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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 112282 times)

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Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #690 on: September 01, 2019, 04:06:56 pm »
The Grand Duke stared at the man on his knees before him. “Are you certain? Exactly how far away are they? How fast are they moving?”

“I have seen their banners, colors, and shields. They are men of Gwynedd, Carthmoor, and Cassan in large numbers. They are not more than 10-15 miles to our rear. They are moving steadily and will certainly reach our rear lines within two hours. They will quickly surround us.”

One of his captains dared to speak. “Your Grace, the storm is moving on shore. If you step outside the tent, you will feel the winds increasing and rain being driven by the wind. Our men have little or no shelter from the storm.”

Surprisingly, the Grand Duke did not upbraid the man as they might have expected.  Though his eyes glinted with anger and his face flushed red, he did not issue any rebuke. Instead he paced the tent, silent except for the sound of his boots. This was no time for taking any of his men to task. He had to consider his options if he was to be able to salvage anything from what was quickly becoming a disaster for his forces. The fleet, whatever had happened to it, had not appeared so those reinforcements were lost to him. 

It appeared that Chantal’s men had been unable to create the kind of confusion among the forces inside the walls that he had hoped for. Not only had the gates of the city withstood the blows of the ram, the ram and the men with it had become trapped between the gates and the portcullis. His men had cheered when the portcullis had begun to rise, opening the entrance to the city and allowing the ram to batter the gates. But it had no sooner reached the top than it had slammed down again, trapping the ram and many men. He had heard their screams as they were attacked by the defenders from the walls.

His Deryni knights had been unable to reach Chantal since the attack order had been sent. He had no idea whether any of the dukes had been injured or killed or what had become of Chantal and his men.

Considering all of these factors, it appeared  his best course of action would be  to try to withdraw from Laas and escape with as much of his army as possible before the arrival of Javan and his army and the loss of those resources he had left. He had studied the maps of Laas and its surroundings carefully while planning his attack and he saw a possible escape route which might allow him to save a large number of his fighting men.  If they could move quickly to the north and east away from Lass and reach Castleroo, he had a good chance to achieve his goal.

Between Laas and Castleroo the countryside  was rolling with low hills but no mountains. The land gradually flattened as it reached the sea. His army could move rapidly , threading a course between low hills in a more or less straight line parallel to the coast to Castleroo which stood on a point at the western end of the entrance to the Bay of Kilarden. This town was a stronghold for Mearan rebels and sympathizers.  It bred fierce fighters and had in the past sent many soldiers to serve the cause of independence. It was a fortified town with strong walls and had in the past withstood attacks both by land and sea.  It was the most favorable location to set up a defense against the Gwyneddan army if they chose to pursue him as he was sure they would.

Valerian unrolled one of his maps and traced the route his units should take toward Castleroo.  “The ram and the men manning it are lost to us. Nor can we move the Trebuchet. We must move as rapidly as possible and will leave behind anything that would slow us down. That includes the wounded. Order those who cannot accompany us to man the trebuchet and defend it to the last man. Tell them their sacrifices are for their queen, and she will see them given a hero’s honor when we have won back this land.’

‘Only those who are uninjured and able to move quickly will go with us. The storm may help by masking our movements from the arriving troops. Pass the word to the commanders. Muster your men and move out immediately”.

He called his two Deryni knights to his side. "You have both seen me do weather workings. I trust that you recall the spell and how it is cast?"

Both knights looked at each other nervously. As an agreement passed between them they both nodded to their liege lord. "Yes, Your grace."

"There is to be no hesitation between you. I need you to do this in tandem. This storm around us is uncanny, I can not feel the power from whence it comes-- Damn that Morgan!" Valerian took a shaking deep breath. "It doesn't matter who started it. I want you to use it. Use the wind that is building and build it stronger, make it colder. Send it away from the ocean, away from the bay. Send it east, just fifteen miles is all I need. Send lightning and hail  the size of my fist, send an ice storm to smash that be-damned army of the Haldane's to smithereens. That will give us the time we need to escape."

As he wrapped himself in his cloak and prepared to mount his destrier, he spoke to the two knights. “You will remain here to complete the weather working as I have ordered. I am leaving horses for you. As soon as you have succeeded, ride to rejoin me and the army.” . As he exited the tent and pulled himself up into the saddle, the wind driven rain hit his exposed skin like tiny needles. He was taking a gamble that his men could slip away from the approaching army and out march them to reach Castleroo  before Javan realised what was happening and could take up pursuit.

 As he paused to watch his men moving out, he could hear the cries of the wounded but made no response. He prodded his horse with his spurs and turned toward the northeast to skirt Laas and move toward their refuge.



"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

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #691 on: September 02, 2019, 01:30:51 pm »

Brecon, Duke of Laas, stood on the East tower half in the present and half in trance. He used Rapport with the dozen or so Deryni under his command to receive their reports and to give his orders. They were at the height of the siege. Earlier, he had made the mistake of letting his emotions break his control. That mistake had caused injury to the Duke of Corwyn, he dare not let his concentration break again. In the aftermath of the mutiny, Brecon took back his control. This was his home, these were his family and his people. He reasserted his calm and issued the orders that were needed. His calm in Rapport influenced the men with whom he shared contract. His men made their reports in succinct fashion and they followed his orders without question.

Of the mutineers, only the guards on the gate had failed to capture their foe. Brecon would not fully learn the details of that matter until the Earl of Kierney could return Rapport, but he was confident in McLain, who had mustered men to take back the gate house.  It was a great relief to hear the portcullis slamming down and to see a halt on the causeway of the advancing enemy. Their battering ram made one last bash against the gates before it ceased to be a threat. Howls of death echoed from under the gate house; the enemy was paying dearly for their failed attack.

A call of Rapport from his son drew Brecon’s attention out onto the field. A trebuchet had been pulled into place. A netted ball of mixed rocks and oil bags was set aflame just as the great arm of the Trebuchet was freed. The sling threw the missile mass with great force upon the city. Brecon calculated the trajectory. Would it clear the wall? If it did it would set the roof of the stables on fire? He held his breath, as did every man on the wall.  The great flaming mass erupted against the wall... at only mid-height. Brecon could breathe again. If the rebels could not catapult fire and boulders over the walls, then they could do little damage in the short time he knew that they had. The walls would hold against days of bombardment. He ordered his son to bypass the trebuchet for now and to concentrate their arrows on the men with ladders attacking the causeway to rescue their lost battering ram.

A Rapport came from the out-of-breath Earl of Keirney. He now could be seen standing atop the barbican. The cauldron pots had already been turned over, releasing their deadly protection. Brecon almost let a smile passed his lips at the news of the earl’s success. But then he chanced a look behind him to see how the Duke of Corwyn fared. His Grace was still alive, that much he gleaned, for now. But the man was very still, his eyes closed against the world, Rory bent over him, hands upon the dagger still not removed. 

“Richelle,” Brecon contacted his wife, whom he knew was down in the infirmary keeping vigilant watch for anything that he might need. She had not gone to the lower caverns as he had wanted her to. As the siege was progressing in favor of the city, Brecon prayed that she would not need to go there anytime soon. Richelle, do you hear me?

Aye, your grace, answered the attentive mind of his wife.

We are holding steady as we had predicted. Alas, it was not predicted that Duke Kelric would be wounded. Gather your ladies around you and make contact with Prince Javan. Can you do that for me? I need to know if they are still a full day out, or if they have managed to march through the night and have gotten themselves much closer. Javan needs to know how Valerian’s army is placed on the field He sent his wife full images and placements of the rebels below his walls. Images that she could pass on with accuracy to the prince. Also, I know they have Healers with them. Tell him that I fear we will need them.

I sent the apprentice Healer to the tower as soon as we heard he was needed. Richelle responded urgently. He should be there at any moment. Should I come too?

No, they are getting close enough to fire arrows over the walls. It is too dangerous. I have men putting out fires as the arrows land. Stay inside and say safe for now. And find for me where Prince Javan is.

Aye, husband, I will contact you as soon as I have a word from him

As he closed his Rapport with his beloved wife, he felt the first drops of rain upon his face.  He turned to look over the ocean to see the clouds moving over the point of land and to see the growing winds dashing the waves over the natural breakwater of stones at the sea side of the bay. Rain had started in earnest when the apprentice Healer from the scola stepped onto the tower outlook. Brecon pointed him to Rory, and Rory called him to kneel at the Duke of Corwyn’s side. Brecon said a word of prayer to Saint Camber that Kelric would have his Healing.

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #692 on: September 06, 2019, 03:27:07 pm »
They had been riding for several hours when Darcy held up his hand to signal a halt.  He turned his horse to the right, leaving the road and forcing his way through some bushes. Once through the bushes, he came out into a lovely glade shaded by trees, with soft green grass underfoot and the sound of water bubbling nearby. This was a perfect spot to stop, rest and water the horses, and refresh the riders. He called to the others to follow him. Aliset followed first, then Lady Fiona and Father Columcil. Last came Sir Washburn who paused to give a last careful look up and down the road before he followed the others.

“What a lovely place” exclaimed Lady Aliset as she looked around.

“We will rest here and refresh both our mounts and ourselves.” replied Darcy. He dismounted and led his horse to the nearby stream they could hear flowing by. The water was cold, clear, and refreshing. Sigrun lowered her head to drink thirstily. Darcy turned to assist Aliset to dismount and also led her horse to the stream.

The others followed suit, dismounting and leading their horses to drink from the stream. When the horses had drunk their fill, they were tethered loosely to allow them to graze while their riders also refreshed themselves. After long drinks of the sweet, cold water, they sought comfortable places in the soft grass and relaxed, leaning against tree trunks or warm rocks. They unpacked food from their saddlebags and sat quietly eating the bread, cheese and meat the manor cook had prepared.for their trip.

Darcy, Aliset, and Fiona were close to each other talking quietly. The good Father  had moved a little apart to perform his noon devotions. Once he was finished, he looked around at his companions. He noted that Wash was sitting apart, his back against a large tree trunk. eating his rations. Shadow Dancer grazed nearby. He carried his own portion over to stand in front of the young man. “Min if ah sit beside ye. Ye look lak ye cuid use a bit o company.”

Wash shifted a little to one side and patted the grass beside him. Father Columcil seated himself on the grass near Wash, unpacked his own food and began to eat. Wash sat quietly, staring out into the distance as if his thoughts were far away.  “A penny fur yer thooghts,” the priest turned to face him. “will ye nae telt me whit is trooblin’ ye?”

Wash was silent for a few moments, then he replied. “"Father, I trust you, so I will tell you that my memories are causing me conflict.  At least some, the ones filled with misery, they contradict others. Yet all of them seem so real. They happened!" Wash hesitated a moment. "I think they happened." he finally said uncertainly.  "If my captor used his powers to replace  my memories to help the rebel cause, then how can I act on what I think is right? I can't, because I don't know what is true and what is not.  How can I trust myself not to lash out when the false memories are triggered?  So far, I have been doing my best to live in the moment, the here and the now,  trying to not think of the past at all. But these memories are pervasive, especially the ones that I don't ever recall seeing before.  I know there are memories missing, lost in a mist I can’t penetrate, perhaps lost forever. I don’t know how to sort them out....”

Columcil studied the young man beside him, trying to think how he could help him. How could he restore to him at least one of his precious memories without activating the beast that guarded them and tried to keep them hidden?  “Ye’ll min a bit o’ whit ah tauld ye o’ whit ah saw durin’ our rapport. Ah saw visions Ah kin are false. That was true of some o’  whit  Ah saw aboot hoo yer folk treated ye  We will fin’ a way tae defeat it an find yer real memories.”
 
 Wash studied the priest intently and nodded.

Columcil continued. “Twill tak’ mair time an’ resoorces than we hae noo tae sort this oot. But Ah did promise tae teel ye who fairst said th’ words aboot holdin’ fear close an nae become complacent. Th’ one who tauld it tae me was Bishop Duncan when I was in seminary, an he was cousin tae th’ man who said it first tae ye, Alaric Morgan, yer faither.”

“But when did he say it to me and why? I must have been very young. He died when I was only five so I have no real memories of him. I only know what others have told me” Wash reached out to grasp Columcil’s arm as though to wrench from him more knowledge of this memory. “Why can I not find this memory? Show me what you saw!”

Columcil called on his healing power to soothe Wash. “Th‘ memory micht still be thaur buried deep. But Ah am afeared if Ah try tae show it tae ye in Rapport, we will rouse th’ beast tha’ guards it an risk mair damage. We will fin’ a way tae defeat it, Ah promise ye. But believe me when Ah teel ye yer Da loved ye deeply.”

Wash released Columcil’s arm and fell back against the tree, breathing deeply.  Finally, he sat up. “There is sense in what you say. I would not have you risk another encounter with that beast to help me. But I wish I had more knowledge that didn’t rely on the memories of others.”

Just then, Darcy stood up, stretched and reached for Sigrund’s reins. “We’d best be on our way if we are to find a place to rest tonight.” He assisted Aliset to mount and then swung up into his saddle. Columcil hurried forward to help Fiona to mount then hoisted himself up onto his horse. The group moved out onto the road, following Darcy, Aliset beside him, Fiona followed Aliset and Washburn, on Shadow, had resumed his place at the rear of the party.

 Columcil fell back beside Wash as they moved forward. “Thar is a way tae learn mair now, ye hae th’ means in yer grasp. His joornal in his ain words will surely help ye tae know heem better.” With those words, the priest kneed his horse forward and resumed his place beside Lady Fiona.

As the party continued on its way, Wash considered Columcil's words and promised himself that at their next stop, he would take out the journal and begin reading it.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2019, 03:57:07 pm by DerynifanK »
"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

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #693 on: September 08, 2019, 05:45:02 pm »
So many people upon the road. As Darcy led his company through the heartland of Gwynedd, the road had become more and more congested with the common folk going about their daily lives. Huge numbers of women walked the sides of the road, carrying upon their backs everything from water jugs to bushels of long grass stalks that they would weave into matts and baskets. Many too had babes wrapped in shawls upon their chests. Women had always been the consummate keeper of the home, and it struck Wash that in a time when few strong able bodied men remained to work the land, being as they had been conscripted to support the king’s forces, it was the women who took charge of all the chores that could not wait for men’s war to be done.

In much the same way, Wash could not discharge his duty to guard over his companions as they traveled. He could not take the leisurely time to read his father’s journal as he would like to have done as they rode. The congestion upon the road got worse as they neared each village. It seemed that many parishioners were taking a pilgrimage in the direction of Valoret. Whether they traveled by foot, by horse, or by carriage, they seemed to pack each village and town to overflowing. It surprised Wash to learn that all these men and women upon the road were not trying to escape the rebel uprising in the west, but instead were traveling east to give their last requards to a man who supported and often quietly and secretly guided the kingdom toward salvation. It seemed that if Bishop Arilan’s funeral procession was not to cross the kingdom to come to them, then the people would cross the kingdom to go to him. That, more than any words and past memories, struck Wash as to how puissant Bishop Arilan’s life had been.

At last a chance came to read his father’s journal when Darcy had left them to wait on the outer edge of a village. Columcil had nodded that he would keep the watch. Wash took the journal out from his tunic. He purposely avoided the end of the journal, not yet ready to deal with how he fit into his father’s life. Rather instead he opened the hand-written pages to somewhere in the first portion of the book. Better to learn who the man was before he was embittered toward his second son.

“Lord Rogier stood uneasily and turned to Kelson. “Are you challenging the findings of your lawful Council, Your highness?”
“Not at all,” Kelson answered promptly. “I merely wish to reassure myself that your verdict was, indeed, secured through lawful means. Come, gentlemen, we waste precious time. How say you? Is Morgan, indeed, traitor and heretic? Nigel?”
**

Washburn took in a deep breath. What had he just stumbled upon? He read on as the royal council took a vote nearly split down the middle, yet ending in favor of condemning Alaric Morgan, that accursed Deryni heretic, of treason. The hand that wrote the words was tense, for the letters on this page were tight and abrupt, not flowing as could be seen in other portions of the journal. Perhaps that is why Washburn’s eye had stopped here to start his reading. In fact the letters were uncharacteristically shaky as Washburn read the condemning words of Queen Jehana.

“... I say Morgan is guilty as charged, which brings your vote to six to five against him. Your precious Morgan is doomed, Kelson! What do you say to that?”*

Taken aback, Washburn thumbed back a page and realized his father had been arrested and had been bound and placed to stand as a convicted man before this royal council. The reason? Hate from the archbishop and the queen, fear of his race and his closeness to the king, these seemed to be the prevailing cause.  Passively, Alaric had allowed himself to be arrested, trusting in the prince who was his king to see him free. The conviction and the loyalty of a man to trust in his liege lord to keep him from a traitor’s fate was not lost upon Wash.

My duty in this life has always been to see my prince, my king, safe from his enemies, by means which have been entrusted to me by the beloved man who once wore the crown, I must bring the son to the full potential required of Gwynedd’s ruler-ship. Ability Brion’s queen would deny in her own son. “To save his soul,” she had said. Yet it is for his very soul and the soul of Gwynedd that I must prevail. Though it would condemn me and the blood of all Deryni, I needed to be free to do what needed to be done. I, Alaric Morgan, was about to commit myself to an act the likes of which I had never committed before. Thus I was readying myself when my prince eased his booted toe to the side, nudging my boot with his. I glanced at my prince, saw an almost imperceptible shake of his head, he had a plan. I would let him try.

Unable to look away from the pages, Washburn read about the coup of the boy king wrestling his power from that of his regents.

When the cathedral bells chime four, the king, no longer a boy in age nor in action, proclaimed himself fourteen years of age “…the coronation ceremony was scheduled for tomorrow. But I rule today!” Kelson proclaimed. Alaric must of been so proud, his words were large on the page as he wrote how King Kelson announced, “I hereby declare Lord Alaric Anthony Morgan, Duke of Cowryn and Lord general of the Royal Armies, innocent of the charges which have been set out against him!” With Morgan’s own dagger the king cut the rope that bound his wrists and returned him his sword.

This was loyalty two-fold. The covenant between the Morgans and the Haldanes had proved over and over again to withstand all obstacles. His father trusted his king and his king did not let him down. Wash took in a deep breath, then why was this very same king not standing by Alaric’s son? How had the years unraveled this loyalty and trust that had at one time been so tightly bound. Wash wanted nothing more than to present himself, even to prostrate himself, before his king, to reverse whatever it was he had done to lose such trust? Yet in this greatest need, Washburn Morgan was forbidden to approach Rhemuth, forbidden to approach the crown. His father had been accused of treason, and he had prevailed by the will of the king.  Could the son do no less?

Then suddenly Wash took in a great breath. Maybe the very reason that I am ill-received by the king, is of itself my doubt in the king's command. Does that doubt bring vindication for why the king is holding my loyalty of him in question? Wash asked himself. Taking in the full purpose of why he had read the passage he had read,  he finally conceded to the journal's wisdom.  As my father did, I must hold and trust that the man who wears the crown has a plan.


**Deryni Rising Chapter 5
« Last Edit: September 08, 2019, 08:29:03 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #694 on: September 10, 2019, 12:57:56 pm »
“I’m sorry, my Lord, but we are full up,”  the innkeeper said to Darcy Cameron.  “There is not even space in the stable for you to bed down with your horses.”  Darcy thought the man looked even more harried than the owner of the first inn he had inquired at.

As Darcy nodded and turned to leave, the innkeeper hesitated a moment and then added,  “There is an old manor down the road where you might find lodging for the night.  It’s a bit farther, and the old lord is eccentric, but he’s harmless enough and might have a room you can use.”

‘My thanks,” Darcy replied and returned to his horse.  He mounted and rode to the outskirts of the town, where he had left his companions to rest while he searched for lodgings in the town.  As he approached, Father Columcil nodded greetings from where he stood keeping an eye on their surroundings.  Aliset and Fiona sat companionably on the grass, talking quietly.  Sir Washburn tucked the journal he had been leafing through into his saddle bag as Darcy approached.

 “I believe I have underestimated the number of people who would be travelling to Bishop Arilan’s funeral,” Darcy said ruefully.

They had left Arx Fedei a little later than Darcy had planned, but he could not object to Father Columcil’s suggestion that they all attend the morning mass.  Aliset had welcomed the suggestion with more enthusiasm than Darcy had expected, and if it helped her to deal with the news they had received of Oswald’s death, he was happy to agree.

They had followed the road that led from the abbey to the Eirian River.  At this point the road turned north to follow the river. The road grew more crowded as each mile passed.   At the juncture of the Eirian and another tributary, a middle-sized town had been founded based on the trade flowing into the juncture of the two rivers.  Normally, there would be enough rooms at the two inns the town hosted for both traders and travellers, but with the numbers headed to Valoret for the bishop’s funeral, the town was full to bursting.

“There is no place for us to stay here,” Darcy announced.  “I have been advised there is a manor down the road that might have a room for us.”

“If not,” Columcil said, “we can always camp somewhere down the road.”

“Not tonight,” Darcy replied as he scanned the sky above them.  “There will be rain, probably heavy, before morning, and I would have our ladies kept dry.”

“I will not melt,” Aliset said, a little more sharply than she intended.

“I trust not, or I would be most distressed,” Darcy replied and smiled.  “But I would rather that  you are safe and warm, if I can arrange it.  "Very warm would be pleasing," he sent to her.

Aliset blushed, annoyed and pleased in the same moment.  Fiona hid a smile, guessing at what she had not heard.

“Let us be on our way, before any rooms at the manor have been taken.”  Darcy mounted Sigrun, and once his companions had mounted their own horses, led the way beyond the town.

It was a good hour before they reached the path that turned off toward the manor. The sun was only beginning to move toward sunset, but the unpruned trees along the path to the manor cast eerie shadows as they approached.   The path wound a fair distance before they reached the manor itself.  It was a small manor in good enough repair, but it looked to have been standing for at least one  hundred years, maybe more.

“Is this a good idea?” Fiona murmured to Washburn as they entered the manor courtyard..

“It is only a trick of the light that makes it seem foreboding.  And your cousin is right; there will be rain tonight.”  Nevertheless, Washburn checked that his sword was secure at his side.  He noticed that Father Columcil also checked to make sure his staff was in place. 

The manor courtyard was empty as they entered.  The manor house itself was made out of sturdy stone, etched and scarred by storms over the years.  The stables and out-buildings were made of wood, old and well seasoned.

“Father Columcil,” Darcy said as they reined in.  “Perhaps you should ask for shelter tonight.  I confess, my luck has not been good today. The lord of the manor may favour a priest over a dusty seaman.”

Columcil nodded.  He was not feeling at ease here, but he had no good reason to explain his unease.  Maybe they had been through too much on this journey to feel at ease anywhere.

The border priest knocked on the weathered door.  He was about to knock again when a wizened old man opened it.

“Who comes here?” the man asked. 

“Your pardon for our intrusion,” Columcil said in his best court voice.  “But my companions and I seek shelter for the night.”

“Do ye now,” the old man replied.  “How many are you?”

“Myself and four others; three men and two women in total.”

“Two women?” The old man’s eyes lit up in a disturbing way.

“One woman is our Captain’s wife and the other is his cousin,” Columcil said with a firm note to his voice.  Darcy might not technically be a captain, but the title would do for now.

“The third man?” the old man asked.

“A seasoned knight who has joined us on the journey,” Columcil replied. 

“You can take your horses to  the stable.  Once they are settled, come within and join me for dinner,” the old lord responded.

“We have our own provisions,” Columcil said hastily.  “We need not tax your supplies.”

“Nonsense, you will be my guests.  Lettie will make sure there is enough food for all.”  With that, the old lord dismissed them to look after their horses.  “Knock at the door when you are finished.”

Columcil nodded and returned to the others.  “The lord requests we stable our horses and be his guests for dinner.”

“We need not inconvenience him,” Darcy said.

“Aye, but he insists.”  Columcil raised an eyebrow at Darcy.  “The innkeeper said the lord here was a bit eccentric?”

“Aye, but I did not ask for details,” Darcy responded. 

Columcil had a fleeting thought that it might have been wise to do so.

***

Darcy knocked on the door when they returned to the manor.

“Come in, come in,” the old lord urged.  His voice quavered a bit with age, but there was still strength in it.  “I am Jeffers du Clemence; welcome to my home. You may leave your weapons there by the door.”

Columcil nodded and slipped his arm through the strap that secured his staff to his back.  It was customary not to bring weapons into a host’s home if your intentions were benign,  but both Washburn and Darcy hesitated for a moment before complying. When Washburn’s broad back blocked Darcy from their host’s view,  Darcy surreptitiously slipped his second dagger inside his wife’s boot, deftly arranging the skirt of her gown so it was concealed.  Aliset gave him a sharp look , but said nothing.  Fiona had left her bow behind with her horse, and now rested her dagger beside Washburn’s sword.

“I am Father Columcil from Saint Melangell’s,” Columcil stated. “Lord Darcy Cameron is our Captain, and Lady Aliset is his wife.  Lady Fiona is his cousin, and Sir Washburn completes our party.”  Columcil had deliberately avoided including surnames except for Darcy.  The men bowed, and the woman curtsied.  Lord Jeffers appeared pleased.

“Lettie!” Lord Jeffers called as he guided them to manor’s small hall.  “Serve the meal!”

The room Lord Jeffers led them to was furnished with a large table set back from a central hearth.  A youngish woman, Aliset thought she could be as old as thirty, tended a cookpot above the fire. The open windows did not let in much light, so most of the room remained in shadow.  A faint breeze stirred the faded tapestries that hung along the walls.

 Lord Jeffers claimed the most imposing chair placed behind the centre of the table.  Lesser chairs were arranged to either side and across from him. Lord Jeffers motioned to the chairs on either side of his.  “The ladies may sit here beside me for ease of conversation; you may sit across from me so I can hear you clearly.  I’m not as young as I used to be.”  He gave them what could have been interpreted as a disarming smile. 

Darcy stiffened at the thought of not being able to remain at Aliset’s side, nor was he pleased to leave his cousin unprotected on the other side of the old lord. A glance at Washburn’s face told him the knight felt much the same, but the priest made a faint calming gesture with his hand.  Afterall, Darcy had no good reason to feel protection would be required.  But when had he ever needed a good reason to justify his instincts?

They sat as they had been bid  as Lettie brought forth a tray with a large tureen and several bowls.  She set a bowl before each of them and ladled a thin stew into each.  Once finished, she left and returned with a jug and several cups.  She filled one for each of them, placed them on the table and withdrew from the room.

“Would you say a blessing for the meal, Father?” Lord Jeffers requested.

“Gladly,” Columcil responded.  He blessed the meal and their host, and hoped the meal would taste better than it looked.

“Lettie is my granddaughter and looks after me. Dinner here is simple fare, but wholesome enough.”  Lord Jeffers took a drink of his ale and smiled at Fiona.

“Your granddaughter does not join us?”  Aliset asked.

“Nay,” Lord Jeffers replied.  “She prefers her own company since her betrothed ran out on her two years ago.”

“Oh,” was all Aliset could think of for a polite response. She looked at Darcy for assistance, but he shrugged ever so slightly.  There were no safe waters that he could navigate around that statement.

Darcy had tasted better ale, but out of politeness finished his cup.  The stew was tasteless, and if there was meat in it. Darcy had swallowed it without noticing.  He thought Aliset looked pale, but she managed to eat most of her stew.  As they reached the end of the meal, her eyelids began to droop, and Darcy nudged her foot gently to keep her awake.  She gave him a wan smile.

The conversation had remained neutral during the meal;  it would be a good harvest this year, the weather had been mostly good, too bad about the Mearan rebellion. Until Lord Jeffers asked where they travelled to.

“We go to Valoret,” Columcil responded.  “To attend the funeral of Bishop Denis Arilan.”

“A worthless Deryni priest, who should never have been ordained,” Lord Jeffers said,  turned his head and spat on the floor.

Darcy’s jaw dropped, Aliset gasped, Columcil looked like a thundercloud and Washburn reached for the sword that was no longer at his side.  Fiona looked from one to the other, not sure what she should say or do.

Columcil recovered first.  “Our Lord chooses those He feels worthy to the task,” he said, surprised at the calmness of his voice.  “I trust His judgement.”

“Perhaps He made a mistake,”  Lord Jeffers replied.

“The hour grows late,” Darcy said firmly.  “We should retire so we can get an early start.  Will you kindly show us to our rooms?” 

Lord Jeffers eyed them from across the top of his cup and took a long drink before he responded.  “I have only one room to spare, since Lettie occupies the room across from  my own chamber.  It will only provide comfort for two persons.  The ladies may sleep there tonight; I have a comfortable shed for the rest of you.”

Darcy’s voice took on a tone of command.  “I’m afraid, Lord Jeffers, that will not do.  We will stay together.”

“I’m sure the ladies would be more comfortable in my spare room,” Jeffers said, looking appreciatively at both Fiona and Aliset.

“My wife and I are newly married,”  Darcy said.  “We prefer not to be apart.”

“Not willing to share, eh?” Jeffers said with a laugh. “You have an extra lady….”

It was only Columcil’s firm hand on Darcy’s shoulder that prevented Darcy from launching across the table to take their host to task barehanded.  Washburn would have been right behind him.

“Now, now,” Jeffers said placatingly, holding out both wrinkled hands.  “Can’t blame an old man for trying.”

“If you would show us to your shed, we will bid you goodnight,” Darcy said coldly. 

Lord Jeffers actually chuckled as he rose from the table.  “This way,” he said.

They paused at the door as they followed him to collect their weapons.  Jeffer led them to a wooden shed that looked newer than the other buildings. 

“My original shed burned down two years ago,” Lord Jeffers informed them.  “I built this one last year.”

The shed was well-sized, with a single door and one window with wooden shutters.  The roof was thatched, and there was good, dry straw on the floor.  “I hope you will be comfortable enough,” Jeffers said.  “Though I still suggest that the room in the manor would be more comfortable for the ladies.”

“We will be fine here,” Washburn said, trying to keep his voice neutral.  “Good night to you.”

Lord Jeffers nodded and set a jug down just inside the door.  In their haste to leave after dinner, none had noticed him pick it up.  “May you sleep peacefully,” he said.  He closed the door behind him.

“God forgive me,” Columcil said.  “If I’d had my staff, I think I would have bashed his head in.”

“Not if I got there first,” Washburn said, anger clearly evident in his voice.

“I don’t like this, not one little bit.” Darcy said.

“Should we leave now?” Aliset asked.

“Down the road, no,” Darcy replied. “The rain is not far off. As soon as all is quiet, I propose we relocate to the stable.  We will be nearer our horses if we need to leave quickly.”

“Does it not seem that there is an awful lot of straw on this floor?” Fiona asked.  “Surely there’s more than we need for comfort.”

Washburn drew his sword and poked it into the straw in several spots.  “There is just straw here, but it is more than I would expect.  I agree Darcy; we should not stay here.”

They waited for almost half an hour and then gathered their belongings.  Aliset picked up the jug, removed the stopper and took a cautious sniff.  She retched and resealed the jug quickly, unsure if she could keep down the meager fare she had eaten.

“Worse than the first batch?” Darcy asked solicitously.  Aliset only dared nod her agreement and set the jug back down by the door.

“Not to worry,” he said as he came to her side.  “I filled my waterskin at the brook this afternoon.”

“No ale this time, Darcy?”  In spite of their current misgivings, Columcil could not resist the question.

“Baron Stuart’s fine ale is in my second waterskin,” Darcy replied and grinned.

His grin faded as they made their way quietly to the stable. Sigrun nickered as they entered, and Darcy hastened over to quiet her.  It was late, and they spread their blankets outside the stalls to get what sleep they could. 

“We should keep watch,” Darcy said.

“Aye, I agree,” replied Washburn.  “I’ll take the first watch.”  When Darcy started to protest, Washburn shook his head and managed a rueful grin. “I don’t think I can sleep for awhile yet, so you may as well get what rest you can.”

Darcy nodded and moved to the spot Aliset would share with Fiona.  Incredibly, his wife was already asleep.  Darcy knelt beside her, made sure she was not tangled in her gown, and tenderly kissed her cheek

“I’ll keep an eye on her,” Fiona whispered, and Darcy gave her a grateful smile.  Fiona laid down beside Aliset, her bow and quiver within reach if needed.  Darcy spread his blanket nearby next to Columcil’s.  The priest knelt in prayer, whether asking for forgiveness for their host or their deliverance from this place, Darcy did not know.

***

"Darcy, Columcil!"  Washburn’s mental voice woke Darcy instantly.  Catlike, he rose with his sword in hand.  Columcil also awoke immediately.  ”Come see this!"  He motioned to the stable door, which he had left ajar to be able to see the courtyard and out-buildings.

They watched as Lord Jeffers set a carefully shuttered lantern on the ground before the shed.  He approached the door and slipped a wooden plank into place to secure it shut.  He moved to the only window, quietly reached inside to pull the shutter closed and secured it with another bar.

Jeffers moved back to his lantern, opened if fully and then hurled it up onto the thatched roof.

The dry thatch caught fire immediately. Quickly the flame spread to engulf the walls.

“What is going on?” Aliset was alarmed but managed to keep her voice low.  Fiona stood beside her, one arm across her shoulders.

“He means to burn us alive!” Columcil said, aghast.

“Does he know we are Deryni?” Fiona’s face was as pale as Aliset’s.

“I’m not sure it matters to him,” Darcy replied. The roar of the flames allowed them to speak without worry of being overheard.   He thought back to his journey to Desse and the smell of the burned building there.  “The man is clearly insane.”

“Does he not find it curious we are not crying out or trying to escape?” Washburn asked.

“Perhaps there is a reason the ale in the jug smelled so foul,” Darcy replied. “He could have drugged or poisoned it.”

“I feel sorry for his granddaughter,” Fiona said.  “She can’t be safe here.”  As Fiona spoke. Lettie came out from the manor house to join Lord Jeffers.  She slipped her arm through his and by the light of the flames, it was clear that they were both smiling.

“She’s as batty as he is,” Darcy said.

“Darcy,” Aliset gripped her husband’s arm.  “Didn’t Lord Jeffers say that the original shed burned down two years ago?”

“Aye,” he replied. “And her betrothed also ran away two years ago.” 

Washburn looked back at the only other horse in the stable and wondered who had originally owned it.  Columcil crossed himself.

Darcy’s prediction of rain came true.  The first drops soon turned into a torrent, causing the flaming shed to sputter and steam.  Jeffers appeared to not like being drenched, and soon returned to the shelter of the manor with Lettie.

“Should we leave now?” Aliset asked.

“Much as I would like to, we need to wait for the rain to ease, and the thick clouds will give us no light until they clear.”  He looked toward Washburn and Columcil.  “I am unfamiliar with the road to Valoret, which does not help.  Have either of you travelled it before?”

Columcil shook his grizzled head. 

“I have travelled to Valoret before,” Washburn said.  “But only from the east.  If I can trust those memories,” he added ruefully.

“Then I propose we wait until there is enough light to travel,” Darcy said.  “I’ll take the first watch, and with luck, since we are near to dawn, there will be no need for a second.  I’ll wake all so we can be away as soon as we can safely travel.”  He looked at Aliset.  “I trust you will forgive  me for not taking proper leave of our host and thanking him for his hospitality.”

“I will forgive you this one lapse of protocol,” she said and threw her arms around his neck.  He hugged her back and then bade her to get what rest she could.

“What should we do about them?” Fiona asked, jerking her head towards the manor.  “We can’t let them get away with this.”

“I fear there is little we can do,” Washburn replied  “There is no crime in a man burning down his own shed, and it would be our word against theirs as to what transpired here.  If there was any proof of our presence in the shed, the flames consumed it.”

“And we would be the unknown travellers unjustly accusing two pillars of the community.  Eccentric my ass!” Darcy hissed.  “Beg pardon, Father.”

“You only said what I was thinking, Son.” Columcil gripped Darcy’s shoulder for a moment.  “Wake us if you need us.”

***

Darcy had them up once the barest hint off light shone in the sky.  The rain had stopped, and the clouds had cleared.  The sodden, charred remains of the shed hissed slightly, reminding them of what might have been. It was all they could do to keep their horses to a quiet walk rather than charging down the path from the manor toward the road.  Once they reached the road, Darcy stopped and pulled his dagger from its sheath.  He quickly carved a crude skull and crossbones into the most visible tree at the entrance; a sign of danger.

“At least we have tried to leave a warning,” he said and turned Sigrun east toward Valoret.

Once they could see clearly enough, Darcy had them off at a fast canter, doing his best to put distance behind them before Lord Jeffers awoke.  As they travelled, he was not the only one to look back over his shoulder from time to time to make sure the demons of Satan were not pursuing them.

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

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #695 on: September 12, 2019, 09:05:08 am »
Watching the heart go out of his captain as Sir Richard's head and shoulders slumped in defeat, Seamus thought he would rather be flogged than suffer the sense of betrayal which skewered his gut like a red-hot knife. Though either were better than facing the Duke's wrath, had he colluded in such an ill-advised attack and lived to tell the tale. Aye, the man was a force of nature to be reckoned with, even had he not been a Duke of the realm and a powerful Deryni. As he thought this something rang a bell deep in Seamus' memory, something his Grandda had said once...

He had no idea whether such a thing were possible and part of him balked at his presumption in even daring to think of it, but, blessed Saints, it had to be worth a try.

"Sir, ah've nae dout ye've heard more'n enow fra' ma'sen the day, but mebbes there is a way to gi'e the bastards wha' they desairve. Ha'e I yer permission ta speak?"

Despite his gloom, Richard could not prevent his lips quirking in a smile at that,

"When you start toadying to me, that's when I know to be worried. Out with it, man!" He paused for a long moment before adding, "And thank you."

"Weel, ah dinna ken as his Grace would be able fer it an' most like himself an ye"ll  ha'e ma hide fer daring e'en ta suggest sich a thing but if yon black-hearted yin wha's behind yon unnatural wind can dee such a thing, then mebbes a canny Deryni like himself can bring a storm that"ll send them a' ta hell."

Seamus hardly dared to look up but, as the silence that followed his words lengthened, at last he raised his eyes. Richard was not looking angry, as he had feared he might but rather a mixture of blank puzzlement mixed with wild hope which meant that his face wore a very odd expression.

"I'm not at all sure I know just what you are suggesting, but anything that turns their black magic back upon themselves will have my blessing. ANYTHING!"

Sir Richard's pent up anger exploded out of him as he bellowed the last word and slammed his clenched fist down on the table between them.

Such open displays of anger were far from natural to his Captain and in reaction to this Seamus replied in an unwontedly submissive voice, though instinct made him reach out a hand to steady the pitcher of morning ale, causing Richard his first smile of the morning.

"Well, I'm no just suggestin' we ask fer himself ta dee any magic that his sire th'Archbishop shouldna ken aboot, but ma grandda used ta tell me an oor Jamie aboot them as could govern th'wind. I'm no so sure tha' he couldna do a wee bittie himself when I come ta think on it."

Richard had long  wondered about this Grandda of Seamus's - if half Seamus' tales were true then surely border blood alone could not account for his uncanny abilities, but now was not the time to go into that.

"Given that you nobly saved our ale from watering the table,"  Richard's genuine smile told Seamus that his superior included himself in the gentle mockery, "perhaps we should break our fast while you explain a bit more what you are suggesting to be ready for when his Grace next makes contact. In the meantime, I'll give the order for our boats to drop anchor this side of the headland, and pray that I do not live to regret it."

Richard had previously declined to be present when Seamus made his report to the Duke, feeling unable to overcome his sqeamishness in the presence of magic, although he knew that this to be unfair to Seamus. Now seeing how uncertain Seamus felt about making his suggestion to one far above him both in rank and magical ability and given that he had just whole-heartedly consented to the use of magic as a weapon of war he felt constrained to remain in the cabin as, on the appointed two hours after sunrise, Seamus took his medal in both hands, briefly touched it to his lips, and muttered the words he had been taught, allowing himself to drift from his surroundings.

Good morrow ta yer Grace. I trust I haven'a disturbed ye.

Dhugal took his arm from around Mirjana, thankful that Seamus could not see him.

Nay. You are punctual to time as ever. Is all, well?
Don't go silent on me, man. What's Richard been up to now?

It had to be Richard, Dhugal decided, any real disaster and Seamus would have been straight out with it, but he would be unwilling to seem to be bearing tales. The silence lengthened but only for a few moments and then the tale came out, Seamus not seeking to hide his own hurt at causing pain to his captain.

At least you had the sense to prevent his heroics this time.

The acerbic mental tone that Dhugal was unable to suppress made Seamus wince, and hearing this Dhugal made haste to make amends.

Your pardon, it was well done, and not easy for either of you. But what now? Richard is right in saying that they should not reach Laas. His Highness Prince Rory looks to be hard pressed, by last report.

The question startled Seamus who was expecting to hear further orders, even more puzzling was the faint but unmistakable mental hesitation that followed as though the Duke were hesitant to suggest something.  Then they both began to Mindspeak at once,

Yer Grace,

Her Grace,

Seamus drew back deferentially to allow his Lord precedence but Dhugal seemed almost relieved and Sent for him to continue. Seamus took a mental breath and held nothing back.

Yer Grace, Ah dinna ken if ah shud be saying this ta ye, an' beggin' yer pardon if ah'm above m'sel' but ah couldn't help but wonder if ye could mebbes bring up a wee bittie storm blowing down fra' th'north that'd send  'em into the rocks - Sir Richard an' me 'ave scanned th'charts and we speir they'd be on 'em just ere nightfall but ah doot they'd ken they were there, wi'them no expecting ta be this near ta land.

In the silence that followed, as Seamus held his breath half-expecting a mental skelping, there was relief and, even odder, a hint of amusement. Then a question put with real anxiety,

And Richard is happy with such use of magic ?

Aye, ma Lord, nae doot o' it. He doesna care how the b**** get ta t'bottom o'th'ocean.

Well, then. Her Grace has spent the last day teaching me how 'tis done and together we can promise you better than a wee bittie storm. A tempest is what I had in mind. You are moored safely. Good, then you'd best tell Sir Richard that my orders to the fleet are to stay where you are until further notice. You may not be able to reach me for a while. Try tomorrow morning, but don't be alarmed if you cannot reach me. In the meantime if you can safely land the landlubbers amongst the men and then find a few who can run ahead round the shore and watch out to sea that might be wise. And Seamus, you're a good man and a brave one. Well done."

Thank you, yer Grace.

Dhugal had managed to suppress the excitement he felt in at last able to do something  active in the struggle, fearing that it might smack of disloyalty to the King's orders, but once contact had been severed he drove his fist into the pillow with an exultant  "yes!".





















« Last Edit: September 13, 2019, 06:39:24 am by revanne »
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)

 


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