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Offline Evie

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Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« on: August 23, 2015, 09:56:32 pm »
Previous chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1565.0.html

Chapter Four

Late afternoon
Tre-Arilan
A short distance west of Rhemuth
December 16, 2021


“Carbury, could you prepare a guest room for His Grace’s use?” Lord James Arilan requested as he and Duke Morgan Haldane emerged from the concealed stairs passage connecting the underground level of Tre-Arilan to the ground floor.

Carbury inclined his head respectfully towards both men before replying. “Already done, my lord. Mr Whitfield informed me earlier of the reason for your precipitous departure.”

“And how is our other house guest?”

Morgan’s eyes slanted towards James in surprise, his expression wary.

“As well as may be expected, my lord. Would you care to stop in on her?”

James nodded. “I think that would be for the best. Morgan, if you would come with me . . . .”

A blond eyebrow rose. “Are you certain that’s wise? I’d prefer to keep a low profile, under the circumstances.”

James laughed, and even the unflappable Carbury cracked a tiny smile. “Oh, trust me, under the circumstances I'm sure so would she.”

A glimmer of suspicion blossomed into hope in Morgan’s heart. “She?”

“Let’s go see how your cousin is doing this evening, Your Grace. You did ask to be brought to her, after all.”




Early evening
Tre-Arilan
December 16, 2021


It was hardly proper protocol to receive one’s subject into the Royal Presence only to fall upon his neck sobbing, but just at that moment, Sophia really didn’t care.  Morgan Haldane’s strong arms closed around her tightly, supporting her as she wept fresh tears of relief. She had thought herself unable to feel anymore, as numb to her grief as she had become over the past several hours, but she’d been wrong. The sight of her cousin walking through the door had opened the floodgates once more.

After a few minutes, however, the fresh storm of tears completely spent, Sophia pulled away.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean . . . . “  Her voice trailed away as a sudden thought occurred. She jabbed a finger into his shoulder. “You are supposed to be in hospital!  All the news channels are saying you’ve got severe injuries!”

“Ow!  I shall have, if you keep poking at me like that!” Morgan sidestepped his indignant cousin, moving to sit on a nearby couch. “I’ve been Healed, so you can stop scolding. Besides, you’re a doctor now, aren’t you?”

“I am.  Well, I was.” Sorrow shaded her expression once again.

Morgan snorted. “You still are, unless all your medical knowledge has somehow dribbled out your left ear in the past twenty-four hours.  I just wouldn’t advise going on house calls now.  You’d send poor Henry and Michael into a tizzy, although just imagine all the patients going about bragging on how the Queen herself dropped by to treat their sciatica. Might be worth doing at least once just to hear the report about it on Rhemuth News 10.”

Sophia chortled.  It was more of a surprised bark than her customary hearty laugh, but it was the first flash of genuine humor that she’d felt since the beginning of the ordeal that had torn apart her life. She took a seat beside him. “Have you seen any of the news reports from the Castle yet?” she asked.

“I’ve hardly needed to, now have I? I was there.” He took her hand, sandwiching it between both of his to help still her trembling. “Why don’t you share with me what they’ve been saying, though. Just a recap, mind; I don’t need any more of the details stuck in my mind than I’ve already got. And I’ll fill you in on anything I know about that they might have missed.”




Early evening
Royal Ministry of Investigations
Anti-Terrorism Branch
City of Rhemuth
December 16, 2021



Detective Inspector Adams had just turned in his last report and was putting on his coat to leave when his supervisor caught up with him. “Got a minute, Adams?”

Oh, blessed Saint Camber, what now?  “Sir?”

“I know you’re heading home for the evening--” Patrick suppressed a relieved sigh at the Chief’s statement. “But Forensics has requested expedited testing on the DNA samples the field team were able to provide to the lab, so those results should be in some time tomorrow. Once they’re in, I would like for you to sort through them, see if all of the identified individuals are on the Registered list or if there are any Unregistereds listed in the results.”

“But sir, not all of the remains found at the blast site would have been Deryni.”

“No, no, of course not. But it’s a Deryni we’re looking for, isn’t it? A normal Human couldn’t have passed through one of those . . . those Portal Transport things, now could he? So the lab is just sending over the results from samples which contained the Deryni-specific gene sequence. Or something to that effect. Ask the lab folks about the technobabble if that matters to you.”

Patrick fought to retain his ebbing patience. “Sir, he may have been working with a Human. Humans can go through Transfer Portals if a Deryni brings them through. Or for that matter, some Humans have latent Potential that can be activated to give them Deryni-like powers.”

The chief brushed off his comment. “Right, right, Forensics is checking on those too. I said normal Humans, remember? Not Deryni Lite.  We’ll run a background check on any Human remains found, of course, but it’s the Deryni I want you focused on.  Can’t have Unregistereds operating under our noses, can we? Out of sight, out of mind, eh? With powers like that, we need to make sure they keep their noses clean. If our guy’s a Registered Deryni, then at least we’ll have more to go on.  We can find out who his family is, maybe his friends, see if any of them were involved in the plot. Could be they’re all law-abiding subjects, but we need to be sure.  And if he is Unregistered, why then we’ll definitely want to find out who he was to make sure none of the rest of his family slip through the cracks.  Slippery as eels, Unregistereds.” He mimed a swimming eel with one hand. “Don’t want rogue Deryni infiltrating everywhere untracked. How would we ever head off a Deryni uprising if they ever took it into their heads to try something and we didn’t have our eye on them all?”

Wow, I don’t know. Maybe ‘we’ could head that sort of thing off by not acting like complete berks to begin with? Or maybe by actually treating Deryni like ‘normal people’ and not simply assuming we’re all crazed criminals at heart, with the only thing keeping us in line being the watchful eye of nutters like you? Patrick forced a smile, profoundly grateful that Humans couldn’t Mind-See or Mind-Read.

The Chief gave Patrick a comradely pat on the shoulder. “All right, then, off you go, Adams. Get some rest; I need you back at 0800 tomorrow. Tell the little missus Hello for me!”

“I shall, sir.” And give the furniture an extra dusting, would you, Eilonwy darling? There are devils under every doily tonight, apparently.




Early evening
An office building
Concaradine
December 16, 2021



“Is this a good time to talk?”

Caroline Whitfield frowned as she tried to identify the voice on the other end of the line. “I was just about to leave the office.”

The man with the Camberian accent continued. “One sun sets, another sun rises.”

“I beg your par--?” Something buried deep with Caroline’s mind responded to the triggering phrase. “Oh!” She sat back down in her desk chair, her motions slow, as if in a trance.

“Do I have your full attention now?” The Camberian sounded vaguely amused.

“Yes, Your Grace.” Caroline had the odd sensation of watching herself respond, as if she were dreaming about the call rather than actually experiencing it.

“Have you located the target yet?”

Caroline tried to think. The part of her that was fully herself had no idea what the caller meant by this, but the part that had taken over her body replied. “No, my lord. Not yet.”

“Well, keep searching.” The caller sounded displeased. “Surely your husband must know something of its whereabouts, as often as he goes there.”

“He’s only been there by Portal, my lord, so I doubt it.  And aside from that, he’s very well shielded. Even when we make love and our rapport is at its deepest, there are secrets he keeps secured from me.” The submerged part of Caroline felt indignant at this revelation of her intimate life to this stranger, but she felt unable to resist answering his questions.

“There must be some way to find it! How difficult can it be to locate a bloody big purple dome stuck out on a mountain range?”

“It doesn’t show up on satellite imagery, my lord. I’m certain it must be well warded.”

The caller sounded like he was making a concerted effort to regain his calm. “That is hardly a surprise, now is it? Have you at least made some effort to identify which mountain range it is hidden in?  Sent surveyors in on foot? Gone to look at the most likely locations yourself?”

“I haven’t gone on hiking holidays for the past three years for the sheer love of the outdoors, Your Grace.” Something of the Other Caroline’s frustration leaked through to her dissociated self.

A long silence on the other end of the line, then he spoke again. “I’m afraid we have little choice, then.  Time to activate the next step of the plan.”

“The next step?”

“The eyrie must be laid bare.”

“The eyrie?” The personality that was once Caroline Whitfield became completely submerged as the newly activated personality took over every vestige of her consciousness.  “Of course, my love,” she purred.  “It will be my pleasure to serve you once again.”




Evening
Tre-Arilan, the undercroft
December 16, 2021


“Sorry I haven’t been around to help much today,” James Arilan told Tom Whitfield apologetically. “I was hardly expecting the afternoon to be so eventful. If you need to run on home, I can take things from here. Just fill me in on what you’ve got and I’ll take over from there.  Morgan’s down for the night, I think, and if he needs anything, Carbury can attend to him.” The lord of Tre-Arilan took a seat next to Tom at the computer station.

“I may have found something worth taking a closer look at,” Tom told him, “although it would help if we had access to the forensics reports from the blast zone to see if what I suspect matches up with whatever evidence they’ve found. Particularly any DNA evidence. I don’t suppose any of your contacts in that investigation would be able to get their hands on that report?”

“It’s rather early for a full report, unfortunately,” James answered, “although I’d bet my last mark that Alicia has managed to place herself in a good position to get access to those lab results, if she’s not doing the actual lab work herself. Maybe she can update us at the Council meeting tomorrow.”

Tom looked startled. “Peter’s called another meeting for tomorrow?”

James shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of, though I’m about to.”

Tom tilted his head at him, looking briefly puzzled, then his expression cleared. “Ah, yes. I imagine they’ll want to be filled in on the Duke of Corwyn’s survival. Did he remember anything that could prove of use to the investigation?”

“Possibly.” James leaned back in his chair. “There may have been someone on the Castle premises who wasn’t supposed to be permitted entry, or at least Morgan thought he caught a glimpse of such a person shortly before the bombing, but he was feeling unwell at the time and was on his way back to his rooms, so he didn’t make the connection--if it is an accurate recollection--until it was too late. Let’s just say it would be really helpful to get a glimpse at that DNA report to see if his hunch bears any fruit. Now, let’s see what you’ve managed to turn up. May I?”  He reached for the stack of printouts in front of Tom.

Tom handed him the small stack. As James flipped through the pages, Tom summarized what he’d found.  “Do you know anything about Sir Lloyd O’Malley?”

James searched his memory. “Minor gentry, lives somewhere near the Kheldish Riding?”

“Close. Marley.”

“Ah. Go on.”

“Well, he has been persona non grata at Court of late.  Something about embezzlement from the Royal Treasury, as I recall--he’s an accountant--and him being summarily dismissed from his post, which flagged him for my short list to begin with. And then I found something something in last week’s news that might have moved him to an even shorter list.”

James raised an ebony eyebrow. “Sounds interesting, especially since that’s the same man His Grace mentioned thinking he might have seen. What sort of something?”

Tom tapped on the bottom page of the stack James held. Turning to it, James saw a hard copy of an online news report from the Marbury Herald. “Local Child Missing,” he read aloud. Below the headline was a child’s photograph, captioned with the name “Colin O’Malley.”

“Hm. And you’re thinking perhaps some third party kidnapped the lad and was using him as leverage to get O’Malley to infiltrate the Castle with his deadly payload?”

“Perhaps. Or he might have had enough incentive to return of his own free will even without that, though I doubt it, given the stakes. It’s a bit of a long shot, I know, but my gut says it bears a closer look.”

James studied the child’s face, nodding slowly. “Yes, I agree. I’m surprised the late Queen didn’t have the gatehouse guards notified to keep O’Malley out of the Castle once he was sacked, though. Surely she would have? Or was he in the habit of showing up for work each day via the internal Transfer Portal? I don’t imagine HM’s security was so lax that they were allowing all the Deryni on staff to have access to that means of entry.”

“That’s the other thing. O’Malley has a tiny bit of Haldane blood several generations back on his mother’s side. He’s quite a distant relation; it’s likely the Queen never knew of the connection. That would mean he could enter the castle either way, at least if he was aware of the Portal’s existence.. My guess is that he normally took the public Portal system to arrive in Rhemuth every day, and walked into the Castle through the gatehouse like the rest of the staff, but remember, he worked at the Castle for several years. He may well have discovered the Transfer Portal during that time. HM considered the wards sufficient to keep intruders out, but I don’t think she considered the need to guard against her own distant kindred.”

“More’s the pity.  Yes, we definitely need to bring this information to the Council meeting tomorrow, as well as what Morgan had to share. And for that matter, my own little bit of news.”

“I thought His Grace of Corwyn’s survival was your news?”

James’s smile grew. “Part of my news, yes. But it’s getting late; you’d best get home before your wife starts to worry about you. I’ll fill you in on all the details at the Council meeting tomorrow morning.”




Evening
A flat near the University of Rhemuth
16 December 2016


“You look wiped out, love.” Eilonwy served up some venison casserole onto her husband’s empty plate. “It’s early to bed for you tonight, I suspect.”

Patrick smiled apologetically across the table at their house guest as he accepted the bowl. “I am tired, but not too tired to hear about what you two ladies have been up to today. I take it you’ve been by the RA to pick up Jen’s belongings?”

“We have,” Eilonwy said, settling back onto her chair, “then we made a side trip to Mum’s place as well, which by the way is how we happen to have venison for supper tonight.  Her friend Mr Astari gave her more than she had room for in her freezer.  At any rate, we thought she might be able to figure out where Soph--where Her Majesty might be in hiding right now, so that’s where we’ve been most of the afternoon.”

Patrick looked up from his forkful of casserole. “I can’t imagine her guards would be in any mood to allow her to accept visitors just now, even if your Mum did happen to find her. Not until whoever was behind the Castle attack has been caught, or at the very least until Her Majesty can take up her duties under much higher security than she has had to date.” He took a couple of bites before curiosity won out. “Did she find her?”

“Well….” Eilonwy glanced at Jennifer.  “Jen, what did we do with those sketches?”

“They’re in your living room. I’ll get them.” Jen left the dinner table briefly, returning a few moments later with several rolled up drawings.  She unrolled them on the empty end of the table. “Now, this first one we’re pretty sure is a depiction of her receiving the first news of the explosion. Notice the wall clock.” At Patrick’s nod, she continued. “This second one appears to show them during the drive out of Rhemuth. We think they might have been heading west but we’re not entirely sure.”

Patrick studied the drawing for a long moment. “Yes, I think you’re right. If that tall building in the background is Westview Tower, then that would probably make this the M4 motorway heading out toward the Connait.”

“The M4 . . . that’s the one that follows roughly along the same path that the Great Western Road did nearly a millennium ago, isn’t it?” Jen asked, turning to Eilonwy.

Eilonwy shrugged. “Your area of expertise, not mine. But there was an ancient road along that same route, I do know that much. I suppose I can look it up easily enough in the historical archives once I’m back at work, though we haven’t received the all-clear to reopen yet.”

“And you won’t,” said Patrick, “until we’re certain that area of the City is secure. The Royal Library is too close to the Castle for us to clear it yet, not to mention the Lord Mayor has declared a state of emergency for the time being, so all non-essential public services or tourist attractions within a mile of the Castle walls will be closed through the end of the week at least.”

“There’s always the Internet,” Jen said. “That still works, for better or for worse.” She unrolled the third drawing. “What do you make of this one, Patrick?”

Patrick glanced at the third drawing, then did a double-take.  He drew it across the table to study it more closely, his meal forgotten.  After a moment, he began to laugh. Jen and Eilonwy exchanged glances across the table.

“That’s not one of our official safe houses,” Patrick finally managed, “and the Chief is going to blow a gasket when he finds out, since this was not in any of our contingency plans!  Not that I’ll be the one to tell him..” He lifted another mouthful of casserole to his lips, savoring it slowly before looking back up at them with a grin.  “I can’t tell you where that is--that is, I could, but I’m not at liberty to say--but trust me, she’s probably safer there than she would be any other place I can think of! That home is practically a fortress.” He shook his head, chuckling. “Bloody brilliant, that plan. He must have pulled both rank and title to arrange for her safekeeping personally.”

“Who did?” Eilonwy asked.

Patrick shook his head again. “Probably best if I don’t say, at least for now, unless he says I might. But if you want to see Her Majesty, then once things calm down a bit I might be able to arrange for that after all.”




Nightfall
Tre-Arilan
December 16, 2021



“Lord Arilan, I want to thank you for all you’ve done on my behalf and His Grace my cousin’s,” Sophia of Gwynedd said to her host. “Mr Carbury has been most helpful as well.”

“You’re very welcome, Your Majesty. Have you and His Grace of Corwyn had an opportunity yet to record a public announcement that you are both alive and well?  I believe Carbury was planning to set up something of the sort earlier today.”

“We have, and Mr Carbury has already arranged for it to be delivered to the designated officials. It should appear on tonight’s news.  Lord Arilan, I . . . My memory of last evening is rather fuzzy, I’m afraid, but I believe there was some change to the original contingency plan?”

Lord James Arilan nodded.  “Yes, Her Late Majesty had approved the original contingency plan three years ago, when Sir Jeremy MacArdry was Chief of the Defense Ministry. After his death, there have been certain changes in the hierarchy which I found to be . . . somewhat concerning.”

“How so, my lord?” Sophia took a sip of her darja tea while awaiting James’s response.

“Some of the men in the top ranks of the Ministry have, shall we say, almost medieval views about the Deryni race. Well, maybe not quite medieval--there’s been no talk of burnings at the stake or anything ridiculous like that, of course--but their notions on how to “regulate” Deryni and the use of arcane powers are restrictive in the extreme. Last year, Chief Superintendent Edmund Arnold decided of his own initiative, without consulting with Her late Majesty first, to make certain changes in the contingency plan, including a reliance on chiefly human means of ensuring security. His stated reason was that he feared for her safety in the case of a Deryni uprising. Now granted, his officers are well trained in their duties, and against a purely human attack force, I have little doubt that their protection would be quite effective, but against a Deryni attacker they would be less so, and in the case of an actual Deryni uprising,  with multiple Deryni coordinating their efforts against the Crown--not that I think the House of Haldane is in much danger of that in any case--it would be pretty useless.  Once I discovered what he had done, I took the liberty of arranging alternate plans privately with Her Late Majesty’s personal guard, which they implemented only after consulting with The Queen herself. So your being here today is not exactly ‘by the book,’ so to speak, but this plan did have your mother’s approval. Your armsman Henry will affirm that, if you wish.”

“He already has, but thank you for that assurance.” The young queen smiled at her rescuer in gratitude.

 James returned her smile before continuing. “In yesterday’s terrorist attack, despite the rumors that Humanity Ascendent might have been behind the plot, I suspect it goes deeper than that, and that we are up against someone--or possibly several persons--who are well versed in arcane means of attack as well as the more usual variety.  If so, I very much doubt they would be willing to play by the rules in challenging your right to reign. So one of our first priorities needs to be to do something about that.”

“There are rules to challenging Our reign?” Sophia raised an inquiring eyebrow, fully unconscious of her instinctive adoption of the royal We.

James, however, did notice, and quietly approved the new queen’s tacit acceptance of her hereditary mantle of rulership. “There are indeed, Ma’am, at least when it comes to Duels Arcane. Fortunately, you carry the lineage of both the Haldanes and the Von Horthys. You should have access to quite formidable powers of your own, once we have an opportunity to activate them. That should help make you much more resistant to attacks, whether they be mundane or arcane, in a formal challenge or by less honorable means.”

Sophia gave her host a wry smile. “Forgive me, James, if I am unable to conceive of any honorable means by which someone might attempt to be rid of me. I’m sure it’s a mere failure of my imagination.” She finished the last of the darja in her cup, setting it aside before steeping her fingers and studying him over the tips of them. “So, what is involved in this ‘activation’ you speak of?”

James returned her careful perusal. “How much did your mother teach you about ritual magic?”

She gave a rueful laugh. “I’m afraid I learned more about magic--ritual or otherwise--from the Royal Library’s book collection and the Internet than I did from my mother. She was quite leery of her own powers, I think, let alone anyone else’s. I think if anything, she thought of them as a necessary . . . well, not evil, I don’t suppose. At least I certainly never heard her say anything to make me believe she thought there was something actually wrong with using Deryni powers, or with our Deryni heritage. And certainly she had at least a layman’s understanding of the science behind those powers. If she never learned to embrace them herself, I think it was just that she felt uncomfortable with the whole notion of using her powers. It wasn’t just that, though; it was anything that didn’t come naturally for her and might require a learning curve.” She glanced around James’ home office.  While not equipped with the same level of technology as his computer station in the hidden undercroft, the room still boasted several pieces of equipment that were close enough to top-of-the-line. “My mother was a bit of a technophobe as well. It took me forever to talk her into carrying a flip phone. I think she finally caved in about two years ago, by which time it was difficult to even find her one in a decade when most mobile carriers only keep them in stock for twelve-year-olds and grannies.”

James sighed. “Yes, believe me, I know. We had running battles when it came to security upgrades as well.  What about you, though? Are you more willing to move beyond your comfort zone to try new things than your mother was? Your life could well depend on that, you realize.”

“Yes, well, that does tend to increase one’s motivation, doesn’t it? So back to my question, my lord.  About this activation ritual . . . ?”

“Yes, about that.” He took a few moments to think the question through. “The Haldane empowerment ritual tends to vary a bit from generation to generation, but the basic elements remain essentially the same. In most cases the ruling King--or in more recent history, the ruling Queen--set up the particular requirements for the empowerment of his or her heir.” He gave her an uncertain look.  “If your mother had done that for you--or at least for your brother--where might she have left those instructions?”

Sophia looked uncertainly back.  “I’m not sure. Quite likely in her will, or at least stored in the same place, with the rest of her important papers.  That would have been in her safe in the Queen’s Tower, which means if it’s not been buried under tons of rubble, it’s likely been turned to ash now. Or both.  Her solicitor might have had a duplicate copy made.”

“Which would be at his office in the City Center?” James asked hopefully.

“No, more likely kept in his alternate office in King’s Tower.  Don’t tell me, that’s gone too?”

“Pretty nearly so, yes. It’s still standing, but it sustained enough structural damage to make it unsafe to enter until the walls can be shored up, and it suffered a fair bit of fire and smoke damage as well.”

“Is there any part of my castle left standing, James?”

“Well . . . “ James gave the question some thought. “The lower bailey and Saint Camber’s Basilica were completely undamaged, and the uppermost portion where the Chapel Royal and administrative offices are, on the opposite side of the Great Hall from the palace apartments, was sheltered from most of the blast by the Great Hall itself. The side of the Hall facing the blast sustained some structural damage, and of course all of the windows have shattered, but it could possibly be restored in time--the structural engineers are still squabbling a bit about what needs to come down and what can be rebuilt safely.  Oh, and the Portal chamber in the old library is completely intact. The rest of the tower above it received a great deal of fire and smoke damage, mind, but those Portal wards were damn strong.”

“The Portal Chamber.”  Sophia shook her head slowly.  “Great. I’ll just pitch a tent in there for my first Court. It’s a good thing my great-grandfather had the foresight to install modern plumbing in the old garderobe.” She sighed. “Tell me,  James, if we don’t find these instructions you’re looking for left for us by my mother, what’s our next course of action? Or am I simply screwed?”

“No, no, we can still work around that. It’s just that finding such instructions would make our job easier. Now, if one or more of the traditional insignia of the Haldane line have gone missing, we might need to do a fair bit more improvisation.”

“Which traditional insignia would those be?” Sophia asked warily.

“Those would be the Haldane Ring of Fire, the Crimson Lion and the Eye of Rom.”

There was a long silence, then the young queen quietly asked, “And what exactly are those?”




Night
A private residence on the outskirts of Concaradine
December 16, 2021


“You’re home late, darling. Have you eaten?” Caroline Whitfield greeted her husband as he entered their home and bent over her chair for a quick kiss.

“I had a quick snack on the way, though I may raid the fridge a bit later if there’s any supper left over.”

“What kept you?” she asked.

“Oh, I had a spot of business that came up,” Tom said evasively, “and ended up needing to make a quick trip over to Rhemuth. By the time I could get away, the public Portal network was congested, so I decided to kill an extra hour grabbing a quick bite before heading back to Concaradine.”

“Ah. Depositions for a new court case?”

“Sweetheart, you know I can’t discuss my work with you.” Tom settled into his favorite chair.

“I imagine Rhemuth must be rather a madhouse right now, in the wake of the bombing,” Caroline observed.

Tom snorted. “Well, the outbound traffic was definitely heavier than usual, though there was not so much traffic entering in. The bus and Underground systems were actually far less packed than usual today, given how many schools, businesses, and government offices remained closed all day. And of course the surface streets within a quarter mile perimeter of the Castle were closed to all but emergency traffic.” He closed his eyes, leaning his head against the high back of the recliner. “Enough about that, though.  How was your day?”

Caroline stood, crossing the few feet between them to settle onto his lap.  “Hm.  Boring, but it’s shown a definite improvement in the last couple of minutes.” As Tom’s eyes reopened and he closed his arms around her, she smiled up at him. “I have a surprise for you, darling.”

“Oh?” Despite his weariness, his features brightened at her statement. “What sort of surprise?”

She disengaged herself gently, rising to her feet. With a beckoning smile, she added, “Come upstairs with me and see.”

“Hm. That sounds promising.” Tom also stood, following his wife up the stairs and down the short corridor that led to their bedroom. As she crossed the threshold, she shed her blouse, casually tossing it to one side.  He chuckled. “I think I like this surprise. Maybe I should come home late more often.”

Her bra followed suit moments later.  Reaching behind her, she fumbled with the back closure to her skirt before perching on the side of their bed. “Want to help me with this, love?” she purred.

Tom needed little encouragement.  He closed the distance between them, eagerly reaching for her. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling him down towards the soft surface of the bed. He felt a slight scratch beneath one ear, but disregarded it in his haste to remove what little remained of Caroline’s clothing. Hot kisses scorched his skin, and his face felt flush with rising excitement and what seemed an unnaturally high temperature for a mid-December evening.

“The house is roasting, sweetheart!  Would you mind if I--”

Tom’s knees buckled. His voice caught in his throat before he could complete his sentence.  Too late, his sense of self-preservation kicked in, his Deryni instincts attempting to override the toxin spreading through his system, but to no avail.

His mind, however, still worked, and although his ability to focus his powers was fading swiftly, still he managed one final question via Mind-Speech.  Caroline, why?

She shoved him off her, rising gracefully to retrieve her shed clothing. “The name’s not Caroline, darling,” she told him, her Camberian accent more highly pronounced than usual. “I’ve always hated that bloody name!”



Next chapter: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php/topic,1568.0.html
« Last Edit: August 28, 2015, 10:24:35 pm by Evie »
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Offline NavaWazr

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2015, 11:07:05 pm »
No!!!! Tom was good! aauurgh. OK, I"m now officially invested in these characters. Perhaps Jen can educate Sophia on the three key items. This reminds me of Morgan and Duncan looking for the rituals for Kelson, only the situation is much more dangerous now. Thank you so much for writing and posting. I'll tune in to Rhemuth 10 for the update!
I realized that I wanted to be Deryni, would have loved to be another niece of Uncle Azim, perhaps living on a Fianna vineyard.... but I'm a never wazzer

Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2015, 11:51:58 pm »
Eeck! Meresha (or some composite form of Meresha) in the 21st century. Poor Tom! James is going to be pissed, if and when he learns about this betrayal.

Quote
“Which traditional insignia would those be?” Sophia asked warily.

“Those would be the Haldane Ring of Fire, the Crimson Lion and the Eye of Rom.”

There was a long silence, then the young queen quietly asked, “And what exactly are those?”

That gave me a smile.  The Queen must have really been a bit intimidated by her inherited powers if she did not share these little heirloom trinkets with her children. I am hoping she activated all her children at a young age and then hide the items for safe keeping. I very well doubt these items would have been out for historical display of the royal jewels. I realy hope the queen's personal vault was well warded. Especially under all that tons of rubble. 

Quote
A glimmer of suspicion blossomed into hope in Morgan’s heart. “She?”

“Let’s go see how your cousin is doing this evening, Your Grace. You did ask to be brought to her, after all.”

I am as grateful as Morgan is that "She", as well as he, are in the safe hands of James Arilan. In the circles of Rhemuth's government, there seems to be no one as trustworthy as he.

Thank you for a Excellent Sunday night reading! ;D
« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 11:53:53 pm by Laurna »

Offline Shiral

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2015, 12:49:56 am »
UH-OH!!! Poor Tom must have been exhausted going through all those files and wasn't expecting an attack from his very own wife. Hope those three items needed for Sophia's ritual aren't buried in the rubble, anywhere. But at least Jen will know what they are.

Melissa
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Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2015, 02:47:37 am »
Great start to Monday morning, thanks Evie
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2015, 07:51:19 am »
I love the way Sophia takes charge of the situation despite everything that has happened and is regal in a very understated but effective way.

Poor Tom - on the whole I think it's fair to say that if you are a "good character" in one of Evie's stories always watch your back.  ::)

I'm still traumatised by having most of the royal family wiped out in one blast, thankfully that's one of the areas where Gwynedd does not mirror the UK.
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

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2015, 12:20:29 pm »
Have I caused some consternation? Heh. Good!   ;D

This reminds me of Morgan and Duncan looking for the rituals for Kelson, only the situation is much more dangerous now. Thank you so much for writing and posting. I'll tune in to Rhemuth 10 for the update!

It's more dangerous now? I'm pretty sure Kelson might beg to differ.

Alaric: "Hey, Dunc, you think the Eye of Rom is buried with Brion?"
Duncan: "No, coz, I think maybe it's under ten thousand tons of rubble."
Kelson: "Great. And Charissa will be here by Coronation. I'm so screwed!"

:D

Laurna, James is indeed very loyal to the House of Haldane, but if you knew his reputation with the ladies, you'd wonder with Morgan if Sophia is indeed "safer."  He is Sextus's descendant after all!  ;D

Demercia, so sorry, I forgot Fr. Devlin isn't in this chapter at all! No worries, though; he turns up several times in the next chapter.

Revanne, it is my life's mission to keep you traumatized. Muahahaha.

Shiral, yes, between Jen's knowledge and Eilonwy's researching ability (she's a librarian, after all), I think Sophia will be in good hands. Though if the regalia is buried in rubble, let's hope there's a strong back or two available as well!
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

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Offline Elkhound

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2015, 12:24:44 pm »

Shiral, yes, between Jen's knowledge and Eilonwy's researching ability (she's a librarian, after all), I think Sophia will be in good hands. Though if the regalia is buried in rubble, let's hope there's a strong back or two available as well!

Never mess with a librarian.

Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2015, 12:42:02 pm »

Shiral, yes, between Jen's knowledge and Eilonwy's researching ability (she's a librarian, after all), I think Sophia will be in good hands. Though if the regalia is buried in rubble, let's hope there's a strong back or two available as well!

Never mess with a librarian.

LOL! I suspect Shiral will agree!   ;D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline Laurna

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2015, 01:13:52 pm »
Have I caused some consternation? Heh. Good!   ;D

James is indeed very loyal to the House of Haldane, but if you knew his reputation with the ladies, you'd wonder with Morgan if Sophia is indeed "safer."  He is Sextus's descendant after all!  ;D


Wait, the head of the Arilan family, after a millennia, can find his root ancestor in Sextus? Not Seisyll and Sophie?  If that story is not told in this telling, you had better start writing a Tri-Arilan Family Chronicle. Descendants of Sextus should provide a plethora of interesting short tells over the centuries.

Offline Demercia

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2015, 03:06:41 pm »
My thoughts exactly Laurna.
The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2015, 04:27:03 pm »
Yes, Evie, you have caused all sorts of consternation - especially when one considers what could happen next!

And one of the possible traitors is from Marley.  Nice touch.  :)

So 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

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2015, 04:56:47 pm »

Shiral, yes, between Jen's knowledge and Eilonwy's researching ability (she's a librarian, after all), I think Sophia will be in good hands. Though if the regalia is buried in rubble, let's hope there's a strong back or two available as well!

Never mess with a librarian.

LOL! I suspect Shiral will agree!   ;D

Damn right I will. =o)

Melissa
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Offline Evie

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2015, 05:15:04 pm »
Have I caused some consternation? Heh. Good!   ;D

James is indeed very loyal to the House of Haldane, but if you knew his reputation with the ladies, you'd wonder with Morgan if Sophia is indeed "safer."  He is Sextus's descendant after all!  ;D


Wait, the head of the Arilan family, after a millennia, can find his root ancestor in Sextus? Not Seisyll and Sophie?  If that story is not told in this telling, you had better start writing a Tri-Arilan Family Chronicle. Descendants of Sextus should provide a plethora of interesting short tells over the centuries.

James is actually descended from both Sextus and Seisyll.  He is descended from Sextus through the direct male line, but sometime back in the 1500s or thereabouts the last heiress of the Seisyll/Sophie branch of the family married her distant cousin from the Sextus branch, thus re-consolidating the Arilan lines.  James is actually not the head of the Arilan family as his father is still alive; however, his father is the  Earl of Braxton and lives on what was once Sextus' lands (those that Kelson gave him as a wedding present when he married Avisa). None of this appears in this story, which is why I share it here, though it might be alluded to at some point in the future.

Jerusha, would you believe I didn't even make the connection between Bran Coris and another person from Marley being a possible traitor?   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

--WARNING!!!--
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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Balance of Power--Chapter Four
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2015, 05:58:33 pm »
Perhaps it was subliminal - or just secretive creative triumph.  Either way, it works for me!  :)
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

 


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