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81
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by DerynifanK on September 13, 2018, 01:40:51 pm »
Revanne, that was amazing writing in the scenes with Dhugal and Richard, Seamus and Mirjana.. I had been wondering about them. I hope they are able to support Rory in Laas and to use the actions of Valerian's men to turn the Mearans against them. Also Laurna, thanks for the story telling us more about the fleeing girl. Hope her sister takes her in snd she is safe there. This just gets more exciting  by the minute.
82
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by Jerusha on September 13, 2018, 01:29:49 pm »
Nice backstory for our fleeing girl.  Hope her sister takes her in.
83
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Last post by Laurna on September 13, 2018, 01:21:50 pm »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She had two hours of running down the road,before the forest ways began warming to the light of the new day. Amaryllia slipped off the road and into the trees. It was rough country, but she had grown up here. She knew once she reached the creek, she could follow it down to the stream; this would wind its way to Droghera. That is where her sister lived with her husband. She could seek refuge with them. The cheese-maker had an attic room, they would surely let her stay in. A cheesery would not be as harsh a task master as the baron’s estate had been.
84
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by Jerusha on September 13, 2018, 12:16:36 pm »
Oh my, revanne, that was a powerful scene.  I would not want to carry those memories with me for long.
85
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Last post by revanne on September 13, 2018, 11:54:48 am »
Dhugal allowed Richard’s men their moment of celebration as they crowded around the new knight. Their genuine delight in his honouring warmed his heart as he hoped fervently that Richard’s sense of failure and betrayal could at last be put to rest. But true celebrations would have to wait for resolution of the plight in which the realm now stood, and after just a few minutes he sent the men about their business, to work or rest, and chivvied Richard back up to the castle, although in truth, with both exhilaration and fear now past, exhaustion had begun to set in and he came willingly enough. On entering the bailey Dhugal sent a man to bring food and drink to Richard's quarters and, putting aside Richard’s protests, walked him there himself and waited until he lay down on his bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ha’e ye seem himself, yer Grace?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still not looking at Seamus, Dhugal interjected gently,

“Sadly such things get overlooked in war.”

Seamus muttered something that Dhugal had to strain to hear,

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

“Ye’ll mind when ye had me flogged?”

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

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

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

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

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

Again Dhugal could hardly hear Seamus as he muttered,

“Arrogant wee gomeril that I was.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you done this before?”

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

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

“Aye, I do that, yer Grace.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He held out his hand in dismissal and Seamus went to his knee and kissed it before turning and making his way back down the stairs. Dhugal stood for a long time, staring out to sea  wondering what the fleet would meet with in Laas and how Rory was fairing, before turning and making his own way back down.
86
General Information, Question, and/or Ideas / Re: Modern Day impact of Deryni
« Last post by whitelaughter on September 12, 2018, 08:53:40 am »
Thanks for those quotes Evie! Very useful.

It's worth noting that the Reformation could never have taken off unless people remembered the church being far less corrupt. While the Reformers naturally focused on failings in doctrine, failures in practical matters would have been occurring at the same time. While it is easy - and encouraged - to look down on our ancestors' knowledge, it's worth noting any of them would have had an understanding of many fields only matched by a handful of experts now. People who slaughter animals for food will have a far better of anatomy than those of us who get meat from the butchers, who live without artificial light will know the heavens better than we do (snap quiz - do you even know what the phase of the moon is tonight?)

I've always felt a lot of sympathy for Camber's grief over not being a healer - I suspect that in the modern era many Deryni would be exploring just what medical possibilities were available with their 'ordinary' abilities. Imagine a cross between a Transfer Portal and a CAT scan that was used to teleport items out of a patient without surgery - anything from growths to hydatid cysts to bullets to items that should never have been taken internally. I've always thought that Deryni shields should be adjustable to surround the skeleton, allowing an emergency splinting of broken bones - very useful in an emergency.
87
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by judywward on September 11, 2018, 02:14:13 pm »
I'm also so glad that Aliset & Darcy will be betrothed & hope they all safely get back to Rhemuth for a grand wedding! Great writing! Especially Aliset blurting out that she loves Darcy, too.
88
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by Laurna on September 11, 2018, 11:23:43 am »
Well done! Well Done!
Aliset admitted to loving Darcy!  YES! So glad she figured out her heart. She won't be a wife to sit in the background of her husband, either. And I think Darcy will be very happy with that aspect of their relationship.
89
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread
« Last post by DerynifanK on September 11, 2018, 10:57:00 am »
   It would  certainly  attract attention conducting  a betrothal  ceremony  for Darcy and Robert, ha ha. I loved that scene Jerusha. That betrothal story will certainly become family lore, told and retold. Had to make them angry to get the declarations  of the love they feel for each other, Thoroughly  enjoyed it, Columcil makes a great referee.
90
Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming / Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Last post by Jerusha on September 11, 2018, 10:45:08 am »
*Again, thanks to revanne for Columcil's true words and to Evie for keeping Aliset...um...Aliset!*


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Bloody hell," Darcy said.  "How?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And I was safe there?"  Aliset asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Aye, it is," Columcil admitted.

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

"Aye, it could," Father Columcil said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Within a short time they were riding through the gates of Arx Fidei and heading north.
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