Chapter 1: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=805.0
Juliana allowed herself to be led to the edge of the clearing. She fell to her knees in the mud and buried her face in her hands. Her rescuer signaled one of his men to stay near her while he conferred with several others some distance away.
“It was a bloodbath…”
“My God they were butchers…”
“What the hell happened?”
“We’ve identified some…”
“There was another group up ahead…”
“It’s a miracle she survived…”
“Did she tell you what happened?”
Juliana’s rescuer turned to his father’s master-at-arms, a grizzled veteran of border raids in the Connait. “Some were Deryni, m’lord. Two of the dead we’ve been hunting since the attack on Bishop Cullen.”
A younger man joined the group, his face ashen. “We’re not the only ones hunting renegade Deryni. Three dead and one injured wore this device…”
"Manfred of Marlor. Damn!"
"He’s out for revenge…"
"The regents will be livid…"
“I’ve sent word to Ebor and Dolban,” said Juliana’s rescuer, “we need to get this area cleaned up. I’ll need her to identify her traveling companions. We’ll take them with us.”
Juliana bit back a sob. “Stop it!” she told herself, “you have a duty to perform.” Brigid, stay hidden.
She walked to where the men were talking. “I appreciate your assistance, my lord, but we are expected at Lothwaite Manor…”
“It’s not safe for you to travel. One of my men will take word to Baron Godwin.”
“Not the baron. My father is there, Sir Betram of Two Rivers…”
“Two Rivers? I’m not familiar with the estate.”
“It’s a small holding near Carbury. My father is steward to Sir Gilbert of Prior’s Ford.”
“Johann, go to Lothwaite. Tell them there’s been and accident and bring them back. Hurry. Wait. My lady, may I send some token with my messenger? I wish your father and the baron to trust him.”
Juliana nodded. “My scarf. No, this.” She untied a silken cord from around her neck. A small amber stone emerged from her bodice. She took the stone in her hand and closed her eyes. Golden light seeped from her loosely-clenched fingers. Come quickly, Father. I think you can trust these men. There’s been…an accident.
She wrapped her necklace in her scarf and handed it to her rescuer. He held it briefly before giving it to the man he’d called Johann. The man raced to his horse, leaped into the saddle, and galloped in the direction of Lothwaite Manor. Shiral, my lady? And do you trust us? Do I have a choice?
She turned back to the bloody clearing.
Her rescuer stepped forward. “My lady, do not go there…”
“My friends are there. I must…see to them…”
“Then let me accompany you…”
She turned away.
“This way first if you please. We found two others alive.”
Juliana stared at her rescuer, unable to believe his words. “Alive? Who? Where?”
“This way. They may not have been with you,” he warned, “they may have been among your attackers…”
A young man and an old man lay on cloaks spread in the trampled grass at the side of the road.
“Michael. Stephan.” Juliana ran to them. They did not respond. “He said they were alive,” she accused the man kneeling between them.
“They’ve been made to sleep,” her rescuer said. “Geordie has been trained as a battle surgeon. My father’s healer will be able to do more.” Your father’s Healer? You must be more important than I thought.
Juliana stared at the men she’d known since childhood. Timidly, she placed her hands on the older man’s head. Satisfied that he was alive, she turned her attention to the younger man. One leg was badly broken and an arrow protruded from one shoulder. His clothes were torn and bloody. She was not sure how much of the blood was his. Gently, she placed her palms against his cheeks and settled into a light trance. He stirred slightly and moaned in his sleep. I’m sorry,
she sent, I need to know what happened.
He relaxed. He and Giles were racing their horses, oblivious to the cheers and jests of the men behind them. Giles’ horse was faster but Michael was the better rider. Michael bent low in his saddle, his head against his horse’s neck as he whispered to his mount. As one they passed Giles, who gave them a black look as he spurred his horse forward. Suddenly they were surrounded. Well-dressed young men on blooded horses knocked Giles from his horse.
Juliana started. Her eyes flew open. She looked around the clearing as if the attackers were still there or might return. “I’m sorry,” she told her rescuer, “it was all so real…”
He nodded. “I understand,” he said, “it’s over, they’re gone. But you’re not safe here. They’re not safe here,” he gestured toward the injured men. “We need to take you—all of you—to my father’s manor. A cart will be here shortly…” He looked uncomfortable. “I need you to identify others of your party.”
Juliana jumped to her feet. “I’m forgetting my duties,” she said formally, “thank you for reminding me.”
“My men have moved some of the bodies…some of the dead,” he amended awkwardly.
“We were checking for survivors. Yours and theirs.”
"Were there any?”
“No,” he said, “I’m sorry.” He sensed that she already knew. “I hate to ask you to go back there but we need to go. Quickly.”
She took a deep breath to calm herself. “Let’s go.”
He led her back into the bloody clearing. Their cart had been righted. Two men were carrying a third man. Gowns and girdles and—Juliana blushed—more intimate items were scattered about the clearing. Cicely’s wedding dress was torn and trampled in the mud. Where is Cicely?
As if he heard her question, her escort led her to the far edge of the clearing. Cicely, Cicely’s mother, their old nurse Sarah, and the two little maids were lying in the cart. Miriam, Lady Lanora’s tiring maid, had been so excited the entire journey. Juliana regretted having been sharp with the child. Her mother, recently widowed, would be inconsolable. She stifled a sob and looked away. Her escort touched her shoulder in mute sympathy.
The men were beside the cart. Sir Gilbert, several of his retainers, Baron Godwin’s men, two men she did not know, and Giles—no not Giles! Juliana turned away, no longer able to hold back tears.
Her escort, at ease in command of soldiers, was at a loss. “My…my lady the carts are here. May we move the bodies…your friends?”
“Why ask now, you already have…”
“I would like to have your consent,” he said stiffly. I would not make this any more difficult for you.”
Juliana sighed. “I know. And I apologize for my rudeness. It was inexcusable.”
“No apology is necessary. You…you have been very brave, my lady. I was…thoughtless…and for that I apologize.”
Juliana wiped her tears and tried to smile. “Thank you. But no apology is necessary.” She looked away, suddenly shy. “My name is Juliana. Juliana of Two Rivers.”
“My name is Jesse. Jesse of Ebor.”
Chapter 3: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1277.msg10279.html#msg10279