collapse

Author Topic: Modern Era Deryni FanFic Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One  (Read 7139 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« on: August 09, 2015, 10:25:44 pm »
Balance of Power
For Kirienne, greatly missed. Ego sum resurrectio et vita . . .


Dramatis Personae: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1555.0.html



Prologue

Late evening
Somewhere over the Connait
15 December 2021


In less than a minute, centuries of Deryni domination over the Kingdom of Gwynedd would come to an end. Not coincidentally, so would one of the oldest reigning dynasties in all of the Ancient Kingdoms. And it would all be due to his carefully laid plans.

Not his alone, of course. He had accomplices in this, his life’s work. Though after today, there would be fewer left alive to know what he had engineered. That was fine. He was hardly doing this for fame, after all. No, there was a higher goal in sight.

If it were possible, he would aim for the eradication of the entire Deryni race, but as that goal seemed hardly likely—in his lifetime, anyway—he would settle for leveling the playing field between humans and Deryni just a little more. Erode away at their power, eliminate their primary sources of support, and eventually their whole race would diminish, like the great monuments of old, crumbling into dust. Metaphorically, at least.

Not so metaphorically, in the case of the royal residence in the ancient halls of Rhemuth Castle.

He glanced at his watch. It was time.

He leaned back in his seat, barely able to contain a smile as he enjoyed the view from his airplane window. Several miles away, a distant flash on the horizon brightened the eastern sky.



Chapter One

Earlier that evening
A flat near Saint Camber’s College,
University of Rhemuth


“So, how did you meet him?”

Jennifer DeLisle tapped a slender finger against the wedding portrait as she looked up at her friend and former flatmate, whom she had not seen for the past two and a half years. The recent bride, Eilonwy Adams, leaned back in her chair with a wry smile.

“Would you believe it was an arranged match?”

“Right.” Jen chuckled briefly, her eyes widening in dawning astonishment as she belatedly realized that her friend was serious. She leaned forward, intently studying the young woman seated across the coffee table from her. “Wait, really? You’re not joking?”

Eilonwy shrugged, idly twirling a lock of silky chestnut hair around her fingertip. “It’s not that easy to find eligible Deryni men these days. Mother arranged for me to meet a friend of a friend. Patrick and I went out a few times, and . . . well, it turned out we had a lot in common. Besides both being Deryni, I mean.”

“Wow.” Jen regarded the smiling man in the photo. “And you’re happy?”

“Yeah.” The newlywed grinned. “I actually am.”

“Amazing.” Jen handed the photo back to Eilonwy. “I mean, it’s wonderful that things turned out so well for the two of you. But . . . .” She shook her head with a quiet laugh. “Loni, you have surely got to be the last woman in 21st Century Gwynedd to have an arranged marriage!”

“It’s truly not as rare as you might think,” Eilonwy protested with a laugh of her own. “At least not among our kind. It’s not so very different from using one of the online dating services, after all. If you ever decide to consider it, Patrick knows a few really hot guys who are looking to find a Deryni wife . . . .” She laughed as Jen raised her hand as if to ward off the rest of her offer. “All right, all right! I’m just joking. Mostly.”

Jen shook her head, still chuckling. “And speaking of your mother, how is Maureen?”

Eilonwy sighed. “She’s fine, for the most part. Keeping herself busy. She still misses Da, but it’s been three years now. She’s mostly picked up the pieces and learned how to move on.”

Jen nodded. The untimely loss of Professor Sir Will Sheehan, the late Distinguished Professor of Medieval History and Archeology at Saint Camber’s College, the University of Rhemuth, had been a shock to all who had known him. As deeply as her own grief had run, both as his research assistant at the time of his death and as a friend, she couldn’t even begin to imagine how much harder his death had been for his family.

“I’m glad to hear she’s doing well.”

“And you?” Eilonwy countered. “How was Americia?”

Jennifer flushed, wondering if she’d imagined the faint note of reproach in Eilonwy’s voice. After Professor Sheehan’s death, Jen had completed the rest of the university term in a fog before fleeing across the Atalantic Ocean to complete her studies in the New World, far from the friends she’d made here in Gwynedd, her ancestral homeland. She’d told herself she had moved home to Americia to be closer to her family, but that had been a lie. She’d fled Gwynedd to escape her grief, heedless of how her abrupt departure might affect Maureen and Eilonwy Sheehan, who had become like a second family to her. She hadn’t known how to explain her need to get away at the time. Will Sheehan had been . . . what exactly had he been to her? Not like a father, exactly, nor was he her lover. Even had she wanted such a relationship with him—and she had not—he had certainly never viewed her in that light, for no other woman had held more delight for him than his beloved Maureen. But he’d been her most brilliant teacher, her mentor, and more than that, a trusted confidant. Professor Sheehan had been the first to recognize his pupil’s talents. Not simply her academic potential, but her Deryni potential as well. And once her innate gifts had been brought to light, he’d turned his attention to her esoteric training as well as continuing to mentor her in her historical research. She was deeply in his debt, with no hope now of ever repaying him for the precious investment of his time and commitment.

“It was OK,” Jen replied, one corner of her lips quirking in a not-quite grimace. “Mom and Dad still don’t get my interest in history, so they couldn’t be bothered to come to my commencement ceremony last spring. They keep waiting for me to find a ‘real’ job, or at least marry someone well-connected, preferably with a career they can brag about. But aside from that, it was fine. I got to spend my summers with my Gram, at least, so that made the return home worthwhile.”

“I don’t understand your parents,” Eilonwy said, shaking her head sadly. “What goes on in their heads, I wonder?”

“No worries, I’ve never understood them either, and I’ve known them all my life. There’s not much in their heads to understand, I suspect.”

The door opened, and a young man entered the flat, his medium brown hair sparkling with a fine, dewy mist. At the sight of the visitor within, an engaging smile spread across his features, transforming them from merely average looking to boy-next-door attractive. “Hullo, then! Who have we here?”

His wife stood to greet him with an embrace and an affectionate peck on the cheek. “Darling, I’d like for you to meet an old friend.” Turning back to her guest, she added, “Jen, as you’ve doubtless surmised, this is my husband Patrick Adams. Paddy, this is Jennifer DeLisle—or Doctor DeLisle now, I ought to say. Surely you’ll remember me mentioning her to you.”

“Quite often, sweetheart, as has your Mum as well.” Patrick reached across to clasp the lovely brunette’s hand in a firm handshake, his warm brown eyes studying her curiously. “Welcome back to Gwynedd, Dr DeLisle! I hope you’re not too jet-lagged to stay for supper.” He gave an appreciative sniff at the aromas beginning to waft in from the kitchen. “That’s the plan, I trust?” he asked Eilonwy as she reached for his damp jacket.

Jennifer chuckled. “I’m fine, and yes, I do plan on staying for supper, although if that hadn’t been Eilonwy’s intent, no doubt she’d be giving you an earful as soon as the door shut behind my departing back tonight. I’m very glad to meet you at last, Patrick. And it’s Jennifer or Jen to you, not Doctor.”

“Behind your departing back?” He glanced at his wife. “She’s not staying over?”

Eilonwy rolled her eyes as she turned back from hanging his jacket up near the heater to dry off. “I told her we’ve got a guest room, but she insists on putting up at the Royal Astari.”

Jen blushed. She had made the hotel reservation in advance of her trip, not knowing what sort of welcome she might receive from Sir Will’s family after her overly hasty departure from Gwynedd three years earlier. “I suppose I could bring my things over tomorrow, if you’re both certain that having a house guest for a few days wouldn’t be too inconvenient. I already had the first night’s stay at the RA reserved, and I didn’t know if the hotel would charge a fee for late cancellation.”

“You know you’ve always got a bed under my roof,” Eilonwy assured her, glancing at her husband with an expression that brooked no argument, not that he had any reason to object. “So that’s settled. And besides, Jen, Patrick has an allergy to throwing away money needlessly.”

He shrugged, acknowledging the comment with a wry smile. “You can take a lad out of the Borders, but you can’t take the Borders out of a lad.”

“I thought I detected a faint hint of Border brogue under that thin veneer of a Central Lowlands accent.” Jen tilted her head consideringly. “No, don’t tell me . . . Cassan?”

“No, just a bit across the Gulf from there. Rhendall. North rather than northwest, but all of us Border folk sound alike.” He winked.

Jen laughed. “You do not! Even my untrained Americian ears can tell that much. But you could almost pass for Rhemuth born.”

“Which neighborhood? That’s not necessarily a compliment.” Patrick grinned. “You can blame public school and uni for spoiling my Border brogue and turning me into a toff.”

“No worries there, darling; you’d never pass for a toff,” his wife teased. “Never mind that you technically qualify.” For Jennifer’s benefit, she added, “He’s a Traherne on his Mum’s side.”

“Really? Any relation to the Earl?”

Patrick looked slightly sheepish. “His grand-nephew. Why, do you know him?”

“The present Earl? Not at all. His early twelfth-century forebears? Fairly well, actually.”

Eilonwy giggled at her husband’s baffled look. “Jen’s speciality was in Kelsonian-era history.”

“Ah. I see. Um . . . Twelfth Century . . . Which Kelson would that have been? The original, wasn’t he? The one responsible for the Pax Kelsona between Gwynedd and Torenth, not to mention nearly single-handedly ending a couple of centuries of Deryni persecution?”

“Yes, that Kelson. Kelson the First, also known as Kelson the Great.” Eilonwy sidled towards the kitchen door as the chime of a timer announced that their main course was ready to come out of the oven. “Your great-great-great-God-knows-how-far-removed grandfather was his brother-in-law or something.”

“His uncle’s brother-in-law,” the newly-minted Doctor of Medieval Studies corrected her.

“Whatever,” Eilonwy’s voice called out from the kitchen.



Later that same evening
Peter Astari’s personal penthouse suite
Royal Astari Hotel
City of Rhemuth


Lady Maureen McLain-Sheehan covertly studied her luxurious surroundings. Like everything else that had Peter Astari’s personal stamp upon it, its elegance reflected its owner’s wealth without being gaudy or ostentatious. The suite, despite the sumptuous furnishings and objets d’art that had doubtless been pulled together by one of Gwynedd’s foremost interior decorators, looked comfortable and well lived in. Even without having to resort to her Deryni gifts, she could sense that Peter spent a great deal of time in these rooms during his frequent visits to his flagship hotel. She could hardly blame him. To her artist’s eye, the elements of design surrounding her set off the man himself like a well-crafted piece of jewelry set off a brilliant gemstone.

The gemstone in question arched a raven eyebrow at her, and Maureen realized she must have missed his last question. “I’m sorry? I was wool gathering, I’m afraid.”

Astari smiled. “I gathered that. Lusting after my suite again? I keep telling you that you’re welcome to stay here any time you’d like.”

Maureen fought the urge to blush. Peter had started growing flirtatious of late, and she could never quite tell if he was joking or serious. She could Read his intentions, of course, but hardly without him sensing what she was up to, and that would be even more embarrassing. Although she was well past those initial pain-filled months that had followed her husband’s death, and her grief had begun to ease in the following three years since that horrible day, she had not quite come to terms with considering herself a single woman yet, much less one ready to venture into the perilous waters of dating again, not to mention intimate relationships.

His smile grew to a grin. “Even if I’m not here. That was an invitation, not a pick up line, although . . . .” His expansive gesture indicated that he was certainly open to the alternative interpretation. Maureen lost her battle, her cheeks growing warm as a blush suffused her fair skin. She ducked her head slightly, hoping her coppery curls would help to conceal her flushed cheeks. Astari chuckled. “As I was saying earlier, would you like a drink? Wine, maybe, or a cider? I seem to recall you’re quite keen on Gold Lion.”

“No, thank you, although perhaps some tea would hit the spot, if it’s no bother.”

“Not at all. What type would you like?”

“Darja would be fine. Smoke-infused, if you have that sort handy. I know not everyone keeps it on hand.”

Deep blue eyes the color of the mountain lakes in her native Cassan shone with suppressed amusement. “Of course I have smoke-infused darja, dear. This is the Royal Astari. We have everything.” He stood, walking over to a nearby console to call down her order.

A soft but resonant chime, felt almost as much as heard, alerted both Deryni to the arrival of a private lift, and a moment later Maureen heard the lift doors opening in an adjoining room. She glanced at Astari, wondering if he was expecting another visitor. Whoever it was had to be another Deryni, for she knew that particular lift descended directly to a ground-level Transfer Portal, its coordinates known only to a very few of Peter Astari’s most trusted friends. She was privileged to be among that select few. Though, Peter being the cautious man that he was, both ends of the secret Portal lift had been made as secure as the most esoteric of spell work could make them, for one never knew if a Portal’s coordinates might somehow become known to one’s enemies, and as both one of Gwynedd’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and a Deryni, Astari certainly had never lacked for enemies.

Astari’s expression reflected his own surprise at the unexpected arrival. “Well, well! Let’s see who’s turned up, and why.” His long, ground-eating stride took him swiftly down the corridor to the small chamber housing the private lift. Maureen followed close behind him, also curious.

The tiny room, although comfortably appointed with a cozy chair, a small table with several magazine selections, a mini-fridge, and an adjoining lavatory, was also a dead end to anyone not specifically permitted into the penthouse suite by Peter Astari himself. The entrance to the main suite itself was heavily warded. On the other side of the warded doorway, a dark-haired young man wearing a somewhat worn black jacket, a shirt with a clerical collar and slightly faded black jeans comically mimed being trapped inside a glass box, although he carefully kept his open palms from actually touching the glowing barrier before him.

Astari shook his head with a suppressed smile and reached a hand through the ward. The priest took it, allowing himself to be pulled through the energy barrier. He glanced beyond Astari at his other guest. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had company. Ah . . . Not interrupting anything, am I?”

“Alas, no,” their host replied with a teasing glance at Maureen.

The priest grinned. “Good! I didn’t fancy having to kick your reprobate bum.” He winked at Maureen. “Good to see you again, Lady Maureen. It’s been awhile.”

“Far too long. How have you been, Father Devlin?”

“Can’t complain.”

“Come join us,” Peter Astari invited, motioning toward the main sitting room of the suite.

Devlin O’Shiele made his way to the seating area with the air of a man well accustomed to visiting Astari’s private apartment and made himself comfortable in a corner chair.

“Your usual?” Astari asked.

“Please.”

Astari went to the wet bar and pulled two bottles of St George’s Stout from the cooler there. A ding from the dumbwaiter signaled the arrival of Maureen’s tea service. Astari added the bottles and a bottle opener to the tray holding the small teapot and porcelain cup and set the assortment down on the coffee table. “Milk? Sugar?” he asked as he poured Maureen’s tea for her.

Maureen shook her head as she savored the sweet, smoky aroma wafting from her steaming brew. “No, thank you. Black is fine.”

“Aye, nothing to dilute the flavor of liquid campfire smoke,” Devlin joked.

“So, what brings you out this way?” Astari asked the priest once he had served both guests and had settled onto the sofa beside Maureen. “Your mission is sponsoring another charitable donation drive?”

“No, nothing like that. Besides, we’re still having to dream up ways to spend your last donation, not that I’m complaining. It was beyond generous. Thank you.” He leaned back in the chair, regarding both of the Deryni before him. “Actually, I’m very glad you’re here, Lady Maureen. I’ve heard rumors of something troubling that may possibly be in the works, but nothing concrete enough to call a full meeting of the Council over. Still . . . .” He frowned, his handsome features looking more serious than usual. “What can either of you tell me about a group called Humanity Ascendant?”

“Nothing good,” supplied Astari. “On the surface, they claim to be pushing for complete equality between humankind and Deryni—whatever that might mean, since legally, socially, and in every other way aside from their inability to use Deryni powers, they’re in every way equal to us already. If anything, they’ve got better protected civil rights. Behind the scenes, I’ve long suspected the group to be behind any number of anti-Deryni terrorist activities, although thus far nothing has managed to be proved.”

“I’ve always figured them for a human supremacist group,” Maureen added.

“That’s pretty much the case, yes,” Astari confirmed. “So, what about Humanity Ascendant?”

“Well . . . Please understand, what I’m about to show you might not actually have anything to do with them, although my gut hunch says it does. My . . . my informant was rather vague on the details, and he might have been mistaken or confused about some of the particulars of what he was trying to warn me about. He was dying when I arrived, and may simply have been delirious, although he seemed lucid to me. Still, I figured you might want to know off the record, as a Council coadjutor, just in case the threat is genuine.” He held out a hand to Astari and, after a momentary pause, to Maureen as well. “And before you ask, I got his permission to share this with you. Well, not specifically with you, but with anyone who might be able to stop the plot from being carried out.”

Astari’s eyebrows rose skyward. “Plot? Now you truly have captured my interest!”

“Wait!” Maureen interrupted, forehead furrowing in concern. “Are you talking about some sort of terrorist plot that could be in the works? Shouldn’t you be taking this to the police rather than bringing it to us?”

“Did that first,” Devlin assured her, his fingers closing around hers. “But let me just show you.”

A hospital room. The priest rushed to the lad’s bedside, hoping it wasn’t too late. Devlin had been warned ahead of time that the young man—features blurred in this shared memory, although both Astari and Maureen sensed he’d been barely out of his teens—was at death’s door. Even despite the severity of his condition, the patient had refused the services of a hospital chaplain. Said he’d only trust one priest to hear his confession. And so Devlin had gone.

He’d been, or so the young man had whispered as he lay dying, the only man who’d ever believed in him, who’d ever told him he could amount to something, if only he’d leave off running with the wrong crowd. And so the lad had tried to live up to the priest’s belief in him, but had tried too late, and that had led him here, to this cold and overly bright room where he lay internally bleeding to death for his folly.

But before he died, there was one thing he had to share. Something he had to reveal, must purge from his conscience if he was to meet his Creator that very night. He wasn’t even entirely certain there was a God, although he knew he’d been christened as a baby and had been made to attend Easter and Christmas Masses while his grandmother was still alive. Though whether that God was waiting to receive his soul or not, he didn’t actually know. But in case there was any chance of that, he wanted to make things right. And so he’d called on the one churchman he’d ever known who’d ever given a damn about him. And now here he was.

The pain-killing drugs were beginning to make his mind drift, or perhaps it was simply the death process itself, but the dying man had rallied his energies for one last confession. “They’ve found some way in! . . . I tried to stop them, but they said they’d kill me if I backed out. I ran . . . .” An attempt at a laugh turned into a moan. “That didn’t work out too well for me, did it, Father?”

Devlin had somehow managed to summon up a responsive smile. “A way into where? Tried to stop whom?” Even then, his mind had been awhirl with the implications of what he was hearing.

“The castle. . . .” The voice trailed off and the young man’s glassy eyes drifted shut. For a moment Devlin feared the lad had already died, but then he resumed speaking, his voice momentarily stronger. “Eric plans to use some sort of portal to get in, but he’s human, so I don’t know how he’s going to make that work.”

A portal that humans couldn’t normally access. The Deryni priest could think of several castles that might have active Transfer Portals, but the most likely option in the short list that sprang to mind made him feel lightheaded. “Exactly what does Eric plan to do, and where?”

“Kill them all . . . .” The dying youth had squeezed his hand. “You have to warn them. . . warn someone . . . .”

Devlin could sense him weakening. The hand relaxed, dropped away. “I have your permission to share what you’ve just told me with anyone I need to?”

“Yes, Father. I tried to stop them, but I couldn’t. For . . .forgive?”

The priest delayed no longer. He granted the dying lad absolution, followed by the sacrament of Extreme Unction. As he finished, he felt the unseen presence of Uriel arriving to usher the departing soul into the hereafter.


Maureen’s eyes were bright with unshed tears as the priest severed the mental link between them. “Oh, poor boy!”

Astari, more pragmatic, simply asked, “You said you’ve contacted the police?”

“Oh yes. They were already investigating the hit and run accident, so the information I gave them may have upped the charge from accidental manslaughter to premeditated murder, if they ever manage to track down the driver. But as for the threat against the castle and family, it’s all very vague, isn’t it? Not much in the way of leads to go on, although they’ve assured me that they’ll pass the word on to the anti-terrorist squad. But I’m worried it might not be seen as a credible threat, or even if it is, that the investigators might not manage to work through the list of possibilities in time to save whichever Deryni family is in danger, wherever they are. At least I assume it’s a Deryni family at risk, given the existence of a Transfer Portal in their castle.”

Astari tapped his index finger against his lips, looking thoughtful. “I imagine they’ll increase security at Rhemuth Castle, Eirian House, Corwyn, and Valoret at the very least—can’t risk the Royal Family coming to any harm, even on the basis of a vague possible threat—but as to narrowing down the choices beyond that . . . Well, it would be easy enough for them to pull together a list of castles that are still habitable rather quickly, and possibly even narrow that down to which of those castles belong to Deryni families. Known Deryni, at least. I doubt an inquiry into how many of those castles have active Transfer Portals is going to be very forthcoming, though. Deryni have never been keen on sharing information that could end up being used against them. I don’t suppose you did a Death Reading for more useful information?”

The priest stared at his host. “Hell, no!” After a moment to recover from the momentary shock Astari’s question had caused, he added, “At any rate, I had higher priorities at the time. Even if I had been inclined to try a Death Reading, by the time I had finished administering the sacraments, there would have been little useful information left to retrieve.” Devlin looked slightly ill at the very thought of violating the precious and sacred trust between penitent and priest in such a way.

“Ah well, can’t be helped now.” Astari considered the matter a moment longer before adding, “Do you have any idea of the time frame we have to work within? Is it an immediate risk, or still in the planning stages?”

Devlin shook his head. “Not a clue. I got the sense that the threat could be imminent, though that sense of urgency could be due to my penitent feeling he needed to warn me before he succumbed to his injuries.”

“Maybe we should do some investigating on our own,” Maureen suggested. “After all, we’re in a somewhat better condition to know which Deryni families—including some who aren’t openly Deryni—may need to be warned of this sort of threat and to be able to contact them quickly, without needing to disclose any information they might desire to keep private from a government agency. I know my father wouldn’t be too keen on having it on record that he’s got an active Portal at Ballymar. His is unregistered.”

“You’re sure you want to admit that our Duke of Cassan has been negligent in his civic duty in the presence of our fine, upstanding young citizen here?” Astari teased, shooting a sidelong look at Devlin. “He might feel it’s his conscientious duty to report the lapse.”

Devlin chuckled. “Sorry, my mind must have been wandering. Didn’t hear a word Lady Maureen just said. Did I miss anything?” He grinned. “Besides, if I report His Grace, I strongly suspect I’d need to report you as well, Peter. Or does Her Majesty’s Government know you’ve got a sketchy lift that leads from your penthouse to a basement room with no other apparent entrance?”

“Hm. Remind me to kill you before you leave, that should sort things nicely.” Peter Astari rose and walked over to the large window overlooking the city. In the near distance, not much more than a mile away, the dark bulk of Rhemuth Castle loomed over the city, its shape silhouetted in the growing gloom of nightfall. “I agree, Maureen, it would be a good idea for us to follow up on the threat discreetly.” He thought back over the details of the confession that Devlin had shared with them. “Your penitent said that ‘Eric’ was behind this plot.” He looked back over his shoulder at the priest. “You’re thinking he meant Eric Armitage? And that’s why you think this is all linked in with Humanity Ascendant?”

“Yes. I know that’s sheer speculation, and I could be completely wrong, but I have reason to believe that’s the ‘Eric’ he was referring to.”

“Reasons stemming from one or more sources you’re unable to confirm or deny, because they may or may not have come from one or more of those wayward young men at your mission?” Astari sighed, not really expecting an answer to the question, and not receiving one. “Damn it, Dev, I hate to say it, but that whole ‘seal of the confessional’ tradition is a real pain in the arse at times!”

The priest gave him a wry smile. “Tell me about it, but it’s necessary, even if it’s occasionally awkward. Leaving all that aside though, I do have other sources of information outside of the confessional. It’s open knowledge in my neighborhood that Eric Armitage and his group are actively recruiting amongst my young street lads, hence my suspicions. So no, I’m not talking out of turn. You ought to know me better than that, Peter!”

Peter Astari sighed. “I know, I know. Still, it would be helpful if you priestly lot could be just a little bit less close-mouthed when occasions such as this arise.” He reached into his pocket for his smartphone. Scrolling through his contacts list, he commented, “I’m sure Anti-Terrorism is on the case by now, but knowing how slowly the wheels of bureaucracy can turn, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to ring up Her Majesty and let her know what’s up more direct—”

A cry of horror from Maureen and the startled outburst of an epithet more scatalogical than saintly from the priest, coupled with a sudden brilliant flash over the city skyline, made him look up.

“Dear God, we’re too late!” Maureen moaned, staring transfixed at the conflagration before them.

Father Devlin O’Shiele all but melted into his chair, eyes closed, crossing himself as his lips moved in fervent prayer. Peter Astari briefly considered calling emergency services, but the wail of sirens somewhere in the streets below assured him that a swift response was already under way.



Late evening
Royal Hospital
City of Rhemuth
15 December, 2021


Sophia Morgana Anastasia von Horthy Haldane Formacek wanted little more than to close her weary eyes and rest for a few minutes, but there was little time for that. As a medical intern at the Royal Hospital of Rhemuth, she was lucky to have a few moments to spare before seeing the next patient, and her shift wasn’t scheduled to end for another hour. Despite her royal status, she didn’t feel very much like a princess at the moment, and a glance at her blood-stained scrubs assured her she didn’t look like one either.

“Dr Formacek? You’re needed back in Emergency.”

She gave the nurse a tired smile and nodded to let her know she’d heard. Not for the first time, Sophia wished she knew that fatigue-banishing trick that trained Deryni used on occasions such as this. She knew she carried the Deryni gene in both the Haldane and von Horthy sides of her lineage, but the attendant powers had grown diluted over time, and the Formacek part of her bloodline was, so far as she knew, merely human. Her mother the Queen had some sort of Deryni-like powers, Sophia was vaguely aware, but that was a closely held secret even from most of the family, much less the general population, and Sophia was not entirely sure how those powers had been awakened from dormancy. Something had happened shortly before Mother’s Coronation, something that was rarely ever referred to, and always in hushed tones. Sophia was not in a need-to-know position, it seemed, and so she had never learned all of the particulars. As a young child at the time, she’d been more upset over losing her beloved grandfather than interested in whatever might have transpired behind the scenes when her mother went from becoming simply her Mummy to being Her Majesty Araxelle of Gwynedd. All Sophia could remember now about any changes in her mother’s abilities around that time was that suddenly she couldn’t get any fibs past her, not even the little white lie sort.

Sophia made her way down the hospital corridors back toward the emergency ward, paying little notice to what was happening around her, so caught up was she in her childhood memories. She suspected there was good reason she’d never been told exactly what had happened in those dimly remembered days prior to her mother’s Coronation, even now that she was an adult and fifth in line to the throne. (Sophia had been third in line before the birth of her elder brother’s twins earlier that spring, a happy occasion that had resulted in much rejoicing among most of Gwyneddan society, not to mention a sudden increase in tourism and the explosion of the souvenir industry.)

As she turned a corner and approached the emergency ward doors, she suddenly noticed frantic activity before her. Medical personnel scurried to wheel in multiple casualties.

Sophia quickened her steps, intending to help, only to be stopped by the Chief of Emergency Medicine. “No, Your Royal Highness, not in there! My office, please.” He gestured down the hallway with his free hand, his craggy features ashen.

She stared uncomprehendingly at him. “But . . . I’m needed in Emergency, sir! I need to go!” She made an attempt to turn away, but something, some awareness of something very wrong, niggled at the back of her mind. He’d addressed her by her formal title. Why? Here on hospital grounds, she was Dr Formacek, not Princess Sophia. Most of her colleagues knew who she was, of course, but she needed to fit in with her team, not stand above them, so this was not the place for standing on ceremony.

“Your Royal Highness.” It was one of her armsmen, normally hovering so unobtrusively in the background that she tended to forget they were there while she was working, who stepped up to take her arm, urging her away from the hubbub surrounding the emergency room entrance. The look in his eyes frightened her.

“What’s happening, Michael?” she whispered as she entered the chairman’s office. At the desk, her other bodyguard hung up his phone, his eyes brimming with tears.

“Please have a seat, Your—” This second bodyguard’s voice broke. He swallowed hard. “I regret to inform you, Your Majesty, that the royal apartments at Rhemuth Castle were destroyed in an explosion about ten minutes ago. Evacuation of the palace is still in progress, but as for your immediate family . . . Ma’am, I’m afraid it appears at this time that there were no survivors.”

“You must be mistaken!” The young medical intern and now queen presumptive of Gwynedd stared at her senior bodyguard in shock. “There have to be survivors! I’m not . . . Mum . . . Her Majesty can’t be . . . .” She shook her head as if to clear her brain of the mental fog that threatened to envelop it. “I’m only fifth in the succession. My brother . . . .”

“His Royal Highness was at the Palace with Her Majesty when the blast went off, along with the Princess of Meara and their two children. As you’ll recall, they were preparing for a tour of Camberia later in the week, which is why they decided on a pre-Christmas visit before they set off. I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I’m afraid you are the sole survivor of the House of Haldane. In the direct line of descent, at any rate.”

Sophia blinked away tears. “Me? Not my sister?”

“Princess Stefanie survived the original blast, but she succumbed to her injuries before the ambulance could make it to hospital. As for Her Majesty—Her late Majesty, that is—she was closer to the center of the blast radius. We have reason to believe she died instantly.”

Comprehension was slow in coming. “I want to see her.”

The younger bodyguard’s eyes widened, his head slowly shaking as he met the other man’s eyes. Her senior bodyguard looked equally dismayed. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible.” Gently he reached out and took her hand, brushing it with his lips in a gesture that combined deference to his new sovereign and compassion for the bereaved girl. Then, putting protocol aside, he wrapped an arm around her shaking shoulders as comprehension caught up and the young Queen retched. Her junior bodyguard leaped forward in haste, handing her a wastebasket.


Chapter Two: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1563.msg13492.html#msg13492
« Last Edit: January 19, 2017, 10:03:25 pm by Evie »
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline drakensis

  • Fanfic Author
  • Royal Squire
  • *
  • Posts: 192
  • Karma: 5
  • Gender: Male
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2015, 05:09:02 am »
Nicely done, Evie although I have to wonder how an explosion in Rhemuth could be seen from over the Connait. It'd have to be a rather large explosion to be brighter than all the many many artificial lights I'd expect from a city.

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2015, 06:46:16 am »
It's a fairly sizable blast -- in a later chapter you'll learn the extent of the damage -- and of course someone who masterminded the bombing would know just where to look. I was actually more concerned with how far out from the city that plane might be and still see Rhemuth on the horizon, but after some online research it appeared that the city would still be visible from over the Connait (at least the eastern border of it). Originally I forgot there was quite that much land west of Rhemuth and had the plane flying over the Atalantic when the blast occurred, but seeing it from that distance might have been a stretch unless that's Superman on board that westbound flight. ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline revanne

  • Community Supporter
  • Baron
  • *
  • Posts: 1672
  • Karma: 15
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Book: King Javan's Year
  • Favorite Character: Father Joram MacRorie
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2015, 10:49:07 am »
I think given that it was a December evening and therefore the last of what little natural light there was would be lingering in the sou-south West if at all whereas the explosion was eastwards, the plane would be at 21,000 feet, and the size and intensity of the explosion, a glow would be visible given that the viewer knew where to look.

I have very much enjoyed reading this over the last few months once I got over the trauma of this first chapter. My first reaction I think was something like "Have pity, woman, I'm a Brit who approves of royals, and you're asking me to read about wholesale regicide."

Seriously Evie, I love your attention to detail. I've just finished reading a detective novel set in modern London written by an American and it's enjoyable enough but the little details that don't work are very annoying and could easily have been solved by asking a Brit to beta-read.
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2015, 12:10:26 pm »
Fortunately Modern Gwynedd is in a fantasy universe, so any discrepancies between it and the modern UK (and I know there are some) are easily enough explained by them having somewhat different histories.   ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Laurna

  • Community Supporter
  • Earl
  • *
  • Posts: 2125
  • Karma: 16
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Character: Alaric Morgan & Rhys Thuryn-May they be Family.
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #5 on: August 10, 2015, 01:48:46 pm »
In just this first explosive chapter, (oh dear me! Evie you don't give a girl time to blink before the inevitable happens...) I dare say, Evie Delacourt, you have graduated to the title of true authorship. This is well done indeed.

Quote
“No, just a bit across the Gulf from there. Rhendall. North rather than northwest, but all of us Border folk sound alike.” He winked.

Jen laughed. “You do not! Even my untrained Americian ears can tell that much. But you could almost pass for Rhemuth born.”

“Which neighborhood? That’s not necessarily a compliment.” Patrick grinned.

That said more about the large capital city of Rhemuth then all the luxury found in Peter's Penthouse apartment.

P.S. Nice dedication. I hope someone shows it to Kirienne's sister.

More, please, can I have some more?
« Last Edit: August 10, 2015, 03:27:09 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

  • Community Supporter
  • Baron
  • *
  • Posts: 1925
  • Karma: 24
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni
  • Favorite Character: Alaric Morgan
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #6 on: August 10, 2015, 04:24:25 pm »
Wow  Evie, so well worth the wait!  Thank you for not introducing the royal family to us before the explosion - that would have made the trauma worse.

I am looking forward to the next chapter.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Shiral

  • Zipper Sister
  • Grand Master Knight
  • *
  • Posts: 667
  • Karma: 9
  • Gender: Female
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2015, 05:10:08 pm »
Oh No! Rhemuth Castle Fall Down Go BOOM??????  :'(  Somewhere, Kelson's ghost is weeping.

 I am a little relieved--with a blast visible from that far away  I was afraid maybe the terrorists had nuked Rhemuth. But I guess that would kind of end the story before it properly began.   8) Poor young queen, having lost all her family at one swell foop. 

Consults watch. And we have to wait HOW many more days for the next installment?

Melissa

You can have a sound mind in a healthy body--Or you can be a nanonovelist!

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2015, 05:33:19 pm »
It is now after the workday, so I can safely reply to comments again.  ;D

I am hoping to post chapters approximately every five days, give or take a day.  This one was originally slated to go up this morning, but I went ahead and posted it late last night, which puts the next one on track to be posted either very late Thursday or sometime on Friday.

I'm sure Kelson's ghost is none too happy, although he's already had to watch Rhemuth the Beautiful get gutted by the Great Fire mentioned in the foreword to the Codex Derynianus, plus there'd be the inevitable changes over nearly a millennium due to every generation's attempts at modernization, so by this point I think he's become a veteran at nonattachment. Let's hope, anyway.  ;D But never fear, I didn't blow the entire Castle to Kingdom Come. It's just...um...OK, so large portions of it have just ascended into Heaven. We'll just put it that way. Nothing that can't be salvaged, given enough time....

Laurna, I see Modern Rhemuth as a very large, sprawling, and diverse city, much like modern London, with a variety of accents ranging from their version of Cockney to their version of Received Pronunciation. In my AU version of the Kingdom, the City has grown in all directions, though primarily east along the Molling and south towards Desse (which is now a suburb on the outskirts of southern Rhemuth). What used to be the walled city is now just the downtown area, though parts of the wall and its gates are still standing and are tourist attractions. Over the centuries, I think the port of Desse probably got silted in and lost some prominence over time, but Concaradine would still be a major port city. Some of the old medieval roads still exist, though now most have been paved over, with the Great Western Road for instance now the M4 motorway.  Kelson would recognize some bits of his old town, but would be vastly amazed by others.

BTW, very early on I considered seeing if I could dovetail this AU history with the intriguing glimpse of Modern Gwynedd Jerusha wrote about in her Morgan time travel story, but once I re-read it I realized that would be impossible to do. So Rhemuth Castle is presumably still very much intact, as are its royal inhabitants, in her version of Modern Gwynedd, and Alaric's great-great-great-something granddaughter won't need to kill me for blowing up Prince Nigel.  So please, Jerusha, feel free to give us a sequel to that story.... ;)

"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Jerusha

  • Community Supporter
  • Baron
  • *
  • Posts: 1925
  • Karma: 24
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni
  • Favorite Character: Alaric Morgan
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #9 on: August 10, 2015, 06:42:16 pm »
Lady Evaine is very happy you left Prince Nigel intact.   :)  And is very happy the study of Kelsonian history continues.

There is a chance she will discover a diary that will disclose the bravery of one of her ancestors, in a time much similar to the French Revolution... but set in Gwynedd.  It wss thought to be lost to history....

But I have a LOT of research to do before then.  And am most  content to look forward to your next chapter (begins countdown to Thursday/Friday).
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2015, 06:42:16 am »
That sounds intriguing, Jerusha! Though the Gwynneddan version of the Revolution must have turned out a bit more peaceful than the French version if your Lady Evaine still has a Haldane Prince left to care about. :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Laurna

  • Community Supporter
  • Earl
  • *
  • Posts: 2125
  • Karma: 16
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Character: Alaric Morgan & Rhys Thuryn-May they be Family.
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2015, 11:46:06 am »
Jerusha, Evie you have just reminded me, Would you both be so kind as to send me a list of your Haldane, Morgan, and McLain characters: names, along with birth dates, parentage and children if known: to add to my fan-fic descendants of Camber list. I do not need a full pedigree. Just knowing they carry the last name as direct descendents is good enough. I assure you that each story has its own list, so it does not matter if each of your modern day stories reads differently from the other. I have the list nearly finished and ready to go. So if you want to see the way I am entering it, I can send you a PM.

On and entirely different note: I was wondering, as I drove home last night from work, about certain cultural differences that would be changed in the Deryni modern world from our world. The first thing that came to mind was the greeting of a handshake. Knowing that Deryni could control you at the touch of the hand, would hand shaking ever have become a gesture of "meeting, greeting, parting, offering congratulations, expressing gratitude, or completing an agreement"(per Wikipedia). Perhaps the wearing of gloves was common or non touch greeting, such as the bow continues into their modern day, as in the Japanese culture. Perhaps handshaking does still occur as a form of- "I trust you enough that you will not mind-compel me, so I will shake your hand", type gesture. Just my curiosity showing.

Offline Evie

  • Administrator
  • Duke
  • *
  • Posts: 4367
  • Karma: 30
  • Gender: Female
  • Sister Evie--Servant of Saint Camber
    • The Mini-Deryni Chronicles
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni or The King's Justice (can't decide)
  • Favorite Character: President of the Duncan McLain Fanbabe Society
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2015, 12:15:59 pm »
I think KK uses the handshake in her canonical books, so it seems safe to assume that the custom continued in Gwynedd. Deryni make up such a small percentage of the population, after all, that one would have to be pretty paranoid to refuse to shake hands with anyone on the off chance he might be a Deryni. Though I can see it being a cause for someone to reject a handshake from a known Deryni.
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!

Offline Jerusha

  • Community Supporter
  • Baron
  • *
  • Posts: 1925
  • Karma: 24
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Book: High Deryni
  • Favorite Character: Alaric Morgan
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2015, 02:02:53 pm »
I don't have my copy of Deryni Magic handy, but IIRC, touching was not necessarily a requirement for control.  It was however an illusion most Deryni supported, since the prospect of a Deryni being able to exert control without touching would have increased human paranoia.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline revanne

  • Community Supporter
  • Baron
  • *
  • Posts: 1672
  • Karma: 15
  • Gender: Female
  • Favorite Book: King Javan's Year
  • Favorite Character: Father Joram MacRorie
Re: Balance of Power--Prologue and Chapter One
« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2015, 04:15:54 pm »
I think KK uses the handshake in her canonical books, so it seems safe to assume that the custom continued in Gwynedd. Deryni make up such a small percentage of the population, after all, that one would have to be pretty paranoid to refuse to shake hands with anyone on the off chance he might be a Deryni. Though I can see it being a cause for someone to reject a handshake from a known Deryni.

I am inclined to wonder, with Laurna, that as society evolved from KK's time frame and there was more need to develop a widespread form of greeting between equals whether a non tactile form of greeting might not have evolved. Although handshakes are still common in modern Britain polite nods of the head along with a verbal greeting are also common -  I'm wondering whether handshakes are more prevalent in the US?
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

 


* Discord

* User Info

 
 
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

* Recent Posts

Re: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by revanne
[Today at 10:10:58 am]


Re: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by judywward
[Today at 08:12:57 am]


Re: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by judywward
[June 17, 2019, 08:58:27 am]


Re: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by DesertRose
[June 17, 2019, 08:56:17 am]


Re: Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by revanne
[June 17, 2019, 08:34:33 am]


Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter by Laurna
[June 17, 2019, 12:38:39 am]


KK Chat -- 16 June 2019 by DesertRose
[June 16, 2019, 07:13:15 pm]


Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread by Laurna
[June 16, 2019, 11:52:17 am]


Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread by DesertRose
[June 16, 2019, 10:25:02 am]


Re: Out of Character (OOC) Thread by judywward
[June 16, 2019, 10:22:41 am]

* Who's Online

  • Dot Guests: 8
  • Dot Hidden: 0
  • Dot Users: 0

There aren't any users online.

* Discord

* Top Poster

Evie Evie
4367 Posts
Laurna Laurna
2125 Posts
DesertRose DesertRose
1949 Posts

* Most Karma

Evie Evie
Karma: 30
Jerusha Jerusha
Karma: 24
DesertRose DesertRose
Karma: 24
Laurna Laurna
Karma: 16
revanne revanne
Karma: 15
Bynw Bynw
Karma: 12
derynifanatic64 derynifanatic64
Karma: 9
Shiral Shiral
Karma: 9
Elkhound
Karma: 8
Alkari
Karma: 7

* Online Time

DesertRose DesertRose
123d 2h 42m
Evie Evie
123d 2h 17m
TheDeryni TheDeryni
116d 1h 9m

* Forum Staff

Bynw admin Bynw
Administrator
DesertRose admin DesertRose
Administrator
Evie admin Evie
Administrator
Shiral gmod Shiral
Zipper Sister
Unicorn636 gmod Unicorn636
Requiem
Laurna gmod Laurna
Community Supporter
revanne gmod revanne
Community Supporter
DerynifanK gmod DerynifanK
Community Supporter
gmod Jax
Community Supporter
judywward gmod judywward
Community Supporter
KK gmod KK
Our Queen
gmod Alkari
Community Supporter
AnnieUK gmod AnnieUK
Community Supporter
Jerusha gmod Jerusha
Community Supporter

* Board Stats

  • stats Total Members: 328
  • stats Total Posts: 21746
  • stats Total Topics: 2196
  • stats Total Categories: 14
  • stats Total Boards: 136
  • stats Most Online: 181

* Calendar

June 2019
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 [18] 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30

No calendar events were found.