undo what he had done.  That was the first priority.  Sidana must be returned to him before she could become Kelson’s pawn rather than his.  As for the traitor guard, if he could be returned as well, Valerian would make sure he killed him slowly and painfully.

***

“How does he fare?” asked Brioc de Paor. He had hastily pulled on a robe when summoned to the grand duke’s study, his hair still plastered to the sides of his face from the fever he had barely survived.   He stood with the physician before the pallet on which Valerian rested.  The physician had not deemed it wise to move Valerian to his sleeping quarters quite yet.  The grand duke had lost a lot of blood and was in pain, but he had refused the sleeping draught he had been offered, much to the dismay of the physician. 

“He will live, but he suffered two deep wounds.  It will take time, unless we can find a Healer to help him.”

“If I had one handy, I would have used him myself,” Brioc stated flatly.  “What has happened here?”

“Too much,” Valerian said weakly from the pallet.  Brioc leaned closer to hear him better.

“We had a traitor guard in our midst.  He has taken Washburn Morgan and your daughter.” 

“Sidana? No!  Where have they gone?”  Brioc’s face flushed dark with anger, and he clenched the hilt of the dagger on his belt.

“The last use was to Ratharkin, and men are searching there now, but I fear it is a false lead.  It makes no sense to go from one trap into another.  Queen Sidana is now known to her people there.  Her captors would not get far with her.”  Valerian paused for breath. 

“You will question the dungeon guards,” he continued after a moment. “Find out as much as you can of the traitor guard and how he managed the escape.  Feel free to encourage any who hesitate to talk in whatever way provides information.”  He motioned weakly for the physician to approach.  He sorely missed his Deryni ability to lessen his own pain.  Perhaps the loss was temporary, and his powers would return once he was sufficiently rested and recovered.  “I will take your potion now.”

***

Lord Brioc delayed following the grand duke’s orders only long enough for a quick wash, a change into proper clothing and the questioning of the guard who had been posted outside his door.    The man sweated profusely as he stammered the details of Sidana’s decision to find Valerian and tell him the happy news of her father’s recovery.  Headstrong child!  She would find her freedom sharply curtailed once this was over.  The guard he would deal with later, and he left the man sweating outside his door.

Lord Brioc descended the stairs and strode across the first floor of the keep toward the closed door of the guard room.  One of Valerian’s Deryni retainers accompanied him, along with two additional guards. Brioc did not knock before pushing the guard room door wide open.  The senior guard dozing in his seat at the end of the table did not move.  A goblet lay on its side near his limp hand; there was no indication the contents had been spilled.

After a nod from Brioc, one of the guards moved forward and slapped the sleeping guard hard across his face.  The man awoke with a start, saw Brioc, and leaped to his feet, stumbling a bit as he did so. 

“My Lord, forgive me; I have no idea why I slept.  It has never happened before.  I had just finished fixing the drink for the prisoner….” His voice wandered off as he looked at the empty goblet on the table. 

‘You drank it yourself?” Brioc demanded.

“I must have, but I have no idea why.”  The senior guard looked increasingly nervous as Valerian’s retainer came closer.

“He speaks the truth as he knows it,” the man said. “Shall I look more closely?”

“Do it,” Brioc replied as the senior guard tried to move backwards but was prevented by the table.

Calmly the Deryni retainer placed a hand on either side of the senior guard’s head and held it still.  “His memories have been altered,” he said.  “Shall I delve deeper?”

“No, we already have a good idea who has done this.”  Brioc looked toward the trap door in the floor, still open to the dungeon below.  “Lead us to the prisoner’s cell.”

“Of course, my Lord.”  The senior guard squared his shoulders and led them down the ladder.  Showing cowardice now, or hesitating to do his duty, would do him no good.  At the bottom, he took up one of the torches, and one of the guards took up another one.  He led them down the corridor to the cell that had held their special guest and unlocked the door with his key.

Piers did not stir as the door opened, but as the senior guard had done, slept undisturbed until Brioc kicked him in the groin.  He came awake with a startled gasp, his reaction causing more pain from the chain tight against his throat and his arm stretched to the wall.  It took a moment for him to recognize the angry man standing before him in the flickering torchlight.

“My Lord,” he managed to say through his discomfort and the dryness of this throat.  “The prisoner took me by surprise; I had no idea he had freed himself.”

“What were you doing in his cell?” Brioc said, his voice harsh and his boot ready to land another kick.

“I had left my club in this cell after I taught him a good lesson on the folly of prayer,” Piers said earnestly, though realizing he damned himself with every word.  “We fought hard; I don’t understand how this happened.”

The Deryni retainer stepped forward, and Piers tried to move his head away, but was prevented by the chains.  The retainer was not gentle as he forced his way into Piers’ mind.

“The same as before,” the retainer reported.  “And it feels like it was done by the same Deryni.”

“Then you know it was not my fault, my Lord.  It was done by an evil Deryni!” Piers said desperately.  “I beg you to release me!  You must!  I have done no wrong!”

“Other than being a complete fool?” Lord Brioc sneered.  He looked at the senior guard, who was doing his best to remain unnoticed.  “Do we have an empty oubliette?” he asked.

“I believe we do, my Lord,” the senior guard answered.

“Then put him in it,” Brioc said, pointed at Piers.

“No, no, have mercy, my Lord.”  Piers pleaded desperately.  “I will die in there!”

“As you should,” Lord Brioc replied.  “You.”  He looked at the senior guard, who paled but stood stoically.  “You will assume this idiot’s duties.  You are relieved from you position as senior guard.”

The former senior guard bowed.  “Thank you, my Lord,” he said, relieved to know he was not to take Piers’ place in the cell.

Lord Brioc turned and left the cell.  He paused in the corridor and then called down the line, “Any of you that can tell me more of what happened here, speak up!  It may well get you your freedom.”

The only response was the sound of the shifting of chains.  Lord Brioc de Paor was not known for being a man of his word. 

Lord Brioc shook his head in disgust and beckoned the guard with the torch to proceed him down the corridor to the ladder that led up to daylight and freedom. 

Piers struggled desperately, but to no avail, as he was unchained and dragged to the waiting oubliette.  The sound of chains being rattled vigorously in the cells could be heard above the man’s cries, signaling the approval of his fellow prisoners. 
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 #576 on: October 25, 2018, 01:38:12 pm »
How… The King of Gwynedd let the word dangle with heavy tension before continuing. ...do you propose… Another break of silence, presumably the king keeping control in his mental tone.  ... I protect your sons and your daughters from a determined enemy and from a potentially traitorous uncle? I trust my spy when he tells me your brother has been turned against the crown and against his family. I know that it is not of his own doing, but I also know the strengths of the sons of Teymuraz. Now that the youngest son of Alaric Morgan is in their hands, they will have the ability to turn him into a very dangerous man.

Washburn won’t turn on me, there is too much between us for that.

You are champion of the crown of Gwynedd, yet perhaps you are too naive to be so. Think you! You still have not told me how I am to protect your six children. My grandchildren! If you think for one instant that I can lock up six of the Morgan-Haldane bloodline in a tower until all this is resolved, than you do not know your own children very well. Kenric is already chafing at the double guard tailing him, and your eldest daughter is downright rebellious with her mother for the restrictions of not being allowed to attend the schola. I know this is trivial and they will do as they must, but do you want your children to live the rest of their lives in fear of an assassin at their back? Lives that when lost, will place Corwyn in the hands of men who will, by then, be strong enough to destroy the peace and equality of this kingdom. What I have spent a lifetime to build can be torn apart so easily in war and greed.  Washburn in the hands of the enemy is the catalyst. I am told they will marry him, have him produce a son, one who will be the rightful heir of Corwyn when all your children are dead. Do not fool yourself that I can protect all of them from assassins, even if I lock them up in the tower.  So long as Washburn is in the hands of the son of Teymuraz, it matters not whether your brother is complicit in this or a tortured captive. Think of the Washburn whom you and I both love; would that man willingly live a traitor’s life. You and I both know the answer is No!

There was a very long silence in their rapport. Kelric dared not to say anything-- his mind was reeling-- while the King remained silent, he dared not show his full anger with a man he loved like a brother and was his father by marriage.

We will discuss this in the morning at our next Rapport, when both our heads are more clear.

The rapport ended abruptly. Kelric knew the anger of his king. He squeezed his eyes tight and took a deep breath, then opened them, looking down at the young man on the pallet beside him. His squire had helped with the energy drain to reach Rhemuth Castle. His finger touched the youth’s forehead. Wake now. Know that I am grateful for your assistance.

“Arnaud,” the duke asked of his squire as the boy opened his eyes and sat up. “Please bring your father to me, I have need of his services.” The boy was through the canvas partition readily enough. Kelric sat up at the side of his cot, his face briefly crushed into the palms of his hands.

Baron Sieur De Vali entered quickly with a bow. “Your grace, I am at your service.”

“Thank you.” Kelric didn’t know how to say it, nevertheless he forged forward. “I will ask you to redraft that page which you drafted earlier today, the one I burnt. Can you do that for me?”

“Yes, your grace. The disinheritance of your brother is the one you request, your grace?” the baron’s voice nearly shook as he asked this.

“That one, yes. Do it, before I change my mind.”

Kelric watched the father and son bow out to leave him alone in his small corner of the pavilion. The baron’s son would be knighted in the coming year. The Duke of Corwyn would be his sponsor, just as his grandfather of the same given name of Arnaud had been knighted in the same year as Sean Lord Derry. At least that is how the story was told. A much more pleasant duty than the one that tortured the duke this night. To give promise of a good future to one man and yet to cheat another from any future at all. Kelric’s consternation grew. He hoped the baron’s hand was fast before he lost nerve to put his signature upon it. 

In the midst of his torment the canvas partition was swept back, admitting the Earl of Kierney. “I presume your Rapport with the king did not go well.”

“No,” Kelric said quietly. They were not the only men bedded down in the duke’s pavilion. Duncan Michael thusly turned to mind speech.

 Did he order you to sign the disinheritance?

No, he did not! Far worse! He reminded me of my loyalty to Gwynedd. It isn’t individual lives that matter. What matters is the loyalties of the lives that survive. I have one life vs six lives in the balance, seven if you include my own. What I must do,  I do not do for myself.  If the fates take me, then I will be with my father in God’s hands. It isn’t even for the lives of my children that has me broken, they are Morgans and they are both tough and resilient and they know their loyalties as do all Morgans from generations back. They will survive this. Which reminds me that we all live by our oaths and our honor.  And that my brother, when he was in his right mind, lived by that honor as well.  He would have rather died than be the hand which harms this kingdom. My needs are to do what must be done to see this this rebellion brought to an end.  I can not put Corwyn in jeopardy for that which could cause the downfall of Gwynedd. No matter how much my love is for this one man. The king is angered because he is caught in the same vicious circle and he feels responsible for it coming to this point. I am on reprieve until morning to think on it and give him my response.

He will order you to sign it, then?

No, he won’t force that upon me. He will trust that I will force it upon myself. If I don’t, all trust between us is lost. Everything I and my father before me stood for is gone. I must sign it before I speak with Kelson again, it is the only answer.

Kelric took a deep breath before looking up at the ceiling. Lord protect my brother, for I do not see how I can. Kelric’s face fell back into his hands. “Father, forgive me,” he said under his breath.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #577 on: October 26, 2018, 12:09:27 pm »
Sir Iain Cameron, Baron o’ Isles, felt the warm morning sunshine on his face as he woke.  He stretched comfortably in his bed, content to breathe in fresh air and be clean.  He clasped his hands behind his head and stared up at the thatched roof of his room.  He indulged himself in the opportunity to review his rapport with King Kelson the night before.  Iain was glad he had been able to draw additional energy from Roland; the rapport had lasted longer than usual.

The king had seemed both shocked and pleased at his news; Valerian injured and his Deryni powers blocked, Washburn rescued and the pretender queen hostage.  Not bad for an afternoon’s work!  Nonetheless, it was not a perfect outcome, and Kelson had asked many questions.  Valerian was partially neutralized, but not out of the picture.  Kelson did not fault Iain’s decision to escape rather than complete the kill.  Either Brioc or Oswald, or perhaps some other powerful noble whose identity they did not know, would step up to fill the void.  Valerian’s death would not have stopped the rebellion, though it would have lost much of its momentum.  Sidana de Paor as a hostage was a different matter, and her value was unquestionable.  The king and his council would decide the best way to use this unexpected advantage.

Washburn was a different matter.  Although Kelson was genuinely pleased that the youngest son of Alaric Morgan had been freed, he still considered him a danger, now on two fronts.  His altered memories were a problem for both his family and the king, and his ability to block Deryni powers made him even more of a threat.  Without the altered memories, Kelson would not have questioned that Washburn would use his new ability with restraint and responsibility. But what if he turned it against those Deryni loyal to Gwynedd?  Or the king himself?  Iain was to keep both Washburn and Sidana with him here and await further orders. 

“I WILL NOT!” shrieked a high-pitched, female voice.

“Oh, bloody hell,” Iain muttered as he rose from his bed and threw on clean clothes. 

He left his room do find Sidana standing at the foot of the ladder to the loft with her fists on her hips, glaring at Maev.  Maev was patiently holding one of her own fresh gowns and a plain chemise while water heated in the pot above the hearth.  Roland and Washburn stood at the back door.  Iain wasn’t sure whether they had just returned from the outside or were trying to find a place to hide.

Sidana turned her glare upon Iain.  “She says I must bathe outside, rather than up in the loft in private!  And I’m to wear her cast-off clothes!”

“Well, unless you are willing to carry the tub up the ladder yourself and haul up your own water, that’s the way it will be,” Iain said with forced calm.  “And I doubt Lady Maev owns any cast-off clothing, though pray forgive me for not giving you time to pack before we left.”

“I am the Queen of Meara and I am not amused!” Sidana snapped.  “I will be afforded the dignity my position demands!”

“Your position may be across my knee if you don’t behave yourself,” Iain replied and was aware of Maev’s mental gasp.  Washburn stared at him, but Roland had begun to smile.

“You wouldn’t dare!  Don’t you dare lay a hand on me!”

“I gave you my word I would not harm you, and I will keep it, though you are beginning to try my patience sorely.  You will treat Lady Maev, Sir Roland and Sir Washburn with respect, and there will be no more shouting.”  Iain’s controls would ensure his instructions were followed and restore some resemblance of tranquility.

“You will treat me with equal respect!” Sidana commanded, but her statement lost most of its effect with the gentler tone of voice Iain’s controls enforced.  “That’s not fair!” she said and burst into tears.

“Perhaps we should check on the animals,” Roland suggested from the doorway.

“An excellent idea,” Iain said with undisguised enthusiasm.  “Washburn, you may come as well.”

Coward! Lady Maev sent as Iain hastened from the room, quickly followed by Roland and Washburn.
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 #578 on: October 27, 2018, 09:16:44 pm »
The three men walked the open yard through the garden. Sir Roland stepped off the path, to a long trellis of leafy vines. With a small knife he cut down two bunches of burgundy grapes. He popped one in his mouth for tasting. Satisfied, he handed one bunch each across to Lord Iain and to Sir Washburn. “Hope you like em tart, and not too sweet, these make a decent wine for next year. Maev and I should get enough out of the pressings for two casks, sometimes more.”

Fresh fruit off the vine seemed safe in Washburn’s eyes. He hoped his host didn’t notice his hesitation. He plucked a plump grape from the stem and enjoyed the bitter/sweet flavor. Almost as good as wine itself. The men heard a cry from in the house and a ripping of fabric, then came Maev’s voice taking command of the situation. Roland went back to the house, then after a word, came back, “All is well,” he commented with a nod of his head. He hastened his lord and his guest into the barn. Once inside, he hefted up a sack and poured grain into two buckets, one to the half mark, the other a little higher. Lifting both buckets, he started toward the horses to feed them.

Washburn intercepted, “May I do the honors for feeding one of your horses?”

A little surprised, Roland handed the heavier bucket over. “This would be for Azim, he gets antsy around feeding time.” The older knight nodded to the blood bay destrier whose rump could be seen sticking out into the isle, his black tail swishing at the flies.

“I’ll check on the ward over the portal,” Iain said as he walked to the store room at the back.

“Don’t touch it,” Wash warned. “I wasn’t very lenient when I set it yesterday. It might zap you from a hand span away.”

Iain smiled. “You had cause. And I want fault you, infact, I will even thank you for it.” Iain disappeared into the back room. Washburn had no desire to follow. Instead, he patted the rump of the horse named after a prince of R’Kassi; he recognized the horse as a R’Kassi stallion and was impressed.  The bay's head perked up and he whinnied in expectation of his oats. Wash happily held the bucked for the big roman nose to lean into it. In a short time, with lots of vigorous head-butting within the bucket, the animal had licked up every last grain.  Since it seemed they were at ease this morning, Washburn took a deep breath, sensing that his shields were in place and his powers where whole and with them he could enjoying the calm aura and smells of animals and hay. In an inspiration, he found a brush hanging from a peg and started brushing the animal down. After the last four days this was a true pleasure. A simple task that some noblemen would find beneath them, but one that a simple knight often used to relish privacy. 

“A good man makes for a good horse,” Wash remarked. “I see you care for your animals.”

“Aye, I do. What is a knight without a good horse? I know you would agree. Old Azim was a good steed in his prime, still has something to give before he’s put out to pasture. Though I dare say he was never anything like that which you ride. That great black stallion of yours is something else. Saw you ride him in the tournament last season.”

“Oh, eye, that one is a God among horses, to be sure. He is not mine,” The younger knight said curtly. When he got a queer look from Roland, he tried to explain as best he could place it from his memories. “He is owned by my brother, the one that rules over a huge corner of Gwynedd. The black is his, and he often reminds me of that fact. Those tournaments. It is all for show, you know. Too prove Morgans are better than everyone else. I get to ride the black so I can win. Brother makes bets and gains money from my winning. Shares it with me, in public.” The tall blond man said with disdain. Raising his shoulders from their sudden tension, he stopping his brushing. The man all in black cocked his head as if seeing images of memories as they played out before him. Whatever he saw made him testy and anxious. “Phah, in public! Then when we are alone, he charged me for using his beast, a King’s ransom no less,  which took all the money back, even took the winning purse. H' said he gave me everything I needed. What else did I need the money for? Then, when I want to ride outside of the tourneys or outside the practice yard, which always seems to be before those courtly nobles, I am told the black is out for standing stud to some filly. I’m pointed to a flea bitten grey plow horse, whose claim is to be strong enough to hold my weight. Funny... I don’t recall either horses names. I’m usually pretty good with animal names. It’s the people I don’t care to remember their names much.” Wash grit his teeth, clenched his fist around both ends of the brush. When the wood shaft broke in half, the knight looked up startled. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what has gotten into me.”

He tossed the brush ends to the ground and walked over to the stack of grain and sat down with a pout, looking at anything but the two men watching him. Sir Roland was looking on with a grimace and Iain had returned giving the older man a node that he would see what he could do to ease the freed prisoner’s tensions and obvious altered memories. For even Iain knew of the reputation and love that was often remarked upon between the Morgan brothers. This reaction from the younger Morgan was not what it should be.

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #579 on: October 28, 2018, 07:52:29 am »
Fiona McIntyre was worried. She is 17 years old, first cousin to Iain and Darcy Cameron, and for the last six years has been living with Baron Mackenzie Stuart and his wife,  Lady Olivia. They had been very kind to her, treating her almost as a daughter after both her parents died and her aunt became too ill to care for her. She was devoted to her cousin Iain, who was her guardian, but she seldom saw him as he was frequently away on missions for King Kelson. She had been happy here until the last few months. Michael Stuart, the baron’s son and heir, had become a major problem. He was arrogant and heedless of the concerns of others. Since the Mearan rebellion had begun, he had become increasingly fired up, wanting to join the rebellion with an eye to earning lands and titles from the rebels. His father remained loyal to Kelson, as was Fiona herself.
 
There had been increasingly violent arguments between the baron and his son as Michael tried to push his father into joining the rebellion  so he could satisfy his own ambitions. The tension in the manor was palpable and everyone was affected by it. Lady Olivia had tried to talk to her son and convince him to give up his idea of joining the rebellion but without success. Fiona said little to Michael and was avoiding him as much as possible.

This evening she was walking quietly through the corridor behind the small withdrawing room. There was no one around as the baron and his wife had gone to their quarters after supper and the servants were in the kitchen having their own suppers. Drawing near to the door to the room, she heard voices, not the loud, harsh voices she had heard so often lately as the baron and his son argued, but quiet male voices, pitched low to avoid being heard. One of the voices belonged to Michael, a second to his closest friend Martin, and a third voice she did not recognize. She decided to get closer to hear what was being said. She eased closer to the door, hiding behind a curtain that partially concealed the doorway

The first voice she heard was Michael’s. “If we could find a way to join the rebellion, taking with us men and committing the manor resources, I know we would be welcomed and perhaps even given a command. We could then set about earning lands and perhaps titles as rewards for our service.”

This was followed by Martin’s voice. “But your father is dead set against it. Have you had any luck persuading him that it is to his advantage as well as yours to join the rebellion?”

“No, he is Kelson’s man and not open to change. He would regard such an action as treason. He has even threatened to disinherit me if I do not give up this idea and give my allegiance to Kelson as he has. I have argued until I’m hoarse to no avail. So I have another plan to enable us to turn the manor over to the rebels and to join them.”
“What else can you do to persuade him?”

“I will lure him to one of the remote attic rooms by telling him that I have discovered a leak in the roof that needs attention. Once he is inside, I will lock the door and keep him confined there. I will then give out that he has become ill, had a seizure and must be confined to prevent him from harming himself or anyone else. As he is incapable of managing the estate, I will take over.”

“What about your mother?”

“I’ll tell her that he has become ill, and I have sent for a physician. There is a man sympathetic to the rebellion, and I will summon him to examine my father. He will not actually see my father, but he will be able to tell my mother that he is indeed gravely ill and must be allowed to rest. Any upsets could cause a worsening of his problems and might even kill him”

Fiona listened in horror to this diabolical plan. She had to do something to thwart Michael’s plan, but  what? She silently and quickly snuck to her own quarters. She was frightened. It was vital that she inform someone of what she had heard, but who and how could it be accomplished? She considered sending a message, but who could carry it? She didn’t want to get any of the servants in trouble, and Michael was aware of her own loyalty to the king and to Gwynedd. He watched her closely, and any written message would be intercepted. And  who would be the best person to trust with what she knew?
 
    After much thought, she decided that her guardian Iain was the person she needed to try to reach. However, it seemed impossible. She had no one to send that she could trust, and she did not know where to find him. Then she had an idea. She remembered Sir Roland Althorpe, who was Iain’s steward and highly trusted by him. He would know how to reach Iain. He would help her. He and his wife, Lady Maev, had been so kind the last time she had visited with Iain. Although it had been quite some time since she had seen them, she was certain that they would remember her and be able to help her to reach Iain.

The only way she could think of to deliver her message was to do it herself. She would have to run away from the manor and make her way to where Sir Roland and his wife lived in the country, on the plain to the east of Ratharkan not far from the border with Gwynedd.  It shouldn’t be more than two or three days’ ride from the manor. She was an excellent rider, better than most of the young men she knew, including Michael, and she was sure she could do it. She could disguise herself as a  boy to avoid being stopped and questioned. She would have to lay her plans carefully if she was to succeed, but she felt that this was her only chance to reach the king and inform him of what was happening.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2018, 12:54:58 pm by DerynifanK »
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #580 on: November 02, 2018, 04:09:47 pm »
Duncan rose from his knees, more stiffly than he would have liked, and went into the tiny vesting room at the side of the altar in his private chapel where a young priest trainee waited to robe him and then serve mass for him. Although there were a few to whom he had granted the privilege of attending this early service, the King amongst them, in practise there were few who ever appeared, preferring to wait for the mass in the royal chapel an hour later.

On this occasion, however, when Duncan returned to the chapel another was present, kneeling with his head in his hands. Duncan was immediately aware that something was wrong when Kelson did not raise his head but, it being neither the time nor the place to probe further, he genuflected to the altar and began the mass as on any other day. Despite being warned that the King might one day appear, the young server was inclined at first to clumsiness, but Duncan’s calm focus on the holy mysteries they were celebrating enabled him to contain his fears and the mass proceeded without incident.

Inwardly Duncan was far from calm, what terrible news might Kelson have received that brought him here and in a state which rendered unable to lift his head, let alone make the responses which would normally have come as automatically as breathing? His anxiety deepened when the King made no move to come forward to receive communion, and Duncan’s tentative probe rebounded against tightly closed shields, but he made no sign, continuing as normal until the last words of the mass had been exchanged and he and the server had returned to the vesting room. Only then did he depart from routine, refusing to allow himself to be disrobed and dismissing the young man to his breakfast, abjuring him sternly that he was to speak to no-one of the king’s presence under pain of severe penance. The young man left rapidly, only too glad to be out of the strained atmosphere, and having no need whatsoever of Duncan’s reminder, the sooner the whole excruciating experience faded from his memory the better, as far as he was concerned.

Once he was sure that they were alone Duncan returned to the chapel, and going to the tabernacle reverently removed the ciborium with its sacred hosts, before moving to stand in front of the kneeling King.

“If you need to make confession before receiving then why did you not come earlier?”

“How can I confess that which I do not repent. I have betrayed my oldest and most loyal friend, bullied one of his sons into acting against his conscience and broken my oath to the other. Even Judas regretted his betrayal but I cannot.”

Kelson’s voice broke as he spoke and he wept into his hand. Duncan felt a shudder run through him, it could only be Alaric’s sons of whom he was speaking. He longed to question, to know what could have happened but his first duty was to the tormented soul whose confessor he had been so many years ago.

“And you think to make this better by refusing the gift of your Lord and turning your back on the strength He offers?”

At this Kelson looked up, startled by the stern accusation in Duncan’s voice. Denis might have so spoken to him, but never Duncan.

“How can I be worthy enough, how can I ever be worthy again?” Kelson’s head went back down into his hands and his shoulders shook as he wept.

Duncan stepped away only long enough to put the veiled ciborium onto the altar, offering a genuflection which was both respect and a plea for divine wisdom, before he returned to his King and kneeling beside him took him into his arms. He could not maintain his sternness, not when despite the maturity and majesty of the man before him he could hear all too clearly the echo of the young boy who had asked him on the eve of his coronation whether he would make a good king.
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #581 on: November 04, 2018, 11:28:25 am »
Fiona paced restlessly around her chamber, thinking about what she had heard and what she needed to do about it. Should she try to warn the baron about his son’s plot? How would he react? If he confronted Michael, he would surely reveal how he had learned about Michael’s plans, and that would put her in a bad position. It was possible that it would cause Michael to move sooner, and she thought he had support, not just from his friends but also from manor staff. She had noticed a number of new faces among the servants, men she did not know and who might be rebel allies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #582 on: November 14, 2018, 01:21:11 pm »
Lady Aliset Cameron tried not to be distracted by the shifting patches of late afternoon sunlight that pierced the trees and danced across Father Columcil’s back and Shadow’s massive rump.  While the path was wide enough for them to ride comfortably single file, they still had to dodge low branches and watch out for obstacles on the path.  Aliset could not see much of anything forward beyond the priest, thought she knew Darcy was in the lead moving them forward. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 -- Old English Litany

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #583 on: November 16, 2018, 05:01:29 pm »
It took Duncan many minutes to calm his distraught king, and more still to help him sift through his self-accusation in the confession that followed, before Kelson would finally accept the words of absolution.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #584 on: November 16, 2018, 07:30:45 pm »
As her horse continued along the Cuilteine Road, the sky gradually brightened and the landscape on either side emerged more clearly. Fiona noted thick trees to her right and the Cloome Mountains gradually giving way to rolling foothills as she rode toward St. Brigid’s Abbey, where she would seek shelter for the night. She planned to continue toward Trurill,where she would turn off to the south to reach Sir Roland’s holding. She hoped to arrive there by around noon of the following day. There had been few people on the road so far, but as the morning advanced and the day grew lighter, the number of people she passed had increased. Twice, she had been forced to leave the road, once to avoid a patrol and once to avoid a small party of neighbors who would surely recognize her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jaxom was silent, considering his mission here, to assess the ruins and help find clues to what might have happened to Sir Washburn. That was his main responsibility and if he succeeded, it was more likely to lead to favor with the king and advancement.  That was more important than dealing with another young woman whose reputation was doubtful. He nodded shortly to Darcy, indicating his assent to his proposal. “I agree, it is more important that I complete my mission, and the good father is better equipped to deal with the young woman and her situation.”
« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 08:10:39 am by DerynifanK »
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

 

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Re: Progressive Holiday by DerynifanK
[Today at 07:34:17 am]


Re: Progressive Holiday by revanne
[Today at 01:52:35 am]


Re: Progressive Holiday by Jerusha
[December 17, 2018, 07:49:47 pm]


Re: Progressive Holiday by Demercia
[December 17, 2018, 04:59:27 pm]


Re: Progressive Holiday by Evie
[December 17, 2018, 03:26:30 pm]


Re: Progressive Holiday by Evie
[December 17, 2018, 03:07:39 pm]


Re: Progressive Holiday by Laurna
[December 17, 2018, 03:01:45 pm]

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