Terms Of His Honor
Chapter 11 - Part 2
The prisoner barely stirred
when Connal shook his shoulder. He moaned, and the sound carried more
agony than Connal had ever heard a human make. Oddly enough, when he
rolled the prince to his back he could see no marks on his skin.
Connal felt his nerves turn to ice as his memory jogged back to Samhain night. The little black bottle that contained a poison for Deryni only, an exotic weapon from the East. Something that could render them helpless as newborn babes.
Could he be seeing the results of this weapon before him? And, if indeed the reckless prince had been poisoned, how was Connal going to get him out of here. He apparently was not in good enough shape to be of any assistance.
But now that he had killed the guard Connal knew there was little chance he could come back later to find the prince in better circumstances. Apart from the chance that Rhydon would kill the prince outright when the dead guard was discovered, no doubt the watch would be doubled or tripled.
No, if the prince of Gwynedd were going to be rescued it would have to happen now. Connal shook him again. When that failed to rouse the man from the drugged stupor he slapped the prince squarely across the cheeks.
The prince's eyes opened slowly. In the flickering blue light Connal saw the dilated pupils struggle to focus on him.
"Can you stand?" Connal kept his voice to a whisper. "If you want to leave this cell now is the time."
"I will try." The prince struggled to sit up. He tried to rise, fell back, and gathered himself for another attempt.
Connal clasped the prince's hand and braced to pull him to his feet.
At that moment, the tunnel flared with brilliant crimson light. Connal whirrled, letting the prince fall back as he drew his sword.
Rhydon stood a few feet from the bars, hands braced on his hips. His face twisted with a demonic grin. Behind him stood the old Deryni who had been conversing with him in the library.
"So what have we here?" Rhydon lazily surveyed the cell. "It seems I've caught more than one rat in this trap. A good day's work for me."
Connal cast a quick glance over Rhydon's shoulder. The tunnel behind the Deryni lords seemed deserted. Then again, he'd missed their presence already.
With the bars between them Connal knew he had no chance at a fair fight. If he meant to survive this encounter and get the drugged Prince of Gwynedd to safety with him he would have to trick Rhydon into entering the cell.
His objective firmly in mind, Connal assumed a relaxed stance and let a lazy smile drift over his face. "Greetings, my lord. You're just in time. Care to lend me a hand here?"
"So now I face the shadow I've been chasing these past weeks." Rhydon's teeth bared in what must have been a grin. "No more than a common thief, it seems."
"A thief? Perhaps. But surely no coney." Connal pretended to examine his nails. "After all, if a simple footpad can rouse such ire in a mighty lord, what does that say about the lord's confidence in himself?"
"My affairs are none of your concern." Rhydon's hands bunched into fists.
"Seems to me they are of utmost interest to me." Connal grinned broadly. "After all, for this brief time you hold the estates my father and his father before him kept so well."
Rhydon squinted into the dim cell. When he stepped closer, Connal savored a small victory.
Rhydon lifted his hand. Another ball of blue light illuminated the cell. For a time measured in heartbeats the Deryni duke studied Connal's face, the set of his shoulders, the curls of his dark hair.
At last he shook his head. "I know your face. You are dead."
"Glad to hear it. Though I've never seen you this close." Connal fought not to lick his lips. His next words would either bring Rhydon into the cell or get both himself and the captive prince killed.
In for a penny, in for a pound.
"After all, I've seen enough of your back. You seem to be leaving just as I'm coming in." Connal widened his smile to a broad, cocky, lecherous grin.
The growl from Rhydon's throat would have suited a rabid beast. His hand shot through the bars. The blow he laid on Connal was much hampered by the cell, but still strong enough to send him reeling back several steps.
The old Deryni stepped forward. "My lord, this serves no purpouse. We should --"
Connal wiped a thin trail of blood from his lip. "I expected that. Mellie told me you do that to her." He braced himself for worse to come.
"Of course, that's only because she says you can't manage to do much else."
"Your Grace --"
The old lord's words were drowned by Rhydon's roar of rage. Before calmer words could restrain him the duke thrust his way into the cell. His eyes blazed in the unnatural light.
Connal braced himself. When Rhydon was but a step from reaching him, Connal launched himself at his enemy. His fist connected with a sickening crack on Rhydon's jaw.
Rhydon's head shot back and hit the stone wall. He shook his head like a bull, stunned but not downed. Still, it was enough. Connal pulled the Deryni prince to his feet and shoved him out of the cell. "Run, damn you!"
The prince managed to keep his feet and, with the wall for support, staggered away from the cell. The old man barred his way. A bright aura flared around his grey hair.
Connal ducked around Rhydon's outstretched arm and dodged out of the cell. The door shut with a clang that echoed down the tunnel.
No time now for niceties. He grabbed the prince, shoved his way past the old Deryni before that man could marshal himself to resist their escape and dashed up the tunnel.