Cedric & Daffyd
slumped on his stool, eyes closed again as the young Deryni man stepped
past him and went to join his fair-haired companion at the inn door. His
neck felt stiff with the effort it took him not to turn and look at them
again and he prayed they'd leave before Sir Andrew or any of the others
grew suspicious. They must have been carefully shielded or else he was
too exhausted to have noticed them in the crowded little room. He was
ill and knew it. His eyes burned, his throat was sore and he felt
light-headed from fatigue. The chills and fever were mild thus far, but
present. And they could only grow worse riding around in the mountain
rains at the onset of winter. No respite would be allowed him, and if he
was to protect Cedric, Dafydd dared not allow himself to collapse. Now
there were those two young men he must not betray, either.
**Not even to save Cedric and his companion?**
Dafydd swallowed hard at this unwelcome thought. Deliberately betray two more of his kind? He glanced around the table at his captors all eating the poorly cooked sausages and bread the innkeeper had brought. Sir Andrew took a sip of the wine then spat it out over his shoulder to the dismay of the person sitting behind him. He tossed the dregs of his cup into the fire looking disgusted, then ate the bread and meat before him. He didn't appear to like them any better than he'd liked the wine.
Dafydd turned his attention to the single burned sausage and stale heel of bread set down at his own place. He forced himself to eat at least half the food although his stomach didn't appreciate the contribution at all. His wits were dull enough without deliberately making himself weaker through hunger. He was too occupied with his new dilemma to pay much attention to the bad food in any case.
**They are nothing to me,** Dafydd thought of the two young men just gone. **They have money, food, and horses while Cedric has nothing. Even if I were to tell Sir Andrew about them, they'd be better equipped to escape the Custodes. If Sir Andrew is distracted with hunting them down, it might give Cedric just the chance he needs to get away.**
Dafydd kept his eyes on his plate, amazed and miserable at his own cool ability to justify betraying more Deryni to the Custodes whether he knew them or not. Those young men might escape the Custodes, Dafydd allowed. But once he'd told Sir Andrew about them, their eventual capture was far more likely. The Custodes Knight had a terrible, relentless patience when it came to hunting down fugitive Deryni. Regrettably, he was also very experienced and skilled at it by now. And he'd get dogged assistance from Sir Wynton who had everything to prove to his superior after his blunder in the village the day before. Once the young men were prisoners, Sir Andrew would simply resume his hunt for Cedric and his companion.
**That young man had a good face and kind eyes,** Dafydd thought, toying with the crust of his bread. **Whatever I do, I will condemn one pair or the other to capture and possibly death at the hands of the Custodes.
**But if I say nothing, Sir Andrew will just go on hunting Cedric. When the Custodes find him, he'll *know* who's betrayed him.**
On foot with no refuge and being pursued by men on horseback, Dafydd doubted that Cedric would remain at liberty longer than another day or two at most. But those two young men would be barely out of the inn yard and away. If Dafydd were to speak up now, the chase would be on at once and no one would benefit but Sir Andrew. Yet if Dafydd kept silent, the trail would be cold, and he himself would come in for one of Sir Andrew's more painful beatings for having withheld the information. After that, he'd be no use or protection to anyone for at least a week while he recuperated.
Dafydd sighed heavily. After the last two years awful choices were nothing new to him.
"What's the matter?"
Dafydd looked up to meet Sir Andrew's speculative look. The Custodes knight watched him through half-closed eyes, and Dafydd had to swallow hard. He was already under suspicion after yesterday's events. He must decide now if he were to distract Sir Andrew with the possibility of additional prey.
"Nothing, my Lord," Dafydd murmured, looking fixedly back down at his plate.
"If you were to tell me where I might FitzHamon and this companion of his, we could all stop tramping about in this mud and rain, and be comfortable back at Ramos, you know," Sir Andrew told him. "I feel the cold and wet too, Dafydd. But I'm not going back to my superiors empty-handed.
"Come, now, cooperate with me in this, and I might even arrange to let you see that little wife of yours as a reward."
"I don't know where they are, sir," Dafydd whispered. He kept his eyes on his plate, knowing from the sound of Sir Andrew's voice that he was smiling in the coaxing way he could employ when he chose. Dafydd didn't trust that smile; it had never boded any good for him. As for seeing Sian, contact between the sniffers and their families was generally forbidden, and if pressed, Sir Andrew would deny ever making the offer.
"Perhaps we should go back to the village and search again in case someone there has been sheltering them," was all Dafydd said aloud.
"And FitzHamon told you nothing yesterday?"
"How could he have told me when we never saw each other?" Dafydd asked. "My Lord, you saw for yourself. I never stirred from the smithy shed, and FitzHamon never knew I was there. Even if he had, he'd never have spoken to me after seeing me in your company."
"I'm not naÔve, Dafydd," Sir Andrew answered coldly. The smile and the coaxing voice were gone, now. "I know quite well that Deryni don't have to see one another to be able to communicate. For all I know, you could have been in contact with him for the last week while deliberately misleading me."
"Sir, I swear I haven't," Dafydd whispered. "Do you think he would have returned to his village yesterday if he suspected you were there? "
Sir Andrew had no answer for that, but he continued to frown and watch Dafydd. The rest of the Custodes party looked on with varying degrees of suspicion. Dafydd forced himself to meet Sir Andrew's eyes steadily while feeling that he must soon explode from the tension. The tableau was broken as the landlord stepped over to Sir Andrew's side, and tapped his shoulder. Sir Andrew jumped at the touch and scowled at the short man, and Dafydd bowed his head in relief. But he kept watching Sir Andrew and the landlord. The inn was too noisy for him to hear what the man said, but the he talked with his hands as well. Dafydd saw him point to a small table in a dark corner of the tiny common room, and then toward the curtained exit with many emphatic flourishes in between. Sir Andrew's annoyance faded, turning swiftly to the predatory look of a hound that has scented a deer.
Dafydd swallowed, ignoring the rawness at the back of his throat and stifled a cough. The landlord must have betrayed those two young Deryni to Sir Andrew. He ought to be dismayed, Dafydd knew. The men were as good as doomed, and they would assume he had been the traitor. All he could feel was a dull gratitude that a torturous decision had been taken out of his hands. And now with the chance of bringing four prisoners back to Ramos rather than just two, and cover himself with glory, Sir Andrew's distraction might just give Cedric that impossible chance to escape altogether.