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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 122537 times)

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Offline DerynifanK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline Laurna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offline DerynifanK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the party continued on its way, Wash considered Columcil's words and promised himself that at their next stop, he would take out the journal and begin reading it.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2019, 03:57:07 pm by DerynifanK »
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline Laurna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Offline Jerusha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who comes here?” the man asked. 

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

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

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

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

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

“The third man?” the old man asked.

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

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

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

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

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

“We need not inconvenience him,” Darcy said.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Should we leave now?” Aliset asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We should keep watch,” Darcy said.

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Should we leave now?” Aliset asked.

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

Columcil shook his grizzled head. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

 -- Old English Litany

Offline revanne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yer Grace,

Her Grace,

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

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

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

And Richard is happy with such use of magic ?

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

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

Thank you, yer Grace.

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





















« Last Edit: September 13, 2019, 06:39:24 am by revanne »
Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered;
    let those who hate him flee before him.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
    as wax melts before the fire,
    let the wicked perish before God.
(Psalm 68 vv1-2)

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #696 on: September 19, 2019, 07:24:05 am »
The little party had maintained a fast pace, alternating between a canter and a fast walk as they strove to put more distance between themselves and Jeffers’ manor. It was several hours past sunrise and the traffic on the road was steadily increasing when Darcy slowed the pace and began to scan the sides of the road, obviously looking for a place to rest. Within a short distance he signalled a turn to the left, leaving the road and passing between two large trees. He entered a copse with several more large trees and a small stream running past it.

He turned in his saddle and addressed the others. “We need to rest and water the horses and eat something ourselves. We have been on the road since first light and all of us, beasts and riders, need food and water. We have had nothing to eat or drink since last evening, and that was certainly not very fortifying.”

The party dismounted and began to lead their mounts to the stream to water them. Darcy caught Aliset as she dismounted to steady her. He noticed that she looked pale and a little shaky. “Are you feeling unwell?” he asked solicitously. “You need to rest. In my haste to get as far away as possible from Jeffers, I have perhaps pushed us a bit too hard. You rest here and I will take care of the horses.”

“I will be fine once I have some water and food.” she insisted.  She found an area of soft grass to sit on with a sturdy tree trunk to lean against and seated herself with a sigh.

Darcy took both horses to the stream to allow them to drink and returned quickly with his waterskin filled with fresh, cold water. He gave it to Aliset who drank thirstily. He pulled the remainder of the bread and a piece of fruit from her saddlebag and offered it to her. “Take it slowly, my love. If you eat too fast, it may make you ill.” He sat beside his wife and studied her anxiously.

Aliset took a few bites of the bread, then smiled at him. “Don’t worry about me, I am feeling better already.”

The others were also watering and tethering their horses then seating themselves to eat the food that remained in their saddlebags. This was a welcome respite from the stress of the encounter with Jeffers and their fortunate escape from his manor.

Father Columcil was seated nearby and Fiona joined him. She noticed that Washburn again sat some little distance away from the rest of the party.  “Why does Sir Wshburn separate himself from the rest of us? Is there something worrying him, aside from our safety?”

“Aye,” the priest replied. “He’s tryin’ tae deal wi’ whit was done tae him whilst he was held captive by th’ rebels. Th’ effects oan his min’ an’ memories is whit bothers heem most.”

Fiona looked at the priest with sympathy and concern in her eyes. “Is there nothing we can do to help him?”
 Columcil smiled at her. “We  aw want tae hep him. Th’ best thin’ we can dae is support heem an’ help heem recognise whit is true an’ real an’ whit is nae.”

“What is that book he carries in his tunic? Whenever we stop he pulls it out and reads from it. Does it contain something that will help him restore his true memories?”

Columcil was silent for a few minutes. “Tis a joornal ‘at contains knowledge he needs. Ah think it wuid be best tae let him talk tae ye himself aboot it. He has tae learn tae troost again and keepin’ his confidences will hep.”

Fiona nodded thoughtfully as she finished eating her bread. “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me, Father. Excuse me, now.. I think i will go keep company with him for a bit before we continue our journey..” 

Fiona rose from her seat beside the priest and walked over to where the knight was seated, He had finished his food and was again reading from the journal he carried with him. “May I join you?” she asked softly. “I would like to talk with you.” Wash stood, bowed and assisted
Fiona to a seat in the grass next to him. “Are you concerned about further danger from Lord Jeffers?” she asked, “ Is that why you sit at a distance from the rest of us, so you can keep watch? He will have seen that our horses are gone and know, or at least suspect that we did not perish in the fire. Do you think he might have us followed to prevent us from telling the anyone about his attempt at murder?”

Wash smiled reassuringly. ”No, I do not think that Jeffers has the resources to have us followed. There did not seem to be any other inhabitants at the manor, nor did it appear to be a prosperous estate. The most he could do would be to send for the authority from the nearest town and accuse us of burning down his shed or threatening him. But he is both insane and cunning, and I do not think he will wish to call attention to himself or any other suspicious happenings at his manor. After all, there is the disappearance of the granddaughter’s fiance. I suspect the other horse in the stable was his, and I wonder if he encountered a similar attack and was not as fortunate as we.”

“I am worried that some other unfortunate soul might fall into his clutches. Was there nothing else we could do to stop him?”  Fiona’s concern could be seen in her face,

Wash replied ruefully, “Unfortunately, I am afraid that the warning Darcy left at the entrance to the manor is the most we can do. Lord Jeffers is known in that shire and, although they consider him eccentric, there was no indication that he is considered dangerous. We are not known here and we would probably not be believed if we did try to tell our story.  It would delay our journey and certainly call unwelcome attention to us.”

Fiona nodded as she considered what he had said. She sighed. “I am sure you are right”.

Wash continued. “I suspect they rarely get visitors. The large number of travelers on the road now is most unusual and brought about by the funeral of Bishop Arilan. In normal times, the town had more than adequate lodging for travelers, and I think the likelihood of anyone else being sent there is very small. I hope they will see the warning we left and avoid it.”

Fiona was silent for several minutes then spoke. “I don’t wish to intrude, but I have noticed the book that you take out and read whenever we stop. When we talked at the manor, you told me of some of the problems you are struggling to overcome, including powerful enemies who are trying to find you. Does that journal perhaps contain wisdom and guidance that will help you overcome some of your difficulties? As I told Father Columcil, I wish I could help you.”

Wash looked down at the young lass and smiled. “Just knowing there are those who believe in me is a great help. I will tell you a little of what happened while I was held prisoner. It will help you understand the difficulties I face. You have heard something of what occurred, but even I do not completely understand what was done to me. Using both drugs and his powers, my captor twisted my mind, robbed me of memories, and distorted those that remained. I cannot be sure what is real and true and what is not. I cannot act on what I believe because it may be false.”

Wash stared sadly into the distance. “The book I read is my father’s journal, kept by him over many years. My father was killed in battle when I was five so I had few real memories of him, but even those have vanished. I feel that all I know of him came from the memories of others. The good Father reminded me that I had another source of knowledge about him and what kind of man he was. I had his journal, written in his own words, to help me know him better. I have disturbing memories of my family, especially my brothers, disapproving of me and treating me badly. But I am beginning to doubt the truth of those memories as Father Columcil has told me that they do not match what he knew about our family. My hope is that I will come to know my father and what he felt for his youngest son, the spare.”

Fiona reached over and touched his hand gently. “Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I understand something of what you are feeling, As I told you, I also lost my father in battle when I was five. My memories of him are few and hazy. You are fortunate to have his journal. I have no such resource to tell me about my father. My mother died when I was eight and was ill for some time before that, so she spoke little about him. I wish I could learn more.”

“Perhaps, your uncle can help, tell you more about him.” Wash suggested.

Fiona looked doubtful. “He was my father’s friend but he has never told me much about him. I hope there will be a time when he will tell me more.”

“Have you ever thought of returning to your home, your birthplace? Didn’t you say it was a Barony in Claiborne?  If your father's steward is an honest fellow- I am sure that Lord Iain would have made certain of that as he is the one to watch over your inheritance- then perhaps you could learn some of what you want to know by visiting your homeland and talking to your people? Surely there will be those who remember him?”

“I’m not sure what  Uncle Mac or Iain would think of such an idea.  I am afraid they still think of me as a child," Fiona said, sounding uncertain of such an idea.

"My lady, you are most certainly no child. I believe you have shown yourself to be quite determined and able to make and carry out plans for yourself ." Wash dared to look fully at the pretty young woman seated beside him.

 Then, embarrassed, he disentangled his gaze and looked up into the trees. "I am just thinking, well, rather hoping that the walls of home will speak out in volumes of the past to me. Perhaps your home will do the same?"

“Is this part of this pull driving you to travel east, the need to recover your past, those missing memories?”  Fiona asked. “But why Lendour? I didn’t think Lendour was your family seat?”

Wash looked thoughtful. “I don’t know. Cynfyn Castle and the Lendours are part of my family’s lands. I know I spent much time there, acting as regent for my nephew, but I remember little of what occurred. I do feel a nearly irresistible pull to return there. Perhaps there will be those who can help me better understand myself and my relationships with my family, especially my brothers.”

Fiona gazed at him with her big blue eyes, seeing for the first ttime more than just the warrior in the man seated beside her. The Duke of Corwyn had trusted him to act as his son’s regent. She realized that Sir Washburn could not see how much trust the duke must have had in his younger brother to place him in a position of such responsibility over his son’s inheritance. She had no idea of how to enlighten him without triggering those false memories.  Perhaps she might speak again to Father Columcil and ask his advice.

 Meanwhile,Fiona spoke sincerely. “I hope you will find what you seek when you reach your goal. I will think about your idea of visiting my first home.  It has been my dream for a long time to attend the schola. I did ask my uncle but he was not willing to grant permission without speaking to Iain, and there has been no opportunity to do that. I asked to travel with your party to Valoret hoping that once there, I could find a way to get to Rhemuth and the schola. I am hoping that Iain will be present, and I will have a chance to speak with him.  Perhaps we will meet there as students, you of healing and myself of how to best use my powers.I would like that.”

“I also.” Wash agreed.

Just then Lord Darcy called on the party to pack up, mount and get ready to ride. They needed to continue their journey quickly in order to reach Arx Fidei in time for Bishop Arilans services.  Wash rose to his feet and reached his hand down to assist Fiona to her feet. As they walked toward their horses, each reflected that sharing their similar pasts had drawn them together and given them a feeling of shared concern and friendship. 
"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 #697 on: September 23, 2019, 10:30:21 am »
Captain Nikloi was not at first aware of the wind strengthening as the morning wore into afternoon. He had other things on his mind. He could not bring himself to blame the lookout for the resentment which had led him to keep vital information to himself, but he did not like being taken for a fool. Surely the man must have realised that he would have Deryni spies planted on each of the boats, spies with eyes in their heads and orders to use them.

His first thought had been simply to allow events to take their course. He had been careful to ensure that the least loyal amongst his crew were in the hindmost boats. Even before they were spotted he had known that the cursed Cassani would be following close behind, and, once the witch wind had failed, almost sure to catch them up. He thought it likely that the last half dozen or so boats might be tempted to try to surrender; well good riddance to them and in the resulting confusion at least some of the rest of them might still make it to Laas. The fate of the spies on the surrendered boats was likely to be unpleasant, but then so was his when he came into the hands of the Grand Duke. Let each man look to his own survival, and what might be even more important, to the salvation of his soul as his body paid the price of failure.

But where were the enemy? Where the hell were they? Unless they had chosen to remain holed up in the sheltered inlet leading out into the Bay of Kilarden? But why should they do that? Unable to share his worries with anyone else - for to do so would be to admit that he got his information not from his seamen but from his Deryni spies - Nikloi contented himself with tearing the head off anyone who was stupid enough to speak to him and biting his fingernails to the quick as the fleet sailed further on west. No-one thought it a good idea to spell it out to him that as the day wore on the last five boats were barely making any progress at all.

At last he became aware that the wind was strengthening, blowing in gusts from behind them and speeding their course along. Maybe there was some mercy after all? Whatever the cause, the sooner they were out of these seas the better. God! What a country! Why anyone should want to invade it was beyond him. Glancing landward to confirm his contempt Nikloi was jerked out of the stupor into which he had lapsed and he yelled out to the steersman,

"Pull her head round you fool! Cannot you see those whitecaps, there are hidden rocks under there!"

But now there was no mistaking the strength of the wind as it veered round to tear down from the north. The skies turned an inky black making night of the summer afternoon and lightening tore the world asunder. The ship's timbers screamed as she was lifted high on a breaker, flung against the rocks then dragged savagely back by the undertow to be impaled again.

As his soul was flung from his body Nikloi's last prayer was that this savage baptism might be payment enough for his sins.

Thanks to DerynifanK for the dice roll 2+3+5 (Dhugal and Mirjana working together for a 3d6 roll). Taking the two highest numbers which gave me 8, I checked that against the Beaufort scale of wind speed which gave me a nice gale. My own dice role 3+2 gave me 5  Tolani boats to survive the storm Technically no dice rolls were needed as these are NPCs but it's more of a challenge, and more fun, writing with them









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 #698 on: September 27, 2019, 04:24:28 am »
((Kelric finding his focus to heal
10:59 <Laurna> !roll 1d6
10:59 <•derynibot> 4 == 4 ))

Kelric felt the rain fall against his forehead. He blamed the pattering of the cold drops on his face for his inability to find his focus. He blamed the shouts of the men around him, the noise of battle below the tower, and the barrage of boulders slamming against the curtain walls of Laas for his inability to find his focus. He blamed everything but that which he knew was the real cause; that cursed dagger whose point was deep in flesh lying against his collarbone. He had enough Healer’s energy to stanch the flow of blood through the severed artery that the steel of the blade lay against. But now his arm had gone numb; a cold extremity which could no longer feel the drops of rain upon his upturned palm. He had told Rory not to pull out the dagger, not until help arrived, but now he questioned even his own knowledge.  Rory was a steadfast well of energy that Kelric pulled upon to remain conscious, yet he could not find the deep focus that he needed to take Healing into his own hands. If he didn’t find his focus soon, he worried he might pass out, and then he would be at the mercy of men who knew little of how Healing worked.

“Your Grace, can you hear me?” asked the youth who was barely grown. He knelt at the Duke of Corwyn’s side relieved to find the wounded man still alive. “Uncle, it’s Jayce, I’m here to help you. I know I've only started my training at the schola this year, but I assure you, my mother taught me well after she discovered that I had inherited her gift.” The boy leaned in close to assess the wound, yet Kelric only saw the round child-like face surrounded by a mass of auburn curls which identified this boy as Healer Jana de Tehryn’s son. Unlike Jana’s older sons, who took after Brendan with his red hair and blue eyes, this youngest Coris had the emerald eyes of his mother; intelligent eyes which shown both concern and determination to see his uncle Healed.  The trouble was Kelric could not help but think of Jayce as he thought of his own eldest son.  Cousins Jayce and Kenric were good friends. They studied together at the schola. Yet unlike Kenric who had reached the age of manhood, Jayce was just thirteen. In Kelric’s eyes, Jayce was still just a boy. 

“You’re so young.” Kelric managed to stammer.

“You didn’t think me so young two days ago when I helped you heal Their Graces Rory and Brecon.” nephew Jayce Coris said with a smile. “We touched minds then, as healers do, remember? If you allow me, I will do what I can to help you.”

Two days back, Kelric had been surprised to see this lean lanky apprentice Healer whom Kelson had chosen to send to Laas to assist here. After he had gotten over his concern for his  brother’s son being here, Kelric remembered the mature touch of the healer’s portion of his nephew’s mind, he just didn’t remember the boy’s face being so youthful. Kelric thought back on the friendship between Jayce’s mother, Lady Jana, and Kelric’s sister, Lady Briony, when he and the two ladies had been the first young healers to study at the Schola together some twenty years before. Those two young ladies had been a force to reckon with in their time. And pretty young Jana had set her eyes upon the Earl of Marley even in those early days when Brendan was still trying to win himself a place at court. She had never forgotten his protective escort for her the night she had nearly been abducted. In time their affinity for one another grew. They were married in her father’s home in those years before the old baron had grown ill.  Jana would say that it was she who stole Brendan’s heart. Of course if you listened to Brendan, he would say that it was he who had won his beloved lady against all the competitors who were vying for Lady Jana’s favor. What mattered was that the two had loved each other in secret well before they gained their parents permission to see one another. The memory of his papa drilling his older brother over his choice of ladies and then demanding that Brendan keep his honor firm toward the younger lady who was in need of finishing her Healer’s training before they could wed, warmed Kelric to accept the aid of his nephew who was a strong combination of Brendan’s honor and Jana’s determination and ability.  Even if not fully trained, Kelric realized he could direct the youth’s potential to assist him in what needed to be done.

Yet, Jayce hesitated. Protocol required that the apprentice healer wait upon the acknowledgement of the duke of the realm before he could make first contact. 

Kelric gave that permission and let down his shields. Quickly he felt the maturity in the mind that helped him brush aside the pain. At last Kelric could balance his focus and find his own Healing trance. Taking the lead, once permission had been granted, Jayce placed one hand over his uncle’s forehead and one hand next to Rory’s hand on the dagger.  It was Rory’s hand that finally withdrew the dagger from the Duke of Corwyn’s shoulder. Kelric felt no pain. If not for the rush of warmth soaking his tunic, he would have forgotten how deep the wound had been. In a small panic, Kelric pushed too quickly to find his own Healing, thusly causing the boy to falter in his first attempt to heal the wound.

((12:21 <Laurna> Apprentice Healing is Disadvantage
12:21 <Laurna> !roll 1d6
12:21 <•derynibot> 3 == 3))

“My lord, please, let us work together,” Jayce pleaded. Taught well by his teachers and his mother, Jayce was quick to regain his center and his calm. Kelric mused at the wellspring of energy that poured out from the boy and the growing halo of gold that surrounding the boy’s head shining against the ever darkening black clouds in the skies above.  Kelric let his green aura shine through and with it they both delved deep into their Healers’ trance.

((12:21 <Laurna> roll for Kelric's healing. I believe self Healing is disadvantage 1d6 success on 5,6  I have been afraid to roll this all week.
12:22 <Laurna> !roll 1d6
12:22 <•derynibot> 5 == 5))

Kelric’s hand lay over Jayce’s hand, whose smaller finger lay deep in the wound. Kelric balanced the energies that flowed between them. It was a delicate process to stop the escape of blood, to seal the artery closed and to repair the splintered bone. Rory’s hand was there giving what energy he had remaining... and then… there was another hand. A hand full of warmth and full of caring, a hand of power and of blessing. Jayce gasped at the presence. Rory’s hand tensed but dared not to move. Kelric smiled as he completed the Healing, lifting away the boy’s finger even as he finished healing muscle and skin and making the shoulder whole once more.

((01:22 <Laurna> Kelric points healed.
01:22  <Laurna> !roll 1d6
01:22 <•derynibot> 3 == 3 -half rounded up is 2, Therefore 2 hit points healed which should be good enough))

Taking a deep welcome breath, Kelric opened his eyes knowing he would see three faces over him, two with eyes wide and mouths agape and one with a pair of eyes that were warm and shining with a silver grey.

“I can not thank you enough,” Kelric said in a gasping breath, speaking as much to Rory and Jayce as he did to Saint Camber. The essence of the saint nodded, but then the ghostly smile under the grey hood turned grim and dark giving new purpose to his presence. Kelric experienced a vision. Here were the Duke and Duchess of Cassan leaning over a map of the ocean and the western most coast line of Meara. In ritual spell casting, Dhugal was sprinkling water upon the map while Mirjana was blowing out gusts of breaths. And then came a vision of black sails being torn from the masts of boats that were floundering on the dangerous reefs and rocks of Eilean an Eu-dòchas. The rocks known as the Islands of Despair that became submerged at high tide and had claimed the tragic fate of many vessels off the point of Laas. Now Kelric’s eyes were wide as Saint Camber showed him the storm being pulled away from the shattered, sinking fleet and a pair of men bringing that storm onto land. This was Saint Camber’s warning. As the holy essence faded from Kelric’s eyes, a spike of lightning struck the only small fishing boat in the harbor below the city. As everyone recovered from the massive crack of thunder, Kelric became aware that more energy was building in the clouds above.

“We need to get off this Tower!” Kelric yelled.

It was Brecon who acted first. He ordered men down the steps. He pulled Kelric to his feet, he was prepared to carry the Duke of Corwyn down if he had to. But Kelric had enough physical strength to move to the steps and go down with but the hand of the Duke of Laas under his arm. Everyone, including the exhausted figures of Rory and Jayce, arrived in the lower room just as a crack of lightning and thunder both blinded and deafened the men. The stone around them shook but the thickness of the walls held against the evil onslaught.

_________

Two Deryni knights with Grand Duke Valerian’s emblem upon their tunics locked one set of hands with the other and they whispered cruel incantations over a leather inscribed map.

((10:50 <Laurna> two knights, Ritual trained, doing weather spell casting success on 4,5,6
10:50 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
10:50 <•derynibot> 5, 3 == 8))

The storm clouds built stronger and pulled away from its first mostly destroyed victims. The vortex of clouds moved inland, finding a path directly over the Bay of Laas. Energy grew and lightning struck the sea. The mast of a boat caught the blast. The sails tied to the mast burst into flame; the wood deck was soon encased in a consuming fire.

Charged by their success, the knights pulled the storm further inland. “The tower!” one of them claimed in giddy greed.

((10:50 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
10:50 <•derynibot> 6, 2 == 8))

Both laughed in unrelenting glee as lightning struck the tallest tower of Laas.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2019, 04:27:46 am by Laurna »

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #699 on: September 28, 2019, 03:24:39 pm »
Note:  The ritual for raising wards described in this scene is taken from Deryni Magic, sometimes paraphrased and sometimes directly.  I credit KK for all of the referenced material on pages 154 - 160.  And thanks to Laurna and DerynifanK for correcting me when I got it wrong anyway!

Darcy Cameron looked around behind him to make sure his party was still together.  The traffic along the road had continued to increase, all of it flowing east to Valoret, and it had forced Darcy to slow their pace.  It was late in the afternoon; he signaled for them to move with him off the road so they could talk privately.

“We should be able to make the abbey of Ramos by nightfall, though I doubt there will be any place for us to stay either in the abbey or in the town,” he said as his companions came along side him.  He surveyed the sky above him.  “The weather looks good, and I expect the night will be clear.  We can always camp on the outskirts of the town.”

“Ma’sen I’d as soon gie Ramos a miss, if we can,” Father Columcil suggested.  Darcy gave him a blank look and the priest realized that the sanctions against the Deryni imposed by the Council of Ramos were not something that had concerned the young Darcy at sea. 

“It was at Ramos that the sanctions against the Deryni were written in 917 and 918, forbidding Deryni from Holy Orders, ownership of land and removing them from the nobility, just to name a few,” Aliset told him. 

“King Kelson was instrumental in overturning that,” Washburn added and then wondered if his words were correct.  Aliset and Columcil nodded, indicating that this memory, at least, was a true one.

“Probably an intentional oversight in my education thanks to my stepfather,” Darcy said.  Aliset noted the momentary flash of anger in his pale blue eyes.  “Let’s continue a short way beyond Ramos and camp a distance away from the road.  We can get an early start in the morning and be in Valoret well before the funeral.”

“Aye, that’d  suit me,” Columcil said.  “It’d be an affront ta Bishop Arilan if we stayed nigh t’th’abbey.”

“We’re all agreed?” Darcy asked the group.

“I believe so,” Fiona responded, and Darcy led them back onto the road.

***

“This should do nicely,” Aliset said as Darcy helped her to dismount.  Once they were past Ramos, Darcy had found a small clearing far enough away from the road that they would not be easily seen.  Although the number of travellers had lessened with nightfall, she could still hear the sounds of travellers continuing on. 

“I think we should set wards for the night,” she announced.  ‘I would feel better with the extra protection.”

“I like the sound of that,” Darcy replied.  He reached inside his shirt and pulled out the leather pouch with the Quartermaster’s ward cubes.  “Not everyone on the road tonight will be travelling with the best of intentions; and this way we won’t need to stand watch.”

“A braw night’s sleep would be good fer us all,” Columcil agreed.  “The morn  may be a lang day; nae dout t’will be fou o’ emotion fer me.”

Aliset took the pouch from Darcy.  She was feeling fatigued again, which was starting to thoroughly annoy her.  She could ask Washburn to raise the wards with his own ward cubes, but she had a sudden thought.  “Darcy, why don’t I show you how to set the wards?”

“Aye,” he responded with a pleased smile at his wife.  “I would like that.”

“Perhaps I could watch and learn as well?” Fiona asked hopefully. 

“I can’t see why not,” Aliset replied. 

“If you have no objection, I may sit in as well, though just as an observer,” Father Columcil added.  “Though my border ways serve me well enough, it’s always good to know a wee bit more”

“Care to join us as well, Wash?”  Aliset asked.  “”There is always room for one more.”

Washburn smiled but shook his head.  “I think it’s best if I stand watch until the wards are raised..  Besides, I think your class is full.”

Aliset handed the pouch back to Darcy and indicated that he should sit in the centre of the clearing.  She sat down beside him, and Fiona and Columcil sat on his other side.

“Raising wards is often the first formal training a Deryni child receives,” Aliset began.

“I’m just a tad late then?” Darcy interrupted, looking slightly miffed.

“It’s a good way to learn centering and concentration, which you might find helpful,” she replied.  “Try not to interrupt.”

“Aye, love,” Darcy said.  “I’ll do my best.”  He opened the pouch and spilled the cubes onto the ground.

“Your focused concentration, what we often call centering, is key to balancing the energies of the white and black cubes to raise the wards,” Aliset began. “ You actually don’t need the cubes to raise wards, but naming the cubes in the appropriate fashion tiggers the right mind-set in the operator, focusing the power and establishing certain balances.  You know you have been successful when the named component begins to glow.  First, arrange the white cubes next to each other in a tight square.”

Darcy separated the white cubes and arranged them as bidden.

“Now place each black cube so a corner touches the corner of a white cube, forming an open square around the white cubes,” Aliset continued.  Darcy placed a black cube next to each of the white cubes with the corners touching. He chanced a look at Aliset to make sure he had placed them correctly.  She nodded.

“I want you to concentrate on feeling the energies as I lead you through this.  Don’t focus on my voice.”  Aliset pointed to the cubes but did not touch them.  “Each cube has a name, or nomena; you will touch each cube as you say its name.  The order is always left to right, the top row first and then the one below it.  We start with the white cubes.”  Darcy positioned his finger  above the first cube and looked up at her.

“Don’t look at me; focus on the cubes,” Aliset said firmly.  Darcy turned his eyes back to the cubes before him. “The first cube’s nomena is Prime.”

Darcy touched the first cube.  “Prime.”  The cube glowed a pale, dull white.  Darcy felt a memory surfacing in his mind.  He tried to push it away.

“The second is Secunde, the third is Tierce, and the fourth is Quarte.

Darcy touched the second cube and uttered its nomena.  His memories could not be repressed this time, and he saw another hand, slender and pale, still graceful in spite of her illness, touch a ward cube in the same way.  His mother.

Darcy touched the remaining white cubes, stating their names clearly, his eyes never straying from the cubes as each glowed faintly.  The cubes his mother had touched had glowed more strongly.  He gave up trying to push her away and tried to turn his concentration totally to the ward cubes.  Her hand seemed to hover above his.

Darcy did not see the troubled look on his wife’s face, but she continued on with her instructions. 

“Next the black cubes. These will be named following the same pattern as the white cubes.  In order, they are named Quinte, Sixte, Septime and Octave.”

Darcy touched each black cube, stating its name as he did so.  Each black cube glowed faintly.  Aliset sighed.

“Now the named cubes must be balanced,” she said, hoping the energies would grow stronger as Darcy proceeded.  “Each pair must harmonize with itself but also in reference to the other three. Place each white cube on top of its matched black cube, in the same order we have been following.  Each pillar has a cognomen, which you will say as each pillar is formed.  The cognomen are Primus, Secundus, Tertius and Quartus.”

Darcy followed her directions, stating each cognomen clearly.  The result was four rectoids, each oblong shape glowing a dull grey. 

“Now you must move each tower to a corner of the area you want under the wards,”  Aliset said.  “Don’t worry, we can adjust them a bit afterwards if we need to. The horses are close enough we can include them within the space as well.  Place the first tower in the east, and place the others, in order, in the remaining cardinal points.”

Darcy stood and did this with confidence, sure of his sense of direction.

“This is the final step,” Aliset said encouragingly.  “Point to each pillar, calling it by its cognomen, and then say “Fiat Lux!”

((Will Darcy be successful in raising the wards?  Never having done this before, he can only roll one dice, so spending 2 xp for a second dice.
jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6 (used 2 xp for the second dice)
3:41 PM D<@•derynibot> 2, 3 == 5
Drat!))

Darcy did exactly as he had been told, and nothing happened.  The light from the glowing pillars faded and went dark.

“Bloody hell!” he exploded.  He strode around the area that should have been warded and picked up each pair of cubes none too gently.  He returned to stand in front of Aliset, the cubes clenched tightly in his fist.  “What did I do wrong?”

For a fleeting moment, Aliset feared Darcy would heave the ward cubes into the trees.  He did not and suddenly sat down in front of her, the cubes still in his fist.

“Perhaps it is because they are not attuned to you; they were your Quartermaster’s, not truly yours.” she said gently.

“You were able to raise the ward outside Droghera with these cubes, and you never knew the Quartermaster!” Darcy replied, a bit of heat in his voice.

For a moment, no one said anything; the only voice Darcy heard was in his own head.

“I’ve told you more than once that you are too easily distracted.” 

How many times had the Quartermaster told him this?  Startled, Darcy opened his fist to gaze at the ward cubes within.

“I could try,” Fiona ventured.  “I am sure I can remember the sequence.”

“No!” Darcy said firmly, and clenched the ward cubes in his hand again.  “I know what went wrong; I was distracted by my mother.”

“Your mother?” Aliset asked incredulously.

“Aye.  The memory came to me unbidden,” Darcy replied.  “My mother summoned me to her rooms in secret; I was not normally allowed to visit her. When I arrived, she bolted the door and pulled a pouch from a secret drawer within her desk.  The pouch held her ward cubes, and in my mind, I again saw her raise the wards that would protect us while she erased my memories.  It was the night before I was sold to sea.”

“Perhaps I should raise the wards,” Aliset ventured.

“No! I will do this and I will succeed.”  Darcy’s jaw was set in a hard line, and Aliset, used to her husband’s even and sometimes irreverent nature, was surprised at the steely glint of resolve in his pale eyes. He would not be swayed from his decision.

“Very well,” she said.  “You know what you need to do.”

Darcy took a deep, steadying breath and arranged the cubes before him.  He reached forward and touched the white cubes and named them in order.  This time, they glowed with a deep, opalescent glow.  Next, he touched the black cubes and recited their nomena.  Each glowed with a deep, blue-black colour.  He formed the pillars; as he completed the ritual, they glowed a deep silver grey. He was surprised at how much effort that took.  Now he rose and moved them to the points of the compass, pointed to them and recited their cognomen“Fiat Lux!” he commanded at the end.

((Will Darcy be successful this time?  1 dice plus 2 xp spent to roll 2 dice.
jerusha> Jerusha !roll 2d6 (used 2 xp for the second dice)
3:42 PM D<@•derynibot> I'm back! 6, 6 == 12
Now that’s a roll!))

The pale dome rose above them, shielding them from harm. 

“Done well enough,” the Quartermaster said in Darcy’s mind.  “But you could do better.” 

The Quartermaster had always been stingy with praise.

***

They settled for the night within the protective dome.  They shared their rations for the evening meal, and now content, each treasured a few moments to themselves.  Washburn read from his journal; Father Columcil devoted himself to the evening office, and Fiona looked after the gown she would wear to the funeral tomorrow, formally representing the baron.  She also checked her quiver of arrows and bow, just in case.

Aliset was thinking of retiring for the night.  As in the past few weeks, she found she was exhausted by the end of the day.  Hopefully this would pass in time.  She looked over to where Darcy was standing beside the boundary of the ward, gazing at the stars.  She really wanted to lay down, but thought she could spare some time to stand alongside her husband. 

When Aliset reached him, Darcy slipped his arm around her waist.  “I will never make a good courtier,” he said.

“Why?” she asked, puzzled.

“If I was clever, I would have told you I was distracted by your extraordinary beauty, not by my mother,” he replied.

Aliset chuckled.  “I prefer the truth to courtly posturning,” she said.

“I am much relieved at that.” He paused and Aliset leaned her head against his. “Have I told you about the constellations?”

“All of them?” Aliset asked with an expression of mock horror.

“Nay, love,” Darcy replied and chuckled.  “We need to make an early start in the morning, and I confess I am a bit tired from the warding, but I can point out a couple you might find interesting.”

Aliset nestled a little closer.

“If you look to the east,” her husband began….

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 #700 on: October 03, 2019, 05:00:36 am »


“Aye.  The memory came to me unbidden,” Darcy replied. Washburn’s attention was caught by the intensity of Darcy’s low voice as he spoke of a past memory that had been sparked by his first failed attempt to make a Ward Major. “My mother summoned me to her rooms in secret; I was not normally allowed to visit her. When I arrived, she bolted the door and pulled a pouch from a secret drawer within her desk.  The pouch held her ward cubes, and in my mind, I again saw her raise the wards that would protect us while she erased my memories.  It was the night before I was sold to sea.”

Washburn turned to look back at Darcy. His own heart felt dismayed. How had he forgotten that Darcy too had lived half a life time without remembering who his family was or where he had come from.  His mother had done this thing to protect him, because she knew what her husband intended to do with her youngest child, and she could not stop it from happening. This ability of his race to alter memories seemed to be a curse. Wash shivered. But then maybe it was a form of protection too. If Darcy had remembered who he was when he was first sold to sea, would he have mourned his lost life? In his grief, with such hardships as men of the sea trade must cope with, might Darcy have lost his life before he had the chance to find the man inside who could survive such a harsh livelihood? Maybe, just maybe, the adjusted memories were a blessing in disguise. For here before the small gathering of friends, a very determined young man, who was invigorated with self-confidence, chose to do again a magic that had at first defeated him. Washburn approved.  Wash smiled at his friend’s next attempt to build a true Ward Major. The cubes shone brightly against the dark ground as he named them. Wash turned back to keeping his vigilance on the forest beyond their small glen. As his senses swept the surroundings for intruders, he considered how Darcy had survived without his memories. He too should match the determination of his friend and survive.

Wash kept an eye on the forest until suddenly a strong ward burst forth over his head. Wash gave it a mental test. A good ward indeed ((can not get better than a roll of 12 with two dice.))  Content that nothing could penetrate this defense, Wash came back to the group and settled in next to them as the meal was prepared. Tonight he would get some sleep. And that would be a welcome necessity.

Finding himself truly relaxed in the company he was keeping, Wash pulled the book from his tunic and opened it to where he had been reading about a cult led by one Warin de Grey who preached to eradicate all Deryni from existence. On top of those troubles, there was the aggressive posturing of Archbishops Corrigan and Loris who wanted repentance from one Alaric Morgan for bringing the devil’s magic into their cathedral months before at Kelson’s coronation. These were hard times for the newly crowned King of Gwynedd and the king’s champion who was of know Deryni descent. This was long before Washburn was born. He had been told stories of such times. But those memories were blurred. Here was an accounting from a man who was very concerned for himself, his cousin, his king, but mostly, for the threat of interdict upon his Duchy of Corwyn and his people. At first Wash could not imagine the church being so cold and calculating. He had grown up with Archbishop Duncan as a guardian. Yet  in this story, Duncan was a simple priest, one threatened with suspension and accompanying Alaric as a nobleman and not a man of the church. So hard to fathom that Wash nearly questioned if this story were true. 

Nevertheless, Wash read on, intrigued. There was a short description of how the two cousins planned to ride to Dhassa to confront the Curia. Wash turned the page and found it blank.  On the facing page were the lone words Merasha.  Another blank page and then the writing resumed.
 
“The world has turned upside down. I am excommunicated. Interdict has fallen on Corwyn. My lovely beloved sister and her betrothed have been murdered days before their wedding--by jealous magic gone wrong!  Only my king stands between my enemy and I. If I fall, how do I write about what has happened in these last horrific days so that those that I love will know?”

Wash then read about the fated ride to Dhassa, the night in the ruins of Saint Noet’s, and the arrival at the Shrine of Saint Torin. There was a brief light hearted moment of words about the passing of arms-men in the colors of blue and white, and a carriage that became bogged down in mud. Followed by a surprisingly soft description of the carriages incumbent, a lady of incomparable beauty. In someway this sounded so familiar to Wash, but he didn’t stop his reading to figure it out; he had to know what happened next. The telling of the Merasha dowsing and the ambush set to capture, judge, and execute the Heathen Deryni Lord of Corwyn held Washburn’s attention, his heart was racing as he knew nearly exactly how his father felt. The words that followed were about a drug blurred fight, a rescue by Duncan, and the confrontation of if his greatest fear.

“There stood the fate that my enemy had chosen for me. Halfway up the slope, a tall stake was set in the ground amid piles of kindling. Iron chains hung around the stake, ready to fetter this unwilling victim, and nearby, a torch smoked and guttered in the wind. I had to burn it before any soul, including my own, would succumb to such horror.”

Washburn shivered as he read this. Again he noted the tense upright letters on the page as Alaric wrote of what had occurred. Then followed the escape. The next days of hardship won at last by reaching Culdi, only then to learn of a worse fate that befell his sister, Bronwyn, and Duncan’s brother, Kevin.  Wash brushed aside his tears and nearly closed the book to put it aside.

“Incomparable beauty… red-golden hair.” Suddenly Wash knew who the lady in the carriage had been. He turned back to those pages and read again the brief words of happiness in this whole portion of the journal. His father would not have known it at the time, but he was writing about his very first encounter with the woman he would fall in love with and would marry. Alaric’s description of the lady he saw on the road to Dhessa was like writing about an angel.  Wash read the description of a young Lady Richanda and smiled.

“And her ladyship wishes to add her personal thanks,” said a light, musical voice from inside the coach.
It was then that I looked up, startled, into a pair of the bluest eyes I had ever seen set in a pale, heart-shaped face of incomparable beauty. That face was surrounded by a smooth cloud of red-golden hair, swooped down on either side like twin wings of fire and then twisted into a coiled coronet around her head. Her nose was delicate and slightly upturned, her mouth wide generous, tinged with a blush of color which by rights should have belonged only to a rose.”**


Wash took in a deep breath and smiled. He put the book away and looked over the people around him. The newlyweds were just returning to their bedroll, arm in arm, both with heads leaning into the other. Their love strong and renewed. Columcil was too putting his good book away and was bedding down for the night. The priest purposely had placed his bed so he could protect the Lady Fiona; a space halfway between Wash and the young lady.  Wash wasn’t sure if that was intentional or not. But it certainly was not necessary. Then again, he looked across at Fiona and wondered how he would describe her if he was to write about her in a journal. Pretty as a fawn, lithe as a willow, determined as a bear.  Hair of white/golden wheat flowing in the breeze. Eyes of the sea. Lips… kissed by a rose…

Embarrassed by his thoughts, he blushed and turned away. He certainly wasn't the poet or writer that his father was.  Best not to be thinking those type of  thoughts anyway. He pulled his bedding over his shoulders and was very quickly asleep. Dreaming of roses.

((** Deryni Checkmate chapter 12))

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #701 on: October 04, 2019, 08:35:41 pm »
A bolt of lightning struck Laas’ highest tower, causing the stone structure to tremble and rock but it did not fall. Following the strike almost immediately, two men burst into the tower room where Kelric and the others had taken refuge. Duncan Michael’s eyes quickly scanned the room. He could smell the sharp, acrid odor of the lightning and the air still crackled with energy. None of the men inside appeared to have been injured by the strike.

His eyes sought his cousin, the Duke of Corwyn. He knew that Kelric had been severely injured by a knife thrown by one of the rebels who had infiltrated the castle. A young man with auburn curls knelt near Kelric who was sitting on the floor leaning against Rory’s shoulder. The knife that had caused the injury had been removed, and there was no blood  flowing from his shoulder. Kelric smiled at his cousin. “My wound has been healed with the assistance of this young man.” Duncan Michael turned his scrutiny to the young man with the auburn curls kneeling beside the duke. He recognized the duke’s nephew, son of  healer Jana de Tehryn, an apprentice healer himself.

Sir Jass. who had followed Duncan Michael into the room, rapidly surveyed the room, making sure that there were no injuries from the lightning strike. He addressed the duke, “The gatehouse is under our control again and the mutineer who was raising the portcullis has been killed. The portcullis has been lowered, and the ram and those manning it are trapped between it and  the gates. They are being dealt with.”

“Well done” said Kelric. He then motioned for Duncan Michael to come closer to him. Duncan Michael moved over to the duke and knelt beside him. Kelric pulled him closer and spoke. “During my healing I had a vision. There was a third pair of hands over mine and Jayce’s helping us heal the wound . As the wound healed and my shoulder was repaired, I felt his power and blessing. But following the healing another vision appeared. I saw the Duke and Duchess of Cassan creating the storm and bringing it down on the Tolan fleet, destroying many of their ships. But then I saw the storm  being pulled away from the sinking fleet onto the shore and over the city. And I saw two knights with the Grand Duke Valerian’s badge on their tunics. They were acting together using magic to control the storm. I’m sure they have been instructed by the Grand Duke in the proper spell to take control of the storm, and they are turning it against us. This is the warning St. Camber was giving us.”

“If that is true, what can I do to counteract their spell?” Duncan Michael asked.

“I need you to try to reach your Da and tell him what is happening. Although my wound is healed, I have drawn heavily on my power, and I am too weak to reach out over that distance.  I am hoping he and the duchess can use their powers to regain control of the storm and move it away from the city,” Kelric replied.

Duncan Michael grasped his cousin’s hand and nodded his assent. “I will do my best to contact Da, but I’m not certain how the storm will affect my efforts.” The storm had continued to rage outside the tower, but now that they listened, it sounded as if it was beginning to move away, toward the east. The thunder and lightning had subsided and there had been no further strikes. The wind and rain were still heard but not as strongly. “The storm sounds like it’s moving away, what do you think that means?”

Kelric considered it then turned a look of alarm on Duncan. “Javan’s army must be near. They are trying to move the storm over his army to stop them from reaching Laas until Valerian has escaped. We must stop them!”

Duncan Michael nodded and moved away to the innermost wall, away from the windows and separate from the others. He reached inside his tunic and drew out the St. Camber medal his grandfather had given him when he started his training. Holding it up to his lips, he kissed it and then focused his mind on the medal.  Gradually the room faded from his sight as he concentrated on reaching his father, extending his mind out through the storm toward Cassan. Suddenly he felt a familiar presence. “Son, what is it? What’s wrong?“ Dhugal could feel the urgency of his son’s call.

“Tis the storm. It has moved away from the sea and the Tolan fleet toward Laas and is pounding the city with rain, fierce winds and lightning, threatening damage to the castle and endangering all within”

”What has driven it ashore? Mirjana and I had it confined over the sea where the Tolan fleet was tae be found. We have sensed the pull of the storm away but cuid nae sense what was creating that pull. I was goin tae try tae contact Kelric or you because we dinnae know if we should counter it. It cannae be Valerian. Kelson assured me that his powers were blocked.”

” Kelric was badly wounded during the attack on the city gates, but he has since been healed. During the healing of his wound, Kelric had a vision of St Camber who gave a warning. I will show you what he saw.” Duncan Michael sent the vision of the two knights in the tent to his father.  ” The storm is now moving east. We believe that Valerian has instructed two of his Deryni knights in casting the spell to divert the storm and cause havoc here. We think they intend to send the force of the storm onto Javan’s army, which is very close, in order to delay them and allow Valerian to escape. Can you not regain control of the storm and turn it against them?”

”I will show  Mirjana what you have shown me, and we will see what can be done. Stand by”

Duncan Michael returned to Kelric’s side. He crouched down by the duke and recounted his contact with his father and what his father had said. They could now only wait and leave it to the Duke of Cassan and his Duchess.
"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 #702 on: October 09, 2019, 12:18:19 pm »
Duncan Michael sent the vision of the two knights in the tent to his father.  ”The storm is now moving east. We believe that Valerian has instructed two of his Deryni knights in casting the spell to divert the storm and cause havoc here. We think they intend to send the force of the storm onto Javan’s army, which is very close, in order to delay them and allow Valerian to escape. Can you not regain control of the storm and turn it against them?”

Duke Dhugal immediately shared the information with his wife.  Duchess Mirjana hesitated for the briefest of moments.  “We can do this, and together we will.”

((Combined roll for Dhugal and Mirjana; three dice since they are both ritual trained.  The sum will be their ability to turn the storm.
Revanne Sep 25 at 5:06 PM
@derynibot
22:03:43
5, 3, 6 == 14

Combined roll for Valerian’s knights.  Two dice as both are not ritual trained. 
12:32 <Laurna> Knight one roll
12:32 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
12:32 <•derynibot> 3, 1 == 4
Ah well, it’s been a long day for them.))

Mirjana grasped the edge of the map, lifting is slightly so that the drops Dhugal continued to sprinkle on the map began to flow to the west.  She repositioned herself so that the gusts of breath she blew also drove toward the west.  She gathered her strength and blew harder, and Dhugal increased the flow of water.  The storm grew stronger and swept back toward Laas.

***

Baron Vilmos was the first to notice that something had changed; the storm had begun to pull back towards them. 

“Sir Georgios,” he said to the Deryni knight that sat across from him.  “You must focus fully.”  He tightened his grip on the man’s hands.  Perhaps expending energy on striking the tower in Laas had been foolish.  “Centre all of your focus on the map and continue to drive the storm to the east.”  He stilled a growing concern and turned his full attention to the leather inscribed map and the incantations Valerian had instructed them to use.

Although he was ritual trained, this form of weather-working was new to Vilmos.  Sir Georgios, though skilled enough, lacked ritual training and could only follow Vilmos’ lead.  Villmos felt the storm’s energies begin to build towards them.  How could someone know to send it here?

“Give it every bit of strength you have,” Vilmos said urgently.  “Else we are lost!”

The winds continued to build as the storm swept in towards them.  The tent flaps stained against the tent poles until the main pole snapped.  The tent was pulled up and away from them, but neither man looked up from the map, which Georgios secured with one knee to keep it before them.  Without the protection of the tent, both men were soon drenched by the rain.  Their tethered horses broke free of the lines and bolted in fear.  Lightning struck the ground close to where the men sat; the thunderclap deafening.   Both men were flattened to the ground by the force, and the wind tossed the map away.

((Will the Torenthi knights survive?
12:33 <Laurna> Knight two roll
12:33 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
12:33 <•derynibot> 5, 6 == 11
Perhaps this is their lucky day.))

Baron Vilmos stirred first.  Every muscle, every bone in his body ached!  It was more force of will than strength that allowed him to open his eyes.  The sky above was clearing, and the rain was slackening to a light drizzle.  He turned his head and viewed Georgios, face down on the ground.

It was almost beyond the Deryni knight to pull himself up enough to crawl towards his companion.  Georgios was as still as death, but Vilmos placed a finger against the man’s neck and felt his pulse; it was strong enough to tell him the man would survive.  Vilmos scanned the area around him.  The trees were shredded of their leaves, and the horses were gone.

Vilmos pulled himself into a sitting position and considered his fate. Without the horses, they would not get far.  He could easily abandon Gerogios, but how far would he get before the Haldane forces were upon him?  Not far, and he was too old for this.

 The Haldanes, in spite of what was often said in Torenth, were not known to be cruel to their prisoners.  Vilmos had no doubt the questioning would not be pleasant, and he would not give up information willingly.   Merasha would be preferable to mind-ripping.  Perhaps there would be a quick death when all was done.

In spite of the slim chance of success, he could try to follow Grand Duke Valerian to Castleroo,  but what then?  Valerian did not tolerate failure, and Vilmos had no desire to endure the Dance of Death.  He had no doubt Valerian would condemn him to impalement, and he could not face the possibility of such excruciating agony.

“I’m sorry, Gregorios, but I must make this decision without consulting you,”  Vilmos said as he slowly stood.  He pulled his sword from its sheath and drove it deep into Georgios’ back, piercing his heart.  Then, after a brief prayer for forgiveness, he withdrew the sword, wedged the hilt in the soggy ground below the body, and threw himself against the blade.
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 #703 on: October 13, 2019, 12:07:13 pm »
“Someone is seeding this storm with Magic!” Prince Albin yelled as he kneed his destrier closer to Royal Crown Prince Javan’s warhorse.   “Meara does not sport this kind of weather in the summertime.”

“Whoever is controlling it, is purposely sending it against us,” Javan yelled back to be heard over the deluge.

“Your highness, what are your orders? Do we continue forward or hunker down until the worst of the storm passes?”  Albin maneuvered the reins in his hands back and forth to keep control on his destrier’s head. The horse tossed his head and stomped his feet in agitation. Javan’s steed, though more calm, was also beginning to tense under the prince’s seat. The storm, which had begun mere minutes before, had quickly become a torrential downpour. Rain stung their faces and blinded the whole army as men and horses march westward to no avail. Javan held his hand over his forehead in protection as he looked westward; even so, he could not see more than a few paces ahead. He looked north and then south, they were in a rugged Mearan glen on the road that lay just east of the Bay of Laas. The land afforded no protection from a storm such as this. Water was already puddling at their horses feet. If this cloudburst continued, a flood was sure to wash down the rocky outcroppings and then down onto the road they stood on. They could not climb the road sides. To go back was to admit defeat. Going forward meant heading into gale force winds.

The leaders of Gwynedd’s army had seen warnings of the storm. In the late morning hours it had ruled far out upon the ocean. The distant lightning and thunder had rolled across the land announcing the sea’s displeasure for all to witness on the coastline of Meara. What worried Javan was that somehow this storm had moved unnaturally onto land. Now it seemed to have halted directly above the Gwyneddian army. They knew they were close to Laas. If they could march over that hill ahead, then they would find the fields below the city walls. Yet did they dare to make that march blinded as they were? The army might just walk directly into the enemy lines before they were aware of it.

“Send out two scouting parties. I want to know if the enemy lies in ambush for us. Tell the men to halt and gather in tight until we learn what lies ahead.”

“Aye, my prince, it shall be done,” Albin said. He turned to his captains to pass the orders along with a loud yell over the winds. He returned to find Javan staring at the sky looking as drenched as if the prince had just climbed out of a lake. “Can you feel who is controlling this?” Albin asked as he came back shoulder to shoulder with his cousin.

“Nay, but it has evil intent, I am sure of that. Lady Richelle Ramsay, did give me warning of it, but the winds hadn’t been aimed at us at that time. She said allies were targeting a fleet of ships off the coast, ships destined to land in Laas Bay and to unload hundreds of Tolan soldiers to help the son of Teymuraz. This isn’t the work of allies!  Kadassa! Look up!”

Both men gazed skyward. Above their heads the black clouds churned like a boiling cauldron. The driving rain and wind began to swirl in a vortex over their heads, spinning out tendrils of a funnel moving downward toward the land. Where the tornado would touchdown was anybody's guess.

“That’s not good!” Prince Albin called. In a lower voice barely heard, he began to mutter an incantation of protection. Javan understood what the Duke of Carthmoor was doing, thus he added his voice to the incantation. As did a number of Deryni throughout the army. Were there enough trained Deryni among the men to protect the full thousands that made up the army of Gwynedd?

Javan watched the tornado forming, lowering and swirling directly over their heads. The horses whinnied and nickered at the threat of it. The incantation was spoken louder by those who knew of it. Instead of cowering in fear, the soldiers of Gwynedd began to hum the rhythm of the chant, some quickly learning the words, even if they themselves did not have the power to fashion the spell.

Then suddenly, there was an opposing wind. It blew in from the east at their backs, stronger than the driving storm from the west. The twisting funnel cloud disintegrated like a candle being blown out by a hurricane force wind over the army’s banners. Only the protective shield of magic seemed to save the army from being flattened.

The voice of thousands of men seemed to chase the clouds away, with it the rain and wind eased to almost nothing. The incantation had done its job. Men cheered at the results.

“Did we do that?” Javan had to ask utterly amazed by the show of his men. He knew that the spell they had used had been only for protection and not one that had the magical focus to shift the storm.

“No! Whoever did that had more control than us.”

Javan nodded accepting that they had strong allies in this. “Very well, let us use their aid to our advantage.” Prince Javan stood in his stirrups turned behind him and yelled, “Forward men!”

With the wind at their backs and the rain falling back on the fields ahead of them, the army made good time breasting the last hill before they came into the visual sight of the great bay and the castle upon the point. His scouts had the right of it. Most of the rebel army had gone from here. Some still remained, but now with the storm directed at them, they were scattering north and south to the beach. Debris of a camp were taking flight in the wind. A large white tent in the center of the field took the brunt of the gale; it blew apart in a shred of sticks and canvass. Two men were seen kneeling together where the tent had once been. They seemed to glow with a silver aura all around them. An aura that attracted a great jagged bolt of lightning which struck the two men down.

Even Javan and Albin ducked and blinked madly after the electric expenditure. When they had recovered, they ordered their army to take the field. It was a short campaign. The Mearans readily surrendered; there was no fight left in them. By the time Javan arrived at the place where the two men lay dead, done in by their own hands, the clouds above were dissipating. The sun regained its late afternoon strength and a glorious rainbow arched over their heads crowning the city of Laas with heaven’s approval.

Prince Javan took in the reports of his captains, the field was theirs.“We make camp here tonight. We will follow the rebels north at first light. Make the prisoners secure,” he told his men. Then he turned to Prince Albin. “As soon as the gates to the city are made passable, I will go to the city with a healer to discover how the Dukes and their men fare.”

“That is good, my prince. Could you send me confirmation after you have learned how Kelric is doing?” Albin requested.

“That I will.”

With a small group of men, Javan rode up the causeway. The portcullis was now lifted. A great battering ram with flames upon its beams was being plunged off the side of the causeway. The contraption cracked against the rocks with new flame catching on the splintered wood. Bodies of those who would have used the war machine to conquer a city, were tossed off the edge of the causeway into the fire, finalizing their devastating defeat. The gateway clear, Javan and his men rode easily under the previously contested gates and into the city of Laas.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2019, 03:58:55 pm by Laurna »

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #704 on: October 25, 2019, 04:45:53 pm »
As Valerian rode away from Laas with the remainder of his army, wind driven rain pelted any exposed skin.  He hunched over his horse’s neck and pulled his cloak closer around him. The wind drove in from the west driving the storm inland over the city and toward the Gwyneddan army. He smiled to himself. His knights were doing exactly what he had ordered, pushing the storm over his pursuers to slow down or halt their approach and give him a chance to escape.

He had ridden some distance into the hills beyond the sight of the city walls, when he noticed a change in the wind. It was veering around and buffeting him from the east. The storm was moving back toward the city and the sea. He halted his horse and turned in the saddle to gaze back the way he had come. He was still close enough to see the black clouds boiling toward Laas. As he watched, he saw a wicked bolt of lightning fork down, and he heard a loud crack. The lightning had surely hit something on the ground in front of the city. What was left of his men still on the field of battle with the trebuchet would have been exposed. He did not know about the tent where his knights had been controlling the storm. Without his powers, he had no way to know if they still lived or if they had escaped.  After the lightning strike, the wind and rain began to subside, rapidly dissipating and leaving only a few showers behind.

Valerian did not know what had happened on the field in front of Laas, but he felt that what was left of his army there was surely lost. He could not know what had happened to his knights. He could only hope that at least one of them would rejoin him in Castleroo, but he was afraid both were lost. He needed to reach the fortified town and regroup to decide what he should do next.

Just after dusk Valerian and his army drew up in front of Castleroo. The gates of the fortified town were already closed.  A challenge rang out from the tower atop the wall, “Who goes there?”

The captain of Valerian’s personal guard responded.  “Grand Duke Valerian and the Mearan army of Independence!  We are escaping pursuit by the army of Gwynedd and are seeking shelter.”

“Why is the army of Gwynedd pursuing you? What is your mission?”

“Our mission is to free Meara from the control of Gwynedd and restore the Queen to her throne.”

The guard atop the tower responded. “Halt where you are. I will summon the Captain of the guard.”

Within a very short time, another voice addressed them from the tower. “You say you are the  Mearan Army of Independence. How is it you are at our gates seeking shelter? Who is your leader?”

Valerian called out irritably. “I am Grand Duke Valerian ho Furstanos. I am betrothed to Sidana Quinnell de Paor, the rightful Queen of Meara. I have been supporting her father, the Baron Brioc de Paor in his effort to restore the Quinnell line to the throne and to reestablish Mearan independence. My army was in the process of seizing the city of Laas where the illegitimate ruler of Meara, the Haldane viceroy, is currently residing with the so-called Duke of Laas. We encountered unexpected difficulties due to a freak storm that disrupted our attack. The imminent arrival of a pursuing army sent by the Haldane also forced us to abandon the field of battle- for now- we seek shelter and a chance to regroup so we can return to the attack.”

The captain replied,  “I have sent to our lord’s representative for his approval to admit you.  How far behind you is the Gwyneddan army?”

Valerian responded, keeping a tight rein on his temper since he needed the assistance of the town’s authorities, “We believe that they are in the city of Laas and will remain there at least for the night.”

After another pause, a new voice addressed them. “I am the representative of the MacDonald, chief and laird of this town. The captain has told me of your request. My chief  is not present at this time, although he is expected tonight. He has long been a supporter of the Mearan royal line, and I feel that he would want me to grant your request. We will admit you and your men. I would wish to speak more with you after you and your men are settled. The captain will direct you to quarters for yourself and direct your men to a place they can set up camp.” The gates of the town swung open, and Valerian led his men inside.

One of the town guards directed the troops to a large open area where they could set up camp. “Food and firewood will be provided for you. You must lay aside your arms while inside these walls. If you have wounded, the priest will tend to them.” After surviving the fight outside Laas, the storm and the rapid march to Castleroo, the men were relieved to lay aside their arms, start campfires and eat the rations provided by the garrison.

Meanwhile, Valerian was conducted to quarters suitable for a commander and was able to seat himself comfortably in front of a fire and sip the ale provided. He was considering what options might still be available to him. How could he preserve  his forces and make it possible to still take Laas from the Duke of Corwyn, the Haldane ruler and his supporters? Even if his knights had escaped from Laas and were able to join him, how could he keep his men from being killed or captured by the Haldane’s army? Although Javan would probably decide to rest his own men for the night in Laas, they would no doubt be in pursuit at first light the next morning. He needed an escape route for both himself and his men. Also, he was severely hampered by the loss of his powers. “Damn the Morgan pup!” he thought. “If only I could find and capture him. I would soon compel him to restore my powers.” he considered the tortures he would impose on Washburn if he ever had him in his hands again. “ But for now I have no way to carry out that plan. I have to find a way to escape the Haldane and return to Ratharkin, The fighters of this part of Meara have a long history of supporting independence and have fought on the side of the Quinnells. It is possible I can gain their help in a bid for Mearan independence.”

There was a knock at the door and a tall, thin man with dark red hair opened it and entered. He bowed and addressed Valerian. “My lord, Jaime Douglas at your service. I am steward to the Laird, Wallace MacDonald, who is overlord of Castleroo and its surrounding lands. As I stated earlier, he has been absent but is expected to return tonight. I need to know more of your involvement in this conflict. We have heard rumors of a possible rebellion in the eastern part of Meara but little real information. The name of Baron de Paor of Trurill has been mentioned as one of the leaders. He is known to us, but we have heard nothing other than rumors.  How did you arrive at our gates, and what is it you are asking from us?”

Valerian was irritated at being asked to repeat what he had already said, but he managed to control his temper. He was unused to being spoken to in this manner. He was accustomed to prompt and obsequious service at all times. However, he knew he needed help from these people, and he could not afford to alienate them. He repeated the information he had provided to the Captain of the Guard. “I am hoping your chief will grant us shelter and rest within your walls while we determine our next move.”

The steward bowed. “I will provide the information you have given me to my lord on his return. In the meantime, I trust that you have all you need. A servant will be bringing you a meal.  If you have other requirements, do not hesitate to let me know.” Douglas bowed and exited the room.
 
After the steward’s exit, Valerian paced the room in mounting fury. He was finding the effort to contain his temper and provide the repeated explanations asked of him very trying. What right had these heathens to question his status, actions, or intentions? In his anger, he drew his sword and slashed at the pillows on the bed. Feathers flew everywhere, floating to land on furniture and floor.  His squire scurried about the room trying to gather them up and hide them before the MacDonald returned. The Grand Duke calmed down, sheathed his sword, and demanded water to wash before eating.

Sometime later, Valerian had finished eating and was again seated in front of the fire in a somewhat calmer frame of mind, sipping a glass of wine which had been served at the end of his meal. He heard a commotion outside in the courtyard, voices shouting and horses’ hooves stamping. The laird of the town and its surrounding lands had returned and would soon seek out this uninvited guest.

After an interval during which Valerian was sure that the steward was reporting to his lord all that he had been told about Valerian’s identity and purpose here, there was a short knock and the door opened to admit Douglas followed by an older man. The newcomer also had red hair along with a bristling red beard, both threaded with some gray. He was tall and broad shouldered, with piercing blue eyes and a weather beaten face from much time spent outside. He carried himself with an air of authority. Douglas bowed and spoke. ‘My lord, this is the man of whom I told you.  He and his men arrived just at dusk seeking shelter and a place to rest for the night. He says that they are fighting for Mearan independence but suffered a setback before Laas due to a violent freak storm. In your absence, I admitted them to await your return knowing you have been a supporter of that cause.”

Valerian had risen when the two men entered. He faced the newcomer and bowed. “Grand Duke Valerian ho Furstanos, leading the Mearan Army of Independence. I am seeking your support in overcoming a temporary setback suffered by our forces due to a sudden, violent storm. I was given to understand that you support the cause and might look favorably on my request.”

The man bowed and spoke. “Lord Wallace MacDonald, laird of Castleroo and its surrounding lands. I hae heard rumors of the new uprising for independence. We are fairly isolated here so I am anxious for news of ta situation. I am willin’ tae hear what ye have ta say.” He turned to the steward and dismissed him, telling him to send more wine and to see to his escort who had ridden in with him. The man bowed and left the room, closing the door after him.

MacDonald seated himself in a chair opposite Valerian and signaled for Valerian to resume his seat. “Jaime hae reported to me what ye told him. I wuid lak tae hear from yerself exactly what, ye, an outsider, bring tae the cause of Mearan independence? What is yer purpose here on ma land? How do ye plan to hep us gain freedom from the Haldane? Ta Haldane hae not done badly by us. Why should we trade his rule for that of a stranger and a Pretender Queen we do not know?”

Valerian again had to restrain his temper at having his status and intentions questioned..  “As I said, I am Grand Duke Valerian ho Furstanos. I am betrothed to Sidana Quinnell de Paor, granddaughter of Prince Ithel Quinnell, last descendent of the royal line, and the rightful Queen of Meara. I have been supporting her father, the Baron Brioc de Paor in his effort to restore the Quinnell line to the throne and to reestablish Mearan independence. Many Mearans have flocked to our standard in support of this effort. Our forces have already taken Ratharkin, and it is under our control. Our next objective was to take the city of Laas, the former Mearan capital, and capture the cousin of the Haldane usurper who has been ruling as viceroy and the so called Duke of Laas who supports the Haldane.”

Valerian paused and took a sip of wine. glancing over at the laird who had made no comment. His face showed no emotion but he was looking intently at the grand duke. Valerian resumed his tale. “We had attacked Laas and were using a ram to try to force the gates. A sympathizer inside the city had managed to raise the portcullis allowing the ram to attack the gate.We also had another siege engine, and I believe we would have breached the gate but a violent storm blew in from the sea over the city and assaulted my forces with fierce winds, blinding rain, and terrible lightning. At one point the winds seemed to come from every direction at once and a funnel cloud formed threatening to destroy my forces. The Army of Gwynedd had been in pursuit and, due to the effects of the storm, was nearly on top of us before we could take the city. In order to prevent the death or capture of a large part of my army, I decided to withdraw under cover of the storm and seek shelter until we could regroup. I had heard much of the fortified town of Castleroo, its fierce fighters, and its long history of support for Mearan independence. It seemed to be the best alternative to seek the assistance we needed here. I hope that you continue to favor the idea of independence for Meara.”

MacDonald was silent for several minutes. Then he replied, “Aye, independence for Meara hae long been a dream. I supported Queen Caitrin’s effort to release Meara from her subjugation tae Gwynedd. I had hopes for her campaign’s success. Sicard was a fine commander. I was leadin’ my men toward Dorna tae join his army when we met Mearan soldiers fleein ta the west. They told us o’ Ithel’s and Sicard’s deaths and the defeat of the Mearan Army. Kelson’s army was marchin’ on Laas. Rather than lose them, I turned my men back ta Casteroo. I never met Kelson nor pledged him my fealty. I hae kept meself to meself, tendin’ my lands here.”

“I hae no real knowledge of the present rebellion. I hae heard some rumors of a pretender queen but I was no aware of ta legitimacy o’ her claim. I planned ta wait and see. I am no willin ta risk ta lives o’ me men or safety o’ me lands without knowin’ more,.”

“Our Queen is Sidana Quinnell de Paor, granddaughter of Prince Ithel Quinnell, heir to Meara’s throne. He was betrothed to her mother but was executed by Kelson during the last Mearan war before the ceremony could take place. The young woman was already with child and was delivered of a daughter. The daughter married de Paor’s son and the Princess Sidana is their daughter. She is the last of the royal Quinnell line and heir to the throne.The baron has been seeking to place her on the throne, fomenting rebellion among the Mearans and again raising the call for independence from Gwynedd.. Meara could then take its rightful place among the eleven kingdoms as a respected state, making its own treaties and alliances. They have taken the city of Ratharkin and and control the surrounding lands. The next goal was to take the ancient capital of Laas, which remains a center of veneration by the people, and capture the Haldane who serves as viceroy, by the authority of King Kelson. This would hearten the people to throw their support to their queen. What happened at Laas is only a temporary setback caused by that freak storm. We will regroup and we will prevail. Our return to Ratharkin is critical.  And we will remember those that help us.” Valerian sat back in his chair and studied his host.

MacDonald studied the Grand Duke but his expression gave nothing away. At last he set his wine cup on the table and spoke. “ Tis true I still hold the dream of an independent Meara but I am not convinced that ye have the strength or support tae secure it. King Kelson is respected and generally loved in the Eleven Kingdoms, and he will have the support of most. However, tis possible that you can achieve independence as a principality if ye can contrive ta carry out yer plan tae return and take Laas.”

“My lord, if you can see your way….” Valerian began. But he was interrupted by MacDonald who held up his hand for silence.

“I am not prepared tae commit men yet, but I will map out an escape route fer ye that will allow ye to bypass the Gwyneddan army coming from Laas and perhaps reach Ratharkin in safety. When ye leave here ye will ride slightly north and then east, skirtin’ ta bay then followin’ ta Kilarden River till ya reach ta walled city of Kilarden. From there ya will turn slightly east and south toward ta Ratharkin mountains and yer goal. That route will take you well ta the east of the approaching army from Laas. Ya should make it tae Ratharkin safely. When ta Gwyneddan army reaches ma gates, I will delay them as much as possible without given mysel away.”

Valerian had to swallow his pride and thank the chief for the support he offered. Then he said, “I am unfamiliar with these lands and not sure of the way after I turn away from the river. Also, my men are  exhausted.”

MacDonald replied. “ I will draw ye a map tae guide ye on yer way. Ye must guard it and be sure it doesna fall into enemy hands. I hae not made a decision, and I dinnae want it known yet that I am considerin’ supportin’ the cause. It would be best it you and yer men rest tonight and leave at first light. I will also give ye provisions fer yer men. That is ta best I can give ya.”

Valerian controlled his anger and thanked the laird for his offer. He agreed that his men should rest overnight, and they would leave at first light to follow the route mapped out for them. Without his powers and without the support of his Dernyi knights, he had little choice but to accept what was offered and make the best of it. If he could reach Ratharkin and then his mountain fortress, there was a real chance that he could regroup and still achieve his goal, to sit on the throne of Meara beside his Mearan queen.

Both men stood and bowed. MacDonald spoke first. “I will meet you here at first light and give you the map I have prepared for you. I will have Jaime see to the provisioning of your men.”

Valerian replied. “I thank you for your help. I will now go to my bed in order to be ready to ride in the morning.”

MacDonald strode to the door, opened it and left the room. Valerian made his preparations and lay down on the bed, thinking of the challenges he would face on the morrow.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2019, 08:55:25 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

 


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