Cedric & Daffyd
sat his horse above a creek bank in the woods the following afternoon.
Everything was damp, chill and miserable in the dripping late afternoon
woods for it had only cleared up half an hour ago after a day of hard
rain. Dafydd pulled his soaked cloak around his shoulders for the scant
warmth it gave. He cast his weather eye at Sir Andrew who stood over by
the creek bank to his right arguing with the Master of Hounds, both of
them out of temper.
"We are doing the Lord’s work in tracing this Deryni fiend, Master Neville", Sir Andrew said. "Surely that’s worth wet feet, and some fatigue."
Dafydd swiftly reached out and touched Master Neville’s mind to keep the two arguing.
"Then why can’t we go back now an’ do the Lord’s work tomorrow morning? If this fiend as ye call him has been at large for two years, what’s the difference if he stays free for one more night? We’ve been hunting ‘im all day with hardly a rest or a bite to eat."
"For the love of Heaven! I’m not out here for my pleasure you fool! I’m out here because it’s my duty to find this man and the weather be damned. The sooner we find him, the sooner we can all go home.
"Now get yourself and these wretched dogs across this creek while we still have some daylight, and no more nonsense!"
Master Neville looked angry, but jumped reluctantly down to the lower level of the creek bank, pulling on the dogs’ leads and shouting at them to follow him.
In the shadow of his hood, Dafydd smiled very slightly in satisfaction at the hounds’ braced legs and drooping heads, and Master Neville’s red, frustrated face.
**Good dogs, Dafydd thought. **No, you poor tired animals, of course you don’t want to get wet tracking down a man who’s never done you any harm.**
"What’s the matter with them?" Sir Andrew demanded. "Come on, come on, we haven’t all day, Master Neville."
"They haven’t got *your* passion for the Lord’s work," Master Neville grunted, hauling on the leads of the unhappy hounds.
"I’ll put some passion into them!" Sir Andrew strode over to the dogs and began laying about him with his riding crop. The dogs evidently considered a wetting better than a whipping, for they jumped down off the creek bank and began splashing across the creek.
"Here now, Aelf’s found a trail, Sir Andrew!" Master Neville called over his shoulder. "Going upstream!"
"Follow it!" Sir Andrew urged. "You, do you sense anything?"
Dafydd started, realizing Sir Andrew was addressing him. "What, my lord?"
"Do-you-sense-anything?" Sir Andrew asked in a loud, slow voice. "Is there anyone around here?"
"*We* are here, sir."
"You blasted simpleton! I *meant* do you sense FitzHamon?"
Dafydd closed his eyes for a moment and cast his mind out. To his relief, he could only detect their party of Custodes.
"Get down off your horse and go investigate with Neville. And don’t try escaping, or I’ll have him set his hounds on you."
Dafydd obeyed. He could hardly be wetter or colder than he was already. If Cedric was up ahead, he was the best person to both warn him and to distract the chase. He stumbled and almost fell as he dropped down to the creek bank, his worn shoes giving him poor purchase on the slick stones underfoot.
Master Neville was swearing under his breath about ten feet ahead, struggling to control his dogs on the narrow muddy track just at the water’s edge. Dafydd was not tall, but with the low-hanging tree branches over the creek, even he was obliged to bend down to pass beneath them. He bumped his head at one point, and reached to swat the limb out of his way, and stood very still instead. Right at eye level, he saw three long, light-brown hairs caught on a rough patch of bark. A tall man ducking beneath that branch could easily have caught some hair in the slight jaggedness there. Dafydd tugged the hairs free of the branch, knowing whose they were as soon as he’d touched them.
**Cedric…**. he thought, and could not continue for a second, afraid of what he’d find just ahead. The hounds must have caught his scent - Dafydd’s foolish attempt to save his friend would come to naught very soon unless Dafydd kept his wits close about him.
He squeezed his way around a large boulder and discovered Master Neville and the hounds just on the other side of it where the creek bank broadened to a pebbly little beach. They were looking up at a pale gray cliff face, and at the small dark opening about half way up. The dogs were whining with eagerness, some with the forepaws resting on the big boulder.
"There’s a cave up there," Master Neville told him bluntly. And the trail ends right here at the foot of this boulder. I think we’ve got him."
"Have you looked to see if anyone’s there?"
"I’m not climbin’ boulders at this time of day after being run off my feet by that damned Sir Andrew of your’n," Master Neville told him. "If ye want him, look yerself."
"Down there!" Sir Andrew called from over their heads. They looked up to seeing him standing at the top of the cliff. "What have you found?"
"There’s a cave here, sir, an’ the trail ends right at the foot of the boulder," Master Neville called up. "I think we’ve found something."
"We’ll be there in a moment. Keep a close watch on that cave!" Sir Andrew called back.
His heart sinking, Dafydd looked up at the cave mouth. He leaned against the boulder and centered himself, then probed the cave with his mind.
**Cedric…?** Concentrating hard, Dafydd waited and listened for some psychic reply however faint. None came.
"Get out of the way, we’re coming through," Sir Andrew shoved Dafydd aside so hard, he staggered backward and sprawled onto his back in the stream. The knights following Sir Andrew laughed at Dafydd’s coughing and spluttering.
"Adam, Emmett, climb up there. See if there’s anyone at home." Sir Andrew was smiling up at the opening in a slow, cruel way that made Dafydd want to smash a rock against his skull. He clambered out of the creek, his cloak streaming cold water, his teeth chattering beyond his ability to control.
**Here’s where I catch another case of _la grippe_,** Dafydd thought. It seemed a trifling concern, as he waited and listened.
"It’s empty, Sir Andrew," Emmett finally called down.
"Damn!" Sir Andrew struck the boulder with his fist and stalked a few feet away, his shoulders hunched in his frustration.
At the same moment, Dafydd collapsed to his knees on the creek bank, feeble with relief. He wouldn’t have to face his betrayed friend today, at least.
"I certainly hope *you* had nothing to with this failure, Deryni," Sir Andrew said softly.
Dafydd looked up. Sir Andrew now stood over him, glaring down with his pale green eyes looking like poisoned ice.
"I-I my lord?"
"You," Sir Andrew replied. "After two years, I trust you in certain small things, but I know full well that your obedience is based on fear, not loyalty."
He grabbed a fistful of Dafydd’s thin dark hair and yanked his head back, putting his own face within inches of Dafydd’s.
"I will warn you only once, Dafydd. Don’t try to help FitzHamon. I have promised my superiors that I will capture him, and that I won’t return to Valoret until I have him. And you’re going to help me, or court your own death and that of your wife."
Released, Dafydd collapsed to all fours on the bank hardly feeling the stones under his knees and palms.
**God, could I have been so obvious that Sir Andrew has seen through me?** He shivered, and not just from the cold water this time. Underestimating his jailer at this late date would be nothing less than fatal. He gazed bitterly at the black clad men around him as he climbed to his feet, wringing the water from his cloak. He would never know true liberty again, and knew it. But there was a certain bitter freedom about being a condemned man. He could not betray Cedric to lead this same life of dreadful captivity and the forced treachery of being a Deryni sniffer, not yet, at least.
**But Sian…**, Dafydd thought for a moment, then hardened. Whatever the danger, his wife would not insist that he betray his old friend for her sake. He was almost sure of it.