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Author Topic: Ghosts of the Past  (Read 146268 times)

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Offline DerynifanK

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #735 on: March 11, 2020, 07:37:44 pm »
Fiona opened her eyes to the pearly light of early dawn. For a moment, she felt disoriented, not sure where she was. She raised her head and looked around, noting the sleeping forms around her. Memory came flooding back, the events of the previous day emerging bright and clear. She was with her friends, camped a day’s ride east of Arx Fidei.  Their actions thus far had been directed at rescuing her from the kidnapper and attempting to capture the man who had taken her. She hoped that the lancers had indeed caught up with him and had him under restraint. Hopefully, they had been able to elicit some useful information from him. She felt concern that they still did not know who or what  was behind the kidnapping, although she had some ideas that she wanted very much to discuss with the others.

She stretched and began to rise from her bedroll. She saw that the protective ward still stretched overhead. As she watched, she saw the others begin to stir. Darcy sat up then quickly arose from his own bedroll, looking over at his wife to see if she was awake. Aliset smiled up at him, looking refreshed after a good night’s sleep. .Darcy then looked over at Washburn who was also stirring. As Wash arose, Darcy indicated that he needed to pass through the ward in order to fetch wood and water.  Wash nodded and proceeded to release the protective ward that had kept them safe through the night. He then repacked his ward cubes in his belt pouch.

Aliset and Washburn then scanned the area with their senses to determine if any strangers were near. They found no one.  Darcy went to fetch more wood to build up the fire which had been banked down overnight. All of them set about the morning tasks, building up the fire and bringing water from the stream. Aliset distributed the remainder of the food they had carried with them. They were certainly in need of replenishing their supplies soon. Wash went to tend to the horses, taking them to the stream for a morning drink. When Wash returned, they all sat around the fire eating their bread and cheese and washing it down with the ale that Darcy provided.

Darcy looked around at his companions. “We need to discuss what we should do when we leave this site. Our immediate need is to find a village where we can await Father Columcil’s arrival and purchase fresh supplies. But we also need to consider our course of action after those immediate goals are met.”

Aliset nodded her agreement. “As a result of yesterday’s disturbing events, Fiona missed her chance to be introduced to the Dowager Duchess of Cowyn and to obtain her assistance in reaching Rhemuth and gaining acceptance into the Schola. We need to consider how we can now help her achieve her goal. It will be difficult for us to reach the Duchess in Rhemuth as Washburn is forbidden to go there or to be near the king or his own family. We must find another way to place her under the protection of the Duchess.”

“One of our problems is that we do not know who was behind Fiona’s abduction or what the purpose was. That makes it difficult to anticipate any future attacks or design a plan to thwart them when they occur. Any ideas?”  Darcy looked around at his companions.

Fiona spoke up quickly. “Although reaching the Schola is my goal, I don’t think that should be our biggest concern right now. I could not stop thinking about the kidnapping, and the more I thought about it, the less sense it made. There were two men involved. The first man was Deryni, and he took over my mind before I could react or do anything to escape. As he led me to the second man, he mind-spoke telling me that I must go with the second man and obey any orders he gave me. I would not be able to cry out for help or escape. Then he said this would last for a quarter of an hour after which the compulsion would end and I would be free. That indicated that the second man was not Deryni and was not able to extend his mind control. That made no sense. What could he gain from taking me and holding me for such a short time? Certainly not any kind of ransom.”

“Then I considered, what was the result of his action? As soon as you realized that I was gone and not of my own will, all of you immediately set out in pursuit. I am very grateful for your care for me, but it drew you away from the guards and men-at-arms and their lords who would have been able to intervene.. What if that was the purpose behind it, to lure one or more of you into a vulnerable position or even into an ambush?  I then thought about who was the most likely target. Aliset had barely escaped from her evil cousin who had murdered many of her family.”

“But we know that Oswald is dead, killed in Ratharkin!’  Aliset interjected.

Fiona nodded agreement. “It seemed unlikely that any ally of his would continue the pursuit since there would be no advantage to them. I then considered Darcy. We know his stepfather tried to get rid of him by selling him to sea when he was only ten. But that was many years ago, and I could see no way that he would know that Darcy had survived and left the sea or where to find him. So Darcy seemed an unlikely target of this plot.”

“Well I may have made a few enemies at sea, but none so bitter that they would follow me to dry land to exact revenge. I agree I’m not a very likely target.” Darcy interjected

“Next I considered Washburn. He had been captured and held prisoner very recently. Even though he had escaped, there were signs that those responsible were still anxious to recapture him and that they continue to pursue him.  And the effects on his mind of his imprisonment suggest that his captor had other plans to use him in the future. It seemed to me that he is the most likely target of both yesterday’s attack and any future attacks. We need to focus our efforts on protecting him.” Fiona paused, looking around at the others.
 
Wash had been listening intently to Fiona. Now he spoke for the first time. “I want very much to help Fiona reach the Schola and to place her under my mother’s protection, but I am not sure how to accomplish this. I cannot turn back toward Rhemuth or change my eastward course. I did not tell you this before, but I broke off pursuit of the kidnapper, not for fear of a possible ambush, but because I could not turn away in another direction. I do not understand it myself, but there was a voice screaming in my head urging me to continue to the east.  You know that my captor used his power to affect my mind and my memories. I am afraid that he placed this compulsion in my mind, and I find it nearly impossible to disobey. He is a very powerful Deryni. I do not know why he did this or what will happen when I reach the destination he has in mind, but I need to know. I am worried that it will mean danger not just for me but for anyone who accompanies me.”  Washburn’s expression reflected his uncertainty and worry.

“It might be best if I continue on alone and the rest of you return to Rehmuth.’

“No! We will not agree to letting you continue on alone.” Darcy was emphatic. “We will stay together as a group and work out what is best for us to do to defeat whatever evil plan is directed against you.” He did not add that his charge from the king was to stay with Wash.

“Certainly it will be safer if we keep together. Fiona became a target when she was alone, separated from the rest of us.” Aliset surveyed her companions. “No one should allow themselves to be separated from the group. We will need to be alert for anyone who looks suspicious and avoid contact. The man first touched Fiona and then was able to take over her mind’.She turned to smile at Fiona and Darcy. “I will work with both Fiona and you, Darcy, to help you learn how to control your shields and use them in  your own defense”

She continued. “I believe our first step should be to continue to the village that Washburn mentioned. We can Rapport with the good father and give him directions to it. I believe that Wash told him we would attempt the rapport at noon. He should not be more than a day’s ride behind us and we can await him there. I will be happy and relieved to have him with us again.      We will also be able to rest and replenish our supplies so that we will be ready to move on when he arrives.”

“I do feel that I must continue east to the Lendours. I am hoping that if I can reach Cynfyn Castle, I will be able to sort out my memories and know what is real and what is not. Also, we will have the protection of the lords and people there. I was regent for my nephew, Kelric’s oldest son, until he reached the age of fourteen. I am well known and. I think, respected there. I feel that is my best course. If you are sure that you want to continue with me, I will do all I can to help keep us safe.”  Wash hesitated.

The group all indicated their agreement with this plan. It seemed the best course for all of them, even Fiona. Wash added, “When we Rapport with Columcil, I will ask him if Bishop Duncan might be able to help us with gaining admission for Fiona to the Schola. He  was, after all, the first head of the institution, worked tirelessly to establish it and still has great influence there. He and Columcil together might be able to suggest the best way to get her there.”

“If we are to reach this village by noon and keep our noon appointment for Rapport  with the good father, we had best be on our way.” Aliset rose from her seat near the fire and began to pack away the remaining supplies. She also folded up her bedroll. Darcy brought water from the stream so that they could make a sketchy toilet. The fire was doused, and Wash prepared to saddle the horses, beginning with Fiona’s.

Aliset addressed the group.. “Before we ride out, I need to spend a few minutes in Rapport first with Fiona and then with Darcy “ She then spoke to them directly. “I can use this opportunity to strengthen your shields and show you how to quickly raise and lower them as needed.  While I am working with them, I need you, Washburn, to maintain vigilance to warn of the approach of any strangers.” All of them nodded agreement.

Aliset moved to sit beside Fiona. She spoke gently to Fiona. “I will need to touch you to do this. You will feel no pain or discomfort. You may experience a sensation something like an itch in your head. I will first strengthen your shields then I will show you how to raise them. It is not difficult and once you are able to do so, you can protect yourself from attack by other Deryni. They will not be able to take control of your mind as the man in the Abbey did. At the first probe, your shields will slam up and protect you.” Aliset placed her fingers lightly on Fiona’s temples.

“Close your eyes and take a slow deep breath.” Aliset instructed.  Fiona did as she was told. Aliset’s voice was soft and almost hypnotic. “Now take another deep breath.” Fiona felt herself relax as she followed Aliset’s directions. She was aware of something happening in her head but it was not uncomfortable. After a few minutes, Aliset removed her fingers from Fiona’s temples. “Open your eyes and take another deep breath.” As Fiona did so, she felt a light probe. She blinked as her shields slammed shut with a snap. “You now have a strong defense against any Deryni attempt to seize your mind. Like any skill, your ability to control your shields will improve with practice. We will work on it again when we are settled in the village.”
 
Darcy had been closely watching Aliset’s interaction with Fiona. He trusted his wife and readily came to sit beside her, turning toward her to allow her to place her fingers on his temples. He showed no hesitation.  Aliset repeated the process she had followed with Fiona. When she was done, she asked him if he had felt anything at the end. He too had felt the snap of his shields into place. Aliset smiled at both of them. “We have made an excellent start on strengthening your defenses. It is now time for us to move on”.

They quickly finished saddling the horses. They made certain the campsite had been returned to its natural state. When all was ready, the four friends mounted their horses and set off to the east toward  the village with Wash in the lead guiding them on the next leg of their journey.
"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 #736 on: March 14, 2020, 04:30:59 pm »
The kidnapper fell from his horse as he reached the abandoned farmstead.  The fall jarred the arrow protruding from his right shoulder, and the pain sent the man to the brink of darkness.  He had passed the destination where he was to leave the girl and rode on to the secluded farmstead.  This was the location that  had been set in his mind when the girl’s hand was placed on his arm. He would find his payment under the slab just inside the door of the crumbling shed. If he lived that long; he knew he had lost a lot of blood. 

The kidnapper forced himself to stand and staggered to the shed.  The small bag of coin was where he knew it would be, but it was odd that he could not remember who had left it.  He probably could not think straight because of the constant pain.  Perhaps he would rest a bit before moving on.  No one was likely to find him here.  He sat awkwardly and leaned his good shoulder against the door frame, set his axe down within easy reach, and closed his eyes.  Perhaps he would remember once he woke up.

He would not remember, nor would he be aware of the death-trigger the spy had set at the same time he sent him the payment location.  He would never be able to recall the spy from the Black Order of Death, and if questioned too closely by Deryni means, the trigger would activate and he would die.

***

The captain of the Haldane lancers held the tip of his sword against the sleeping man’s throat while one of his men kicked the axe away.  The man woke and started to rise but stopped as the sword pricked the skin of his neck.  From the looks of him, the man could not afford to lose any more blood. 

“Who are you and what are you doing here?” the captain demanded.  “How were you injured?”

“I was ambushed on the road, good sir,  but managed to escape with this wound.  I am Master Nyland, a merchant from Carcashale,” the kidnapper lied.

“Let  me see that wound,” the captain said.   The lancer who had kicked the axe away had to help the man up and support him while the captain examined the wound.  It was exactly as Sir Washburn had said it would be.  “Search him and relieve him of all of his weapons.  You, Master Nyland, will come back with us to Arx Fedei.”

A short time later, Master Nyland was once again on his horse, his hands tied together to the pommel of his saddle.  The arrow shaft had been broken off and his wound roughly bandaged.

The captain weighed the bag of coin they had found in Master Nyland’s purse in his hand.  “Lucky you managed not to lose this in the ambush.  There is a fair amount of coin here; you must prosper well at your trade.” He tucked it into his saddle bag and motioned for his men to move out.  One of the lancer’s pulled on the rope leading the kidnapper’s horse, noting the beads of sweat on the man’s forehead. 

***

Father Columcil nodded at the lay brother as he opened the door for him to depart with a tray of empty dishes.  He was pleased that Archbishop Duncan had finished all of the thick meat broth he had been served for dinner, though Columcil was not sure whether it was because he was truly hungry or the fact that Columcil had pestered him until his grandfather had eaten all of it. 

Archbishop Duncan was not recovering as fast as Columcil would have liked.  He was pleased when the older man had agreed to forego the evening mass in the church and instead  pray at the small prie-dieu in his room. Columcil had assisted him to rise when he was finished and insisted that Duncan eat the food that had been served.   The archbishop was still weak, but the broth seemed to have brought more colour to his face, and Columcil was hopeful that full recovery would occur in a short while.  That recovery had been foremost in Columcil’s prayers, that and the safety of his friends on the road.

Duncan reached for the stack of papers on the corner of the desk and shuffled through them until he found the one he sought. 

“Can work not wait a wee bit?” Columcil asked. 

Duncan gave him a warm smile.  “Nothing too strenuous; just reviewing my list of potential candidates for the See of Dhassa.”

“A bitty list or a…”  Columcil began when there was a knock on the door.  After a nod from Duncan, Columcil opened it.

It was the same lay brother who had removed the dishes who bowed when the door was opened.  “Beg pardon, your Grace.  The Haldane lancers have returned with a wounded man.  The captain asked if you have a Healer to spare; he wants the man to survive until he can turn him over to the king in Rhemuth.”

“Ah can come wi’ ye,”  Columcil said quickly.  “If His Grace promises t'rest and no be straying frae this room.”

Duncan managed a smile.  “You have my word.  Go and do what you can.”

Columcil bowed and followed the lay brother, closing the door softly behind them.  Duncan looked thoughtful for a moment, reached for his quill and added another name to his list.

***

The man lay on his uninjured side on a cot in the infirmary. The hand on that side was tied securely to the side of the cot to prevent any attempt at escape. One of the lancers stood guard at the door.  Father Columcil doubted the man would get far in his current condition if he did try to escape.   He washed his hands in the bowl of water on the small table and then examined the wound. 

“The arrow will have tae be pushed through,” Columcil said to the lay brother.  “I’ll ease the pain as much as ah can, but I’ll need ye tae hold him still.”

“Of course, Father,” the lay brother replied. 

It was a messy business, but Columcil, centered deep in his Healing, was able to quench the flow of blood before too much more was lost.  He Healed torn muscle, chipped bone and skin, leaving only a small red area at the wound site when he was done. 

“Thank you, Father,” the man said weakly.

“By the Grace of God I do what I can,” Columcil said humbly.  “But tell me, what did ye want wi' the young lass?”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” the man mumbled.  Columcil knew he lied.

Columcil realized he could have accessed the man’s mind while Healing him to find the answers they needed.   But he could never bring himself to do such a thing!  He was a Healer, and more than that a priest!  It would be like forcing confession from an unsuspecting supplicant.   Yet he recognized the deep care he had developed for his companions.  No, his friends!   Yet this was a boundary he would not, could not  cross.  He sent the man into a deep, healing sleep.  Doing his best to hide his inner turmoil, he nodded to the lay brother and the guard.

“I have done all ah can.  Ye can take him to Rhemuth in the morning.”

***

Father Columcil’s heart was heavy as he headed back to Archbishop Duncan’s room.  What would his grandfather think when he confessed his temptation?  He would confess it, and take what penance his grandfather felt due.

Columcil opened the door quietly, and found Archbishop Duncan asleep at the table, his head pillowed on his arms, the parchments pushed aside for the moment.  Columcil realized that he could not leave him yet.  While part of him longed to ride forth and help his friends, his duty lay here, and here he would remain.  The sun was setting as Columcil walked quietly to the window and closed the shutters to the night air.  Somehow it felt prophetic, and he was not comforted.

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 #737 on: March 18, 2020, 11:39:07 pm »

Shadow gave a whinny and a gig as he felt the change in his rider’s attention. Sir Washburn’s ease in the saddle had tensed the moment he and Shadow turned with the bend in the road toward the North. Just past a stand of nut trees, they came upon a series of barley fields in full bloom. From the light breeze down the valley, the whiskery tops of the stalks of barley swayed like small waves on the ocean. Beyond the fields lay multiple stone buildings that made up a village. The sign on a near post had the burnt out letters spelling Windyner. Washburn was certain that this was the destination he had thought would be a good place to stop and wait up for Father Colucmil.

Washburn determinedly calmed his own inner turmoil, he could give no reason why his nerves jangled at the sight of the village. More settled in himself,  Wash pulled at the reins bringing Shadow to a halt; in this calmer state, he let his three friends come up beside him.  From their vantage looking North, Washburn could see several rows of buildings, both one and two stories tall. The two taller structures were a granary tower and mill far off near the river to the right, and furthest away off to the left, behind the first row of buildings was a church steeple, the road seemed to pass down the middle of all the buildings between these two distinct structures.  The church they knew had at least two bells for they had heard the bells ring the time of Terce when they had been still quite a way down the road. The dual bells had not yet struck the sixth hour. Wash was hopeful that there would be plenty of time to find a room at an inn before they needed to settle in and make their contact with Father Columcil. He suspected they still had close to an hour before that scheduled appointment

Lord Darcy was watching Wash closely as they all pulled aside to let a farm wagon and driver trudge up the road. Wash felt a little abashed by the extra attention. Maybe he shouldn’t have so openly declared his previous difficulties with moving off the road in a direction that was not east. It was a little embarrassing that his friends were so attentive to him as they started to move north when the road turned toward the village. Yet this time, Wash felt no such anxiety, in fact he almost felt an affinity for finally arriving at the village of Windyner.

Darcy was not sure what to make of his friend’s partial smile. “I had thought to go ahead and find rooms for us at the inn, but I think it unwise if we split up. Therefore we shall go in together.”

“That would be best,” Aliset said in agreement.

Wash merely nodded saying nothing. He started Shadow walking forward, leading them to the village. Yet he had only gone halfway up the road toward the village, when he came across a walking path that cut across the fields. Without explanation, he could not resist the urge to take this path.

“Whoa, that is not the way!” Darcy said to his back.

“I know, but there is something over here. I can not say what it is. Something I need to see.”

After hesitating, Darcy and the ladies pushed their horses into a trot to follow Shadow single file.

In the middle of the field, they came across a second pathway intersecting their path. Looking down that way, they could see several men and women near the edge of the trees working the land. No one was near as the war horse stopped at the crossing of the two paths. Unable to  explain his own actions, Wash dismounted from the saddle and walked up to an ancient well that sat at the center of the crossing. The old well was clearly no longer in use. The crossbeam, bucket, and rope were long gone. The bricks that made up the sides of the well were past repair, and the top edge was crumbling away.

“I don’t think we can water our horses here,” Darcy said, confused by Washburn’s actions.

But Wash did not respond to his friend. He very likely had not even heard his friend’s words. The well was calling to him. Not as a thirst to be quenched, as there indeed seemed to be no water at the bottom of the well-shaft. Nor was it a voice or a song of a siren that called to him. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what Wash felt, it was like a deeper thirst than the need for water on a hot day. This was something akin to an obsession for seeking a highly valued lost treasure.

Not realizing he had dropped Shadow’s reins, Wash began to walk around the well. Darcy was quick to catch Shadow as the horse meandered over to the lush green barley stalks to nibble on the grasses. It would not do to get the local farmers mad at them for damaging their fields.  “We don’t have time for this,” Darcy stated a bit irritably as he wrapped Shadow’s reins in his hands. “I thought we were going to find an inn together.”

“Aye, we shall,” the knight responded distractedly. He continued to circle the well. Then when he was not satisfied, he walked around it in the opposite direction.

“We are starting to draw attention to ourselves,” Aliset muttered with concern.

Just then, Wash dropped down to his knees. He had seen something gleaming. With his dagger, he shifted a loose brick and then dug at the mortar between two other bricks. His friends, now curious, moved their horses over to stand behind him. They could not see what it was that Wash was after. As Wash pried further, the bricks came apart and in the hollow was a red stone the size of a bird's egg. Almost greedily, Wash cupped the stone in his hand, he rubbed the dirt away between his palms and then held it up to the sunlight. It wasn’t just a stone, it was a brilliant gem, a ruby, rare in its size and clarity. The ruby was instantly familiar to the knight. One that could be no other than a sister stone to the gems in the pummels of both his dagger and his short sword.

There had been three rubies in all, cut from the same raw stone two centuries before and placed in the pummels of the three Lendour weapons: a dagger, a sword, and a long sword. All three gems varied in size, nevertheless, they shared the same psychic calling. Two of those weapons Sir Washburn currently carried and still had their rubies intact. The Lendour long sword had been taken from Wash several weeks ago in the forest of Droghera. Rather unpleasantly, he recalled the time Darcy and himself had been sitting on the branches of a tree awaiting Alister and Father Columcil to walk by with their horses.  In total surprise they were ambushed by three men shooting Merasha covered arrows. Wounded and delirious, Darcy had managed to stay high in the tree. Less agile than the seaman at such heights, Washburn had fallen to the ground to land squarely in the hands of his abductors. As Wash fought to regain his wits and his freedom, he spied the man responsible for the attack riding away with the Lendour long sword tied across his back. Wash had not seen the man’s face. It could have been Master Feyd or it could have been one of several henchmen from the Mearan rebellion. The thing was that Wash had never seen the Lendour long sword again. And this largest of the three gems should have been seated in the pummel of that long sword.  How in the Eleven Kingdoms was the gem here? And what had happened to the sword it belonged to?

Wash stared at its brilliance in the sun for a long time, almost as if the gem had a spell upon it.

((Per Bynw, Wash must make a disadvantaged Save Test of 1d6. I chose to use my Just Fudge It card for this save test. Therefore Wash automatically rolls a success of 6))

His stare upon the gem was considered by Darcy to be too long for just casual interest. Darcy dismounted with great concern and stepped toward the knight. Wash jerked to attentiveness at the proximity of his friend. Wash looked up, blinked his eyes several times, shook his head, and a faint smile crossed his lips.

“What have you found? I could not tell what it was you were after, but now that you have held it up to the light, I can see it is a gem of quality. Who would hide such a treasure here?  May I see that?” Darcy asked.

“NO!” Wash responded too quickly, pulling his hand away. Then realizing his bluntness was inappropriate, he tried to explain. “This is mine, it belongs to the Morgan heritage and was given to me by my father. I need to protect it from ever getting stolen again.”

“Heaven and high water! Wait, I recognize that. But you lost that sword. I won’t soon forget that day?” Darcy replied in shock. “I don’t like that it is here, I don’t like this at all.”

Wash shrugged off Darcy’s concern. “What matters to me is that I have found it and it is back in my possession,” Washburn claimed with some defiance. He rubbed the stone again in his palms and then almost reluctantly he put it inside a small draw bag that he attached to the thong around his neck, the same one that held his mother’s Lendour coin.

With an odd sense of accomplishment, Wash ignored the seaman’s concerned gaze,  concern which seemed to ease once the object was out of view.  That was good, to Washburn’s way of thinking. Attempting to be nonchalant about it,  he held out his hand for Shadow's reins and then leaped back into the saddle.

Feeling confused, Darcy remounted Sigrun just as a farmer came forward. “Good sirs and ladies, I am sorry to say that old well is dry. The new well that the village uses is up there to the right nearer to the river and the mill. You can water your horses there.”

“Thank you, my good man, we shall do that,” Darcy agreed and led his group in that direction.

((Bynw's rules about the gem- The moment Wash picks up the ruby, he must make a Save Test at Disadvantage (1d6). If the Save Test for the gem succeeds. The spell on the ruby will reset itself and Washburn will need to make another Save Test at Disadvantage. The interval between the spell resetting will vary. 1d6 hours.
13:31 <•Laurna> Save test for the duration of the ruby to reset before I have to make another save test.
13:32 <•Laurna> YIKES! Oh what do I get myself into, here goes
13:33 <•Laurna> !roll 1d6
13:33 <GameServ> Laurna rolled 1d6: 6 <Total: 6>
13:33 <•Laurna> Yeah 6 hours reprieve))

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #738 on: March 24, 2020, 12:18:14 pm »
Darcy Cameron rubbed Sigrun’s wet muzzle after she raised her head from the trough.  The rough wooden trough had been built near the new well, conveniently located to be filled from the well’s bucket.  Once all of the horses had drunk their fill, the companions filled their waterskins from the well. Darcy’s was empty of ale, so the water would suffice until he could refill it properly in Windyner.

They were not the only ones at the well.  Many of the travellers heading east after Bishop Arilan’s funeral were taking the opportunity to water their horses; how many of them would also want to find rooms in the village? 

“We’d best not linger if we want to find rooms,” Darcy said to the others.  “I suspect we will not be the only ones stopping here, although since it is still early, most will continue on.  I hope.”  He helped Aliset mount her horse, and Washburn assisted Fiona, giving her a nod and an engaging smile when she thanked him.

Washburn led them back toward the town.  Darcy had not seen him this relaxed since they had first met in Culdi.  How long ago was that?  Darcy reckoned that they had another month of full summer ahead of them, so it was not as long ago as it seemed.  Sweet Jesu, Darcy thought; was Washburn actually humming a merry tune under his breath?  The big knight’s mood had changed since they had stopped at the old well.  Washburn had searched around the well’s crumbling sides, and he had found something there; Darcy was sure of it.  But what had it been?  For the life of him he could not remember.  That made him uneasy; usually he remembered everything, and with good detail.  Perhaps it would come to him once they had the opportunity to relax for a bit.

The village buildings were grouped on either side of the road, and the road was busy with travellers.  Darcy spotted what appeared to be a large stable off to one side. If the village had an inn, it would be nearby. 

“Shall I go and see what I can find for a room?” Darcy asked. 

Aliset started to object, since they were supposed to stay together, but Washburn spoke before she had a chance.

“Sounds reasonable,” Washburn replied.  “Provided our ladies won’t mind sharing my company while you are gone.” He half bowed in his saddle.

“I think we can leave Darcy on his own for a short while,” Aliset said. Darcy scowled at her and she smiled sweetly back.  In truth, Wash’s change in mood puzzled her.  She had recommended that they stay together, but perhaps she could better understand the change if she had the opportunity to talk with him while Darcy was gone. 

Darcy dismounted and tied Sigrun’s reins to one of the few empty posts outside of the two-story building that must be the inn.  Two men came out of the door and retrieved their horses.  Darcy hoped it was because they were leaving and not that the inn was full.  There was only one way to find out, and he entered hastily.

***

Aliset turned to Washburn.  “Have you been here before?”

“Nay, I don’t think so,” he replied readily enough.  “I may have passed through it a few times while travelling, but I don’t recall ever stopping here.”

“It seems a pleasant enough village,” Fiona said, liking the ease with which the knight spoke.  Several of the villagers who passed them nodded or smiled in their direction, and Wash nodded back, equally friendly.

“You seem more comfortable here,”  Aliset said to Washburn. 

“It’s where I need to be,” Washburn replied, adding nothing more and with a tone that invited no more questions.

Aliset sighed.  This was getting her nowhere, and she did not want to jeopardize Washburn’s current state of calm.   Perhaps she should just be thankful for the change. Father Columcil might be able to learn more once he arrived.

She watched as Washburn reached inside his shirt and touched the small bag he had tucked inside, almost as if reassuring himself its contents were secure.  There was something possessive about the way he gripped the bag; it was almost as if he hated to let it go.

“Here’s Darcy,” Fiona said and Washburn hastily withdrew his hand.  “Do you have good news for us, cousin?”

“Mostly,” Darcy replied.  “There were no large rooms left, but I was able to get us two smaller ones, and there is room for our horses in the stable.  I was able to arrange for an additional pallet;  Father Columcil and Washburn can share one room, and Aliset, Fiona and I will share the other one.  There is a possibility we can get a larger room if we stay longer.”

“You are not going to put Fiona on the pallet!” Aliset said firmly.

Darcy grinned at her.  “Of course not, love.  You and Fiona can share the bed, while I guard your door from the pallet.  Just like old times.”

Aliset felt a bit of unease in her stomach.  “Not exactly like old times,” she said ruefully  “Let’s get settled and then find something to eat.”

***

They found the rooms small, but clean enough.  The inn had a small dining area, but one of the stable lads had recommended the tavern across the street from the inn as having better food, so they made their way there once they had secured their belongings.

Washburn ordered two large meat pies and Darcy bought a round of ale.  The pies were excellent and they spent a pleasant hour enjoying the food, drink and the sunshine that poured in through the tavern’s open shutters.  Aliset felt better than she had for the past several days.  Darcy told a funny and remarkably clean tale that did not cause the ladies to blush.  Fiona sat comfortably beside Washburn and shared his trencher.  Washburn was attentive and made sure she had the best parts of the pie they shared.  As midday approached, the tavern grew more crowded, and the four friends reluctantly left for their scheduled rapport with Father Columcil.

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #739 on: March 31, 2020, 02:49:33 pm »
 Having finished their meal, the friends left the tavern. They hesitated at the side of the street which was quite busy with people and animals moving to and fro. Looking across the way, they also noted that the inn appeared quite busy with small groups of travelers entering and leaving.

“I wonder if our rooms at the inn will be the best place for Rapport with Father Columcil?” Aliset observed somewhat anxiously. “Perhaps we might take a stroll through the village and see if there is a quieter, more secluded spot we could use. It might be possible to find a spot in the church. We still have time. The bells have not yet begun to ring sext.”

Turning toward the church, they began to stroll along the street. The buildings were mainly one story, built of stone with thatched roofs. Next to the inn was a large stable well able to accomodate the travelers’ horses. At the far end of the stable, against the wall was a blacksmith’s shop busy with several horses awaiting attention. The well was between the inn and the stable with the trough for watering the animals in front. As they continued passing between the two rows of cottages, they saw that the road passed a tall granary with a large barn beside it.

On the opposite side and a short way farther on was the church, a stone structure with an arched porch which flowed upward to the tower where the bells were housed and ended in a pointed gothic spire topped by a cross. They directed their steps toward the church intending to enter and seek a quiet space from which to Rapport with Father Columcil.

As they approached, two priests stepped out of the door and began to walk toward them. They halted as the friends approached. One of them was an older man, rather round with a round face, apple cheeks and bright blue eyes. The hair around his tonsure was medium brown liberally sprinkled with gray. The second man was taller and leaner with a dark, hawklike face. He had dark brown eyes with black, bushy eyebrows and his hair was dark brown, untouched by gray. Both wore cassocks of rough country homespun tied around the waist with a narrow rope. The taller man wore a large wooden cross around his neck. They halted, smiling at the small party approaching them.

“Good day, fathers.” said Darcy. “We are visitors to your village on our way home from the funeral mass of Bishop Arilan. We have stopped  for food and to care for our horses.. We were looking about your lovely village and were attracted to your church. May we enter to pay our respects to your St. Elfrida? We heard that you have  at least one of her relics.”

The older priest replied. “Welcome, my children. I am Father Michael, priest to this village. This is Father Paulos, a priest from Torenth who has been with me for quite some time studying the differences in worship in our two kingdoms. He has been of great help to me in serving the villagers.  You are most welcome to explore our church. We are stepping out for a brief moment and will be returning for the noon prayers.”

Both priests smiled at the little group and Father Michael blessed them. Aliset bowed her head for the blessing, but when she raised her head, she found herself looking directly into the eyes of Father Paulos. Although he smiled, his smile did not reach his eyes. She could not explain it, but something she saw there made her uneasy. She did not feel comfortable in his presence although she did not know why. The two priests walked on by while the friends continued into the church.

The interior was simple with a central aisle stretching through the nave to a simple rood screen separating it from the altar. There were some rough benches on either side. The altar contained a table with a cross.. A presence lamp hung to one side. The group hesitated, moving to one side of the aisle.

“Is something bothering you, Aliset? You seem disturbed.” Darcy reached for his wife’s hand. Wash and Fiona looked at her with concern.

“I would prefer that we not attempt to contact Columcil from here. I can’t explain it, but something about the younger priest made me uneasy. I really think it would be best if we Rapport with him from one of our rooms at the inn as we originally planned.” Aliset looked around at her companions. “Washburn, you will be the one establishing the contact, where would you feel more comfortable? Here in the church, one of the priests or a worshipper could enter at any time and interrupt you.”

Washburn looked at her with concern. “I did not feel any disquiet from either of the priests, but if you think it best, I am willing to return to the inn.”

Aliset replied. “I think it may stem from my attempt to scry for the owner of the ward cubes found in the ruins where Wash had been held as part of our search for him. I know you were worried when I seemed to touch something threatening just before I withdrew. For a few seconds I saw a foreign-looking priest who frightened me.”

“Was it this Father Paulos? Did you recognize him?” Darcy sounded anxious.

“No, I can’t say I recognized him or that I even think it was the same man. But there was a resemblance. That may be the source of my disquiet.” Aliset still appeared nervous. “I just think it would be wise if we established the Rapport in the privacy of our rooms at the inn even if it is a little noisier.”

After a moment, the others agreed. They left the little church and walked back down the street toward the inn.


"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

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #740 on: March 31, 2020, 02:52:32 pm »
The King, Earl Brendan, and Duchess Richenda stepped from the portal in the library in Rhemuth. Richenda curtsied and addressed the king in a shaky voice. “I will return to my rooms, sire.” She turned to walk toward her apartment in the Queen's Tower. Her head was bowed and she moved slowly.

Brendan addressed the king. “Sire, I am concerned about my mother. She puts on a brave front, but I know she is still upset at missing Washburn. May I escort her to her rooms and see her settled? I will return to you immediately after she is cared for.”

Kelson nodded his head in assent. “I will send a squire to the Queen to inform her that the duchess has returned and is in need of her support. I am sure she will go to Richenda immediately. As soon as your mother is settled and has someone with her, come to me in the withdrawing room, and I will outline our plan for retaking Ratharkin and putting down the rebellion.”

Brendan bowed and quickly followed his mother, taking her arm and supporting her as they continued toward the Queen’s tower. When they reached her apartment, the door was opened  by a young maid who curtsied to them.  “Her grace was much moved by the events at the abbey and is in need of rest and refreshment. Fetch a cup of wine for her.” Brendan instructed her. The young woman whisked away to procure the wine.

Brendan assisted his maman to a comfortable chair near the fire and added a log to the blaze. Richenda sat down but retained her hold on his hand. She looked up at him, still with tears in her eyes although she was not crying as she had earlier. Her lips trembled as she spoke. “I lost the love of my life when Alaric was killed. Your brother was severely wounded at Laas. He has been healed and is recovering but I could have lost him too.  I can’t lose this son! “

She continued.  “I don’t understand why I am being kept away from my son. I have only been able to communicate with him in Rapport once briefly. I need to know where he is and how he is faring. I know his captor altered his memories making him believe that his family mistreated him and trying to turn him against us. In Rapport he did tell me that he realized that some of his memories were false, but how could he sort out what was false and what was true?  I could help him, I know I could if only I could be with him.”

Brendan saw the distress in her face. He took both her hands in his and held them. “You know he discovered he has healing powers just as Papa did. We all missed that as he was growing up, even Uncle Duncan. He has learned a little about his powers and how to use them; but he also learned how to block Deryni powers in others, making them human. I don’t know much about it but apparently it was very rare even among healers in the old times. The king believes that it is necessary to keep him away from his family lest his irrational anger based on these false memories would cause him to use that blocking power, even on his family.”

Richenda responded, “I know he would never try to use that blocking power on me , his mother. The one time I was able to reach him, he did promise me that he would always try to act honorably and I believe him.”

“I am sure he was sincere, but I am not sure how much control he has, especially if his anger rages out of control.” Brendan sought to reassure his mother. “His friends are with him and will help him. The king has promised that as soon as we have freed Ratharkin and broken the rebellion, one of his first priorities will be to find Washburn, heal his mind and restore him to us. I think I can best help both Wash and the king by carrying out his orders and freeing Ratharkin.”

The maid returned with the wine. Brendan took the cup from her and held it to his mother’s lips. Richenda took a sip. He then placed the cup on a small table nearby. “I must return to the king. Try to rest and be assured that Wash will be in our thoughts. He will not be forgotten and he will be returned to you as soon as possible.”

Richenda sighed and leaned her head back against the high back of the chair.

As he prepared to leave, there was a soft knock at the door. The maid opened it and sank into a deep curtsy as the Queen entered the room.  Brendan bowed as she crossed the room to take the hand of her friend and place an arm around her shoulders. “Kelson has told me what occurred at the abbey. I will remain with her. Do not worry. We will care for her. The sooner this is all resolved, the better for all of us.”

Brendan bowed to the two women and quickly left the room.

********

Brendan strode rapidly through the castle corridors to the king’s withdrawing room. Two lancers stood guard at the door. One of them opened the door and entered to announce,  “the Earl of Marley, Sire.” Kelson motioned for the Earl to enter.  The lancer closed the door behind Brendan who approached the king and bowed.

Kelson was seated at a heavy oak table with papers and maps spread out in front of him. Brendan recognized the map on top as depicting Ratharkin and its surroundings. Kelson poured a goblet of red wine from a flask on a tray nearby and handed it to Brendan. He indicated a chair across from him. “Be seated and let me explain what I have in mind for retaking Raharkin and finally crushing the rebellion.”

Brendan sat and took a sip of his wine. He listened attentively as Kelson began to speak. “We are now in a position to end this rebellion and restore peace to the kingdom. In Rapport with Javan, I have learned that Laas has been secured and  although there is damage, the walls are largely intact. Kelric was wounded but has been healed and is recovering. The rebel army was defeated. A large portion of the army tried to escape, withdrawing from the battlefield and seeking to reach refuge in Castleroo.  Led by Grand Duke Valerian, the plan was to return to Ratharkin to regroup. Javan was in pursuit. He had sent out two scouting parties to determine which way they were riding.  A courier brought him word that Jass MacArdry’s party had located the remnant riding south from the river toward Ratharkin.”

When Javan and his army reached their location, Baron Jass reported that Valerian had been wounded by a bolt from a crossbow. His men had taken him up and withdrawn toward Kilardin. Javan followed them to the town, and his army surrounded and captured what was left of the rebel army.”  Brendan looked up, hearing a hint of elation in the king’s voice. “Valerian is dead! Javan has seen him. The rebellion has lost one of its top leaders! “ Kelson sat back, sighing and looking at Brendan with a look of relief on his face..

“Sire, that is incredible news! That is a stunning loss to the rebellion.”

Kelson replied. “Now is the time to strike. If we retake Ratharkin, they will have lost their last major base.They will be unable to recruit or rearm or rebuild an army. With Valerian’s death they have lost a major source of support, both of political influence and money. The rebellion will be shattered. And my spies tell me that the city is held by only a small force. Valerian had drawn men from those holding the city to strengthen the force that would attack Laas. I am convinced that they are most vulnerable now.”

“I have ordered Javan to collect all the cavalry available to him and, under the command of Duke Rory and Lord Duncan Michael, order them to ride to Ratharkin as quickly as possible where they will rendezvous with you and your men. I believe a swift surprise attack now has a good chance of success. You should be able to surround and take the city while they are still undermanned and not expecting it. They will be sure that our forces and our attention remain fixed on Laas and their guard will be down.” The king paused to note his earl’s reaction to his plan.

Brendan was nodding his agreement with what he had heard. “It seems a bold plan, sire and one which, as you say, has every chance of success. An end to the rebellion is an outcome much to be desired.”

Kelson smiled. “Let us refine our plans for the actual attack.” He laid out the map of Ratharkin and the two men moved closer studying it to determine the best approaches and identify points most vulnerable to attack. Soon they had a plan in place for the retaking of Ratharkin.

**********

Later that evening, after taking leave of his mother and the king, Brendan positioned himself on the portal, set the destination of Chantal’s manor portal, took a deep breath and wrenched the energies.  Almost immediately he was stepping from the portal square at the manor. The guard in the portal room recognized the Earl and bowed.
Brendan smiled and addressed him. “Notify Lord Jaxom and Lord Michael of my return and ask them to attend me in the withdrawing room.” The guard bowed and quickly left the room. At a more leisurely pace, Brendan made his way toward the withdrawing room.  He had only been there a few minutes when the Lords Jaxom and Michael entered and bowed.

Brendan addressed them. “I have just returned from the king and I have orders for us. We will be riding out tomorrow to begin to implement the king’s directive.”

The two young men were excited and eager for action, being heartily tired of what was essentially garrison duty which they found very boring. “My Lord, where are we going and what is our objective?” Jaxom inquired, barely able to contain his excitement”

Brendan gestured for them to take seats at the long table in the center of the room. He seated himself at the head and smiled at their eagerness. “I have some momentous news for you.  Laas has been secured and the last remnants of the rebel army there have been captured. In the course of the defeat and capture of their army in Laas, the Grand Duke Valerian, one of the major leaders of the rebellion, was killed. That is a severe blow to the rebellion.”  The young men gave a quiet but heartfelt cheer at this news.

After their response, Brendan continued. “His Majesty feels that the remaining rebels are vulnerable at this time. He is ready to turn his attention to the retaking of Ratharkin. He has designed a plan that should secure the defeat of the rebels remaining there and free the city. Once the city has been taken, the rebels will have no base from which to rebuild their army to further attack the kingdom. This will be the final stone to set the utter defeat of the rebellion.”

“We will be riding out in the morning toward Ratharkin. I will leave a token force here to guard the prisoners, but the rest of the men will ride with us. We will rendezvous with cavalry coming from Laas to put the attack plan into motion. The cavalry can travel much faster than the foot soldiers, and they should reach the rendezvous point not long after we arrive. Spies have informed the king that Ratharkin is lightly held, many rebels having been withdrawn to join the army attacking Laas.  We are also depending on an element of surprise as they will expect that our attention and our forces remain focused on Laas and that part of Meara. It is important that we move as stealthily as possible to avoid alerting them to the possibility of attack.”

“Duke Rory will ride with the force from Laas. He will be in position to retake his place as viceroy and begin the healing process in the city. He is loved by his people and his presence will reassure them.”

The Earl then addressed Lord Jaxom directly. “I instructed you to have the men prepared to move immediately on my return. Has that been accomplished, and are they adequately supplied for the move? “

Jaxom inclined his head respectfully, “Yes, my lord, we have spent the time of your absence preparing for our departure. The men are anxious to be on the move and are ready for your inspection whenever you wish. Lord Michael has been of  great assistance in these efforts.” Brendan was pleased to hear Jaxom actually giving credit to another for their assistance. Perhaps he was maturing and learning to be a better commander after all.
 
Brendan pulled a map from his tunic and unrolled it on the table. He beckoned the two men to move closer and pointed out to them an area  just to the west of a mountain overlooking the city. “This is where we will meet the force from Laas. It is the shortest distance from that city and will provide cover for us as we assemble and prepare our attack. Based on what we have heard from our informants, the king and I identified several points in the city walls that are less well defended and open to infiltration by attackers. The defenders do not have sufficient men to mount patrols outside their walls so that is also in our favor. We believe that this plan has every chance for success and a final defeat of the rebellion.” Both young men nodded their understanding of the plan.

Brendan continued, “I will need to leave a small force here to see to the prisoners. I had thought to leave one of you in charge here.” He saw their faces fall as they heard that one of them would not be part of the assault, but neither voiced any objection.  “On further consideration, I think I may be able to leave one of the captains in charge here. I believe I will need both of you with me.” Happy grins replaced disappointment on their faces.

“I will inspect the men and their gear after dinner. I will then leave it to you to see that all are ready to ride for Ratharkin on the morrow.” The three men stood. Lord Jaxom and Lord Michael bowed to the Earl and left the room to attend to their many duties. The Earl resumed his seat and folded the map of Ratharkin and replaced it in his tunic. He summoned a squire and sent him for some wine. He then sat back and relaxed, well pleased with the response of his two lieutenants. All boded well for their undertaking.

 

 

"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

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #741 on: April 05, 2020, 09:09:01 pm »
As the golden light began to stain the sky in the east, the men mustered in the area before the manor, all anxious to begin their mission. The earl had last words and instructions for the senior captain who would remain in charge of the manor and its prisoners. The captain bowed to Brendan and returned to the manor house. Brendan urged his horse forward to the head of the assembled men. He reined in before them and spoke.

“We are embarking on a vital mission for the king and for Gwynedd. If we defeat the rebels and retake the city, it will mean an end to the rebellion. Laas has been secured, and Ratharkin is the last major locale controlled by the rebels where they can try to raise another army. We will be meeting a force from Laas who will join us in the attack. Duke Rory rides with them to be part of the battle to free his city and restore lawful rule to Ratharkin which has suffered greatly under the rebel  occupation. Surprise is an important factor in our attack plan. Therefore, we must be vigilant and move as stealthily as possible. According to the king’s spies, the rebels do not have enough men to mount patrols outside their walls, but they will have sentries posted on the walls. We must at all costs avoid alerting them to our presence.” Brendan turned to motion to a priest standing to one side. “Father, will you give us your blessing.”

The earl’s chaplain came forward to bless the men and their mission. After the blessing, Earl Brendan moved out, followed by his two lieutenants, Lord Jaxom and Lord Michael. Lord Michael carried the pennant with the Earl’s colors. The knights fell into two columns behind.

A short distance down the main road the earl turned to the right into a narrower, rough track that led downward through thick woods with a stream tumbling over a rocky bed beside them. There was no talk among the men, the only sound was the muted jingle of harness and an occasional snort of a horse.

As they neared the bottom of the mountain, Earl Brendan signaled for a halt to rest both men and horses. There was a large clearing which offered grass and water from the stream. The men turned in and began to dismount, leading the horses to the stream to allow them to drink.

Brendan spoke briefly with his lieutenants. He drew out his map of Ratharkin and traced the route they would follow. “We will skirt the base of the mountain and then ride toward the Tharkane River. We will cross at the ford at the head of the lake that is formed by the river.  We can then head west, keeping the mountains between us and the city. When we reach the small lake on the western side of the mountain, we will make camp and await the force from Laas that will be joining us. In order to preserve our secrecy, we will not light campfires and we will do all possible to keep any noise to a minimum. Do you have any questions?” The two young men had studied the map carefully as he spoke and indicated their understanding of the plan.

After their rest, the party remounted and continued on their way.  By mid afternoon, they had reached the crossing place for the river. The river was easily fordable at that point, and the party crossed without incident. The track that skirted the western side of the mountain was wider and more level and afforded relatively easy riding.  Shortly before sunset, they reached the shore of the small lake, and Brendan halted them. “We will make camp here and await the arrival of our reinforcements from Laas. In the interest of maintaining our secrecy, we will not light campfires tonight. We will make do with cold rations, but it will be worth it to have the element of surprise in our favor when we attack.”

The men quickly dismounted and set about the business of setting up camp. There was a little good-natured grumbling about the lack of warm campfires as the night drew in and the temperature dropped. But every man knew that keeping that aspect of surprise would help save lives when the attack was launched.

                                                               *****

Brendan was leaning against his saddle as he sipped a goblet of wine in his small campaign tent when he felt the king’s call. He quickly scanned the area around his tent, and having failed to detect any presence nearby, he answered his king’s call. “Your majesty, how may I serve you?”

“What progress have you made today?”

“We have reached the rendezvous point and have made camp for the night. I have sent out two scouts toward Ratharkin to report on any unusual activity there that might suggest that they are alerted to our presence. I expect their reports soon.” Brendan paused.

“Excellent!” the king replied. “I have heard from Duncan Michael that they are making good time and should be with you by early afternoon tomorrow. They have all the cavalry available from Duke Brecon as well as those from Prince Javan’s army. Together they will make a formidable force.”

“Thank you , Sire. That is indeed good news. We are planning our attack to begin just after dawn when many of the defenders will just be waking from sleep and more vulnerable to attack.” Brendan waited, feeling that his king had more to say to him.

Kelson continued. “I am providing you with an additional advantage in the coming battle. As you know, I have had an agent in Ratharkin ever since before it fell to the rebels. Although he has been absent recently to perform another assignment for me, he has asked permission to return to Ratharkin to provide support for your offensive. He is well acquainted with many of the nobles there and can readily identify those who have remained loyal to me. His plan is to locate them, many are in the dungeons, and to release them at the beginning of the attack. They can then release their men who can join yours in the attack.”

“That is excellent news, sire. That addition to our forces should add significantly to our chances of success. In order to have him join our forces and for his safety, it is important that we be able to recognize him.” Brendan waited

He sensed some amusement in the king’s mind.  “He is just above average height and of compact build.. He will be disguised as a tinker, the same deception he has used whenever he has acted as my agent in Ratharkin. You will be able to identfy him as he will carry a royal medallion with the Lion of Gwynedd on it.

Kelson continued. “This was entirely his own idea, but he will be an invaluable asset to you.  He will contact you when he has entered the city. You know he is Deryni so he will be able to give you information in Rapport. Be alert for his signal. I am certain he will be an important factor in our eventual success..”

Brendan responded, “It shall be as you command, my liege.” He felt Kelson end the Rapport. He lay back against his saddle again, thinking about what he had learned and what was to happen soon. He felt that there was every chance for success and an end to this costly rebellion. He also thought of his younger brother. The sooner this rebellion was put down, the sooner he would be able to turn his attention to finding his brother, seeing his mind healed, and returning him to the family who loved him. With that thought, he put out his candle and composed himself for sleep.

"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 #742 on: April 06, 2020, 12:03:48 pm »
Earlier that day…

Sir Iain Cameron approached the closed door to the king’s withdrawing room and then stood to one side.  It was difficult to get onto the King of Gwynedd’s schedule at the best of times; now with the assault to retake Ratharkin imminent, it had proved to be almost impossible.  Iain had been persistent.

The door to the withdrawing room opened and Lord Seisyll nodded briefly at Iain as he exited.  Robert motioned for Iain to enter and then closed the door behind him, remaining outside. 

“Your Majesty,” Iain said and bowed.  The king motioned him forward.

“You requested to see me, Sir Iain,” Kelson said.  “Have you heard from Master Feyd?”

“I have not, your Majesty.  I would like your approval to return to Ratharkin.”

Kelson had not anticipated this request.  He studied the man standing before him for a moment. Iain Cameron was not one to waste the king’s time.  “You have a plan?”

“Yes, your Majesty.  I know those who are likely to have remained loyal to you in Ratharkin, If I return there as the tinker, I will be able to contact them and have them ready to mount our own attack from within when Duke Rory and Earl Brendan attack.   The rebels left too few men behind to hold Ratharkin in a direct attack.  They can’t fight one from within as well.” 

Kelson considered the idea for a moment.  “This is your only reason to return?”

Iain’s ice blue eyes did not waver from the king’s gaze.  “I left a small bit of unfinished business when I left.  Sir Ainslie Carlisle’s young granddaughter survived the attack.  I left her with a trusted agent to keep her safe, and I promised her all would be well.  I would like to make sure that promise is kept.” 

“We will give Duke Rory and Earl Brendan all the assistance they need.  Proceed, Sir Iain,” the king said.  “I should have thought of it myself.”

“Thank you, your Majesty,” Iain replied.  “With so much at stake, a small detail can go unnoticed.”

Kelson snorted.  “You are a much better spy than a diplomat.  I suggest you stick with that.”

Sir Iain’s bow hid his faint smile, and the king dismissed him with a flick of his hand.

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 #743 on: April 06, 2020, 01:34:20 pm »

The church bells rang the noon-hour as the four friends reached the first steps going up to their rooms on the second floor of the inn. They were in a hurry to make contact with Father Columcil; they did not wish to make him wait, especially if he had needed to stop upon the road somewhere to meet their call. Wash noted the interest of the innkeeper as they passed by him. Wash tossed a good coin to the man and requested a flagon of wine with bread and cheese to be brought up to their room in about thirty minutes time. The innkeeper gave Wash an odd look that included a smirk on his face. It wasn’t until Wash was upstairs in the larger of their two rooms and closing the door behind him that it dawned on him what the innkeeper had been thinking. The knight let out a long sigh as he stared at the two pretty ladies before him. “Darcy, I swear, I said nothing, yet I fear Fiona’s and Aliset’s reputations will be marred by my presence here.”

Darcy understood immediately and grimaced. “If the man says anything untoward about my cousin or my wife, he will have hell to pay from me,” Darcy declared. “We will deal with that nonsense later, we have an appointment to keep.”

Taking charge of the arrangements, Darcy gestured for the ladies to sit on the bed. He then handed to his lady a small leather bag. Aliset instantly knew what it was and upturned the bag onto the bed covers before her. Eight ward cubes tumbled across the wool blanket.

“I think it would be a good idea if we let Fiona try for the Ward Major. Fiona, you have seen it done often enough,” the seaman said with assurance to his cousin. “Aliset, my love, if you give her your assistance, I think she can do it. Cousin, you can not do any worse than I did on my first try,” Darcy said with a lopsided grin.

“It is a good Idea, Fiona. Let me guide you in this,” Aliset replied with a nod.

The two women sat cross legged on the bed facing each other. Fiona’s fingers brushed the four white cubes. She seemed a little intimidated to pick them up. “Set the white ones in a square, dear cousin, and the black at the corners,” Aliset prompted.

Wash gave Fiona his own encouragement. “You have this, my lady. I will make the contact with Columcil when the ward is set. I don’t think he will mind that we are a little bit tardy:”

After an appreciative glance at the women, Wash assisted Darcy to pull the pallet over to the long edge of the bed. They adjusted the mattress so that each of them could sit cross legged at the ends of the pallet bedding. As they waited for the ward to be completed, they both took deep breaths and began to center their minds.

With Aliset’s direction, Fiona quickly mastered the first part of the ritual. Unsure of how to begin the intense second part, Fiona hesitated. Aliset patted her hand indicating where to start and  softly whispered, “Now we balance the opposites of white and black into a single entity of energy.” She pointed to each pair in the corners mouthing their combined names. Fiona took the lead bravely. She cast her blossoming magic abilities into the cubes as she energized each set. “Primus... Secundus… Tertius… Quartus,” she called with succession.

Then there were four silver ovoids lying on the blanket and Fiona took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly with a sense of exhaustion and satisfaction. Aliset complimented her and directed her to set each one at the outer corners of the bed and the pallet, which together formed a near perfect square. Wash briefly came out of trance as a whiff of rose petals tickled his nose. Fiona was leaning behind him to place one of the ovoids at his back. He breathed in the fair scent and remembered how Fiona had combed her hair when they first got to their rooms. She must have dipped the comb in rose water; the scent was very pleasant in these close quarters. He made note to ask his sister about the hair brushes the Queen handed out to her ladies in waiting. They were round with bristles of boar and tied in a handle of silk ribbons. Not that he would know much about such things, but the ladies did seem to prize them. It might make a nice gift for Lady Fiona when all of this was over.

((05:56 <Eris> <derynifank> dice roll for fiona to succeed with Aliset's help to raise the ward major before they contact Columcil. Spend 2 xp to add 1 die. !roll 2d6
05:59 <derynifank> !roll 2d6
05:59 <GameServ> derynifank rolled 2d6: 4 6 <Total: 10>))

Once the four glowing ovoids were properly set, Fiona rose up on her knees in the center of the bed and called forth the energy of the Ward Major: “Primus, Secundus, Tertius et Quartus, fiat lux!”

To her utter surprise a dome of pale gold rose up over all their heads.  Wash congratulated her, “Well done, my lady, well done.”

Though Darcy patted her hand with a little admonishment. “Cousin, I don’t suppose you could raise the dome up just a bit. I wouldn’t want to get up on my knees and hit my head on the ward. That would hurt... a lot.” He was jesting of course, but Fiona looked hurt, until Aliset showed her how to put her palms up and lift the dome to a greater height. “Much better,” Darcy said proudly.

“Excellent!” Wash said as he felt the ward rise around them all. He didn’t waste any more time nor words to put forth his own energy to seek out Father Columcil who should be less than a day’s ride away.

My apologies, good Father, for our delay. Fiona has set the wards for us, so that we can speak freely. Where are you upon the road?

Ah, dear coosin, Ah dae wish Ah was upon th' road. Circumstances are nae as Ah woods loch them. Ah fear Ah cannae lav’e Arx Fidei, nae jist yet.

I don’t understand, I had truly hoped that you would be rejoining us. Wash hid a pang of disappointment for his cousin's absence.


As did Ah, but ye see…. Ah am woriat. Grandfather Duncan is nae recovered from his ordeal. Nae as Ah ha’ hoped. Och he tells a guid story, but Healer’s instincts see through th' gloss ay th' auld man’s words. If he wer’t in Rhemuth wi' his close friends, then Ah woods nae be sae woriat fur His Grace. Yet, here in Arx Fidei, he is nearly aloyn. Thaur is but a cleric an' a bishop frae his hoose, an' neither of them ur Deryni. Ah suspect he wuid nae min' them if they speart heem tae slaw doon.  Fur this reason, Ah daur nae lave his side. Nae yit.

Uncle Duncan did not return to Rhemuth with the king? Why ever not? Surely, if he is as frail as you say, the king would not have left him behind?

He woods nae lit me inf'rm th' king of his condition, Columcil sighed. He did nae ask me in confession, only as a family request, therefore, Ah am nae betrayin' heem by tellin' ye. His Grace intends tae ordain the headmaster here at Arx Fidei as itinerant bishop and assign him to th' diocese ay Dhassa, until the' synoid can gather and elect an official Bishop. Ah understand the need of it, yit Ah fear tae leave grandfather with this demanding duty tae perf'rm. His health is nae whit it should be; he requires a Healing hand now and again. Columcil let his inner concern come across the link.  Ah understand he took a strong jolt some days ago from a trapped portal. Ah believe he did nae gie himself th' time tae recowre frae 'at. Added tae his stress th' funeral, an' his concerns for his own kin.…

You mean me….   Wash said with a sigh.

Wash, he is woriat aboot ye, but thes isn’t yer daein'. Don’t ye gang puttin' thes blam upon yerself. The Archbishop is nae a young man, he needs time tae rest an' recowre, an' he needs a Healer at his side fur those times he pushes himself tae excess. Ah cannae lae heem, nae noo.”

I understand, Dear cousin,” Wash Rapported across the link. I am heart sick to hear of it. Of course you must stay there. If anything were to happen to Uncle Duncan because of me…. I should banish myself from the kingdom. Washburn hunched over feeling defeated as he spoke to Columcil. His hand moved under his tunic and he squeezed the small bag lying there between his fingers. The gem inside seemed to give him strange comfort.

Columcil seemed to pick up on the unusual energy surge. Wash, whit is 'at?

What do you mean?  Wash asked. He instantly let go of the bag and brought his hands back to rest on his knees.

Darcy, ur ye in th' link? Ah jist felt an odd presence in th' link, whit was 'at, the priest asked with concern.

I don’t think I know what you mean, Father. It is the four of us here and no one else. Darcy seemed perplexed he did not remember any odd presence.

Hum, whatever 'at surge ay energy was, it is gone noo. Be mindful, mah friends, ye still hae enemies searchin' fur ye; high an' low, Ah daur say. Ah wish mair then ever Ah was thaur wi' ye. Columcil paused for a minute trying to figure out how he could be in two places at once. Teel me, can ye bide in 'at village anither day? If the Archbishop’s staff arrife tomarrow to help him with the ordination, 'en Ah can ride tae join ye after,.Ah can be thaur by th' end ay th' day.

We can do that, cousin. We shall make contact again tomorrow at noon to see how you're getting along.”

Wash ended the contact, worrying that his every action seemed to distress his family.

Darcy sat across from him, also worried. His concern was about that odd presence that Columcil had felt during their Rapport. Yet for all his concentration, he could not remember feeling that sensation himself.

There was a knock on the door to their room and a barmaid announced she had their wine. Quickly Aliset, helped Fiona to discharge the ward. Then she was off the bed, opening the door just enough to retrieve the wine and platter of bread and cheese. She thanked the barmaid and then quickly shut the door, before the girl could see inside. “I guess we best make ourselves comfortable, looks like we shall be here for another day.”

Offline Jerusha

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Re: Ghosts of the Past
« Reply #744 on: April 08, 2020, 10:03:10 am »
Darcy Cameron stood up from the pallet and stretched.  The wine and cheese had been adequate, though not as tasty as the fare in the tavern.  Fiona had placed the empty food tray outside the door and now sat on the one chair the room contained, searching inside her saddlebag. She pulled out something feminine along with a packet of needles and thread, obviously with some mending in mind.  Washburn remained seated on the pallet reading his father’s journal.  Aliset  lay stretched out on the bed contemplating an afternoon nap.

Darcy sat quietly beside her.   “Aliset, did you bring the book of poetry with you?” he asked quietly.

“No, I did not.  I left it in my room in the Queen’s Tower, along with my mother’s grimoire.  I’m sure they are safe,” she added hastily.

“I’m sure they are.”  Darcy patted her hand.  “I was just looking for something to occupy myself with.”

“You could join me for a nap,” Aliset suggested.

Darcy’s eyes danced with merriment.  “That is a very tempting offer, love,” he said in a low voice.  “But I might end up scandalizing our companions!”

Aliset’s face turned a lovely shade of deep rose.  “Maybe not such a good idea,” she murmured.

Darcy grinned, leaned over and kissed her nose.  She wrinkled it at him as he rose and strolled over to the open window.  He folded his arms along the bottom sill and  gazed out at the town below.

He was surprised at how dismayed he felt that Father Columcil would not be joining them.  Despite the priest’s speculation that he might join them tomorrow, Darcy doubted it.  It had taken Darcy a while to warm up to the weathered country priest, but they had found common ground in their lack of noble birthright.  Or so they thought!  Columcil could be a bit testy, Darcy acknowledged with a smile, but he admired the man’s grounded faith and wise counsel.  And he was damn handy with that staff!  Beg pardon, Father, he added contritely.  Wise indeed.  If Father Columcil had not decided to marry them, he and Aliset might have slipped apart, drifting away from each other to follow their own courses.  He owed the good Father much.

Darcy’s attention shifted to the two priests who were walking among the villagers.  They greeted each person along the way, blessed those that requested it and seemed to be generally well-liked by all.  Why had the foreign looking one, Father Paulos, made Aliset uneasy? 

Darcy turned to look at Washburn, and saw him reach once more into his tunic to grasp the pouch on its cord around his neck.  It must be at least the third time Darcy had seen him do it.  Why had Washburn suddenly developed this habit?  Why, when the knight had been so determined to head east, was he content to pause for at least two days in Windymer?  What in blazes had Washburn found at the well, and why could Darcy not remember?  What was the energy surge Columcil had felt in their Rapport that Darcy had not detected?

Darcy turned back to the window. There were too many questions he could not answer, and he did not like it. He would have to remain vigilant to ensure everyone’s safety. At least it was something to do.

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

 -- Old English Litany

 


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