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The Killing Season Chapter 2

Started by Evie, August 22, 2010, 01:17:07 AM

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Chapter Two

   April 1, 1132

   The two men stood on opposite sides of the small table, gazing upon a map of Gwynedd.  

   "Before we invade our enemy, we must soften them up beforehand.  And we must give Kelson such a distraction that he will be far too pre-occupied to suspect our strike until it is too late."  A dusky finger stabbed at a port town close to the Kingdom's capital.

   "Here," Teymuraz said.  "Desse will be the perfect place to launch the first attack.  It's a mere five miles south of Rhemuth, and with any luck, it will do the job for us.  If Kelson dies without anyone having to lift a finger, so much the better for us.  But if not...."  Teymuraz shrugged.  "That, my friend, is where you and your men will come in."  He pondered the map a bit longer.  "And here also," he added, stabbing the finger at Coroth.  "Both for strategic reasons and, I'll admit, more personal ones."  He looked up at Nikos with a smile dripping with pure malice.

   "Duke Alaric Morgan?"  Nikos added, returning the smile.  


   Nikos gave the map a thoughtful look.  "All right then, you plan to strike Desse and Coroth, yet somehow you hope this first strike takes out the enemy without us having to become personally involved.  What sort of attack are you planning?"

   "Why, magical, of course!"  Teymuraz raised an amused brow at his liegeman, a smirk playing on cruel lips.  "Do you really think I went through decades of arcane training and study for nothing? Parlor tricks, perhaps?  No.  Kelson fancies himself a Deryni King, a patron of the Deryni arts.  Let's see how well he handles an assault upon his Kingdom by a real Deryni King."  

   "So, what sort of magical attack are you planning?  And surely Kelson will suspect your involvement right off, if you're planning to attack with magic!"

   "I never said I was planning on being obvious about it, Nikos!"  Teymuraz laughed.  "No, to the people of Gwynedd, it will appear to be a simple plague, the sort of fever that sweeps through the land now and again.  All I shall do is help it along a bit.  That is to say, introduce a source for the contagion and establish the conditions under which it can flourish and spread.  A simple bit of weather magic, for the most part.  Granted, very powerful weather magic, but just enough to help Nature along with the inevitable."

   Nikos frowned.  "All right.  So what's the cure for this plague?"

   The Grand Duke smiled.  "There is none.  You either die or you don't.  With any luck, Kelson and Morgan will die, but if not...."  He shrugged.  "They'll still be quite distracted.  And that's where you would come in."

   "But if there's no cure...."  Nikos looked alarmed.

   "There's no cure, but there are preventatives," Teymuraz said with a laugh at his liegeman's expression.  "I will give you and your men a potion that will help to render some immunity to the plague before you set forth, if it should come to that.  And you might consider adding considerable amounts of garlic to your diet as well."

   "Why garlic?"

   The Grand Duke chuckled. "It's said to repel mosquitoes.  Of course, it might also repel your wife."

   Nikos von Brustarkia gave an amused snort.  "That's hardly of any concern.  I'm afraid my Mirjana, though quite lovely to look upon, is not very keen on bedsport.   Fortunately, she serves well enough for producing heirs, and Byzantyun has no shortage of willing whores to make up for her lack of warmth."

   "Then she should prove no deterrent to a change of diet," Teymuraz said, clapping Nikos on the back before turning away to hide a grin.  Personally, he suspected Mirjana's coldness towards her husband was probably due more to Nikos' legendary impatience than any fault in the filly herself.  He wondered if her husband had ever bothered to spend more than a few brief minutes to spend his own lusts upon her.  The occasional flash of fire Teymuraz had seen in the young woman's eyes boded well for other passions deeply hidden, perhaps to be discovered if only she had a more patient and thorough bed-partner.

   He certainly hoped he would have an opportunity to find out someday.


   April 5, 1132
   Coroth Castle

   Richenda slapped absently at the insect buzzing next to her ear.  "Is it just me, or does summer seem to have arrived early this year?  And why are we already having a problem with mosquitoes?"

   "It is unseasonably warm, Your Grace.  It might be a good idea to set out smudge pots around the Great Hall and other areas," Master Randolph suggested.  "That might help to keep the little pests at bay."

   She nodded.  "I was just thinking the same thing.  I'll have that seen to, then."  Richenda pondered.  "Also, I suppose some fine netting canopies around the beds would help, especially the children's.  Cheesecloth should do, I would think.  That will make for an easier night's rest, without blocking any cooling breezes."

   "Yes," Randolph agreed.  "The nights are cool enough at the moment, but by midsummer, if this keeps up, they're likely to be sweltering.  You'd want to have at least some windows open to allow in some cool air in a month or two, I'd think."

   Richenda smiled.  "So, I take it you're not among those physicians who believe that the night air is poisonous?"

   The man laughed.  "Jesú, no!  I'd be dead by now, if it were!"


   April  7

   "I'll take you through first and let you become familiar with the coordinates.  Then we'll return for your family."  Teymuraz had not been happy at first about that last concession, but eventually he realized that Nikos would be more biddable with his wife and heir close by.  If nothing else, should the man become balky when it came closer to time for him to execute his part in the plan, Teymuraz would have some means of leverage to ensure Nikos' compliance.

   "As you wish, Your Grace," said Nikos.  He forced himself to relax in his liegelord's grasp so that Teymuraz could impose the controls necessary to carry him through the Transfer Portal to their unknown destination.

   With a sudden wrench, Teymuraz brought them through.  Nikos's consciousness went blank for several seconds, but then, as the world re-coalesced around him again, he found himself in an unfamiliar, but comfortably furnished, room.

   "Where are we?" Nikos asked.

   "Southern Autun, in a mountain holding.  This is the private residence of...well, let's just call him an ally for now.  Formal introductions can wait."  Teymuraz raised an inky eyebrow at Nikos.  "All right, man, let's not waste time.  Go ahead and memorize the location."

   Nikos crouched to memorize the unique signature of the Portal he stood upon.  After a moment he straightened again, nodding to his liegelord.

   "Good," said Teymuraz.  "Let's go bring through the others, then."


   April 9
   Rhemuth Castle   

   "He's asleep at last?" Dhugal asked, leaning back against his pillow as he watched his wife comb through her tawny-gold hair.  

   "Aye, out like a light.  Mhairi's nearly so as well.  I told her we planned to retire for the night, so even if Duncan Michael wakes up again, she'll attend to him."

   "Good."  The Duke smiled.  "He's an active little fellow.  Are we sure we're up to having another so soon?"

   Catriona laughed, turning to face him.  "A little late for you to be asking that, isn't it?"  She put down the comb and began to braid her hair loosely in the manner she preferred to keep it secured away from her face for sleep.

   He grinned at his quite obviously fecund wife.  "No, leave it down for now.  I'll do that for you.  Later."  

   "Later, hm?"  Cat smiled at her husband as she slipped into bed beside him.  Her green eyes sparkled with amusement.  "So, is that your way of telling me you still desire me even now that I've got the lithe and graceful figure of a beached whale?"

   Muscular arms encircled her as Dhugal leaned in for a kiss.  "Hardly a whale, chuisle," he whispered, his amber eyes alight with mischief.  "Simply a ripe, succulent, and very tasty fruit."

   His Duchess burst into laughter.  "A fruit, am I?"  She glanced down at her abdomen.  "A pear, I'd say, and a rather overripe one at that!"

   "Good thing I'm partial to pears, then," Dhugal assured her, stroking her belly, now grown large with their second child.  "How has our daughter been treating you today?"  He leaned over to kiss the swollen belly beneath his hand.  A tiny foot kicked his face, making him straighten with a grin.

   "She's almost as active as her brother.  I'm thinking your suggestion  of 'Ailidh' for her second name might have some merit after all.  If she keeps this up, my suggestion for a name is going to be 'The Tiny Terror of Transha'!"

   The Chief of Transha roared with laughter.  "'The Tiny Terror of Transha' is a bit long for a first name, love.  I'm afraid you'll need to think of another."  He gave Cat a roguish smile as he pulled her closer to trail a series of light kisses down her exposed throat.  "I know it's rather late, but would you mind if I nibble on my overripe fruit a bit?"  Practiced fingers tugged at the drawstring to her night-rail.

   "Before I explode from the summer heat?" she joked, turning slightly towards him in mute assistance.

   He slid the silky garment off her shoulders.  "Mm.  I think I can think of more pleasant ways to make you explode."

   "Oh?  Well, maybe you should show me," she challenged with a teasing smile.

   His wife's clear green eyes darkened with pleasure as he proceeded to do just that.


   April 12
   Southern Autun

   The more he thought the matter through, the more doubts and second-thoughts Nikos was beginning to have about their plan.

   "You know I support your claim, Your Grace.  But maybe we need more time.  We could rally more support for the cause that we have now, put together an army and a fleet, wait until a more propitious time to launch our invasion...."

   Teymuraz raised an incredulous eyebrow at Nikos the Impatient's sudden reversal.  "A more propitious time?  Nikos, do you not understand?  In less than a month, a fever will be spreading throughout the Kingdom of Gwynedd.  With any luck, it will even cross over the mountain range into Torenth; one can hope, anyway.  All I'm asking of you is one small favor—to kill a man.  It's not so hard, Nikos!  You've done so many times before.  And I'm not even sending you in to do it alone."  He gave the liegeman a cruel smile.  "Besides which, don't worry about my other resources.  I assure you, I do have them, even if I've not mentioned them and they've not made themselves known to you.  Just because I've entrusted you with part of my plan, that doesn't mean you know the whole.  But it's best that way, no?  What you don't know, you can't possibly reveal."

   "Of course.  But you're asking me to take myself and my men into the heart of Gwynedd, into Kelson's Court, to catch a Haldane King unaware—and yes, I know he's only half-Deryni, but I wouldn't underestimate Kelson's power, nor those of his half-breed Dukes.  Men have done so far too often, to their everlasting regret.  Even if we succeed in our mission, what guarantee do we have of getting back out to enjoy the fruits of our success?  If we do not die by magic or the sword, what of the plague?"

   Teymuraz shrugged.  "Come, Nikos, don't turn craven on me.  What, is the promise of Arjenol—once Matyas's head lies dripping in my hands—not enough for you?  Or, if you'd rather not wait that long, the Duchy of Corwyn?"

   "What good is a Duchy if I'm not alive to enjoy it?"

   The Grand Duke steepled his fingers in annoyance.  "Well, if you wish to stay alive long enough to enjoy it, then that should be ample motivation to stay alive, yes?"  He gave his liegeman a tight-lipped smile.  "If you should die in my service, then I assure you that your heir shall be well cared for until he is old enough to take up his duties as Duke of whichever Duchy you decide shall be your legacy for him.  But oh, my friend, if you should live!  Think of the glory that shall be yours on that day, when we make our triumphant re-entry into Rhemuth with the full strength of my supporters behind us!"  The cruel smile grew.  "That is, if you're not too cowed to pit three formally trained Deryni against a few mere half-breeds and their Haldane mongrel.  You'll not even have Duchess Richenda to contend with; my eyes in Corwyn have assured me she's in residence at Coroth right now.  And the Cassani Duke's Llyrian mare is waddling with his spawn; she'll be little threat so close to her time. With luck, she'll be heaving bloody bile by the time you make your move."  Teymuraz grinned, clapping Nikos on the back.  "All you have to do is kill Kelson.  It needn't be elegant; it just needs to be final.  I don't care how.  If you don't want to confront him, do it covertly.  Just make it happen.  Let me worry about the rest."


   April 15

   How are you feeling, love?  Seisyll's blue-violet eyes smiled at Sophie in her dream-vision.

   Well enough.  The morning sickness is beginning to subside.  I might decide to join you in Rhemuth; the mosquitoes are eating us alive here!

   They're not any better in Rhemuth,
Seisyll informed her.  And I was planning to return home tomorrow anyhow.  Shall I bring anything back for you?  A book or two, mayhap?"  He grinned.  Boy-Priest and Heartthrob send their love.

   Sophie gave a mental snort.  John's a little old for you to be calling him 'Boy-Priest' anymore, don't you think?  And Duncan is not my heartthrob!

   Her husband's image grinned unrepentantly at her. Not anymore.  I do believe I've managed to cure that.  But if you need a reminder about celibacy's drawbacks....

   Seisyll Arilan, if I were living with Duncan McLain and not with you, at least I'd get some sleep!

   Seisyll roared with laughter over his shiral crystal. All right, then.  I won't wake you when I get home.  Poor sweeting; am I really that insatiable?

   Yes! Dreaming Sophie pondered what she might need from Rhemuth.  You could bring back several smudge pots and some gauze cloth or veiling.  Nothing expensive, just enough to serve as bed drapes to keep out mosquitoes.   I've taken to setting up wards around the beds, but it's a bit of an energy drain, doing that night after night, and I can't exactly keep them inside wards during the day!

   I suppose not, though it sounds like a splendid idea.  I might try that myself.   God knows I'm tired of the last thing I hear at night being some infernal insect buzzing about my head!  But yes, I'll see what I can do about finding those supplies for you.


   April 25
   Transha Keep

   "All set then, son?"  Sir Judd MacArdry clapped his heir on the shoulder as Sir Jass checked the girth on his wife's saddle once more time.

   "Aye, we're headin' out.  Any message ye wish me tae bring tae th' MacArdry?"

   Sir Judd shook his head, smiling up at his daughter-in-law, who sat on her mount with her youngest child swaddled and in a sling worn in front of her.  "Nay, jus' tell Dhugal we'll tend tae things till he gets back.  Ailidh mo nighean, wouldnae ye an' th' babe be more comfortable in a coach or cart?"

   Sir Jass snorted.  "It's nae use, Da.  I've already tried tae tell her, but she insists she an' th' babe will hae a smoother ride on a horse rather than behind one."

   The older knight shrugged.  "Well, she might be right.  But Ciaran an' Aine Rose...."

   "Oh, they're in the coach with their nurse," Ailidh assured her father-in-law.  "And I've told Jass I'll join them if I get too tired to ride.  Which I won't," she added with a pointed look at her husband.    

   "Aye, Da, when she gets tae puttin' on Rhemuth airs and goes back tae her Court talk, ye know she means business."

   "Jass MacArdry, I dinnae put on Court airs!" Ailidh corrected, her gray-green eyes flashing fire.

   "Except for when she's so mad, she lapses back into Border talk again," Jass added with a grin at his father.

   Sir Judd MacArdry laughed.  "I know better than tae comment.  Safe travels!"   He smiled fondly up at daughter-in-law, reaching up to her as she leaned over for a quick embrace, then he drew his son into a farewell hug.  "I'll call yer Ma; I know she'll want tae say goodbye tae th' weans, if no' ye two quarrelsome lovebirds," he added with a wink.  "She's still right worried about ye leavin' sae soon, wi' Jarrett bein' sae young an' Ailidh barely recovered."

   "I need to get back to Rhemuth.  It's almost time for Duchess Catriona's lying-in, and I promised to help her through it and also to help keep Duncan Michael busy," Ailidh told him.  "She had a long labor with him, you know, though hopefully this one will be shorter."

   "Well, tha's all well an' good, lass, but dinnae get sae caught up in carin' for th' MacArdry's lady, ye forget tae care for yerself as well.  Dhugal doesnae need two ladies on his hands expirin' from exhaustion!"  He turned.  "I'll go get Ma, then."

Chapter 3: http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=538.0
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


Got my fix of Jass then ;) Thank you!


Actually I'm writing another scene with Jass in it right now.  It just snuck in there on me; I hadn't planned on it.   :D
"In necessariis unitas, in non-necessariis libertas, in utrisque caritas."

I have a vocabulary in excess of 75,000 words, and I'm not afraid to use it!


I grew up in MN, so I know all about mosquitoes.  There are several species thereof, and diseases for whom the mosquito is a vector are species-specific.

It is interesting that in the countries where mosquito-born diseases are endemic the local cuisine features lots of garlic, and that folklore ascribes vampire-repellent properties to garlic (one kind of bloodsucker is like another.)  Also, as a blue-eyed blond with lots of Irish/Scots ancestors I have (as my late mother was before me) a mosquito magnet in my youth; however, I've since taken to eating lots and lots of garlic, and now they hardly bother me at all.  (My late father, with his thick Cherokee skin, was hardly bothered by mosquitoes at all.)