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

Ghosts of the Past

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Laurna:


““Lassie, whit wuid ye be daein?” asked the grey hare of the linx in Washburn’s arms.

“I’m protecting him!” The linx growled low in response to the hare.

“I am fine, sweet lady,” Wash tried to explain. But the linx brushed her whiskers against his check with a concerned purr and then she leapt from his arms to stand beside the St. Melangell hare.

The hare seemed to shake his head at the slender feline, then turned back to the knight with deep concern in his eyes. “Ach, laddie,” the hare said as he came close to Washburn’s side.The eyes looked up into Washburn’s eyes but didn’t seem to see Wash looking back at him. “What has befallen ye?”

“Columcil, surely you know as I know, that this is merely a dream.” Wash tried to laugh, yet found that the eyes of the animals around him were too serious to attempt to extend the jest. “When I wake, I will have a grand story to tell.”

Simultaneously, the two eagles missed their wing beats and dropped several feet in the air before flying upward again. At the same time the long pointed ears of the hare turned abruptly to the side.  And the lynx's fur stood up on the back of her neck. All the animals seemed to jump nervously to the side.

“What is it?” Wash asked, confused.

“None of us was expecting that,” called the white shouldered sea eagle.

“Expecting what?” Wash requested. He looked around him for something that might have happened.  He saw that the lion stood unmoving behind the crystalline wall, simply watching him. Whatever it was did not phase the beast as it did everyone else. Washburn’s animal friends could give no explanation. Instead, they turned to watch the priestly rabbit make several jumps  completing a full circle around Washburn’s feet and then he made the circle in the opposite direction.

“Held in thrall…” was the answer that the hare told to the linx and the eagles above.

“You are not making any sense,” Washburn cried out. “Why are you not talking directly to me? It is my dream after all. I don’t even think that I am hearing all that you are saying to one another. You talk only to each other, yet you look at me like I am a lost soul!” Wash exclaimed, turning his head from friend to friend. None of them seemed to acknowledge his growing despair. Wash turned around in the mist. “Which way will get me free of this? I think I should be leaving.”

“Returning to Rhemuth?” drummed a deep voice far above the Lendour knight’s head. A wave of sulfuric heat blew Washburn’s hair back over his eyes. “King Kelson banished you from Court. You have nowhere to go. I too was once banished from Court as you are now. I had displeased my prince by doing that which I knew that I must do, against his orders.  Do you remember why you were banished?”

“... by dark magic,” the hare continued to claim.

“Foul, Dark magic!” a voice echoed through the crystal.

But Washburn was not stunned by that revelation. Instead his full attention was upon the great dragon who came to land before him. Massive wings flipped once and then folded themselves neatly across the scaly crimson back. The long neck of the dragon arched and eyes of shimmering red crystals came down level to Washburn’s face. “The king will keep you away from court permanently, if you do not find a way to defeat this dark magic and regain all of your memories.”

“I have guessed that,” Wash said, backing down from the stern gaze of the dragon. “I have fought this evil for what seems like time-eternal. This is not a dream, is it? I have lost this battle, haven’t I? Are you here to finish it?” Wash looked from the tall fence that kept him from the animals caged within and then turned to the lion-beast who now prowled the far side of the crystalline wall, and then looked back at the dragon squarely in the eyes. “I’m going to die..”

“Oh, quite likely you will, son. Quite likely indeed.” Washburn’s head shot up. The dragon and the knight searched each other’s eyes for answers. “All who are born are destined to die. I see from your memories that even I did not live as long as I had wished. But death is not a spell upon this ruby. That much I can discern.“

“Ruby?” suddenly Wash understood. He whirled around, seeing the crimson landscape for what it really was. “I am enthralled…! Captured within the stone. Your stone, Father. The Lendour  Great sword belonged to you before Kelric gave it to me at my knighting. Is this what you're doing? You and Kelric have finally found a means of removing a son and brother whom neither of  you thought good enough to carry the Morgan name?”

“NO…!” bellowed the dragon. His sulfuric breath filled the air.  Washburn had to cower from the sound and the smell. “Those are your false memories talking to you. You know that is not truth. Think about it my son. Your capture was not my doing! Neither is the spell that holds you here.” The great dragon spread his wings wide, but then quickly folded them upon his back. “I love you, Washburn Alaric Cynfyn Morgan! From the day you were born, to the days that I fell deathly ill,  and then I awoke to find my family's love. I remember when I too was enthralled in a red mist and then I awoke to rejoice in the life I had. I recall not very long after, a little boy ran through a crowd of knights to ride with his papa on parade. I was proud of that boy. Never doubt my love.” Wash stood in shock, he did not know what truly was real anymore. This was far more than just a dream.

“Son, I put my love in the rubys of all three Lendour swords. I told Kelric that the swords of Lendour were for you. He fulfilled my wish, did he not?” The dragon nodded to the sword tied down to Washburn’s belt. Wash put his hand over the smaller ruby on the short sword hilt. For the first time- yet he knew he had felt the feeling before- he could feel the love from the man who was his father.”

“I don’t understand? Then why can you not free me from this dark magic?”

The dragon shook his head. He leapt up into the red mist. The dragon circled once with strong wing thrusts.The misty air stirred around them all, but the dragon did not completely disappear from sight. Frustrated, the champion dragon again landed before the knight. “I am trapped here, just as you are. I can not go beyond the mist. Not even into the clearer parts of the crystal where my love was originally placed. Spells upon spells of magic overlay every part of the crystal. I put my love in the gems and my cousin blessed them. But this dark magic was unexpected.” The dragon glared at the beastly-lion who watched but could not intervene.  “Son, here in the mist, I can protect you, I can protect your friends and your caged memories. Call your companions to your side. Then climb my foreleg and settle between my neck ridge.  Bishop Duncan blessed this gem once upon a time. In the center of the mist we will find hallowed ground. There we will hold against the darkness.”

DerynifanK:
Father Paulos held the door of the church open wide to allow the men to pass through. Father Michael led the way as Darcy and Columcil carried the knight into the church  along the nave to the rood screen. He turned to the side and led them through a door into a small room bare except for a cot in the center.

“Lay him here.” Father Michael indicated the cot. The two men laid Washburn gently on the cot, straightening his legs and making his position as comfortable as possible. Wash did not stir. Fiona and Aliset followed them into the room.

Darcy turned to Columcil. “Help me remove the line binding his arm and hand.” Columcil nodded and moved to the knight’s side. Darcy untied the line securing the hand holding the ruby and began to coil it up. He passed it over the knight’s chest and under his free arm. He nodded to the priest who gently lifted Wash’s torso to allow Darcy to remove it from under him. Columcil lowered Wash back onto the cot. Darcy then removed the line and scarf from the hand clutching the ruby.  He handed the scarf back to Aliset and put the coiled line on the floor near the door to be retrieved later. He then stepped back to allow the three priests to move closer to the cot.

Father Michael spoke first. He turned to Father Paulos and indicated the newly arrived priest. “This is Father Columcil who just arrived from Arx Fidei Seminary to try to aid this young man and his friends. He knows them well. The knight had fallen into what appeared to be a deep sleep from which they could not arouse him. As you know, I was summoned to the inn where he lay by the innkeeper who had become alarmed at their inability to awaken the knight. He was afraid that whatever was affecting his guest would become known and frighten others away from his inn. He was loud and demanding with the young man’s friends, and some of the villagers could hear his demands.  I felt it best to remove him from the inn and bring him to the church where he could be protected while we try to determine what is happening. As you have knowledge of magic and are experienced in  its use, I also wanted your assistance in discovering what has occurred and the best way to help him.”

Paulos nodded solemnly. “It is true that I have knowledge and experience in the use of magic gained from my priestly education in Torenth. As a Deryni I also have certain powers. At my ordination I pledged to use both my knowledge and my powers to both serve God and help those in need. Above all I pledged never to use my powers to cause harm. I have kept my pledge. If you will trust me, I want to assist you in helping this young man.”

Darcy looked at his companions. They nodded that they accepted the Torenthi priest’s words. “We will welcome your help in freeing our friend and restoring his mind.” he said.

Father Michael then continued. “ The innkeeper had heard the words ‘dark magic’ and immediately decided it was dark Deryni magic and demanded the removal of the knight from his inn. He was quite loud. The villagers picked up on those words and, not understanding what was happening,  were beginning to become afraid and agitated. I reminded them of what you taught them. It is not the magic itself that is evil but the heart of the person using it. I thought it best to move him here to the church where we could have privacy while we did what was needed. That would calm the fears of the villagers and we could keep him safe. That young man,” he pointed at Darcy, “does indeed carry a writ signed by the king commanding him to protect the knight.”

Father Paulos looked at Darcy and nodded his acceptance of the young man’s duty to the knight. With an expression of concern, he addressed his fellow priests. “Were you able to examine him there at the inn? What did you find?”

Father Michael answered first. “He did not move or respond to anything we did. Father Columcil moved his arms and legs . There was no resistance in the legs or the free arm. I was warned not to try to move or straighten the arm that is bent up under his chin. I did not think he could be shamming, but I dropped a heavy candlestick. The sudden loud noise elicited no reaction.”

Darcy interjected. “Earlier I tried to open his hand and remove the gem you can see clutched there. The jewel flashed and gave me a nasty shock. It did not seem to have affected him. I stopped right away and did not try again. We thought it best to leave it be until help arrived.”

Fiona spoke up. “I could not leave it there without trying to help him. I tried to move his fingers and grasp the stone using special gloves to protect my hands. The stone did attack again. It did not harm me, but he seemed to wince and moaned a little. I was afraid to touch his hand again.”

Paulos turned to Father Columcil. “What did you find on your examination, Father?”

“His breathin’ was slow and deep like a man deep asleep. He appeared relaxed. However, when I opened his eyes, they did nae react to th’ light as they should. I was able tae move his legs and the left arm easily wi’ nae resistance. Ah had been warned aboot th’ other arm. Ah did not touch his hand.  Ah did try to straighten th’ arm at th’ elbow but there was great resistance there. Ah cuid find nothin’ physically wrong that Ah cuid heal. When I tried to probe deeper, I cuid nae get past his shields. All Ah can say is that he is held in thrall by dark magic an’ th’ source appears tae be that ruby.”

Aliset spoke up. “I probed the ruby once we realized it was the source of the problem. I did not need to touch it but could examine it with my senses. I found layers of spells embedded and entangled in the gem. I was unable to determine what they were, their purpose or who placed them there. I was only able to dispel the outermost spell which kept us from remembering where and when Wash found it.”

Father Paulos looked around at the others gathered around the cot. “I will certainly do what I can to help. I would like to do my own examination. It may be that I will be able to find something that you missed. I have studied Deryni magic and spells in Torenth where I became a priest, and I have knowledge that I hope will be of use in helping this young man. Do any of you object to my examining him?” The friends looked at each other then shook their heads. They stepped back a little to allow Father Paulos to conduct his own examination of Sir Washburn.

His physical examination of Wash was very similar to that done by Father Columcil. He repeated all the same steps that Columcil had done. To complete his investigation of the knight’s condition, he reached for the arm that was flexed up under his chin. The priest tried to straighten it at the elbow as Columcil had done with no more success. He then reached for the hand holding the ruby. He began to try to pull the fingers away from the gem. Darcy cried “Look out!” but almost immediately there was a crimson flash, and Father Paulos jumped back with a cry of pain. He stood rubbing his arm and flexing his fingers, a little shaken by the ruby’s attack.

“We tried to warn you.” Darcy looked at the priest with concern in his eyes.

“You did.” agreed Paulos, “but I wanted to see if the stone attacked anyone who tried to touch it or only certain people. That definitely answered my question.”

After a brief pause to allow the pain to subside, he again approached Wash. “I am going to try to probe deeper that Father Columcil was able to do. I need to see if I can get past his shields and discover more about what is happening here.” He knelt beside the cot and, as Columcil had done, he placed one hand on Wash’s forehead, covering his eyes, and the other on the back of his neck. Paulos was very still with his eyes closed, taking deep slow breaths and appearing to enter a trance. He remained very still for what seemed a very long time. As had happened before, there was no change in Washburn, not so much as the flicker of an eyelid. He continued to breathe slowly and appear relaxed.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity to Fiona, Father Paulos removed his hands from the knight, rose and stepped back, taking several deep slow breaths. He then turned and sat on the side of the cot. He did not try again to touch the ruby, but he stared at it intently for a long time without moving. Finally he stood and moved away from Wash’s side, beckoning the others to follow him.

He stepped just outside the room and they gathered around him peppering him with questions. “Were you able to probe past his shields?

“ Were you able to discover anything about the nature of the spells that are holding him in thrall or who placed them?”

 “Is there anything we can do to dispel them? “

Father Paulos held up a hand to silence everyone before answering. “I was not able to penetrate his shields either. The shielding around his mind is extraordinarily strong. However, there may be another way to determine what is happening here. Do any of you know anything about the ruby, its origin or whether it has any known connection to Sir Washburn?”

Aliset answered him. “It was originally in the hilt of the Lendour greatsword, one of three weapons that made a set that belonged to Wash’s father, Alaric Morgan. The heirloom set was given to Sir Washburn when he was knighted. Wash had the great sword when he was kidnapped. The sword was later recovered from a room where Wash had been held but the great ruby was missing from its hilt.”

Father Paulos was quiet for several minutes as he considered what Aliset had said. He then sat down on a bench in the nave near the door, exhaustion and concern crossing his face as he looked up at the others.  “Given what you told me about the origin of the stone, the way it attacks anyone who attempts to remove it, and the state of Washburn’s shields, I believe I may know the nature of the spell we have to deal with.”

He paused and caught his breath as if reluctant to even name the type of spell. “It is indeed the darkest of magic, the kind of magic that makes humans fear and hate us. I believe it to be an ancient Torenthi magic trap. Very few, even in Torenth, remember the spell or would know how to set it. The one who set this is brilliant and unscrupulous.”

“This spell lures its victim into an almost trance-like state, then springs the trap. Fortunately, the spell does not kill,  but the victim is left helpless until the trapper retrieves him. The trapper often uses an object of value to the owner that was previously taken to lure them into the trap and set the spell. The ruby meets the requirements for such an object.” Father Paulos looked back at Wash’s sleeping form and crossed himself. The others followed suit.

Father Columcil pulled from under his cassock the book about spells used on gems. “Ah found this in th’ library at Arx Fidei, oan a  high shelf which held books on magic includin’ Deryni magic. Happen it micht contain somethin’ to hep us.” He handed the book to Father Paulos. The good father took the book and  thumbed through the pages then returned it to Columcil. “I do see a few spells that resemble what I saw in the ruby but none assembled and entangled in the way these are. As I said, this is an ancient Torenthi magic trap, and I do not think that the book can help us.

“Then what are we to do?” Lady Aliset studied the Torenthi priest with great concern. The others appeared equally worried. “There must be some way to help him!” Fiona cried.

Father Paulos addressed them. “Together we may be able to dispel it. I am familiar with the theory that underlies it and how it works. There is mention of such a ritual being performed in the past, however, I have never seen it in practice and trying to dispel it may prove dangerous.  At the least it will be long and tiring and will require the energy of all of us to complete it. It will be difficult but possible. It may be our only chance to help your friend. Are you willing to take the risk and assist me? “

Fiona leaned forward eagerly.” I am not well trained as the others are but I am willing to do anything I can to help Washburn.”

 Father Columcil indicated that he was willing to assist in any action that would free his friend and restore him to his former self.

Darcy spoke quietly to Aliset. “I know you want to help Wash, but I am concerned that it will be too dangerous for you and the bairns you carry. I will gladly take part and assist Father Paulos in any way I can. Maybe you can help me in doing what is needed.”

Aliset replied forcefully. “I will not be left out of this! Other than Father Paulos, I am the one with the most training, and I feel that I am needed. I cannot let Washburn down out of fear. I will ask the father what I can do that will not endanger them but allow me to support him in freeing Wash. I am sure there is a way.”

The two of them approached Father Paulos and indicated their wish to assist but told him of their concern about Aliset’s pregnancy. They did not want to endanger the babes she carried. The good father smiled at both of them. “We will raise wards that will supply strong protection, and I will further instruct you in how to avoid any threat to you or them.”

Father Michael was also anxious to assist in the ritual but Father Paulos discouraged him. “It is best that you do not take part.  I need you to reassure the villagers that there is no danger to them and that it is a healing ritual that is taking place here. They trust you and will be reassured. Also, If anything were to go wrong, I would not wish to leave the village with no priest.” Father Michael indicated that he understood and agreed.

“We will need a warded space in which to attempt it in order to protect those involved. This room would suit our purpose well as it is seldom used and unlikely to be visited by any of the parishioners. All involved will need the protection of the wards.”

 “Come” said Paulos to the rest of the party as he led them back into the room where Washburn lay. “I will tell you what we will need to set the wards and what you will need to do in order to help me to properly carry out this ritual.”
 

Bynw:

The room has been swept clean. Candles have been placed at the compass points.

Father Paulos and Lady Aliset are charged with walking the circle and raising the Wards as the two Deryni with the most training.

Lady Fiona, her firey spirit easily seen by Father Paulos, is given the task of guarding the inside of the circle. She is given one of the blades carried by the others in case a doorway needs cut in or out of the circle at any time during the Ritual.

Father Columcil will bless the undertaking and say a prayer for the success of it.

Washburn and the cot are kept in the center of the circle. Father Paulos will sit on a stool where he can place one hand on the clenched fisted ruby and the other on Washburn's forehead.

Once the circle is completed and the Ward is raised. Then everyone, except Fiona who must take her position with the sword, will sit so they are in physical contact with one another. And finally they must sit with someone in physical contact with Father Paulos so the link can be formed to draw any energy needed from the companions in order to attempt to free Washburn during the Ritual.

Father Paulos does warn them that this working may not succeed. No matter the outcome, they will all be exhausted at the end. And with the Grace of God, Washburn will be free.

Laurna:
“If my memory of legends serves me at all,” Washburn started to remark with a tone of off humor. “I believe our beloved Saint George slew a dragon, saving a princess and a kingdom, and earning legendary status. I don’t recall any legend where a dragon is ridden like a destrier.”  He cocked his head in appreciation of this new experience before placing his foot upon the extended knee of the great  creature before him.

“Ah yes, George, the patron saint of your famous Cathedral of Rhemuth. That knight was poorly informed about the true nature of dragons,” stated the massive crimson dragon with nonchalance.  “I will say that George did have a certain advantage with lance and armor. Plus, the dragon he is said to have slain was no larger than the horse he rode upon. For certain, it could have only been a dragonet who had not yet acquired the breath of fire.” A swath of sulfurous flame spewed from the opened mouth of the great beast. When the flame dispersed,  the scaly lips turned upward in a grin. “Careful young knight, you have neither lance nor armor, and as dragon legends would state, once peeled of their outer shell, knights are quite tasty.”

Washburn’s hand stayed in mid air halting the hold he started to take on the dragon’s neck ridge. The dragon shook with a deep belly laugh, a sound that instantly brought back the impression of childhood and his father laughing at some subtle jest.

“Father?” Wash hesitantly asked.

“Yes son?” the dragon responded with loving compassion.

Wash shook his head. “What a dream I am having. You know, I never once before dreamed of dragons, nor riding on a dragon’s back.”

“You are not the champion rider that you think you are until you have done so.” The dragon winked his crystal eye at the knight, then lowered his head to the animal friends around Washburn’s feet. “All of you climb up too. Where we go is not far, but it can not be reached by walking.”

Wash leaned down to lift up the Melangell hare and place him on the neck ridge. He bent down again to reach for the lynx, but the cat made a swift leap to the dragon’s foreleg and then to the neck ridge and found an indentation to sit upon. Wash leaped up to sit behind his friends, his arms reaching forward to surround them and hold firm, his fingers grasping a forward turning scale, and his feet finding scales to press into and hold firm. The eagles took flight protecting Washburn at his side. Then the dragon spread forth his massive wings and jumped up for a vertical ascent.

Nothing had prepared Washburn for such a thrill. He had ridden good horses and ones that would threaten to buck a man off. He had ridden oxen and even a camel once upon a time. But the exhilaration of flight was far greater than any he had experienced before. The crystal floor dropped away from sight; the red fog swirled over and under the outstretched tenuous webbed wings.  There was not a true wind, but there was a passage of air, and distance seemed to extend on immeasurably.

Wash settled into the flight as did his friends. The eagles kept a steady pace flying above him. He smiled at them envious of their feathered wings.

Unexpectedly a dazzling flash of light streaked through the crimson surroundings; it illuminated and danced off the wisps of fog. The dragon veered sharply in a turn to the right. The knight held his seat with the strength of his legs.  The hare and the lynx slid from their seats.  “No you don’t!” Wash yelled out. His arms encircled around them both and settled them back against his chest. “What was that?” Wash howled over the sound of a thunderous rumble.

“Someone tampering with the ruby,” the dragon bellowed.

“Friend or foe?” questioned the knight.

“Impossible to know,” the dragon replied. “We will find protection on blessed ground and see who comes to rescue you. If they aren’t friends or family, they will have to contend with me,” declared the dragon. Dragon wings flattened from the turn and the wedge shaped head pulled back, mouth opened wide and a belch of flame incinerated the fog bank that had obscured their way. Before them lay a solid red floor, at its center was a cross that stood the height of a man. The dragon back winged before the cross. “Bishop Duncan’s blessing will hold us safe until we are sure who tampers with the ruby’s spells.”

Keeping his friends close in his arms, Wash slid from the dragon’s back. He landed square on his feet, lowered his friends to the sparkling ruby floor and then he bent down on both knees before the cross. He crossed himself and then put his heart into a prayer. Fervently he wondered if his prayers would be heard in this state of isolated dreaming. “I really would like to wake up from all of this,” he whispered at the end of his prayer.

“I will protect you until you do, my son,” the dragon replied.

Jerusha:

The details for the casting of the circles is taken from Deryni Magic, Casting the Circle, pp. 285 - 287.


“Are you sure I can’t talk you out of this?”  Darcy Cameron asked his wife, pausing in the process of unbuckling his sword belt.  They stood by the door to the room in which Washburn lay unmoving and still.

“Darcy,” Aliset began, the sharpness clear in her voice, though she kept it low.  She looked into her husband’s ice-blue eyes and checked her response.  The concern was clear in his eyes, as was a love he did not try to hide.

“You mean more to me than life itself,” Darcy continued.  “There is not a sea I wouldn’t sail, no matter how dangerous, to keep you safe.”

“Darcy,” Aliset said again, but this time her voice was gentle.  “I know you would, but I must do this. Washburn came to my aid after Alister’s death.  He did his best to save me from my cousin’s cruel hands.  He rescued me  from Lord Jaxom and the evil man who controlled him.  If it weren’t for my need, none of this might have happened.  I must do my part to set Washburn free!  If I do not, and if Father Paulos fails, I will never know if I could have  made the difference.  I will carry that blame for the rest of my life.”

Darcy nodded reluctantly and then took both of her hands and enclosed them in his larger, calloused ones.  “Then we will do this together, side by side.”

Aliset smiled at him.  “Yes we will, side by side.”

Darcy released her hands, unabashedly kissed the tip of her nose and then unbuckled his sword belt and wrapped it around the scabbard.  He set his sheathed sword against the wall beside the door; no extra weapons would be allowed within the ritual circle except those that were required.  He moved to the small table altar that had been placed between the eastern wall and Washburn.   

Father Michael had provided the table which was covered by a white cloth.  Father Paulos had placed his own Eastern crucifix with the body of Jesus carved in low relief on the table, and it was flanked by two red votive candles.  Father Michael had added a thurible and aspergillum from the church.  Darcy removed his dagger with the onyx stone set in the handle and laid it on the table beside the aspergillum.

Father Paulos surveyed the room. A small stool had been placed by the cot on the opposite side from the altar table, near Washburn’s head.  Father Columcil and Fiona stood together on one side of the doorway. Father Columcil appeared resolute; Fiona was doing her best to control her eagerness.   Darcy and Aliset stood together on the other side of the doorway.  Darcy pushed several strands of pale hair away from his face, which was carefully composed to reveal nothing of his inner thoughts.   Aliset stood with her hands clasped over her abdomen, quietly determined. 

Father Paulos had instructed them on the ritual they were to perform and their duties within it.  Actions and words were committed to memory.  Aliset, the only one of them ritual trained, would be Mistress for the ritual.

“I believe we are ready,” Father Paulos said.  “Father Michael, you may leave us now.  Thank you for all you have done to assist us.”

Father Michael bowed his head in acknowledgement and left the room. The flames of the candles placed at the four cardinal points flickered as the door closed.

Father Paulos motioned for the others to join him and stand facing the cot and the table altar.  He nodded to Aliset, who took a deep, steadying breath and moved around the cot to stop in front of the table altar and dip her knee.  She picked up the aspergillum containing holy water mixed with a small amount of pure salt that Father Paulos had prepared and blessed earlier, so she could purify the circle with Water and Earth.  She  walked purposefully around the table altar toward the east wall where she would begin the circle.  Once there, she saluted the East Quarter with a sprinkle of holy water and a brief dip of her knee.  She turned clockwise toward the South Quarter, defining the circle as she continued to sprinkle the ground before her.  She paused at the South Quarter to salute it with an extra sprinkle and a dip of her knee and then continued on toward the West.  As she walked, she began to recite the Twenty-third Psalm, her voice quiet and reverent. 

Fiona watched Aliset as she continued to mark the boundary for the ward.  Would it protect them from the spells that kept Washburn in thrall? Water and Earth, the realm of women. She would do all she could to set Washburn free!  As Aliset spoke the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, she echoed them in her mind.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. She drew on that strength.

Aliset repeated the ritual for the West and North Quarters before moving on to complete the circle at the East.  She returned to her companions and sprinkled each with holy water to purify them.  She turned toward the cot and sprinkled Washburn before handing the aspergillum to Father Paulos, who purified her.

Father Paulos returned the aspergillum to the altar table and bowed before picking up the thurible.  He passed his hand over the top to ignite the incense and moved to the East Quarter.  There he saluted the Quarter with an extra swing of the thurible to consecrate it with Fire and Air and bowed.  He turned toward the South Quarter, retracing Aliset’s steps while gently swinging the thurible.

Darcy wrinkled his nose at the pungent scent of the incense.  He had never liked the smell; it reminded him of funerals.  Now that Aliset had restored his memories, he knew that the funeral he remembered was his father’s.  He had been too young to clearly understand at the time. He had hoped that at the end of the service, his father would be standing alive and well outside the church door. Perhaps not with a welcoming hug, but at least a comforting pat on his shoulder. He had sobbed in despair when his hopes were dashed.

Father Paulos saluted each Quarter as he followed the circle until he reached the East. As Aliset had done, he returned to the group and censed each in turn, again including Washburn, before handing the thurible to Aliset to be censed himself.

Aliset returned the thurible to the table altar and picked up Darcy’s dagger, which she would use to cast the final circuit of the magical circle.  She approached the East Quarter and raised the dagger in front of her in salute.   As she turned clockwise toward the South Quarter, she pointed the dagger toward the earth.  The tip of the dagger began to project a quasi-visible beam of bluish-violet energy that hovered just above the ground along the circle’s path as she walked.

As Father Columcil watched  Aliset continue along the path of the first two circuits, he again felt the conviction that his own footsteps had been guided since he had left the ancient shrine of Saint Melangell.  So many twists and turns along the path they had followed—almost as if they were following the leaps and bounds of Saint Melangell’s hare—and yet so many revelations! God willing, they would see this through together and restore Washburn to his former self.

Again Aliset saluted each Quarter, finally completing the cast in the East.  Now she moved the dagger slowly upward toward the centre of the ceiling. The energy aligned along the circle rose upward, forming a ward of protection above  them.  Aliset returned the dagger to the table altar, suddenly noting that the onyx stone in the handle displayed a very faint bluish-violet glow. Darcy’s mysterious dagger. She suppressed a slight smile as she returned to stand with the others.  Father Paulos nodded, and those who would call the Quarters took their positions.

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