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Ghosts of Rebels Rising - Book 2 -Book Cover & Part One

Started by Laurna, April 19, 2022, 05:06:09 PM

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Laurna

The Ghosts of the Past Team would like to offer for your enjoyment, the book cover, title page and part one of our continuing adventure quest Book Two-Ghosts of Rebels Rising.  This is the second story edited from the Deryni Game Ghosts of the Past, which we played over the last few years. If you did not get a chance to read as we played, here is a version that has been self-edited by the team to make the reading seamless and with fewer grammatical bumps in the road.

In Book One- Heirs of Ghosts Past, our heroes successfully escorted Lady Aliset from Culdi to Rhemuth City, and after many trials they came before Kelson, King of Gwynedd to inform him of the rising unrest within the Provence of Meara. In book two, the king learns this unrest is growing and must be delt with. Yet he is unprepared for agents of the rebellion to have already infiltrated inside the very walls of Rhemuth Castle. Our heroes must find their own paths of learning and self growth, which will hopefully prepare them to take the steps to assist in thwarting the rebellion and to help save their beloved kingdom.

Please click on the links below to get the PDF files.

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P.S. Again I thank the team: Bynw, Jerusha, Evie, Revanne, DeryniFanK and myself, for their writing and editing and I must thank Nezz for her portrait art and Revanne for her Photography.

Sample:




Ghosts of Rebels Rising



Prologue
Jerusha   « Reply #402 »

Grand Duke Valerian smiled as he set the shiral crystal back down on the table before him.  The news he had just received was excellent.  Baron Oswald had taken Ratharkin!  His ruthlessness was a slight cause for concern, but fewer Haldane supporters left behind in Ratharkin were to his advantage.  Perhaps Oswald had earned his bride after all.

The news that the cursed Duke of Corwyn had been diverted to Ratharkin with a small force of men was no cause for concern; it fitted nicely into his strategy.  The Corwyn and Cassan contingents will need to wait for reinforcements before they could attempt to retake the captured city; by the time those reinforcements arrived, Valerian and the main force of the Mearan resistance would have laid siege to Laas.  The lands around the Bay of Kilarden had been generous in their support of the Queen's cause, and his great fleet of ships from his loyal men of Tolan would soon be in place in Laas Bay.  The longer Oswald holds the Haldane's attention on Ratharkin, so much the better for his cause.  When the Haldane forces realize the real threat is to Laas, they will reach it too late.

It was time for Queen Sidana to be presented to her people.  There was little risk to the journey; there was a Portal along the way and one in Ratharkin Castle itself, if the queen needed to be whisked away to safety.  Valerian had taken care to ensure several Deryni ladies served the queen, and they knew where their true loyalties belonged.

All Valerian needed now was for Feyd to fulfill his part.  A hostage would either ensure success or escape.
                     
Bynw  « Reply #403 »
                                 
Feyd has enjoyed the hospitality of King Kelson that is granted to foreign Lords. He has freely moved among the people of Rhemuth, going in and out of the castle without raising suspicion.

His credentials as a Forcinn Lord and Patron of learning have allowed him access onto the castle grounds. Here he has spent much time among the academia in and out of the Palace, haunting both the Royal Library and the Royal Schola.

Lord Collos d'Chameaux of Vezaire, as he is called, knows the ins and outs of the Palace, and the best places for an ambush of young Morgan.

Too bad Lady Aliset has been securely cloistered in the Queen's Court. She too would be a great prize to bring back. But then again he wasn't hired to bring her to the Grand Duke. So it did not matter at all. That was someone else's problem.

No, his quarry this time in Rhemuth is Washburn Alaric Cynfyn Mogan, youngest son of the Late Duke of Corwyn, Alaric Anthony Morgan, and the brother of the current duke. The duke was well out of the way, for he was on his way to Ratharkin to put down the Grand Duke's rebellion in Meara. Meanwhile, Washburn wandered the palace comfortably, considering himself safe within the high walls of Rhemuth Castle.



Chapter One
27th of July, 1164, Monday
Dawn
Laurna  « Reply #393 »
                                        
Sir Washburn Morgan found little rest on Sunday as curious young nephews wanted to hear about his adventures. Finally, in the evening, the boys were tired enough to let their uncle be. Washburn found peace within the protective confines of the duke's apartment and there he found a full night of undisturbed sleep. Yet, it was no surprise that after a good eight hours of sleep, Washburn awoke before the rising of the sun. Rebellion was brewing in the heart of Meara; a threat that had all of Gwynedd at attention.  A kingdom on the brink of war woke many young men early so they could prepare to ride out for battle. The younger Morgan, however, could not yet make those preparations; he must first hear his king's decision. His interview with the king had been put aside through Sunday while the king deliberated, and it was promised for sometime today. Today, however, King Kelson had also called for his War Council and Washburn hoped he would be asked to present himself before the council began, not after. The question remained, would the king pardon him and send him to Meara to join with his brother or would he not? Wash could not foresee a reason where he would not be permitted to go, but then his king held firm to his chest what his future orders for the Lord de Morgan would be.

Thus as the two men who roomed with Washburn readied for their own morning tasks, it occured to Wash that he just might be saying goodbye to his companions. Lord Darcy and Father Columcil were preparing to ride out for Desse for the day to complete a promise made.

"You know that I would ride with you, if circumstances weren't as they are," Wash told Darcy.

"I would enjoy your company if you did decide to come with us," Darcy replied as he pulled on his riding boots. "Surely the King wouldn't begrudge you one day off."

"Huh!" Washburn laughed at that. "With Dukes and Earls arriving for this morning's War Council...? Be glad you have an excuse to be away." Washburn looked over at his own riding boots with a long face, then chose his court footwear instead. "I spoke to Prince Javan. If I am allowed, I have a place in his ranks. The word isn't said yet, but they may be leaving for Ratharkin as soon as this afternoon or early tomorrow. I hope that you will return before then, but if I am gone by the time you do return, know that all is well." Wash sucked in a breath, hoping he was not casting ill luck and then he breathed out, considering that in the king's decisions, luck had nothing to do with it. "I shall pray at mass that you both succeed in your tasks and that your day will see you back here safe."

"Aye to that!" and "Indeed, to a safe journey and return!" were the replies of his two companions.

Washburn looked over at Father Columcil with a rare smile. "I hope that doesn't mean you intend to return home to your rabbits anytime soon. Something tells me you would be welcome here in Rhemuth for as long as you like. Perhaps you and I can see to a bit of learning at the schola. You can temper my fidgeting if I get antsy sitting in a classroom." Wash suddenly laughed at Columcil's shake of his head. "My learning instructors all hated me. In less than two hours time, they would be telling me, 'Go, go, do your weapon's drills, I'll have no more of you this day.'" Washburn chuckled at Columcil's snort.

"And you think, I could temper you to sit in a classroom all day?" The tone of disbelief echoed in the priest's words.

"Aye, Ahya e'peeks ye woods threet me wi' killer coney's an' Trolls if Ahya doore-noo abide your learnyed ways." Wash laughed at his own appalling attempt to copy the border priest's accent. He quickly ducked as a pillow came flying at his head. "I suspect you will have to teach me your border tongue, too."  The knight was jovially pleased with the priest's second snort of the morning.

Washburn's two companions finished making their preparations; light hearted jokes about trolls and about fleeing rabbits were interspersed in their morning chatter.

"You will watch after Lady Aliset!" Lord Darcy said to Washburn with a serious tone.

"You know that I will." Washburn replied. "She is safe. And I promise to find ways to dissuade Lord Jaxom. It should not be hard to see him on his way back to Meara, even if I have to drag him there myself." Wash got an appreciative pat on the shoulder from Darcy. Then the two men departed for their ride to Desse, and Washburn was left to face the King's war council and his private interview, if he could ever get the king's attention.

Wash gathered up a few items: coin, his camber medal, his ward cubes—after his mother's admonishment he dare not leave those lying around— and his Lendour sword with its matching dagger which he set on the hangers at his belt. He glanced at his father's journal, but chose to leave it on the table for today. Upon exiting the sleeping room, he found Lord Jaxom and his squire waiting for him in the main room of the duke's apartment.

"Was that Father Columcil and Lord Darcy I saw just leaving?"

"Yes indeed, they are gone for the day." Wash tried desperately not to roll his eyes at the gleeful smirk that crossed Jaxom's lips. "Come, we need to make early mass and then to await King Kelson's final decisions in the great hall. We'd best be available when he sends for us."

The two knights made their way to the king's chapel for mass to start their day.

Jerusha  « Reply #394 »
                                       
Darcy Cameron made a final check of Sigrun's saddle girth while the horse turned her head and attempted to grab the leather cord that secured her owner's border braid.

"Sigrun, stop that!" Darcy said firmly as he reached up to protect the braid.  "Where she learned that trick," he added for Father Columcil's benefit, "I have no idea."  Sigrun nudged his shoulder and he stroked her head.

"She knows it will get her some attention."  Columcil, already mounted on his mountain pony, nodded sagely and turned to leave the stable.  Darcy mounted and joined him.  Miraculously, after one day of rest, their own clothes had been laundered and mended, and Darcy was glad to be back in his normal attire.  The distinctive black tunic he had borrowed would draw too much attention on the docks of Desse.  Attention he would just as soon avoid.

It was a fair morning with a clear sky and a gentle breeze.  Although the hour was early, Kingstable Street was busy with a variety of townspeople.  Some were on foot, some drove carts, and there were other riders as well.  Many nodded or spoke to the priest as they passed; Darcy admired the fact that Columcil took a moment to speak to each one.  It meant that it took them a little longer to reach Millsgate, but their early departure allowed them plenty of time to reach their destination and return.  Once through the Millsgate, they would cross the Molling River via the Millsbridge and follow Via Romana to Desse.

Although he knew Lady Aliset was safe within Rhemuth Castle, Darcy still scanned the area around them for any sign of danger.  It was probably foolish, but it had become a habit over the past weeks.

"She is perfectly safe, you know," Father Columcil said after the first mile of their journey.

"Aye," Darcy said, and waited for what he suspected the priest would say next.

"You will likely not see her as much, now that she has been placed with the other court ladies."

"Aye, but I still have a duty as her man-at-arms to report to her regularly," Darcy pointed out.

"That may change, now that she is safely delivered."  Columcil saw Darcy bristle, but continued.  "No matter how much you may wish it otherwise."

Darcy sighed.  "Father Columcil, I know you know how I feel about her.  I didn't plan for it, but it is what it is. But I'm no fool; I'll not do anything to disgrace her, save maybe throwing Lord Jaxom in the middens."

Columcil chuckled.  "You might get help from the lady herself if you try that."

Darcy smiled at the thought and then became serious again.  "I also don't have much to offer her, at least in terms of land and title.  Isles is Iain's, as it should be.  I have some money secured from my days at sea, but I know I'm not established like Lord Jaxom.  And I'll likely never earn the accolade."   He turned to look at the priest beside him.  "Don't for one instant think I'm giving up on her, but I won't be offering her less than what she deserves."

"Fair enough," Columcil said.  "Just don't be climbing the Queen's Tower to carry her off in the middle of the night."

For a moment Darcy stared in disbelief at the older man riding beside him and then grinned.  "Only if she asks me to."

Father Columcil rolled his eyes heavenward and decided it was a good time to pick up the pace.

Revanne   «  Reply #398 »
               
Dhugal waited in the antechamber to the portal in Ballymar Castle for the man whom he would take through the portal to Rhemuth with him. Richard Kirby arrived punctually as befitted a man whose life had been governed from early childhood by the rhythm of sea watches.

"My lord." The greeting, and the bow which accompanied it, was warmly respectful, conveying both acknowledgement of rank and friendship. Dhugal acknowledged the greeting with a smile but did not immediately lead the way to the portal. Instead he put his hand on the other's arm to detain him, waving the duty guard out of earshot.

"Richard, a word to the wise before we go before the King"

"Sir?"

"The loyalty shown by your family towards those you serve has always been impeccable right back from when your father first served Duke Alaric."

Richard bowed in appreciation of the compliment, but a little warily, not sure where this was going.

"You cannot but be aware that your family's current loyalty, yours and that of your brother in Coroth has been noted and is valued -a value which has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the Fianna wine you serve."

"Your point is, my lord?" Richard was definitely wary now.

"Simply that his Majesty may wish to avail himself of that loyalty in ways which he would prefer you did not clarify in open council. Shall we go."

"Aye, Your Grace. And thank you." Richard bent his knee in recognition of his obedience to the veiled warning and followed the Duke into the portal.   
         
Laurna   « Reply #397 »                                                    
Filing out of the royal chapel in the wake of the Haldane were men of title and distinction. Prince Javan, Duke of SouthMarch, walked with the King at his side, as did Prince Albin, Duke of Carthmoor. It had been Twelfth Night since Washburn had last seen Prince Albin, the king's cousin.  Following them was young Lord Kenric, Earl of Lendour and heir to the Duchy of Corwyn; it appeared that Princess Araxandra had sent Kenric to stand in his father's place at council. Washburn walked forward with the intention of joining Kenric to guide his eldest nephew in his first royal war council. Yet Wash found his place taken by a man of impeccable honor: his own eldest brother, Brendan, Earl of Marly. Brendan gave his brother a warm handshake as Wash walked out of the chapel at the end of the mass. But there was no time for talk as the king motioned for his councilors to attend to him within his withdrawing room. Brendan Coris took a lively step to walk at his nephew's side, likely not even realizing he had cut Wash off; so it would be Brendan who would assist Lord Kenric Morgan in his first official duty as Earl of Lendour.  Wash did not begrudge his older brother the honor. Brendan, Kelric, and now Kenric were appointed members of the royal council. It had never bothered Washburn before that he was not on the council, so he knew it should not bother him now. If he just hadn't felt that he had such a personal stake in the current situation.  Therefore, Sir Washburn who was only a lord by family name and Lord Jaxom who was lord as heir to his father's barony, both followed behind the royal retinue consisting of high lords and priests of the realm, knowing they could not enter the council meeting until they were called upon, which would be well after the agenda had begun.

At the entry to the King's withdrawing room, five other councilors had arrived. Laird Seisyll Arilan was there, as was Duke Angus MacEwan of Claibourne; Wash briefly wondered which Deryni practitioner the Duke had trusted to bring him through a Portal to Rhemuth, most likely Brendan.  Then there was Lord Seamus O'Flynn, the heir of Derry. Seamus would be here to represent his father; Washburn had heard that Lord Derry was not well. Laird Arilan's son was standing with Seamus; Lord Jamyl Arilan was a good man. Jamyl, Seamus, and Prince Javan were friends of long standing. Lastly, there was Stephen de Varnay, the Earl of Sheele; Washburn did not know the earl outside of court.

Coming up from the halls, Washburn turned to see Duncan McLain, Archbishop of Rhemuth, and Denis Arilan, long-time Bishop of Dhassa. The two men were the dignified eldest men of the king's royal council. All entered the withdrawing room and arranged themselves at their seats. Just before the doors closed, two more men rushed to enter. One was the tall, copper haired Duke of Cassan leading a well dressed seaman. That had to be the Captain General, Richard Kirby, the man who commanded Cassan's fleet.

The door closed behind these last two men. Washburn settled himself to stand in the morning light of a window embrasure to keep his eye on both the withdrawing room door and the doors leading into the queen's tower through the castle gardens, as seen through the fine clear glass. It was too early as yet for the women to have stirred. The calm quiet on that side of the castle reassured him that Lady Aliset was well. Wash found it funny that Lord Jaxom did not understand Washburn's chosen place to wait and would not join him. Among the slow-to-increase gathering of the Rhemuth's courtiers within the great hall, the young Trillshire lord anxiously paced the center floor. Wash was fairly sure he was not thinking about the troubles in his home land, nor about the curious onlookers who watched him, nor even about being called before the King's council.   When Jaxom's nerves got the better of him, he strode out of the hall. Washburn only shook his head and let the man go. The heir of Trillshire likely had intentions to stalk the queen's tower. Little good would it do him. Queen Araxie was certain to have been warned about the young man. Washburn doubted Jaxom would even be allowed to catch a glimpse of Lady Aliset. Washburn's station at the window had a far better chance of it, that is if the women chose to step out into the morning sun-rays upon the Queen's rose-gardens.
                                    Laurna  « Reply #400 »
                                       
Duchess Grania, wife of the heir to the throne of Gwynedd, left her toddler in the hands of her nurse and then she called to her three older children, "Come dears, we missed the early mass with papa. I don't want you all late for your lessons and you don't want your mama to miss the second mass, now do you? Grandmama Araxie would not approve." Grania had a loving smile for her eldest, Prince Rhys-Alaric Kelson Haldane, who looked so much like his father and grandfather that it was uncanny. Then she gave a hand to her daughter, Princess Araxellie Jehane Morgan Haldane, who carried the pale coloring of the women in the family much like her older sister, Briony and that of the queen; Araxellie's gold hair was prettily twisted in red ribbons, her grey eyes darting in amusement, back and forth between her maman and the mischief of her younger brother.  Prince Kenneth arrived with his tunic half over his head. "Kenneth, darling, didn't Nanina help you dress?"

The boy whined a little as he came to stand next to his sister, "I didn't want the red one, I wanted the black one. Like Uncle Washburn wears. Nan'a wouldn't help me dress in it."

Grania shook her head. If her brother only knew how much trouble his presence caused among all her family. With a sigh, she explained, "Papa will want you in the red tunic today, my love. Your uncle will understand, too. You can ask him. I know Wash would tell you to wear your Haldane lion tunic with pride. He is devoted to your grandpapa and he loves you too. He told me so himself."

"He is not mad at me for having his dice?"

"No, Kenneth, he is not mad at you. Not at all." Grania took the red tunic from the maid's hand while Kenneth shrugged the black tunic off, then she dressed her son properly and adjusted the boy's small belt so the tunic hung straight. It wasn't a page tunic, he was still too young for that, but it did have a small lion in gold on the center chest. She kissed her boy's forehead, then looked up as Rhys-Alaric fidgeted impatiently holding a large leather bound tome. In gold on the cover was written History of  the Province of Meara.

"Is that the volume your father suggested you look at?" Grania asked, impressed. She had not imagined that her son had been serious when he asked about why the province would rebel.

"Yes. maman. I asked the steward to find it for me. I hope Tutor Pascal will help me study it. I want to understand why men would fight against the good of Grandfather's kingship."

"That is a good question that even the king is trying to answer. I am glad you are taking it seriously, and I hope your study of history will help you to understand." Grania brushed the cheek of her eleven year old son approvingly and then nodded to the royal guard to attend them when they left the royal apartments and made their way to the teaching rooms. There they met Princess Araxandra and her children. Her twin boys instantly grabbed Kenneth away from his mother, and the three of them scurried to the back of the teaching room to share whatever gossip boys shared.  Grania saw that the scholarly priest quickly took them in hand and sat all three of them down with a task to keep them occupied. Araxandra's daughter, Jerusha Alyce, and Grania's daughter, Araxellie, both of the same age, hugged like sisters and walked into the teaching room together. Rhys-Alaric moved off to the far corner where an older priest took the large book the prince handed him and nodded with approval after seeing the title.

"They are all fine," Araxandra said to her sister by marriage. "I can feel the tension in your shoulders." Araxandra commented as she gave Grania a hug. "Kelric is well, I had Rapport with him this morning. He and his men plan to meet up with Duncan-Michael before the end of the day. The men of Kierney and Cassan are camped five miles outside of Ratharkin. They will wait there until they hear Kelson's orders. If the king gives the word, Javan could march the Haldane Lancers straight to Meara and join Kelric by week's end with a full force. Kelric assured me that nothing more than scouting will occur before Javan can meet up with him."

"And then?" Grania asked almost in tears.

"You're letting your pregnancy guide your emotions, my dear,"  Araxandra said in understanding as she gave Grania a full hug. Neither woman wanted to answer the question that hung in the air. They both turned with guarded smiles when their mothers, the Queen and Dowager Duchess, approached them with many ladies in attendance.

After the full queen's entourage had filed into the royal chapel, the Queen motioned for Araxandra and Grania to attend her. "Daughters, I want you to take Lady Aliset into your hearts and into your care. She has been through much. Lady Aliset," she turned to the young heiress who had been asked to stand at the queen's side.  "You already have met Princess Araxandra, I wish to present to you Duchess Grania, spouse of my son, and Lord Washburn's youngest sister." When all had greeted the young heiress with curtsies and then with hugs, Queen Araxia went on to say, "After Mass, we shall retire to the gardens. That will be the most peaceful place to await the outcome of the King's council."

"Yes, Your Majesty," both daughters replied with a curtsey, both knowing their queen well-enough to know that even she was tense about the meetings at hand. They took Lady Aliset between them and took extra care to point out the highlights of the chapel to her and to whisper other quiet information to her that they thought a lady new to the Rhemuth Castle should know.   

Jerusha  « Reply #399 »
                        
The old tinker sat with his cart on one side of Ratharkin's market square.  It was quiet for a market day.  Although the streets were far from empty, it was only now, the third day following the fall of Ratharkin, that people attempted to return to normal activities.  The Quinnell banner boldly fluttered in the breeze atop the castle walls.

For too many, there would be no return to normalcy.  It was fortunate that most of Prince Rory's court had travelled with him to Laas and were safe, because the slaughter inside the castle had been merciless.  All those in residence who had not supported the takeover had been put to the sword. At first, few had come forward to claim the bodies, fearing for their own safety. In a bold move, the Bishop of Meara sent a representative to the castle and demanded proper burials for all those slain, and the insurgents had the good sense to agree.  The attendance at the funerals had been larger than the tinker expected.

It seemed the insurgents had not expected it either. The remaining prominent men of the town, unless vocal supporters of the Mearan rebellion, had been rounded up and confined in the castle dungeon. The rebels had not stopped there; they also imprisoned any heirs old enough to be separated from their mothers.  On a late-night foray into the castle, the tinker had learned that the heirs would be held hostage to ensure their fathers pledged allegiance to the Mearan Pretender.

The visit had also allowed the tinker to discover the identity of the leader of this faction of the rebels. It was Baron Oswald de Mariot who had directed the attack once the gates were opened.   The same man who had murdered the family of the young woman the tinker's brother had been hired to protect.  The man's ruthlessness was noteworthy; the tinker would have no regrets if he was provided the opportunity to remove this viper's head.  Fortunately for Baron Oswald, the tinker had a more important target.

The Pretender Queen of Meara would need to arrive in Ratharkin sooner rather than later.  Already Oswald was having to reassure his men that she would indeed come and bring with her the reinforcements they needed to continue to hold Ratharkin.  And with the Pretender Queen would come the person behind it all.

This was the target the tinker was waiting for; Sir Iain Cameron accepted another pot brought to him for repair and continued to wait.

Laurna  « Reply #401 »
                                        Kelson Cinhil Rhys Anthony Haldane, King of Gwynedd, Overlord of Torenth, Prince of Meara, Duke of Haldane, Lord of the Purple March, Guardian of Gwernach, Covenant Holder of the Treaty Act of 1145 over Tralia, Lorsol, and Vorna, and Knight of the realm sat straight backed and attentive, his hands resting on the arms of Gwynedd's gold and jeweled throne at the head of his war-council. His son, Prince Javan Uthyr Richard Urien Haldane, Hereditary Prince of Meara, Duke of Southmarch, Earl of Dunluce, Knight of the Realm addressed the men in attendance, giving a brief accounting of all that was known to have transpired in the past weeks in the Province of Meara. Every man had heard rumors of the devastation in Ratharkin, but the full accounting garnered from both Kelson's agent and Dhughal's agent elicited many voices to angered tones around the council table. The anger coalesced to speculation for who was behind it all. Many names were thrust forward, some were agreed upon that could not be, but some were high on the list. Without proof, Kelson would not condemn any name without assurity, and he just let the names linger until the anger in the room had subsided to a low growl. Finally he nodded for Javan to have a seat. As the prince sat, keeping an eye on his father and an eye on the table at large, his calm demeanor settled the councilors. In time, they all turned toward their King. When Kelson was assured he had all their attention, he leaned forward, his hands moving to rest flat on the table's surface.

"My lords, I have one name for you. It is not the name of the man behind all, but it is the figurehead that the Mearans are placing above all others as their Queen." The king took in a deep breath before saying with some tension in his voice, "Sidana Caitrin Annalind Ithelianne Quinnell-de Paor, legitimate daughter of Brioc de Paor, who legally married the supposed illegitimate daughter of Prince Ithel. Yes, the very same eldest son of Caitrin Queen Pretender of Meara."

There was hush for an instant as the threat of a new Pretender was absorbed by those in the room. But then voices once more broke out in anger. Loudest among them was Duke Augus in his heavy border brogue, "Ithel wa hung fur treason! Ye deposed Brice ay Trurill decades ago! Th' lands of Brice waur attainyed an' honorably gi'en to Baron Jass MacArdry. Hoo dare thes son ay' a traitor, de Paor,  daur tae cleem ta Mearan crown?"

Kelson only gave a nod in agreement as voices again erupted at the table. It was not Kelson's usual means of holding council to let them steam up in this way, but he felt they needed to be roused to the danger, and then in time they would settle to a more productive methodology to combat this threat.

"What of Trurill? The barony must be in danger?" yelled Lord Seamus over the others.

"It was," Duke Dhugal interrupted, speaking up then standing, demanding their attention. "Baroness Ailidh MacArdry near-single handedly pit th' rebellion in 'er ain castle doon. But thaur was still some riotin' in th' village streets." The borderland Duke's anger was easily discerned by his slip into his homeland broque. Now, having let it out, he reigned back his tone and slipped naturally back to his court voice. "This has since been quelled by Baron Jass and my son Duncan Michael as their men at arms moved through the area. Other towns and estates are also being threatened; we fear an uprising in Culdi, we also know a few rebellious men in Droghera were put down by the events surrounding the Lady de Mariot. The continued fear is that the rabble may consolidate their efforts if and when this pretender Queen is displayed before the people of Ratharkin. So far her existence is but hearsay and rumor. Yet, when she is presented, the whole of Meara may rebel.  Laas may come to danger as well.  Duke Rory and Duke Brecon are in residence there. They assure us that no rebellious undertone is yet heard within or without the walls of Laas." Dhugal turned back to his king, made a bow of apology,  keeping eye contact with the king, he sat. There were unspoken words said between them.

Kelson turned his attention to the sea captain seated beside his blood brother. "The Haldane Lancers are mustered to arms, ready to march on my word. Before I ask for a full account from each of you about how fast you can muster arms, I want an accounting of shipments sent to Meara. Captain Richard Kirby, can you give Us what you know of any shipments of contraband arms that might have reached Mearan rebels? I make no accusations as to how you have this knowledge, your family has been loyal for decades; Duke Dhugal has vouched for you.  I just need the facts, or your best guess, at what type of arms were sent in cargo to Mearan ports and who the shipments were delivered to."

Revanne « Reply #404 »
               
In the royal council chamber Richard Kirby swallowed uncomfortably. Duke Dhugal had implied that the King would not appreciate him incriminating himself, or revealing that many ships, sailing blamelessly on the business of the lords that funded them, carried other cargo to supplement their income. How else were men to be recompensed for the dangerous business of having the sea for a mistress? The "old grey widow-maker" some called her, and rightly too.

But now the King had called on him openly and he must answer. He looked to his Ducal master for guidance but Dhugal had moved his focus to stare fixedly at his father, who equally strangely was refusing to meet his son's gaze. But there was a way to be both open and discreet, and he blessed the powers that made that possible, though many, even now, regarded them as cursed.

He stood and bowed to the King.

"Your Majesty. I fear I cannot answer your request." Ignoring the sharp intake of breath that went around the room, he continued,  "Quite simply, I do not know, though I can make a good guess at which ships might be carrying such cargo. I beg, though, that you will not impute an intention of treason unless such can be proven."

He risked a look at the King's face but that remained impassive, not suggesting blame but giving no encouragement either. With no further word he rose from his place and came before the throne, dropping to his knees with the deliberation of a supplicant.

"I beg of you, Sire, read the information that I have, and act on it as you will." He looked his King straight in the eye before bowing his head and inviting the royal touch. ((Kelson reads Richard's mind- advantage 3d6: 1, 4 & 3; Failure- Ah well.))

Kelson paused for a long minute, then taking care to make no physical contact, reached towards Kirby's hand, signalling that he should rise. The other, feeling no touch either on his head or in his mind, lifted his gaze to see that the king was now smiling, though gravely.

"Thank you, Richard. But I should feel shame if my trust in you was not as great as your trust in me. It will be enough if you can convey any suspicions you have to Dhugal. I cannot promise immunity, if there is reason to believe that treachery to our crown has knowingly been committed, but rest assured that now is not the time to otherwise impose the full weight of the law on those loyal to Us."

Kelson deliberately spoke his foster brother's name loudly, and Dhugal pulled his gaze round to meet the king with an apologetic bow of his head. Kelson gestured to Kirby to be seated, he bowed deeply and complied, saying as he did so,

"I should also have a fair idea of the ports they are likely to be sailing between, and I dare promise that most of their captains would cooperate willingly once they know the wickedness of the purpose to which their cargoes are to be put. With your Majesty's leave I will prepare a letter, instructing all such ships that they are to cooperate fully."

"Do so, with our good will." Kelson thought it wise not to elaborate further on the forbearance that would follow such cooperation and if any thought that they heard the royal lips mutter the words "Fianna red", they were equally wise enough to feign deafness.

"Before we turn to the retaking of Ratharkin," Kelson was continuing to the room at large, when he was interrupted without ceremony by Duke Angus,

"An tak vengeance on th' bluidy murderin' traitors!"

"Those responsible will pay the appropriate penalty, but I would prefer to avoid as much as possible creating further martyrs for the future. Let justice be done, but vengeance is best left to the Almighty." At the tone of Kelson's voice, Duncan lifted his head for the first time knowing that the King was thinking of his first Mearan campaign so many years ago when he had let his anger, justified though it was, get the better of him. He forbore to speak, however, and in any case was given no opportunity as Kelson continued,

"Before we turn to the retaking of Ratharkin, we must give thought to Mearan port city of Laas. Rory and Brecon are still there as are the men of the garrison. All others are being evacuated, by the good graces of the Hort, but the townsfolk have no such recourse. We can only bring a very limited number the same way, and reinforcement by land, even from the Connait may not be possible if all the countryside is raised against us."

Kelson slammed his hand onto the table with such force that everyone jumped. "How did we let this happen! I should be flogged for negligence. Or replaced as a foolish old man."

Javan, Dhugal and Brendan, amongst others, all tried to speak at once but were silenced as Kelson drew a deep breath and held up his hands for quiet.

"Be that as it may, and Rory and I hopefully can soon argue at leisure as to which of us is the more to blame, it gets us nowhere. I apologise for lapsing into self-indulgence. Dhugal and Richard, how soon and how many boats can you get to Laas?"

With a nod from Dhugal, Richard Kirby answered. "As to numbers, Sire, twenty boats each carrying between eighty and a hundred men. The fiery-cross went out some days ago, and the clansmen have been quick to answer. Many make their living as much by fishing as crofting, so the sea is not unknown to them.The first boats, perhaps as many as ten, could leave today, the rest as the men come into Ballymar. As to time, with the wind from the ocean to the west, as it mostly is, we can make it work for us much of the way, unless a storm should blow up. Six days at best, ten days at the outset. Do you concur, my lord?"

Dhugal replied. "I know better than to question your knowledge, Richard. The main problem is horses; we have few war horses, and the men could not ride them if we did. Still, mountain ponies may be better anyway, in Meara. And with your leave Sire, we might be advised to retain some boats and men, say five out of the twenty, in case any others try to bring troops in by sea. Sad I am to say it, but we cannot rule out a link with Torenth."

Kelson said nothing to this last remark but sat in silence for a while. "With old Torenthi insurgents, possibly, but let us not accuse King Liam, I am counting on his steadfast loyalty.  So aye, do as you say. Dhugal, I shall need your further counsel, but now take Richard back to Ballymar. And thank you both for your preparedness."

Both men took this as their dismissal and turned to the royal presence to make their reverences, Dhugal with a deep bow and Richard dropping briefly to one knee, before leaving the room.


Chapter Two
27 of July, 1164 Monday
Late Morning

Jerusha « Reply #396 »
                                    
The Shrine of Saint Varnar of Bassettdale was located just inside the wall surrounding the port town of Desse.  It clearly enjoyed good and generous patronage.  Darcy Cameron waited until he was sure Father Columcil was well-received before proceeding down the main street that would lead him to the docks.  It felt strange to be travelling alone after the companionship of the priest, the knight and the lady, but the responsibility for this errand was his alone, and he would not have brought Lady Aliset anywhere near the docks!

The houses he passed were those of the wealthy merchants who prospered from the goods they imported or exported from Desse. The man he sought was a merchant, but not one that would be found here.  Master Tariq would be closer to the docks.  He dealt in the heavy lines the ships needed for just about everything a voyage required.  Some lines always needed to be replaced when a ship was in port; Master Tariq might not be wealthy, but he would not lack for customers in this town.

It was close to midday.  The timing was right to catch Master Tariq at his meal at his shop.  Darcy would rather convey the news of the Quartermaster's death and deliver the pouch in some privacy, rather than disturbing the merchant in the middle of conducting business.  Darcy reached inside the bag of generous provisions that the Duchess had provided and withdrew a chunk of cheese.  He would explore the provisions more thoroughly after he had finished with Master Tariq.

The splendour of the previous buildings steadily declined as Darcy neared the docks.  These were simpler buildings, constructed of wood rather than stone.  Once he reached the area he believed the merchant would be located, he stopped and asked for directions from a stooped, older man standing in front of a shop.  The man gave him a dark look, spat on the ground and waved toward a general direction farther down the street.  Darcy, already watchful as was best to be along the docks, grew warier. He wondered what could have caused that kind of reaction. When he reached the building most likely to be Master Tariq's, he stopped and stared with dismay at the scene before him.

The building was a charred ruin.  A sign with the coil of line painted on it lay on the ground, blistered from the heat.  There was still a faint smell of smoke and burned wood and something else in the air; whatever had happened here had been recent.  Miraculously, the buildings beside this one had not burned.  Darcy caught sight of the man approaching him before he came too near and turned Sigrun to face him.

"If you are looking for line, you'll have to look elsewhere," the man said.  He looked like a seasoned sailor; the clothes were rough but good enough, and he walked with a slight limp.  Injuries were not uncommon at sea, nor along the docks.

Darcy kept his expression neutral; every instinct warned him this might not end well.  Another man stood watching them from a shop just beyond.

"Was this Master Tariq's place?" Darcy asked.

"Aye, what of it?  Are you a friend of his?"

Darcy shook his head.  "Nay, I've never met the man.  I was to deliver the message that his uncle had died at sea."

The man laughed; it was not a pleasant sound.  "No need for that now.  Tariq burned along with his shop."

Darcy could not suppress a look of surprise.  "He did not manage to save himself?"

The man laughed again, as harshly as before.  "Kind of hard to do that when you're locked inside. He was one of those devil-spawned Deryni."

Darcy suddenly felt cold, even though the day was warm.  "No need for me to linger, if that is the case," he said as calmly as he could.  The man moved to grab Sigrun's rein, but Darcy stepped the mare farther away.

"I don't suppose you've got some coin to pay for that information," the man said and nodded toward the other man, who began to move forward.

Darcy was sure he could probably take them both, but how many would come to their aid, he did not know. No one would come to his aid, and you could never depend on the watch this close to the docks.  It would be better to talk his way out of this. ((Can Darcy talk his way out of this and leave unharmed-  Standard !roll 2d6:  1 & 5; Success!))

Darcy barked a short laugh.  "I've been out of work since my Captain died!  I spent the coin I had left on this sorry horse.  But you can be assured that when I find work, I'll certainly make a contribution to Saint Nicholas to grant you fair winds!"

Darcy moved Sigrun forward into a quick walk.  The other man tried to block his path, but Darcy neither slowed nor diverted from his course.  The man scowled and stepped aside at the last moment.  Darcy did not look back, but he used his Deryni senses to make sure he was not being followed.

It was a very troubled young seaman who returned to the Shrine of Saint Varnar.

Revanne  « Reply #407 »
                                     
Columcil was warmly welcomed by Father Malcolm who was, he discovered, the senior priest at the shrine. Columcil introduced himself briefly, giving his own credentials as a priest of a healing shrine for which he hoped to gain archiepiscopal approval. Just coming through the gate had given him such a sense of homecoming that he had to struggle to control his brogue, though he made a greater effort when he saw polite incomprehension on the other's face.

"Our main Mass of the day is in an hour, Father. I assume you will wish to join us."

"Thank you, Father, that would be good. I'm no wantin' ta be a trouble ta ye, but I'm sore in need o' shriving."

He was led into a small side chapel where a young priest waited to hear confessions, Father Malcolm mentioning, as if casually, that Father Ninian had recently finished specialist training in healing at the Deryni Schola in Rhemuth.

The heart of his disquiet he did not feel able to share even in the confessional. After all, a country priest, even though he be a Deryni and a healer, who confessed to causing a rift, albeit inadvertently, between the Archbishop of Rhemuth and the King was asking to be read a lecture on humility in the face of such arrogant delusion and given a penance to mortify his overweening pride which would keep him on his knees for a week. Comparably, there was more than enough of his want of charity, towards Lord Jaxom in particular, and his failure to keep the office faithfully to make his confession honest enough. Not to mention his failure to fulfil his mission, and the needs of his Parish that were so often far from his thoughts.

Father Ninian listened in silence and when Columcil had finished, offered counsel that was both perceptive and charitable. Bowing his head in acceptance of his penance - and praying that he would be given the grace to indeed act with more charity towards Lord Jaxom- Columcil waited for the words of absolution to be pronounced. When there was only silence he looked up to see Father Ninian gazing at him thoughtfully.

"There is something beyond that which you have told me."

Columcil made to speak but Ninian rapidly continued, "I know that there is that which is not yours to tell - I can sense its presence and will not press you on that - but it is not that of which I speak. I wonder if you even know that you are in danger of rebellion against the will of God. He has led you away from your Parish,  and joined you with the stories of others. You have set your hand to this plough, yet you keep looking back. Even if you return to St Melangell's it will be as a Deryni Healer and not as the simple priest others knew."

Columcil heard the words with the awful finality of a bolt dropping across a door but he also knew their truth. He had been holding onto the idea of simply going home as a refuge from so much that had been assailing his heart and soul, but he had really known that it could not be so simple. And it was a sin, the worst sort of sin, to seek refuge in anything but God alone.

Ninian's eyes were shining with compassion and Columcil knew that he had spoken, not in rebuke, but to keep him on the right path.

He managed to whisper, "Thank you, Father," before bowing again to the words of absolution.

He went to Mass resolved to honestly seek God's will for his future, and to ask the Archbishop to provide for the future of St. Melangell's as seemed good to him. But for all his resolution there was heartache, and it was with a sober heart and mind that he waited for Darcy. When Darcy appeared, it was clear that he too had received unwelcome news; indeed the young man was as troubled as Columcil had seen him. Columcil thought perhaps that the calm atmosphere of the shrine would be of comfort, but Darcy seemed unwilling to stay, though he did ask for Mass to be said for the repose of a soul.

"Begging your pardon, Father, but if you are ready, let's get out of here. It's an ill place, this town, and my promise unfulfilled. Pray God my promise to Lady Aliset will not go the same way."

As they rode back towards Rhemuth neither was in the mood for speech, and Columcil, unsettled even further by Darcy's anxiety, was content to allow him to set the pace.

Jerusha  « Reply #405 »
                                        Lady Aliset tried very hard to lose herself in the words the priest recited for the mass, but her mind kept drifting in other directions.  She had purposely held her emotions in check during her flight from Caer Mariot, so they could not distract her from her goal of reaching Rhemuth.  But now, unbidden in the peacefulness of the royal chapel, memories and emotions returned.  Memories of her father and brothers, especially Alister, who had given his life, so she might escape.  She felt tears forming in her eyes, and she tried to blink them away.  Princess Araxandra must have sensed her discomfort; she reached across and briefly squeezed Aliset's hand in reassurance.  The mass should have been comforting, but it seemed to be having the opposite effect.

After the mass, Aliset walked with Araxandra and Grania back to the Queen's Tower to gather embroidery or other projects to work on while enjoying the Queen's Garden.  Aliset turned down the kind offer of a piece of needlework and instead selected the book of poetry her man-at-arms had given her.  The memory of his laughter made her smile despite her earlier thoughts.

Princess Araxandra saw the brief smile.  "Is your smile for the book or the young man who gave it to you?"  she asked.

'Probably both," Aliset replied, blushing slightly.  "I know I can depend on him no matter how dire the circumstances."

"Well, you don't need to worry about dire circumstances in Rhemuth," Araxandra replied.  "Though I wish I could say the same for the rest of the kingdom.  Come, let us go outside and try to enjoy the day while we can."

Once in the Queen's garden, Aliset drifted away from the other ladies and chose to sit on the bench near the low garden wall.  From here she could see the great hall beyond the lovely flowers.  Leaning back against the wall, she leafed through the book and decided to start with the Saga of Sigrun.

Laurna « Reply #408 »
                                        As the morning progressed to noon the door to the king's royal council meeting remained steadfastly closed. For Sir Washburn, who waited anxiously for news, this was a small torment. It appeared that he would not be summoned as he had so hoped he would be. This exclusion forced him to reflect on the last weeks' progress, he knew he had made errors and that his accomplishments had been found wanting. There had been far too many injuries during their escape from Meara; would another have made better decisions than he, or instead, gotten everyone killed? With a blessing from above, their group had survived; was that enough to prove to the king that his knighthood was worthy of the spurs that he wore? After a time,Wash shook off his doubt. The past was done. Given the chance, he will do better in the future. Ahead were hard times, with much that needed to be accomplished and many lives that needed to be protected.  His duty, his honor, and his self-esteem required him to give all that he had to see this disruption of their lives to a good end.

And this situation in Meara was not to be underestimated. Washburn worried most about his brother. Kelric might not be aware just how entrenched the Mearans had become in their push to obtain this false independence; an independence which was sure to be a lie to the people. Whoever was orchestrating this did not have Meara's freedom in mind. Not with men like Oswald abusing his station and slaughtering hardworking common folk.

Wash needed his focus for the campaign ahead, yet he also needed to be assured that when he left Rhemuth, he left the people who had trusted him to be well cared for. His vantage at the alcove window finally rewarded him with the sight of the Queen and her ladies arriving into the garden. His heart leapt at the sight of Lady Aliset de Mariot in the company of his sister, Grania, the Duchess of Southmarch.  Under his sister's nurturing care, Aliset would find peace. Grania had a soft touch, a mothering warmth that encompassed everyone within her reach.  Over the heads of the queen's flowers, Washburn could see Aliset's sad expression. This wrenched his heart. He knew he could not be the one to assuage her grief. As much as he would want to run over and give the lady a tender shoulder to cry upon, he knew he never could. He would never be that close to Aliset again, not as close as they had been in the last few days. He frowned. He would have to content himself to love Aliset as he loved his sister. As he watched Grania care for the young heiress, he was happy to see that the duchess treated the young heiress like family. Wash nodded to himself that it was good enough, for now.

So Washburn had smiled when Graina allowed Aliset to wander to a quiet part of the garden to read Darcy's book of Poetry. Now that would be a good love match, if Washburn's instincts about his two companions were correct. Lord Darcy and Lady Aliset would make a happy couple and a good addition to the barony of Caer Mariot. He determined that the one thing more that he could do for Lady Aliset was suggest to the king what a good match Darcy and Aliset would make. Yes, that would be the best thing he could do for the young heiress.  Aliset settled on a bench near the inner garden wall where Washburn could see her over a spray of blooming red roses. Satisfied, he turned his attention back to the council room where the door still remained closed. Soon, surely soon, they would ask him to join them.

Jerusha  « Reply #405 »

Lord Jaxom Trillick strode out from the great hall and headed toward the Queen's Garden.  The absence of that counterfeit lord Darcy was to his advantage in pursuing his intentions for the lady Aliset, and he did not intend to waste the opportunity.  He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't see the man approaching him until he collided with him.  Startled, he found himself looking into the face of one of the many foreign dignitaries that frequented King Kelson's court.

"Beg pardon," the man said, bowing slightly. "I did not see you approach."

"No harm done," Jaxom replied somewhat brusquely and moved aside to continue.  The man fell into step beside him.   

"We seem to be heading in the same direction," the man said with a disarming smile as he touched Jaxom's wrist.

Jaxom's eyes went blank, and he continued to walk unquestioning beside the foreign dignitary until they reached a secluded spot at the edge of the courtyard.  Moments later he emerged alone and resumed his walk to the Queen's Garden, looking like his former determined self.  He did not notice the new signet ring on his right forefinger.

*****

"My lady," Lord Jaxom said cheerfully from the other side of the garden wall that separated him from Aliset as he bowed.

Aliset tried to hide her annoyance at the unwanted intrusion and nodded politely.  "Lord Jaxom.  As you can see I am spending the morning with the queen and her ladies."  She hoped he would take the hint and leave.

"Is it a good book you are reading?" he asked, reaching across to touch her hand to turn the book toward him.

Thoroughly annoyed, Aliset snatched her hand back, barely noticing the scratch from Jaxom's ring.

Suddenly, Aliset's world seemed to collapse around her.  Her Deryni senses were gone!  Unable to move, she could do nothing as Jaxom swiftly lifted her from the bench and moved quickly away.                     

Evie  « Reply #406 »
            
What fresh new hell is this?  Aliset's dazed mind tried to figure out what was happening to her. She had to be under the influence of some sort of drug, that much she knew, although she knew not what. It was not merasha, she felt certain, for she had been trained to recognize the effects of that dreaded drug, but whatever it was, it had a similar effect on her ability to fight what was happening to her.  Even as she lost command of her own body, her limbs falling limp and helpless towards the ground as Jaxom lifted her up in his strong arms, she started to feel a slight tingle on the back of the hand that had held Darcy's book. Even as she had the thought, she could feel the book slip out from her numb fingers, falling unheeded upon the ground. She watched as it grew farther and farther from her grasp, like her ability to focus.

Surely she was not entirely helpless, though! Aliset gathered the tattered edges of her psyche, trying to gather up enough focus to send out a psychic cry for help. She knew it would be hopeless to try to call out to any particular mind, given how immediately the disruption of her powers had taken effect, but perhaps someone might be able to pick up on her distress in the Deryni-friendly refuge of King Kelson's court! ((Aliset mental call- Standard !roll 2d6:  4 & 3; Failure.))

But alas, the disruptive effects of the drug were thorough enough to prevent her from accessing even that uncontrolled use of her powers. Aliset's mind scrambled for some other way to extricate herself from her predicament.  Gathering what little remaining energy and willpower that she could, she attempted to scream for help.  Princess Araxandra and the other ladies were not so very far away, after all. Surely someone would hear her and come to her aid.... ((Aliset verbal call- Standard Minus !roll 2d6:  5 & 1; Failure.))

The tiny sound that emerged from her lips was barely more than a squeak. Closing her eyes in despair, Aliset wilted in Jaxom's arms, too spent to consider any other options for the moment.
                                     
Laurna « Reply #408 »

Motion in the garden caught Washburn's attention. Lord Jaxom was there speaking softly to Aliset over the chest-height stone wall. 

"You would dare the wrath of the queen?"  Wash said under his breath.

To approach one of the queen's ladies in the queen's garden was a flogging offense. The lordling must certainly have better sense than this? Apparently Jaxom did not. The young man reached over the wall to better see the book Aliset held. Aliset pulled back in resistance.

"You fop dandy, popinjay, debaucher!" cursed Wash. The Lendour Knight was standing to go to the lady's rescue, when suddenly Aliset fainted away in Lord Jaxom's outstretched arms. "What in the flames of Hell...?" Washburn was appalled by what he was witnessing.

Jaxom looked left and right very quickly, then he lifted the lithe form of the lady up over the wall. He adjusted her position in his arms, and then darted out of the garden the way he had come. Noting the direction Jaxom went, Washburn charged at a run, dodging courtiers and servants who looked after him astonished for his indignity. Wash bounded out a side passage down a half flight of stairs that took him to the hallway where the garden doors would be. ((Does Washburn see Jaxom from the bottom of the steps- Standard !roll 2d6: 4 & 1: Failure- No.))

Jaxom was not in sight. Wash looked out the garden door as he ran past. He wasn't there. Could the man have gotten ahead of him so quickly? Not while carrying the lady. But there were many doors down this hallway and stairs that lead up and down. Which way? Which way?

Wash pulled his dagger from his belt. Holding the pommel before him with the large ruby gleaming in the garden lit doorway, Wash calmed his nerves and centered. Jaxom, where was Jaxom? He knew the man well enough from their days of travel. Never once did Wash think Jaxom would be the type of man to kidnap a woman let alone a queen's ward. But infatuation often made men blind. That didn't seem truly feasible; this lord may be a pompous ass, but he was not a philanderer, yet Wash had witnessed nothing less.

Another deep breath and Wash found his focus and what he sought. ((Washburn opens his focus to locate Jaxom, he already knows the man- Standard !roll 2d6: 4 & 5 ; Success.)) There, behind that door. There was Lord Jaxom and the essence of Lady Aliset's terrified, unshielded mind. The knight's dagger reversed in his hand to display its deadly sharp edge. In a mad rush Washburn kicked in the door that was not completely closed.

Washburn didn't care that he found himself in the royal library. All that he cared about was Jaxom leaning over Lady Aliset, who lay deathly still on the librarian's desk, the hateful man leaning over to kiss her lips. The lady neither moved, nor cried, yet her eyes were wide open, watching in frozen horror.

Fierce anger gripped Washburn then, he yelled at Jaxom. "Get your hands off her, you filthy swine!"

Blank-eyed, Jaxom was looked up at the knight approaching him. Jaxom's motion revealed he was not alone. The hand from a grey-bearded Moorish tradesman was wrapped over Jaxom's wrist. "He is the enemy," the man said using coercion. "The Lendour knight wants your lady love for himself. Kill him so she can be free of him. Then and only then will Aliset be yours, forever." In the swift move of a trained warrior, Jaxom pulled forth his sword and leaped at Washburn with angst and might.

Washburn had no time to pull his own sword from its scabbard. Dagger in hand, he defended against the first attack and then advanced on this pig-headed swine, calling himself lord. The sword and the dagger clashed. In that same instant both men were equally swift and strong. Both men were also equally angry with the supposed actions of the other.

The two men pulled away from each other only momentarily before they struck again. This time the dagger was faster than the sword.

The dagger sliced below Trillick's guard, biting hard into the man's side. But the popinjay's eyes were blank, not registering the pain. That's when Washburn knew Jaxom was under mind control and the grey-bearded man was a Deryni orchestrating this attack. Regardless, Jaxom was a danger that had to be neutralized. Washburn made his second attack, pulling his blow like he would in the training yard, only intending to knock his friend back, not kill him.

But that was a mistake, Jaxom's focus was deadly, his intent unswerving. He held his stance when any other man would have fallen.

The sword swung down, down strong, but clumsy, giving Wash the chance to jump away.

Jaxom's controlled mind turned vengeful. His longer reach with the sword allowed him to hold the knight off. The sword whirled in a figure eight, holding the knight at bay. Behind Jaxom, Washburn watched the grey-bearded man lift the semiconscious lady off the desktop. The old man also carried a large glass container of some red liquid in his hand, like a decanter of wine.
Wash tried to side step around Jaxom, but the young lord made a lucky swing. The point of the weapon sliced into Washburn's off-side shoulder. Wash danced away angry, he had let his balance slip. His need to not kill his fellow knight had hindered his ability. 

Washburn ignored the blood dripping down his arm as he watched the grey-bearded Deryni sorcerer, maiden draped in his arms, step over to the curtained garderobe opening in the far wall. Before the narrow curtained opening, he poured part of the viscous liquid over the maiden and then more upon himself. It ran over them both thicker than wine, more like blood.

Khadasa! It was blood! Whose and why?

Washburn had no choice. If the old man had found a way to get through the warded veiled archway into the next room where the portal lay, then he would be away with Lady Aliset in an instant. The bearded man had to be stopped, and stopped now. Still Lord Jaxom stood in the way. Wash leaped at Jaxom diving under the man's sword.

The sword was in the hand of a slower man, now that the bearded man no longer guided his every move, but Jaxom still was an agile warrior. Jaxom's sword hacked at the back of the knight, tackling him; it struck hard, cutting fabric, and then slid off Washburn's halberd of chain mail. Even so Wash arched his back at the pain of the drubbing. With a desperate need, Wash reached back his hand and grabbed Jaxom's jaw in a clench of fingers. With that instant touch, the Deryni powers of a Morgan did what he knew was morally wrong to do, at least in any other situation, he forced a mental connection and demanded the man SLEEP! "Sleep! Drop the sword and Sleep!"

The Trillshire heir's eyes rolled back in his head, his whole body went limp, he dropped his sword and slumped down to the ground. Wash would have eased him down, but his focus was now on the grey-bearded man who was yanking at the garderobe curtain to clear it from Aliset's feet in order for him to carry her through to the other side.

The knight fingered his dagger around. He threw it as hard and as accurately as he could. He swore it should have sliced into the heart of the old man, yet the old man had turned and with a weaving of his fingers the dagger flew away, slicing into the spine of a large leather bond volume on the library shelf.

Wash had to stop this abductor, he had to save Aliset at all costs, he dove into grey-beard's side, knocking him into the wall, and snatching the form of Lady Aliset away as they all fell to the floor.

The library door to the main hall opened wider and then closed. Someone had heard the scuffle and entered; a foreign dignitary holding an arm load of scrolls. Wash only noted that the man wore scholarly robes, and when this fellow saw the scuffle on the library floor, he gave a gasp, dropped several scrolls, and raced first to Jaxom's side, who was the closest to the door and could be seen to be bleeding. Finding him unconscious, the scholar looked up concerned at the others on the floor near the garderobe curtain.

Washburn had no time for this new fellow. The man on the floor before him was Deryni and this Deryni had all his focus on holding the knight at bay.

The mental attack came as the Deryni master slapped his hand over Washburn's wrist. His mind slammed into Washburn's shields like a battering ram against a castle gate.  The gate to Washburn's mind held strong, but the pain was there like a hammer on an anvil. Wash pulled his hand away, strengthening his shields around himself and extending them around the fragile woman he held. For now that master grey-beard had a grasp around Washburn's shields; his bombardment did not relent even though their hands no longer touched. The old Deryni man was well trained and unrelenting, the attack held Washburn in defense, unable to make a physical blow to finish this ordeal. He huddled on the floor holding the lady close to him, protecting them both with his shielding.

That is when the scholar at his back added his own shielding to strengthen Washburn's. The two separate forces individually fought against the old grey-bearded man's Deryni Power and found victory. The pain easing across the knight's shields, he found he could crawl forward, and with a swift and decisive punch, he clouted the old man in the jaw, ending for good the mental attack.

The old bearded man lay on the floor dazed, his focus gone, his aggression ended.  Wash bound the man's hands with the foreigner's sash. Then he scooted back to comfort Lady Aliset. Her eyes were red with tears, she could barely blink or move to protect herself. Wash touched the lady's head and as he feared her shields were gone, her mind lay open like a babe. He pulled her into his arms and hugged her to his chest. He cradled her, wanting all the bad things that had happened to this good maiden to be reversed. He had sworn to protect her. How had this come about, here in the safety of the king's castle?

It did not occur to him to worry about the foreign scholar lurking behind him.
May your horses have wings and fly!