Jonathan kept going most of the night, walking in near darkness for the most part, and grateful enough for such light as the moon provided. He didn't dare try to light any sort of torch for fear of attracting the attention of any pursuers, but kept to the roads for ease of travelling. He still tripped and stumbled his way along, until he could barely move for tiredness and curled up below a hedge to sleep for a few hours, rising at dawn to put some more miles between himself and Csongor's camp. During the day he had to fix a point on the horizon and make for it, hoping that he wasn't straying too far off course and cutting across country wherever possible, always mindful of the wariness of folks in the area after all the attacks, and trying as best he could to stay away from farms and villages to avoid drawing suspicion upon himself.
He had left with no food, being concerned that he would be noticed stashing provisions away, and before long his stomach felt cavernous in its emptiness and he begged some bread and cheese from a farmhouse in exchange for some of his precious money. All that day he walked, keeping an eye behind him in case he was being followed, but of Csongor and his men there was no sign.
The second night he found shelter in a hollow under a fallen tree, and wrapped himself as tightly as he could in his cloak, hoping that the leaves gathered beneath would help to keep him warm. He struggled to stay awake until he judged it late enough, then cupped the medallion in his palm and tried to open his mind as the duke had taught him. He concentrated as hard as he could and reached out across the miles for the man who had sent him, hoping desperately that it was not yet too late to save the baron and his household. He waited for the tickle of another mind touching his, his own mind questing outwards, but it never came.
Exhausted and almost weeping with frustration, he replaced the medallion in his pouch. Maybe he didn't have the skill necessary to make a connection with the duke when he wasn't expecting it or maybe the distance was too great, but Jonathan had failed. He couldn't get to Corwyn in time for the attack on the manor to be averted, even if he could enter Corwyn without risk of being arrested and hanged. For all he knew, Csongor had already raided the manor, bringing the attack forward in case Jonathan raised the alarm somehow, but he had to keep trying; his conscience wouldn't let him give up.
He had one more option: find a Deryni to make the link. Maybe the strength of an extra mind, especially a Deryni one, would make the difference. But where to find a Deryni he trusted in this part of Torenth? There was one obvious answer - Ilyeana. From where he was to their house in Medrás was maybe two days walk. Too late to save the baron, for sure, but at least the duke could be told who was behind the disturbances and Jonathan could tell him that he had found his medallion among Csongor's possessions. Maybe then he could return home and find Randall – sort that bastard out for good - though why Randall would have sent the medallion to Csongor was beyond him.
But wait. Randall? What did Randall have to do with it?
Then Jonathan realised. Without him even noticing when, the memories had returned. The part of his life that he had thought locked away forever had returned to him.
He remembered a man walking with him from the tavern to the dockside, his disappearance and the voice from within. He remembered Randall's knife at his throat and the gloating as he took the medallion from around Jonathan's neck. Jonathan could have cried with relief. He could make the link with the duke and let him see what had happened. He could go back to Edith with his name cleared, no matter what happened next. But first he had to survive. He might not have seen pursuit yet, but he would bet it was coming, and the winter was coming in fast. He couldn't keep sleeping under bushes or in ditches – sooner or later he would freeze to death overnight – he had to get somewhere where he could be safe.
From András's father's house in Medrás he could take a mountain pass through to Corwyn, if they were still open at this time of the year. He tried to remember when they usually became impassable, and had a sinking feeling they would be shut by now. Still, András would know the best way to get him to Corwyn in a hurry. He had always relied on András. That assumed that András would even speak to him, but at least Jonathan himself knew the truth of it now. He could have Ilyeana truth read him – make her tell András.
The following morning he set off as usual, shouldering his pack. The air was crisp and white plumes of his breath rose in front of him. The grass had been gilded with white in the night He had hit a barely populated part with precious few roads and his way lay through scrubland that gradually changed to woodland in the distance. He stopped and considered. He could try to go round the wood, but that might take him miles out of his way. Through the wood though, he could easily miss his route.
Shouts from the way he had come caught his attention and he looked up. Two horsemen – no, three – were bearing down on him at speed. He looked at the forest, judging the distance. That was his only hope: to get deep enough into the forest before the riders caught him up. On foot he would be able to take routes they couldn't mounted, and he might have a slim chance of escape.
More shouts in the distance told him they had spotted him and he broke cover, running hard for the forest. Every breath pained him as he drew icy air into lungs screaming for more; his head started to swim and his vision blurred. Gasping, he scrambled down a bank and stopped by a river. It looked too deep and fast to wade, never mind the cold wet clothes that he would have to run in if he went into water just a shade away from freezing. He glanced over his shoulder. Two of the riders were gaining on him fast. The other had stopped to string his bow, but that wouldn't take long. He would soon be back in the chase again and then it was only a matter of time before Jonathan came into range. The archer could take his time and pick him off at his leisure if Jonathan had to double back away from the river.
There was only one thing for it: to scramble across rocks slick with spray and icy to boot and hope for the best. At least that way he had some slim chance, otherwise he had none at all.
He jumped for the first sizeable rock, scrabbling for balance, then the next, then the next, his tumbler's skills coming in handy for the first time in many months. The next jump he slipped, barely grabbing the rock with his fingertips and stopping to take deep shuddering breaths as panic threatened to set in. He had to concentrate. He closed his eyes a moment, trying to calm himself – to slow the thundering of his heart inside his aching chest.
The shouts were closer still and an arrow whistled past his head, the metal tip pinging on the next rock, shaft splintering with the impact. That had been bloody close. He leapt for the next rock, wobbling precariously on one leg, then jumped for the other side, shaking hands grasping for grasses that sliced the palms of his hands and pulling himself up, expecting an arrow to lodge itself in his back at any moment. A splash and a scream from one of the horses told him that one rider, more foolhardy than the others, had tried to ride across the river to him. The horse, shocked by the cold, reared up, barely keeping its footing and spilling its rider into the bitter water. The archer was kept occupied trying to calm the frantic animal and lead it out of the water, while the third rider helped his half-frozen companion out of the river. Jonathan risked one glance round and fled for the cover of the forest.
He ran until he felt safer, concealed deep in the gloom of the trees where the light scarcely penetrated, then sat with his head in his hands, listening to his breath rasping in and out of his chest and his pulse pounding in his head. He wasn't safe yet; he was sure they wouldn't give up on him that easily, but for now he could rest a moment.
Jonathan ploughed through the trees, fingers scraped from pushing his way through dense undergrowth and brambles. His face was scratched and bleeding, but he hardly felt it, so intent was he on putting distance between himself and his pursuers. After what felt like an eternity, the trees thinned out and hazy shafts of winter sun began to pierce the gloom. When finally he emerged from the wood and looked around him, he could see no sign of the three riders.
Falling to his knees beside a brook that doubtless would trickle eventually into the river he had crossed earlier, he gathered water in his cupped hands and drank deeply. It was ice-cold and burned all the way down, but water had never tasted so good. He shook chilled fingers and thrust his hands up inside his cloak under his armpits to warm them. He scanned the horizon. He didn't think he was too far off course. The sun had already reached its zenith and was starting to dip in the sky. That was west, then, and he should be heading a little north of west, if he was where he thought he was. Gathering his cloak closely around him, he began to walk once more.
Before long the scenery began to look familiar. Had he really been as close as this? A few hours walk, no more, to András's father's house. Jonathan wondered what reception he would get. With the memories intact he had no doubt he could convince a Deryni truth reader – would even submit to mindseeing, if that was what it took – but he needed to get near enough to them first. No use him being innocent if he took an arrow to the gut from an irate András or Rikard before he had time to explain.
He decided to walk part way there that day, then complete his journey in the morning. Coming to the farm after dark would add to his risk – in the current climate anyone arriving unexpectedly by night was likely to be greeted by having dogs set on him first, and questions asked of him after.
The following morning he completed his journey, his pace slowing as the distance shrank and the apprehension grew. He could see the house now, a speck on the horizon growing larger as he walked. He had spent some good times here with people he loved as if they were his own kin, but the thoughts buzzed inside his head. What if they hated him for what they thought he had done to Sandor? What if they refused to listen when he explained it all? What if even then, the wrongs he had done them before were too great to be overcome? What if...?
He sat on a log an arrow's flight away from the house and watched, reluctant to go any further. He was about to raise his pack to his shoulder again and go back the way he had come, when a woman's form appeared from the house. She was carrying a bucket to the well in the courtyard where he himself had drawn water so many times. Ilyeana! His heart leapt at the sight of her. That his heart belonged to Edith now he had no doubt, but Ilyeana still owned one small portion. He loved her now as his best friend's wife and no more, but she had been more than that to him once. For a time he had even thought he loved her.
She looked in his direction. Was that Deryni senses telling her she was being watched, or merely her own instincts? She scurried back into the house and emerged with two men, one tall and broad and the other tall but of slighter build, a youth only newly of man's height and not yet filled out to a grown man's proportions. The first he would have recognised anywhere. András was friend and brother to him – or had been until Jonathan's weakness nearly ruined their friendship and almost cost Jonathan his life. Even without the Sandor affair, Jonathan wasn't entirely sure what form his reunion with András would take. They had hardly parted on good terms after all. The other he didn't recognise, except... Jesú, it couldn't be! Surely that lanky fellow there couldn't be Diran? Of course, he reminded himself, Diran would be of age now and lads of that age often did spring up like weeds, but hell's teeth, he was giving András a run for his money now.
András had emerged from the house armed with a axe, handy from chopping logs from the winter and ready to defend his household if necessary. "Who are you?" he shouted. "What business do you have in these parts?"
Jonathan stood and extended his arms out to the side to show his lack of weapons. "I come to see you, András, and your lady wife. I need your help."
"Jonathan?" András's long legs ate up the ground between them. "Jonathan Dunn? I'm amazed you have the nerve to show your face after what you did to my uncle." He broke into a trot, then swung the axe round behind his shoulder ready to strike.
Ilyeana screamed at him. "András, you can't! He's unarmed. Whatever he has done, you can't just kill him in cold blood."
András paused, his eyes glinting with rage. "Go inside, Ilyeana. Diran, take her indoors, I have no wish for her to see this. Sandor said you should have hanged for what you did, Dunn. What I do is only what the Duke of Corwyn should have done for me."
"Wait! András, wait, I beg you. I didn't do it, I swear. I took a blow to the head and couldn't remember and then Randall persuaded the duke to punish me for my injury of him years ago. But I didn't burn the warehouse." He reached out his hands towards Ilyeana, imploring her to listen to him. "Ilyeana, please. You are Deryni. You can hear the truth in what I say. On everything I hold dear I swear to you. I did not burn Sandor's warehouse. It was Randall. Randall did it."
Ilyeana's face changed as he spoke. "It's true. He's speaking the truth."
"Let me show you. Then you can show András. There is no trick, I promise you. Take my hand."
Ilyeana's eyes widened. The Jonathan she knew would have shrunk from any Deryni contact, yet here he was inviting the link? The passion in his voice was beginning to convince András and he nodded curtly. "But I have my axe right here and I can use it. You dare to harm my wife and I'll dash your brains out, remember that."
Ilyeana held her hand out to Jonathan to invite the link and he took it, cautiously at first, then closing his fingers around hers and closing his eyes. He relaxed as much as he could and let his memories of that evening flow. The tavern and his boastfulness, the walk along the sea front with the unknown man, the voice from the warehouse, the knife at his throat and slipping into blackness, Randall gloating over him and finally the trial, wanting to defend himself but not knowing. The terrible soul-eating not knowing and Sandor's eyes as he condemned him.
There were tears in Ilyeana's eyes as she broke the link. "Put the axe down, András," she said and held her hand out to her husband and after a momentary hesitation, to Diran too. "Let me show you what happened."
Moments later the three dropped hands and turned to stare at Jonathan. Diran leapt the distance between them, enfolding Jonathan in a hug that almost squeezed the breath out of him. "I knew it couldn't be true. You wouldn't do such a thing, far less to Sandor. I knew you were innocent." The lad's smile was as broad as his face. Then he cocked his head on one side and regarded Jonathan quizzically. "Are you standing in a hole? Only..." He moved to stand beside Jonathan, comparing their height at the shoulder. "Hey, would you look at that," he grinned, "the apprentice is as big as his master. And I'm not done growing yet!"