Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 103041 times)

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Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #660 on: July 09, 2019, 12:53:23 pm »
Sir Iain Cameron paused outside the door to King Kelson’s withdrawing room.   Robert  stood at his side.  Although Robert would not be admitted to this private conference with the king, Robert had finally accepted that the king did not blame him for Lady Aliset’s departure from Rhemuth.  He had been restored to his proper place as one of King Kelson’s chosen squires, on loan as often happened to the Baron o’ Isles.

Iain straightened his tunic; the light blue of Isles with its sea eagle embroidered in white thread suited his pale features.  But the shoulder and back seams seemed to have stretched out a bit since the last time he wore it.  He gave Robert a questioning look.

“I loaned it to Lord Darcy when he was summoned by the king.  It was a tad snug,” Robert said quietly.

“Hopefully his swordsmanship is worthy of the extra muscles,” Iain replied dryly.

“I believe it is, my lord; I watched him practice.  Turned the target into little chips of wood.”

“Overkill,” Iain muttered as the door to the withdrawing room opened.  Robert stepped inside and announced Sir Iain, bowed and withdrew with the guard that had opened the door. It closed behind them.

“How may I serve you, your Majesty?” Iain asked as he straightened from his bow.  He noted the two men who sat beside King Kelson at the table;  Archbishop Duncan McLain and Lord Seisyll Arilan.  The king and Seisyll wore wide mourning sashes from right shoulder to left hip for the late Bishop Denis Arilan; the archbishop wore a plain black cassock.

“As you always do,” Kelson responded and motioned for Iain to be seated. It was not the normal relaxed gesture Iain would have expected.  “We need to know what you make of this message from Master Feyd.”  He pushed a rolled parchment toward Iain.

Iain unrolled the parchment and felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise when he saw it bore not only Feyd’s seal but also the seal of the Black Order of Death.  This he would not have expected.  Although he was already aware of the content, he read the message carefully, memorizing the names Feyd had listed.  He stopped when he reached the end and looked up at the king.  “You have read the seal, your Majesty?” he asked.

Kelson nodded.  “As have Archbishop Duncan and Lord Seisyll.  Do the same.”

Iain nodded and then focused his mind to find the message hidden within the seal of the Black Order of Death.  The essence of Feyd was strong within the message once he found it. He committed the content to memory. 

“A clever way to bypass a trap,” he said at last.

‘You have already assured Us that Feyd is clever.  Should We accept his bargain?”

The king’s formality was not lost on Iain.  He suspected Kelson was using it to keep his anger in check.  Archbishop Duncan gave the king a sidelong glance; Seisyll Arilan was studying Iain carefully.

“I see no reason for Feyd to play you false; he wants his ward cubes back. What is not clear to me, however, is why he is offering you access to du Chantal’s manor.  You could round up du Chantal and all the others based on the names Feyd provided.”  Iain paused as another idea came to mind.  “The manor is located strategically within Meara. If Valerian knows of the Portal, and likely he does, he could be counting on using it to escape when he fails to take Laas.  We could capture him, if we have it under our control.”

“Valerian has lost the use of his powers,” Archbishop Duncan said. “He cannot use the Portal on his own.  And why would Feyd betray him?”

“Valerian will have others with him who can get him through the Portal. He will use them to keep his loss a secret for as long as possible,” Iain responded.  “Once he has been paid, Feyd’s loyalty to a client is finished. And I suspect Lord Brioc’s actions did not endear Valerian to Feyd.”

“Then you trust Feyd’s offer?”  Seisyll asked.

“I never trust Feyd,” Iain responded.  “But he has nothing to gain by laying a trap.  We gain a possible way to capture Grand Duke Valerian.”

“We could keep the ward cubes, or destroy them.”  Kelson said.

“I would advise against either course of action.  Crossing Feyd in the slightest way is dangerous, as Lord Brioc found out.  If we could destroy the ward cubes, and I’m not certain we could, Feyd and possibly his entire order would put contracts out on us and everyone we hold dear.  I would advise against it, especially given the war with Meara.”

Kelson considered Iain’s words.  Finally he said to Iain, “Taking du Chantal’s manor will take more men than you can take with you through the portal. I could divert Earl Brendan and his forces to the manor.  If you can penetrate successfully, Brendan can secure the manor and leave a few men behind to keep it secure.”  He glanced at Seisyll, who nodded and then turned his grey gaze on Iain once more.  “What do you think Feyd will do once we succeed?”

“He will contact you with further instructions for the exchange.”  Iain looked thoughtful. “I would very much like to know what Master Feyd intends to do with his ward cubes when he gets them.  If we fulfill our part of this bargain, there may be a way to get a hint of what he intends to do.  He wants revenge for something that happened two hundred years ago, and he has a plan.  I have concern not just for his intended target but for any collateral damage that results.”

“Two hundred years is a long time,” Duncan said quietly.

‘You have already surmised I intend to send you to get through the Portal, Sir Iain,” Kelson said. 

Iain nodded.  “I have an idea that may help us.  I will need someone who can play a part, maybe two men, to risk going through with me.  We may be able to gain Earl Brendan swift access to the manor without a direct attack ourselves.  Perhaps Sir Seisyll would be willing to assist, though I realize the timing is poor given the recent loss of his uncle.”

Seisyll Arilan raised one dark eyebrow. “Perhaps Sextus would be the better choice, and Jamyl could be considered as well, if he is willing.  Uncle Denis would not be pleased if we put our personal feelings ahead of the greater good.”

“Pursue your plan, Iain,”  Kelson said.   “Let’s not delay longer than necessary.”  He waited until Iain completed his bow and then added, “I do have some news of interest to you.”

“Sire?”  Iain asked.

“I have received a report from Duke Dhugal. His agent in Ratharkin reports that Oswald, the man who killed Lady Aliset’s family, is dead.”

“Of what cause, your Majesty?” Iain asked.  “I am pleased his is no longer a threat to Lady Aliset and my brother.  How did he die?”

“Duke Dhugal’s agent reports he was poisoned and died a slow and painful death.”

“I would judge that Master Feyd had a hand in that,” Iain replied after a moment.   “But Feyd would not perform, or commission the deed, without payment.”

“Earl Brendan found the Lendour great sword in a room Feyd had secured in Rhemuth.”  Kelson gave Iain a considering look.  “The jewels on the hilt, including the great ruby, were missing.”

“Then Master Feyd has his payment,” Iain replied.  “And has succeeded.”

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #661 on: July 12, 2019, 08:00:04 am »
As the bells of the village church began to ring sext, the baron, his family, his guests and the men assembled in the great hall for the noon meal, the aroma of which had been tantalizing them all morning while they trained and practised. The baron, his wife, Fiona and their guests were seated at the high table. The lords and ladies, and their sons were seated at tables nearby while the men sat at tables set up in the body of the hall. Father Columcil stood to deliver the blessing then servants began to distribute the food.

Sir Washburn found himself seated between Lady Fiona on his right and Lord Darcy to his left. Darcy was much occupied in conversation with his wife. As he began to eat, Wash heard a soft voice in his ear. “I so enjoyed watching you as you trained the men this morning. You are a wonderful teacher. I could see the improvement in their skills as a result of your instruction.”

 Sir Washburn turned to Fiona with a tilt of his head and a lop-sided smile. He acknowledged her compliment, saying, “I greatly enjoy the teaching. I was involved with King Kelson’s training centers for aspiring knights and it was one of my favorite assignment. It is rewarding when I not only see the improvement in their skills but I can feel their pleasure and pride in their performance. Also, I enjoy seeing them starting to meld together as a group, able to work well together. They will soon be well able to handle any rebels who try to attack their estates.”

Fiona gave him a wide smile that lit up her blue eyes. “Archery is my favorite sport. I am better at it than the baron’s son, but I wish I could persuade you to give me some pointers to further improve my skills. However, I understand that you must focus on training the men who will be responsible for our defense.” Fiona sighed. “ I was most impressed I watched you begin to transform them into  a band of men who will be able to protect us from marauding rebels. I don’t think they have become  such a group yet but I am sure with your help they will”.

Wash gave a genuine smile to the young lady beside him.  “I think I could find a bit of time to help you if you wish it”.

“Oooh.” Fiona responded. “I would love that. You tell me when to come to the practice yard for instruction and I will be there.” She continued to smile to herself as she focused on her plate..

They were silent for several moments as they ate but then Fiona spoke again. “Father Columcil told me that you have discovered that you have talent as a healer. That is wonderful! There is a great need for people with such a talent and so few who possess it. Think of all the people you could help.”

Wash wasn't certain how best to handle the young lady's admiration for his special gift. He himself had not yet come to terms with how to incorporate it into his life. He certainly did not consider himself a Healer yet, that came after years of study and experience. "Aye my lady, in time I do hope I can help people. I will need  to attend the schola in Rhemuth to learn more about the healing skills. Father Columcil first discovered my ability and has trained me in a few of the basics of its use. But we were involved in completing a mission to rescue a young nobleman, and there was little time. There is so much more to learn.” He gazed past Fiona into the distance.

“I also wish to attend the schola.” she told him. “I possess Deryni powers but have little training in their use. I have long dreamed of being able to be admitted to the schola and to learn from the wonderful teachers there.”

“If that is your dream, you should indeed go.What has stopped you from going?” he asked”

“I lost both my parents when I was young. Sir Iain Cameron became my guardian. His mother and mine were sisters. My aunt was beginning my training but she also became ill and was no longer able to work with me. That is when Iain brought me to live with Uncle Mac and Aunt Olivia. There was no one here to continue my training. The king’s missions were so important and took so much of Iain’s time and forethought that there was never any time during his brief visits to discuss my future. I am hoping that once the rebels are defeated that there will be opportunities for such discussion. Lady Aliset has agreed to work with me while she is here.” Fiona grinned at him. “Who knows, perhaps we will meet there.”

"When this current matter is resolved, I would very much enjoy meeting with you there. With, of course, your cousin's and uncle's permission." Wash gave the lady a courtier’s smile and bow.

"If your going to flirt with me, perhaps you should ask my cousin and uncle for permission now." Fiona teased him with a flutter of her eye lashes.

“I dare not succumb to your teasing, my lady. I have much to do before I must excuse my leaving to your uncle”.

“You are leaving? But why?” Fiona sounded dismayed. “You have not completed the task you took on to help form and train a defense force to protect us and our lands. Although they have made progress, their training is not complete. There is still great need for your knowledge and skill. We are all depending on you. Surely you would not wish to leave with the training unfinished.”

Wash looked embarrassed. “I would certainly wish to complete what I have begun. The men are responding  well to the training, and I am sure they will become a formidable defense force. After the joint meeting, which we are to have as soon as we have finished our meal, I intend to spend the rest of today setting patrols and lines of communication between the estates. Then it will be up to the stewards of each estate to carry out the plans. I don't see where I will be much needed here after tomorrow. Besides, I am too visible here. I have enemies who may very possibly learn where I am, and I dare not overstay. To do so will put not just me but everyone at risk."

"These men are loyal," Fiona exclaimed, her hand waving across the hall indicating everyone partaking of the noon meal. "As my uncle's guest, you are under his protection. This I guarantee!"

Fiona spoke of certainties, but the knight knew no such certainty could be guaranteed. He took a deep breath, held it for a moment and let it out slowly. "My lady, I thank Baron Stuart for his hospitality and good intentions toward me. I do not wish to frighten you with my troubles, yet troubles do follow me."

"I have heard some of your trial, it does not frighten me for you to talk about it. Know that you are protected here, there is no need for you to leave," Fiona pleaded.

“Here in the open, I am very vulnerable. I dare not stay long. I have enemies who will spare no expense to discover my whereabouts. I fear I would need the king's army around me to feel safe. I do wish for that. If it were not for my brothers, that is where I would go." Wash hung his head low. "I know you do not see it, but there is great danger if I stay here, my lady. Do you recall the faces of the prisoners guarded by Lord Jaxom?"- Wash could not help but suck in his breath as he said the name-"I know at least one prisoner recognized me.  If he tells a key conspirator in Droghera, the Grand Duke will hear of it. For Gywnedd's sake, for the sake of your family, it is better if I am known to be gone. I will let it be known that I am going to plead my case before my brother. That should lead the trail far away from here."

Fiona placed a sympathetic hand on his arm. ‘My lord, What about your family and friends? How could you possibly be safer anywhere more than here? I know Lord Darcy made a sincere effort to convince my uncle to place his confidence in you. He assured my uncle that you are the ideal person to forge these men into a fighting unit. He also assured him that you could be trusted to focus on what needs to be done and to put that first. You did agree to the plan they presented to you, and you committed to doing your best. Is this feeling that draws you away more important than what you undertook to do here? If you fail, it will reflect not only on you but on both Lord Darcy and Father Columcil.”

"I assure you, your estates' protection will be well organized before I go. And when word gets out that I am no longer here, I believe your uncle Mac will no longer be in danger.” Wash looked sad. “I have no more ties to my family. Those have been broken by their actions to renounce me. But both Darcy and Father Columcil promised to support me in this endeavor and I do not want to let them down. My lady I wish that you could understand. There is a place, three days ride from here, where I have made prior vows to go. I am certain that it holds the cure to some things which have befallen me of late.”

Fiona sensed the turmoil in him and she was very concerned for him.”I do not understand this compulsion that tries to draw you away.. Why must you leave now, with your task unfinished? Could you not remain longerI. I feel that you are an honorable man, and you will regret it if you leave. Surely whatever place you feel the need to go will still be there when you have completed your obligations here. I think you would be better able to seek out your future if you could move on with a sense of pride in what you have accomplished in creating a strong defense for those you leave behind.”

Wash thought about what she had said. He did feel strongly that he needed to finish what he had started. He owed it to the baron and the other landowners who had put their trust in him to do his best to do as he had promised. He also owed it to Darcy and Columcil who had promised to support him. But he was not sure the feeling was strong enough to overcome this compulsion he felt.

Fiona thought furiously. She did feel compassion for the young man who seemed so torn and even desperate. What could she say to help him, to persuade him not to make the mistake of leaving before he had fulfilled his oath She was certain that to do so would result in great unhappiness for him.. “ Could you not talk this over with your friends before you make a final choice? Father Columcil could surely help you to find the right path.”

Washburn looked uncertain. He would never again allow himself to be restrained or made a prisoner. He would die first. However, he trusted the priest and felt sure that Columcil would never do anything to hurt him.  He also trusted Darcy and Aliset and felt that they also cared about him and wished to help. They would surely not try to keep him here against his will. But perhaps yielding to this strange compulsion he felt was not the right or honorable thing to do. He had promised his mother in their last rapport that he would always try to do what was right.  Fiona’s reasoning was also compelling. He felt confused and no longer sure what he should do.

The meal was drawing to an end. He turned and looked into Fiona’s eyes. He could see the concern there, and he felt that it was not only for the defense of her home but that it was also for him. He smiled a little sadly at her. “Speaking with you has given me much to think about. Perhaps my best course is to speak with the good father and get his advice. I will try to meet with him this afternoon.” As the baron rose from his seat and the other diners began to leave, Wash stood, bowed to Fiona and turned to leave the great hall and seek out his mentor. The priest would surely help him deal with what was happening to him. 
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Online Bynw

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #662 on: July 12, 2019, 11:33:15 pm »
After his meeting with the King and Sir Iain Cameron, Lord Seisyll Arilan makes his way back to his apartments within the castle. He takes the time to relax before going through the day’s correspondence and papers that have arrived from Tre-Arilan. One is from a member of the Camberian Council stating that he must meet with Seisyll this very night. The Rhemuth Castle library will be fine since members of the Council are allowed to use that Portal.

Later that evening Seisyll is in the library waiting for his friend who arrives a bit later than planned. His face already betraying the news he must share with the Council’s only co-adjustor. And he relates the tale and the news that Council now numbers only 5.

There has been an accident in the Connait. Owen Lord Reis, a younger member of the Camberian Council, has died due to wounds received during a hunt. He was gored by a large mad stag.

Lord Reis had brought a Healer along with him, as hunts have been known to their fair share of accidents. But the Healer was unable to save Owen’s life, the injuries were just too severe.

The beast itself was killed a short time afterwards. It showed no fear of man, unlike most animals, and actually turned to attack and charge those who were hunting it. The stag had a heavy froth about it’s mouth and had bloodshot eyes. Obviously a beast possessed of the devil from hell.

The body of the stag was burned instead of being used for meat even it’s hide was burned as well. Out of safety in to stop the spread of any sickness that may have been the cause of the stag’s behavior.

The news is a lot to take in. The councilor bids his farewell to his friend and leaves via Portal leaving Seisyll to his own thoughts.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2019, 12:05:21 pm by Bynw »

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #663 on: July 13, 2019, 03:44:33 pm »
John Nivard rose from his knees at the foot of the catafalque on which rested the body of his mentor and friend. He crossed himself slowly, using the gesture to unobtrusively wipe the tears that he was struggling to restrain, and then bent to kiss the cold hand which lay crossed upon the still breast.

He had risked casting a preservation spell upon the Bishop's body so that members of his household could pay their respects but, even in these more open times, it was probably best not to prolong such an openly Deryni gesture once the funeral cortege set out. Which, in this summer heat, meant that the Bishop would need to be coffined and soon.  And then the problems would start.

John knew just how much he had owed to Denis; his promotion within the church, his priesthood and maybe even his life itself. He respected him deeply, in recent decades he had come to love him as a friend, and hearing his story he understood why Denis had ordained what was to come. That did not mean that it would be any easier. He sometimes thought that Denis, coming from a noble family of ancient Deryni lineage, did not quite understand just how much in awe of his superiors John Nivard was. And he now had to go and tell his King and his Archbishop that their orders concerning the funeral obsequies could not be followed.

These orders, signed by both King and Archbishop, had been brought that very morning through the portal by one of Archbishop Duncan's chaplains. The late Lord Bishop of Dhassa, his excellency Denis Arilan, was to be laid in a casket of finest oak, sealed with lead and lined with purple silk. He himself should be clothed in the finest of his festal robes, as fitted a faithful servant even now receiving his well-merited reward from his Lord. Once sealed, the casket would be brought in easy stages to Rhemuth where he would lie in state in the Cathedral overnight and thence to Arx Fidei where he would be laid to rest after a suitable period for all to pay their respects. The casket should be covered with cloth of richest silk, the purple of mourning embroidered with the white and gold of resurrection, and while at rest the casket would bear the signs of Denis's high office, his bishop's ring, the stole in which he had been consecrated bishop and the chalice and paten which denoted a priest.

John rehearsed these details in his head as he bowed to the body and then stepping a few paces to the side bent his knee to the Presence before Whom the Bishop lay. He sketched a sign of blessing to the monks who knelt keeping vigil at the four corners where candles burned and then drew a deep breath before making his way to the portal in the Bishop's quarters. He was at least expected in Rhemuth, indeed he was summoned to report on progress. He doubted though that the news that he bore would be welcome.
The signs of the danger now facing the kingdom met him everywhere, and the guards standing with weapons drawn in the portal anteroom and at the entrance to the King's quarters were only to be expected. More shocking was the look of strain on the faces of both King and Archbishop though the warmth of their welcome to him was as gracious as ever. The fear of challenging authority which had tied John's stomach in knots was now replaced by something worse; a wave of physical pain swept him as he realised that the outward show of respect for the late Bishop was also an act of defiance, a sign that the enemy would not prevail. And he was about to deny that comfort to his Liege Lord and his Archbishop.

Kelson and Duncan had both risen to greet John and, in this informal setting where all were old friends, neither had expected to be greeted formally. John, however, pretended not to see the King's gesture towards a seat and instead sank to one knee, his hand reaching into the breast of his cassock to draw out a document.

"Your Majesty, your Excellency, I must crave your pardons for my disobedience to your orders. But I have been forbidden to comply with what you ask."

Kelson and Duncan stared at each other. The word disobedience was not one that you associated with John Nivard. Ever. As one, they looked away from each other towards the man kneeling on the floor, his hand shaking as he held out a piece of folded parchment sealed with the signet of the late Bishop of Dhassa. Duncan got to his feet and, walking the few paces forward, reached out and pulled John to his, keeping the latter's wrist in a surprisingly firm grip as he all but pushed him down into the seat that the King had indicated.

"Whatever this is, you have my word that you will not be blamed. And I dare promise the word of your King too. Save fear for our enemies, not those who are honoured to call you friend."

He reached out his hand and, taking the parchment broke the seal saying as he did you,

"I take it from your demeanour that you know what this contains and that we will not like it?"

John nodded, but Duncan already knew the answer and he had not waited for it before beginning to read. As he read tears came into his eyes and he murmered as if to himself, "You never truly forgave yourself did you my friend? Kyrie Eleison."

He sat for a long moment, obviously praying, then turned to John.

"Thank you for having the courage to remain faithful to his wishes."

Then to the King, who had waited silently though the rigidity of his expression betrayed his impatience,

"Denis wishes to be remembered simply as a pentitent.  He is to be buried in a simple coffin, wearing only a shroud, and draped with unadorned purple. Once he reaches Arx Fidei even that is to be removed and replaced with sackcloth. And on top is to be, is to be..." As Duncan's voice faltered to a stop John found his courage and continued for him.

"No-one ever knew, Sire, that Denis had a ordination gift prepared for his friend, Jorian de Courcy, a book of hours, beautifully illuminated. He must have waited to give it to him after the ordination and" - John Nivard paused to swallow down his own tears -" it was in his private oratory. I have only now seen it and the original inscription has been pasted over with the words 'Ora pro me, frater meus.' 'Pray for me, my brother.' Then that last has been struck out and replaced by 'Sancte Iorian'. 'Pray for me Saint Jorian.'"

Speaking barely above a whisper Duncan got out,

"When I first discovered he was Deryni, I asked him if he never thought how many had died because of his silence. It has taken me a lifetime to learn that no-one could ever reproach Denis as bitterly as he did himself."

He glanced down at the parchment which contained Denis' last wishes and continued,

"He writes that his only hope is that he faithfully carried the torch lit by Jorian and he would have on his coffin no adornment but his gift to Jorian in the hope that Jorian's prayers will cover the multitude of his sins."

For the first time Kelson spoke and he used the formal Latin which enacted a royal decree,

"Rex vult, ita erit." The king wills it, so shall it be.


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 Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #664 on: July 16, 2019, 03:56:32 pm »
The afternoon had been both busy and productive. The general meeting for the residents of the neighboring estates had included several land owners, several wives and chatelians of the absentee landowners, and a dozen stewards who helped run those estates, along with several men at arms. The meeting could have been a free-for-all. But to Washburn’s amazement, Baron Stuart kept the gathering well in hand. Things got done. Agreements were struck. A system of communications by bell rings and by daily couriers was put in place. If something were to happen at one estate, no more than hours would go by before others knew of it. And by the bell signals trouble could be recognized instantly. As for the patrols, Sir Washburn sat with the men-at-arms to make a schedule that was both manageable for even the small estates and effect in forming a defense against the rabble of Meara. Satisfied, those who lived near to Baron Stuart’s home left for their homes to implement the agreement immediately. Those who had a longer journey, would stay the night in the great hall. They would leave at mid-morning the next day, after a final meeting. Wash agreed to a second training session for the men while the landowner’s meeting was taking place.   

It was evening before Wash found himself seated alone at a low table in the great hall. He sat with his back to the wall to watch the room and the doors, something he naturally always did for his own protection. He had scattered pages of parchment before him, ones that he was checking to be sure that the patrols for each estate were well organized. As he checked them, he signed them and set them aside for the baron to approve before they were sent off. The great hall was by no means empty. There were many people about, mostly men, who sat talking in small groups. Unless someone had a question, no one would bother the tall blond knight. Even those who had not recognized him at first had learned early in the day who he was. He was a Morgan, a duke’s brother, a king’s man, and a Deryni. And even rumored to have been a war hostage. A man not to be trifled with. So it was that Wash was left alone to his own thoughts.

When signing his first parchment, Wash had made the motion to gather a drop of hot wax to make his seal with his Lendour signet ring. It was only then that he realized he no longer had the ring. He had fumbled his signature onto the page after that. Not even daring to add Knight of Lendour to his title. In his solitude of busy work, his mind went to the servant girl Ellia. His fondness for her was genuine. It wasn’t love or even lust, though there was that. She had given him life when he needed it most, and he would never forget her gift. He only hoped she was safe and well. He didn’t have any way of scrying for her and he wasn’t sure what he could do for her if he could see where she was now. He said a small prayer under his breath that she would find a good life and be rewarded for her caring heart. In the days and even years to come, he would remember to keep her in his prayers, always.

The thought of women brought the Lady Fiona to mind. There was one vivacious, determined lass. She hardly knew him, yet she had put him in his place during the luncheon meal. He knew she said what she said for the welfare of her family and her uncle’s people. She would make a good chatelain for her own land someday; undoubtedly she would be a good protector to the people under her.  Wash knew well enough that he was not a qualified suitor for such a lady. Not in his present circumstances. He was thinking that it would be best if he left here soon. When the others left at noon tomorrow. She would forget him the moment that he was gone and would soon find herself a good husband. He was sure that Lord Iain was not the type to force her into a marriage against her will. So he had little doubt that she would find her own good match in due time. All he had to do was remain too busy until noon the following day, so that he would not have time to assist her in archery, as she had asked. To be that close to her, might be detrimental for his peace of mind. The last thing he needed was to lose Darcy’s favor over his poor ability to keep from looking at this beautiful lass who was Darcy’s cousin and who was also Deryni.

Unwillingly, Washburn’s heart was racing. He took a deep breath to calm his center. More than anything, he needed Darcy and he needed Columcil, he even needed the beloved Aliset. He needed these people in his life, and he needed to not do something that would condemn him in their eyes. That is why the calling at the back of his mind to leave was one that he could grapple with and hold in check. For now. Though it nagged at him endlessly. Every look out the window, called to him to ride out and away. Soon enough he told himself, soon enough.

Finish your work, Washburn Morgan, don’t think of the girl, don’t think of leaving, don’t think of the war. Just do what you have to do in this moment.


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