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Ghosts of the Past

Started by Bynw, November 21, 2017, 09:26:09 AM

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Bynw

#855
Within Rhemuth Castle there are many dignitaries, guests, their servants, men-at-arms, and countless others within its walls and gardens. All there for the coming celebration ceremony by King Kelson to officially commemorate the end of the most recent Mearan Rebellion.

Courtesans and lesser known lords and ladies mingle about. Some taking refuge in the library, the gardens, some in the padded window casements overlooking the various gardens. Sitting to read a scroll, book, or letter.

A small group, obviously from the Forcinn given their manner of dress. And being more openly Deryni during this grand period of enlightenment in Gywnedd. Discuss the Gywnedd's Schola in the windows overlooking the Royal gardens.

Unknown to most of them they get to be witness to reuniting of the sons of the late Alaric Morgan. Although one glances out of the window to the gardens below and smiles as Washburn Morgan is raised back to his feet and welcomed by his brothers.

The discussion continues for a time and the group moves to other areas of the castle waiting for the celebration. Lost in the crowds.
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Laurna

#856
((I want to thank Jerusha, Derynifank and Revanne for helping me flush out this scene and making it a true ceremony of Rhemuth))

The velvet tunic was too warm and the cut was a little off; the shoulders were wide and the girth was tight. Had he changed that much in just two months. Standing at the side of the crowded Great Hall, Washburn straightened his back and pulled in his gut.  He dared the rumor starters to say he had gained weight. Damn if it was not true. The result of non-existent training sessions and recent celebrations of life with friends and family through good food and ale. And yet to come was still another grand feast, the one that would follow this recognition ceremony. It was planned to be as lavish as Twelfth Night. Washburn took note of his tight belt and was thankful it would be the last grand feast until winter. He purposely lifted his arms running his fingers through his hair. The shortness of it no longer bothered him. However the movement allowed the waistline of his tunic to slide up under his belt to somewhere that the cut of cloth was a bit wider. When he put his arms down, the fabric looped a little over his knight's belt. But never mind that, it was much more comfortable.  Columcil at his side looked at him oddly. Washburn simply  laughed. What would a priest know about the current fashion of close fitting garments?  Under priestly robes the cleric could eat to his heart's content, adding pounds, and no one would be the wiser.

Wash looked up from his tunic, which was all in Corwyn green- or now he could consider it Healer's green- with the Morgan-styled edging in gold and new badge on his left shoulder of a white hand with a green star centered on the palm. Before him stood Lord Darcy who was fidgeting even more than he. Once more the seaman was in his formal dress plaid as Heir of Isles and his lady wife, the lovely Aliset, wore her emerald silk gown with the Mariot plaid sash over her right shoulder, pinned with the broach that had once belonged to her twin brother. Washburn smiled at the back of the couple before him. Darcy was just barely enduring Aliset's hold on his arm, presumably she was keeping his hand from brushing back the Isles' silver circlet off his head.

A hush fell across the Great Hall. Wash looked around to see everyone's eyes were on the king and the young men he'd called forward for knighting as a group. This was unlike Twelfth Night. Many of these men had earned the accolade, not through peerage, but through heroism and loyalty on the field of battle. They could not have afforded knighthood, but their deeds had brought them to the forefront; barons, earls, dukes, and princes alike sponsored them to stand before their king. It was a great honor for men of common heritage to receive the accolade. A change of fortunes for many.  The festivities in the streets of Rhemuth had heightened with cheers for these young men the night before, as they had entered the Doors of Saint Georges Cathedral to begin their vigil. Now after the morning's parade from cathedral to castle, the young men stood proud before their king. Their sponsors bent down to place spurs upon their candidates' boots and then the candidates spoke their vows to the king in one voice. As a group they all knelt before each of their sponsors, proven knights of the realm all, they received their dubbing. Twenty swords moved from the right shoulder over the head and then to the left shoulder to affirm the knighting of each candidate. At the end, Kelson reasserted his vow, naming each of them in turn and the archbishop followed by giving a group blessing. What followed was a huge cheer in the hall; for many families this was a new beginning.

As the families rushed up to hug the new knights. Wasburn was surprised to see Fiona was one of them. She raced up and hugged a young man.

"Who is Lady Fiona congratulating?" Washburn asked of Columcil, hoping he did not sound jealous.

"Ye saw heem earlier oan th' King's Green. That is her coosin, Michael Stuart. Ah am glad he has earned th' accolade." Wash nodded. If it had not been for Michael's now forgiven transgression, Wash might never have come to be acquainted with Lady Fiona. He must be sure to greet the young man and offer him training.

Fiona rushed up to Michael, hugging him tightly. "I am so proud of you, I'm about to burst. You must have worked very hard to earn such approval from the Earl of Marley that he was your sponsor for knighthood. Look at Uncle Mac and Aunt Olivia as they give their gratitude to the earl, I dare say they are both so very proud of you."

Michael returned her hug, grinning hugely. "I did put forth every effort to learn from Earl Brendan and to meet his expectations. I plan to remain in his service and to continue my endeavor to become an honored knight of the realm as he is. He has agreed to retain me in his service and to continue my training. I couldn't have a better mentor." Michael turned to exchange hugs with his mother and father whose pride and happiness shone in their faces.

Fiona was so very pleased with her cousin's new future, but there was another she was seeking who certainly must be somewhere in the crowd. She stood on tiptoe, trying to see through the hundreds standing in the great hall to find that other person who was close to her heart and was also being honored today.

When the hall finally settled, the king rose to address those gathered before him.  "There are many We have honored for their bravery in suppressing the Mearan Rebellion.  In order to leave time for the celebratory feast to follow," several heads nod in appreciation, "some of the transfers and confirmations of lands have already been bestowed. However, since We would not want to deny anyone the public recognition they so richly deserve, they will be called forward to present themselves for your acknowledgement and congratulations."

The third pair of names that were called made Washburn smile broadly.

"Lord Darcy Cameron and Lady Aliset Cameron, please step forward," the steward called. 

Darcy held out his arm for his wife's hand and brought her forward at his side.

"Lord and Lady Cameron, you have been pledged to take responsibility for the Barony of Caer Mariot; care for the land and for the people. Your mentor shall be Duke Rory Haldane of Meara and the laws of King Kelson of Gwynedd shall guide your hand," the steward announced.

Darcy turned his wife toward the king, and they bowed and curtseyed.  Kelson nodded his head in acknowledgement, but Darcy caught the slight smile at the corners of his mouth.  By rights, Aliset should have been announced first, but the king had chosen to ignore that protocol.  Darcy doubted that anyone in the hall would recognize the significance of Aliset's plaid sash.  As she had at Iain's wedding, she wore it across her chest and fastened with the eagle's broach on her right shoulder, signifying that she wore the plaid of her family, rather than that of her husband's.  As rightly she should, as Lady of Mariot.  Father Columcil gave him a questioning look; the border priest was aware of the significance.

They remained standing in line as the others were called forward.  There were twelve in all who were awarded rights to lands and manors. Some of them had been among the newly dubbed knights, and the faces of their families, and a few sweethearts, glowed with pride.

With a sweep of his hand, Kelson acknowledged the group.  There was much clapping, and Washburn gave an enthusiastic cheer, causing both Darcy and Aliset to smile.

Darcy escorted Aliset back to a good vantage point to watch Washburn receive his honors.  How well deserved they were!  In time, he and Aliset would earn the honor of the Barony of Caer Mariot, of that he had no doubt, but in truth, right now he didn't give a dolphin's nose about it!  The greatest honor the king could have bestowed upon him had been her hand resting on his arm.  That he had wedded his heart's desire, his beautiful, intelligent Aliset, still amazed him. As if reading his thoughts, she turned to him and graced him with one of her loveliest smiles.  Darcy felt smugly content.

Wash gulped, knowing he would soon be called. Indeed, the steward called out clear as day, "Lord Washburn Alaric Morgan, Please come forward and present yourself to the king."  As he stepped forward, so did his standard bearer step out behind him. He had not yet seen the finished banner of his new heraldry, as his sister had been still embroidering on it the day before. He dared to glance at it:

Vert, dexter chief couped right hand argent, pierced in the palm with VIII pointed star vert,  Dragon passant wings elevated gules, double tressure fleury-counter-fleury or.



Washburn walked forward with pride.

At last Fiona heard his name called and saw Washburn step forward to kneel before the king to receive acknowledgement. She was so excited and happy for him that she could barely contain herself. She watched, hardly breathing, as the ritual proceeded.

"The king has resolved to bestow upon you the barony once called Buckley, located on the Cuilteine road west of Arx Fidei Abbey.  Your request to rename the Barony, Morgan Manor, has been granted and the name duly added to the treasury records. You are hereby given full privilege of the peerage of the Kingdom of Gwynedd and all the responsibilities this entails. If you accept this duty, then kneel before your sovereign and accept the writ of lordship from his hand."

Washburn was overwhelmed. He knelt before the king and gave his vow as baron to watch over the people of his land and to in turn collect and pay tribute to the king. It was a blur with the king's strong hands enfolding his, and then there was a strange intake of breath made by several people in the great hall. His standard bearer made the greatest exclamation. Washburn looked back just in time to see the pennant waver and the emblem of the dragon pull himself free of the fabric and take flight. It breathed fire into the air, and then circled the hall, came to hover before the king, then alighted with talons touching the scroll the king held outward. Then the little dragon breathed fire again, lifted into the air, and vanished, leaving behind only his likeness on Washburn's banner.  The king laughed as did most of the Deryni.

Washburn was mortified!

"That is a good spell," Kelson declared, as he looked back over his left shoulder. 

Seated at the queen's feet, young Prince Kenneth smiled gleefully. "Isn't it wonderful, grand-mama!" the boy cried out. "I just knew it, that dragon can fly and breathe fire, just like in the story!" Everyone who heard, could not help but laugh.

Kelson started again as he handed the writ of the barony across to Wash. But then it wasn't just Kelson's hand on the scroll. A hand shimmering in a ghostly hue, with the signet of Corwyn on one finger and the ring of the king's champion on another finger, encompassed the scroll. Wash sucked in a breath as he looked up to see the form and face of Alaric Morgan, a little aged from his last portrait, standing just to the right and slightly behind the king, as he had done so often in life. Kelson bit his lip, looking back to see the essence of his dearest friend and a tear slid down his cheek. "I am not the only one proud of you." Kelson said very quietly to Wash. Then the writ had passed into Washburn's hands and the ghostly figure was gone. Wash bowed with a step back and he was being congratulated by friends before he remembered to take in a breath.

"Did you see that?" he asked his brothers.

Kelric thumped his back, "The dragon? Of course we did. Everyone who is Deryni saw it."

"No, the other..." Wash asked, but Kelric and Brendan did not know what he meant. 

But then he looked up at his maman and saw the tears in her eyes. She nodded and beckoned him to her side, "I just saw your papa, and he whispered to me- "My beloved banshee. I will always love you and I am proud of all our children." Richenda could barely breathe for the tears that rolled down her cheeks. "I can not explain it except as a manifestation of your papa's enduring love for you and for all of us," she said softly.

Wash gave his mother a hug and tucked his head into her shoulder for a moment. "I can not explain what I saw either, but I know papa has been watching over me, and that is the explanation l feel is right."  he said quietly. Then he brushed back the wetness at the corner of his eyes and held her hand as the steward of the ceremony called forth its last recipient.

"It is with pleasure that King Kelson wishes to have it known that the Barony of Isles has been elevated to an Earldom and the coastal Baronies of Naver, Weis, Loch Ness, and MacIntire have been incorporated under the Earldom of Isles.  Pressing business in Isles has made it necessary for Earl Iain Cameron and his Countess of Isles to return there at once; they have left Rhemuth for this purpose."

Washburn was upset over the news of Iain's leaving. He had intended to ask the new earl, now that he was officially a baron with a manor and income, for permission to court the Lady Fiona MacIntire. This was not a subject he could not have broached before now and he did not want to put in writing. But when would he be able to stand before Iain again to make such a request. Washburn's dismay was interrupted by the murmurings of the people near him. He heard whispers of, "Who is the countess?" "When did Lord of Isles become married?" "She must be from some foreign lands in the east to make peace with the Torenthi for that fiasco of the Tolan Fleet." "You must be right, who else would live in the harsh climate of Isles but a daughter of Tolan."

No one knew the truth, and they would not hear it from Washburn's lips nor from anyone who truly knew. But Wash had to agree with the timing of the Countess of Isles being whisked away before such a truth could even be guessed.

Then it was over and everyone was milling around the great hall, gossiping about the new knights, the end of the war, and the new countess.  Washburn stood his ground, taller than most, looking over heads for the one prettiest girl in the hall. He couldn't find her at first, but then he turned to finally see her coming toward him, her cheeks flushed rosily, smiling happily with hands outstretched. He took her hands in his and squeezed them. "I am so proud of you!" she exclaimed a little breathlessly. "You are now a baron with a manor of your own. That is so exciting. And how did that dragon move off your banner and breathe over the writ and the king as he handed it to you. It was almost like a sign of approval. Can dragons do that?"

Fiona bounced a little on her toes not waiting for his answer. "I can hardly wait to start my studies at the Schola! There is so much to learn! I hope that we will also be able to see each other as we attend classes. I know yours as a healer will be different from mine, but surely we will see each other."  Wash wanted to hold her hands tighter and answer her with assurance, but his brothers and sister were gathering around, and Fiona excused herself to return to her own family. He watched her move away to where Michael stood with the Baron and Baroness, delighted with their newly knighted son. Washburn was happy to see them here appearing so pleased.


Food, wine, music and Dancing were planned to follow, filling the afternoon and night until the rise of dawn. He would find a way to dance many dances with the beautiful Fiona.
May your horses have wings and fly!

revanne

Columcil was content to stand on the sidelines as others around him relaxed into the informality of the late evening, a welcome reaction to the intense emotion of the army's return: the pride of those honoured by the King mixed with sadness for those who would not be coming back.

He had watched with joy the honouring of his friends and now, nursing Darcy's promised tankard of rich brown ale, he allowed his gaze to follow them as they danced together. He wished them happiness. In a while he would slip away to the Archbishop's chapel and offer the night office of Matins for their well-being.

He watched another with rather more complicated emotions, not all of them conducive to his spiritual well-being, and he was more than irritated with himself that he seemed unable to ignore the man's presence. Jaxom was there, how could he not be? His sins and crimes were forgiven, at least outwardly, and he must have acquitted himself well enough in his Highness's army, or he would not be there tonight. Nor, as Columcil watched, could his conduct really be faulted this evening. Jaxom had congratulated Fiona's cousin Michael on his knighthood, as was only proper from one borderer to another - one miscreant to another said the censorious voice in Columcil's head - but made no attempt to push himself forward or draw attention to himself. Perhaps the man really had learnt humility. What had started out as a tedious ride to assist some strangers on his father's behalf had turned into something far more profound.

But what of himself, thought Columcil. What had he gained from this journey? Perhaps many would feel sorry for him as his companions seemed destined to pair up and find love with each other. The poor celibate priest, condemned to his cold and narrow bed, only ever watching from the sidelines at human happiness. Or worse, snatching at any illicit liaison out of sheer desperation. Columcil almost choked on his ale as he remembered some of the stories his grandda had told him of his own narrow escapes from the more rapacious manhunters. How could you explain the joys of the priest's life to those who thought only of the satisfaction of human appetites? Not to mention that narrow beds might be cold but were blessedly free of someone else's snoring.

No, what he had gained was friendship. Friendship with those who were far out of his station, and whom he would never likely have met had God not shaken him out of his comfortable life. Comfortable, but perhaps lonelier than he had realised, without those with whom he could share a common story and even kinship. He was content that his kinship of the flesh with Archbishop Duncan and Washburn could not be acknowledged publicly, for they shared the deeper spiritual kinship of their healer's calling. He realised that he was glad that he had set out on this road, and as he did so he heard, just at the edge of hearing, a soft, kindly, but distinctly amused laughter which could only be that of St Melangell.


(Still not quite the end.)



God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)

Jerusha

Laurna, revanne, DerynifanK and I collaborated on this scene; it is definitely not mine alone!

Darcy Cameron looked at the Earl of Marley's men who were readying to return to Marley and sighed.  They took up the largest part of the Rhemuth Castle courtyard, as was their right.  Darcy, Aliset and their horses, along with the men who would ride with them to Morgan Manor and Caer Mariot, had moved to the back of the courtyard.  They would start with ten men-at-arms travelling with them; four would stay with Washburn at Morgan Manor, and six would continue on to Caer Mariot with them.  It made sense, Darcy thought with an inward smile.  Washburn was worth at least two men-at-arms just by himself.

He had wanted to leave Rhemuth earlier, but he had spent a day with Aliset, learning how to safely transfer by Portal.  He felt quite confident in his newly-learned skill.  He had hoped to leave at first light this morning, but Aliset had slept like a rock after the day's training and was in no mood to rise early. By the time their horses were saddled and they were ready to go, Earl Brendan and his men had already claimed the courtyard.

Washburn was now standing with Earl Brendan, no doubt wishing him well on his journey home.  Fiona was with her cousin Michael, probably doing the same.

"I'm glad you are safely returned to me," Aliset said softly.

"Why, thank you, love!" Darcy responded.

Aliset stopped stroking her horse's soft muzzle and looked at him.  "I was referring to Papillon."

Darcy grinned.  "Aye, I knew that."

Aliset gave a somewhat indelicate snort and then turned to look as the Earl's men began to mount up.  She noticed a familiar figure turn toward them on his horse.

"Bloody hell," Darcy murmured as he recognized the man who approached.

Lord Jaxom Trillick stopped his horse before them.  "Lady Aliset, Darcy," he said in greeting.

Aliset felt Darcy bristle.  "Lord Jaxom," he responded.

'I understand you are returning to Mariot.  Your travels will bring you very close to my father's manor.  I have a letter for him, explaining that I will be serving with the Earl of Marley for several seasons.  Would you be so kind as to deliver it to him?" Jaxom asked.

"Certainly," Aliset answered when Darcy hesitated to reply.  "After all, it is on our way."

"I'm sure my father will be happy to offer a night's lodging in return."  Jaxom leaned forward to hand the folded and sealed piece of parchment to Aliset.

Darcy reached forward and intercepted the letter.  Jaxom scowled as Darcy added the letter to an internal pocket in his sea bag.  "We'll deliver it safely," Darcy said cheerfully.  "Safe journey," he added.

Jaxom straightened, nodded, and turned his horse back to the Earl of Marley's men.  As he did so, a peacock in one of the castle gardens let loose a loud, indignant scream.  Jaxom's horse shied from the noise and took a few rapid steps forward before Jaxom could settle him.

Aliset giggled, Darcy broke into a wide smile and Father Columcil, who had waited to join them until after Jaxom left, whispered, "Mea culpa."

Washburn clasped arms with his elder brother then pulled him into a bear hug. Then he stepped back as Brendan mounted his horse. "Safe travels!" he called as the earl turned his horse to join his men. "We will meet again soon."

Fiona gave Michael a last hug as she also said farewell. Michael mounted his horse and urged him forward, following the earl. She stepped back away from the men and horses who were forming up and beginning to move out in columns of two toward the Bishop's gate and the road home.

Washburn drew Fiona away from the departing men toward where Darcy was assembling the men who would accompany both of them north toward their newly acquired manors. To one side of the courtyard there was an arbor under which there was a stone bench. He led Fiona over toward it and seated her. He remained standing close. "You can watch us depart from here without being in danger of being stepped on by one of the horses. They are milling about and are not careful where they put their feet. Your feet are much too pretty to be bruised by a careless hoof." He grinned at her as she blushed.

She looked up at him with a disconsolate expression. "It is hard to watch all of you ride off and to be left behind. I shall miss you so. We have been together constantly, and I shall feel quite lonely with you gone."

Wash smiled at the young lady sympathetically. "Come now. Where is all that excitement you have been showing us? You will be busy preparing to move into the dormitory at the Schola, you will need to unpack the things your aunt brought as well as the things you had with you and settle in. You will also be meeting fellow students and teachers. There is much to learn and you will be too busy to miss us too much. Think of it! You have achieved your dream, you are here and ready to start on your journey of learning about your Deryni powers."

Wash continued. "I am traveling to view the manor the king has bestowed on me and to meet the steward there. I also need to make myself known to the people and to let them know I will be a fair lord who will consider their needs and to begin to discover what those needs are.  I need to begin to build trust in my rule. I will miss you also, but I will be back before you have time to think and miss me."

"I know that it is important that you learn about the manor which is now yours. I know you will be a splendid lord," Fiona responded. But she still was not her usual bubbly self.

She reached up to touch his face. Wash took her hand and kissed it. "I must get Shadow and join the others or our captain will be cross with me. But I will be returning to join you and Father Columcil at the Schola. We will meet again soon. Until then, farewell and pay attention to your lessons. When I return you will already have outpaced me."

Wash was musing about the soft touch of the girl's fingers on his cheek and his subsequent kiss of her hand. If only there were not so many people about, he would have stolen a kiss. At least in his dreams.  A little dazed by the crowded courtyard, Wash was instantly relieved when he found his three friends standing to the side with two horses. Wash came over to them and Darcy immediately asked. "Do you plan to walk there?"

"It is the first I have thought of it, but I think I am going to need a squire." Wash jested. "Hold up while I get Shadow out of the stables."

"Ay'll join ye," Columcil said as they both walked to the stable where their horses waited. Wash settled the bridle on Shadow's head and looked over to see the good father giving Spean a brushing in the next stall.

"Cous'," Wash stopped himself at his cousin's sharp look. "Sorry, Father. Will you be coming with us?"

"Nay! Not today, but ma Spean is worrit wi' all the mither, an' I want ta mek sure that he kens right enow tha' he is biding wi' me."

"You don't have to stay behind. You can be my first guest at my new Barony."

"T'would be an honour m'laird." Columcil bowed. "But no' jaist yet. Sister Helena askit me ta spend some time wi' her afore the maist o' the students come frae their homes. There's not so many of the young ones that ha'e an interest in th'herbs that the Guid Laird gave tae us fur healing, and the sister speirs tha' mebbes the twae o'us can learn from each other."

Wash came behind his horse and clapped his cousin on the shoulder. "Give me until after the next full moon. I will have the hearths cleaned, the beds freshly stuffed and the larders well stocked. And that includes good ale and good mead. Then you have to come to Morgan Manor; I will not take No for an answer." Columcil ducked his head not wanting to commit.

"Oh no! You will come and we will ride out to the small church where you married Darcy and Aliset. And I want to hear the whole story this time."

"Ye ken well enow yon tale..." Columcil began.

"Those pursed lips and secretive smile that Uncle Duncan made when last the subject came up... means there is something that someone isn't saying. And I just have to know what it is."

Columcil pursed his lips in a secretive smile. "Naught else happened."

Wash just laughed, "I promise you that the mead will be very good and plentiful on the day we visit the church. You will tell me a tale and then I will tell you how I attempted to attract a rabbit into my reach but somehow your sweet lady Saint must have put her hand out and silently said, 'Not my Rabbits'."

Now Columcil really did smile. He nodded and finally agreed. "Th'mead better be gey guid, and aye, I'll be there. I gi'e ye ma word on it ."

He would be there of course, there was never any doubt, but it did no harm, thought Columcil to tease these Morgans a little. Or at least this Morgan. The Duke was a different matter. He wondered if Washburn knew yet of his brother's hopes.

He returned to brushing Spean, allowing his mind to return to the previous night. He had slipped into the empty Chapel and offered his prayers, as in duty bound, for the King, then for his grandfather, and for his friends out of love. He rose from his knees, genuflected, and was about to gratefully seek out his bed when a hand clasped his shoulder and a voice spoke his name, almost causing him to stumble. A second hand grasped his arm and steadied him before continuing,

"I ask your pardon for startling you, but I needed to talk in private. This is not the first time a chapel has served such a purpose for us."

The hands were withdrawn leaving him free to turn and Columcil did so, sinking to his knee as he recognised both face and voice.

"Yer Grace, Ah'm gey honoured, but Ah dinna ken..." His voice trailed off and he got a grip on himself. One did not maunder on in brogue before a Duke of the realm. He began again, "At your service, Your Grace."

Kelric, Duke of Corwyn, smiled and bent to raise the man before him.

"I hope that it is I who can be of service to you. You have been a good friend to my brother, when he had few enough." Kelric's face hardened and Columcil sensed both anger and regret before they were quickly veiled and Kelric continued, "and Morgans do not forget those who have served them. I know that the kinship of the flesh we share cannot be openly acknowledged - Duncan has spoken to me, in a confidence I shall not break, so do not fear - but you and Wash share something deeper still, a kinship of the spirit."

Columcil said nothing, his experience of dukes, limited as it was, had not inspired him with confidence. He knew that Washburn's memories of his brother had been twisted but he was still a little wary. Perhaps Kelric sensed something of this because his next words were reassuring.

"It matters deeply to me that Washburn should not only have been freed from evil but that he should flourish in the use of the gifts he has been given. And our family would be truly honoured if you were to share in that. I know that Washburn intends to invite you to stay with him at his new manor, and has thoughts of asking you to be his Chaplain. I am asking you to accept when it is offered and not to allow your pride to stand in the way."

Kelric looked a little embarrassed before continuing, "Forgive me for being direct, and even impertinent, and I would ask you not to repeat this, but though your father has not made you free of his name, I sense he has endowed you with a full share of his stubbornness."

Columcil could not hide a smile at the truth of that, but knew he must voice his hesitation and not allow himself to be swept on to assuage a Duke's conscience.

"Begging Your Grace's pardon but I am a healer not a chaplain."

"And so is Wash a healer, though he must be lord of a manor too, if he is to have an income and raise a family. My hope is that, with your help, Wash can remain true to his calling as a healer. Perhaps even make of Morgan Manor a place of pilgrimage and healing, if God so wills it." He added so softly that Columcil was not sure whether he was meant to hear, "I think our father would have liked that. He was forced, as I have been, to be a man of war, but his heart was that of a healer." Then he said briskly, "Now I must go, and leave you to seek your bed. But please think on what I have said. And once again you have my thanks and that of my family." He bent and kissed Columcil's brow, then quietly slipped out of the door leaving a somewhat bemused country priest behind him.

Columcil gave Spean a final brush and firmly returned himself to the present and the patient  Washburn.  The cousins clasped shoulders and then hugged like brothers. After a calming hand on Spean's shoulder, Columcil left his horse in the stable and followed Wash and Shadow out to the courtyard to join their friends. Fiona had moved from the arbor and now stood closer to where Darcy and Aliset were preparing to leave. She felt someone standing near her. She turned her head to see Father Columcil now standing beside her. His presence was a comfort to her. At least they were not all leaving her here alone.

"We'd best be getting started, or we'll lose the day we have left," Darcy said briskly.  Washburn nodded, and Darcy moved to check Papillon's saddle girth.

"Darcy, that is the fourth time you have checked it." Aliset said and rolled her eyes heavenward.

"Once for you," Darcy said as he straightened.  "Once for me, and once for each of the lassies."  He moved to help her mount, but she stopped him.

"Wait," she said.  "Father," Aliset said.  "Would you be so kind as to give us your blessing for our journey?"

"It would be mah pleasure," he responded, and Washburn, Darcy and Aliset arranged themselves before him, heads bowed.  Fiona, unobtrusively side-stepped next to Washburn,  and bowed her head as well.

It was from the very depths of his heart that Columcil spoke the words of the old border blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Colmucil made the sign of the cross on each forehead as they lifted their heads.  Suddenly, Aliset threw her arms around the priest and hugged him tightly.  She had no sooner released him when Darcy gripped his forearm and reached around him to hug him as well.

Washburn was a little more restrained as he gripped the priest's arm after Darcy moved back.  "I'll be returning.  Keep an eye on Fiona for me?"

"Aye, have no fear o'that," Columcil replied, and Fiona smiled.  "Now off with you and Godspeed!"

Darcy helped his wife up onto Papillon's saddle and then mounted his own Sigrun.  Shadow Dancer and Washburn stood ready.  Their men were mounted and waiting.

Darcy, without the slightest hesitation, raised his arm and signalled for them to move out.  Washburn grinned at Aliset, who smiled and shrugged. Washburn turned in the saddle to glance back.  He saw Fiona standing beside the good father, waving, giving them a bright smile.  Wash could not help but to return her smile and wave.  To send them on their way, Columcil sketched the sign of the cross as a final blessing.  Fiona tried to hide her distress at Wash's leaving; she wanted him to think of her often, but not to worry about her.  She waved until they were through the courtyard gate.

They wound their way down from the castle and turned toward the Bishop's Gate.  They had only a short wait at Ferry Landing before crossing the Eirian River. Once their men-at-arms were all across, Darcy gave Washburn a chagrined look.

"As Baron of Morgan Manor, it is your right to lead us," Darcy said quietly.  "I overstepped my bounds."

"Are you not still our Captain?" Washburn asked in reply.  "Since when do you not lead us?  I think we had this discussion before, and settled the question to our satisfaction!"

"Then let's go!" Darcy gave the knight a smart seaman's salute.  He signaled the men and turned his horse north to follow the road, Aliset riding at his side and Washburn close behind.

Back to where it had all started....

Back to new beginnings....


And so our journey ends.  Thanks to all who followed us along every twist and turn, shared moments of joy or moments of sheer terror!  We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  When we ride again, we hope you come along too!
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany