Week 4, Settling In
We left the party waiting for a response from either of the two pretenders to the coronet, or from the royal court. While we wait, we learn that, as we would expect from the books, and from the knowledge that this is the year 1114 AD, the current king of Torrenth is Wencit, the current duchess of Tolan is Charissa, and, so far as we can tell, the entire history of the Eleven Kingdoms is on track and on schedule, as per the novels by Katherine Kurtz. Since it is a largely tragic history, this is not comfortable news.
On the second day after our arrival "home," Rhodri's half-sister Margaret seeks him out and asks, very privately, if he knows where her shiral crystal is. He tells her that he found it in the desk in the study and, thinking it had been Father's, assumed it was now his. He returns the shiral to Margaret, who asks that it remain their secret, since Mother (Llewella) does not approve of blatant magical practice.
Rhodri agrees to that and asks if Margaret knows what is inside the warded box he found. She says it contains some family heirlooms -- ordinary jewelry except for a brooch that Father or Grandfather enchanted somehow. She'll open it for Rhodri some time QUIET, and PRIVATE.
On the third day, a messenger comes from one of the pretenders, Uncle Harold. The tone of the message is cool and curt, but not quite rude. Obviously, he needs convincing of Rhodri's identity. However, he offers Rhodri the hospitality of his castle. (HIS castle, indeed!)
To while away the rest of the day, Rhodri tries probing the shiral crystal, a few other enchanted oddments around the house, and the diadem tracer. The tracer does, in fact, register as, uh, "enchanted," and even has a tiny spot of glow at its center, when viewed in complete darkness. (It gave a very clear indication when the segment was in Utah and we were in Kansas.)
Meanwhile, Cantrel, Tom, and David explore the secret tunnel Rhodri found in the cellar. (Rhodri has to open it for them -- it require a fairly advanced probing to unlock.) They find that it empties out about 500 yards from the manor, near the edge of the woods. Vivienne and Pendred, pursuing their exploration, find a small black cube in an unregarded place -- a part of a set of wards. Sometime long ago, someone was probably searching for this desperately. We have no idea what good one ward is, but we'll keep it in case we ever find out.
On the fourth day, a message arrives from Aldous, Baron Davison, the father of the infant pretender Michael, and Rhodri's half-brother-in-law. (Are you taking notes? There will be a quiz at the end.) If Harold's letter was cool, Aldous' is downright cold, and is addressed to his "reputed kinsman." He, too, offers the hospitality of his castle, but we are even less inclined to accept the invitation than we were in Harold's case. The chamberlain -- named Nevil -- does what he can to increase the manor's security.
And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. Nevil the chamberlain announces that a rider is approaching, slowly, wearing the royal livery. We gussy up the place and receive Lord Jerrod, who bears a letter with the royal seal, proclaiming him "royal investigator." This letter is from His Grace Alaric Morgan, Duke of Corwyn, the King's High General, and the most powerful Deryni to come out of the closet in two hundred years.
Morgan explains that King Brion is unable to receive visitors at court, since he is away dealing with rebellion up near Meara -- a perennial trouble spot. Jerrod is here instead, to gather information for the king, when court audiences can start up again.
While Lord Jerrod refreshes himself in the parlor, Rhodri consults in the library with Llewella. He asks the whereabouts of Father's signet ring. She fetches it, along with some old documents it has sealed; it looks completely different from the ring Rhodri found in the magically hidden drawer. He takes a gamble and shows her this ring, saying vaguely, "How about this one?" Llewella answers, "We must have something sealed by grandfather around here," and hunts through the library until she finds it. So it is grandfather's ring -- "grandfather" being the time-traveler whom Rhodri is impersonating, the said time-traveler impersonating his own grandson.
Somewhat heartened, Rhodri shows Jerrod the rings -- "Mother just now gave me this and I've had this other one all my life -- it was grandfather's." He then gives Jerrod some sample seals from each signet, to take back to court and compare with seals in the archives.
Jerrod then asks after Rhodri's travels and the recent deaths, then interviews Llewella and Nevil. He stays the night and tells us to expect some of Morgan's men, an escort that is supposed to catch up with him.
The sixth day is uneventful. Jerrod visited the physician in town that attended Father and Brother Martin.
On the seventh day, Jerrod heads off to Castle Greystoke, to interview Uncle Harold. Cantrel gets the uneasy feeling that there is more motion in the woods than wind and animals can account for, so he goes sneaking out to look. Sure enough, he spies out six or seven men at arms, including a hidden guard who does not spy him out. Later, he finds two more, leading horses with muffled hooves.
He returns to the manor and, on debriefing, describes their livery and shields. They appear to be Charissa's men. We send out a squire to catch up with Jerrod. Rhodri sends Cantrel and "Bronwyn" (Victoria) out on a second session of counter-spying. Bronwyn finds an abandoned camp and horse tracks headed toward the road taken by the page and Lord Jerrod. She takes this news back to Rhodri, while Cantrel keeps an eye on his old friends, who seem to be getting impatient for something. Eventually, Cantrel goes back to the manor and Rhodri sends him, Bronwyn, and a guard out to retrieve Lord Jerrod.
Then Vivienne sneaks out for a look-see. She sees the two muffled nights coming in. They join the others, unmuffle and seem to be getting ready for some thing. They then start circling the manor, then advance openly down the road from the north. There are ten of them, in open livery of Tolan. They approach the gate (and a truly miserable gatekeeper) but veer off. They answer our runner's hail with something rude in a foreign tongue, then ride noisily to the east. About the time Rhodri learns that the foreign language was Tolani, a page screams, "They're coming over the walls!" But this is just Vivienne, coming back in from her reconnaissance. (NONE of our womenfolk match medieval ideas of decorum.)
We stand around and look baffled for a while.
Meanwhile, Cantrel and Bronwyn spot signs of a bloody fight along the road. They follow drag marks to a farmstead where they see two unsaddled horses. Approaching this house openly, they are greeted by the farmer, who is suspicious at first, but lets them in when the page identifies them. He bursts out from behind the farmer crying hysterically about Lord Jerrod dying.
We assume the mysterious soldiers dry-glutched him. Cantrel sends the page and guard back home with the news. Bronwyn does some first aid on him, but it is obvious that he doesn't have long to live. He certainly couldn't stand a horseback ride to the manor. Nevertheless, Cantrel and Bronwyn carry him out into the dark (it is night by now) and make to load him up and ride off. Then BRONWYN rides off with the two horses. Cantrel gather Jerrod up in his arms and FLIES AWAY.
A few minutes later, he lands outside the manor wall, leaves Jerrod in a secluded place, and runs to fetch Rhodri, with his magical healing ability. However, he notices the gatekeeper giving him the hairy eyeball, so he pauses to say, "If you tell anyone you saw me, you'll lose more than your tongue!"
Rhodri comes out, heals Jerrod most of the way. Jerrod turns out to be Deryni. Wonder if he knows he is? Rhodri and Cantrel agree that Cantrel should wait until Bronwyn shows up with their horses, then join her and bring in the unconscious Jerrod. This way, things will look more or less natural. Then Rhodri calls over Michael, the gatekeeper, and edits him memory.
Just then, a small boy comes running down the moonlit road. Cantrel, assuming it is the page he sent out, steps into the road and says, "All right, kid, I give up. Where's your horse?" The kid explodes in panic and turns out to be someone else entirely. Cantrel holds onto him until Rhodri can calm him down. He's from a nearby farm. He was sent by the doctor to tell Rhodri that soldiers attacked the farmers, killing four, leaving eight seriously wounded. So this is what our Tolani friends were up to. wonder if they were really Tolani, or if they were sent by one of the pretenders?
Rhodri does his best to act like the earl of the county. He, David, and old Michael (to be followed later by Cantrel and Bronwyn) go off to the raided farms. He sends Penny, Vivienne, and Tom through the countryside, calling out the landed knights. (Nevil is scandalized at sending women.) Llewella, Margaret, and the servants he sends packing off to the nearest abbey, leaving the manor to be guarded by one page, two dogs, and a cat.
Fortunately for the page, the guard and second page show up to reinforce him. Bronwyn shows up with horses, and she and Cantrel fake Jerrod's entrance, then take him to the abbey before going to join Rhodri at the farm.
Rhodri, meanwhile, meets with the doctor, helps with the healing (using normal means this time), and undoes some of this medieval practitioner's damage. Mounted fighters start to accumulate. When we have a posse, we will give a (probably fruitless) chase to the "Tolani" raiders.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.