Role-Playing and Other Games > Semi Free-Form Deryni Gaming

Ghosts of the Past

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Columcil settled into the rhythm of Spean's gallop, enjoying being out from the constrictions of monastery life, and now that his anxiety about his grandfather was somewhat assuaged he could also admit to himself that he was glad to be away from the protocol which inevitably surrounded him as Archbishop of Rhemuth. Not that there weren't compensations. He fingered the good cloth that he was wearing with pleasure - and this was now his oldest cassock- and remembered without regret the rough homespun in which he had set out from St Melangell's. Dia, how long ago that seemed and how much had happened.

Thinking like that was a mistake as it brought into focus his fears for Washburn, and fear was something none of them could afford to indulge in. He blessed himself and offered up the prayer for protection which he said nightly at Compline, but seemed appropriate against the darkness which held Washburn captive:

Visit this place, O Lord, we pray,
and drive far from it the snares of the enemy;
may your holy angels dwell with us and guard us in peace,
and may your blessing be always upon us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Then he allowed himself to feel the gentle, uncomplaining presence of his mount and felt comforted.

The directions he had received were simple to follow but even had they not been he sensed that he would have been drawn by Washburn's spirit, and he heard the bell of the village church ringing out the noon Angelus as he pulled Spean to a halt before what could only be the village inn. He dismounted and would have taken Spean round the back to find stables, when a young lad darted out through the doorway and took the bridle from him. He was clearly expected.

Following the lad's gesture, which managed to convey both respect and direction, he went through the door into the main room of the inn, momentarily blinded by moving from the bright summer sunshine into semi-darkness and not at once able to focus on the figure who moved towards him. Instinctively his hand moved as if to clasp his staff before he realised that this must still be at Arx Fidei but then, his eyes clearing, he saw that the man was a priest, and he was able to smoothly continue the movement of his hand to place it over his heart and bow courteously in greeting.

"Pax vobiscum"

"Et cum spiritu vostri"

"Welcome Father, you must be Father Columcil."

"Thank ye, aye, and ye'll be...?"

Thankfully the priest seemed unoffended by Columcil's directness and smilingly offered,

"I'm Father Michael, the priest of this village. I'm away upstairs to where I believe the poor young man who was taken ill is being cared for by his friends. The prayers of the both of us cannot but help."

Columcil would have been happier if this strange priest had revealed how he knew his name, and wondered how much more he knew, but there was no time to ask as Father Michael led the way to the upper room.

Fiona stirred and stretched. She was still curled up next to Washburn on the bed with her arm thrown over him. She was surprised to find that she had dozed off. She wondered what had aroused her, then she realized that there was the increased sound of many voices from the street outside. She also heard several voices from the main room of the inn. She supposed that this indicated the arrival of the village priest, Father Michael, accompanied by some of the villagers. She did not know whether the visiting Torenthi priest had also come.

Fiona sat up then turned to look at Wash. Again there was no change. He lay in the same position with the hand  clasping the ruby drawn up under his chin. The only thing that had elicited any response from the knight was her attempt to remove the ruby from his hand. Her enspelled glove had protected her from the ruby’s attack, but Wash had winced as if in pain and moaned. She would take care to avoid it, at least for now.

She heard the sound of a flurry of hoofbeats as a horse was ridden up to the front of the inn. She heard the sound of someone dismounting and a horse being led away. The sound of boots crossed the porch of the inn, and she heard the door open. There was a brief silence, then the murmur of voices. She hoped this heralded the long awaited arrival of Father Columcil. She felt that they desperately needed his help in unraveling the mystery of the spells on the ruby, who placed them there and with what intent.

Fiona became aware of her position on the bed next to Washburn. She was sure that being discovered in such a compromising position would not do her reputation any good. They needed the help of the reeve and the village priest, and it was important that they do nothing to antagonize either of those men. She quickly rose from the bed and did her best to smooth down her gown. She ran her fingers through her hair and adjusted her veil. She heard the sound of several people mounting the stairs to the hallway outside their rooms.

She moved softly over to stand by the window. Someone knocked on the door of the room next door, and she heard it open. She heard the voice of the innkeeper/reeve again demanding to be allowed to see the knight.

“Here is Father Michael, our village priest. Show him this writ you say is signed by the king that commands you to protect the knight. I need to protect the people of the village. We need to know what is ailing him.”

She heard another voice speaking quietly. Then she heard Darcy reply. “Aye, Father. You are welcome to read the King’s writ. You will be able to reassure the villagers that we speak the truth. There is no threat to the people of the village. The only person at risk here is the knight himself. We are hoping that you and Father Columcil can assist us in helping him.”

Fiona was excited to hear Father Columcil’s name spoken. Surely that meant that the good father has arrived at last. She heard the village priest’s voice as he read the writ that Darcy handed him. She also heard steps approaching the door of Wash’s room. There was a soft knock at the door. Fiona moved forward and opened the door. She found herself face-to-face with the person they had all been hoping to see, Father Columcil.  She stood back to allow him to enter the room. His gaze went immediately to Washburn, lying unmoving on the bed. Then he turned to Fiona. She thought she saw a hint of disapproval in his eyes.

“Lassie, whit wuid ye be daein aloyn in his bedroom with Sir Washburn?”

Fiona’s eyes flashed. She had not thought that Columcil would chide her. “I’m protecting him! Do you not see that he has not responded to your voice?  He has fallen into a coma from which we have been unable to arouse him. He is unaware of anything happening around him and unable to protect himself should anyone try to harm him.  I was not about to leave him alone and vulnerable. We have been taking turns watching over him. He is hardly in any condition to compromise me, not that he would even if he could!”

Columcil replied soothingly. “Noo, noo. Calm yersel. Ah meant nae harm. We dae need tae think abit hoo this wuid look tae Father Michael and ta villagers.”

Fiona pointed to Wash lying unmoving on the bed. “Examine him. See whether you can get any response from him. Darcy even tried slapping him; nothing. We have not been able to get any response from him no matter what we do. We know the source of the spell is that ruby clutched in his hand. And there are multiple spells on that gem. I tried to remove it using an enspelled glove for protection. I was unable to do so. We do not know who is behind this, but we do not feel it safe to leave him alone while he is like this. We are hoping you can help us.”

Columcil patted Fiona’s hand and spoke gently. “That is wa Ah hae come, tae hep ye. Faither Michael an’ Ah intend tae examine heem tae fin’ th’ problem an’ figure oot wha’s best tae do.”

Just then there was a soft knock at the door. Columcil opened it and Father Michael stepped into the room followed by Aliset. Fiona could see Darcy in the doorway behind her.  “I have seen the king’s writ and read it to the reeve. I have assured him that the two of us will examine the knight  to determine what we can do to help him.” The two priests turned to study the man lying on the bed.

“Father Columcil!” Darcy Cameron said from the doorway to Washburn’s room.  “Thank Saint Nicholas that you are here at last!”

Father Columcil managed a rueful smile.  “I wish I could hae been here sooner, but I doubt it would hae made much difference, from whit Aliset relayed to me.”

Aliset resisted the impulse to throw her arms around the priest, but only barely.

“What are you going to do now?” said the innkeeper as he approached the door, stopping just short of Darcy’s back.

“We’ll inform you in due time,” Darcy said coldly as he turned and blocked the man’s entry into the room.  He moved as if to close the door.

“No you don’t,” the innkeeper said and reached over Darcy’s shoulder to place his hand against the door.   “Your writ may be valid, but I will  make my own judgement on the risk to my inn from your knight.”

“We have no need of secrets,” Father Michael said calmly.  “But the room is already crowded.  Reeve, I’ll look into this. Just wait outside the doorway.” 

The innkeeper dropped his arm, and Darcy turned back to face the room.  Aliset moved to stand next to him, giving the priests more room to examine Washburn.   Fiona remained by the window.

Both priests moved closer to Washburn, Father Michael allowing Columcil to precede him to examine Washburn first.  Columcil checked the stricken man’s pulse and his breathing and then gently opened each eye.  Washburn’s eyes looked normal, but did not respond to the change in light as Columcil passed his hand over Washburn’s face.  Columcil flexed Washburn’s legs and then reached toward the arm bent to keep the hand with the ruby under Washburn’s chin.

“Have a care, Father,” Darcy quickly warned.  “If you touch the gem, the result will be very painful, and I can’t swear another flash will not be worse than the first.”

Columcil glanced at Fiona, who shook her head slightly.  “It did not seem worse to me,” she said quietly.

“Oh, Fiona!” Aliset said and sighed.  Darcy looked from his wife to his cousin; although his eyes  narrowed, he said nothing.

Columcil grasped the knight’s elbow and attempted to straighten the arm, but it would not move, even as he applied more pressure.

“Ach, laddie,” Columcil said quietly as he knelt beside him.   “What has befallen ye?”  He looked up at Father Michael. “Is there anything ye would like to check before I probe deeper?” he asked.

Father Micheal looked thoughtful for a moment and then reached over to the heavy brass candlestick holder on the small table.  He held it up level with his chin and then let go.  The loud crash caused all those both in and without the room to jump except for Washburn, who did not stir.

“He would not have been expecting that, and while I don’t believe he is shamming, I thought it a prudent test.”

“None of us was expecting that,” Darcy muttered, and Aliset poked him in the ribs.

Father Columcil took a deep, centering breath and placed his hands on Washburn’s head, one over his forehead and one at the back of his neck.  He stayed that way for some time and then pulled his hands away and sat back on his heels.

“Is there nothing you can do to Heal him, Father?” Fiona asked, a hint of desperation in her voice.

“There is nothing physically amiss with him that I can Heal, and I can’t get past his shields to probe deeper,” Columcil said heavily.  “All I can ken is that he is held in thrall by dark magic, and it appears the source is the ruby.”  Father Michael crossed himself.

“Foul, Deryni magic!” the innkeeper hissed.  “I want him out of my inn!”

Darcy half-turned toward him, but Father Michael held up a staying hand.  “Remember what Father Paulos has taught us about magic; it is not the magic that is evil, but the heart of the person that uses it for a dark purpose.  Remember that Archbishop McLain is a Deryni, as was Bishop Arilan. Would you consider them evil men?”

The innkeeper pointed toward Father Columcil.  “He said this is dark magic!”

“And so it appears to be,” Father Michael responded gravely.  “I propose we move this knight to the church where Father Paulos can assist us.  Working against dark magic will require priests skilled in magic with the power of God behind them.”

“This will not be an easy task,” Darcy said.  “The stairs are steep and narrow.  Father Columcil, it will take both of us to carry him down the stairs.”  He turned to the innkeeper.  “Can you find us a hand cart to move him to the church once we are down?”

When the innkeeper looked as if he was about to object to the task, Aliset added,  “It will get him out of your inn all the quicker.”  The innkeeper nodded curtly and headed down the stairs. 

“Love,” Darcy said.   “Would you fetch my sea bag and that scarf you were wearing then we were searching for the fortress?”

“Of course,” Aliset responded.  Darcy remembered the scarf she had been wearing?  He was such an odd man, sometimes.

When Aliset returned with both items, Darcy set the scarf on the bed beside Washburn and then pulled a coil of light line from his sea bag.  Carefully he slipped an edge of the scarf between Washburn’s hand and his chin and pulled it loosely over the hand.  He secured it gently by winding one end of the line around Washburn’s wrist.

“Father Columcil, can you hoist his chest up a bit so I can slide the line around him?” Darcy asked.

The priest looked puzzled, but he lifted Washburn just enough so Darcy could pass the line across Washburn’s back, underneath his free arm, and across his chest, securing it to the man’s other arm, effectively immobilizing the arm and hand holding the ruby.

“I don’t fancy his hand being jostled and the flash from that ruby sending us tumbling down the stairs,” Darcy explained.  “I’ll take him up under his shoulders; Father Columcil, you grasp his legs and guide us down.”

Columcil nodded and helped Darcy roll  Washburn onto his back.  With careful maneuvering, and a grunt or two from Darcy, they soon had the knight slung between them, Columcil facing forward with Washburn’s ankles held securely.  Darcy stood behind Washburn’s back, one arm under Washburn’s free arm and the other over the bent arm, his hands clasped securely  across the knight’s chest.

“Let me go first,” Father Michael volunteered.  “I can help break your fall if needed.”

“Pray it does not come to that Father, but thank you,” Darcy said.

“Oh, I will, son,” the village priest responded, and Columcil thought he saw a ghost of a smile on the man’s face. 

Aliset and Fiona formed the rear of their small procession.  Columcil started down, but Darcy hesitated at the top step.

“A bit slower if you please, Father,” he said.  “He’s no lightweight, and I can’t see my feet or the stairs from behind him.”

“Darcy, feel the steps with your senses,” Aliset urged.  “Just as you felt for the workings of the lock when we practiced.”  By this time, Aliset was sure Father Michael had guessed they were all Deryni and would not be dismayed by the suggestion.

“Aye, now that’s a good thought!”  Darcy took a deep breath and focused on the stairs.  “Off we go, Father Columcil!”

To their joint relief, Darcy and Columcil carried Washburn down the stairs safely.  A few villagers watched them as they carried the knight across the room to the door; more onlookers watched from outside the inn.

Once they were through the doorway, Darcy did not see the hand cart he was expecting.  Instead, a sturdy boy stood beside a large, wooden wheelbarrow.

“Is that the best you could find?” Darcy asked the innkeeper angrily.

“It is what was available; the carts are in use,” the innkeeper responded coldly.  “The villagers have work to be done today.”

Judging by the size of the small crowd that had gathered in the street, Darcy doubted that much work was being done at the moment, but he held his tongue.  Instead, he looked at the boy.

“Hold the wheelbarrow steady while we lift him inside,” Darcy directed.  The boy stepped up to the handles and took a firm grip.  Darcy and Columcil moved Washburn beside the wheelbarrow.  “Father, on the count of three, lift him up and we’ll swing him in as gently as possible.”  The priest nodded and tightened his grip on Washburn’s ankles.  “One, two, three!”  They heaved him up and swung him into the wheelbarrow, which wobbled dangerously as Washburn settled inside, his head against the closed end over the wheel, and his knees bent at the open end, leaving his feet dangling.

Fiona moved to Washburn’s side and tried to adjust his position so he might be more comfortable.  Darcy shook the wheelbarrow slightly and was not pleased by the obvious wobble, muttering something impolite under his breath. 

“Keep the wheelbarrow as steady as you can,” Darcy told the boy as he stood beside it.  Columcil stood on the other side, ready to lend a hand if it tipped.  Fiona decided to walk beside Columcil, and Aliset moved to Darcy’s side.  Father Michael nodded and began to lead them toward the church.

((Will they move Washburn safely to the church without incident?
Jerusha !roll 1d6 (at disadvantage, since the wheelbarrow is wobbly.)
1421 Jerusha rolled 1d6:3 <total 3>

The wobble of the single wheel seemed to  increase as they moved down the road.  Fortunately, they did not need to travel far to reach the church.  The boy seemed unable to decide which of the two lovely women in front of him he should let his gaze linger on, so he was not giving his task his full attention. 

Suddenly, the wheel stuck in a deeper rut and the wheelbarrow started to fall toward Darcy.  Darcy drove his shoulder against the side of the cart and braced his legs to support the weight.  Columcil grabbed the other side and hauled it back toward him.  The boy grabbed the handles tightly and brought the wheelbarrow fully upright.

Aliset held her breath, expecting a string of seaman’s curses from Darcy directed at the boy, who looked like he expected the same.  Darcy flexed his shoulder and then turned to the boy.

“Take better care,” he told the boy quietly, though his voice did not lack sternness.  “A job well and proper done is what it takes to impress a girl.  You won’t get far this way.  Tackle it again, and keep the wheelbarrow steady this time.”

The boy’s face went from pale to red.  “Yes, m’lord,” he said hastily and began to move forward, looking straight ahead and concentrating on the road and wheelbarrow.

Aliset studied her husband for a moment; Darcy had managed to surprise her again.

They reached the church and stopped at the bottom of the wide stairs.  Father Paulos swung the doors open.

“Come,” the Torenthi priest said. “Bring your burden inside.”

 The village church is larger than most. Given it's proximity to Valoret and that many priests and pilgrims stop in the village. It must be able to handle an influx of visitors.

Father Paulos leads those carrying Washburn to a small room and opens the door. The room is about 50 foot square. A make-shift cot is available but almost nothing else. No windows and only one way in or out.

"Lay him gently there." Father Paulos says pointing to the make-shift cot. "What has happened to him?"


Here we see Father Columcil and Darcy carrying Washburn down the stairs in the inn. Looking on concerned are Lady Aliset is in blue, and Lady Fiona  in the saffron gown. Out the door of the inn the sight of many villagers and a rickety wheelbarrow has caught the eye of our team. A Wheelbarrow? Oh Dear! Not quite a mood of transportation for the son of a duke.


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