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The Killing Season Chapter 6

Started by Evie, August 25, 2010, 09:02:24 PM

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Chapter Six

   Rhemuth Castle
   July 16, 1132


   The cook was outwardly cooperative when the King's Champion tried to interrogate him.  It soon became evident, however, that he knew nothing of any plot against the King's life—or so he said, anyway—and once the evidence of the poisoned food was brought before him, he protested that the poison must have been added by some other hand, for he knew the dishes had not been tampered with when he'd prepared them.  Even the discovery of the corked vial in his belt pouch, its glass sides still speckled with traces of the rusty-colored powder, had not served to jog his recollection.  He insisted that it must have been placed in his pouch without his knowledge, in an attempt to frame him.  His brow turned sweatier than usual with the introduction of this new evidence, however, for despite what his memories told him, he knew how incriminating it looked.

   It was only when Morgan, trying to discover the cause for the discrepancies between what his Truth-Reading abilities told him the cook believed to be actual truth and what Morgan suspected the actual truth to be, offered to Mind-See the man that the cook began to resist in earnest, though to no avail.  Two of the Haldane Guard, under instructions from Prince Nigel, held the cook steady as the Duke of Corwyn approached to lay a hand lightly on the man's brow.  They had seen Duke Alaric do this on other occasions; knew that the simple power of Mind-Sight, in and of itself, would do the cook no harm, although it might strike fear into the hearts of those ignorant of what the limitations of Deryni powers were.  Therefore, they weren't prepared when, upon Morgan's first cautious probe, the cook's body shuddered convulsively in their hold and then became limp, his frantic eyes widening briefly before their sightless gaze rolled back in his head.

   Alaric Morgan muttered a blistering curse, pulling back briefly in sheer startlement.  Beside him, Duke Dhugal added an epithet no less biting, stooping to catch the suddenly limp figure and assist the guards in laying him on the ground.  Meeting Dhugal's eyes, Morgan plunged in again, this time with the other Deryni's assistance.

   A few moments later, each backed out of the link, both men tight-lipped with anger and frustration.

   "They covered their tracks well," Dhugal said, "but I got the impression there were at least two men, and I have a fair idea of one man's appearance.  Did you get anything more than that?"

   Morgan took a brief moment to sift through the scattered images he'd managed to gather from the man's dying consciousness.  The death trigger had been carefully set, though, and devised in such as way as to scramble the man's most recent memories even as it took effect, so very few bits of useful information remained to sift through.  "Dark hair and dark eyes, a close-trimmed beard on one man, and a hint of an accent.  In one case, I'd say for certain he was Torenthi; in the other man's case....I'm just not sure."  He looked up.  "I have a vague impression of one man's facial features though."  He sent Dhugal an image of the visage he had gleaned.  It was an imprecise impression, but better than none.

   "Yes, I caught that as well," Dhugal told him.  He turned his gaze to the guards.  "Shall we show you?"

   Although this, too, was an offer the Haldane Guards had availed themselves of on other occasions, they looked at him rather nervously now, licking dry lips as they regarded each other.  Dhugal, suddenly realizing the cause for their fear, attempted to reassure them.  "What you saw happen to the cook was due to a Death-Trigger set by the assassins," he explained.  "Since you weren't tampered with, our touch won't harm you."  He glanced at Morgan, then back at the guards.  "Shall I show you instead?"

   One guard, overcoming his brief nervousness, nodded, the other following suit once he saw his companion do so.  Dhugal suppressed a rueful smile, wincing slightly as he turned away from the dead man's body to share the Torenthi assassin's likeness with the guards.  I'm the King's 'harmless' Deryni, Morgan. You're the Deryni who can still scare the crap out of people without even half trying!

   Next time I'll let you do the first reading, and if the detainee falls dead, you'll get to be the scary Deryni, Morgan groused. Thank God he didn't keel over when young Jemmy brushed up against his mind; that would've scared the poor lad off using his powers for life!  Not to mention we'd have missed getting even this much information from the cook's memories.  His lips tightened.  I'd barely started a deeper probe when the Death-Trigger tripped, but damn it all, the man never stood a chance.  He turned to speak quietly to one of the other Haldane retainers.  The man nodded, hurrying off to apprise the King of what had just happened.   


   To Dhugal's great surprise, one of the two guards had been tampered with, although fortunately the tampering had been done with somewhat less care, and no death-trigger had been set.  Still, this time he managed to get a much clearer impression of the two intruders, especially the man who had been in front of the guard, which he passed on to Morgan.

   A loud commotion from belowstairs captured their attention.  Both Deryni cast out with their senses, trying to divine the cause, as all four men ran to see what was happening.  Thus it was that, even before they'd reached the bottom of the flight of steps and turned the corner, they knew that strangers had been apprehended in the undervault area beneath Rhemuth Castle.  Not mere strangers, but Deryni, who were even then putting up a fierce fight against the mostly human Haldane Guards.

   The new arrivals rounded the corner to discover three strangers rather than two, backed into a corner of a large storeroom trying to fight their way to a rear exit close by.  Surrounding them were the Haldane Guards, attempting to stop the intruders' flight without getting too close themselves,  taking cover behind whatever crates and casks and support pillars stood handily nearby, for the Deryni were using blasts of fire as a defense against their human foes.  One hapless Guard ventured too close; one of the Deryni made a grab for him with a free hand, perhaps intending to use him as a hostage, though the Guard realized his danger just in time to jerk his arm further back, so that the infiltrator only managed to grab his sleeve.

   Another Guard yanked him away, his blue-violet eyes blazing as he pulled the man to safety.  This second guard threw up a hand, muttering words under his breath in a voice quiet yet fierce as he drew a line between the Deryni and the human Guards, and a wall of crackling flame rose up to separate them, the ends of the fiery wall spreading around to form a semi-circle neatly penning them in.   This was Seisyll Arilan, Morgan saw, and he looked pissed as seven hells.  Seeing the rest of the Haldane Guards' reactions to this unexpected development, he thought he knew why.

   Morgan and Dhugal sprinted through the storeroom to join him.  Not bad, Morgan commented to Seisyll via Mind-Speech. Not bad at all.  Tell me, though, have you never bothered to tell the rest of your company that you're Deryni?

   Seisyll's eyes snapped fire.  It's a little more difficult to remain discreet and unnoticed in one's undercover investigative work if the entire bloody Kingdom knows you're Deryni!  

   Morgan chuckled even as he reached the other man's side.  Well, maybe we can help limit that to only half the Kingdom, then.  Is Denis going to crap bricks?

   Undoubtedly.  Until he finds out why I revealed myself, anyway.  Must you remind me?

   By this time, Dhugal had reached Seisyll's other side.  The Haldane Guard retreated to the periphery, securing all exits and standing in readiness to assist if called upon, watching the scene unfolding before them intently, but glad enough to leave Deryni assassins to other Deryni.


   The fighting was fierce and quick.  By the time the King arrived, it was over.

   Morgan, his hair somewhat singed and his face slightly pink from a near blast, though otherwise mostly unscathed, knelt over a prone form, attempting to apply his Healing powers so that the man whose life was ebbing away before him could be spared long enough for a trial and execution.  Seisyll and Dhugal also knelt beside the other two fallen.

   "This one will live," Seisyll said, his fingers clamped lightly on the man's pulse, "though we'll have to wait before we can get any information out of him, unless you want me to try to verbally interrogate him before we resort to using powers."    A feral smile.  "Which I quite look forward to doing."

   "What the hell was that thing you used on yours?"  Dhugal asked Seisyll, pausing for a brief moment while his mind absorbed the flow of information he had gleaned from the unconscious man before him.

   "Merasha dart.  He was expecting me to return magical attack with magical attack, so I thought it best to disappoint him."  The corners of Seisyll's lips turned upwards slightly in grim satisfaction.

   Dhugal edged over to see if he could assist Morgan in his task, but at that moment the fallen man's body shuddered convulsively and he breathed his last.  Grimly determined, Morgan plunged into the dying man's mind, sifting through it as quickly yet as thoroughly as possible to find out what he could about the assassination plot, who had instigated it, and whether there were other conspirators still at large.  Dhugal, after a moment, did the same, hoping that whatever memories of importance Morgan might happen to miss as they dissolved into the mists of death, he might happen to catch before they disappeared completely.   Behind them, Seisyll was directing some of the other Haldane Guards, who bent to pick up the other fallen Deryni and transport them to secure cells in Rhemuth Castle's Keep until they could be further interrogated, tried, and—unless there were extenuating circumstances none of Kelson's men had discovered yet—executed.


   "The three men worked for Teymuraz," the King's Champion informed Kelson.  "The dead one was named Nikos.  From Brustarkia, we believe, so probably one of Teymuraz's loyal men since before his exile."  Morgan turned to Dhugal for corroboration on that point.  Dhugal couldn't think of anything from his own Death-Reading of the man to contradict that information.  He nodded in agreement.

   "Teymuraz seems to be more or less permanently installed in Byzantyun now," Morgan continued, "and has married into a royal title there.  Nikos's memories refer to him as the 'Grand Duke of Phourstanos.'"

   Kelson lifted a sable brow.  "Which tells me that the Autokrator of Byzantyun probably supports his pretensions to Torenth's throne, and possibly to mine as well.  That's...useful information, if rather disturbing.  Go on."

   "They were operating out of a base in the mountains.  In Autun, I believe.  It appears to be a private home, but it has a Transfer Portal."  Morgan shared Nikos's impressions of the Portal signature with the other Deryni present.  "And as to whose home it is, Nikos was never introduced to the man by name, but do you recall this face, Kelson?"  He shared a few glimpses of the florid features he'd glimpsed in Nikos's mind, with its pale blue eyes seemingly peering out at the world in astonishment from under thinning brown hair.

   "That looks a bit like...."  The Haldane eyes glanced at Morgan, startled.  "He used to be on the Camberian Council, didn't he?  What was his name....Thorne Hagen?"  

   "Yes."  Morgan's lips thinned.  "It would appear that Teymuraz has low friends in high places.  Or at least who used to be in high places."

   Kelson's eyes narrowed.  "My Lords, I think it's time we check to see if that rat's nest contains any more vermin, don't you?"

   "As long as that 'we' doesn't happen to include you, Sire, I'm all in favor," Seisyll agreed with a wry smile at his King.

   Kelson chuckled.  "No; as satisfying as it would be for me to confront Teymuraz myself, I'd have to come home and live with Araxie afterwards.  A hazard I never had to face when rushing off into danger before I was wed."

   Morgan and Seisyll, battle-scarred veterans of marriage and concerned wives, laughed.  Dhugal, too, added a chuckle and a wry smile of his own, although his amber eyes grew shadowed with the pain of his own recent loss.


   Morgan, Dhugal, and Seisyll, using the Transfer Portal in the Royal Library annex, stepped from Rhemuth one moment into Autun the next, senses fully alert for danger as each man arrived on the other side.

   Casting about them for signs of activity, they could sense the presence of several people within a fairly short range, but only a scant handful in the immediate vicinity.  Most seemed to be moving along a street or alleyway outside the building, although there were two in quite close proximity.  Morgan had nearly not sensed one of them at first; a presence whose mind was shielded, although those shields were so transparent, he had not detected them in his first mental sweep of the area.  But close beside that presence was another one, one with rudimentary shielding.  One that felt untrained.

   A human, perhaps, though one who had worked in the presence of Deryni enough to have formed some basic shields?  No, Morgan didn't think this presence felt quite like that  It felt more like...his daughter Grania, perhaps.  Well, obviously not Grania herself, but a very young Deryni child.

   This way
, he Mind-Spoke to the others, although the command was almost redundant, since Seisyll at least had also detected the same thing he had, and was heading in the same direction already.

   Morgan opened the door, the other two Deryni poised to offer immediate protective cover for him if needed, whether by means of sword or more arcane powers.  Instead, they found themselves staring at a young woman garbed and veiled in the eastern fashion in silks of midnight blue, and a little boy, no more than four years old, the woman standing protectively between them and the child who was presumably her son.

   Morgan had seen these two before, in Nikos de Brustarkia's dying mind.  

   The woman stared up at him, pale crystal green eyes huge, the visible part of her face suddenly gone pale.  "Who are you?" she whispered.

   "Alaric Morgan, the Duke of Corwyn," he replied.  "And you are the Lady Mirjana de Brustarkia?"

   She didn't reply directly, but took in the sight of the three men and the heraldic emblems each man wore.  The lady began to tremble.

   "You are...Lords of Gwynedd...."  She swallowed.  "Oh, sweet Jesú, what has my husband done?"  Her voice was an anguished whisper.  

   "He has attempted regicide against the King of Gwynedd.  I'm afraid, my Lady, that we are going to have to take you into our custody."


   Dhugal watched the impact of Morgan's words upon the woman.  Instead of the hostility he had expected to see in her eyes, so uncannily similar in color to his dead wife's, although judging from what little he could see of the rest of her coloring and features, the two women were otherwise as different as night and noon, he saw a brief flash of—was it relief?—before the quick flicker was chased away by fear.  Then her expression became as tightly shuttered as her mind.  

   "You say he attempted regicide.  Your King still lives, then?  And Liam-Lajos?"  The woman raised trembling fingers to her lips; he thought he caught a glimpse of coral prayer beads clasped between them.  

   "Kelson does.  If there was a similar attempt on Liam-Lajos, we have not heard of it yet.  Although...."  Morgan suddenly seemed to remember the presence of the little boy whose dark eyes were now peeking around his mother's skirts.  "I regret I must inform you that...there was a casualty among the men we captured this day," he told her, glancing down at the child then back up at the mother.  The boy continued to look more curious than upset, although the woman's sharp intake of breath told Dhugal that she, at least, comprehended Morgan's meaning.

   "I...see."  Again, despite the obvious fear in them, there seemed to be a glimmer of relief in her tear-filled eyes rather than the grief or anger Dhugal had expected her to feel.  The woman bowed her head, dark-lashed eyes closing, and then she knelt before them, lowering her head until her forehead touched the floor.

   "My son and I are at your mercy, my Lords.  I know nothing of what my husband might have plotted against your King—by the Christ's wounds, I swear this, and I beg you to read the truth of my words!--but I can tell you he was liegeman to Teymuraz, and his loyalties are not my own." She dared a look upwards at them, her eyes flashing. "My loyalty is given to the rightful Furstán, Liam-Lajos, although...."  She took a deep, shuddering breath.  "If your Liege is as kind and merciful as he is reputed to be, then I seek sanctuary in the Court of the Haldane King."

Chapter 7:   http://www.rhemuthcastle.com/index.php?topic=542.0
"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!


Enjoyed the chapter.

QuoteI'm the King's 'harmless' Deryni, Morgan.  You're the Deryni who can still scare the crap out of people without even half trying!
ROFL - so much for the efforts at a changed image and giving up the black darkling phase!

Loved the Alaric / Seisyll interaction and LOL at the Denis comment. 

Hmmm - wonder how the Camberian Council will choose to deal with its former member now that there's evidence of links to an actual plot against Kelson's life?    *thinks it would not be pleasant to be 'dealt with' by the likes of Azim ...*


Maybe this would be the time for Thorne Hagen to sell the house, move to Bolivia, and leave no forwarding address?   ;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!


Quote from: Evie on August 25, 2010, 09:52:13 PM
Maybe this would be the time for Thorne Hagen to sell the house, move to Bolivia, and leave no forwarding address?   ;D

Or whatever the equivalent of Bolivia might be in the Deryniverse; they haven't discovered the New World yet.  Perhaps the equivalent of Persia or India, or even China?


Well Elkhound, if I were Thorne Hagen and knew certain people were after me, I think I'd go discover the New World !!   


Morgan would retain a little air of menace, I'm sure.  Married with kids or not, he wouldn't want to appear too warm and cuddly! ;)


True.  And he hasn't seen his children for at least a few days, even if he's making regular trips home now, so there'd be no spit-up stain on his surcoat or jam fingerprints on his sleeve.   :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!


In crime dramas--and perhaps in real police interrogation, I wouldn't know--there is the 'good cop/bad cop' technique.  Perhaps we could have 'good Deryni/bad Deryni.'


Alaric:  "Why do I always have to be the Bad Deryni?"
Duncan:  "Could it be because you have all the Bad Deryni wardrobe?"  *smooths wrinkle out of cassock*

"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!


Quote from: Evie on August 26, 2010, 01:44:17 PM
Alaric:  "Why do I always have to be the Bad Deryni?"
Duncan:  "Could it be because you have all the Bad Deryni wardrobe?"  *smooths wrinkle out of cassock*

ROTFL!  Of course, with young Arilan, we can have Bad Deryni and Worse Deryni.