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Author Topic: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine  (Read 3608 times)

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Offline Evie

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Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« on: January 06, 2012, 09:32:17 am »
   Chapter Nine

   Abbot's Tower, St. Hilary's Basilica
   September 5, 1136


   The top edge of the setting sun was just barely visible above the western horizon by the time Duncan and Helena reached the top of Abbot's Tower, casting ruddy fingers of light across the Eirian River and the tree tops of the King's forest beyond it.  Above the setting sun, crimson sky faded into violet twilight.  Looking eastward, they could see the starlight grow brighter in the gathering darkness.  The moon still hung low in the sky, just beginning to rise behind the city's eastern gates.

   Helena turned back towards the sunset, enraptured.  "Oh, it's truly lovely from up here!  Tessa and I can't see at this distance from our chamber.  Thank you for showing this to me."  

   "You're welcome," Duncan said simply.  They watched as the sun finished sinking beneath the treeline, plunging the world into deeper shadow, then he touched her elbow and gestured towards the other side of the tower.  "And now look eastward, beyond the Castle walls towards the City."

   She followed him to the other side of the tower until she had a clear view beyond the castle walls and the other castle towers to the lights of Rhemuth beyond.  She caught her breath at the shimmer of golden lights scattered like a cloud of fireflies in the deeper gloom of nightfall—some the dim gleam of candlelight shining through windows not yet closed for the night, some the brighter glow of distant torchlights turning the city streets into a cobweb of faint reflected light and shadows.  In the distance she could see the Cathedral, a diamond studded centerpiece at the heart of Gwynedd's capital.

   "Oh, my!  And I thought Pwyllheli was beautiful at night."

   Duncan leaned against the tower parapet, gazing out at the sight of the city lights, silent for a moment.  Without turning back to her, he broke the silence at last, saying quietly, "Helena, I have a problem…well, maybe not a problem exactly, but…perhaps it would be better to call it a delicate situation that I haven't yet worked out how to deal with."

   "Oh?"  Helena turned slightly to glance at his profile, silhouetted in the darkness.  "Is it something I could help you sort out?  Perhaps if we just talk it through, we can figure out some solution."

   He chuckled.  "I hope so."  He traced the stonework of one of the blocks at the top of the parapet with a finger, looking as if he might be casting around in his mind for the right words.  At last he sighed, giving her a sidelong glance.  "I seem to be forming an attachment to you."  In the pale moonlight, she thought she saw what might have been a blush darken his cheeks as he continued.  "At first, I tried to ignore it, in hopes that not acknowledging those feelings might make them go away.  When I realized that wouldn't work, I considered just remaining silent, hoping that maybe if I simply avoided spending any more time with you than strictly necessary, I could get past it, and perhaps you'd never even notice."  He gave a wry smile.  "That seemed a craven's way out, though, not to mention that trying to avoid one of my magistri for any span of time beyond a day or two would probably be almost as conspicuous as simply losing my head altogether and courting you in the town square."

   Helena gave a startled laugh at the thought, her own cheeks burning.  "Um…no, I suppose neither of those options would be the best idea, under the circumstances."

   He turned to face her more fully.  "I also didn't want to simply avoid the subject—and you—because if you did happen to notice, I didn't want you thinking that you've done something wrong or have done anything to give offense.  You haven't."  He glanced down at his hand, its amethyst-jeweled bishop's ring resting lightly atop the parapet wall.  "I…just thought you deserved to know.  It's a struggle I've faced before; I just don't want to make a misstep, and God knows I don't want to say or do anything that might hurt you in any way."  He paused, as if pondering what else he might need to confess, and then added, "I still think it's possible for a close friendship to exist between a man and a woman even if it can't go beyond that, but my struggle is in finding that proper balance.  I don't want to make the same mistakes this time that I made as a younger man.  Not that I made many serious mistakes—no lapse in my vows or anything of that sort.  Just…there were moments I probably should have handled far differently in that relationship, looking back."

   This time it was Helena who looked away briefly, summoning up her courage to say what was in her heart before glancing shyly back up at him.  "Duncan…I think my heart skipped past what I'd call mere 'friendship' a long time ago."

   He stared at her in momentary surprise, then took her hand in his, chuckling wryly as he bowed his head reverently over it before brushing a brief, courtly kiss over her fingers.  "Jesú, Helena, aren't we the awkward pair?  I’m not free to remarry, and you’re not minded to accept another courtship even if I were."  He grinned.  “You just want to curl up with all my dusty old books.”

   She laughed softly, the sound ending with a quiet sob.  "Well, I possibly might have made an exception for you.  Oh, Jesú, how do we manage this?"

   "Woman, don't you dare cry again; I haven't another handkerchief!"

   She giggled.  "I'm being serious, you dolt!"

   "So am I!"  Duncan turned, leaning his back against the low wall, and stared up at the night sky.  "As for how we're going to manage, I think the first thing we need to do is set up a few ground rules."

   Helena nodded.  "What sort of ground rules?"

   He glanced around at their surroundings.  "Well, for one thing, while bringing you up here seemed like a good way to ensure our continued privacy for this conversation, I'm beginning to think maybe it's just a little too private."  He quirked a smile at her.  "I haven't stolen a kiss in years.  Probably should banish any chance of that happening now, shouldn't I, since as I vaguely recall it's quite habit-forming and that probably would work against our best interests?"  His smile grew into a wry grin as he cupped his hand and created a silvery orb of handfire, rolling it from one palm to the other before sending it drifting upwards over their heads, illuminating them like a miniature moon.

   She blinked in the sudden brightness.  "Does that help?" she asked, stifling a laugh, her cheeks pink.

   "Immensely."  He tilted his head slightly towards one of the other castle towers in the near distance.  Glancing that way, Helena saw one of the Rhemuth castle guards peering back in their direction, doubtless curious about the sudden appearance of Deryni-created light above the Abbot's Tower.

   Duncan created another small orb of light and then another, as if demonstrating the talent for Helena's benefit.  The distant guard watched the show for a few more moments before resuming his patrol over his assigned section of the wall walk.  Duncan sent the smaller orbs into a slow circle around the larger one.

   "Show-off," Helena joked.  She sobered after a moment.  "Won't others talk, if we're spotted up here together?"

   "If we were spotted up here in the darkness, looking as if we were trying to hide the fact we’re sharing a private moment together, they probably would.  I ought to have thought of that earlier.  Two Schola staff having a conversation in full view of God, the city, and everybody, standing on a rooftop with a good deal of illumination to show they're not hiding anything, ought not to attract too much speculation, though.  At least not over and above the usual 'What is that odd Deryni lot up to now?' sort."  He glanced up at the orbiting spheres.  "I think it's your turn to add to the light show."

   She shook her head.  "You're an overgrown schoolboy, Duncan McLain."  Cupping her hand, she formed a globe of pale blue light and sent it floating up to join the others.

   "Even grownups need to play sometimes."  With a mental nudge he rearranged the formation so that his own silvery spheres reconfigured around the blue one.

#

   They stood side by side in companionable silence for a short while, adding a few more spheres to the growing collection of lights circling overhead then idly rearranging their pattern, dimly aware that a small crowd had started to gather far below to watch.  After a few minutes, Duncan, still leaning against the parapet wall, gathered all of his silver spheres into one large globe of light, which contracted into a fist-sized ball.  He held a loosely clenched hand beneath it, then opened his hand suddenly, fingers splayed.  The ball of light exploded into several smaller lights which shone briefly then winked out.

   They stood together in the pale blue light of Helena's handfire. Slowly she gathered hers in as well.

   "It's getting late," she said, sounding reluctant to break the enchantment of the evening.

   "Yes, and you've had a long journey. I ought to let you rest."  

   Helena passed a cupped hand over her orb and extinguished it, plunging them into darkness once more.  Duncan moved towards the rooftop door, opening it to reveal the torchlit stairway beyond.  She stepped through, Duncan securing the door behind her.

#

   St. Camber’s Schola, St. Hilary’s Basilica
   September 6, 1136


   Duncan crossed the Basilica courtyard on his way to his study.  Several students sat on a bench near the cloistered walk, watching Ciaran MacArdry make what appeared to be an attempt to juggle balls of handfire, only the three glowing spheres drifted lazily in an arc rather than rising and falling swiftly like stuffed leather balls.  One of his classmates snickered.  The rector suppressed a smile, pretending he hadn’t noticed the failed attempt, and continued on.

   A bright glow close to the walkway leading to the Schola’s kitchen caught his eye, and he slowed his steps to glance in that direction.  It was Siany this time, the Queen’s young half-sister, rolling a sphere of handfire from her palm to her fingertips and, with a flip of her wrist, onto the back of her hand, watching it roll partway up her forearm before reversing its direction so that it rolled back down her hand, over her fingertips, and rested in her palm once more.  He’d seen similar tricks done with crystal balls before.  The girl looked up, catching Duncan’s eye, and he smiled at her with a nod of approval before moving on.

   He entered the Basilica’s nave, walking through the quiet sanctuary, into the corridor leading to his study.  As he rounded the corner, he found the study door already unlocked and open—not an unusual occurrence in itself, for Brother Everard often arrived there before him in the morning to see to it that all was made ready for his comfort—and his grandson making himself comfortable in Duncan’s favorite chair.  Duncan Michael looked up as his grandsire entered, flashing Duncan a huge grin.  “Want to see what I can do, Papa Duncan?”

   Duncan took another seat facing the boy.  “Sure.  Does it involve handfire?”

   The little lad looked slightly crestfallen.  “How’d you guess?”

   The bishop chuckled.  “Seems to be a lot of that going around this morning.  So.  Let’s see what you’ve got up your sleeve, so to speak.”

   “Arms!” crowed Duncan Michael, showing them off, and got an eyeroll for his pains.  The boy giggled.

   “What else besides your arms, Master Smart-Pants?”

   In answer, Duncan Michael created a small glowing golden orb and sent it circling above his head.  “See, Papa Duncan?  I have a halo.”

   Duncan snorted in amusement.  “Appearances are most definitely deceiving,” he observed.  He leaned forward slightly in his chair.  “All right, then, let’s see if you can do this.”  The bishop flared his aura, light emanating briefly around him, bathing his body and framing his face in a silver glow.  

   The boy’s eyes widened.  “You look just like those pictures of Saint Michael!  Well, except that you don’t really look like him.  Your hair’s all wrong.”

   “No, Saint Michael looks more like Duke Alaric,” Duncan joked, allowing the aura to dissipate.  “Tall, fair, and too handsome for his own good.”

   “I heard that,” said a voice behind him.  

   Duncan turned towards the doorway to smile at his cousin.   “Good, you were meant to.”  He gave his grandson a meaningful look, and the boy jumped up from his borrowed chair, offering it politely to the newcomer.  Alaric Morgan thanked him and took his seat, stretching his long legs comfortably before him.  “So,” the Duke asked, “what’s with all the light shows this morning?”

   “I…um…seem to have started a trend somehow,” Duncan admitted, sounding a bit sheepish.

   “No, really?” Alaric said dryly.  “I don’t suppose it had anything to do with a certain display of handfire artistry on the tower rooftop last night, did it?”

   “It might have caught on from that,” Duncan admitted.  “Since I doubt you heard about that all the way from Coroth, what brings you back to Rhemuth so early?”  To Duncan Michael he added, “You have a class starting in a few minutes, don’t you?”

   “Yes, m’lord.”  His grandson gave a proper bow, as befitted his page training.  The effect was partially spoiled by his sidelong glance at Duke Alaric, followed by a suppressed grin.

   Alaric, guessing what was running through the boy’s head, gave him a conspiratorial wink.  “I can’t help looking like Saint Michael.  I was born on his feast day.”

   The lad’s eyes widened.  “You were too?  So was I!”

   The Duke chuckled.  “Yes, I know.”  He glanced at the boy’s grandfather and smiled.

   “Run along, lad,” Duncan told his grandson.  “You mustn’t leave Magistra Sophie waiting.”

   Duncan Michael left.  Alaric turned his attention back to his cousin.  “To answer your earlier question, doesn’t Master Janos resume his Healer classes later this evening?  I usually return to Rhemuth for those, when Ducal business will permit.”

   Duncan looked momentarily startled, consulted his mental calendar.  “You’re right, he does.  Thanks for reminding me; I’d nearly forgotten about it.”

   Alaric studied the tips of his boots, a glint in his gray eyes.  “Scuttlebutt has it that you’re adding some sort of handfire display class to the Schola curriculum.”

   “I am?  That’s news to me!”  Duncan shook his head.  “Where’d you hear that rumor?”
   
   “That’s what I gathered from your students’ random speculations as I walked through the Basilica compound earlier this morning.  From their point of view, I suppose it makes sense.  Why else would their rector have been engaging in a light show with one of the Schola magistri up on the Tower last night?”  Alaric arched a blond brow at his cousin.

   Duncan muttered something under his breath as he walked over to shut the study door.   He heard his cousin chuckle as he returned to his seat.

   “Sorry, didn’t catch that last bit.”

   “You weren’t really meant to.  It was a fervent and rather fluent, albeit brief, discourse on hell and damnation in a purely non-theological context.”   Duncan sighed.  “Please tell me that’s the only gossip going around this morning.”

   Alaric shrugged.  “That’s all the gossip I’ve heard on the subject.  Of course, that’s not to say it’s the only gossip out there.  Hell’s bells, cousin, have you lost your ever-loving mind?  On the bloody rooftop?!  Do you want all of Rhemuth to think their Auxiliary Bishop has a paramour?”

   “No, I was rather hoping all of Rhemuth would figure out that their Auxiliary Bishop does not have a paramour, as evidenced by the fact that we were standing up there in full sight of God and everybody rather than stealing off to…Jesú, any number of hideaways randy couples tend to steal off to around here.  The castle’s lousy with them!  You’d probably remember far better than I would.”  Duncan shook his head, heaving a sigh.  “All right, perhaps I overdid the display just a bit.”

   “Perhaps just a tad.”  Alaric held his thumb and forefinger close together as if to take careful measure, then swiftly spread his arms out to either side.  “Like by this much.”

   The rector sighed.  “I suppose I’d better find some logical reason for the magistri to fit the topic into a class lesson or two then, though I can’t think of any useful purpose for it.  Not unless any of our scholars should want to fall back on Deryni circus tricks as a last recourse to earn their livelihood.”

   Alaric shrugged.  “The reconstructed lost art of ancient Airsid signal flares, perhaps?  Handfire signals sent up from the mountaintops of ancient Rûm and their Deryni watch towers?”  A quirk of his lips underscored the jest.  The Duke rose from his seat.  “Well, I have a few other stops I need to make while I’m here in Rhemuth, but I’ll be back sometime before the Healer class this evening.”  He laid a sympathetic hand on his cousin’s shoulder.  “You know, Mind-Speech works just as well as a rooftop for a private conversation.   And Sister Helena is Deryni.  I’m sure you two can work out how to be a little more discreet.”

   “I know.”  Duncan stifled his annoyance, not entirely sure if the feeling was directed towards his cousin or himself.  “But this conversation was of the sort that really needed to happen in person.”

   “Why, so you could see how she was taking it by reading her expressions and body language?”  Alaric thumped his cousin lightly on the head as he walked past him.  “You can do pretty much the same thing even at some distance, at least once you've shared a deep enough level of rapport.”

   Duncan gave him a skeptical look.  “What, decrease the appearance of intimacy by increasing our actual intimacy, when I’m already having a struggle with myself trying not to do that?  If there's any logic to that idea, I'm afraid it's escaped me.”

   Alaric paused at the door.  “You’re already intimate with her, like it or not.  I agree you both need to avoid venturing into any physical expression of that, given your priestly vows.  But at this point, I’m not sure a mind link is going to make the situation any worse for you.”  He turned back to Duncan with a wry grin.  “At least that’s what I kept telling myself that first time I entered into rapport with Richenda.”

   “You ended up married to Richenda,” Duncan reminded him.  “I can’t exactly offer Helena that option.”

   “Yes, I know.”  Alaric’s grin faded.  “But at the time, Richenda was still married to Bran.  I still had no inkling if it would all turn out right in the end.  Not sure if it was an act of stupidity or a leap of faith, bonding with her in that way under the circumstances.  Might have been a completely wrong-headed thing to do, even though it led to a good outcome in the end.  I just know I wasn’t complete until that moment.”  He paused, considering his next words.  “You’re under vows not to marry.   It’s true that places certain limits on how you can and can’t honorably express your love for a woman.   Fortunately love, or even full-on intimacy, isn’t about marriage, or even about sex, though don’t get me wrong, that last option is a hell of a lot of fun and I'm glad the vows I took actually require me to share my bed with my woman!”  Alaric grinned again briefly.  “Here's the point, though.  I don’t recall you ever taking vows to remain half of yourself for life.  If you’ve found someone who makes you feel fully alive and whole inside, who completes you, and she happens to feel the same way about you, then I'd say you're already sharing more with Helena than many married couples ever have.   So maybe it’s time to stop focusing on what you can’t offer her, and start carefully considering what you can.  Might be something worth thinking about while you’re modifying those lesson plans.”  He gave a wistful shrug, laid his hand on the door handle.  “I know you’ll figure your own way through in time, Duncan, even if your story needs to follow a different course than mine.  Just remember you're a damn bishop now!  Be a bit more careful in the public eye, that’s all.  Archbishop Cardiel doesn't need you adding anything extra to his already noteworthy collection of white hairs.”

#

   St. Camber's Schola Infirmary
   September 6, 1136—early evening


   Master Janos presented a carved model of a human heart to his assembled Healers-in-training, holding it up between his thumb and forefinger and slowly rotating it so they could see it from all angles.  "I am sure that you are all aware of how easy it is for a Deryni to use his powers to take a life by stopping an enemy's heart, at least in theory, though Jesú forfend you should ever have to defend yourself in such a way in actual practice."

   "I thought Healers weren't supposed to use their powers to harm anyone at all, Magister Janos," Briony commented innocently.  "At least not deliberately."

   The Healer Master smiled a trifle wistfully.  "Ideally, we're not, especially those of us who have taken the oath to follow the Healer's vocation.  But there are exceptions to nearly every rule, including that one."  His gaze flitted to Briony's father's face, who returned the look with his own steady regard.  "A knight in the King's service, for instance, may not always have the luxury of 'doing no harm' when facing a mortal enemy in combat, or even when off the battle field, under certain circumstances.  I believe His Grace your father could attest to that.  Of course, most combatants would fight with more conventional weapons, as do Deryni as well under most circumstances, but a Deryni might well be called upon to use any or all of his gifts in some lethal manner in his King’s service."  

   Alaric nodded, and his daughter dropped her gaze, blushing.  "You're right, of course," she murmured.  "I hadn't thought it through fully enough."

   "It's better to have given the ethics behind our gift some degree of thought than none at all, Lady Briony.  And the observation was a fair one.  Fortunately, our purpose this evening is not to discuss the taking of lives, but the reviving of them.  What is less well known among Deryni is that a very similar action to that which stops a beating heart can sometimes be used to restart one which has ceased to function on its own, at least if this action is performed quickly enough and under the right circumstances…."

   Half of Duncan's mind registered the Healer Master's lecture, but he'd heard it before, back when he'd gone through his preparatory training as the newly assigned rector of the fledgling Schola.  Now a part of his attention drifted to the woman seated next to Briony.  Helena sat listening intently, taking occasional notes on her wax tablet.  As if feeling his gaze on her, she glanced up briefly, meeting his eyes.  He gave her a slight smile and returned his attention to Janos's discussion.

   "There is an art to massaging the heart muscle in such a way as to revive it without causing further damage...."

   Helena stifled a yawn, although judging by her avid attention to the lecture, it was hardly due to boredom.  Duncan spared her another glance between his note taking, noting faint shadows under her eyes.  He frowned in concern, sending a tightly focused tendril of thought her way, seeking a link.  She glanced his way in surprise, allowing the mental contact.  You look tired.  Did you not sleep well?  he Mind-Spoke.

   She averted her eyes to her wax tablet, jotting down a few words while chewing on her lower lip, looking as if she was desperately struggling not to laugh. Hardly a wink, I'm afraid.  You gave me rather a lot to think about last night.   Thank God for fatigue-banishing spells, or I might have fallen asleep in my own classes! After a few moments, she glanced up, though at Master Janos rather than him.   I'll bet you slept like the proverbial baby.  She somehow managed to sound half amused, half accusing in Duncan’s mind.

   I did.  For the first night in quite some time, I felt like a great weight had rolled off me.  There's something very freeing about not feeling bound by a secret anymore.

   She did glance at him then, understanding and silent agreement in her eyes.  We still need to be circumspect.  There are a lot of folk who wouldn't understand our relationship, who might even assume the worst.  She turned her attention back to the lecture, though she spared enough concentration from it to send another message through their link.  About those ground rules you mentioned last night, can one of them be 'Thou shalt not distract Helena while she is attempting to take lecture notes?' Her eyes shone with suppressed mirth.

   He sent her a burst of silent laughter. I'll make a special note.  And you're quite right about those others.  Alaric gave me a bit of a dressing down earlier this morning.  No, not about us, he assured her as a faintly alarmed look dawned in her eyes and he could sense her struggling not to turn towards him.  About my impromptu lightshow and our need to be more discreet.  He was afraid my attempt to make our private meeting last night come across as completely innocuous might raise some people's suspicions more than it allays them.

   Rather like standing under a giant sign that says 'Nothing happening here, move along now please' while looking altogether too innocent? Helena shot back, struggling not to laugh. Duncan McLain, get out of my mind for the next hour, please, before I have to dream up some lesson-related pretext for smacking you with this tablet!

   Duncan suppressed a chuckle, withdrawing from the link.

   “All right, so now that you understand the underlying concept, let’s see how the technique works in practice.”  Master Janos glanced back at his apprentice, who walked forward with a large, lidded crate, placing it on the table before him.  The Master Healer opened the lid to reveal a tame monkey, who hopped out and studied the group of people gathered around.

   Briony grinned.  “Oh, he’s so cute!”  She turned delighted eyes towards her father.

   Alaric smiled back, saying only half in jest, “No, you can’t have one.”

   Master Janos chuckled as he reached into his bag to draw out a stoppered bottle and a bowl.  He poured the contents of the bottle into the bowl as the monkey watched, beginning to bob excitedly, though the apprentice restrained him gently by the collar.  “Believe me, Lady Briony, you don’t want one of these.  They’re even more of a pain than little brothers, and they get into twice as much trouble.”  He flashed a grin at her.

   She laughed, blushing slightly.  “You must not have met my little brothers, then, if you think that,” she joked back, glancing at Alaric, who shook his head sadly, smothering a wry smile.  Briony watched with interest as the Healer gloved up before pulling another, much smaller, vial out of the bag.  Janos opened it and carefully doled out one tiny drop of its contents into the bowl.  “What are you mixing, Magister Janos?”

   He looked back at her briefly as he returned the small vial to his bag.  “The first bottle contained nothing more than fresh water.  The drop I just added to it is a syrup made from boiling a measure of sugar in an equal measure of a mortweed tisane.”

   “Mortweed?” Duke Dhugal looked startled.  “Aye, that should do the trick.  It’s a low concentration, surely?”

   The Healer nodded.  “Low enough, at least at that dilution.”

   The maiden looked baffled at first, then as she stopped to consider their exchange and also the evening’s topic of discussion, realization set in.  “Oh, Master Janos, we’re not going to kill the poor creature, are we?”

   He shook his head, giving her a reassuring smile.  “Only temporarily.  And just this once.  I prefer not to demonstrate this sort of thing on live creatures, but sometimes there’s just no better way to teach certain techniques. Practicing on a dead heart procured from a butcher’s stall isn’t quite the same.”  He reached into his pouch, producing a treat for the monkey, who grabbed it from him eagerly, chattering back at him before washing it in the bowl.  “Bodi is used to getting treats.  He’s served as one of my King’s food testers, you see.  Normally it’s a nice job for a little monkey, but it can have a hazardous side.”  

   He watched with professional detachment as the monkey bit into the moist piece of fruit, reaching a steadying hand across the table to touch the girl lightly on the arm as she gripped the table’s edge, looking on the verge of tears.  “He’ll be all right, you’ll see.  It was a very small amount, not enough to do him permanent damage since we'll be on hand to reverse its effects in time.”  

   Duncan watched as the simian began to stagger about, stumbling closer to the table’s edge, and he extended a hand to stop it from falling over.  He’d seen this demonstration once before, in that first year after he’d become rector over the Schola, when he and Alaric had first begun to catch up on the years of training they’d missed in their youth due to their half-Deryni heritage.  He liked it no more now than he had then, and felt more than a twinge of sympathy for the poor beast, not to mention for his innocent young cousin who was watching this sort of display for the first time, though he could hardly imagine how else Janos might convey the knowledge that needed to be learned from the demonstration.

   The monkey collapsed, and Master Janos swiftly laid a practiced hand over the animal’s chest, checking for a heartbeat.  His fingers moved briefly over its muzzle as he assured himself that the creature had stopped breathing.  “And now the Healer must act swiftly.  If the patient must do without air and a beating heart for too long, the damage will be irreparable, even if the heart is restarted.”  He looked around the room, commanding everyone’s attention.  “Link your minds to mine, and note carefully what I do as I revive him.  As I said to you earlier, I will only do this once.”

   They complied, and Janos focused on Bodi’s limp body, concentrating his energies and visualizing what he was about to do.  He reached his hand out and gave a series of slight squeezes, only subtly different from the one customarily used to stop a heart, saying a word in quietly spoken Torenthi.

   The tiny body twitched, and after a moment the monkey gave a quick intake of breath, the small chest beginning to rise and fall.  Master Janos placed his fingertips lightly on the animal’s chest and, after a few moments, nodded.

   “His pulse is a little slow and weak, but that’s to be expected.”  He glanced up at Alaric.  “Would you monitor him while I administer an antidote, Your Grace?”

   Alaric nodded.  Dhugal perked up with interest.  “There’s an antidote to mortweed?”

   Janos, rummaging in his bag again, shook his head.  “For a full strength dose, no.  At this weak a concentration, there are potions that will help to counteract its side effects, assuming you can keep the patient alive long enough to administer one.  Ah, here it is.”  He pulled out another vial, dribbling a small amount of its contents onto a small sponge before holding it first under the monkey’s nostrils, then squeezing a tiny amount of the liquid between its lips.  He waited another minute or two, his students watching silently along with him, before glancing up at Alaric.  “And how is our patient faring now?”

   Alaric met his gaze.  “His pulse is getting stronger and more regular.  His breathing is easier as well.”

   “Yes.”  Master Janos turned to Briony.  “See?  He’ll be fine once he wakes up, though that might not be for a few hours.  And as he’s retired from King Liam’s service now, he’ll be returning to a happy life of siring more little food tasters.”  He stroked Bodi’s head absently as he returned antidote and sponge to his kit.

   "And what was in the antidote?" Sister Therese asked, the infirmarian's curiosity piqued.

   "It is a compound brewed from mulberry leaves and kingsroot, with a few drops of tincture of foxglove added, the latter in medicinal quantities only, of course.  I can jot down the exact proportions for you before I leave, though I was planning on discussing that more fully when we get to the class about poisons and antidotes later in the term."

   "What was the word you spoke as you did the reviving spell?" Helena asked.  "And what does it mean?"

   Master Janos chuckled.  "I just said 'resume' in Torenthi.  The exact word isn't important.  It's the visualization and focus, not to mention the intent, that counts.  As you saw earlier, I pictured the heart restarting in my mind, matched action to intent, and willed it to happen.  The spoken word merely states and reinforces the Healer's intent."  He finished securing his kit, motioning to his apprentice to retrieve their simian patient.  "I'm afraid personal business calls me back to Torenth earlier than usual this evening, but I can linger long enough for a few questions if there are any, or we can begin our next class with a longer question and answer session before launching into our next lesson, which will be about treating various ailments of the heart.  Also, there is a chance I might not be here next week, but if I need to postpone that class, I'll send you word."

   "But the term just started!" Briony said in mild protest.  "I hope everything is all right?"

   Master Janos smiled at the young maiden.  "Quite all right, my lady.  It is just that my lady wife is due to present me with our second child any day now, and if I miss our son's birth, I shall be the one in need of an antidote from my pharmacopoeia!"  He glanced at Alaric, who chuckled appreciatively.  "You know how it is with a laboring wife, I am certain, Your Grace."

   "Indeed I do," Alaric Morgan affirmed.

   Helena, taking notice of Briony’s stricken look, felt a twinge of silent sympathy for the lass.  Doubtless the girl would soon recover from her first case of calf love and would possibly experience several such attachments before ending up—God willing—happily wed to a husband worthy of her tender affections, but the tumultuous emotions of youth were no less painful for all their transitory nature.   Fortunately, the men in the room all seemed oblivious to the girl’s distress, and if Sister Therese had picked up on it, at least she was too discreet to add to Briony’s mortification by making any comment.

   Duncan turned towards Helena with a questioning look, then turned to Master Janos.  “Sister Helena was called upon recently to treat an eye injury.  She showed me afterward what she did, and as far as I could tell she handled the case very well, but I suspect she’d prefer a more experienced Healer’s opinion on the matter.”

   The magistra blushed.  She’d intended to bring up the question with Master Janos later, but it could have waited for another evening when the Torenthi Healer was not in such a hurry to return home.  Janos turned an interested eye towards her, though, and gave her an inviting smile.  “Did you really?  I should like to see your memory of that myself; perhaps if you are free for the next few minutes, we can discuss the case on our walk back to the Library Annex?”

   “My time is free, if you aren’t in too much of a hurry to get back.  If you are, my lord, it can wait for another time.”

   “I am quite certain the walk back to Rhemuth Castle will provide ample opportunity for us to discuss the matter,” Master Janos assured her.


Chapter Ten: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=815.0
« Last Edit: January 13, 2012, 09:04:43 am by Evie »
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2012, 10:24:24 am »
Wow, that was a belter of a chapter. Glad Duncan and Helena have got things out in the (very) open and that Alaric provided a voice of reason.  Alaric and Duncan have such a fabulous relationship that is one of my favourite things about the books.

On a more trivial note - yay, leap of faith (fistpump) and briefly there I had Jon offering to teach Ciaran to juggle. This of course assumes that Jon by some miracle manages to live to 1136. (By which time he could have a brood of kids - what a terrifying thought!  Maybe I should have him discover a sudden vocation so that he doesn't pass those hapless genes down another generation. Or maybe they will take after their mother...)

I'm assuming it's no coincidence that this week's lesson involved the use of mortweed.  Can we expect AEdwige's story to start unravelling sometime soon?

Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2012, 10:46:08 am »
Wow, that was a belter of a chapter. Glad Duncan and Helena have got things out in the (very) open and that Alaric provided a voice of reason.  Alaric and Duncan have such a fabulous relationship that is one of my favourite things about the books.

Mine too.  It's a pity Alaric doesn't talk to me very often, or I might write more "cousin/brother moment" scenes.    :)

Quote
On a more trivial note - yay, leap of faith (fistpump) and briefly there I had Jon offering to teach Ciaran to juggle. This of course assumes that Jon by some miracle manages to live to 1136. (By which time he could have a brood of kids - what a terrifying thought!  Maybe I should have him discover a sudden vocation so that he doesn't pass those hapless genes down another generation. Or maybe they will take after their mother...)

LOL!  Yes, let's hope they inherit Edith's genes.  :D  Though Jon might have had similar difficulties to Ciaran's when it comes to juggling handfire.  I figured that handfire, being essentially a globe of light/energy, would be virtually weightless, so it might be a bit like trying to juggle feathers.  Siany's trick probably involved more than a fair bit of mental control and direction to push the handfire sphere where she wanted it to go, rather than reliance on gravity's effects and her ability to balance an object, which is how that same trick would be done with a solid sphere.  She's a few years older than Ciaran, so I figured she'd work out how to control that illusion a bit faster than he would without someone else's direction.

Quote
I'm assuming it's no coincidence that this week's lesson involved the use of mortweed.  Can we expect AEdwige's story to start unravelling sometime soon?

Yep, once she gets settled back in fully.  Keep in mind that she's only been back at the Schola for an hour or so in story time, even if a chapter and a full reader-time week has passed since we saw her arrive with Helena and Cass.  She has some people to re-connect with and an event or two to start into motion before things start unraveling for her.  But the ball has started rolling in that direction....   ;D
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Offline AnnieUK

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2012, 10:55:42 am »
Well Jon's first problem with handfire might be conjuring it in the first place!  But he was thinking more of teaching Ciaran how to juggle with leather balls.

Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2012, 11:05:04 am »
Well, he's mastered the bit about tossing them into the air, he says, and he tells me they also fall back towards the ground just fine.  It's all that stuff in the middle that he's got a problem with, but he thinks he'll get it.  Eventually.  Hopefully before he breaks too many fine valuables.   ;)
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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2012, 11:47:16 am »
Actually, I think a class in handfire juggling, lightweaving, and the like might be a good idea.  It would certainly develop the mental control necessary for other, more serious workings.

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2012, 12:51:01 pm »
Wonderful, wonderful chapter!   :D

I was glad to see that Duncan is the type to face his and Helena's situation directly so that they can work through it. I wonder if he will follow through with Mogan's suggestion and what the result might be. Nice touch that he slept very well afterward, while Helena was left with the sleepness night.

Great dialogue (and visualization) in the scene with Alaric and Duncan.  We need to find a way to get Morgan to speak to you more often.  ;)

And now, on to the unravelling of AEdwige!
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 Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2012, 01:29:46 pm »
We need to find a way to get Morgan to speak to you more often.  ;)

Oh, he seems to spend a lot of time lurking inside Alkari's head, and I know he's visited Annie's a time or two, but does he ever spend any time with me?  Nooo, it's like squeezing blood from turnips, me trying to get any words out of Morgan!  And Richenda's nearly as bad.   Both of them tend to remain firmly silent until I get around to writing the scene they're required in--or until they show up to inform me that I need them for a certain scene and that the story isn't going anywhere until I let them have their say, which is exactly how Morgan ended up in today's chapter, come to think--and then they stick around just long enough to say their piece and make a polite exit afterwards.  I'd consider using virtual duct tape to keep them in their chairs, but I suspect that would violate proper courtly protocol.   ;D  So far, Briony is the only Morgan who chatters more or less freely inside my head.  Brendan has been a bit more forthcoming for this story, but even so, he tends to show up just before a chapter needs him and makes his departure shortly after his scenes are over.  None of this camping out in my mind for days, weeks, or even months at a time, making tongue-in-cheek comments about scenes he's not even in, or things not even vaguely related to the story, any Deryni-related event, or even the Eleven Kingdoms, like some of the other characters are wont to do.  (Yes, Duke Dhugal, Sextus, and Jass MacArdry, I'm looking at you...and stop poking your head in my fridge looking around wistfully for leftover pizza!)
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Offline Alkari

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2012, 06:32:05 pm »
A very interesting chapter.  

Quote
"You're an overgrown schoolboy, Duncan McLain."
ROFL - now that is an accurate description!   I enjoyed seeing Duncan's determination to be honest with Helena, and hers in return, not to mention his "hide in plain sight" attempt to disguise the nature of their meeting :)   Perhaps he has time-travelled and has read Poe's "The Purloined Letter" ...

Nice work with Alaric's gentle warning and 'dressing down' to his cousin/brother.  I'm glad it wasn't a straight out "have you gone completely mad?" reaction, but one that offered some commonsense in with the jests.  You show their relationship very well, and like others have said, it would be good to see more of it.   (As for Alaric being 'required' to sleep with his wife ...  Richenda just smiles serenely and wishes that all the obligations of a duke and duchess were as enjoyable.   She trusts that their brood of children is evidence that she and Alaric have been properly "dutiful" over the years  ;)  )

Interesting 'exchange' between Master Janos and Alaric too - I wonder how much Janos knows or suspects about that duel with Wencit and co.   But it was good to have that brief discussion of ethics with young Briony too:  it's also a gentle reminder of past persecutions and the way in which the Custodes and others coerced Healers (and other Deryni) into using their powers in terrible ways.  An aspect of history which I am sure will be taught at the Schola as they work to restore both the knowledge of magic, and community respect and acceptance of the Deryni.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2012, 06:45:00 pm by Alkari »

Offline derynifanatic64

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2012, 06:54:35 pm »
Did someone mentioned pizza??!!  Great chapter!!  I would have loved to have witnessed the light show!!
We will never forget the events of 9-11!!  USA!! USA!!

Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2012, 12:15:16 am »
Interesting 'exchange' between Master Janos and Alaric too - I wonder how much Janos knows or suspects about that duel with Wencit and co.

The only people who know what truly happened in that duel were the ones involved in it and (presumably) the CC.  So unless Master Janos is quite close to some member of the CC who felt free to be loose-lipped around him, I doubt he knows any specifics.  Even King Liam might not know all the specifics, unless Kelson or Alaric felt he needed to be told for some reason.  (If so, they probably only did so quite recently; I can't imagine them sharing such details with a grieving young boy, and unless the late King Wencit was as cold and calculating towards his sister's family as he was towards his enemies, presumably the young Liam-Lajos would have felt some grief over the loss of his uncle!)  Master Janos might have his own speculations on the matter, though, not to mention that he'd know just in general that any Deryni knight or man-at-arms in a King's service, but most certainly a Deryni peer of the realm, might occasionally be placed in situations where their fealty to their lord might require them to perform actions that they might otherwise consider unethical or at least unpalatable.  In his own case, for instance, if King Liam-Lajos were to request and require that his Court Healer come up with some undetectable poison to use against a man known to be a danger to Kingdom security--let's exercise some wishful thinking and say it's Teymuraz--Master Janos might feel a qualm or two about using his Healer knowledge to harm rather than heal, but I strongly doubt he'd disobey his King.  (Especially considering what the penalty for such disobedience is likely to be in Torenth!  :D )

Quote
  But it was good to have that brief discussion of ethics with young Briony too:  it's also a gentle reminder of past persecutions and the way in which the Custodes and others coerced Healers (and other Deryni) into using their powers in terrible ways.  An aspect of history which I am sure will be taught at the Schola as they work to restore both the knowledge of magic, and community respect and acceptance of the Deryni.

Yes.  And doubtless taught in a very carefully balanced way, since having felt the brunt of a backlash against Deryni that was started 200 years earlier due to the actions of a few power-mad Deryni and their atrocities, they'd not wish to send the pendulum too far in the opposite direction by inadvertently impressing young Deryni minds with how horribly wronged they've been by two centuries of atrocities perpetrated against their people by evil humans.  Yes, they've come through horrible persecution, but the focus now needs to be on the two races learning to mend fences, not perpetrating a cycle of back-and-forth backlashes.
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Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2012, 12:16:36 am »
Did someone mentioned pizza??!!  Great chapter!!  I would have loved to have witnessed the light show!!

So would I.  Preferably while standing on the same tower rooftop, with Sister Helena conveniently somewhere else.  Anywhere else.   ;)
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Offline Alkari

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2012, 01:41:54 am »
So would I.  Preferably while standing on the same tower rooftop, with Sister Helena conveniently somewhere else.  Anywhere else.   ;)

Well, as the omnipotent author, you can relocate her any time, you know!  :D


Offline Evie

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2012, 01:57:25 am »
I can?!  That statement implies I actually have control over my characters, instead of them being the dictatorial little snots who insist on telling me what to write or do!   ;D
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Offline Alkari

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Re: Visionaries--Part Two--Chapter Nine
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2012, 02:01:48 am »
It's quite easy - you just need to get Really, REALLY Bossy.   :D   Just tell them that no person you have created is irreplaceable, and threaten to apply the Delete key to the names of relevant characters in future chapters.  It can have a wondrous effect -and of course it leaves you with a certain handsome bishop ;)



« Last Edit: January 07, 2012, 02:05:51 am by Alkari »

 

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