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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 108524 times)

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Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #600 on: January 19, 2019, 03:30:53 pm »
Having proven that he was hale, herdsman Remy was given the duty of feeding and brushing down the soldier’s horses; most of whom were tied in a string between the trees just off the side of the road. It was easy enough duty for the young herder who knew more than a bit about cows, sheep, and horses. Caring for these fine animals, mainly, got him out from under the watchful eyes of the king's men: this group of men who had come to rescued the first rescue group who had entered into  the ruins. Someone had even healed the wounds that he had received from that hateful Droghera Guard Hamish. Well, he remembered giving as good as he got. It had been a fair fight, and he, Remy, would have won it too, if not for that Banshi woman who came out of nowhere and blasted him unconscious. He recalled laying there angrily on the cold stone in pain for a long while, Hamish beside him, but out of arm's reach. Then he must have slept, for when he awoke the anger was gone and so to was his pain. He no longer felt the need to stop Hamish and was not quite sure where that desire to impede the search for that lost knight of the realm had come from or gone to. With his head clear and his wounds mended, he and the Droghera guard were escorted out of the ruins and given a cot in this makeshift camp along the side of the road.

Remy was a curious fellow. He was never quite content with his lot in life to run his father’s farm and the milking of cows that fed off the land. He wanted more. These king's men were city folk, all dressed in their fine dandy clothes and strutting around camp like they owned everyone. At least that was the one noble who appeared to be in charge. Remy had instant hate for that man. On this new day, it seemed other nobles had joined their camp. The red-headed one was more noble than them all and he had taken charge. Remy had no idea who he was, not that it mattered, all them king’s men could be cursed in his mind. He, in secret, was a queen’s man. The Queen of Meara was his ruler. That was his deep secret, known only to but a few. Happy to keep his secret close to his chest, he freely went about his business, feeding the horses, picking out their feet, and brushing them down. He did respect the animals, if not the men who rode them. Which in all, meant he did a good job. No one watched him closely, this left him free to move about like an unseen servant and to walk about the camp doing what he pleased, so long as it looked like he was working. He may have been unseen by everyone around him, but he saw everything that was going on. He was intrigued by what seemed like some sort of power play between the nobles, and too, there was that blond-haired squire sitting with that priest who was not a boy at all. That much he could tell.

Oh boy! When he gets back to Droghera, he will have a good report to make to his rebel leader.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2019, 05:06:26 pm by Laurna »

Online DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #601 on: January 20, 2019, 04:45:38 pm »
The light filtered hazily through the high window. The room was dim and chilly. Baron Stuart paced restlessly around the room considering his situation and what possible options he might have. He was both angry and despairing. How had it come to this? His only son and heir had turned betrayer, turning against his king and even attacking his own father, luring him up here to lock him in and take over the manor in order to turn it over to the rebels. If he carried out his plan, he would be branded as a traitor and, if caught, executed. The boy had always been impatient and impulsive, unwilling to wait for what he wanted. He also often acted without giving adequate consideration to the consequences of his actions. The baron had tried to reason with him, but it had always ended in arguments that accomplished nothing. 

The baron considered his situation. If only he could escape from this room, he might be able to stop this treasonous plan before it went too far and save his son.  He knew that some of his servants had been replaced by men he did not know who were probably rebels. But their numbers were not great, and there were still more faithful retainers among them who would follow his orders. His most immediate problem was how to communicate with anyone who could free him. The sullen man who brought his food was surely one of the rebels. He could not get a note out. Even if he had the means to write one, most of the servants would not be able to read it, and he did not want to put them in danger. He considered the window, but it was high in the wall and difficult to reach. Even if he did manage to reach it, this was a remote and seldom visited part of the manor. The chances that someone would see any signal he sent and act upon it were small.  But there must be some way to attract help.
 
Mac wondered what story Michael was giving out to explain his sudden disappearance.  He wondered what was happening to Olivia and Fiona, whether they were also confined. If only he could reach Fiona. She was energetic and determined and fiercely loyal to the king. She was also very clever and would certainly be able to help him devise a plan. But how to reach her.

Mac was becoming almost desperate when he heard a faint scratching at the door. Moving close to it, he scratched at his side of the door. He then bent down and put his mouth close to the keyhole  and whispered: “who’s there?”  A young voice spoke softly in reply: “It’s me, Gavin.”
The baron’s heart gave a leap. Gavin was a young page, the youngest son of Lord Ross, an old friend. He had entered the baron’s service to begin his training several months ago, before the rebellion had reared its ugly head, and the conflicts with Michael had escalated. He was bright and very inquisitive.

The voice spoke again: “Is that you, my Lord? Why are you locked in here?  We were told you were ill, and the doctor advised complete rest and quiet. But I could not understand why we heard nothing from you nor could I locate you in the manor. If you were ill, why were you not in your own quarters, and why was Lady Olivia not with you. I decided to do some exploring to try to find you. I noticed one of the servants carrying food to this part of the manor. Why would he be carrying food to an unused part of the house? I followed him and saw him enter this door, then leave without the dishes he had been carrying, locking the door behind him. I heard no sounds within, but why would he carry food to an empty, locked room? I decided to try to find out who might be confined within. I did not expect that you would be in there.”

Mac responded, “ I have been confined here by my son who is planning to join the rebellion and give the manor and its assets to them. He is betraying his allegiance to the king in the hope of gaining land and commands. I have to stop him before it is too late. If found out, he will be branded a traitor and subject to execution if captured.  I need to get out of here. Can you take word to Lady Fiona and solicit her help in devising a plan to free me?”

The page replied: “I’m sorry, my Lord. I cannot reach Lady Fiona. She disappeared at about the same time that you did. I heard that she took a horse from the stable and ran away. No one knows where she went. Lord Michael has sent men out to search the surrounding countryside, but to my knowledge no one has seen her. That has made the young lord more irritable and bad tempered. He and Lord Martin have been shut away arguing about what to do.I have been eavesdropping as much as I could without getting caught. They are considering sending word to their rebel contacts to come sooner, before word can reach the king or his representatives. They are afraid that the reason Lady Fiona ran away was that she  somehow discovered their plans and is trying to get word to Rhemuth about what is happening here.”

“I could try to sneak away and ride to carry word to my father about the situation here. Surely he would know what to do.” Gavin offered.

“I am afraid that would take too long, and I don’t want to put you at risk if you are caught.” Mac replied. Just then, they heard footsteps coming toward them. “Quick,” whispered Mac, “slip away. You must not be found here. Keep watch, and return when it is safe. I will give thought to what other possibilities we have to obtain my escape. At least you have enabled me to establish contact with a source of aid. Try to keep a close watch on those you know or suspect are members of the rebellion. The more information we have, the better our chances for success. Pay particular attention to what is done with the keys to this room. Now go, before you are seen!”

Mac heard soft footsteps rapidly retreat from outside his door as the other footsteps drew closer.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2019, 09:45:15 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 #602 on: January 26, 2019, 09:47:14 pm »

The smell of iron calcined and quicklime forced Lord Brendan to hold a finger under his nose and to squeeze his eyes shut as his squire, Arthur, rubbed the messy dye through his hair with a cloth. “Arthur, best make sure it covers evenly. You don’t want your earl to look like a spotted cat, now would you?”

The youth tried to stop a guffaw, which only made worse the noise that escaped his lips. Abashed the youth managed to reply  “No, my lord,” before ducking his head. After which he rubbed the cloth all the harder through the earl's finger length hair.

The young man faltered when an interruption came from a guard as the entrance flap was pulled aside. The guard made his pronouncement: “Father Columcil, as you requested, my Lord.” The guard stepped back to allow a priest in a country woven cassock to enter. Arthur took note that the priest brought no eminent danger, even if that staff across his back had a iron-shod head upon it-- which was rather uncommon for a man of the cloth, but not uncommon for these difficult times-- thusly, Arthur returned to his duty of spreading the dark hair-dye through his lord’s trusses.

“Come in, Father, come in. I will be just a moment,”  Brendan said, still with his eyes closed. He did not need to see to know that the father entered hesitantly, the smell taking him a minute to accept before entering.

“Ye’ asked to see me, m’ lord?” the father inquired, a slight reserve in his tone, determined to use his courtly speech before this differential man, the Earl of Marley.

“Yes, indeed. You are more prompt than I. But a moment if you would, father,” the Earl replied with his head still down at the level of his squire’s hands. “That is good, Arthur. Now pour the water over my hair to rinse it all out.“ Brendan kept his eyes shut and his head held over a bowl as the squire poured warmed water over the earl’s head and rubbed the oily hair dye out of his hair. A second rinse was done with a touch of lime soap to wash away the residual dye. With a third rinse, the warm water was gone and the cold water caused the earl to bristle with an “Owe!” Satisfied at last that the water was rinsing out clear, Arthur handed his lord a towel. Brendan did a frisky rub of his hair before he pulled the towel aside and turned to smile at Father Columcil. “What do you think?”

Columcil looked at him quizzically. Brendan could tell the country priest was hesitating, wondering just how formal his reply should be. “Father, we are not at court here. Give me an honest opinion. Lives may depend upon small deceptions. Do you think this will do?”

“Aye, then, my lord, I take it that it be your intention to ‘ide yer copper locks and be brown-’aired instead? If so, then I say ye have succeeded. Yet, I da not understand the why of it, m’ lord? Withou’ yer red hair, ye are not as discernible as the Earl of Marley.”

“Yes! Exactly the point.” The earl grinned broadly at Columcil. “For the next while, I need to not be me. Everyone knows the red hair of Marley, I just hope this is better than shaving it all off.”

“Aye! Well, indeed, it is better than shaving it off, and…” the priest hesitated remembering back… “ it too be better than shaving a tonsure, I can assure ye of that, m’ lord.” Columcil gave a private snicker and then pursed his lips shut when Earl Brendan shot him an inquiring look. After a hesitation, he decided he better explain. “Yer brother, m’ lord, he gave a try at shaving a tonsure when we left Culdi, and not just that, but a full hair cut, as well. He was rather vexed by it for several days, thereafter. Good for a man to lose his vanity once in while, I say. I do believe the tonsure had grown mostly ou’ by the time ye saw your brother in Rhemuth. Not sure if he mentioned it to ye.”

“No, sadly, Washburn and I had very little time to talk, I wish that I had... “ Brendan dropped his head for a moment, “There are a lot of things that I wish… a lot of things I regret.” Brendan shook his head, “Before you leave, I would be grateful if you would hear my confession.”

“Of course, my lord.” Father Columcil, reached for his stole neatly folded with care within his cassock, but Brendan put out a hand to delay him.

“We can do that in a moment, but first, let me tell you of this new mission that I need your loyalty for. Please have a seat, Father.” Pointing to a near stool for Columcil, Brendan pulled close his own camp folding chair. “You know of Lady Fiona’s desire to free Baron Stuart. I am sending Lord Jaxom and his men on that endeavor. Lady Fiona has made good cause as to why she should go as well. I can not let her go as she wishes, unless she is accompanied by a chaperon and protector. I can not split lady Aliset from her husband for this assignment. As it is, Lord Darcy will need all his attention on his royal commission to find the devil’s fortress.”

“Am I correct in my understanding that Lady Aliset is well trained in her abilities? And that she has escaped Rhemuth’s watchful eyes in order to act as protector for the Heir of Isles?” Brendan saw the faint nod from the good father. The earl returned a smile for the priest's calm composure to say nothing, yet this enlighten Brendan further than words could have. “My mother approved of her actions and her recent marriage, even if she could not say so before the queen. Who, by the way, is non to pleased with both my mother and my king on this particular subject. Let Lady Aliset be warned if she should return to Rhemuth before all here is said and done.”

The earl got up from his chair, he gave a pointing for his squire to pour two cups of wine. Then he walked one over to Father Columcil handing across one cup and holding out the other. “A toast to the newly wedded couple.” He took a drink, than sat back down looking back across at Columcil who appreciated the fine wine. “After all that has brought man and wife together, it will not be I who will split them apart. Nay! That leaves me with few other options. In truth, I have but one. If I am to approve Lady Fiona returning to the baron’s estate with Lord Jaxom and his men, then I must request your presence to be Lady Fiona’s chaperon. You have done that for another lady with good outcome, and I would ask that you do the same for Lady Fiona.”

Father Collumcil’s hand tightened around the cup. “Aye,” he answered with hesitation. “I did before what was necessary to do, to protect the reputation of a lady in need. That duty is done. I now have a duty, set forth by the king, to accompany Lord Darcy in finding this place where your brother is held. Does that not have priority?”

“Lord Darcy’s orders do have priority. We must find that Fortress, I can not accept failure in this. Therefore, I will be accompanying Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset into the mountains. It is my intention to go in disguise as his guardsman. The king was right in his orders that the Earl of Marley can not be seen getting too close to the Grand Duke. My men will go on to Culdi. No one will know the guard with Lord Darcy is I. My plan had included you with us, but now I have a greater need for you to protect Lady Fiona and to keep her out of harm's way if fighting should break out at Baron Stuart’s estate.”

“I see, My lord.” Father Columcil looked pained. “Is this your orders.”

The earl gave a sigh, then took in a sharp disappointed breath. “No. I do not have the right to order you in this, it is a request only. If you decline, I will escort the lady to Droghera, against her wishes and order her to stay safe there until Jaxom has completed his task.” Brendan shook his head knowing that would be a battle, but then he smiled, “If you are worried over Darcy and his wife’s well being, I swear to you that I will protect the newly married couple and keep them out of harm's way.”

“That, my lord, is not as easy a task as you may think,” the father said with knowing concern.

“So I have heard,” Brendan Coris replied.

Online DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #603 on: January 27, 2019, 06:59:30 am »
The baron stepped back and turned to face the door. The key rasped in the lock and the door swung open. He was confronted by a man who was a stranger to him. The man was of middle height, stocky and powerfully built with dark hair and cold, black eyes.  He wore black riding leathers of good quality. Mac’s eyes shifted and he noticed Michael standing behind the man, shifting his feet nervously.

“Baron, I am here to free you from this confinement. My name is Robert Drago. I am in the service of the Queen of Meara and am come to persuade you to join our cause of a free and independent Meara, no longer under the heel of Gwynedd and its king. Meara has for too long been subservient to outsiders and  seeks to follow its own path under the rule of our queen, descendent of the old, royal House of Quinnell. I hope to convince you that this is the best path for Meara. If you decide to join our cause, I can promise you a position high in the court of the queen where you will be able to help Meara become the respected and influential kingdom it should be.

Mac studied the man silently for a few moments and then replied; “I do not see Meara as subservient. It already enjoys viceregal status, essentially a principality with the restoration of most of Meara’s ancient titles, thanks to King Kelson.  I pledged my fealty to him and have seen no reason to change it. Kelson is the rightful king and under his rule we in the borders have enjoyed peace and prosperity, a release from constant clashes of the past.   I see no advantages to joining the rebellion which promises advancement only through war which will again bring death and destruction to our land.”

Drago’s eyes narrowed as he glared at the Baron. “We do not feel that being ruled by the king’s cousin and thus remaining under Kelson’s thumb is equal to being an independent kingdom. With independent status, Meara would be able to form its own alliances and be more highly regarded among the other kingdoms. This could lead to even more prosperity for all the Mearans.”

For the first time, Michael spoke up, “Think about it, Father, we could be part of restoring Meara to her former glory! We could help ensure that our people would enjoy more prosperity.”

Mac looked at his son, “Are you sure that your interest in this is on behalf of the Mearan people and  not for your own advancement? Or is this an effort to seize power by a group of men, led by her father, who are certain they can manipulate the young queen and become the real power behind the throne? Are they planning to use you also?”

“No! That is not true! The purpose of the rebellion is to help the Mearan people, to give Mearans more control of their destiny!” Michael stared at his father defiantly.

Drago interceded, his voice harsh and his stance more threatening. “As the queen is very young, she is guided by her father and her other councilors as you would expect. As she matures, she will be able to act more independently, as she should.  All of those close to her have only her best interests and those of the Mearan people at heart.”

The baron raised his voice as he replied, “How was the massacre in Ratharkin in the interest of the Mearan people? Rebels attacked the castle in the absence of the viceroy, murdered many within and even slaughtered men, women and children in the streets. Many prominent men, unless known supporters of the rebellion, were thrown into the dungeons along with their heirs, those heirs to be held hostage to force their fathers to pledge allegiance to the rebels. Anyone who refused to pledge loyalty to the pretender queen was murdered. I knew Lord Dunstan who was beheaded for his refusal to give his loyalty to them. He and his family were much beloved for their generosity to their people. Are these the acts of men pledged to the welfare of the Mearan people? I think not.”

While Michael looked on in horror at what he was hearing, Drago struck the baron across the face, causing him to fall to the floor, striking his head on a metal frame. He lay still. “Father!” Michael started toward him, but Drago grabbed his arm, turned him around, and pushed him out of the door. Michael struggled briefly, but was no match for Drago’s strength. “Let me go, I need to see to him!” Drago slammed the door and locked it. He then pushed Michael ahead of him down the corridor.

Gavin had been hiding in an alcove outside the Baron’s prison and heard the violent exchange. He waited until the men had disappeared, then moved quietly to the door, pressing his ear against the keyhole. He heard a low moan, then nothing. He didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. Inside the room, the baron stirred slightly and moaned, then was silent.

"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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #604 on: January 30, 2019, 10:37:51 am »
**Many thanks to revanne for providing Columcil's brogue.  Awesome!**


Darcy Cameron watched as Father Columcil left the Earl of Marley’s pavilion and strode back toward their camp.  The priest did not look happy, but as Darcy moved forward to intercept him, Columcil’s quick shake of his head forestalled him.  Columcil continued on until he reached the tree stump Aliset had used as the target to test her sling.  He fell heavily to his knees, pulled something out from his cassock and bent his head over it.

“What do you think has happened?”  Aliset, still in her disguise as Robert, asked as Darcy returned to their group.  Fiona stood beside her, looking equally concerned.

“I have no clue,” Darcy responded.  “He doesn’t seem to want company at the moment, so we’ll have to wait to find out.” 

“Do you think it could be bad news about Washburn?”  Aliset’s brown eyes met Darcy’s pale blue ones.

Darcy looked thoughtful.  “Nay, I don’t think so.  If it was bad news, I would think the Earl of Marley would have told all of us.”    At least I hope so, Darcy thought to himself.

“Lord Darcy,” Fiona said, unsure how formal she should be with her cousin.  “Earl Brendan was going to speak to Father Columcil about being my chaperone for the trip back to Uncle Mac’s manor.”

“What?” Darcy asked, startled.  “Why would he do that?”

“It was the only way he would allow me to accompany Lord Jaxom and his men on their mission to rescue Uncle Mac and keep his lands out of the hands of the rebels.  Earl Brendan insisted I must have a chaperone, and I suggested Father Columcil.  It took a while to get Lord Jaxom to agree to the arrangement, but Earl Brendan finally convinced him.”  Fiona was confident that this would meet with Darcy’s approval.

“Did you not think to check with me before making such a daft suggestion?” Darcy exploded, struggling to keep his voice level.  At the look he got from Aliset, he hastily added, “Asked all of us, especially Father Columcil.”

“Do you not understand how important it is that I go with them?” Fiona responded, her concern for her uncle driving her to stand her ground.  “I know the manor and Uncle Mac’s retainers much better than Lord Jaxom, and it will give us the advantage.” She looked boldly at her cousin.  “Sir Iain would understand; you are certainly nothing like your brother!”

“I wouldn’t know,” Darcy shot back and then took a deep breath.  This would not do; losing his temper would accomplish nothing.  Aliset was looking at him, waiting for him to do something next.  And not giving him the slightest hint of what that should be. What was it about these women that made him feel lost at sea?

Darcy was saved the decision by noticing that the priest had risen and was walking toward them.

“I should probably follow my own advice and speak to Father Columcil,” he said dryly.  He thought he saw a faint look of approval from Aliset, or maybe it was wishful thinking.  Fiona’s look of determination did not change.

“Father Columcil,” Darcy said with a respectful nod when he reached the older man. 

“Lady Fiona has told you what the Earl of Marley intends?” Columcil asked. 

“Aye.”  Darcy fell in step beside the priest as they moved slowly back toward their camp.  “How well does his order sit with you?”

“He didn’a order me,” Columcil responded, a note of exasperation mixed with resignation in his voice.  “He asked me ta gi’e it ma thought.”

“He asked you?” Darcy could not keep a note of amazement out of his own voice.

“Aye, he did that.”  Columcil gave the smaller man a sidelong glance.  “O’course he didn’a mek it easy fer me ta refuse, gi’en the way he put it.  Elsewise himself’d ha’ ta tek Lady Fiona ta Droghera an speir how ta keep her young leddyship there.”

“Kicking and screaming all the way, I expect,” Darcy replied.  “The nuns would have to lock her up to keep her there.”

Columcil managed a smile.  “I dinna ken that’ud be gey fair t’ the guid sisters o’St Brigid’s.”

“I would not envy them the task.”  Darcy hesitated for a moment. “What about Jaxom?  I know you can’t abide the man any more than I can.”

“I gave ma solemn oath ta keep the peace an’ I’ll no brekkit,” Columcil replied. “I’ll pray the guid Lord tha’ I cun keep ma distance awa.”

‘Doubtful, with Fiona along,” Darcy said.  “He’ll want to make a suitable impression, peacock feathers and all.”

“Och, for a’ she’s nobbut a young lassie, ah’m thinking yer wee cousin has mair in her heid than ta be taken in by sich a gormless gowk!”  Columcil sighed; he had not intended to be so blunt. Keeping his oath might be more of a challenge than he had hoped.

 “Is your mind made up to go, or do you think it would make a difference if I spoke with the earl?”  Darcy searched the priest’s face for some sign of approval.  When  Columcil did not immediately answer, he plowed on. “I honestly think we need you with us.  I have no idea what shape we’ll find Sir Washburn in, not only with his altered memories, but also physically.  As Healer and priest, you can help him better than Aliset or I can.”

“Ye think mair o’me than ye should,” Columcil responded, uncomfortable with the man’s confidence. He paused a moment; Darcy should know the rest of the earl’s plan.  “Th’ Earl has a mind ta gang wi’ye ta find Washburn.”

“Oh bloody hell!” Darcy exclaimed and stopped in his tracks.  “Does his lordship think I need a chaperone, too?”

“Easy, son,” Columcil admonished, but not without sympathy.  “Th’ Earl is worriting himself ta find Washburn nae less than we. It’ll be a sight easier road an’ ye accept th’help he’ll gi’e ye.”

“No road we’ve taken so far has been easy, Father,” Darcy returned. “But aye, I get your point.  Still, if you have no objection, I’d like to have a word with Earl Brendan.”

Columcil studied the man before him for a moment.  Darcy was as determined as his cousin, whether he recognized it in himself or not.  “I dinna think it’ll do ye much good. I’ve nae dout his mind is made up and he’s gi’en his orders ta Jaxom.  But try if ye’ve a mind to.”

“Thank you, Father; I feel I must.  If it all comes to naught, it won’t be the first time I’ve beat my head against a solid wall.” Darcy  turned toward the earl’s pavilion.

Columcil did not doubt that it was true.

***

Father Columcil, Aliset and Fiona watched as Darcy returned to their camp.  He looked a bit pale and none too happy.  He stopped in front of them, balled fists on his hips.

“I wish someone had told me Washburn was the earl’s half-brother,” he said.  "When Earl Brendan refused to consider any other options, my suggesting that he  was not showing adequate concern for Washburn’s welfare was not the best approach.”

“Oh, Darcy!” Aliset exclaimed. 

“You didn’t know?” Fiona asked.

“Lass, I’ve been at sea for 12 years.  The court of Rhemuth was no concern of mine,” Darcy responded. 

Columcil realized belatedly that none of them had thought to tell him.

“I’ve been taken down a peg or two from time to time, but not so thoroughly as just now.  And in so few words.”  Darcy shook his head as if to clear the memory from his mind.

‘Has he changed your mission to find the fortress?”  Aliset asked.  Darcy might be pig-headed, but he deserved better than that.

“Nay, we are to proceed as planned, except that Earl Brendan is coming along posing as a guard. He even dyed his hair brown to disguise himself!  At least I had the good sense to not suggest a cap would have been easier.”  Darcy managed a wry smile.

“There is hope for you yet.”  The look in Aliset’s eyes softened the sting of her words.

“What’s done is done.  Earl Brendan will be passing orders on to Jaxom soon.  Father, you and Fiona are to make ready to leave.”

Fiona nodded.  “I’ll be ready.”

“Let me give you a hand,” Aliset offered and moved off with Fiona to help her gather up her things. Now was not the time to ask Darcy more questions.

Father Columcil, sensing much the same, moved off to make his own preparations.

Darcy, frustrated and disheartened, went over to his sea bag.  He withdrew his sling, scooped up a handful of suitable stones, and strode toward the tree stump.  The first stone hit the target, followed by another and another.  He gathered another handful.

He was not pleased with himself.   He had mucked things up quite well.  Alienated his new cousin, interfered where he probably had no right and nearly had his head taken off by the Earl of Marley.  What did Aliset think of him now?  Aliset…. Darcy was certain Earl Brendan would not be inclined to bed down with the horses so he could have a private night with his wife!

The stone that flew from his sling cracked the stump from top to bottom.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #605 on: January 30, 2019, 01:58:47 pm »
“I’ve not shown adequate concern for Washburn’s welfare?” Brendan repeated as he paced in a circle about his pavilion.

Fortunately he was alone, his squire was out fulfilling his orders. The mock-tone of the seaman stung like that of a jellyfish tentacle. Hadn’t he just made confession to the priest on just that same accusation that he felt ashamed that he had not displayed adequate attention to his brother and that is why all of this started in the first place? Half-brother or not, Washburn was still half his blood and there had never been bad blood between the Morgans and he. He may be quite a bit older than his baby half-brother, but he had always cared for the young rapscallion.

Angrily, Brendan swiped the things off his camp desk in his need to whip away his response to the seaman. If that stubborn Lord Darcy had not salted his open wound so thoroughly, he swore he should have been able to give a better response. His mother would be frowning at his loss of decorum. His step-father would have demanded he apologize immediately. And Alaric would be right. It wasn’t until after Lord Darcy left the tent, having taken the sound beating that Brendan had lash back at him with the stout bracing of a man used to a storm, that the earl realized the seaman had not had any idea that Brendan Coris was in any way related to Washburn Morgan. That realization was hard to fathom at first. Who in the whole kingdom had not heard the story of his real father, traitor Bran Coris, who died at the hands of the king and the king's champion, who later romanced his mother to become his stepfather. Who did not know of this?

One Heir of Isles, navigation's officer, it seemed.

“How do I make this up,” Brendan said to himself as he leaned both hands against the empty table top. He now knew that Lord Darcy truly did had his brother's rescue in the foremost of his mind. Yes, Father Columcil should be there when Washburn was rescued, Darcy was right on that account. But the good father could not be in two places at once.

“Shoo away, you miscreant,” came Squire Arthur’s voice from just outside the earl’s tent. The youth entered just a moment later.

“What was that about?” Brendan asked him.

“One of them townsfolk was standing far too close to the back side of the pavilion. Wouldn't doubt he was looking to hear some gossip.”

“Then he got an ear-full for his troubles,” Brendan replied, dishearteningly. 
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 01:43:55 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #606 on: January 31, 2019, 10:56:25 am »
Remy scurried away from the back of the pavilion.  That had been close!  Still, in his mind it was worth it.  At first he had not been able to hear exactly what was said, other than some “Lord Darcy Cameron” was requesting to speak to the nobleman inside.  Remy now knew that nobleman was Earl Brendan.  Gradually the voices had risen in volume, and Remy could hear clearly what was said.  Sweet Jesu, he would have preferred his father’s strap rather than that tongue lashing!  Whew!  In the end, Lord Darcy Cameron, in a very tight voice, had asked the earl’s pardon for his lack of knowledge and requested permission to leave.  That was granted immediately.

The squire who had seen him had entered the tent, so Remy slowed his pace a bit.  He knew which of the new arrivals was Lord Darcy.  The small, startlingly blond young man was camped with his squire, the priest, and the girl dressed as a boy.  Remy made his way in that general direction.  He skirted the camp itself, pretending to be on some errand.  He did not want to be too obvious.

The priest and the girl appeared to be packing up their things, with the squire helping the girl.  It took a moment for Remy to spot Lord Darcy.  He had moved away from the group and was hurling stones from a sling at a stump with alarming force.  Not a happy man at all!

Men who were not happy with their lot were the most likely recruits for the rebellion.  Remy had noted that Lord Darcy was plainly dressed, and he didn’t ride one of those big war horses the other lords rode.  He was probably a second or third son, one with no prospect of inheritance.  A man looking for opportunity to better his lot, acquire his own lands and rise in importance. 

The rebel leader in Droghera had encouraged Remy to take note of such men, and if he was able, approach them and get a feel for how they felt toward the Queen of Meara.  If it sounded as if they could be tempted, he was to let the rebel leader know, and he would take it from there.

Remy continued on his way.  He would find a way to approach Lord Darcy, but not right now.   Later, when the man had calmed down a bit and was no longer holding that sling.  You never knew how a man might react when discussing the queen.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #607 on: February 03, 2019, 03:31:46 pm »

Sir Iain Cameron reflected that the afternoon had passed pleasantly.  The  hard work of selecting and laying the stones under the heat of the afternoon sun had been made much lighter as Sir Washburn relayed the tales of his journey with Darcy, Father Columcil, and Iain’s new sister-in-law, Lady Aliset.  That was a woman he wanted to meet!  At the revelation of a pair of merasha-soaked crossbow bolts being shot into his brother’s back, Iain had almost dropped one of the rocks on his own foot!  Washburn had stopped his retelling of the adventure with the arrival at Rhemuth.  The look on his face made it evident that he had no desire to relive the events after that.


Daylight was beginning to fade as they laid the last of the rock.  Sir Roland had proclaimed it a job well done and then filled the bathing tub with water so that they could freshen up before the evening meal.  Soaked with sweat and streaked with dirt, they would have driven the women from the house if they had entered as they were!  Fortunately, they had had the good sense to shed tunics and shirts early on; those would not need to be laundered quite yet. 


The pleasantness was not to last.  Once they entered the house, they found Lady Maev clearly vexed and Lady Sidana sitting on a stool in cold, haughty silence.


Sometimes what is NOT said is as insulting as what IS said, Lady Maev sent to Iain.  It took a lot to get under Maev’s skin, but the Pretender Queen of Meara had done it.  Iain winced.


“Your cooking smells delicious, as always,” Sir Roland said to his wife. 


Washburn glanced cautiously from one woman to the other.  “I look forward to it, Lady Maev.  I, for one, am famished!”  He gave Maev his most charming smile. 


Maev did not exactly smile back, but her face softened.  She served up roasted mutton and vegetables topped with a savoury gravy.  Fresh bread was passed around to go with it.  Sidana frowned at the trencher set before her.  She had no eating knife.


“Allow me, Lady Sidana,”  Iain said, sliding the trencher toward him and deftly slicing her meat with his own knife.  After he placed it back before her, she continued to sit in stony silence, gazing at a spot on the front wall.


“Be a good child,” Iain instructed, his calm voice carrying a note of command that Sidana could not ignore.  “Eat your food. With the best of manners,” he added.


“I am hardly a child!”  Sidana snapped and began to eat her food, as instructed.


Despite their earlier good spirits, the men ate their meal mostly in silence.  It was at the end of his second helping that Iain felt the call from King Kelson.  He excused himself and withdrew to his bedchamber, closing the door behind him.  He wasn’t sure whether he was more relieved to finally receive his orders or to escape the chill that had pervaded the evening meal.  He sat on his bed and pulled the medallion out from inside his shirt.


Your Majesty, he sent.  How may I serve you?


Sir Iain, Kelson acknowledged.  In the morning, you will take Sir Washburn and Lady Sidana through to the Portal in the ruins where Washburn was held captive.  After Washburn is safely delivered, you will receive Master Feyd’s ward cubes from Lady Aliset.  Rest briefly in the ruins; I want no one outside of the group that is there to know we have Sidana.  As soon as you are able, bring Sidana and the ward cubes to me in Rhemuth via the library Portal.  Lord Sextus will accompany you and lend energy, if needed.  Kelson paused and then continued.  How fares Sir Washburn?


Iain thought for a moment, certain that there was more behind the king’s question than curiosity.  He is not the man he was when you last saw him in Rhemuth, Iain said, choosing his words carefully.  Physically, he is mending well, but his mind remains distorted by false memories.  His resentment of his family is close to explosive. 


Then he has not improved, the king responded.  It was a statement, not a question.


There is more, Iain continued.  Washburn’s shields have returned, and I assume the rest of his powers as well.  I established controls over him earlier, both for his safety and mine, but he is capable of blocking me now.  I cannot try to determine what Master Feyd has done, and I doubt that I have the skill to discover it even if I could get around Washburn’s shields.


From you, Sir Iain, that’s quite an admission.


I know my limits, Your Majesty. It keeps me alive. Or at least helps.  Iain expected some sign of amusement; there was none.  He proceeded cautiously.  This next information is unsubstantiated. According to Washburn, Master Feyd told him he was helping him to escape.  And that Feyd’s family was about to get a chance for revenge they had been seeking for the last two hundred years.  When I asked Washburn to show me that memory, he flatly refused, stating he did not want to relive it again. It was at that point I discovered his shields had returned in full force.


Kelson remained silent, considering what he had been told.  Iain was becoming uncomfortable as the silence dragged on.


I did not need this complication, Kelson finally said.  I will contact you in the morning with the signature of the Portal in the ruins.  I have much to consider before then.


We will be ready to leave in the morning, Your Majesty, Iain said just before the king broke contact. He placed the medal back inside his shirt.  He was tempted to stretch out and have a nap instead of returning to the main room. But that would not be fair.  He would offer Maev the chance to escape her charge and enjoy an evening walk with Sir Roland. It was the least he could do.

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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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #608 on: February 04, 2019, 06:44:41 pm »
 Fiona and Aliset walked quickly back to the spot where she had left her supplies and equipment, with Aliset still in her disguise as Robert.  She began to gather up her things and pack them in her bedroll. Aliset helped by folding and passing things to her so she could stow them away.  As she packed, Fiona checked that everything she would need was in good condition.. She particularly checked her bow and the arrows in her quiver as well as the dagger she carried in the belt pouch at her waist. She needed to go check on Edric, to assure that he was well fed and rested and ready for the ride back to the manor. However, she paused to consider what lay ahead

As they worked, Aliset spoke quietly to her. “I know how anxious you are to return to the manor and release the baron. You must be worried that harm may have been done to him while you have been gone. It’s especially hard to have no real control over the mission. The Earl made clear that Jaxom is in command of the company, and you must follow his orders without disputing them. You need to find a way to offer your knowledge and advice in a manner that he will accept. I’m afraid that won’t be easy, but demands will only put his back up. You don’t want to challenge him. With a young man like Jaxom, I think flattery and admiration will have a better effect. Arguments will negatively affect the success of the mission.” Fiona nodded her understanding of the advice she was receiving.

As they were completing their task, Jaxom approached. and spoke to Fiona. “Lady Fiona, we will be leaving almost immediately. Perhaps, you should go attend to your horse so that you will be ready when we ride out.”

Fiona addessed Jaxom, “Thank you, I appreciate for your suggestion. I need to go check on Edric to be sure he is ready for the ride back to the manor. I see that Father Columcil is seeing to his horse also, and I will join him. I am sure I can manage things from here.”

Fiona smiled at Aliset, “Thank you for your assistance. Be assured I will remember what you said, everything you said.” She turned and walked off toward the horses and Father Columcil.
 
The priest looked up from checking Spean’s feet and legs as Fiona approached. Fiona spoke anxiously, “I hope you are not upset with me  for suggesting that you serve as chaperone to me for the mission to free the manor.” She continued in an emphatic tone, “ I feel it is essential to success that I form part of the group. I am afraid that Lord Jaxom is somewhat overconfident  in his knowledge of the manor and its people, including the baron and his son. I know the manor and the land surrounding it very well and can assist him in planning an approach that will lead to surprising the rebels there and lead to capturing them and freeing Uncle Mac with little or no losses. I also know our retainers well, and they are more likely to follow me and to share information with me as a member of the family. Also, I can easily point out those that I don’t recognize who are likely to be rebels. I don’t know what actions Michael and his friends may have taken in my absence. I did not feel that I could just wait here to find out the outcome of this mission.  I am aware that you have another mission with Lord Darcy and this will interfere with carrying it out. But Earl Brendan would never have allowed me to join Lord Jaxom and his party without a chaperone.  He and Lord Darcy appear to be very antagonistic, and I was afraid they would waste time in conflict despite their pledges and interfere with the mission. You really were my only choice and I need your help.” She looked at Columcil pleadingly.


Columcil gave her a kind look. “Dinnae fash yersel. lassie. I understand yer concern for the baron what is mebbe happenin’ tae him and tae yer home. Certainly, ye have convinced the earl that yer inclusion in the rescue party will increase the chances of success and that it’s impairtant to puttin’ down the rebellion. I canna argue wi his reasonin’. I dinnae find the young lord easy to get along with, but I have promised tae control me temper and to stay focused on what needs tae be done. The earl charged me wi stayin’ by you and providin’ protection for ye, and I intend tae carry out his orders as best I may. All I ask is that ye remember both our orders and help me by payin’ attention to what I say .”

Columcil and Fiona proceeded to saddle their horses, and the priest helped her secure her bedroll. His own was already in place and secured. He also wore his staff on his back.

They heard the bustle and turned to watch as Jaxom’s men saddled their horses, checked their weapons, and started forming their lines to ride out. They saw two squires take down the pavillion, pack it up and stow it in the wagon with the supplies. As they watched, Earl Brendan’s squire left the earl’s tent and delivered a message to Lord Jaxom who followed him, striding briskly, to be ushered into the Earl’s presence.

The earl turned as Lord Jaxom entered. “Are your men ready to depart, Jaxom?”

“ They are, my lord,” the young man replied.

Earl Brendan spoke. “You are to ride to the manor of Baron Stuart, release him if he has been restrained, and determine the state of affairs there. I understand that his heir has been trying to convince him to join the rebellion, but he has refused and remained loyal to the king. Lady Fiona has told me that the young man has managed to replace some of their old retainers with others that she suspects are rebels. She is not sure of the exact number of rebels on the estate so you must be prepared for resistance and possibly a fight. I charge you to confine them until they can be questioned and we receive orders from the king as to their final disposition. At all cost we must prevent a rebel takeover of the manor which would give the Mearans a toehold in Gwynedd, and it is most important that we show the other lords who have holdings in the area that they will have support from the king as long as they remain loyal.’

The Earl continued, “You need to complete this mission with as few losses as possible. I am sending Lady Fiona with you because I believe her knowledge of the manor and its people will help you accomplish this. Take the information and advice she offers and consider it in your plans and actions. I expect you to achieve our necessary goals. .Return to your men, and  I will ask Father Columcil to bless your departure and the fulfillment of your purpose.” 

“Thank you, my Lord. We will do our best.” Jaxom stood tall, bowed and strode briskly out of the tent to mount his destrier. Preceded by his standard bearer,  he wheeled his horse to face the Earl who was standing before them. Fiona drew up slightly behind and to his right, followed by the men of his company. Father Columcil moved forward, spoke the traditional words of blessing and made the sign of the cross. He then moved beside Fiona. The company moved out, led by Lord Jaxom riding tall. They followed the track to the main Cuilteine Road and turned south toward Baron Stuart’s manor.

 

 



"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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #609 on: February 06, 2019, 09:43:28 am »
Darcy Cameron used his free hand to push back the damp strands of pale blond hair that clung to his face.  He then gathered up the trailing lengths of leather cord and tucked his sling into his belt pouch.  The sound of jingling harness drew his attention.  Cousin Fiona and Father Columcil had mounted their horses and were readying to move out with Lord Jaxom.  Darcy noted that the priest now rode Spean, leaving Shadow behind with his Sigrun.  Shadow was restless, pulling on the rope that secured him to the line with the other horses. He didn’t like being left behind.  Father Columcil looked back at the big warhorse, and Shadow quieted.  Bless the good Father’s skill with animals, Darcy thought.  Despite his own orders from the king, Darcy wasn’t sure he liked being left behind, either.  On the other hand, there was something to be said for not having to follow Jaxom’s orders.  Following Earl Brendan’s might be more tolerable.  Or not.

As he watched Columcil give his blessing to the assembled party, one of the would-be rescuers of Washburn approached and stopped beside him.

“Good day to you, m’lord,” the  young man said and touched his cap in greeting.  “You seem to have done a fair bit of damage to that stump.”

Darcy was still in no mood for company, but that was no reason to be rude.  “Good day,” Darcy replied, hoping the man would continue on his way. 

“A good way to take out your frustrations, eh?” The young man seemed determined to engage him in conversation.  “Hoping that was one of them Mearan rebels and wishing you was going with the others to catch ‘em?  Maybe get a bit of glory for yourself?” 

“No, not particularly.” Darcy studied the young man more closely.  He was the herdsman, Remy.  Darcy had noticed him throughout the camp, doing errands here and there. How would he know Jaxom was out to catch Mearan rebels? Lucky guess?

“You looking for a bit of glory?” Darcy asked, wondering where this conversation might lead.

“I wouldn’t mind a bit of reward for myself,” Remy said. “Not much opportunity for a herdsman to better himself here in Meara.”

“One does need to look sharp for opportunities,” Darcy said carefully. 

“There’s good opportunity to be found, it you look in the right place,” Remy said, giving Darcy a direct look.

“Any place you would look other than the king?” Darcy returned the direct look. 

“Oh, not me!” Remy responded quickly.  “I’m all for King Kelson’s just rule over Meara!”  With that, Remy touched his cap again and moved off.

Bloody liar, Darcy thought as he watched Remy’s retreating back. Darcy knew those words were false, but what should he do about it?

Darcy walked thoughtfully back to their camp, a camp that was much smaller now with the departure of Columcil and Fiona.  Robert, his squire-on-loan, was busy checking their food supply. Darcy was glad that it was actually Aliset; she would have her own opinion on the conversation, and Darcy would be glad of it.

Aliset stood as he approached and bowed as appropriate for a squire.  “Feel better?” she asked.

“Yes and no,” Darcy replied.  Aliset gave him a quizzical look, and he smiled.  “I’d like to share the conversation I just had with the herdsman.  It concerned me, and I’m not sure what should be done about it.”  Aliset nodded, and Darcy retrieved his sling from his belt pouch. 

“Could you put this back in my sea bag for me?”  Darcy asked as he handed Aliset the sling, enabling him to touch her hand in the process.

((Will Darcy be able to successfully enter rapport with Aliset. One dice, since he is still learning this skill.
Jerusha !roll 1d6
Derynibot 6==6
Way to go, Darcy!))

Aliset rolled back her shields and was pleased that Darcy established rapport with only the slightest hesitation.  That’s much better, Darcy, she sent across the link between them.  You’ve just about mastered this. She felt his pleasure at her compliment surge across the link, quickly followed by the conversation with Remy.  Darcy’s attention to every little detail continued to amaze her.  The conversation complete, Darcy maintained his contact with her hand a moment longer, the depth of his longing causing her to blush as the contact ended.

“Well,” Aliset said as she regained her composure.  “He was certainly lying about his loyalty to the king.  I think it would be best if you advise Earl Brendan.”

Darcy considered this a moment and then countered her proposal.  “I think you should advise Earl Brendan.”  Aliset gave him a surprised look, and he continued.  “I don’t think Earl Brendan has any desire to hear from me at the moment, and even if he would speak with me, Remy would think my immediate presence at the earl’s pavilion suspicious.  A squire on an errand would be less likely to draw attention.”

“Do you think Remy is any danger to you?”

“Nay,” Darcy replied.  “It would draw too much attention to him, and he need only claim that I misunderstood.  Besides, I would hurt him, if he tried to sully my fine reputation.”

“Of course you would,” Aliset said dryly.  “But you are right, Remy would be more likely to quietly disappear if he thought anyone was suspicious.”  She looked around and saw that Remy had returned to tending the horses.  He did not seem to be interested in them at the moment.  “Perhaps I should ask Earl Brendan about the availability of more rations.”

‘An excellent idea.  He’ll be kinder to you than me.”  Darcy’s look was mildly teasing as he waved her on.

“There is a good chance of that,” Aliset quipped as she moved off toward the earl’s pavilion.  She did not know if Earl Brendan would welcome Darcy’s information or not, but at least he should be made aware.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #610 on: February 06, 2019, 01:23:36 pm »
Squire Arthur had recovered the items from off the floor and had neatly rearranged them back onto the earl’s desk; though the inkwell did leave a nice black spot on canvas floor. The desk had been moved over to cover the spot. Brendan was seated on his cot when Squire Robert first arrived within the earl’s Pavilion. His focus was not upon the young squire, but upon a silver medallion held up between his fingers.

Aliset instantly wondered why the earl did not ward himself before questing outward. She was sure he would have done so if he had been searching for his missing brother, whom they believed to be in the enemy’s hands. It would have been too dangerous not to form a ward first. Therefore, she deduced the earl was seeking Rapport in friendlier circles: his other brother the duke, perhaps, or the prince, or even the king.

Aliset, took in a breath, “Should I return later.” She said in a low voice to Arthur.

Brendan answered her instead. “Robert, or should I call you Lady Aliset? Now is fine. I can not seem to find my focus for this.” He placed the Camber Medal inside his tunic and then stood and walked over to where the two squires stood. “Do you know if Sir Washburn was wearing his Camber Medal in Rhemuth? I thought he was.  I recall it being said that is how the Arilans first learned of his location after his abduction. But now that medal appears to be far far away, beyond my ability to touch it. Have you tried?”

“Nay, my lord. I was a bit out of sorts for some time after. I had not thought to use the medal as a center point.” She hesitated then,  not sure if she should tell him about her failed scrying attempt with the ward cubes, or the man who had returned a looked back at her though them. She should tell him, but stalled briefly, unsure.

The earl mistook her hesitation. “Forgive me, a dreadful experience, one that should never have been. The only thing good from all of this is that you, my lady, are well and safe. Tell me, how can I assist you? I presume you are here on behalf of your husband.”

“Yes, he wishes to inform you of a conversation he just had with one of the townsfolk. It is important enough that he believes you should witness it.”

“Oh?” Brendan opened his hand toward her and invited her to step closer.

((09:45  Aliset and Brendan share Rapport. <•Laurna> !roll 3d6
09:45  <•derynibot> 6, 1, 6 == 13))

Both were well trained; their first rapport went smoothly. Darcy’s conversation was deftly replayed.  Aliset smiled at the simple ease of the rapport. Brendan, however, quickly turned to Arthur, all business. “Is this the man behind the pavilion you shooed away?” he shared the image with his squire with just a touch of his fingers on the youth's wrist.

“Yes it is, my lord.”

Brendan sighed. “I knew that man was going to be trouble. My error for not completing a full mind reading of him yesterday. Lord Sextus did not do as well a job as I had counted on him to do.” Exasperated, the earl called his guardsman into the pavilion. “Kurt, I want you and Leny to locate the townsman named Remy, he is usually found by the horses, I’m told. Don’t make it look obvious. I don’t want you to scare him, he might bolt like a rabbit. Bring him to me and we shall get to the bottom of this."

“Yes, my lord.” The man at arms bowed and left.

Brendan pointed to a near chair and asked Aliset to have a seat.

Minutes later, there was a ruckus out by the horses and several of the horses whinnied and stomped their feet.

The earl was outside his tent in seconds, cursing that his men were not subtle enough. For indeed, the herdsman had guessed their intentions and he already had one horse untied and was jumping to the horse’s bareback. The herdsman obviously knew how to ride and was making good his escape.

((10:46 <•Laurna> Does Remy escape by horseback, 2d6 success on 5, 6.
10:46 <•Laurna> !roll 2d6
10:46 <•derynibot> 4, 4 == 8
10:47 <•Laurna> Nope))

That is until suddenly a rock flew threw through the air and hit the man square in the temple. Knocked into a daze, Herdsman Remy fell from the horse’s back. 

Twenty feet away, Lord Darcy was gathering the leather of his sling back into his hands.


« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 01:47:02 pm by Laurna »

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #611 on: February 07, 2019, 03:25:58 am »
The Dowager Duchess of Corwyn studied her reflection in the mirror. When had she become so thin, and when had those circles under her eyes become so prominent? She had always been slender. Even six pregnancies had not increased her girth during her prime years, something she attributed to her personal hands-on care of all her children, and thus her insistence that her daughters continued the same for their young families. This gown had fit her just fine at Twelfth Night: the one with the flowing sleeves and the ermine neckline. Today it did not. She tightened the cinch at the hips, pulling in the lush green velvet.  She would not go so far as to wear the Corwyn coronet over her veil, for that was now her daughter-in-law’s, but she did intend to approach the Throne of Gwynedd with the regal air of her birthright as daughter of a Princess of Andelon and her Marriage-rights as both Dowager Countess of Marley and Dowager Duchess of Corwyn. Would her appearance be enough to convince the King that she did not approach him as a distraught mother, but as a noblewoman, concerned for the welfare of her people? Her eyes would betray her, she knew. But she would do her best to put forth her request.

With a quick prayer to The Lady, she hoped the friend who was her king would understand her need and grant her request. Though she knew in her heart that Kelson would have said more to her this day if something had not stayed him from it. What was holding him back? As a mother, she had to know. With long strides that did not betray her age, she walked from the Queen’s Tower to the war room, where she knew her king had not yet retired from for the evening. So much responsibility was upon his shoulders. She could see it in his eyes as he looked up at her from his work desk and put his quill carefully in its ink well.  She came within twenty paces and bowed down on both of her knees, her head bent low. Then at his greeting she raised her head high. An unbidden tear touched her cheek, one she refused to acknowledge. She remained there silent as the king pursed his lips, knowing what she would ask, but not knowing how he could respond to her.  With his gesture, the room emptied of everyone else and the door shut quietly upon their leaving. Only the King and  Lady remained. 

Given the lady’s long and prosperous marriage to Duke Alaric, the man whom King Kelson considered to be his mentor, even as close as an elder brother figure to him, the king respected Lady Richenda like a sister. He stood tall and came around the table to greet her.  A streak of grey crossed his temples, which glistened in the candlelight, matching the color of his eyes. “I would not ask of you to kneel before me, my lady.” He gestured for her to rise.

“Your Majesty, I ask your forbearance in accepting a woman’s homage for herself and her family, as my late husband would have asked of it, if he were still here.”

Concern crossed his brow. How did she know? Kelson quickly stepped before her and took her hands to lift her up. But she steadfastly remained on her knees, holding her hands tightly in his.

“Sire, will you hear my renewed homage?”

“This is not necessary, your loyalty was never and will never be in question.”

“Is it not? Can you tell me that my youngest son will soon be returned home to me?” The cornflower blueness of her eyes searched Kelson’s face with some hopefulness. The king’s shields were more firm against her than they had ever been.“Sire, this morning you told me my youngest boy has been rescued, yet no word further has come. Something is wrong, I feel it. Will you not confide in me?” 

“Your Grace, please, the little We have learned is not as We would wish it. I can not speak of it, as yet.”

There was nothing more telling than his refusal to say more. “My King, it is your right to say nothing. But as a mother, I can only think the worst. Whatever has befallen Washburn, I will say to you that my blood will always be loyal, as proven by my eldest, Earl Brendan, and my middle child, Duke Kelric. Please allow me to renew my homage to you and the crown on behalf of my youngest, Sir Washburn.”

Kelson took a deep breath. “My Lady Richenda, dear lady, with my heart I will hear your words of homage for yourself. Yet, know that each son has given me their vow of fealty. I count on their loyalties to stay true to the crown and to the law of the land.” He looked down at his ring, then looked back at her. “I pray that it will never come to pass, but know that if any one of them should break their oath to the crown, then know that I will look carefully into all the circumstances of that broken oath before I place judgement. I owe this much to their father who was my greatest champion.  I will not be a tyrant, I do have a care for those who have been closest to me for so long. Though I will tell you that I also can not give undue pardon if misdeeds lead to traitorous acts. The laws of the land hold us all or they hold no one. This is as it must be, for the sake of all the Peoples of Gwynedd.”

Tears wet the cheeks of the the mother of Corwyn. She accepted Kelson’s words, knowing then that all was far worse than she had hoped. With determination in her voice and her head held high, her shields open, and her eyes unblinking, looking at her king’s caring eyes, she evoked the words of fealty. “Please hear my request, Kelson Haldane, rightful King of Gwynedd. I, Richenda Morgan, Dowager Duchess of Corwyn, as I have done and do again, renew my pledge to be your vassal of life and limb, and to continue in your fealty, and do homage to Your Majesty, for myself, my  family and for the lands of Corwyn. Faith and truth will I bear unto you, to live and to die, against all manner of folk, so help me God.”

King Kelson grasped her hands closely within his and knew that she spoke every word with truth and with devotion. How could he break her heart? He could not. He trusted the man who gave him information; neither falsehoods nor embellishments were Lord Iain’s way. That information was for the king, who had no desire to pass it down and wound the lady before him. “This I do hear, Lady Richenda Morgan; I, for my part, pledge the protection of Gwynedd to you and all of our people, to defend you from every creature with all my power, giving loyalty for loyalty and justice for honor. This is the word of Kelson Cinhil  Rhys Anthony Haldane, King of Gwynedd, Overlord of Torenth, Prince of Meara, Duke of Haldane, Lord of the Purple March, and Guardian of Gwernach. So help me God.” He spoke the words back to her, all of his compassion pouring out to her.

When he was done and she had kissed his hands, he lifted her up. Then he gave her a hug as he would hug his mother.  So frail she was in his arms!  He determined then that he would not make her trial any worse than he already had.

“Richenda, what I will tell you will be hard for you to bear. Your youngest son is hale, meaning physically, he is well. And that is much for what he has endured. Yet…. “ Her face hung on his unsaid words. “I am told he is not the man he once was. He is changed. How much so is not yet certain. I, too, would bring him home to Rhemuth to discover just how much changed. But to do so would cause you great distress, for I fear it might require him to be placed in strict confinement for an unknown amount of time.”

“Dear Lord! Has he broken his oath to you already?” she called out, anguish filling her features.

“No!” Kelson was quick to reassure her. “No, he has not. But he has been in the hands of the Devil without any protection of his powers for days. It is impossible to know what damage has been done. I would see him healed before ever he has chance to break his oath.”

Richenda took in a deep breath. Her king meant to heal her son of his affliction rather than easily write him off as a possible traitor. That did much to assuage her distress. “You will see him healed, mind and soul? You will, Sire? I, your humble servant,  thank you!” Before she knew it, he embraced her again, holding her while she wept.

“I will make you a promise, We will not hold Sir Washburn in a dungeon or tower so long as he remains true and has not caused harm, especially to his family, who are my greatest concern. I have guardians who will watch over him and who, in time I pray, will see him returned to his former self. To that end, I will not have him returned to Rhemuth, but put him to a task that I believe will help him to heal. This is not as you have requested, my lady, but I do believe it is the best for all.”

“Sire, you have my overwhelming loyalty and love!” she replied.

The door at the far end of the room opened. Having been given the nod by their king,  men returned to their duties.

“My love for Corwyn is with you and all your family. We will see a way through this. Hold faith and it will come to pass.” Kelson let go the hands of this great lady and allowed her to give him a final curtsy and withdraw.

The king returned to his desk. But could not bring himself to work further. “I am retiring for the evening,” he announced to the lords and stewards. More than anything, he needed the soothing soul of his wife and to see the faces of his grandchildren as he kissed their foreheads good night.

As for one Sir Washburn, morning would come soon enough for that decision. He knew he could not bring the knight back to Rhemuth, not with his power to Block magic and his tormented memories. To place a Morgan in the confinement of a cell would bring ruin to his reputation and destroy his mother. Yet to confine him to a guardianship would bring great risk to any Deryni who watched over him. Lord Iain had done well, so far, yet he could not watch the knight forever, as Iain had other responsibilities which concerned his other acquisition. As to that, Kelson would turn to his daughter, Araxandra, to lend her expertise toward this most important hostage.  Kelson stood before the Corwyn apartments. What should he do about the youngest Morgan? Some way must be devised to avoid a confrontation between the man and his brothers. If Lord Iain was correct in his assessment, he dare not add kindling to where a spark smoldered.  To place the knight under either of his brothers’ protection would be a dangerous game. A game that needed to be avoided at all costs. King Kelson knew that left but one answer, and he hoped, come morning, the other participants would agree to the task.

He walked into Kelric Morgan’s solar and was greeted by happy sounds of the twin boys playing with wooden swords and a granddaughter holding a puppy in her skirts for protection from their shenanigans.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2019, 03:33:31 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #612 on: February 11, 2019, 01:32:00 pm »
((In the old language of Isles, Far is father, and Mor is mother.))


Sir Iain Cameron stretched out on his bed and willed the dull pounding behind his eyes to fade.  He had gallantly sent Lady Maev and Sir Roland out for an evening stroll around the farm.  Roland’s dog went with them, prancing near their feet, eagerly awaiting the stick that Roland always threw for him.  A happy couple out on a pleasant summer evening.  It wasn’t the first time Iain had felt a twinge of envy.

He had honestly thought his suggestion to Lady Sidana that they clean up after the evening meal was a good one.  Keep her busy and out of mischief, sort of like Washburn working on the wall.  What had he been thinking?

“Are you serious?” Sidana had asked with disdain.

“I am quite serious,” Iain had responded.  “Unless you would prefer that a variety of local vermin take care of it tonight and mayhap visit your pallet in the loft, I would suggest we get busy.”  He felt a guilty satisfaction at seeing her shiver visibly.  Sir Washburn had raised one blond eyebrow and kept to a safe distance at the far end of the table. 

Iain had handed her the wooden platter with the remnants of the vegetables and pointed toward the slop bucket.  “That goes there,” he had said.

Crash!  Iain had turned to see that Sidana had dropped the platter and its contents into the bucket, probably from waist height, given the splatter of food on the ground around it.

“Not the platter!” Iain had said, feeling his jaw clench.  “Pick it up and be more careful.  Platters cost coin.”

“Really?” Sidana responded, the tone of her voice indicating it was not a concern of hers.

And so it went on.  She had dropped the soft sand on his boot, happily scarring the leather as she attempted to brush off the sand.  She had plopped utensils to be washed into the rinsing water, forcing Iain to draw more.  The cooking ladle now had a dent in the bottom from striking the stone hearth.  Finally, in desperation, he had sent her to the loft with orders to stay there until Maev returned.

Washburn, who had been watching all this with barely concealed amusement, had stood and rolled up his sleeves.  “Let us get this cleaned up before Lady Maev returns. It’s been a while since I did a squire’s camp chores, but I’ve not forgotten how.”  Washburn lifted the cook pot down from its hook above the hearth.  “You don’t seem to fare too well with the ladies.”

“I do fine with the ladies, thank you,” Iain had returned.  “Pretender Queens tend to be the problem.  But I’ll accept your help gladly.  I’ll be sleeping in the shed, if Lady Maev returns and sees her kitchen in this state.” 

Maev and Roland had returned just as they were rolling down their sleeves.  Graciously, she had not asked for details when she noted the dented ladle.

Now, Iain felt the dull pain recede.  He needed to get a good night’s sleep; tomorrow they would leave this quiet homestead and return to the fray.  Instead, his mind insisted on reviewing what Washburn had told him about his brother and trying to reconcile it with the little boy he remembered.  It had been a long time ago.

Headstrong, impetuous Darcy, who had been Iain’s miniature shadow from the day Darcy learned to walk.  Most of the time he had been a pain in the arse, always questioning why things were done the way they were, and why couldn’t they be done another way.  More than once he had  answered in exasperation, “Because that’s the way we do it in Isles!” Darcy would fall silent, but not for long.

Iain suspected that Darcy had come as a surprise to their parents.  Iain had been the only child for 10 years when Darcy was born.  Far was determined he would not be spoiled, though Mor had been a bit indulgent.  Darcy had grown up with a firm belief that he should be able to do anything Iain could do, and Iain had to shoo him away, usually more than once, to pursue his own training.  Iain’s Deryni training had been done in private, or so they thought, until the day Mor spotted Darcy perched in the tree outside the window, watching what they were doing very intently.  Mor had made sure Darcy had firm controls established after that.  Iain smiled to himself.  Darcy climbed trees as surely as a squirrel, the higher the better. They had had to accept the fact that if Darcy got himself up a tree, he could get himself safely down, and stop worrying about it.

The man Washburn described was determined and self-sufficient.  After years at sea, he had hired himself out as a man-at-arms to protect a wronged young lord, not knowing he was escorting a young maiden.  He had stumbled across his Deryni heritage along the way and been taken down by merasha and crossbow bolts, all without knowing who he was and where he came from!  An odd thought struck Iain: perhaps you were not defined by the family you were born into.

Iain’s sharpest memory of Darcy came from the day Iain had left for Rhemuth.  As Iain mounted up, five-year-old Darcy had stood beside his father, struggling to suppress unmanly tears and desperately clinging to the small Heir’s ring Iain had given him.  Would Darcy still remember that parting?  What would they make of each other when they met on the morrow?  Would he regret parting ways again after such a brief reunion, or be relieved?

Iain set his thoughts aside and settled down to sleep.  It would be what it would be.
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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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #613 on: February 16, 2019, 03:05:20 pm »
The light was fading as the rescue party approached the point at which they would leave the main road and take the narrower road leading to Baron Stuart’s manor. Fiona urged her horse forward to move up beside Lord Jaxom. Father Columcil also moved forward, remaining at her side. Jaxom turned his head to study the lady. “May I be of service, Lady Fiona?”

Fiona replied. “Pardon me, my lord, but do you not think we might stop soon to rest the men and horses?  If we bear to the right just ahead there is a smaller track that leads to a stream where we can water our mounts. I am sure the men would also appreciate the chance to refresh themselves."

Jaxom was silent for a moment then spoke brusquely, “ I am not ready to call a halt yet, Lady Fiona. I want to get closer to the manor before we stop. We will need time to study the lay of the land and determine our best approach.”

Fiona bit her lip then spoke, “Certainly you are wise to plan our course of action rather than to ride blindly up to the manor. But if we pause for rest, I can make you a map of the house and its surroundings including the stable and byres and other buildings where the servants would be found. I know that some of our servants had been replaced with men I didn’t know, and I strongly suspect that they are rebels. I do not know how many there are. But most of his retainers remain faithful to the baron.  I can help you determine the best  plan of attack.”

Jaxom looked doubtful, not immediately responding to Fiona’s proposal. Then he addressed her in his condescending way. “You are not trained in military matters, and I fail to see how you could be of much help in designing our plan for securing the manor and capturing the rebels. I think I need to see the manor house and its surroundings for myself before we proceed.”

Fiona responded, some frustration beginning to sound in her voice.  “I can help because I can show you the location of the manor and the various outbuildings as well as the lay of the land.” Then Fiona heard Aliset’s words of advice as they left. Maybe a little flattery would help smooth things, and he would be more likely to listen.

In a quieter voice, Fiona added, “You are a good leader, and the Earl has confidence in you. He sent me with you to provide you with the knowledge I possess about the manor and its surroundings as well as its people in order to give you an edge in the coming confrontation.  Jaxom preened a little, he would use what she knew and take credit for securing the manor with  the fewest possible losses.”

Like any good commander he would make use of all the information he could glean from her, so he listened as she continued. “It is getting late and the light is fading quickly. It will soon be full dark. How much will you be able to see if we arrive in full dark? I am also concerned, as I know you are, that the rebels hold at least two hostages, the baron and his wife, and I am sure that they would not hesitate to use them to secure their escape, even if you seize control of the manor. I know that one of your goals is that no harm come to them and that we do secure their release. We know from the fate of Ratharkin that these rebels are cruel and violent men who will not hesitate to kill if it suits their purpose. I am sure that you wish to seize every opportunity to gain the advantage over them.  Please allow me to assist you .” Fiona studied the young lord anxiously, hoping she had not said too much.

While they were speaking, the party had left the main road and gone a short way along the narrower road that led to the manor. Lord Jaxom held up his hand, signaling  a halt. He turned in his saddle to speak to the men, “ I think it wise if we pause here to briefly rest and water our mounts. I am told that just ahead on our right there is a small track that leads to a stream. Let us take that track to the stream that is to be found there and water and rest them. As she is familiar with this track,  Lady Fiona will point the way.”

Fiona moved ahead, guiding her horse a short way along the road, then turning right along a faint path that led through several tall trees and descended gradually. They could hear the sound of running water which quickly grew louder. They entered a clearing where the stream tumbled between banks covered with ferns and small bushes. There was also an area of soft, green grass suitable for grazing. At Jaxom’s gesture, the men began to dismount and lead their horses to the water. They were also drinking from their waterskins and refilling them.

Jaxom, Fiona, and Columcil moved a little apart  from the men to tend to their own horses. After the horses had drunk their fill, they were tethered loosely while the three sat down in the grass to talk.  Jaxom began, “ How much further is it to the manor? Does this path parallel the road to the house, and how difficult a ride is it?”

Fiona replied, “These are manor lands, but the main house sits about eight miles from the Cuilteine road. This path does mostly parallel the road leading to the house. It is rougher terrain than the road, but it also offers more cover. As the road gets near the house, it widens and the trees recede. The house sits on a slight rise, and those inside have an excellent view of any approaching riders. Uncle Mac situated it for protection, to make it difficult to get near without being seen. However, this path gradually bears to the right as  you near the open area, circling around to the rear of the mansion towards the stables and other outbuildings. There the trees and bushes crowd closer, making detection of riders less likely.”

Jaxom stood and moved closer to the water where there was a small area of dirt free of grass. He motioned to Fiona to join him. She rose and she and Columcil moved closer. He had found a sturdy stick about 3 feet long that he used to draw a line in the dirt.” It will better inform my decisions about the best plan of attack if I have a better picture of the site. You can provide me that information. He pointed to the line he had drawn. “That’s the Cuilteine Road and here is the road leading to the manor. Show me where the house is situated, the path and the outbuildings. Include any other features that seem important for us to know.” He stood back to watch as she began to fill in the diagram.

Fiona quickly drew lines in the dirt. She continued the line indicating the main road to the house, with a large, rectangular shape at the end representing the manor house. Behind and to the left she drew two somewhat smaller rectangles, the stable and a byre, close to each other.
To the right and a short distance behind the house was a cluster of smaller buildings that included the wash house, bakery, and smithy. As the path curved around the big house, trees drew closer to the buildings. On either side of the house, a short distance away were the kitchen garden and a field for grazing.  Jaxom studied what she had drawn, then asked, “How long will it take us to reach the house using the smaller path?”

“At a steady trot, about an hour.” she replied.

Jaxom continued to study the diagram before him.  “If we were to leave now, we might surprise them, arriving just as the light goes. Thus, they would be unsure of our numbers or exact locations.”

Fiona started to object but then said, “ If I might make a suggestion, my Lord,  We would also be unsure of their numbers and locations and they would have the advantage of knowing the ground somewhat better as only I am really familiar with it. Do you not think it would be better to arrive just before dawn when the light is still uncertain and they are still sluggish with sleep?

Jaxom insisted, “I am the leader here, and I think I know what is best for our success.”

Father Columcil spoke up for the first time. “Aye, yere the leader but ye pledged tae listen to the ledy and heed her advice. Earl Brendan believed that her intimate knowledge of the estate would be gey impairtant to our success. Ye don’t want us to fail by not gien attention tae what she says.”

Jaxom was silent for several minutes. He greatly wanted to succeed in this mission and to gain favor with the king. He was the one giving the orders. The credit for the mission’s success would certainly go to him, and he intended to make every effort to secure that outcome. There was no need for the company to know how much advice from Fiona he actually took. He nodded agreement to Fiona and Columcil, then walked over to the men, “After further thought, I have decided that we will rest here for part of the night. Tether your horses to allow them to graze. We are too near the manor to light fires, so eat the cold rations we brought. Check your horses and weapons. We will leave an hour before first light, using the darkness and the foliage along the path to mask our approach. Every man will be told exactly where he is to be when we attack. Our orders are to find and free the baron and his family, secure the manor, and capture the rebels there and that is what I intend to do.” 

The company moved to carry out their leader’s orders, gradually making themselves as comfortable as possible for the rest of the night.  Sentries were posted to prevent any premature discovery of their presence.

Jaxom did return to the map Fiona had drawn, considering the best disposition of his men when they reached the manor. Fiona  pointed out where most of the retainers slept and where they would most likely be found so early in the morning. One main disadvantage was that they did not know exactly where the baron was being held. Fiona went over again what she had heard Michael and his friends say about their plans. The most likely location for his imprisonment would be the most distant attics, and she described their location and how best to reach them once they were inside. Once Jaxom had determined their disposition and given their assignment to each of his soldiers, he was ready to rest. His squire tended to the young lord’s horse, laid out his bedroll and served him the rations they had packed.

Fiona and Columcil carried out their own duties and made themselves as comfortable as possible. They talked quietly together. Fiona gritted her teeth as she referred to Jaxom. “He is the most infuriating man, so cocky and sure of himself. I just hope, in his arrogance, that he doesn’t cause the mission to fail!”

“Yere doin’ well handlin’ him, lass. He’ll follow yere advice as long as he can mek it look like his own idea. He’s after glory, we’re after success. We just need to mek sure we keep our goals in mind.” The priest lay down on the soft grass. The camp grew quiet.

In the meantime, Gavin heard no sound from beyond the attic door where the baron lay. Was he badly hurt?  Surely not dead!. The page had managed to remove the key to the attic door from the housekeeper’s large bunch of keys which she had left unattended in the kitchen while having a  quick gossip with the cook. The part of the manor where the attcis were situated was rarely visited, and surely she would not miss that one key. But what use was the key now? Even if he unlocked the door, he thought the baron was too badly hurt to be able to get out of the attic unassisted, and Gavin was certainly too small to be of much help.

He considered confiding in a couple of the baron‘s most faithful retainers to help him carry Mac from the attic room. But with Michael giving the orders now, would they be willing to help? And even if they were, where could they conceal him from the rebels? Also, who could care for whatever injuries he might have after Drago attacked him? The more he thought about it, the more it seemed to Gavin that his best chance was to slip away and ride for help. He certainly could not ride all the way to his father’s estate. There was not enough time. But Lord Graham’s manor was only a matter of five miles to the east and he was a friend of the baron’s. If Gavin could reach Lord Graham, he surely would come to his friend’s aid.

It was very late, probably only a few hours until dawn. If he was going, he must leave now. Gavin took a deep breath, listened carefully, and hearing no sound, slipped down the back stairs, through the kitchen and, softly easing the outer door open, tiptoed toward the stables.
In the stable, he quickly saddled one of the ponies and led him out toward the back pathway that would take him to the Cuilteine road. He had to avoid the main track because he might be too easily seen from the house if anyone happened to look out.  When he felt he was far enough away not to be heard, he mounted the pony and trotted down the path..
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 08:38:44 am 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 #614 on: February 18, 2019, 12:08:12 am »
Captain Stev had no qualms about taking a recovery day, now that the men of noble-birth were running the camp. Not that anything they did differed greatly from what he would have ordered. The difference was that the burden of control was off his shoulders and that left time for..., well, for him to ease the pain from his shoulders..., and his leg, and his head. Healing on his own would have seen him up and about soon enough, but then, miraculously, a borderman with a warm country brogue sat beside his sick cot and offered to say a prayer with him. The next thing Stev knew, the hand of a Healer was touching his forehead and his eyes were growing heavy with sleep, a sound healing sleep, apparently. Even through the sounds of half the camp making to depart and moving out. For Stev did not awake until Hamish was yelling in his ear. “Captain! I told you he was no good. Ain’t I been saying all along that one is a lying, craven cow-monger. But would anybody listen to me. NO! Well, see! I was right!”

Stev sat up. With ease, he even stood up. Standing tall, he stood face to face with the Droghera guard. “Hamish, what are you yammering on about?” Only then did Stev take note that nothing hurt. In the back of his mind he made a mental note to never forget the name Columcil.  And too, to give his next pay to the church in the good priest’s name.

“That Remy fellow,” Hamish was saying while pointing at the pavilion.  “Got himself caught trying to steal one of them kings men’s steeds. Like no one would notice such a quality stallion among his ruddy herd. Rumor has him doing worse, too. I wanna know what that worse is. So that they will thank me when I skewer that man with my sword. Payback for turning on me in the tower. They’re calling for you at the Earl’s tent, so you get to go find out. Best hurry, captain.”

“The earl is calling for me? Why didn’t you say that first off!” Stev pushed the man aside and hurried across the half-empty camp. As he went, he was wondering to himself just how did he manage to sleep through all the goings on around here.

The captain rushed to enter the earl’s pavilion. Only he came up short, seeing Remy hunkered down on his knees, hands tied behind his back and a cloth wrapped around his head covering one bloody eye. Standing beside him was a young nobleman with moon-white hair tied back in a border braid.The Captain knew he had seen the man before. A week ago he had been another of Sir Washburn’s traveling companions.  He too must be here to find out what happened to the kidnapped knight. This then explained how Father Columcil had been in camp here at the ruins and been able to do his Healing miracle. At this instant, the blond nobleman looked pensive.  He was twisting a leather sling in one hand, while twirling a round pebble between the fingers of his other hand. The noble’s squire, a face the captain was certain he had never seen before,  stood behind looking concerned. Before everyone, stood the tall man who had rescued the captain and his failed team. The earl’s shoulders were braced in a rigid square and his brows were furled in anger. The Earl of Marley eased his tension only the minutest amount to welcome Captain Stev within.

“Captain of Droghera, yes, good of you to join us. Your man, Remy here, has been caught spying on us for the rebel cause. Lord Darcy did well to stop his escape when the farmer suspected he'd been found out. We have been speaking to Remy and it seems he has been wrongly advised about his prospect with the rebels of Meara over those given by our beloved king. To correct that advise, I’ve shared a few images with him of the men who would rule Meara, explaining their pretender Queen is naught but a puppet. The man who would marry her is the same man who killed my step-father. The same man who ordered the slaughter of women and children in Ratharkin. The same mentality of men who flogged their own men for losing a battle to our fleet. I shared only the truth, images that turn a sane man’s stomach. With this enlightenment, your town’s man Remy is rethinking his allegiance to the rebels. It seems being given a choice, he'd rather avoid swinging from an oak tree with a noose around his neck. To avoid this traitor’s ending, I have struck a deal with him for the list of Mearan rebels whom he knows. I would have you hear these names and tell me what you think.”

“Yes, of course, my lord.” Stev said quickly, alarmed that he might be implicated by false testimony. But no, neither the earl nor the blond noble were looking at him, they were both keen on watching the herdsman. Thinking back to last week, Stev had been sure they had caught all the rebels in Droghera. The four who were part of that altercation with the Knight of Lendour. And the one who was caught stalking the knight and his companions after they had left Droghera. Were there others? He braced himself to hear who else was involved.

Remy was pleading for a deal, “I don’t want to swing, please, m’lord, I’ll give you everyone I know. And you’ll let me go back to my farm. I swear I will never say a word or do any act against the king, ever again. Just don’t let me swing.”

“Remy Bikinow, I said I would make a deal with you, but only if you give me every last name you know who has rebel alliances. I am a man of my word. But know too that if you leave someone off your list and we don’t catch them, then I cannot protect you from men whose identity I don’t know. Now, can I. So you better be real forthcoming with those names. Or you can choose to give me no names. It has to be all or none. I'd be just as happy fitting that noose nice and snug around your neck the way we would treat any traitor of the crown. Oh, I promise, you won’t feel a thing once your neck snaps.” One of the earl’s guards dangled a rope that was tied perfectly into a hangman's noose before the distraight farmer.

It appeared Remy preferred to have his neck unadorned by rope, for he quickly yelled out, “Karcher, Rayne, Tomas, Phyre, Linwood, Sart and Nolty.”

“Who is the leader?”

“Phyre, but he got dead!” The earl looked to the captain who confirmed that with a nod.


“So who now…?”

“Linwood and Karcher were both fighting to make the top. Karcher has family connections in Ratharkin. The orders for us to gear up to take Droghera were coming from him.”

Shocked, Captain Stev stepped closer. “Take Droghera! Devil, you say! Over my dead body!” He found the blond lord stopping him with a hand on his chest.

“Aye, that was to happen.” Remy made a fearful gulp raising his shoulders wanting to protect his neck as he continued, “Linwood was to take care of you, if you survived the Ruins.”

“Linwood? That  no-good gambling drunk. He couldn’t take me, not ever.”

“Linwood’s Deryni,” Remy replied seeming to know that from first hand experience. “And he ain't no drunk. Had you fooled, he did. And Karcher too, not Deryni, but he had you fooled, too.”

Stev stood speechless.

“You know of these men?” the earl asked him, giving the captain a keen stare with glimmering frost blue eyes that stared into his soul as he asked the question.

“Yes, I do. Both men are under my watch. How can they be rebels?”

The earl didn’t answer, he simply inquired. “And the other two; Sart and Nolty?”

“Those two are brothers from the farm neighboring Remy’s farm. That is likely how he got involved. Sart was friend of Tomas. Tomas was one of the men who killed Kieran, our senior guard, and he wounded Sir Washburn in that fight a week back. Tomas already paid for his crimes. A has Phyre. Honest, my lord, I didn’t know how deep this rot was imbedded.”

“Right through the middle of your barracks, it appears,” the earl sharply retorted.

Stev was instantly on his knees, “My lord, I swear, I knew nothing of this. I am a king’s man, through and through. And I will clean the rebels out of my ranks to the last man if I have to. Droghera will not fall!”

The eyes of the earl pierced right through the captain, but then they blinked away and the captain could breath. The earl was frustrated but he didn’t question Stev’s loyalty. “You will need help.” he said at last.  The earl gave a heartless grimace to the guard with the noose. “You can put that away, for now. Confine our prisoner for the night. We will be needing him in the morning. Just get him out of my sight.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Captain be prepared to move at first light back to Droghera. And Lord Darcy,” the earl’s taut shoulders visibly eased as he spoke to the young blond lord.  “I want to thank you for your quick apprehension of our prisoner. Well done! Know that I will put in a good word when the king hears of this. We also will be leaving at first light. Be ready. Now, everybody out, I need to think.”
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 12:19:23 am by Laurna »

 


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