Cedric & Daffyd
ap Huw stood by the tall window overlooking the main marketplace of
Nyford. Sharpening his vision with his psychic Sight, he scanned the
buyers and sellers below, trying to locate the one man his jailers had
ordered him to find.
Nothing so far. Dafydd let his eyes glide further over to his right. There. Next to the thin farmerís boy by the wagonload of vegetables. Recognition fell on Dafydd like an ax. He couldnít see the manís face but he knew the square set of those broad shoulders very well. The long narrow back, too and the way the long legs made an A- line with the manís narrow hips. It was Cedric, and the first real sign Dafydd had had that his friend hadnít died in the massacre of 916. All the same, his prayers not to find Cedric here had all gone to waste.
Dafydd hesitated then reached out the lightest psychic tendril in his old friendís direction.
**Danger**, Dafydd thought, just barely brushing against Cedricís mental shields. Anything stronger, and Cedric might turn to look, which would be fatal.
Even with that faint contact, he saw Cedric freeze for a heartbeat.
**Donít turn, donít look** , Dafydd begged silently , his own shields now firmly in place. **Just go, quickly**.
Cedric did not investigate psychically to Dafyddís infinite relief. As he watched, Cedric paid the farmerís son, then slung the sack of vegetables over his shoulder and walked away. He paused for a moment next to another tent waiting for another person, and then the two of them walked off and disappeared around the corner of a booth.
Earl Murdoch of Carthaneís impatient voice jarred Dafydd back to normal awareness. He turned away from the window and gave the Earl a half-bow, avoiding eye contact.
"There was no response. I doubt he felt my probe, my lord."
"Did you see his face?" asked Dafyddís Custodes jailer, Sir Andrew McMahon.
"No sir. His back was to me at all times."
"Heís lying," Murdoch whined. "He must be. One of my captains *swears* he saw FitzHamon in this very marketplace last month."
"Thatís why weíre here my Lord Earl," Sir Andrew reminded Murdoch, his tone that of a man at the end of his patience.
Dafydd watched the Earl and Sir Andrew closely. For all they were in complete agreement that all remaining Deryni in Gwynedd should be hunted down and killed, it was plain to him that they disliked one another profoundly.
**Perhaps they can each recognize the vileness in each other even if they donít see it in themselves.** It was an abstract thought to Dafydd in the face of his own worries right now. He had to protect Cedric from them as best he could whatever the personal risk.
"Youíre absolutely sure it wasnít FitzHamon, Deryni?" Murdoch asked, making Dafydd jump.
"His Lordship has asked you a question. Donít just stand there gawping, answer him!"
Dafydd dropped to his knees and bent his forehead nearly to the floor. A display of humility was the surest way to avoid a blow, and Sir Andrew had a heavy swing to his boots and fists.
"Iím sure it *wasnít* FitzHamon, my lord. The man in the square looked like him from behind, but FitzHamon would have responded to my probe at once."
"I donít believe it," Murdoch muttered. He clapped his hands sharply. "Guards!"
At once two guards in the Earlís livery appeared in the doorway.
"What do you propose to do?" Sir Andrew asked. "Dafydd says the man down there isnít FitzHamon, and heís the one whoíd know."
"Heís Deryni, you canít be sure heís not trying to trick you," Murdoch said. "Iím sending my men down there and weíll find the truth."
Dafydd didnít straighten or even lift his head, but quickly reached out to touch Sir Andrewís mind, hoping with all his heart that Murdoch didnít have any secret Deryni sniffers hidden around his castle.
"Give over, my lord," Sir Andrew sighed. "Whatever your man may have seen last month, thatís no guarantee that FitzHamon is still here now. Your capital is hardly known as a Deryni refuge, is it? For that matter, we donít even know for certain the man is still alive. No accurate count was ever made after the massacre."
"I didnít know the Custodes had gone soft on Deryni, Sir Andrew," Murdoch sneered. "I want that man in the square brought in. If heís the wrong man, we can let him go after weíve questioned him and had him tested."
**Damn him and his thoroughness!** Dafydd thought, wondering how much further he dared tamper with Sir Andrewís mind.
A knock on the chamber door and the entrance of the Earlís Major Domo forestalled the need to prompt Andrew again.
"Lady Elaine sent me to say your supper is ready in the Great Hall, my Lord, " the Major Domo announced with a deep bow.
"The Devil with dinner!" Murdoch snapped. "Tell Her Ladyship Iím busy, and bring something up on a tray later."
Dafydd reached out and gave Andrew another quick mental nudge.
"My Lord, itís been a long day for us both. Why give a Deryni the satisfaction of missing your supper on his account?"
Dafydd listened motionless for Murdochís reply.
"Forgive me Sir Andrew, Iím a poor host, I suppose," Murdoch said at last. "We can continue after supper just as easily.
"You!" Murdoch crossed to Dafydd and gave him a sharp jab in the ribs with a booted toe. "Give my men a description of FitzHamon."
Dafydd rose and obeyed although he gave the two guards the most vague description of Cedric he could. Already the two men had little hope of finding the one man their lord was after in a busy market square. Dafydd enhanced this discouragement in their minds before he withdrew.
"Now what do we do with *him* while weíre at supper?" Murdoch asked, gesturing toward Dafydd after heíd dismissed the two guards.
"Oh, leave him here under guard," Sir Andrew replied. "He canít get out of the Castle keep. If you want any useful work from him tonight, youíd best have someone bring him something to eat."
"One of the servants can bring him some scraps after theyíve finished their meal," Murdoch said. He gave Dafydd a black look in parting. "Touch nothing thatís mine or youíll lose your hands, Deryni."
Dafydd bowed his acquiescence. Sir Andrew and Murdoch departed, and the key grated in the lock. Then mercifully and miraculously, Dafydd was alone. He went and stood by the fire, thin hands held out to the blaze, basking in the heat. To be warm and dry with the prospect of a meal ahead of him and none of his hated captors near was the most luxurious thing to happen to him in months. Since Sir Andrew virtually lived in the saddle, so did Dafydd. But where Sir Andrew had a warm fur-lined cloak of oiled leather to keep out the rain, snow and wind, Dafydd had only a skimpy length of black wool to protect him from the elements. He was never allowed quite enough to eat or an unbroken nightís sleep. The punishing routine had taken its toll on him during his two years of captivity. Heíd been seriously ill early in the spring, almost a fortnight in bed. Once the fever had broken and the danger of contagion was past, Sir Andrew had forced him right back into the saddle. Dafydd had not yet regained the weight heíd lost and he had to conserve his dwindled store of physical strength carefully. Even Sir Andrew had noticed his lethargy and ordered him to the infirmarium to be bled although this sovereign Custodes cure only weakened Dafydd further. If he hadnít had an iron constitution to begin with, Dafydd was sure heíd have died long ago.
**One day soon, Sir Andrew will order me to do something and I wonít be able to carry it out**, Dafydd thought. **Heíll use me to the very end of my strength and then find someone else. It may be the very reason theyíre hunting Cedric as they know I wonít be useful for very much longer**. Dafydd longed to sit in the Earlís big armchair, but feared heíd fall asleep as soon as heíd done so. And he had far too much thinking and planning to do to waste this precious solitude in sleep. Fighting off his bodyís desperate need for rest, Dafydd merely turned around to warm his backside as he thought of the problem before him. He was a doomed man and knew it, but if he couldnít help himself, he must still somehow find a way to help Cedric. Dafyddís present life was not one heíd wish even on the whining Earl of Carthane. Certainly he wouldnít wish it on his fellow Healer and close boyhood friend.
"Cedric you great fardling idiot, why didnít you leave Nyford when you could?" Dafydd muttered. "Instead, youíre practically buying your vegetables on Murdochís doorstep!" There was a kind of bizarre logic to Cedricís still being here, Dafydd supposed. Who would suspect a Deryni to hide himself in the very city where thousands of Deryni had been slaughtered with the unofficial support of the Earl of Carthane himself? Evidently no one had, for Cedric had managed to stay alive and free in and around Nyford. And his companion too, as Cedric had not been alone when heíd left the marketplace.
Dafydd had lost contact with his friend after their matriculation from St. Neots five years ago. Dafydd had returned to Llannedd initially at his fatherís behest, while Cedric had stayed in Gwynedd. Dafydd had heard rumors that Cedric had married the daughter of a prosperous Deryni merchant in Nyford just a few months before the massacre. It could be that Cedricís present companion was not his wife, but Dafydd would assume that he had two people to protect rather than only one. If it were Cedricís wife with him, the Regents would use her against Cedric in the same way they held Sian hostage against Dafyddís good behaviour.
Dafydd shied away from that thought as if heíd touched live coals. He and Sian had only been married a year before the Regents had taken them captive. After two years of enforced association, Dafydd knew Sir Andrew very well and the man was not stupid. If he suspected any misbehaviour on Dafyddís part, Sian would pay the price.
**I have three people to protect when I canít even help myself?** Dafydd wondered as he crossed the room to the same window from which heíd observed Cedric earlier on. The very thought of a man in his position being able to protect anyone else was laughable, but-
**There has to be a way!** Dafydd thought desperately. He closed his eyes and leaned his elbows on the wide stone sill. Then he rested his head in his hands as if touching his skull could somehow wring a plan from his tired brain. How to slow and sabotage this manhunt while still appearing to cooperate? He opened his eyes and lifted his head with a jerk, all but asleep on his feet for having closed his eyes for a moment. But Dafydd smiled in slow triumph. His own exhaustion and weakness would be the perfect cover for intentional inefficiency. It was still dangerous, and Dafydd must produce just enough progress to stave off Sir Andrewís suspicion. And he must at least go through the motions lest another Deryni sniffer be brought in who had no reason to spare Cedric. And one who for that matter might betray Dafydd himself for personal gain.
The study door opened just then, and Dafydd turned to see a pair of plump, work-worn hands drop a stale bread trencher of food on the floor just inside the room. The hands withdrew at once, and the door slammed shut with the guardís eagerness to lock Dafydd in once more.
** Iíll make it work - somehow,** Dafydd promised himself as he went to pick his supper up off the floor. He was used to danger by now and to living on borrowed time, but the next week or so would be more than usually tense. He might as well enjoy his food while he could.