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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 129034 times)

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Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #705 on: November 08, 2019, 06:58:55 am »
At first light, Valerian’s squire roused him to prepare for their departure, assisting the Grand Duke to dress and arm. He had just finished a light breakfast provided by the MacDonald’s staff when a knock sounded at the door. The squire quickly opened the door to admit Castleroo’s Laird carrying a parchment.” I hae drawn ye the map as I promised. It should get ye tae Ratharkin witout meeting the Gwyneddan army.”

 He moved to the table and unrolled the parchment to show Valerian the route he should follow to reach Ratharkin safely. Valerian joined him to study the map and fix the route in his mind. With a meaty finger, MacDonald traced a line along the immediate coast toward the Kilarden River. “Once ye reach the point where ta river empties into ta bay, ye can follow it inland  tae the walled town o” Kilardin.  Dinnae continue ta the town, they are loyal tae the duke and tae the king.  Ya will reach a bend in the river. At that point ya need tae turn south away from ta river. Ya will then cross the Mearan plain along ta borders of Transha and Kierney. Ya should reach ta Ratharkin mountains and ta city witout interference. This route should kep ya well away from ta army that is pursuin’ ya.”  MacDonald stepped back to allow the grand duke to study the map.

After a few minutes of intense scrutiny, Valerian turned to Laird MacDonald and spoke. “I have the route fixed in my mind now. What about the land, especially along the river? How rough is it, is it difficult for riders?”

MacDonald replied, “Tis not difficult along the Bay but as ya near ta mouth of ta river it becomes steeper with rocky cliffs and deep defiles. Tis treacherous ground and must be ridden with care. Ye cannae move fast, but then neither can those followin’ ya. If ye follow ta route I sketched out on ta map, ye should be safe enough.”

Valerian rolled up the scroll and tucked it inside his tunic. He bowed to the MacDonald. “ I thank you for your assistance. When the Queen comes to her throne, we will not forget those who have helped us. There will be rewards for our supporters.”

MacDonald returned his bow. “I would remind ye ta keep that map safe. Dinnae let it fall into enemy hands. I am not yet ready tae have my support known. I can be of more help ta the cause if my sympathies are not suspected.”

Valerian inclined his head and then strode from the room toward the stableyard where his men were mustering. His squire held the reins of his warhorse. The Grand Duke quickly mounted and turned to face his men. “Is all ready for our departure?” he asked the captain of his personal guard.

“Yes, your grace.” the man saluted as he replied.

At the MacDonald’s command, the gates of the town swung open and Valerian led his troops through and toward the shore of Kilarden Bay. After the last man had passed through, the gates of the town swung closed again. His men followed the Grand Duke as he turned east along the shore toward the mouth of the River Kilarden.
 
….

Prince Javan and his escort entered the city of Laas after the great storm subsided.  He was met by Duke Brecon inside the walls, Jass  and Duncan Michael just behind him.  All three bowed as the royal prince dismounted from his destrier. He was accompanied by a tall, dark haired man who wore the badge of a battle surgeon on his tunic. A small escort of royal lancers followed.

Javan addressed Brecon anxiously. “Where is Duke Kelric and what is his condition? I understand that he was severely wounded during the battle. I have brought Lord Aliston, my highest trained healer, with me as I understood from Lady Richelle that he was urgently needed by the Duke. I have been most anxious about him.”

Brecon replied with a smile. “He has been healed, through his own powers and with the assistance of Jayce Coris, an apprentice healer, who was sent to us by the King. His Grace’s wound has been completely healed but he is weak and exhausted from the battle and the effort to heal the injury. Duke Rory remains with him as does Jayce.”

“That is good news. I would like Lord Aliston to examine him to be sure that all possible is being done to restore him to health.”

“I will take you to him, my prince.” Brecon turned to lead Javan to the inner room where Kelric still sat propped against Rory’s shoulder. A young slim squire with auburn curls hovered nearby. Kelric was pale and he appeared weak, but his eyes were clear and bright, there was no sign of bleeding and the offending weapon had been removed. He tried to rise but Rory held him back.

Javan motioned for him to remain where he was. The tall, dark haired man with him moved to Kelric’s side. “I have brought my most skilled healer, Lord Aliston, to serve you. Although it appears that you have been healed of your wound, I would have him examine you to ensure that all is well. Then you can be moved to a more comfortable bed to continue your recovery. Both the king and I were very concerned that we might lose you.”

Kelric nodded as the healer knelt at his side. “This young man is Jayce Coris, an apprentice healer at the Schola. He was sent by the king and was most helpful in the healing. I could not have completed it without his able assistance.” Kelric grinned, “I think he might benefit from observing you as you complete my healing, and I am sure he would be thrilled to be allowed to do so.” Jayce nodded his head shyly. The healer smiled and gestured for Jayce to kneel at his side. He placed his hands over the site of the wound. He spoke to Jayce, “Place your hands over mine.” Jayce did so and they both entered a healing trance. As he moved his hands over Kelric’s body, checking that the artery was well sealed and the blood flowing as it should, that the splintered collarbone was knitted and stable, and that muscle and sinew was restored, he and Jayce communicated in rapport. The healer then moved his hands gently over the duke’s head to be sure that no injury had occurred when he fell. Lord Aliston withdrew his hands, stood, and bowed to the Prince. “I find the healing well done, my prince. The duke will need rest, wine to restore the blood he lost, and nourishing food.”

“Vezaire wine would do the trick” Kelric interjected.

Rory snorted and Javan shook his head at the Duke. “Like father like son.” he retorted with a grin of relief, knowing that his friend and mentor would recover.

The healer continued, ignoring this byplay. “I’m sure Duchess Richelle will be able to provide the nourishing food he requires and will see that he rests. If he behaves, his recovery should be uncomplicated.” He turned and put his hand on Jayce’s shoulder. “I also think this young man will prove to be quite a talented healer, and I look forward to continuing his education at the schola.” He then addressed Duke Brecon. “Are there other wounded who require my services? We have other healers with us and should be able to meet their needs, if you will take me to them.” Brecon nodded. “With your leave, my prince.” Javan nodded his assent. Brecon and the healer left the room with Jayce trailing after them.

Javan then spoke to Kelric and Rory. “Now that my priority concern has been addressed, what is the status of the castle and its garrison? Have you many wounded, and how much damage has been done? My men are rounding up those Mearan soldiers that remain on the battlefield. The fight has gone out of them, and they are surrendering without resistance. They will be confined and their wounded cared for. However, judging by the numbers I saw, I suspect that a large number of the separatists escaped with Grand Duke Valerian. Have you any idea where they might have gone?

Rory replied, “Unfortunately, the storm hid their movements, and we were dealing not only with attacks from without but also from within. Baron du Chantal and his men were secretly allied with the separatists and Valerian. They rose up and attacked from within in an effort to seize the gatehouse, raise the portcullis, and allow the ram to breach the gates and admit the attacking force. They nearly succeeded. Baron MacArdry and Earl McLain with several soldiers managed to retake the gatehouse to slam the portcullis shut trapping the ram and many men between it and the gate. Many of the rebels were killed or captured, but du Chantal disappeared during the fight, and I suspect he escaped using our portal. The remaining mutineers have been secured and are confined in the dungeons.”

“The walls of the city and castle remain intact though there is damage, both from the attack and from lightning strikes on the main tower during the storm. Repairs will be required but the defences are still  strong and can be relied on to protect those within. There were no significant breaches.  We do have many wounded, and the assistance of your healers in restoring them to health and strength so that they may return to their duties will greatly improve our ability to both defend the city and to join in your pursuit of those rebels who escaped.” Rory paused.

The prince responded. “My men are fatigued from a long, forced march and battling the storm and securing the rebels that remained on the.battleground. I propose to rest them here tonight and resume our pursuit of Valerian in the morning. Prince Albin is commanding the final roundup and disposition of the captured men. Duke Kelric needs to be moved to a chamber where he can rest comfortably and his recovery can be supported.”

 Kelric objected, “I’m  fine now” but was ignored

Javan continued as if Kelric had not spoken. “I propose that we meet after a meal and brief rest to discuss our best course in putting down this rebellion. I will need to Rapport with the king to report what has occurred and receive his orders.”

Duchess Richelle entered the room and curtsied to the prince, warmly clasping the hand he held out to her.  “We are relieved at your arrival and help in securing the castle, and we are honored by the presence of both your highness and Prince Albin.  My husband has apprised me of what needs to be done now. I have prepared Duke Kelric’s room and will see him moved as soon as possible. There are also quarters being prepared for your Highness and Prince Albin where you may refresh yourselves. A meal is being prepared and will be served when you are ready.”

Brecon re-entered the room and bowed to the prince. “The healers are tending to the wounded, and  my guard captain is preparing a barracks area for your men. Food will be provided as soon as it is ready.”

Javan nodded his approval. “I propose that we all return to our duties . As soon as we have made all the necessary dispositions and all is taken care of, we should meet to discuss our next moves. I am sure Duke Brecon can provide a suitable meeting place. I intend to make a brief tour of both castle and battleground to be sure that all is well. I will then retire to my room and attempt to reach the king to report to him all that has occurred and obtain his orders.”

He continued, “Our most immediate need will be to discover where Valerian and his army have gone. To this end, I intend to send out scouting parties at first light tomorrow to cast about for their trail. Baron MacArdry will lead one and Earl MacLain another. I will ask Duke Brecon to send one or two men familiar with the surrounding lands with them to provide direction. Additional plans must await the king’s instructions and our discussion tonight.” Javan stood and prepared to leave the room. “Brecon, will you accompany me on my review of our current situation?”  Brecon bowed and moved to the prince’s side.

Two male servants appeared, sent by the Duchess to assist Duke Kelric to his room. “I can stand without assistance.” Kelric insisted. He stood slowly and started to take a few steps. However, his knees began to buckle, and he was forced to lean on the arm of the closest man. He then allowed them to support him, one on either side as they slowly left the room. The prince and Duke Brecon followed them from the room, and the others dispersed to carry out their duties.

Later that evening, Prince Javan, his dukes and the other noblemen present came together in the largest withdrawing room . Javan stood in front of a chair at the center of the large table. He indicated that the men should take their seats. “I have found that all is in good order here. I have Rapported with the king, and he is pleased with the outcome of this battle. His orders are that we pursue and capture Valerian. He feels that the loss of Valerian as well as the capture of Sidana and her confinement in Rhemuth will deal a severe blow to the rebellion. He had news of Baron du Chantal who did escape Laas by portal to reach his estate. He was quickly taken by Earl Brendan Coris and his men who had occupied the manor and were lying in wait for him. The king is ordering Coris to conduct du Chantal to Rhemuth where he will be questioned and confined as a traitor. The Earl is then to lead his men toward Ratharkin where plans are being made for retaking the city.”

“Our task is to discover the whereabouts of Valerian and to capture him. Javan turned to indicate a large map of Laas and its surrounding lands. His escape was covered by the storm which prevented seeing which way he went. Duke Brecon, you know this area best. What are your thoughts on the most likely route for Valerian to have followed?”

Brecon rose and moved to the map. “I believe his goal will be to reach Ratharkin which is currently under rebel control. His most direct route would have been to go east, but Javan and his army were between Laas and Ratharkin and approaching fast. He could have tried to move south but he would have to skirt the bay where he would confront that violent and erratic storm. Then he would have to cross the great river Laas and turn east toward Ratharkin. Further south, he would encounter the Cloome mountains and the Connait. If he skirted Laas Bay to the north and east he would have the easiest route with no real impediments. He could reach the walled town of Castleroo which has a long history of separist sympathies. Alternatively, he could ride more directly northeast toward Kilarden. From Kilarden, he would have an easy ride south across the plain to Ratharkin. I believe he would have been most likely to take one of the last two routes.”

They discussed the information provided by Duke Brecon. He best knew the lie of the land, and they agreed on the last two as the most likely ways for Valerian to have gone. Javan stood and addressed them.  “Two scouting parties will leave at first light. The first, led by Baron MacArdry, will ride north and east along the Bay toward Castleroo. The second, led by Earl MacLain, will ride northeast toward Kilarden. At any sighting, send a courier back to notify us of the location and which way they are riding. Stay out of sight but continue to shadow them until the army reaches you. Let us go to our beds and get what rest we can. Thank you gentlemen.”  The party dispersed as the men headed to their beds.

As the sky lightened the next  morning, the two scouting parties assembled in the stableyard. Prince Javan and Dukes Brecon and Rory were there to send them on their way Two squires and two men-at-arms stood holding the reins of their horses. Brecon stepped forward and spoke to Jass and Duncan Michael. “These men are most familiar with the countryside and can best steer you on the way. He turned and directed them. “Andrews and Dunstan, you will ride with Baron MacArdry. McCallan and Muir, you will ride with Earl MacLain.”  Bowing, the four turned to mount their horses and join their parties. The Prince stepped forward to wish them godspeed and the two parties rode out of the gates.

….

Valerian led his men along the shore of Kilarden Bay toward the mouth of the Kilarden river. At the beginning the terrain had been easy riding with gently rolling hills, and they had been able to make good time. However, the land was now becoming steeper and rockier. They were forced to slow down and pick their way carefully over the rocks and defiles. Valerian’s temper grew shorter, and no one ventured to question him.  He noticed a faint roaring sound which grew louder as they continued. They must be nearing the mouth of the river Kilarden where it emptied into the bay.  The roaring became louder until the party came out on a steep bluff overlooking a river that flowed swiftly into the bay which spread out to the west.  Turning aside Valerian picked his way back from the bluff and found a track leading eastward away from the bay and along the river’s course. After a short ride, Valerian signalled the men to halt.  A little further along the track there was an opening which led to a glade with grass and water for the horses. “We will rest here. Water your horses and tend to your own needs. We will move on as soon as I have had a chance to study the map the MacDonald gave me.”  He dismounted and threw his reins to his squire who led both horses to the stream to allow them to drink. Valerian found a place where he could sit and lean against the trunk of a gnarled old tree. He drew the parchment out of his tunic and unfolded it to study the map. The track indicated on the map followed the banks of the river for some distance. The river, as indicated on the map, flowed in a nearly straight line toward the town of Kilarden. There was one sharp bend in the river where it dipped south toward a mountain then returned to its previous course toward Kilarden. That bend looked to be a short distance from the town but far enough that the movements of his army would not be visible from their walls. At the deepest point in the  bend they would leave the river and move south, skirt the mountain and ride south toward Ratharkin. Once they turned south, the ride appeared easy with gently rolling land and no large obstacles. They only had to reach the plain and his troubles would be over.

….

The scouting party led by Jass MasArdry headed north and east along the shores of Kilarden Bay keeping a sharp lookout for signs of the passage of a large group of riders. His party included two men who were excellent trackers and quickly noted signs of riders having passed this way recently. They rode steadily along the bay toward Castleroo without encountering other riders. After several hours of steady riding, Jass called a halt to rest both men and horses. As the men dismounted and led their horses to a small stream to allow them to drink, he called the two guides and the trackers to him to consider their progress.

Jass turned to the trackers, “Do ta signs ye see convince ya that Valerian’s army passed this way? Ye hae seen no signs that he turned from the way ta Castleroo? “

“Nae, milord. All ta signs point to his tryin’ tae reach Castleroo. Ta town is noted fer its support o’ independence, and he would hae ta best chance o’ gettin’ hep there.”

Jass addressed the guides who had accompanied him. “Ye know this land. Is our best course tae continue tae track them toward Castleroo?”

Andrews answered first, confirming that it was most likely that Valerian was trying to reach Castleroo where he had the best chance to obtain much needed support. “The MacDonald, Laird of Castleroo and its surrounding lands, was a supporter of Princess Caitrin in her bid for Mearan independence. He and his men were too late to fight with Sicard at Dorna. They returned without encountering the king and his army. Since then he has remained quiet, tending to his own lands. He would be the most likely source of support for Valerian.”

The other young man, Brecon’s squire, Gregory Dunstan, then spoke.” Even if he has reached Castleroo, he will not want to stay there. He will know that the Prince will be in pursuit. The only other town of any size is Kilarden which is loyal to Duke Brecon and the king. If he intends to reach Ratharkin, he might bypass Kilarden and turn south across the plain. If we bypass Castleroo and move more inland we might be able to intercept him.”

 Jass considered what the men had told him. After a brief deliberation, he decided to change course, turn inland away from the shore and follow a line to try to intercept Valerian and his men on the plain south of Kilarden. He signaled to the men to mount. He placed the two guides at the front of the party, one to each side, to lead them toward a sighting of Valerian and his army.

They rode steadily for several hours. Jass began to notice a gradual change in the lay of the land. The gentle hills were giving way to steeper rises with rocks, small trees and bushes. Jass halted the party to again confer with his guides. “Will ta land get steeper and rougher and will ta riding get harder, slowin’ us doon? “

Both guides agreed that their path would get rougher, and it would be to their advantage to alter their path somewhat, turning more south. The older of the two, Andrews, addressed the baron. “There is at least one tall mountain and one or two lower ones in front of us. There is also a small lake. The steeper ground is the lower part of the mountain.  We think our best course will be to skirt the foot of the mountain and pass between it and the lake. The riding should remain fairly easy, and it should put us on track to intercept Valerian if, as we believe, he is heading away from Kilarden and toward. Ratharkin.” 

Jass nodded his agreement to the route proposed. “After a short rest, we’ll move on. You two lead ta way.” As the others took advantage of the short halt, Jass kneed his horse to move closer to the younger of the guides, Dunstan, and spoke to him. “Ye seem verra keen ta catch these rebels. Is there a reason ye want so badly ta see em caught?”

Young Dunstan replied. “The Grand Duke murdered my grandfather, Lord Dunstan, when the rebels took Ratharkin. Grandfather refused to swear fealty to the Pretender Queen, and he ordered my grandfather beheaded and displayed his head on the castle walls as a warning to others. My brother told me of it in a letter he sent just after it happened. He thought I should know.” The young man continued through clinched teeth. “I want him caught and punished for that act. I would like to see him drawn and quartered, but at least I want to see him die.”

Jass responded in a sympathetic voice. “I understand yer feelins, lad, but remember, our orders are ta find the Grand Duke, send word ta Prince Javan, and track him til ta army can capture him and his men. Ta king will decide what is ta be done wi’ him.”Jass fixed the boy with a stern look. “Ye need ta follow orders an hep us find him. Focus on yer duties. If ye cannae do that, I will send ya back ta Laas. I will be watchin’ ya.”

“I will do as you command, milord.” Dunstan gave a neck bow to Jass but still looked mutinous.”

At Jass’ signal the group moved out, continuing to follow their guides as they moved on toward the south and east. After they had ridden some distance, Jass again halted the party and signaled the two guides to approach. “I need the two o’ ye ta ride ahead and scout fer any signs o’ riders. Dunstan, go tae the north, back toward Kilarden and the river. Andrews, go east toward ta plain tae be sure they hae no got past us. Report back tae me.” Both men saluted and turned their horses in the directions assigned.

Young Gregory Dunstan guided his horse through the rocks and brush at the base of the mountain toward Kiklarden. As he rode, he thought of his grandfather. They had been close, and he had adored the older man. His grandfather had instilled in him precepts of honor and chivalry. The more he thought of the rebels and especially the Grand Duke and what they had done to his grandfather, the angrier he became. He felt the need to revenge himself on the person he saw as his grandfather’s murderer. But he also thought of his pledge of loyalty and obedience to the Duke he served and to the king. His thoughts were in turmoil, he was conflicted. He shook himself and tried to focus on his mission to try to discover the whereabouts of the rebels and their leader.

Screened by rocks and brush, Gregory  reined in his horse and studied the scene before him, looking for any sign of riders. He sighted signs of movement in the distance, in the direction of the Kilarden river. As he watched, the movement dissolved into a large group of riders headed toward him. They were here, the rebels!  He turned away and spurred his horse back toward where he had left his party.

Dunstan reined in his horse in front of Baron Jass. “I have seen them, milord, a large group of riders headed this way from the river. I believe it is the army we are seeking!”

Jass singled out one of the men nearby. “ Joseph, you will be my courier and take this news back to the prince as quickly as you can. Inform him that we will watch them and continue to shadow them until he arrives. I expect you will meet the army moving in this direction.”

“Aye, milord.” the man saluted the baron, kneed his horse away from the party and set off back toward Laas. 

Jass ordered Gregory to lead them to the point from which he had sighted the riders. “Be careful tae conceal yourselves. We dinnae want them tae know they hae been seen,” he told the men.  The party followed Gregory to the part of the slope from which he had seen the riders. They could see a large party of riders headed in their direction. The men concealed themselves to continue to watch the advancing rebel group.

Gregory found an excellent lookout where he was hidden but had a good view of the approaching rebels. As they drew nearer, he could better see the men in the lead. He noted the arrogant look and the superior carriage of one man whom he suspected was the Grand Duke. Gregory inched his horse closer as the leaders of the army drew closer, and his view became sharper. As they neared the beginning of the foothill at the base of the mountain, the black haired man in the lead signalled for a halt. As the army reined in their horses behind him, he gestured for two of them to approach him as he pulled out a parchment from his tunic and unrolled it. Probably a map of some kind the young man thought .

As Gregory continued to watch the black haired man conferred with the two men he had summoned. The longer he watched, the more certain the boy became that this was indeed Valerian and the angrier he became. It was not enough that Valerian should be captured. Gregory wanted him dead. He looked around, Jass was some distance away also studying the actions of those below. Gregory reached for the crossbow hanging from his saddle. His horse somewhat hid him from the others. As he stared down at the hated figure, his anger overtook him. He loaded the bolt, sighted his target and fired. He saw the bolt hit the Grand Duke in the chest. The man reeled in his saddle ; his warhorse reared as he pulled at the reins in an effort to keep his seat. It was not to be. Semi-conscious, the Grand Duke fell back and to the side,toppling from his horse, his head striking a rock in the path. He lay motionless, the bolt from the crossbow deep in his chest.

The other  two men sprang from their horses and knelt beside him. One of them was pointing in the general direction of the mountainside but seemed unsure of where the fatal bolt had come from. There were no further arrows nor any signs of attackers. The men seemed unsure of what they should do as they knelt beside the still body. The rebels were becoming agitated, uncertain of what to do and suddenly leaderless.

Jass quickly passed the word that they should remain still and hidden. Their number was small, and they could not withstand an attack from the men below if one was launched. However, the rebels continued to mill around, unsure of their next actions.  One of the men who had been beside Valerian when the bolt hit him, stood up and addressed the men. Instead of moving to search the area for the attacker, they loaded the body onto his horse and turned back toward Kilarden. Gregory Dunstan heaved a sigh of relief that there would be no search for the person who fired the bolt. His emotions at having the man he hated in his sights had overcome him, and he had failed to consider that he might be putting the other members of the scouting party in danger. He  knew that the Baron would single him out as the one who fired the killing bolt, and he would surely face punishment, but he had done what he needed to do to obtain vengeance for the killing of his grandfather and he would gladly face whatever punishment was determined for him.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2019, 08:24:46 am by DerynifanK »
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #706 on: November 11, 2019, 08:45:56 am »
“I told you I am FINE!  Stop asking me if I am feeling unwell!” 

Aliset Cameron stood with her hands on her hips and glared at her husband.  Her husband, standing in the exact same position, glared back.

“Fine then!” he said, hefting his sea bag over his shoulder and stroding away toward his horse.  “I’ll never understand her,” he muttered as he passed Father Columcil on the way. He stopped and turned to the priest. “Everything I say to her is the wrong thing.  And if I don’t say anything, it’s the wrong thing.  I should go back to sea.”

“Ye mun ha’e a bittie patience, ma laddie,” the priest replied.  “I’m sure come the next month or twae she’ll be no’ wantin’ ta bite yer heid off.”

“A month or two?” Darcy looked dismayed and  shook his head, pushing  back the stray strands of fair hair that fell across his face.  “How can you be sure?  I can read the stars, and I can read the weather, but I can’t read her at all.”

Columcil had seen the signs many times before as a remote parish priest, but did not feel it was his place to enlighten the frustrated younger man before him.  At least not yet.  “Gi’e her a wee bit o’ space; she doesn’a need you at her side all the time. She’s an independent lass and kens her own mind.”

“I’m glad she knows it, for I’m sure I don’t!”  Darcy sighed.  “We’d best get on with the day.”  He shook his head a second time and walked purposefully toward his horse.

Columcil watched him walk away. He knew how dearly Darcy loved Aliset and that she was fond of him.  Both had the mettle to face the world on their own; they would just have to figure out how to face it together.  A challenge to be sure.  Columcil looked toward Aliset and saw that Fiona had joined Aliset and they were talking quietly.  Fiona placed a gentle hand on Aliset’s arm, said something to her earnestly, and Aliset nodded.  The priest smiled ruefully and wondered if Washburn would figure it out before Darcy.

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #707 on: November 13, 2019, 12:25:55 pm »
“Darcy, could you hold up on releasing the ward cubes for a few minutes longer?” Washburn asked in a rush as he came over to the seaman’s side. 

Standing beside his horse, Darcy had raised his hands above his head and had started to concentrate on the spell that would lower the protective ward which had lain over their heads for the night. He gave Wash a look of concern as he lowered his hands back to the pommel of his saddle. “We need to get moving. We will not get into the church, if we are not there soon.”

“Aye! Yes, I agree. Yet, I would ask a boon of your wife for a bit of magic before the wards are gone. It will not take long.” Wash had a  boyish grin that echoed mischievousness. There was no doubt that the good night’s sleep had done him a world of good. “You don’t mind, do you?” Wash asked at Darcy’s downcast eyes.

“Don’t mind which? That you want magic performed or that you would ask my wife to perform it?” Darcy then looked up and twisted his lips. “Tis neither of those things, Wash. It is this damnable road. Truth is, my lady and I have only known the road together. I have little experience of residential living, land ownership, and homes, those are alien to me. But for my loved one, I need to bring her to a good home, and soon. I feel it in my bones that she will be happier when we are settled down. Yet, if I suggest that she go back to Rhemuth when we send Fiona there, she gets stubbornly fixated that she doesn’t want just any roof over her head. That she would rather have the stars as her roof and my arms as her walls.”

“And this upsets you?”  Wash said with a quizzical laugh. “If only I could find such a woman.”

Darcy looked at Wash with a disgruntled exasperation. “What she says is contrary to what she needs.”

“Aye, all women are contrary, Darcy. That is the way of their kind. Keep her close to you. That is the key. Soon, hopefully soon, we will get you some solid walls and a hardy roof to put over your heads. I did promise you a good bed, too. I stand by that.” Wash clapped a hand on the younger man’s shoulder with a wide smile. “To that eventual happy day, if it is acceptable to you, I shall ask for that little magic of which I am in need.” With a sprite step, Wash across the campsite with it’s magical protection. He drop to one knee before the two chattering young women. “Lady Fiona, Lady Aliset.” He acknowledged the young ladies before him. “I hope the morning is finding you both well. My lady?” he looked up into the face of his friend's wife, aware of the hesitant look Aliset gave him. “Would you be kind and perform a favor for me?”

“Sir Washburn, if I can, I will.” Lady Aliset Cameron stifled the smile she had been sharing with Fiona and then cocked her head in suspect of the knight’s purpose on behalf of her husband. “Why are we being so formal?” she inquired.

“Well, I need your expertise… in body changing!” he exclaimed, which only elicited a confused look shared between Aliset and Fiona. A bit taken off guard, they both began to giggle and Wash felt undone. He didn’t understand women either, apparently. “You misunderstand me. I can not walk into the funeral church mass as I am. It is quite probable that the Grand Duke will have spies seeking my whereabouts at the abbey. He will want me alive to reverse what I did to him, but his spies would think it nothing to harm those who protect me. My hope is they still believe me to be in Meara hiding with Iain-- I wish I knew how good the Grand Duke’s informants are?” He looked up at Aliset and saw her biting her lip. In the glow of the blue dome, her skin was pale and her eyes showed concern. He saw a vulnerability in her he had not seen before. Perhaps Darcy was right, the road was no place for both of these young noble women. Yet, at this moment, that problem could not be resolved.

Wash had a need to lighten the mood, so he shrugged his shoulders and spread forth his hands. “Besides,  don’t you think that I draw too much attention?” He gave a charming lopsided grin, his gold hair falling characteristic forward. “Even if I cover up in a cowl, there will be other people there who could recognize me. I am not sure I can face them, not yet. Can you change me…. To look like someone else?” He added in a rush.

Aliset softened her expression and color returned to her cheeks. “Yes, I can. But who should you be? It needs to be someone that I know well enough to model you after, someone close in height and of similar build. You are far taller than Alister was, and young Robert may never reach your height.”

“He could become Jaxom,”  Fiona happily suggested.

“No!” was everyone’s unanimous reply, confirming that Darcy and Columcil had come close to hear Washburn’s request.  Wash barely managed in time to swallow his own response, which could not have been properly uttered before the ladies, nor a priest. Darcy on the other hand would have applauded his comment. That is if he had dared to say it, which he did not.

Fiona noted Washburn’s pursed lips and giggled. “Well, there is Baron Stuart,” she offered when she had settled her mirth. “He is my guardian and that would make it easier to explain my presence among you to anyone who would inquire.”

“This would not upset him, if he found out?”  Wash asked liking the idea.

“You do not plan to sully his good name?” Fiona inquired.

“No, absolutely not!” Washburn responded.

“Father, would that be acceptable?” Fiona asked of Columcil.

“I see no evil in it. It would be a form of protection to avoid danger for all of us, I would not think that the baron would object.  However, Wash you will need to behave as an elder baron of standing and not the brash laddy you sometimes can be.”

Wash smiled at Columcil’s open expression. “I… Brash…. When!” Then he laughed knowing Columcil was teasing him. “I will happily be Fiona’s guardian during the mass. It is a solemn occasion. It may bring upon me some emotions, but I swear, I will be the proper old baron.”

Aliset looked across the company for approval. Columcil nodded, Darcy agreed, and then Fiona gave a final nod of assent. Aliset bit her lip for a moment. “Fiona could you give me a good image of Baron Stuart, my memory of him was only brief and I would have his full image, voice, and mannerisms in my mind before we do this.”

Washburn remained kneeling as he watched the two women form Rapport, he used the long minutes to prepare himself. He glanced at the last embers of the dying fire and brought his breathing to even slow breaths and his mind to a calm openness. For only two people he would willingly drop his shields, for Father Columcil who now knelt beside him and for the Lady Aliset whom he trusted like an angel. When Aliset was certain she had the image in her mind, she lifted one hand to Washburn’s forehead. He closed his eyes as her hand passed over his face, his calm went deeper, into his Healer focus. He shifted his own energy from himself into the hand that touched him and the lady accepted the warmth of it with a welcome relief. Wash sensed the ladies nausea and paleness dissipate and he was happy he could help in this small way.  Then she was sending him the knowledge she had gained from Fiona about Baron Stuart.

((09:59 <Laurna> Roll Wash in healing trance, does he discover Aliset's condition?
09:59 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
09:59 <•derynibot> 4, 3 == 7
10:00 <Laurna> nope.))

The others now all purchased on knees near at hand, listened raptly to the soft chanting spell that Lady Aliset sung, “Behold the essence of Baron Mackenzie Stuart, hold his outward form in your memory. Let your essence mingle with that of the baron until your outward forms become one. Let it be done, Fiat!”

((10:05 <Laurna> Roll for Aliset, success on 4,5,6
10:05 <Laurna> !roll 2d6
10:05 <•derynibot> 5, 2 == 7  success))

Washburn’s eyes were closed but his mind was open and he felt the supporting presence of all of his friends. There had been a faint tingle in his face and an itch on his hands as the use of power filled him. He knew it would be his own power from here on which would maintain the spell that was passed over to him, but this was but a trifle. Yet...was it a true success?  How was he to know?  The lady’s hands dropped away from him and Fiona gave a small gasp.  Wash opened his eyes searching the faces staring at him. “Did it work?” he asked in a voice that was much deeper than his own.

“Aye, my son,” was Columcil’s response. “I dare say you are now older than I.”
« Last Edit: November 13, 2019, 12:36:28 pm by Laurna »

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #708 on: November 14, 2019, 06:39:57 am »
Brendan Coris, Earl of Marley, leaned back in his chair and took a sip of the Fianna wine that had followed his meal. He was feeling out of sorts. No one else had used the portal since Chatal came through and was captured. Nor had he received any news concerning the battle for Laas. It was becoming difficult to keep his men alert and battle ready since basically they were just guarding prisoners and maintaining the manor. The men were getting bored and restless and so was he.

He knew that his brother, the Duke of Corwyn, had reached Laas and was surely involved in the fighting. But he did not know what might have happened to him or to the others defending the castle. He had learned nothing from du Chantal who refused to answer any questions.

Nor had there been any further news concerning Washburn. He knew that Sir Iain had freed him, but that his brother was still under the influence of his captor who had twisted his mind and altered his memories for what purpose no one knew.
 
He closed his eyes and let his thoughts drift. How long would he and his men remain here at du Chantal’s manor? No one had followed the baron through the portal, and there had been no action since he had been captured and detained.. As his mind continued to drift, he felt Kelson’s call. “How may I serve you, your majesty?”

“I have instructions for you.” Kelson detected the Earl’s sigh. “I hope you have not felt neglected. There has been much to occupy my mind, but I have certainly not forgotten you.”

Brendan responded. “Forgive me, Sire. I have not felt that I have accomplished much to advance your cause or to help either of my brothers.  I have not able to rejoin Javan’s army or support him in the fight at Laas. Nor did I have the chance to find Valerian’s stronghold and free my brother. That was accomplished by another”  Kelson sensed Brendan’s frustration.

Brendan felt the king’s sympathy. “I know the difficulty of being far from the action, forced to wait while others fight the battles.”  Brendan had not considered that the king might have similar emotions  as his son led the army to Laas..

Kelson continued. “ Your service has indeed been of value. You stopped rebels from seizing estates and gaining a foothold in Gwynedd. You also prevented an uprising in the town of Droghera, supported the commander and held it for the crown. And while you did not directly free Sir Washburn, you supported those who did free him and are helping him now. Without your efforts, the entire area between Cuiltiene and Droghera could be in rebel hands.”

“You hold a valuable prisoner who stands high in the separatists’ councils. His loss will severely hamper their plans. My first order for you is to transport Chantal under close guard via portal to Rhemuth. He will be thrown into my dungeon like the traitor he is. He swore fealty to me but violated his oath. He will pay the price for his treachery.” Brendan sensed the king’s anger  though it was held tightly in check. “Once you have delivered the prisoner, I will have further instructions for you. Plans are being made to free Ratharkin from the rebels and return it to its legitimate leader.  You and your men will play an important role in that campaign.”

“It shall be done as you command, my liege. But I must ask, what news of Laas and my brother?” The king felt the anxiety in Brendan’s thoughts..

“I have had good news from Laas. Javan has reported that although Duke Kelric was severely wounded by one of the mutineers, he has been healed through his own efforts assisted and supported by your son, Jayce. Duchess Richelle had urgently requested a healer, but all of my healers were with Javan and the army. I was told that Jayce was one of the most talented of the apprentice healers in the schola, and he begged to be allowed to go and assist his uncle. The most able of the healers with Javan examined Kelric and found the healing well done. He needs only rest and nourishment to complete the process.”

”The castle did sustain some damage and will require repairs, but no walls were breached nor were the gates compromised. The castle can still defend the city and its people.” Kelson paused. “However, Grand Duke Valerian and a large portion of his force did escape under cover of a freak storm that blew in from the sea. Javan and his men will resume pursuit at first light.”

“I share your concern for Washburn, but I assure you that he is safe with his party. They will 
protect him until such time as we can have the best mages and healers examine hIm and determine what needs to be done to restore his mind . As soon as peace is restored and the rebellion crushed, healing Washburn will have the highest priority”

Brendan felt eased in his mind by the king’s words. “I will go now to make ready to transport the prisoner, my liege. I will deliver him to your hands first thing in the morning.” Kelson ended the Rapport and Brendan called one of his guards to summon Lord Jaxom to attend him immediately.

Jaxom entered the room a short time later and bowed to the Earl. “You sent for me, my lord?”

Brendan gestured to the young lord to be seated on a stool facing  him across the table. “I have received instructions from the king. I am to deliver our prisoner, Baron du Chantal to Rhemuth. I will take him via portal to Rhemuth castle where he will be surrendered to the king’s guard who will be awaiting him. He is to travel under close guard, so I will take two guards with me. You will see that he is brought to the portal room at first light, blindfolded and bound and accompanied by two guards.”

“I am leaving you in charge of the garrison and the other prisoners while I am absent. The king has indicated that we will be leaving here upon my return so I need you to check supplies and have the men check their gear in preparation for our departure. I suspect we will leave a token force here to guard the other prisoners.”

Jaxom  sat erect and attentive on his stool, eager to make the most of this opportunity to impress the Earl.

Brendan smiled at the young lord’s eagerness. “The king said he would have orders for us after the prisoner has been delivered. We must both be patient until those orders are given.” Jaxom bowed again and left the room to carry out his orders.

The next morning Brendan waited by the portal for the prisoner to be brought to him  He heard footsteps in the hallway and Jaxom entered accompanied by two guards with the prisoner between them held by his arms which were bound in front of him. His eyes were covered by a blindfold. “Where am I being taken?” The prisoner demanded. The Earl stepped forward. “You will find out soon enough.” He opened a small jar and smeared a small amount of the contents at the base of the prisoner’s throat using a glove to cover his hand. He then helped the guards position the baron on the portal and instructed them to stand close on either side. Brendan moved onto the portal, wrenched the energies, and they were gone.

 Jaxom took a deep breath, smiled to himself and turned to leave the portal room. He thought to himself, “I am in charge.”
 
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #709 on: November 22, 2019, 08:00:04 pm »
Kelson’s guards were waiting as Brendan and his guards arrived on the portal with the prisoner. Brendan’s men moved Chantal off the portal, and the royal guards took charge of him immediately, one seizing each arm, and marched him away to the corridor which would eventually lead to the descent to the dungeons.  One of Kelson’s captains was also waiting for them. He bowed to Brendan. “I will see to your men, my lord. The king has ordered that they be fed and quarters are ready for them.” Brendan nodded to his two guards to follow the captain, and the three men also left the portal room.

A tall, slim young squire was also waiting. He bowed to Brendan, “My  Lord, my orders are to escort you to the king as soon as you arrive. If you will come with me.” Brendan nodded and followed the young man through different corridors until they reached a withdrawing room near the great hall. The squire knocked softly followed by a response, “Come.” He opened the door and entered, bowing deeply to the king who was seated at a table inside.  “The Earl of Marley, as you commanded sire.”

Kelson stood. He smiled at the young man. “Thank you, Barclay. You may now return to your other duties.” The young man bowed again and left the room, closing the door behind him. Kelson walked around the table and approached the Earl. Brendan bowed. As he straightened, he found himself clasped in an embrace by the king. “It is good to see you. We will have the chance to talk face to face rather than just in rapport . Rapport is very valuable but it also has its limitations. I know these last weeks have been difficult for you. We have much to discuss.”

.Kelson continued.” First, however, I must attend the funeral mass for Bishop Arilan. The time for it to start is quickly approaching, and I need to leave. Denis was close to your family, and I am sure you would like to pay your respects. I would ask that you accompany me to the cathedral. Your presence will be a support to me. Your mother will also accompany me, and she is anxious to see you as well. We are traveling by portal to save time and for reasons of safety. My council was not pleased by my decision to attend because of concern for my safety. However, they are resigned since I agreed to wear mail under my tunic and to travel by portal.”

Brendan answered his king. “As you say, my liege, Bishop Arilan was always close to my family, and I would be glad of the opportunity to pay my last respects to him. I would be honored to be present at his services in attendance on your majesty.”
 
The king eyed his Earl. “A room has been prepared for you. I can allow you a little time to  prepare before our departure.” Brendan noticed that Kelson seemed to be studying him more closely than usual and appeared somewhat puzzled. Brendan wondered to himself if there was something wrong with his attire.

There was another knock at the door and Richenda, dowager Duchess of Corwyn entered and curtsied deeply. “I am ready, Sire.” Then her eyes fell on her son and her face lit up with her wonderful smile. Brendan moved quickly to embrace her, noticing how thin and fragile she had become. She hugged him close to her. As he released her, she stepped back and studied him with her head tilted to one side. As she continued to gaze at him, he began to fidget, feeling a little uncomfortable under her scrutiny as well as that of the king.

 Brendan spoke. “Is there something amiss with my appearance, Maman? “

Richenda replied. “What has happened to your hair? My son has red hair. The red hair of Marley is well known. But I see before me a man with hair of a rather dull brown. It greatly changes your appearance and might make it difficult for those who do not know you well to recognize you.”

Brendan’s cheeks flushed red. He had not thought of the difference in his appearance produced by his dyed hair. So much had happened since he had changed his appearance in order to seek his brother being held captive by the rebels that he had actually forgotten about it. He ducked his head as he answered her. “I dyed it in an effort to disguise myself. I intended to search for Washburn, and I thought it would be better if his captors did not recognize the Earl of Marley in the search party. I know there had been warnings from his captor of dire consequences for Wash if a formal search were made.”

The king then addressed him. “What search party was this that you planned to join?”

“I intended to ride with Lord Darcy. We would appear to be two ordinary men-at-arms traveling with a priest and a squire and arouse no suspicions should we find our objective. Prince Javan shared your rapport with me, your majesty. He argued that I should remain with the main army and allow others to search for Wash. However, he did not make it an order. He understood that for the love I bear my mother and my brother I had to be part of the effort to free him.”

Brendan paused to look at the king and his mother, then continued. “Before we set out, I received the news that Washburn had been located and freed by one of your trusted agents who was hiding him from the rebels. There was no longer any need to search for him. I became absorbed in other urgent matters and no longer gave my disguise any thought until now.”

Richenda addressed him, asking what he had used to dye his hair. When he told her what he had used, she turned to the king and smiled ruefully. “Your majesty, if you need an agent who can remain incognito to carry out an assignment for you, Brendan is your man, since the dye he used cannot be washed out. I’m afraid we’ll just have to wait for it to grow out before your red headed earl will reappear.”

To Brendan’s relief, the king was not angry at his decision to follow a course forbidden by him. Kelson laughed saying, “At least your change in appearance should make it harder for your brother to recognize you and have his anger ignited. That could be dangerous and was the reason I wanted him kept away from his family until we could find a way to heal his mind. For now, we need to leave for the cathedral within the hour. My squire will show you to your quarters and we will all meet at the library portal to depart as soon as possible.” They dispersed to make ready to travel to pay homage to Bishop Arilan who had served Gwynedd long and faithfully.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #710 on: November 28, 2019, 10:48:22 am »
Darcy Cameron surveyed their small party thoughtfully as they prepared to depart from the clearing.  “We’ll need to change our riding order a bit,” he said to the group.  Sir Washburn, still a little uncomfortable wearing the form of the older Baron Stuart, gave him a puzzled look.  Aliset paused in packing away the apples into her saddle bag that were left from breaking their morning fast.  Father Columcil stopped checking his saddle girth, and Fiona looked up from examining her quiver of arrows.

“‘Tis more appropriate for the baron and his daughter to ride behind me, your faithful man-at-arms.”  Darcy sketched a brief bow in Washburn’s direction.  “Father Columcil, would you mind bringing up the rear?”

“What about me?” Aliset said before Columcil could answer.

“Why you, of course, as my new bride, will be loath to be kept apart from me and will ride close by my side.” 

Aliset’s hand clenched the apple she held and threw it directly at Darcy’s head.  Darcy caught it neatly and Sigrun, standing behind him, nudged him in the back with her head, suggesting that he now held an appropriate treat.  “I will ride before Father Columcil, thank you!” she said stiffly.

“I suspected as much,” Darcy replied. 

“I’ll gang tae th’back,” Columcil agreed. An’ blessed Mary Mother, may ah keep th’ peace thereby, he added to himself.

Darcy tucked the apple into his sea bag and then, somewhat warily, helped his wife to mount her horse.  He turned back once more to address the group.  “Already the noise of travellers on the road increases, and the crowd will continue to grow once we pass Valoret and continue on to Arx Fedei.  Do your best to stay together; it will be easy to become separated and difficult to find each other again if we do.”  His companions nodded as he mounted Sigrun, and followed as he led them from the clearing toward the road.

***

Darcy was right in his prediction.  As they passed Valoret, the road began to fill as those who had spent the night in the town joined the others destined for Arx Fedei.   Some travelled on horseback, some travelled on foot, and some travelled in carriages.  Darcy noted that a large number of the clergy had joined them.

Their progress slowed when they reached the abbey.  Arx Fedei had grown over the years as it acquired additional  patronage after the canonization of Saint Jorian.  The abbey walls were new and the gates impressive.  Now the abbey gates became a bottleneck, and all were forced to wait as the guards slowly motioned people through, scrutinizing each one as they passed. 

“Stay as close as is safe,” Darcy said, more loudly than he wanted to but the crowd, despite heading toward the solemn occasion of a funeral, was far from quiet.  As he approached the guards, Darcy motioned with his hand indicating that they travelled together.  The guards eyed the baron’s magnificent destrier closely and then motioned them through.  Darcy let out the breath he had been holding in a sigh of relief.

They proceeded slowly into the courtyard of the abbey.  Long picket lines had been set up along one side for the overflow of horses that could not be housed in the abbey’s stables.  Darcy moved toward the lines, deciding he would prefer easier access to their horses than the crowded stables would provide.  He was not the only one with the same thought, and another rider urged his horse through their group, cutting off Fiona from the rest.  As Fiona attempted to turn her horse back to the others, another rider grabbed hold of her bridle.

“Over this way, my Lady,” he said.  “There is plenty of space at this end of the picket line for our horses.” 

For a moment Fiona was too startled to jerk her horse’s head away.  The man was unremarkable in appearance, probably approaching middle age.  He began to lead them toward the picket line.

“Unhand my daughter’s horse immediately!” Baron Stuart, looking suitably fierce, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword, was directly behind them, the large destrier positioned to force the other man’s horse aside.

The man hastily released his grip on the bridle, and Fiona turned her horse’s head away. 

“Pardon, my Lord,” the man said and quickly moved his horse away.  Fiona was not sure whether he was more intimidated by the stern glare in Washburn’s eyes or the size of his horse.  Washburn moved Shadow forward to fill the space the other man had vacated.

“Are you all right?” he asked. 

Fiona nodded.  “It was so unexpected, I did not have time to react.  Thank you for assisting me.”  She smiled up at him, and hoped no one would wonder why she was blushing as she looked at her father.

Space was found at the picket line for all five horses to be kept together.  Fiona and Washburn left their bows and quivers with their horses, and Columcil left his staff behind with Spean.  Swords and daggers would be retained until they reached the church; once there they would be surrendered at the small guardhouse beside the main entrance.

They joined the throng of people moving toward the abbey’s Church of the Paraclete.  They passed low buildings where the lay brothers did the day-to-day tasks needed to run the abbey.  They passed abundant gardens with vegetables and medicinal plants. Darcy kept a wary watch as they walked, and the three men were careful to shield the ladies from the crowd as best they could.  When they reached the church, the doors were closed to hold back the mourners, as well as the curious, until all inside was ready.

“Aliset,” Darcy said.  “It you’ll give me your daggers, I’ll take them to the guardhouse while you remain here with Father Columcil and Fiona.”

“I thought you did not want us separated?” Aliset asked, although she eyed the crowd of men at the guardhouse surrendering their weapons with some dismay.

“I don’t want to raise questions as to why a lady carries such a handsome pair of throwing daggers,” Darcy replied. “Don’t fret; Washburn and I will be able to navigate safely back.”

“There are no stars to be seen,” Aliset quipped.

“The shining beacon of you eyes is all I need,” Darcy replied.  Aliset held no apple this time, so Darcy felt he was safe enough.

“Aye, lad ‘tis a guid thought,” Columcil interjected.  “Gang yer ways afore th’ crowd gets worse.  They’ll be openin’ the doors afore lang, ah’ve nay dout.”

Aliset handed Darcy her daggers, and Fiona handed her dagger to Washburn. It took some time for Darcy and Washburn to work their way through the throng at the gatehouse, and the crowd growing on the steps to the church awaiting the doors to open was worse.

Once they returned to Columcil, Aliset and Fiona, Darcy shook his head.  “I’m not that fond of crowds, and the day grows warm.  It will be stifling inside the church.” He looked to his right at the long guest house that extended along the west edge of the seminary’s cloistered garth.  “I have an idea,” he said and motioned for them to follow.

Darcy entered the guest house door without hesitation, giving no hint in his bearing that he should not be there.  “There should be a door leading into the church from here,” he said in a low voice. 

“Aye, it should be there,” the priest said with a nod to his left.

Darcy led them to the door, muttering something Columcil preferred not to hear when Darcy found it locked.  “Not to worry,” Darcy said as he reached into his belt pouch and withdrew a lockpick.

“This is a kirk, laddie!” Columcil said sharply, but still keeping his voice low.

“Father, I’ll do whatever penance you set to me, but I would prefer to enter early and find a spot less crowded for Aliset where there may be a breath of air.” Without waiting for the priest’s approval, Darcy deftly picked the lock and opened the door.  Washburn gave Aliset a look, and she shrugged her shoulders; there were other ways to open a lock, but Darcy’s method had been swift and efficient.  Aliset had a sudden suspicion that it was also well-practiced.  Columcil shook his head as Darcy returned the lockpick to his pouch and led them through into the church. 

They entered one of the aisles of the nave.  Darcy surveyed the layout and then nodded toward the front aisle to the left of the transept.  A brother passed by as they walked, but at the quiet nod of greeting from Father Columcil, he continued on.  Darcy positioned them at the front of the aisle; others would have to fill in behind them if they wished.

The air in the church was still and hot, and Alset began to fan herself.  Darcy pushed a damp strand of pale hair back from his forehead and studied his wife.  Hopefully, the doors to the church would be opened soon.

From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties and things that go bump in the night...good Lord deliver us!

 -- Old English Litany

Offline Laurna

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #711 on: November 30, 2019, 12:55:54 pm »
The tan and gold vaulted web ceilings and great stone columns of the abbey church of Arx Fidei were not unfamiliar to Washburn. He had been here a time or two before. His first experience in this church had been his most memorable: the day had been Saint Jorian’s Feast Day; this was many years ago. He recalled being ordered to attend the service by his brother, as punishment to properly atone for his disrespect of the Bishop of Dhassa, after Arilan had declared the young Washburn Morgan untrainable. He had been how old? Wash shook his head. That memory conflicted with other memories of that day. Something was not right. He remembered being reprimanded by Bishop Arilan at some point, yet that had been at a different time and a different place. As Wash let the aura of this magnificent church fill him, he recalled being emotionally swept up in the mass given by none other than the same said Bishop, to honor the life and death of Saint Jorian whose sacrifice had become a beacon and a gift to all Deryni. As celebrant of that service, Denis Arilan had brought Wash to tears, for he remembered his father had been witness to such atrocities and had been a strong supporter of Jorian’s canonization. His father had been wise and loving in that respect. The conflict of it against the other memories of his father caused Wash to shiver as if a freezing wind had blown over his bones. The air in the church was still and hot, as noted when Aliset began fanning herself.

Darcy had them settle in the very front side isle. At their back, in the first chapel alcove, stood in relief, the statue of Saint Camber, the Patron Saint for Deryni and Humans alike. In one hand he held a staff, in the other five scrolls of learning. Individually, each of the five Deryni went back to kneel before the figure giving their respect and thanks to the Saint for his protection. Washburn was the longest to stay kneeling knowing how his very survival had been touched, whether imagined or not, by the essence of this saint. In this church, unlike in other chapels, this statue of Saint Camber appeared to look across the church at the distant chapel opposite where another alcove showed the statue of a young man in a plain white cassock such as a priest would wear on his ordination day, that figure’s face extolled a gentle smile, his right hand raised in blessing, his eyes cast upon the center of the chancel. As each of Darcy’s party followed the statue’s gaze, they were struck by the glorious sight of the morning sunlight awash through the eastern stained glass windows. The light shone across the altar and the chancel before it, in a brilliant reflection of multiple colors. Gold seemed to illuminate most brightly in one spot, the spot where Saint Jorian’s gaze lay. The warmth of that light fell upon the drape of a casket on the long flat space between the steps and altar.  Washburn caught his breath, stunned to see the plainness of the coffin laid out before them and the simple drape upon it with a book lying open at its center.

Again he said to himself This can not be right. Here lay the Bishop of Dhassa. A man honored by all Deryni for his changing of their world to one in which they could live freely and openly.  Wash held his breath and tried to understand. Surely princely robes and ornate coffin should adorn the passing of so great a man.  As Washburn continued to stare, looking for answers, he began to see two figures before the coffin, both attired in simple black cassocks which nearly camouflaged them within the brightness of the colored light from the windows above.  One priest knelt at the foot of the altar steps, his head bare, his tonsured hair grey with hints of light brown, his hands folded in prayer. His eyes from time to time looked from his hands to the coffin. Only then Wash realized he was looking at the other priest in deep concern as he lay prostrate on the floor at the coffin’s feet. As Wash looked on, he swore if these men would turn around he might know who they were.

In the pre-event stillness of the huge church, the harsh breathing of the man lying upon the pavement could be heard. Almost embarrassed to be a witness of such a personal moment, Wash whispered to Darcy, his voice sounding over-loud in the stillness. “Perhaps we have come too soon.” Darcy was nodding in agreement when the priest kneeling at the steps looked up at the sound. It was Columcil who took in a quick breath. “Grand ...  Father…. um… Your Grace!” he exclaimed as he knelt in respect, even at a distance of thirty feet between them. All five members of the party caught their breath as they recognized Archbishop Duncan, who recognized them, who stood and took a step toward them. Duncan had an odd expression on his face as he looked at each of them in turn. Only three of the five did he know and the one face that should have been among them was not. Then he was looking straight at Columcil in question. The country priest quickly shook his head, and Duncan stopped his advancement.

If words passed between Duncan and Columcil, Wash was not aware of it. But then Duncan’s gaze settled on Baron Stuart and his eyes warmed. He would have come forward then, but for a clatter from the sacristy entrance at the far side. An elder man in white and gold robes, his head as yet bare, stepped up to the coffin; his stance was supported by a bishop’s crosier in his hand. He genuflected and gave the sign of blessing, yet it became worrisome when it appeared he needed others to help him stand.

“Father John, your assistance would not go amiss here. My knees are not what they use to be,” the Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of all Gwynedd cordially requested of the priest lying upon the floor. Washburn recognized Father John Nivard as he lifted himself from the floor, brushed back streaks of tears from his face, sniffled, and then rushed to help the revered Archbishop to stand.

“My apologies, Archbishop Hugh. Your grace, I... I should have been more attentive.” John finally admitted, head bowed low.

“It is understandable, my son, but the morning is getting on. Duncan? You are going to properly dress for the service, are you not? It may be Denis’s will to be a penitent soul, but it is our will that we honor him properly.”

“Aye, your grace, I will do right by him this day. I can do no less.” With that Duncan nodded to the five, then turned to go. He checked the coffin, the book, and the altar, before he followed the two men out of the chancel and into the side door of the sacristy.

Now, Washburn understood the simpleness of the coffin. This was going to be an emotionally wrought service. He found himself holding Fiona’s hand for support. Suddenly conscious of what he was doing, he let her hand go, but then she held his hand tightly in both of hers.

Then the west doors were opened and people began to enter.

The five watched as the nave quickly filled. Washburn returned Fiona’s grasp to hold her closer, as a father would so that they would not be separated as others crowded in at their back. Soon the doors at the north and south ends of the transept were opened, and all were grateful for the gentle breeze that refreshed the air.

“Thank you, Darcy, for getting us here,” Lady Aliset said to her husband.  Her smile was as refreshing as the breeze.  And Wash knew that all was well between his good friends.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 12:15:19 pm by Laurna »

 


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