The Worlds of Katherine Kurtz

FanFiction => Laurna's FanFic => Pretender's Gambit => Topic started by: Laurna on April 18, 2018, 04:44:48 am

Title: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Laurna on April 18, 2018, 04:44:48 am
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Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Day One of the reign of King Jasher Haldane

His Majesty, Jasher Haldane, awoke with a sense of urgency. Taking care not to wake any of his sleeping companions, he paced on bare feet into the adjacent quarters of the priest who presided over this small church of Shanbogh. In that small room, Jasher discovered an arms-man sitting in a chair with his arms folded across his chest, his eyes heavy yet attentive enough to recognize the king. Hastily, the Lendour man stood and bowed his respects. The priest, whose room this was, give off a steady snore from his cot. The third man in the small room, who most certainly did not belong to this country church as he had earlier claimed, lay on his side in the corner, his hands tied behind his back; he appeared to remain unconscious. Impatiently, the king mouthed the word, “Where?” The Lendour guard seemed to understand immediately. He made a hand motion toward a narrow curtain which hid a garderobe alcove. Jasher made quick to disappear behind the curtain. A few moments later he reappeared, much relieved. Jasher gestured for the man-at-arms to carry on. Before his presence could awake the others, the king stepped silently back into the church proper. Avoiding the four Deryni, who slept upon the mosaic floor before the altar; Jasher thought it best to get a fresh breath of morning air. Only there he found a younger man-at-arms on duty at the door. This guard was keenly awake, and apparently quite curious as he looked Gwynedd’s new king up and down. Jasher didn’t need that kind of scrutiny at this early hour. He retreated back inside the church, and began silently pacing the length of the short nave, moiling over all that had occurred in the past two days.

The four Deryni heard the footsteps first in their dreams. Then, in each's own way, they roused to confirm whether the sound came from friend or foe.  In the barest of the morning light, through rose colored glass above the altar, the three men of the four person's there looked up to see the tall figure of a man pacing. His black hair lay loose across shoulders draped in velvet Haldane scarlet over a bleach-white monks robes. There was no denying that this man was a Haldane King. The three men quickly rose from the coolness of the tiles. They stood, bowed their respects, and were grateful for the king’s quick release. At which point, they found themselves arching backs that were stiff, stretching shoulders that were sore, and rubbing eyes that were foggy and not easily cleared.

Well, that last part might have been  Sir Washburn’s alone. Until he had taken a damp cloth to his face, he could barely see past a cluster of crystals in the corners of his eyes. “I wish I still had that mead,”  Wash mumbled in an aside when his brother came near. “I would like to dowse our Torenthi friend with his own brew.”

“Then you won’t mind helping me deal with him,” Muir murmured low enough to keep the others from overhearing. Washburn’s all to quick agreement allowed the earl to smile at the younger man who continued to rub his eyes.  Muir gave his brother a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “You look better than you did last night. Gave Her Majesty a small fright when she first saw you, you did.”

Washburn wiped his face one last time, noting how the Dowager Queen was just sitting up from her bed of blankets and cloaks. To his clearing vision, the elder lady had a frailness in her motions that he had not noticed the night before. “I fear we have brought Her Majesty into a place she should not be. Honestly, I can not believe she has risked so much to be with us. Though indeed, for Jasher’s sake, I am glad she was here last night.” Washburn watched with approval as the young knight, Sir Krispin, stepped close to the dowager, offering his hand to assist her to stand. Washburn’s voice lowered to match the tone of his brother’s earlier comments. “About our friend, it would be best if we spare the Queen Mother from what needs to be done.  Best ask Krispin to take her outside before we begin.”

“Agreed,” Muir said. The Earl of Lendour then turned his full attention to the queen mother’s eldest surviving son. “Greetings, Sire.”  In a token gesture of service, Muir lifted the bottle of last night’s wine from the floor, uncorked it, and poured its remaining contents into an earthen cup. “Sire, are you recovered? Did you manage any sleep?”

“Some, yes,” the King commented distractedly.  With remembrance, his hand hesitating to take the cup which Muir held out. Muir smiled in understanding. He took a small drink from the cup to reassure the king that this was untainted wine. This time, when the earl held the cup out, Jasher took it, finished the contents in a swallow, and then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Better,” he said, handing back the cup. His gaze moved from Muir, past Wash, and over to the church’s small altar with a sadness reflecting in his eyes. “This new day has brought a mixture of both doubt and clarity. It is like the rose colored glass which adds brightness to the room, yet changes the truth of the color in its rays. Can you see that?”

“I am not sure I know that which you mean, Sire?” Muir queried.

“I‘m not making sense, am I?” Jasher turned away from the rose window exasperated. When he turned back, his eyes beseech the earl to understand him. “It just seems to me that…” how could he explain what was nagging at him. “Take this wine, it tastes better than it did last night.”

‘Of course it does, it is pure, without the Healer’s potion,” Muir offered.

“No--yes, of course--but that is not what I meant,” the king admonished his earl, his feelings were too serious to accept the jest for what it was meant to be. Jasher needed to be serious, he tried again. “It is like the floor and the altar have-- they are brighter --, nay, they have substance-- and yet they are not changed-- My eyes saw them better in the candlelight last night, yet my mind sees the seals in the mosaic better this morning, even though the rose window is distorting all the colors. Do you understand?”

“I think that I do, you Majesty.” Muir hesitated for a moment, but when it was evident that Jasher wanted a full explanation, Muir did his best, “Sire, this church is very old. My brother and I suspect that its founders were of the early faiths, and, also that they were Deryni.”

“Deryni priests?” Jasher asked, almost as if the two terms were at great odds with one another.

“You know well that it is only in recent years that Deryni who wish to achieve their vocation have been consigned as heretics of the faith. Do I need to remind you that a good number of the Laws of Ramos were overruled by your father.”

“Many were, but not all,” Jasher muttered. “Nygel had been working with the Archbishops to change the last laws of Deryni seeking ordination. He had promised it to me. But that will all be undone now. With Imre and his son, the devil take them,  the archbishops will refuse to discuss the subject of Deryni in the faith. A decade of work, destroyed in two days.” Jasher denounced with regret. “A Deryni has caused the death of my beloved brother, and Nygel’s death has required the next in line to inherit… an inheritance he never wanted.”

Washburn took in a breath at the venom in the king’s words. He missed Nygel. With the older Haldane brother there had been steps forward for Deryni returning to open society. Under Nygel's protective guidance here had been hope. Jasher offered uncertainty where Deryni were concerned.  Wash read the tension in Muir's stance. They must ease the king's growing anger at the circumstances, keeping the blame where it belonged, on the Torenthi and not on the Deryni of Gwynedd. Not until this morning had it occur to the Lendour brothers just what the second Haldane brother was forced to forever put aside. Last night’s ritual, even more so than the weight of the crown, had made ordination, even in the distant future, an absolute impossibility for the lay knight of Saint Willibrord. 

“Forgive me, sire,” Muir lowered his eyes in respect as he spoke. “In all of this, my motivations have been for that which is best for Gwynedd. I had not considered the cost that you must personally pay.”

Jasher’s closed his own eyes for a long moment, a tear seen in the corner, before he looked up and blinked the wetness away. “My choice was made last night. I know what I have done. In all conscious, I could not shirk my duty and abdicate to my younger brother, not in this moment of greatest need. Still, in the quiet of this morning, in the smallness of this church, I am finding my choice at odds with my faith. Last night, last night… how do I cope knowing what could have been.”

“Aye, after last night…” Muir let the thoughts hang unsaid. He did not know how to interpret the presence that had entered the warding last night.  He had meant to speak with Krispin when time was more plentiful. Turning away from that difficult subject, he offered his next comment with sincere respect, “Your great grandfather gave up the very same for this Kingdom.”

Jasher did not look appeased, he knew his great grandfather had not taken kindly to putting aside his vocation. “I do not know if it is with pity or with jealousy that I must say, at least King Cinhil had known ordination. Am I better off than he, not knowing what it is that I put aside? I can not say that I am.”

The king’s eyes were downcast, his gaze fell upon the blue and gold tiles that swirled around the eastern emblem of Wind and then flowered in an array beyond the emblem bordering a large rectangular tile that was newer than the rest. Jasher hunched down, his fingers running over the engraving on the newest set tile.

A solis ortu usque ad occasum,
    laudabile nomen Domini.

“From the rising of the sun, even to its setting, praiseworthy is the name of the Lord. So it is said in Psalm 112, verse 3,” He whispered just audible enough for Washburn to hear.

In the bottom corner, Jasher’s hand stopped at the seal of the Bishop of Grecotha. Below that seal Washburn saw the script of three initials:  A K C

So caught in the conversation between Jasher and Muir that Washburn did not hear or see the true priest of Shanbogh step toward them, but suddenly Father Reynfred was standing there on the far side of the tile. “Your Majesty, as I was not able to do last night, may I welcome you to my humble parish.”

“I thank you, father, for the use of this holy site. May I ask which Bishop of Grecotha honored Shanbogh with this prayer?” he pointed to the tile at their feet.

“Ah!” the priest looked down upon the prayer tile while biting his upper lip. “That is a gift from the time of the restoration. The initials are for one Bishop Alister Cullen, who had the tile made and set over a shattered portion of this old flooring. This would have been in his first year of office when the Bishop made his first rounds of his diocese. Bishop Cullen gave us funds to repair the floor and reroof the thatch. He was very generous in that year.” The priest almost said more, but then stopped.

The king did not look unkindly at the priest. “I sense you have more to say,” the king said mildly.

“Aye! There is more.” The priest looked from man to man and then down at the floor as he continued his telling. “The story that was written by the priest of the day, wrote that the new bishop made the tile in honor of the memory of a friend who had just passed away. He said that this friend, in his youth, had been a deacon of Grecotha, he was also the third son of a great noble family. Time came when this friend's elder brothers both had died, the title of his family lands came to him and he was forced to put aside his vocation.  Distraught, the young deacon ran away from Grecotha to find himself a day later on his knees at the altar of Shanbogh. Here among these walls, this young man found that he did not have to lose his faith to serve both secular and ecclesial worlds. The Bishop said that in the reaches of time this young deacon ultimately found his path in both worlds.”

“How is that so.” Jasher asked. “Bishop Cullen was known to be a great man of his time. A close confidant to King Cinhil. Who could he possibly have honoured in this way?”

“I can not say his name, as it is strictly forbidden, but I do not personally believe the taint that has been sighted to the man whom Bishop Cullen once honored.”

“An honorable man whose name is forbidden? I must know. Of who is it that came here as a deacon, even as I have been a deacon and I have come here to put aside my vocation for the duty to my Kingdom. I must ask that you to tell me his name.”

“Forgive me, Sire. I find it hard to say his name, but for your sake I will.” Still, the priest crossed himself, and said a small prayer before he answered to the king’s will. “The bishop’s friend was a man known as the Earl of Culdi, the man in his last years of life who was named, Kingmaker, and then after his death… he was....” The priest stumbled over the name. “His canonization would have been a time or more after this tile was laid. Bishop Cullen did know then that his friend would become the very same man who would be sanctified for his deeds; he who was named... Saint Camber, Defensor Hominum.”

At the voicing of that name, gasps escaped the lips of everyone near the king. Even as Jasher knelt, so did the others kneel beside him. So it seemed their vision last night was so much more so because of this place. No wonder that the floor seemed to protect them through the night.

While Jasher said his own prayers, Muir sensed what was truly needed. “Father Reynfred, may I ask a boon, will you give your king your blessing for having slept under the protection of your roof. I think we would all be most grateful for it.”

The elder clergyman held no further foreboding and enthusiastically offered a blessing to the king and his fellows.

After, in reverent silence, King Jasher gravitated toward the altar, lowering his eyes to kneel at the altar’s base, whispering a sustaining prayer. Washburn could feel His Majesty's tension ease as the words brought him peace. After a few minutes, such peace surrounded the king as to cause an aura of crimson to gleam in a halo about his head.

The aura could have been mistaken for the sunlight through the rose window, but those who were Deryni knew better. “You will teach him to control that, ” Wash murmured in an aside to his brother with a faint smile.

“I will do what I can,” Muir whispered. “It is hard to reconcile our visions of last night, but it appears that what was set in motion by the Kingmaker of four score years ago is still on the path of his original plans.”

“You believe what we saw was real?” the knight asked, uncertain to make such a claim.

“Real or contrived from the minds of those who were with us. I can not say. That is something you will have to determine on your own.” The Earl walked away from his younger brother to greet the one human guard among them who was just entering in to the church. Held in his one good hand was a basket of warm bread, which he had just procured from the village ovens. Vince dispersed the bread and a new bottle of wine among those of this royal gathering. When he would return to Washburn the change from his purse for the breakfast purchased, Washburn let him keep it as but a small allowance for the soldier’s good nature, since he felt a guilt for the not-remembered scene which had broken the young man’s arm. 

The mood in the group was thankful. The priest's blessing and the small meal was a reassurance to each of them. But then, after breaking his fast, Jasher turned somber as he requested Washburn’s man-at-arms to bring forth the Torenthi spy.  Sir Dillion had striped the spy of his priest’s robe and now the little wiry man wore only a black shirt over black truss.

“What say you to Gwynedd’s King, Torenthi?” Muir asked coming forward to stand tall beside the diminutive prisoner.

“I say nothing to this man who is not my King,” defied the spy.

“The Haldane standing before you is the King, sovereign of this land in which you stand upon. One word from him and I will break you.”

“You may try! I swear I will take you to hell with me,” claimed the Torenthi. Washburn stepped closer motioning Dillon to assist. What would came next would be a great hazard, but they were three Deryni, all strong, and all willing to beset their strengths against the one. They would Mind Rip him completely of all thought if their king willed it. Everyone waited only upon Jasher’s final judgment.

The king held his own newly fledged abilities in check. Yet he showed no qualms asserting his authority. “You are accused of impersonating the holy orders, for insinuating your will over three men and causing them to take their own lives. I’ve been told you read the minds of these men to glean what information you would from them. Do you deny these accusations?”

“I neither confirm nor deny anything!” the Torenthi claimed. 

“That is all you have to say?” There was that intense glare so much like King Uthyr’s of days gone by. “Then I find you guilty. I conclude that punishment must be equal to the crime. Thusly, I sentence you to the same oblivion you bestowed upon your victim's.” The King nodded to the Deryni who surrounded this prisoner. “There are times when a King must use force for the greater good of his kingdom. If mythology is right,” he looked at Muir for a moment, “then the power of the Deryni is neither good nor evil, only the motive behind the power is what matters. And this motive is for justice in a just kingdom.” Jasher did not wait for Muir to breath.  So tenuous was the earl’s position here. “Mind rip him if you must, but I want to know what he knows!” declared the King in final judgment. As history goes, it was never said that the Haldanes held fear of what the power of the Deryni could achieve. This Haldane was no different from his predecessors.  Muir nodded and Washburn inwardly preparing himself.

Washburn gave a sharp look toward Krispin, mind speaking to the young knight. Escort the dowager queen from the church, this will not be pleasant.

Krispin did as asked, placing a hand under Michaela’s elbow and pointing for her to go with him outside.  She was compliant for three steps, but then abruptly turned back to the men. “Grandson of mine, may I have a word?”

“Madam, this is not the time,” Jasher demanded, pointing a finger for Krispin to escort her to the door.

But she would not be moved by Krispin’s hand. “Don’t risk the Earl of Lendour on such as he. These Deryni men are loyal to you; they will risk themselves to prove it. They have not told you of the peril involved-- do not think for a moment that there is no danger in this. Ripping away full shields is a battle rarely accomplished without collateral damage. I say, wait until this condemned man’s shields are collapsed by another means before interrogating him.”

“I know of only one other means, Maman Mika,” Jasher said under his breath. “Merasha has broken the will of many a Deryni. I am versed on this justifiable punishment, when it is justifiable! I have also witnessed it in the semblance of God’s vengeance for seeking holy orders for men of Deryni tainted blood. Just now, however, We can not produce that coercive drug!” Washburn flinched at the venom in the king’s voice, the use of the royal We was not lost on anyone listening.  Jasher’s knowledge of Merasha and its use was a shock. That the king meant his tone to only refer to the enemy, but the implication against the whole Deryni race was not missed. Church doctrine was going to be an impediment for Jasher, even if it was only on a subconscious level. Meanwhile, Jasher was pointing for Krispin to take the Dowager outside. “Please, madam, I am asking you to leave.”

Even Michaela flinched at the thought of Merasha, yet she held her stance. “There is another way. Bring him to camp. Lady Drummond will have something, not Merasha, that will reduce the spy’s shields to nothing. Lord Lendour,” she pointedly turned to Muir. “If this man’s shields are gone, you will be able to retrieve the information that you need, without risking yourself?”

“Aye, madam, I can.”

She raised her eyebrows to her grandson who weighed the truth in what she said, but knowing there was something that she held back from him. This Knowing Truth was new to him and he still was not sure if he could trust this new sensation. However, more importantly, he trusted his grandmother more than any other person alive.

“Very well. Bring him,” Jasher commanded.

Sir Dillon and soldier Vince readily accepted the duty to stay behind. They were to see that the three Gwynedd soldiers were properly buried by the villagers. Then the would see that the villagers packed their belongings and retreated to the east. This in turn freed Vince’s mount for the trussed up prisoner to be thrown over the saddle to be taken back to camp.

Washburn nodded to Vince as the other’s mounted to leave. “Make the burials quickly, for I think the village will have no more than a day before they become vulnerable to the enemy. It will be up to you and Father Reynfred to walk the villagers west. Join us in Grecotha as fast as you can, and heal that arm up, young man.” The Lendour Captain waved a hand of respect to the soldier before leaping up into the saddle and chasing after the royal party that was already moving out at a good clip.

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Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DesertRose on April 18, 2018, 11:54:42 am
Nice chapter, Laurna!  Glad to see some more of this story.  :D
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Laurna on April 18, 2018, 12:41:38 pm
I want to thank our lovely Revanne for giving the prayer on Alister's gifted tile. Even a year after it was told to me, I still love it.
Thank you Revanne.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Evie on April 18, 2018, 12:55:19 pm
OH, a brand new chapter!  Yay!  I was wondering if/when you were planning to resume telling this story. 
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Laurna on April 18, 2018, 03:02:31 pm
Thank you, Evie.

Since everyone is busy, busy, and there is a loll in the game "Ghost's of the Past", I thought I would post chapter's that I had written over a year ago. These chapters are not edited, as may seem obvious, (my lovely editor needs to concentrate on Lady Aliset when she does have some time and not on my silly story telling.) I think there are two more chapters in this time line. Then when my editor does have some time, we can concentrate on putting forth "Dance with a Tiger." That is the story I really wanted to tell, anyway.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Evie on April 18, 2018, 03:38:38 pm
No need to wait, Laurna.  Editing is something I'm able to do even if there are frequent interruptions (like when I'm working front desk, which is most of the time lately), since it doesn't require me to be creative, just detail-oriented, and I can pick it up right where I left off even minutes later. Writing original content is what takes the peace and quiet that I don't have very much of lately.  If I get interrupted every five minutes while trying to write a story scene from scratch, it will either turn out completely incoherent or will require the full day to complete a few paragraphs.  :( Although it would be best to have peace and quiet for doing both tasks, editing someone else's content is much easier under such circumstances. It just goes a lot more slowly than it would under optimal conditions.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DesertRose on April 18, 2018, 03:50:07 pm
and not on my silly story telling

I wanted to call a little bit of attention to this phrase.  It's not a silly story, nor are you doing something silly by telling it.  Go re-read that poem I posted "Of Stories, Oft Repeated" for a good reason to tell stories and to read and re-read them.

You're a good storyteller, and it's important to write and tell and share stories.  :D
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: revanne on April 18, 2018, 04:59:36 pm
Lovely story Laurna. And thank you for sharing the fruits of your imagination with us.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: revanne on April 18, 2018, 05:09:16 pm
I want to thank our lovely Revanne for giving the prayer on Alister's gifted tile. Even a year after it was told to me, I still love it.
Thank you Revanne.
My pleasure
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DerynifanK on April 19, 2018, 02:42:32 pm
Thank you so much for this new chapter I so enjoyed reading it. Stories are important and you are a wonderful  storyteller. I hope you will continue to share your  stories with us.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DerynifanK on April 19, 2018, 02:48:39 pm
DR. Where did you post that poem ? I would love to read it 
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: Laurna on April 19, 2018, 03:55:52 pm
DR. Where did you post that poem ? I would love to read it

Thank you for reading DFK. And I think you will like this peom that DR posted. I think it is quite relevant to what we do.,2197.0.html (,2197.0.html)
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DesertRose on April 19, 2018, 03:57:07 pm
Laurna beat me to it.  ;)  (It's under Off Topic -> Writing Tips, if someone wants to read it and can't click the link.)
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DerynifanK on April 19, 2018, 08:58:03 pm
Thank you Laurna and DR. I loved that poem.
Title: Re: Pretender’s Gambit- Chapter Seven
Post by: DesertRose on April 20, 2018, 12:10:25 pm
Thank you Laurna and DR. I loved that poem.

Thank you!  When I saw it, I knew I had to ask the poet's permission to post it here, because I figured a lot of forum members would enjoy the poem as much as I did.
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