Cedric & Daffyd
was quite late at night when the Earl and Sir Andrew finally sent for
him. Dafydd yawned and stumbled as his guards escorted him down to the
Great Hall. The only people present were the Earl and Sir Andrew, and
two guards with a ragged beggar held prisoner between them, wearing
chains at wrists and ankles.
"Is that man FitzHamon?" Murdoch demanded by way of greeting.
Dafydd saw at once that it was not, but gave the beggar a long, careful scrutiny for the benefit of their mutual captors. The prisoner bore some minute resemblance to Cedric in terms of height and coloring but was far too old. His clothes were so ragged he almost wasnít wearing them. The remains of his ancient shoes had been reinforced with filthy strips of rag wrapped around his feet.
"Iím not sure, my Lord," Dafydd said slowly. "Thereís a close resemblance, but itís been years since I saw FitzHamon. May I take a closer look?"
"Yes, yes, just get on with it!" Murdoch snapped, waving at the prisoner.
The beggar, who had been staring at Murdoch as if the Earl were some awful apparition, now transferred his terrified gaze to Dafydd.
"P-please your lordship, Iíve done nothing I swear it!" The beggar was on the verge of tears. He tried to fend off Dafyddís outstretched hands, but the manacles severely limited his movement.
**Just be calm,** Dafydd sent into the manís mind, imposing control at once but as gently as he could. **I wonít hurt you, and Iíll try to get you out of here.** The man was a human of a most unsophisticated background and he relaxed slowly as Dafydd forced his calm upon him.
Dafydd then swiftly read the manís memories of his capture by Murdochís two guardsmen, and his terror at being marched off to the castle and the Earl. Common folk summoned to the castle in this way werenít usually seen alive again. The beggar was still whimpering softly as Dafydd withdrew from his mind.
"This is the wrong man, my Lord," Dafydd said at last turning back to Murdoch and Sir Andrew.
"Fools!" Murdoch glowered at the two guardsmen. Sir Andrewís bored expression changed to annoyance.
"The resemblance is extraordinary," Dafydd lied. "I had to read him to be sure, but heís not even Deryni, let alone a Healer. Let him go."
"Itís not for you to release my prisoners, Deryni!" Murdoch said. "I have no reason to trust your word, and I want him tested with Merasha. Do it now, Brother Marcus."
A Custodes monk stepped out of the shadows behind Murdochís chair, his Deryni pricker already dipped in a little jar of golden fluid. Dafydd instinctively stepped out of easy reach and folded his arms across his chest. Needles dipped in Merasha were as threatening a sight to him as they were to the beggar although he was more successful at hiding his outward fear. The guards had to grab the beggarís arms and hold him still so that Brother Marcus could do his job.
At once, the man yawned and his eyes drooped in the normal response humans showed to Merasha.
"No sign of disorientation or any of the usual symptoms Deryni show, míLord," the monk said. "Heís human for certain."
Murdoch looked disappointed. "All right give him a whipping, then turn him loose."
"Why a whipping?" Dafydd burst out. "For being the wrong man? Heís done nothing!"
"I am tired of your presumption, Deryni!" Murdoch growled. "Donít tell me how to run my own household unless you want a whipping yourself!"
Dafydd dropped to his knees and bowed his head to the floor, watching from this odd angle as the old beggar was dragged away between his guards.
"I beg your pardon, my Lord," Dafydd whispered. "I have no right to criticize you."
**But every reason,** he added silently, hating himself for this craven display of apology.
"No right at all and I suggest you remember that," Murdoch said. "Iím half temptedÖ."
"Kindly donít give him a whipping," Sir Andrew said. "Not tonight anyway, however much he may deserve it. I need him to track down FitzHamon in the morning, and he canít work efficiently if heís in pain. Your fellow Regents very much want FitzHamon brought in, yes?"
"Yes," Murdoch muttered, although he sounded as sullen as a boy. "But when youíve found FitzHamon, I suggest you give this insolent fool a sharp lesson in manners."
"I shall indeed.
"Brother Marcus, youíre dismissed. But tell Abbot Vencel Iíll need the use of the abbey hounds tomorrow. I intend to track FitzHamon down by his scent. And you," Sir Andrew gave Dafydd a bruising jab in the side that made him gasp with pain. "Prepare to work harder tomorrow than youíve ever worked in your sorry life before."