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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 122818 times)

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Offline Bynw

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #675 on: August 06, 2019, 02:48:32 pm »
The village of Windyner sees it fair share of travellers. Of course that is due to being on the road east of Valoret. Those pilgrimming to the holy city from the east always stop here for the night before making the rest of the journey.

Of course with the passing of Bishop of Dhassa, those travellers have increased. Though none will stay village as its too far from Valoret to make the trip quickly enough for the funeral. But they do pass through and will probably return once the funeral is over.

Even though the mood is sometimes darkened by the shadow of war with Meara in the west and many young sons have joined the ranks of soldiers. The village is happy with the coin they can make with so many travellers.

Father's Michael and Paulos help where they can. Not afraid to dirty their hands even in the fields. Our Lord washed the feet of his disciples, we can help with the work of the fields. Both priests are fond of saying when helping out.

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #676 on: August 07, 2019, 02:54:40 pm »
Fiona thought she might burst with joy when Lady Aliset told her that the baron had agreed to allow her to ride with their party to Valoret. It was all she could do to maintain her modest demeanor as she headed back to the manor. She was certain this would be the first step in getting to Rhemuth and the Schola. She had dreamed for a long time of being able to win admission to the Schola but did not know how she could accomplish this. This was a golden opportunity, and she meant to take advantage of it.

As she entered the manor, Fiona turned her steps first to the solar. She needed to express her gratitude to Uncle Mac for allowing her to make the trip. She ran lightly up the stairs and tapped softly on the door to the solar. Not waiting for a response, she pushed the door open. Mac looked up from the papers he was working on. “Fiona, lass,” he said. “What is it you want?”

Fiona curtsied and smiled at Mac. “I wanted to thank you for allowing me to ride with Lord Darcy and his party. I will do my best to properly represent our family and to be a credit to you at the services for Bishop Arilan. I have promised Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset that I will give no trouble on the trip. I am hoping that Iain will be in attendance, and I will have an opportunity to speak with him.”

Mac gave her a smile and a nod. “I am sure that you will be a worthy representative of the family and will carry out the duties required of you.  Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset will help you and watch over you. You must go now and make ready to leave as I know they intend to depart within the next two hours.”

Fiona impulsively gave Uncle Mac a hug, blushed, curtsied and left the room.  Mac watched her go and thought to himself, “I hope Lord Darcy and his wife are aware of what they have taken on.” He chuckled quietly as he  returned to his work.

Fiona hurried to her room to pack her things. She checked her kit to make sure everything had been replaced after her last adventure. She added the dagger that had belonged to her father as well as the more common knife she usually carried in her belt pouch. Because of the dangers of the road due to the rebellion, she would also bring her bow and quiver of arrows. She packed her best gown, combs and veil, and shoes. She must look her best when she attended the services. She also tucked the prayer book Aunt Olivia had given her into her rucksack. She would fill her water skin as she passed through the kitchen. She would also ask cook to pack some rations for the road.

Fiona stopped at her aunt’s room and tapped on her door. On hearing her aunt’s voice, she opened the door, entered, and curtsied. Aunt Olivia was sitting by the window looking out. She beckoned to Fiona to come nearer. “I know your uncle has given permission for you to ride with Lord Darcy to Valoret. That would have been Michael’s responsibility were he here, but it will be good for you to be present for the ceremony for Bishop Arilan.  I also know that you see this as an opportunity to advance your intent to gain admission to the Schola in Rhemuth. I hope you will find the help and encouragement you need there. I will miss you. You must take care and pay heed to what Lady Aliset tells you.”

Fiona noticed the tears gathering in her aunts eyes. She placed her arms around her aunt’s shoulders and hugged her tightly. “I will do as you say and do my best to be a credit to you.” She curtsied and left the room.

In the kitchen, she filled her waterskin with fresh water. Cook had prepared provisions for the party for the first part of the journey. These she gave to Fiona. “See you give these to the Lady. They should be enough for today’s travels”. Fiona thanked her and headed to the  stable to saddle her horse.

As she entered the stable, she noticed the knight was there saddling his big, black warhorse. Father Columcil was also saddling his horse and strapping his bedroll and other belongings behind the saddle. The priest smiled at her. “So, lassie, ye will be ridin’ wi’ us to Arx Fidei. It is quate a ride. Do ye require any hep with yer horse?”

“No.” she replied. “I can take care of him. Valiant is nervous with strangers and will do better if I do what is required. I do thank you for the offer though.” She proceeded to saddle her horse and began to secure her belongings on the horse’s back while Columcil watched.  “I am sure ye’re quite capable, my lady, but shuid ye require any assistance, dennae hesitate ta ask.” 

The knight had said nothing, although he had given her a shy smile. He finished his tasks and swung up into the saddle. Wash watched while she secured her bow and quiver to her bundle. “Are you expecting trouble that you go armed?”

“With the rebels about, it is well to be prepared. I feel quite safe with you and Lord Darcy but I also need to be ready to come to our defense if needed.”  Fiona replied.

He gave her a neck bow then urged his stallion out into the stable yard where the others were waiting. Fiona could not help thinking how handsome he looked on his black warhorse. Father Columcil followed him.

She followed the others out into the stable yard where the party was mustering. Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset were mounted and ready to leave  The baron and his lady had come out to see them off and wished them Godspeed. Father Columcil held up his hand and pronounced a brief blessing on the party. They then moved out toward the track that led to the Cuilteine Road. Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset were in the lead, followed by the priest and Fiona. Sir Washburn was last, guarding the rear.

As they made their way down the track, Fiona almost quivered with excitement. She was on her way at last, and she felt that her future was opening up before her.

« Last Edit: August 12, 2019, 07:41:56 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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #677 on: August 08, 2019, 01:46:29 pm »
“Darcy!” Aliset Cameron said with an undisguised note of exasperation in her voice.  “That is the third time you have checked my saddle’s girth!”

“Aye, it is,” Darcy Cameron responded.  “But his vessel transports cargo that is precious to me, and I would see it safely stowed.”

“Stowed?” Aliset responded, in not too pleasant a tone.

“Aye, stowed,” Darcy responded with a grin.  He moved to one side to offer her a leg up.  “Up you go, love,” he said. 

Aliset accepted his help into her saddle.  She had recovered from her earlier discomfort of the morning, but was not feeling entirely like her normal self.  “Stowed,” she repeated and scowled at him.

Darcy’s response was to grin back at her unabashedly.  Aliset shook her head.  What was she to do with this man?

Darcy swung up onto his own horse, Sigrun, and paused to stroke her neck.  She responded with a soft nicker, ready to be off again with her master.

Darcy turned around and surveyed the baron’s courtyard.  Fiona, Father Columcil and Sir Washburn were just emerging from the stables.  His expression turned thoughtful.

“What are you thinking, Darcy?”  Aliset asked.

Darcy thought for a moment longer before answering.  “It feels like when we first started on this journey.  You and I, though I didn’t really know who you were.  He gave her an affectionate smile. “I’m very glad you are who you are.”  Aliset blushed.  “But it seems we continually increase our number.  First Washburn and Father Columcil and now Fiona.  Soon we’ll be marching with our own army!”

“That will set the rebellion back on its heels!” Aliset replied with a smile

“Aye, that it would!  But for now, I would appreciate a quiet journey to Valoret.”

“As would I,” Aliset responded. 

Father Columcil, Fiona and Washburn had mounted and now made their way into the baron’s courtyard.  The baron wished them Godspeed, and Father Columcil blessed their departure. 

Darcy signaled for them to depart.  He and Aliset took the lead, followed by Father Columcil and Fiona.  Washburn rode in the rear, ready to defend their passage.  Although perhaps it was odd, Darcy felt at home taking command of their small party.  It was his task to do so, and he would see it through.

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 #678 on: August 10, 2019, 01:21:26 pm »
“Whoa! Stop!  Will you look at that!” Fiona’s exclamation brought all five riders to a halt. Four of whom were instantly on their guard looking for trouble, while the one who called out was far from concerned and simply enjoying the view. Her sense of awe brought on fresh excitement as everyone else began to relax. They had skirted the city of Cuiltiene two hours before and had trotted down the road through the thinning woodlands until just now when they had crested a hill. Rolled out before them, under the brilliance of a clear blue afternoon sky, was the vast green lands that lead down out of the highlands. For as far as the eye could see, land continued on and on, until it smeared to a haze. Even then in the far distant east a shadowy grey line seemed to define the edge between land and sky. Southward, the haze was closer; far nearer, the green plans softened to obscurity.

“The great and beautiful Rhemuth will be down that way, cousin,” Darcy said as he pointed south. “Due to the smoke from the city kitchens, I doubt you will see it unless we were very near to it. At least not unless the winds pick up to clear the air. The road we travel upon will not take us that way, not this time anyway.”

Fiona’s gaze was open and expectant as she looked over the vast landscape. “Perhaps not yet, cousin Darcy, but mark my words. I will find a way to get to Rhemuth and to enter the Schola. Valoret is our destination, yes?” She turned from the South and pointed out across the hills toward the east.

“Yes, my lady,” Wash answered her. “Those mountain crest lines, which are barely seen, are the Lendours. From here they appear as nothing more than a rise of land.  Yet from Valoret you will see that they are sharp and rugged with immense beauty, teaming with an alpine forest nestled between their jagged crags. It is both stunning and serene,” Wash said, displaying his own yearning for home.

“Valoret is only a stepping stone for me,” Fiona countered. “I want to learn about… everything! I want to be so much more than I am now. There is no going back for me. From Valoret...” her eyes looked to the distant east, but then her hand pointed to the haze in the south and her face followed her fingers. “I will find my path to enter the great capital and become a student of the king’s university.”

“Aye, Lassie, we will find a way to get you there,” Father Columcil said with a nod.

Wash only looked down at his riding gloves and shifted the reigns between his fingers. Rhemuth was denied to him, no matter how much he wanted to go back there, he could not. Yet he could go back to Lendour. He raised his eyes to the east and felt the pull of home. “Cynfyn Castle is a marvel to behold. It is like a castle in a story land, my lady. With it’s needle towers and red slate roofs, it stands in the foreground of a great forest and mountains beyond. I would share with you it’s beauty, some day.” He added almost shyly.

But the lady did not turn her eyes to the east, she kept her gaze fixed south. As best she could, she attempted to see what lay behind the smoke and haze.
Father Columcil nodded, feeling the longing of both the young person’s who sat their horses to either side of him. “Ay woulds see ye both in the places ‘at will see ye happy an’ hale. Juist mind, sae lang as ye keep God in ye heart, yer pure happiness isn’t dependent upon a location. It is wherever yer own hands mak' it tae be.”

“Amen to that Father.” Lady Aliset said.

“I for one am not sure what we will find farther along the road east,” Darcy said taking back control of the group. “But I do know where Arx Fidei Abby is.“ The navigator pointed to a series of small hills much more close than where the other two had been looking. “We have been there before and we will stay there again tonight. That way, I know that we will be safe and comfortable for one more night before we travel into mists of you two’s hopes and dreams.” He looked for confirmation from his companions. “Are we all in agreement?”

“I didn’t think of you as the pragmatic one,” Aliset teased her husband.

“Oh, I have my own idealist dreams, my love. Never fear that. They have to do with being in a secure, nice, private chamber to share with the one I love.” Darcy smiled broadly and skirted his horse closer to Aliset.

She allowed him a kiss before saying. “Not in front of Fiona.”

“I beg to differ. She needs to see what a good marriage is all about.” Darcy claimed with a happy grin.

Aliset let out a good chuckle, “It is about more than that, dear husband.” And with that she kicked her horse and cantered away like a fleeing fawn, leaving Darcy to quickly gather up Sigrun’s  reigns and to chase after her.

Washburn let out a great laugh. “I never grow tired of those two.”  He gathered his own reigns, holding Shadow to stay at the back. “After you, my lady Fiona, good Father Columcil. Let us proceed to Arx Fidei… for a comfortable night's rest.”

“Aye, let’s.”  The father cheered, and then the three were away to follow their leaders down the road, out of the highlands, and into the proper lands of Gwynedd.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2019, 04:38:42 pm by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #679 on: August 11, 2019, 01:11:25 pm »
Darcy Cameron swished his razor in the basin of water and then dried it on a towel.  He did not know if he would get many other nights in private with his wife, and the pain of shaving was worth it if it pleased her.

They had arrived at Arx Fedei as the shadows lengthened before fading into twilight.  There had been some confusion as they were granted access to the abbey’s courtyard.  The abbot had left that morning with those of the brethren who could be spared to make the journey to Valoret for Bishop Arilan’s funeral.  That had left the abbey short of brothers to deal with those who wanted accommodations at the abbey as they made their journeys to Valeret.  Although Washburn tried to remain unnoticed, the brothers remembered him from his previous stay with the Duke of Corwyn, and they were welcomed for the night.

At first there had been some discussion of Fiona sharing a chamber with Aliset.  Fortunately, a daughter of one of Baron Stuart’s knights was also making the journey to Valoret, and the two young women would share a chamber.  Darcy, even though realizing it was selfish, had thanked Saint Nicholas for his good fortune.

Aliset had slipped into the bed before him.  Darcy smiled inwardly at the thought that this time he did not need to sleep on a pallet just inside her door.  Though he might enjoy the opportunity to throw Lord Peacock out on his head a second time.  One look at his wife put all thoughts of Jaxom Trillick out of his mind.

Darcy took very little time to slip in beside her.  “Are you eager for sleep?”  he asked.

“Perhaps not,” Aliset said with a demur smile, though her eyes were dancing in a delightful challenge. 

“Well then,” Darcy said after kissing the tip of her nose.  “Let me see if I can come up with an appropriate diversion.”  He kissed her lips and moved onward….

Darcy!

“Bloody hell,” Darcy growled.

Startled, Aliset pushed back from his embrace.  “What is it?”

“Iain.  It’s bloody Iain!”  Darcy moved to bring his Heir’s ring into view and focused his powers on the call that came through.  What? he asked rudely.  Aliset dug her elbow into his ribs.  "What, my lord?” he amended.

”Happy to speak to you too, little brother,” Iain responded with a touch of acerbity.

”Your timing is not the best,” Darcy said.

Aliset looked at him and Darcy nodded.  Aliset placed her left hand wearing Darcy’s miniature Heir’s ring on top of his hand and joined him in rapport.

”Good evening, Sir Iain,” she sent.  ”How can we assist you?”

”Ah, someone appreciates my contact!” Iain said dryly. ”I have a question or two and some news to report.”

”Actually, I have a question as well,” Darcy said.

”Then my contact is not totally inconvenient!”

”Peace, brother.”

Iain relented.  ”Where are you now?

”We are at Arx Fedei on the way to Valoret.  Sir Washburn, Father Columcil and cousin Fiona are with us.”

”Cousin Fiona?” Iain asked, somewhat startled.

”Aye,” Darcy responded.  ”She comes with us to represent Baron Stuart at the funeral.”

Iain felt a pang of guilt.  He had not thought of his ward for several years.  He had left her safely in the care of her aunt and uncle.  On the border of Meara.  Where there was now a rebellion  brewing.  Damn.

”Tell me how this happened,”  Iain said.

Darcy quickly related what had transpired since they had left the Michaeline ruins.  Aliset was impressed by his succinct report that nevertheless left out none of the details.  Darcy did not presume to judge what details his brother might or might not need.

”I confess,” Darcy concluded.  ”I was hard pressed to keep Washburn from killing Jaxom and preventing Baron Stuart from throwing us all out on our asses (sorry, love!) for threatening the man who had freed his manor.  It was Fiona that turned the tide in our favour,” Darcy added.

”How does Sir Washburn fare now?” Iain asked.

”Well enough,” Darcy responded.  ”Baron Stuart devised a plan, with input from Washburn, for the neighboring manors to join with him to mount a defense against the rebels.  He charged Washburn with training up the men, and he could not have made a better choice.  Washburn excelled at the task.  The men respect him, he has the skills, and he instructs without the slightest bit of arrogance.  He honed my skills with the bow as well.  No man could have done better.”

”And now?” Iain asked.

Darcy paused for a moment.  ’He has the idea in his head that he should travel east to Lendour.  He thinks it may help him calm the turmoil of what has happened and find new purpose.  Valoret is on the way, and he also wants to pay his respects to Bishop Arilan.”

Iain said nothing for several heartbeats.  Earl Kenric was still in Rhemuth as part of the king’s council, so this should not pose a threat.  But King Kelson would need to be informed.  ”You said you have a question for me.”

”Cousin Fiona wants to attend the Deryni Schola in Rhemuth.  She asked her uncle for permission, but he was not willing to grant it without consulting you.  Fiona is a headstrong lass, and the baron finally granted her permission to travel with us to represent him at the funeral versus risking she would strike out on her own.”

”Sir Iain,” Aliset interjected.  ”Fiona desperately wants the chance to attend the Schola and learn to use her Deyni powers responsibly.  She fears that if she remains at the manor, she will be trapped there until a suitable husband is found.  Once that happens, the opportunity may be lost forever, and she will never realise her full potential.”

”I have no objection in principle,” Iain said thoughtfully.  ”But the Schola has lost many of its teachers to serve with King Kelson’s forces.  This may not be the best time.”

”Or it might be,” Aliset said quickly.  ”Fiona is just beginning to learn the basics of her powers.  The teachers there now would be able to bring her up to a level where she can begin to learn more advanced skills with others of her own age once the senior teachers return.  She would not need to be held back.”

”She has my approval, but you cannot bring her to Rhemuth because Washburn cannot come here, and your party must stay with Washburn.  I will not trust Fiona’s safety to just anyone to escort her here from Valoret.  I will try to speak with Archbishop McLain, both about her admission and about someone attending the funeral that he might trust to escort her here.”

”May we inform Fiona?” Aliset asked.

"Yes, you should. It may curb her impatience a bit,” Iain responded.

”You said you have news,” Darcy reminded him.

”Ah, yes.”  Iain paused.  ”Lord Oswald is dead.”

”What?” Aliset gasped and her hand tightened over Darcy’s.

”You killed him?” Darcy asked, more curious than surprised.

”No, I did not,” Iain replied.  ”Though I would have welcomed the opportunity.”

”How did he die, Sir Iain?” Aliset asked.

”He was poisoned in Ratharkin.  A particularly nasty poison, both slow and painful.  The perpetrator remains unknown, but my suspicion is that Master Feyd placed the contract.”

”Master Feyd?” Darcy questioned. ”I can’t imagine him doing us such a favour.”

Iain’s ironic chuckle came through clearly.  ”I can’t imagine him doing anyone a favour. However, he held Washburn captive for several days, and Washburn was desperate to keep Aliset safe from Oswald.  Feyd owes no allegiance to the rebellion; he might strike a side deal if the price was right.  The ruby from Washburn’s great sword was missing when the sword was recovered in a room rented by Feyd. Feyd may have considered it sufficient payment.”

”May we share this news with Washburn?” Darcy asked.

”That may be a good idea.  Watch how he reacts.  I would not tell him that Feyd may have arranged it; see if Washburn jumps to that conclusion himself.  Now I will let you go to salvage what you can of your evening.  Godspeed on your journey; I’ll contact you again sometime along the way to Valoret.”

”Fair winds and calm seas, Iain,” Darcy responded.  "And an improved sense of timing,” he added dryly as Iain broke the contact.

Aliset was too preoccupied with her own thoughts to poke his ribs again. Darcy had no illusions that the romantic night he had planned was lost.  He gathered his wife into his arms and held her close.

Aliset’s mind was filled with thoughts of her family and Oswald’s destruction of those she had loved.   She could not control the sobs that burst forth, and Darcy held her tightly. She was comforted by the security of her husband’s strong arms, but it was a long time before the memories would let her sleep.

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

 -- Old English Litany

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #680 on: August 18, 2019, 06:15:48 pm »
In the chill, predawn hours the Mearan army drew up before the city of Laas. Although orders had been given to move as silently as possible, total silence was not possible when moving a large body of men. However,  it was near the end of the night watch, and those on watch would be tired and less alert and might miss some of the sounds heralding the arrival of the army. Complete surprise was not possible. Gwyneddan scouts had been shadowing them, and the garrison was aware of their movements.  But those within the walls of the city would not know the exact hour they would arrive, and any small advantage would be useful.

Grand Duke Valerian sat his horse as the elements of his army moved into their assigned positions. He had studied the available maps of the city and surrounding countryside carefully, planning their approach and assigning their positions to give his army the best advantage. The city sat on a bluff overlooking Laas harbor. Only one road approached the city over a narrow causeway from the land side. It had been blocked by separatists but Duke Kelric’s army had driven them away and destroyed their roadblocks. His army had entered and added significantly to the garrison defending the city. Valerian was aware that he was facing a formidable defense. Although his goal was a quick strike to occupy Laas before Javan’s army could arrive, and therefore he had pushed his army to move quickly, he had brought one piece of equipment that he thought would give his army an advantage.  Laas did have one weak point and that was the gates that guarded entrance to the city. The ram that had been transported to Laas with the army could be used to breach the gates allowing Valerian’s army to enter..

As the first fingers of light heralded the coming of dawn, Valerian handed the reins of his warhorse to a waiting squire and entered a tent hastily erected by two of his men. He was holding a council of war with  Brioc de Paor, his two Deryni knights and two of his captains to finalize their plans for the assault on Laas. He turned his hard gaze on each of them. “Meara’s independence is the beginning. I intend to drive those Draper usurpers completely from the Eleven Kingdoms forever!”

“The Tolan Fleet should have reached the harbor and will disembark additional soldiers who will take control of the beach. Although an actual attack from the beach would be too difficult as it would require scaling the bluff, they will be able to draw off defenders who will be needed to man the towers overlooking the sea approach. They will also prevent any reinforcement or resupply of the castle from the sea. Forcing the dukes to split their forces to defend both approaches to the castle should provide an advantage for our attacking forces.” He turned to one of his captains. “Rashid, send two scouts to circle the walls of the castle toward the harbor and confirm the presence of the fleet.”

“Yes, my lord.” The man called Rashid quickly left the tent to carry out the Grand Duke’s order.

Valerian continued. “ Dawn will have shown those inside the castle that they are surrounded. It would be too much to expect that they will surrender. But we will need to move quickly to secure it as the second Gwynedd army under Prince Javan is making haste to relieve Laas and are not far behind us. We do not want to be caught between the castle defenders and Javan’s army. As soon as the scouts have confirmed that the fleet and its men are in place, we will attack the city from the front.”

The second captain addressed Valerian. “My lord, we know the defenses are strong and have been reinforced by the addition of Duke Kelric Morgan’s forces. Even with the addition of the men at arms landed by the fleet, will we have enough men to overcome them and take possession of the city before Prince Javan’s army arrives?”

Valerian addressed the man. “The ram is nearly ready and should provide an advantage. If we can breach the gates, the army will be able to enter Laas with fewer casualties than might be expected without it.”

The captain replied. “ I have the men to push it into place and the roof will shield them from the arrows. It would also assist us if some of the additional men landed by the fleet could scale the bluff and launch an attack, forcing the defenders to split their forces between the gates and the sea wall. Once we get the ram in place, I promise you the gates will come down. Give us support to get it there.”

Valerian looked pleased at the captain’s words. Then he.smiled, a cruel smile. “We have another advantage, unknown to any but those in this tent and certainly unknown to the Gwyneddan dukes inside the city walls. There is a nobleman who is loyal to Meara who has convinced them that he is committed to Gwynedd and is part of Morgan’s forces. He and his men traveled with Duke Kelric’s army and entered Laas with them, fighting alongside them to disperse the separatists who were blocking the entrance to the city. They are viewed as staunch supporters of Gwynedd and King Kelson. There is no suspicion of them, however they are in position inside the castle and ready to strike at my orders. They will create chaos within and possibly even be able to kill one or more of the dukes present there. They will be able to open the gates of the city if the ram has not been successful and allow our forces  to enter..”

“But what of the queen? The Mearan people will expect her to appear as they celebrate the fall of Laas and the return of Mearan independence. How are we explain her absence? You have made no effort to free her from her confinement as Kelson’s prisoner.” Brioc spoke angrily.

“You forget yourself!” Valerian hissed. “I am in command here! I am the only reason your daughter has any chance to rule an independent Meara.  The time to free her is not yet but it will come soon.” The Grand Duke glared at Brioc who subsided but continued to mutter under his breath. “We will tell the people that the queen was abducted by followers of Kelson. We were able to free her, and we have hidden her in a safe place until Meara is free and she can reappear to speak to her people.”

As Valerian finished speaking, Captain Rashid reentered the tent. He bowed. “My lord, the scouts have returned. They report no sign of the Tolan Fleet. The only ships in the harbor were a few local fishing vessels which were docking. They also reported that the skies to the west were heavy with dark clouds and the winds are beginning to increase . It is possible that a storm at sea has delayed them.”

Valerian turned to his Deryni knights. “Try  to reach them. Discover the cause of the delay and when they expect to arrive..” The two knights left the tent to carry out their orders in quieter  surroundings where they could focus. Although they had managed to perform the actions required by Valerian to keep his loss of his powers hidden from others, it was becoming increasingly difficult. Although they were well trained, they did not possess the powers that Valerian had been able to bring to bear when needed.

***

A knock sounded on Duke Kelric Morgan’s door, quickly followed by the entrance of a castle guard. “Your Grace, you must come to the guard tower. The Mearan Army has arrived and taken up positions across the approach to the city gates.”

“I am coming. Send squires to notify Duke Rory and Duke Brecon.” Kelric hastily threw on a robe and followed the guard to the tower guarding the city gates. As he looked out in  the rapidly growing light, he saw the army spread out across the plain before the city. He noted the pennant of old sovereign Meara flying before a tent  erected in the midst of the horses and men assembled before the city. He also noted the presence of a battering ram being prepared for use against the gates of the city. The Mearans were lifting a large heavy log under the roof of a structure mounted on wheels. It was suspended with chains that allowed it to swing free. The roof over the device was certainly arrow-proof and would make it harder to cause injury to the men propelling it. He had not really expected Valerian to bring siege engines since transporting them slow him down. However, he should have known Valerian would pinpoint the weak points in the city defenses and do whatever he could to exploit them.

Kelric gestured to the other two to follow him as he returned to his quarters to dress. While his squire assisted him to don his attire, they discussed the plan they had devised for defense. Orders were to be sent immediately to the captains and commanders within the castle. Soldiers would man the walls and guard towers and keep careful watch  to meet any moves Valerian might make. Each defender knew his assignment. One captain was assigned to check the whereabouts of each of du Chantal’s men to ensure that all were being carefully watched. “I expect attacks from the baron and his men as soon as Valerian makes his first move. We must be ready.” Kelric buckled on his sword and dagger.

Kelric dismissed his squire and prepared to leave his quarters and return to the battlements. The other two dukes returned to their quarters to dress and to notify their captains that the siege had begun.  All three met in the withdrawing room where they were joined by Baron Jass, Earl Duncan Michael, and the two heirs, Richard and Bearand to continue their plans.

“I checked the walls and tower facing the sea.” said Duncan Michael. “It looks like a storm brewing out to the west. If it hits here it will certainly increase Valerians difficulties. He has little shelter for his men and horses.”

“What a shame he can’t use one of his weather working spells to calm the storm.” commented Rory with a wicked grin.

Kelric faced them. “He can’t afford a long siege. Javan is too near and he won’t want to be caught between our men and Javan’s army. He will have to move quickly if he is to have any chance of taking the city before their arrival. Everyone must stay alert and warn us of any moves they observe. We will use the mobile force of men we stationed in the center of the bailey to move quickly and reinforce any part of the defences that are faltering under attack. I think we are well prepared. We should each now move out to encourage the men.”

***

The two Deryni knights reentered Valerian's tent. “We have tried to reach the Fleet Commander but have had no success. Perhaps the storm is hindering our effort. They may be fully engaged in guiding the ships safely through it.”

 Valerian’s eyes narrowed as he considered what the knights had said.  “I will delay our assault for now until my fleet arrives.”
 
The Mearans waited, watching any activity that they could see on the walls. The Deryni knights continued to be unable to reach Rapport with any member of the Fleet. The storm was drifting nearer. The scouts were again sent around the walls to look for any sign of the ships arriving in the harbor. When they returned to again report failure, Valerian exploded. “Where is my fleet? I was promised that the fleet  would be here when needed. Find them!”

“We have tried, your grace. It is possible that they were damaged or sunk by the storm. Perhaps we should try an alternative strategy.”

Valerian took several deep breaths to calm himself. Raging at the two knights would not change anything. He thought hard for a few minutes then instructed the Deryni. “We cannot wait any longer. We still have an advantage. Send Baron du Chantal the signal to attack. He should be able to create enough confusion and chaos within the walls to allow our men to enter.”

“Yes, Your Grace.” The two Deryni focused and sent out the signal to the baron. “Attack now!” 



« Last Edit: August 19, 2019, 01:19:52 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 revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #681 on: August 19, 2019, 09:26:33 am »
Captain Nikloi felt sick to the pit of his stomach. He was not by nature a brutal man - or at least no more than the demands of good discipline aboard ship demanded - and the cruelties he had ordered following the debacle at Loch Mhor were uncharacteristic. He had been driven by fear of facing his Lord with the news that he had allowed half the fleet to be destroyed but that fear was now turning to abject terror as judgement closed in on him. He had not dared to seek to bespeak the Grand Duke, hoping that somehow all would be well, or at least forgiven, once they arrived at Laas and all fury and vengeance could be directed to the Haldane brood and the Mearan quislings who supported them.

So how could his Grace have found him out? And found out he must have been else why would he be punished in this way? It was now nigh on two days since the wind from the East had dropped, the wind of power which had speeded their course from Tolan. The sails had suddenly hung limp with little even of the prevailing westerlies to swell them and he had been forced to order the men to the oars. Since Loch Mhor there had been undisguised hatred in the eyes of the common men-at-arms, whose comrades he had ordered tortured and abandoned; if their journey was much delayed it would not take much for the men to mutiny. Driven by despair he had driven himself to bespeak his Grace, but had been met with only silence, not the silence of contact made and refused, but the icy silence of the outer darkness. A foretaste perhaps of God's judgement which if the enemy ships caught up with them could not be long delayed. Whether it be the wrath of the enemy, punishment by the Grand Duke, or vengenance by his own men which caught up with him first, he could look for little mercy in this life, and even less he feared in the next.

But though his gut was paralysed with fear his head was that of a seaman and he gave the only order he could. They must needs veer south and hug the coastline hoping that they could pick up enough offshore wind to tack around the headlands, perhaps too an onwards current and blessed Raphael of the winds and Gabriel of the waters, find their way forward.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2019, 09:49:34 am by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #682 on: August 21, 2019, 10:57:05 am »
Sir Iain Cameron, with Robert at his side, stepped back as the Captain of the king’s guard strode from King Kelson’s withdrawing room.  The man was tight-lipped and gave Iain only a cursory nod as he passed. Nonetheless, Iain noted a look of resignation in the man’s eyes.

Robert knocked quietly at the door and entered at the king’s gruff command to come.  “Sir Iain Cameron is here as you requested, your Majesty,”  Robert said as he bowed.

“Show him in, Robert.  You may wait outside.”

Iain entered the withdrawing room and bowed.  “How can I be of service, your Majesty?”

Kelson gestured for his spy to approach closer.  He had several parchments before him; Iain noted that some were signed by the king and sealed with his royal seal.  Others were awaiting his signature. 

“Shall I turn them toward you so you can read them more clearly, Sir Iain?” the king asked.

“That will not be necessary, your Majesty,” Iain said, looking at the king directly.

Kelson snorted.  “Even you could not read all of these that quickly.”

“Of course not, your Majesty,” Iain said noncommittally.  “But are you sure it is wise to travel at this time?”

Kelson placed both hands flat on the table and glared at Iain.  “Don’t you start too.”

“As you wish, your Majesty,” Iain said. 

Kelson gestured toward the parchments before him as he leaned back in his chair.  “Lord Seisyll will chair what’s left of my council while Archbishop Duncan and I are in Valoret.  Valerian is cornered in Laas, and we have one of his escape routes under our control.  I will be as safe in Valoret as I am here.”

“The crowd in Valoret will be very large, your Majesty,”  Iain pointed out.  “It will provide excellent cover for an assassin.”

“That has already been made clear to me,” Kelson said dryly.  “Many times.  I have agreed to wear chainmail beneath my clothes and to a larger guard than I wanted.  I will attend without ceremony to pay my personal respects as well as those of a kingdom Denis Arilan served long and faithfully.  I will do no less.”

Iain bowed his head briefly in acknowledgement.  “I am sure you did not ask me here to discuss travel arrangements,” he said.

“No, I did not.”  Kelson looked at Iain directly.  “I am concerned that we have heard nothing more from Master Feyd.”

“I confess I am somewhat surprised myself at his silence.  Perhaps he has surmised that you will be attending the funeral and will wait for your return.”

“You believe that?” Kelson asked.

“Not really,” Iain said and smiled slightly.  “More likely he is waiting to pull this piece of the puzzle into place when he judges the time to be right, or at least most favourable to him.”

“I have directed Lord Seisyll to contact you if any word is received from Master Feyd.  If Feyd contacts you, you will advise Lord Seisyll.  No charging off on your own!”

“Have you ever known me to charge, your Majesty?”  Iain asked mildly.

“I have known you to disappear from time to time without anyone’s knowledge,” Kelson replied pointedly.  “Not this time.”

“As you command, your Majesty.  At least not without someone’s knowledge.”

“That someone better be Lord Seisyll and after appropriate consultation,” the king said sternly.  Iain nodded again.  “You may go.”

Iain bowed and left the withdrawing room.  The king had not said anything about Lord Seisyll granting permission.  Such details are important.  Iain smiled as he motioned Robert to join him.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #683 on: August 21, 2019, 03:34:49 pm »
If he had had any inclination to brood over the events of the last few days, once the fleet was under sail Sir Richard Kirby had no time for anything but the demands of being at sea. Unsure how far out in the ocean the uncanny easterly wind filling the sails of the enemy might be, he had chosen to sail as close into the land as he could, trusting to the charts of the coastline painstakingly drawn up over many years and to the skill of the helmsmen to keep them off the rocks. Tacking where they could, and other times resorting to the oars, it was slow work and he feared that what remained of the enemy fleet would make it to Laas long before they could. He could only make his prayers to our Lady Star of the Sea and St Michael, patron of those who fought, that they would not come too late. At least there were plenty of strong backs and arms to man the oars, though in every other respect the clansmen who filled the boats were a blessed nuisance. Either they were being sick or they were complaining about the hard ship's biscuits and the sheer number of extra bodies meant that the ships were more unwieldy and lower in the water than he would have liked.

Seamus on the other hand was nothing less than a Godsend. Not only in the expert seamanship and command of the men that Richard had come to expect, but he had soon taken it upon himself to enstill a measure of discipline amongst the rough borderers, roundly cursing any would be delinquents in words that Richard was glad not to understand, and with an edge to his tongue which his Duke himself would have envied.

"Aye, well. They're nae different ta ma'sen, ye ken." had been his slightly shamedfaced response when Richard expressed his appreciation.

Richard found himself more and more turning to his second in command for counsel and not simply as a recipient of his orders and had taken to inviting Seamus to the Captain's cabin as the watch called out the first sign of the dawn so that they might break their fast together and talk through what the day ahead might bring. He had felt more than a little uncomfortable to be addressed as Sir Richard and had suggested that, in an informal setting, it was unnecessary only to be met with,

"Nay, ye've earned it by a' tha's holy an' I'm no' no' goin' ta gi'e ye yer due...Sir Richard.

The honorific was added with emphasis and with a glare that for an unnerving moment reminded Richard of Dhugal so he resigned himself to the acceptance of his new dignity.

It was as they were breaking their fast on the fourth morning since they set sail that they heard the Watch cry with a loud voice "Ships ahoy!" It took all Seamus' hard earned naval discipline to stand to the side so that his Captain could scramble up the stairs to the deck before him, stopping only to take his precious spy glass from its stand; with Seamus all but treading on Richard's heels they reached The Rose's prow together. There were indeed ships ahoy, but far ahead and only three or four just rounding the further headland. Rapidly Sir Richard got them in the sights of his glass, but with a grunt of frustration he gave the glass over to Seamus,

"I only ever got close to the bloody things by night, here you tell me: Are these the damned brigands that we're after?"

He closed his eyes clasping his hands in entreaty, "O merciful Saints, please tell me that they have been delivered into our hands."

"Aye, Sir, it's them awrigh'"

An unholy grin spread upon Sir Richard's face. Here was his chance to settle his score and, by God, he would enjoy every moment of it. Not normally a blood-thirsty man he bitterly resented being made to play the traitor, a stain that had been freely pardoned but could only, he knew in his gut, be wiped out by seeing the enemy at the bottom of the ocean.




« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 03:37:43 pm by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #684 on: August 23, 2019, 03:29:57 pm »
When Sir Richard turned away from the bow, Seamus noticed that his Captain's hands had gripped so fiercely that the paint under his nails had been scored. Not that he needed any clue to how Richard was feeling, as the latter grabbed him by the elbow and steered him rapidly back down to his cabin, only pausing in his haste when it came to laying his precious charts out on the table.

"How many boats, made it out of loch Mhor, you say? Sixteen? So what we saw were the hindmost, but likely the others are not far ahead, they'd stay together in unknown waters. That devilish wind must have dropped, aye, God is good to deliver them into our hands like this. We only have two more boats but they'll not escape us this time. How many archers do we have to each boat, and how much cloth for the burning arrows? Is there enough pitch to hand?

Belatedly Richard realised that he was firing a string of questions at his subordinate without giving him time to respond and turned to Seamus with a grimace of apology. But far from struggling to get a word in edgeways, Seamus was unaccountably staring down at the table and looking uncomfortably reminiscent of the chastened young seaman who had had to work his way back into his master's good graces after the disasterous beginning to their relationship.

Keyed up as he was it was a measure of the strength of their friendship that Richard did not bawl Seamus out, though the release of tension would have been welcome. Taking a deep and slow breath he spoke with a painful forbearance which could not entirely hide his frustration,

"If you have aught to say that will help us be on them by the noon bell, I'd be grateful to hear it, otherwise whatever is biting you, now is not the time. I'd not thought you'd be wanting to hang back yourself, after what you saw in Loch Mhor?"

"Aye, ye needna doot tha', I'd haud th'door o'hell open for them ma'sen an' kick their arses through into the de'il's own clutches, but," Seamus paused before rushing on, "Sir, ye canna dee this. Nay, hear me oot, ah beg ye."

Seamus looked up pleadingly and with a great effort Sir Richard managed to clench his fists to prevent himself from banging the table in fury, or worse striking Seamus.

"Sir, we canna fecht wi' boatie loads o' greenfaced laddies. They're braw enow, an'll do oor Duke proud, but no' on the watter. We'd send th' de'il's crew ta th'dark angel right enow but I'm affeared there's mony a body o' oors they'd tek wi'em. An' the whiles we're fechtin' here, God alone he kens wha's passin' in Laas. These laddies we're ta tek ta fecht fer himself, Prince Rory, in Laas an' we maun dee oor best ta dee as we've bin bid. Mary màthair, bheannaich Iosa, it's sorry I am Ridseard, mo thighearna I've no disobeyed ye these many years but ye canna dee this." As he spoke, his hand sought for the chain round his neck and he pulled out the medallion which hung against his chest, pressing the image of our Blessed Lady to his lips as if seeking her protection.

Strangely, it was Seamus lapse into his native Gaelic rather than his usual brogue that gave Richard pause. He had hitherto only heard him use it when he cried out, as all men will do, in his sleep. And once he paused, he thought and realised that Seamus spoke only the truth. He put his head in his hands in defeat. Was there nothing they could do but trail the enemy into Laas, like a dog sullenly following at the cart's tail.

Mary màthair, bheannaich Iosa Mother Mary, Blessed Jesus
Ridseard, mo thighearna Richard, my lord
« Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 03:39:23 pm by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #685 on: August 24, 2019, 01:27:50 pm »

Five men-at-arms stood their watch on the Laas gate barbicans. Their backs were straight, their tensions were high. Looking east between the stone merlons of the curtain wall, squinting their eyes to look in the direction of the rising sun, the defenders of the city watched the rebel army organize into shielded groups of men protecting a siege engine being readied for war. At first their actions were a mystery. They had carted a pile of animal hides down to the beach, tossed them all in the sea and then pulled them out of the water one by one to stack back onto the cart. Then the rebel  plans became clear. Upon returning, they began hammering the wet hides onto the sides of the wood slanted roof that covered the siege engine. Wet hides would improve resistance to fire and the wood roof under the hides would protect the men beneath it from arrows. The device had six wheels with a wide base, several chains hung down from the peaked roof beam supporting a great metal-shod tree trunk that freely swung forward and back. A dozen rebels held shields to protect the front of the battering ram.  Dozens more men climbed into the ram from behind. Slowly they would push the battering ram up the rampart approach to the city gates. Laas held few weaknesses being couched on this cliff faced plateau. The entrance gates were that one weak point which the rebels intended to abuse.

The gates of Laas were made from layered Rathark oakwood. Over time, the battering ram just might take it down. However, the device advancing would not breach the iron cross-worked portcullis which was closed hard to the enemy and stood some twenty feet before the great gate. The portcullis would be impossible to lift, not without the chains and the geared windlass in the guardroom high within the double thick wall.  A third of the men of Laas stood upon the  curtain-wall walk watching the Mearan rebels begin their siege. The men of Laas believed with all confidence that they could defend their city against the likes of those below. The ramp leading up to the fortress was narrow giving the battering ram little maneuverability. Last evening, Duke Brecon’s men had scattered rocks along the causeway. It may only be a small hindrance to the enemy, as men could clear the stones as the battering ram came over them. However, this would clearly slow their progress. The garrison had a good arsonal of arrows to spend on attempts to aim between the holes in the enemies shielding; they could also rain down fire arrows upon the hide covered roof. Eventually one just might catch it ablaze. If the enemy did get close enough to the portcullis with that ram of theirs, Laas had an added defense. Two huge cauldrons of pitch poised over the machicolations at the top of the wall. Fires under the cauldrons had been burning all night, the messy black pitch steamed and boiled awaiting a time of need.  Just a release of the hold chain and a pull of the lever and anyone below, shielded or no, would regret coming so near to the gates of Laas.

That is why Tage was posted to the barbican.  He was a giant of a man. He could easily tilt the cauldron levers by himself when it would take two other men to do so. Tage was a native of Laas. He had lived here all his life. He had seen the rulers of Laas change many times. His loyalty to the garrison had never wavered, no matter who gave the orders. He had never been considered a bright man, not by those who thought they knew him.  He had no wife, no children, no friends who still lived. He had one weakness and that was his sister. He had not seen her in years but he loved her dearly, any excess money he earned had always gone to her.  His sister’s boy had even been named after him, and he knew his one true loyalty was to his few blood relatives. And amazingly, his sister’s son had arrived here in Laas just days before, coming with the army of men who relieved the city of the barricades that had been placed before her gate.

The first night of their meeting Tage’s nephew, Tagart confided with his uncle news of a young Mearan Queen. A beautiful girl who had his and his mother’s full support. During the night while on duty above the gate, when no one else was around to hear, Tagart told stories filled with motivation for a new Meara and an independent land. He told how the current man who sat upon the throne, the one who claimed to be a Haldane, was not a True Haldane at all. The Royal Haldane line had died to the very last man centuries ago. The upstarts who currently claimed the throne were Drapers, not men of royal blood. “The Drapers have stolen the crown of Gwynedd. Likewise they have stolen the Mearan throne from it's rightful heir. The Drapers are not but power mad thieves,” Tagart claimed with such tenacity in the predawn hours that it caused Tage to believe him. Then Tagart talked about how truth would prevail. Meara and Gwynedd would be set free from the Draper scourge who had destroyed the old Haldane legacy with their adaptation of that long lost good name.

Tage was intrigued by the scandal of it. At first he didn’t believe, but his nephew had so many stories; he named off so many men who followed this newly discovered truth. Tage was past his prime, he was growing weary of the unceasing guard duties and being ordered around. To work the land as his sister did would be a welcome change. Tage was convinced that his nephew held the means to restore Meara to its old sovereignty. Before others joined them on the wall to watch the siege about to begin, Tage and Tagart made a pact. That pact was to change the course of the land. As the morning progressed, they stood with strong wills on opposite sides of the hot boiling pitch at the top of the barbacans. The sergeant of the garrison came to stand his post at the top of the gate as was expected.  Tage and Tagart were pleased, they awaited the signal  that was sure to come soon. Today was the day for the restoration of Meara to commence.

***

Late into the morning, shielded groups of men marched forward from the ranks below. In an orderly fashion they started their assent of the rampway, the battering ram coming up behind them like a rolling house. Archers on the walls lifted their bows and prepared for battle. On the field below the city, somewhere near the tent erected there, two blasts of a horn echoed across the point of Laas. The defenders of the city would think it was the signal to attack. In a way it was, but not the way most men of Laas imagined. Tagart nodded, accepting the call to action at last. All along the curtain wall walkways, archers were called to draw and to release. Covered by the distraction of a flight of hundreds of arrows, Tagart stepped up to the cauldron as if to examine its readiness, this placed him in arms reach of his intended mark. In a flash his dagger was in his hand and he spun on the sergeant of the gate’s guard, seemingly taking the man by surprise. To Tagart’s dismay it wasn’t by surprise. Another man-at-arms had been prepared for his move, he stopped the boy’s lethal swing before it could encounter the sergeant's back. 

The sergeant turned and smiled as the young Mearan rebel struggled in the guard’s grip. “Did you honestly think we didn’t know that mutinous Mearan scum were harbored within our own ranks? We know who you are. All your rebel friends will fail their tasks and they will soon be captured or dead!” The sergeant turned Tagart’s dagger back upon the chest of its owner. Young Tagart would not know old age, his heart would be pierced in seconds if Tage did not act.

Rage filled the big man, no one suspected his blood relation to the Mearan lad. His rage was a shock to the sergeant. “No one harms my nephew!” the man hissed between clenched teeth. In a mad act, Tage’s fist smashed the face of the guard who held his nephew and then the huge man barreled into the sergeant, breaking the arm that held his nephew’s dagger and then picking the man up physically and tossing him head first into the scalding cauldron of pitch. The sergeant never had a chance to stop the huge brute. One last guard on the gate walkway attacked Tagart, yet he was quickly beaten down. The five men were now two, Righteousness was on their side, Tage had just proved it. Their small mutiny had been quick with little sounds, nothing that drew the attention of the guards along the walls to the right or to the left or the glances of the dukes high up on the tower above. All of Laas gazed down upon the enemy beyond the walls, watching the damage their arrows caused.

Another round of arrows was called and launched.  Several hundred twangs sounded at once as several hundred arrows flew through the skies. Tagart and Tage watched from the barbacans as the arrows bounced off of the shield barricade over the advancing rebels. Very few caught the men on the outer edges. When a man fell he was quickly replaced by another. Nothing seemed to stop the slow moving battering ram.

“We will have our free Meara,’ Tagart rejoiced to his uncle. “I will find Chantal and tell him we are found out. You see to the gates; get them open when our queen’ s men approach.”

“That gate will be open, for our queen!” Tage vowed. The two rebel men left their posts on the gate wall. They split when they were half way down the stairs. No one yet suspected Tage and he easily walked into the guard room which housed the windlass for the portcullis. Here men stood tense over the murder holes in the floor. They would drop hot metal fragments and scalding sands upon the heads of the enemy who came too near the precious gates of the city.

Tage grinned, This is going to be too easy he said to himself.

***

Tagart reached the courtyard, then quickly dove back into the shadows of an archway. There in the center bailey, before the standing army of five hundred men, a companion of Tagart’s was being stabbed through the heart by the sword of the garrison captain. The captain laughed as the Mearan rebel slipped to the ground in a pool of his own blood. This wasn’t how the rebellion was supposed to go. How did they know?! How did they know?! Tagart screamed inside. He pushed into the door at his back and skirted the wall of the long corridor hiding in niches from groups of armed men who walked passed him. He had to reach Chantal. He had to warn him before it was too late.

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #686 on: August 25, 2019, 01:41:48 am »
Dukes Kelric Morgan, Rory Haldane and Brecon Ramsey stood atop the eastern Tower, their main attention was upon Valerian’s army. Their attackers numbered more than they had expected. Kelric wondered if mercenaries from Connait had secretly come up from the south. It would not be the first time the independent baron’s of the Connait chose to profit from Gywnedd’s instability. Kelric’s eye turned west and scanned the horizon, still no sign of those ships Dhugal had reported being seen last week passing the point of Ballymar. If those ships landed in the bay of Laas, they could add a significant number to the army laying siege. Kelric again wondered where they were. Surely Valerian was disappointed that his brother’s fleet had not made landfall.

Something over the ocean caught Kelric’s attention. His eyes lost focus as he searched for what it was. Power, way out there, far beyond the last rocky island and the last point of land. Power stirred the winds, white spray crested the rising swells of the sea, the distant skies seemed to darken, and then a flash of light illuminated the clouds that had blocked out the sun. Something out there was angry. The myths of Oden, though not a belief of Gwynedd’s, were not wholly discarded by those who lived upon the sea. Corwyn made much of its wealth from sea trade. Corwyn’s duke abided well what his fleet captains believed.  A flash of lightning struck the water line than another flash struck near the same place. Kelric sucked in his breath. This may not be the anger of the Sea God.  This was something far more controlled. Valerian had been strong in weather workings. Was this Valerian’s attack upon the Cassan fleet coming south to aid Laas? But it couldn’t be. Valerian had lost his powers. Kelson had assured  Kelric that this was true. Trouble was Kelric knew that Valerian had other Deryni in his employ; was he guiding them to make this weather working happen? Don’t underestimate the enemy, Kelric chided himself. That had been his father’s mistake, he swore he would not make that mistake himself.  Kelric gave a word of prayer for the fate of the Cassan fleet. With his current concerns, he could not spare the time to help the Cassan fleet.

Kelric turned his full attention back to the men on the tower standing with him. He was grateful that Rory, Brecon and Sier had his back while he had used his focus out over the seas. For there were other men standing near him, men who could have used that distraction to their advantage. Perhaps an attack on him at that moment might have been premature. As yet, there was no outward sign that a mutiny was about to occur. It was fortunate that the king had given him the names of the traitors who had intermixed with his own men. So far, those men seemed content to wait for some kind of signal.

Then a horn sounded in two shrill tones, Kelric knew the signal was called. He was prepared. Nothing happened. No one standing on the East tower seemed phased at all by the sound. Behind and below them, there was a ruckus in the bailey grounds. Men defended and squashed an attack there. Then there was a motion on the North tower where Lord Richard and Prince Bearand were taking charge of the attack occurring there. Kelric dare not break his attention on the men around him to see how the heirs of Laas and Ratharkin faired. He could sense Brecon’s tension with concern for his son but he too did not release the focus he held on the men on the tower standing beside him. Kelric sensed Baron Du Chantal’s tight shields as the man found an excuse to stand close. Yet the Duke of Corwyn could not be the one to make the first move. In King Kelson’s reign, treason had to be a physical act in order to be punishable by death. He had to wait for Baron du Chantal to act.

The sounds of the first volley of arrows drowned out all other signs of suppressed mutiny. Kelric was secure that his men had done their job well. What mattered most was the four rebels at his back. Were they going to attack knowing that the rest of their men had failed. If they didn’t attack could Brecon arrest these men on hearsay alone from Feyd’s letter? They could easily claim they were innocent and falsely accused. They could claim they knew nothing of their subordinates actions to attack the leaders of the Laas garrison.   And so it seemed more and more as the battering ram inched its way up the causeway that maybe the suspicions against Baron du Chantal and his men were falsely claimed.

Time seemed to inch by slowly. The defenders of Laas did little damage to the slowly approaching battering ram.  The rebels had shielded it well. Like a turtle encased in his shell, it inched ever closer up the causeway.

It was Brecon Ramsey who first broke the tension on the East tower. He had clearly been in Rapport with his son. “Something is wrong on the barbican. The portcullis gate is rising! We need to stop it!” Brecon blurted out, anxious to protect his home.  He bent over a Merlon to look down at the main gate. Kelric cursed at the duke’s break in concentration. This was the opportunity Chantal had been waiting for. Two men leapt on the Duke of Laas with daggers drawn. Six more men leapt at the backs of Rory and Kelric, shortening Kelric’s mental warning to his men on the levle below.  Even Baron Sieur II de Vali at Kelric’s side was targeted by the rebels. The attack started with deadly intent and escalated to a violent scuffle. The chaos was intense as guards poured up the steps. The fights ending was abrupt.  Eight rebels were pinned to the stone floor. They were disarmed and trussed up, abusively, by the dozen loyal men of Corwyn.

The fight over, Kelric made a quick assessment of  the men on the tower. Brecon had taken the worst of it with a blow to the head. With the help of his captain he was finding his feet, his eyes were filled with apology as he looked up at Kelric. The Duke of Corwyn nodded, grateful that Brecon had not taken serious harm.  Assured that the eight rebel men were confined, Kelric let out a breath slowly. “I am disappointed in you!” he addressed Baron Chantal, he was the only rebel still standing. “For a moment there, I had half-hoped that you had changed your loyalty back to your king. I had hoped that you could see the rebellion for the failure that it is! You have not heard from your grand duke in days. Why do you think that is? Didn’t you wonder? Perhaps you have gotten orders from his minions, but not from the man himself. Isn’t that right?”

Kelric paused before Chantal, feeling the strength of the man’s shields even without the effort to look for them. “You want to reach him now? Give it a try? You can’t, can you?” Kelric saw the man’s eyes unfocus. At a nod, Baron Sieur de Valli punched Chantal in the midriff, doubling the man over and breaking his concentration. “I didn’t say for you to try for Valerian’s Deryni hounds,”  Kelric ordered. He looked around the tower disgusted by what he saw. “Remove these men to the dungeons. We will deal with their treason when we have won this battle.” 

The guards forcefully moved the rebels down the tower stairs. “Leave Chantal, I want him to see the full of Valerian’s loss. He will lose this siege,” he said directly to Chantal. “After what he did to my brother, and what my brother did to him in return,  I can happily prophesize that your Queen’s suitor will not prevail. You can not reach him because the man’s powers have been castrated. He thinks no one has noticed, but without his powers, he has lost his ability to terrorize.  I intend to hold him and his siege below us, at the edge of the cliff until such time as the Crown Prince of Gwynedd comes behind him and cuts him and his Mearan traitors down.”

“He will take your precious city long before that happens,” Chantal boasted, causing the dagger held at his neck to draw blood from his struggle.

“Keep that up and you won’t learn the fullness of your lose,” Sieur de Valle snarled at the prisoner, daring the man to try anything, anything at all.

Seiur wasn’t the only one prepared for more of Chantal’s treachery. Rory wasn’t Deryni but he held his sword at the ready. And Brecon, now back on his feet, employed his Deryni powers to block out that which Chantal might mentally attempt. In the next instant Duke Kelric had a sensation that he would regret his prideful boost. Then it happened. A great crack of metal slammed against the gates of Laas

Kelric sprinted to the tower merlons, he looked down at the gates and sew two dead guards  “Khadasha!” the battering ram was under the gate tower.  Once again the ram was deployed to bash the gates causing a horrendous bang.  Brecon shouted orders at his captain to get that portcullis down. The captain ran three steps down the steps,  only to stop suddenly. He fell to his knees, followed by a slow tumble head long down the stairs.

((17:46 <Laurna> encounter: Tagart has mastery at throwing daggers. He has five in all. He is standing on the tower stair where no one has seen him. His targets are the captain of the guard whom he will take at close quarters without a roll, then Kelric, Rory, Brecon and Baron Sieur II de Vali. Shall we roll.
17:47 <Laurna> !roll 3d6  17:47 <•derynibot> 3, 2, 6 == 11 Kelric hit
17:47 <Laurna> !roll 3d6  17:47 <•derynibot> 5, 2, 2 == 9   Rory hit
17:47 <Laurna> !roll 3d6  17:47 <•derynibot> 4, 2, 1 == 7   Brecon missed
17:47 <Laurna> !roll 3d6  17:47 <•derynibot> 4, 4, 3 == 11  Baron Sieur missed
17:47 <Laurna> Two of four are a hit. ))

Daggers flew through the air far faster than the first two targets could dodge. The duke of Corwyn’s shoulder burned in intense pain as the force of the projectile slammed into him and knocked him back into the crenelated stone wall. His fingers scratched at the stone to keep himself from falling passed the opening. The Duke of Ratharkin fell to his knees beside him, a horrified look of concern for Kelric as Rory grabbed Kelric's tunic and forced him down to the tower floor beside where he knelt.  Rory’s hand brushed the throwing dagger protruded from the braces over his own shoulder and cringed. Brecon and Sieur had an instant more warning. They dodged from the double edged blades which seemed to skimmed passed their heads.

This distraction was all Chantal needed to Mind Blast the man who held him tight.

***

The youngest boy from the Chantal estate, the one Chantal had brought along only because the boy’s mother had begged it of him, grabbed the baron’s hand and dragged him down the tower stairs. At the body of the fallen captain, Chantal gathered his wits and grabbed the captain’s sword arming himself. They descended the rest of the steps, hearing the footsteps of those pursuing them, but the chaos Tagart had left behind had slowed the response of those above, giving them a good lead. At the empty halls of the main keep Tagart would turn right, but Chantal pulled the boy left instead. “To the chapel,” he told the boy. “We will escape through there.”

Tagart had no idea what his liege lord meant to do. He dreaded leaving his uncle behind and twice he thought to break free of the Baron and to find the large man. But Chantal’s hand was on his wrist now and was propelling him along, even forcing him in front of the baron’s body whenever they turned a corner. At last they stood in the small chapel behind the altar stone. “This will all be over in a second,” Chantal  explained. Then his hand was on Tagart’s head and in a wave to nausea and blackness, they were both suddenly not in the chapel anymore.

***
((20:06 <Laurna> Rory Save test 20:07 <Laurna> !roll 2d6 20:07 <•derynibot> 1, 5 == 6 20:07 <Laurna> good
20:07 <Laurna> Kelric Save test 20:07 <Laurna> !roll 2d6 20:07 <•derynibot> 1, 3 == 4 20:07 <Laurna> not so good))

Prince Rory pulled the offending dagger out from his right shoulder armature. After his injury days before, his duchess had insisted that he wear an extra covering of armor over the newly healed shoulder. He had argued with her, saying it would hinder his movement if it came to hand-to-hand fighting.  She had argued that Prince Nigel, the man who had been not just his father but his mentor throughout his youth, would have not allowed such a lame excuse. Now, he was grateful she had shamed him into wearing it. If only Kelric had been given that same advice. For indeed the thrown dagger had done no harm to him, but the one protruding from the Duke of Corwyn’s shoulder was seen to have drawn blood, a good deal of blood. 

“Condemned those Mearan’s to eternal perdition!” Rory cursed. “Kelric, wake up! I need you to heal yourself when I pull forth this dagger.”

The Duke of Cowyn’s eyes fluttered open, he turned to move but he fell back out of breath. He managed a weak smile. “Here I had sworn I would not make the same mistakes as my father. Seems I underestimated our enemy, just as he did.”

Rory yelled behind him, “Get me that apprentice Healer!” Then he turned back to his friend. “Aye, we all did. Don’t compare this to the Torenthi war. Think back on a day before you were born. The day our king was crowned. I was there. I saw your father wounded by a dagger, then I saw him standing protective next to our king as the archbishop placed the crown upon his head. You are like your father, be like him, do what he did in that moment of crisis.”

“He had help from cousin Duncan,” Kelric managed to say.

“And so will you. Use my energy until the man can arrive.” Rory placed one hand over his friend’s forehead and with the other he grasped Kelric's hand, which he then placed on the shoulder next to the offending dagger. They just needed more time.

The siege was at its full height.  The pounding on the gates was intense. Soon the gates would fail.

“Someone, get that Healer up here!”

« Last Edit: August 25, 2019, 03:11:48 am by Laurna »

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #687 on: August 25, 2019, 06:35:07 am »
It was mid afternoon and Lord Jaxom was bored. He disliked this guard duty which he felt was beneath him and certainly did not contribute anything to advancing him in the graces of Earl Brendan. He and Lord Giles were assigned again to the portal room to watch for any arrivals. He did not expect any. Nothing had happened as yet, and he considered it unlikely that anything was going to happen so far from the site of the action around Laas.  He wanted more than anything to rejoin Prince Javan’s army as it marched to the relief of Laas. He shifted to find a slightly more comfortable position on the stool he was occupying.. Giles was standing on the other side of the room, across  the portal stone from Jaxom, leaning against the wall. Both men wore swords but neither had his weapon drawn. Jaxom sighed and closed his eyes.

Jaxom was dreaming of meeting the enemy and overcoming rebel Mearans with his superior swordsmanship when he heard an exclamation from the direction of the portal. “Who the devil are you and what are you doing at my manor. You are not one of my garrison!” Jaxom opened his eyes to see two men standing on the portal stone. He had not seen either of them before. Giles had straightened up and drawn his sword, although he was not yet threatening the men with it.

“I was assigned to guard this portal.” Giles answered

“By whom? Where is my seneschal?  I need to know who you are and who placed you here!” The man on the portal looked both angry and dangerous. He was above middle height, of stocky build with dark hair and eyes. Although he was dressed as a nobleman, he appeared disheveled and his tunic had a rent in it as from a sword thrust. He showed no sign of injury but appeared to have been in a fight. He held his sword in a threatening manner.

The other man on the portal had made no move since their arrival. He was tall and slim with a shock of curly brown hair. Giles realized that he was barely more than a boy, perhaps 15 or 16 years old. He appeared stunned at finding himself standing on a portal facing a man with a drawn sword.

As Giles stared at the older man, he realised that he matched the description given them of the Baron du Chantal, a rebel and traitor. “In the name of the king, drop your sword and step off that portal!” Giles demanded. Jaxom edged forward toward the portal. The men on the stone did not see him as he was behind them, and they were focused on Giles. He drew near to those men, prepared to help .

Chantal realised instantly that his manor must have been taken and was now controlled by the king’s men.The rebel hesitated briefly. Jaxom seized the younger man, wrapping his arms around his body and dragging him from the portal. The older rebel then lunged forward, aiming his sword at Giles’ heart. Giles quickly sidestepped and thrust his own sword toward the rebel’s side. Due to his momentum, it was a glancing blow which drew blood but did not penetrate deeply as intended. Quickly the rebel spun around and aimed a second thrust at Giles’ throat. Giles quickly parried the thrust and tried to trap his opponent’s sword with his own. For a moment, they stood toe to toe, each straining to overcome the other. Suddenly Giles sprang back, disengaging and causing the rebel to lose his balance and stumble forward. He quickly regained his balance, and the two men circled each other like a pair of angry cats each seeking a weakness in the other.

Abruptly the rebel spun and shoved Jaxom, causing him to fall. At the same moment he seized the boy and yanked him to his feet. He wrapped one arm around the boy’s body and held his sword to his throat, using him as a shield. “Back off unless you wish to be held responsible for this boy’s death!”

Giles hesitated, still holding his sword in a position to strike or parry but he made no move. Jaxom climbed to his feet drawing his sword but unable to get behind the baron who kept shifting cautiously keeping the boy’s body between the guards and himself. He was edging toward the door. If he could break out of this room and reach the cellar, they could  escape by the secret entrance.  There were others nearby who would shelter him.

Suddenly the boy went limp, dragging Chantal almost to the floor with him. The two guards leapt forward. Jaxom grabbed the rebel’s sword arm, forcing it upward and struggling to twist the sword away from him. In this struggle, Jaxom dropped his own sword as he tried to seize the rebel’s weapon. Giles pulled the boy away from the struggling men, pushing him onto a corner. “Stay there and don’t move!” he commanded.

The rebel abruptly twisted out of Jaxom’s grip and aimed a downward stroke at Jaxom’s neck. Giles thrust his sword into the path of the rebel’s strike and foiled it. He tripped the baron, who fell, and then stepped on his wrist, pinning it to the floor. Jaxom grabbed the sword that had fallen from the baron’s suddenly numb fingers.

The boy had not moved from the corner where Giles had shoved him. He stood there, shaking and breathing hard.

The door burst open and two of Earl Brendan’s men rushed into the room with drawn swords, having heard the noise of the fight. “What’s going on here?” one of the men demanded.

Jaxom answered. “These two men came through the portal. When told to drop the sword he was holding and step off the portal, the older man attacked Sir Giles. We fought and he has now been subdued. The boy came through with the baron but was not armed. We need to notify Earl Brendan of what has occurred. That man fits the description of Baron du Chantal, the rebel we have been seeking. They will have come from Laas. The Earl will be anxious to question them.”   

The earl’s men bound the two prisoners’ hands behind them and lifted the baron roughly to his feet. They started toward the door followed by Giles and Jaxom. “Wait.” Jaxom turned to Giles. “Someone will have to remain on guard here in case others try to escape using the portal. And one of us will have to accompany the prisoners to the earl to tell him what has happened here. Sir Giles, will you remain here by the portal until I can reach the earl and ask that someone be sent to relieve you? One of these men will remain with you. “

“Aye.” Giles agreed seating himself on the stool Jaxom had occupied earlier. “I do ask that you send relief as soon as you can”. Jaxom gestured to one of the guards to remain in the portal room, then left the room with the other guard and the two prisoners.

They hustled the two prisoners to the withdrawing room where the Earl of Marley sat looking at some maps and other papers. He looked up as Jaxom and the guard pushed their prisoners into the room.  “Who are these men?” he asked.

Jaxom and the guard bowed to the earl. As he spoke he forced the prisoners to their knees.
“These two men came through the portal. One of them fits the description of Baron du Chantal, the rebel who had been described to us. When ordered to drop his sword and step off the portal, he attacked Sir Giles.” Jaxom briefly described the fight which had led to disarming and capturing the rebel. “The baron was wounded in the fight and needs to have his injury tended.”

“What of the other prisoner?” Brendan studied the boy who appeared to be frightened but unharmed.

Jaxom replied. “He came through the portal with the baron but was unarmed and seemed to be confused. The man tried to use him as a shield to get out of the portal room and escape the manor, but the boy suddenly went limp, causing the baron to stumble and nearly fall, giving us a chance to overcome him.”

“ Where did you come from and what was your purpose in using the portal?” Brendan studied the two intently.

“We were escaping from the battle at Laas…” the boy began but the baron shouted at him.
“Be silent! Answer none of their questions.” The boy fell silent.

“Put them in separate cells in the dungeons. We’ll give them a little time to consider their options. They can answer my questions here or they can be escorted to Rhemuth to answer the king’s questions. I am sure His Majesty will be quite anxious to confront the traitor who swore fealty to him then violated his oath.” Brendan looked grim as he addressed the baron. “You know the penalty for treason.  Mercy will not be easily come by. Take them away.”  The guards led the two prisoners away. Jaxom remained behind.

Brendan indicated that Jaxom should be seated in a chair. “ Tell me more of what happened in the portal room. You have done well in capturing the two rebels. Is Sir Giles unharmed?”

“Yes, my lord.” Jaxom replied.” He remained in the portal room with another of your men to secure it should any others arrive. He has asked to be relieved as soon as it is practicable.”

Brendan sent his squire to summon one of his lieutenants to assign new guards to the portal. Then he turned his attention to Jaxom, seeking to obtain more details about what had transpired when the rebels appeared on the portal.

Jaxom began to relate the happenings, as usual focusing on himself and his contributions to the outcome of the fight. Then he looked up and met the earl’s eyes as he listened attentively. And Jaxom remembered what Brendan had said to him in Droghera.  /”a good commander always gives credit where credit is due to those who have helped him”/  Boasting would surely not advance him in the earl’s good graces. He hesitated, then continued his report. “It was Sir Giles who first engaged the rebel. He was the more alert when they appeared. While he fought the baron, I secured the boy. But Chantal was able to cause me to fall and seize the boy to use as a shield. It was the boy’s action in going limp that threw him off balance and allowed me to grab his sword and attempt to wrestle it away from him. He managed to get his sword free of my grasp and attempted to strike at my throat. Giles blocked the blow, and between us we secured both rebels just as two more of your men rushed into the room. I am not sure whether the boy truly fainted or used that ploy to try to escape. But it did allow us to regain an advantage in the fight.”

Brendan was silent for a moment, then spoke. “You have both done well. Giles is being relieved as we speak, and you are both excused from further duty tonight. Get some food and rest as you may. Be prepared to be called upon again. If Laas is seeing action, then we may have others coming through that Portal. Meanwhile I will speak with Giles.  I am pleased with what you have done, and I will  be informing his Majesty of the capture of these rebels,

Jaxom bowed deeply to the earl and left the room. Brendan was thoughtful as he watched the young lord go. He was certain that Jaxom’s report had not been presented as originally intended. He had noted the young lord’s hesitation. He had altered it and had given well deserved credit to Sir Giles who, whether Jaxom realized it or not, had probably saved his life.  But he had not tried to hog the credit and had been more honest in his account of the fight than Brendan would have expected. Maybe there was hope for him yet.
 

« Last Edit: August 25, 2019, 06:47:25 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 Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #688 on: August 25, 2019, 01:02:18 pm »
The Earl of Kierney, Sir Duncan Michael McLain, surveyed the men in the courtyard of Laas Castle.  They had done everything they could think of to prepare for Grand Duke Valerian’s onslaught when it came.  Baron Jass strolled among the men, seeming one of their number while at the same time readily acknowledged as one of their commanders. There was a note of tension among the men, similar to a bow string drawn taunt and waiting for release.

The two sharp blasts from a horn outside the gates startled them all, but men gripped sword hilts and looked to the walls for confirmation the assault had begun.  It was at that moment Jass realized there were no men on the barbican to be seen.

“What treachery is this?” he called to Duncan Michael. 

Duncan Michael was about to reply when he felt a faint tremor under his feet.  ”The portcullis is being raised!”  Duncan Michael recognized his cousin’s mind in his own, mixed with horror and pain.  Kelric was injured!  ”You must stop this!”

Duncan Michael wasted no time with questions.  “Jass, you two, with me!”  Duncan Michael raced toward the castle walls and once he reached them, mounted the steps to the guardroom two at a time.

Jass was right at his heels, his sword drawn.  Two men-at arms followed. They burst into the guardroom to find a huge man with the portcullis winch in his hand, drawn up to the point it could be latched secure to hold the portcullis open.

“Lower the gate!” Duncan Michael commanded.  “Do you know what treason you do?”

Tage stopped winding the winch.  “This will be a new day for Meara and our queen!”  he shouted.

“You fool”  Jass said.  “You will die where you stand!”

“But Meara will be free!” Tage roared back. 

Jass leveled his sword at the big man, who stood firm with the winch lever in his hand, the chain still not secured. 

Duncan Michael glanced out the guardroom window as the battering ram landed another solid blow against the gates of Laas.  “Wait a moment,” he said.

“What?  Are you daft?” Jass asked aghast.

“Let the last of the men enter through; then we’ll lower the portcullis and trap all these rebels within!” Duncan Michael replied.  “On my signal,”  he watched as the last of the ram cleared the portcullis.  “NOW!”

“Lower the portcullis!” Jass commanded. 

“I will not!” Tage said with a stubborn shake of his head while reaching out to lock the chain into place.

Jass drove his sword through Tage’s chest, straight into his heart.  Tage shuddered but did not drop his arm holding the winch lever.  The guard beside Jass sliced deep with his sword into Tage’s shoulder, and Tage’s arm went numb.  His hand released the lever, and the portcullis fell into place with a resounding crash.  Tage fell backwards against the guardroom wall.

“Took out three rebels when it hit,”  Duncan Michael said.   The battering ram and the men controlling it were now trapped between the portcullis and the castle gate.

“The cauldrons!”  Jass said urgently. 

Duncan Michael nodded.  “You,” he said to the man who had sliced Tage’s shoulder.  “Man the kill holes.  Dump all we’ve got through them.”  He waved an arm toward Jass and the other remaining man.  “To the cauldrons!”

The three men ran up the remaining stairs to the cauldrons that bubbled above the machicolations.  They needed another man to tip the heavy cauldrons, but three would have to do.

Duncan Michael ran toward the cauldron nearest him, followed by the remaining man-at-arms.  Together they released the chain and lifted the lever below the simmering cauldron.  The melted pitched poured onto the rebels below.

Jass struggled with the second cauldron.  Damn it was heavy!  The man-at-arms hurried to his side, and even with his added strength, they were barely able to force the lever to turn the cauldron and pour the pitch down the hole.

They did not expect the dark mass that also flowed from the cauldron.  For a moment it seemed to stick in the machicolation, but the pitch behind it forced it through.  As it plummeted toward the rebels below, it seemed to spread out, until Jass recognized legs, coated in pitch, streaming behind it.

“Sweet Jesu!” Jass muttered as he realized it was a man coated in pitch.

Duncan Michael crossed himself as the mass took out two more rebels when it struck the ground.  “God rest his soul.”

In the space between the portcullis and the gate, men were screaming as the scalding pitch burnt through clothing, leather and skin.  Some of the rebels dove beneath the ram and it’s protective hides, but there was no escape.  The pitch oozed beneath the ram, and additional burning sand and metal came down through the kill holes.  Those that tried to run had nowhere to go, and the archers picked them off one by one.

As Duncan Michael and Jass watched the scene below them they heard a crash, and the walls trembled.  Grand Duke Valerian had pulled his trebuchet into position and the first projectile had struck the castle wall.

***

Grand Duke Valerian cursed loudly in Torenthi.  His battering ram was now trapped between the portcullis and the castle gates and was stopped dead.  He had launched the assault with his trebuchet, but the castle was too far above them for the slings to clear the barbicons with their deadly payloads and terrorize the people within.  Given time, they might eventually bring down the walls with a constant assault, but ….

“Your Grace!”  The rider charged into the encampment and threw himself off of his horse to fall on his knees before Valerian.  “Prince Javan and the army of Gwynedd are less than two hours away!”

Valerian had run out of time.

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

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Offline revanne

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #689 on: August 26, 2019, 03:42:31 pm »
Up in the crows' nest of the hindermost of the Tolan fleet the watchman squinted into the rising sun as the ships came into view. He could not make out the device on the pennant of the flagship but he did not need to. These could only be the Cassani ships he had been bidden to watch for. His belly contracted and he hardly drew breath until the ships ahead of him had rounded the headland and no shout had come. Good, it seemed that he was the one with the news that Captain Nikloi would need to hear, would maybe reward richly.

Except that he was not going to give it. After the nightmare of Loch Mhor, from which somehow he had escaped unscathed, he had been roughly pushed aboard this undamaged vessel and orders given to set sail, leaving the dying and injured behind. Men he had served with, men whom he had eaten with, men whose families he knew. If he went to the bottom of the sea so be it; better to fall into the hands of God, than, living, be at the mercy of such masters. Who was it the men of Gwynedd prayed to? Somewhere from the dregs of memory he dredged up a name Blessed Saint Camber, come to the aid of your people. May they come upon us unawares again in the dark
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

 


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