Cedric & Daffyd
and why did a storm blow up just then?!" Sir Andrew raged as he
paced back and forth in agitation in the central Hall of his father’s
manor house late that same afternoon.
"It is December, Andrew," Sir James McMahon pointed out
calmly. "I’ve lived in the Lendours for almost fifty years, and snowstorms are hardly unusual at this time of year."
Huddled on a stool in a dim corner farthest from the blazing fire, Dafydd nodded in approval at Sir James’ statement, but nonetheless listened tensely for Sir Andrew’s reply.
"There had been light snow all morning, but we could manage that. But we’d just found a clear path left by those two Deryni when the storm blew up all of a sudden," Sir Andrew said. "Are you prepared to tell me that was pure coincidence?"
Dafydd silently prompted Sir James although it was a strain from his corner, tired as he was.
"Mountain storms can blow up exactly that suddenly, Andrew and you know it," Sir James said calmly. "What else do you think it might have been if it wasn’t simple bad luck?"
"I think it was *him*," Sir Andrew indicated Dafydd in the corner with a short jerk of his head. "I’ve been after FitzHamon for two weeks, Father, and absolutely nothing has gone right! Dafydd’s been using his powers to balk me; I know it."
Dafydd reached deep into his resources of strength and touched Sir James’ mind with yet another brief prompt. More than that he couldn’t do with Sir Andrew glowering at him from only a few feet away.
But it was enough. Sir James laughed quietly as he too watched Dafydd.
"Him? Frankly Andrew, it seems to me as if your sniffer has seen far better days. He’d be lucky to make it rain for two minutes, let alone snow hard for four hours."
**Thank you**, Dafydd thought wryly, feeling as if he’d been compared to a shabby old cloak that no self-respecting person could decently wear in public anymore. He was thankful though that Sir James had been receptive to his prompting. Sir James could point out the obvious to his son where Dafydd could not. Sir Andrew was no longer glaring at Dafydd but at his father when Dafydd dared a quick glance up.
"And what would *you* know about Deryni magic Father?" Sir Andrew snorted. "He’s a devious bastard. When I catch FitzHamon, I hope to find him a more efficient sniffer than this miserable pile of Llanneddi excrescence!"
"I know nothing about Deryni or magic and I hope to keep it that way," Sir James said but in a cool voice, without anger. "All the same, I think it highly unlikely that he has the physical strength to do what you think he did. Your imagination has always had a tendency to run away with you, Andrew. At times, it borders on paranoia."
Dafydd blinked for Sir James had said that with no prompting from him. Not that he was under any illusions about Sir James McMahon. He had no more compassion towards Deryni than did Sir Andrew. He viewed Dafydd rather as he might have viewed a garden slug. Disgusting, but otherwise beneath his personal notice. At least, he did not physically abuse Dafydd. Indeed, Sir James never even deigned to touch him.
"There was something unnatural about that storm and I know it!" Sir Andrew snapped. Dafydd is stronger than you think, Father. This is his doing. He’s protecting FitzHamon"
"You weren’t hunting FitzHamon this morning, though, were you? Why should he protect those two other Deryni when he doesn’t even know them?"
"He deliberately let them escape the inn yesterday!" Sir Andrew spat. "The devil’s brood always goes out to protect their own!"
Sir James shrugged and threw up his hands. "Oh very well, have it your own way, Andrew! But consider this. You were lucky to reach me in the storm today, so those two Deryni you’re hunting probably won’t get very far or fast either. In the meantime, you and your men will have shelter for the night, and a decent hot meal. You can resume your hunt tomorrow."
"I will go after FitzHamon again tomorrow, I think," Sir Andrew said. "He’s the one I was ordered to find. Time enough to track down the other two later."
The two men moved away closer to the fireplace at the far end of the hall where the other Custodes Knights were all drinking the mulled wine Sir James’ steward had provided. Dafydd slumped against the wall and closed his eyes his strength momentarily spent. He had no strength left to keep prompting Sir James, so he was quite content to let the two of them continue their argument out of his earshot.
**You still have to catch Cedric, you bastard**, Dafydd thought and smiled. His smile immediately turned into a wince and Dafydd touched near frozen fingers to his bruised, swollen jaw. It was not broken, but was very tender to the touch. That bruise and the several others distributed over his upper body were the result of Sir Andrew’s beating for having let those two young Deryni men escape from the inn yesterday.
But Dafydd’s resolve was unchanged. He could not betray anyone, old friend or stranger to the life he was forced to live now. Particularly not Cedric, and not just for the sake of their old friendship. No man could be more disposed by nature to hate imprisonment and to resent enforced servitude than Cedric FitzHamon. He would literally rather die a free man than live as Dafydd did now.
**If it can be called living at all.** Dafydd almost regretted being in the warm hall – he didn’t hurt as much when he was half- frozen. Now it hurt him to sit or stand or make any kind of movement. Not that he wanted to move now or for several more days. He might be light-headed, but his body was like lead from his physical exhaustion. His head ached, his throat was sore and his eyes burned. It felt to Dafydd as if his heart must be pumping ice water through his veins. He was dull-witted, stupid from lack of sleep and food. And he had the despairing feeling that he was merely delaying Cedric’s inevitable capture, not preventing it at all.
He forced himself to open his eyes and tried to straighten though it made him dizzy. The fireplace at the far end of the hall looked like a vividly detailed and well-lit mosaic as seen through a fogbank. Then everything in his vision faded and blackness swooped down on his mind.
The thump of Dafydd’s body hitting the floor roused Sir Andrew. He turned from the fire to see his sniffer sprawled unconscious, face down on the rush-covered floor.
"God not again," he sighed. "He collapses at the most inconvenient times." He strode over to where Dafydd lay and gave him a sharp jab in the ribs.
Dafydd opened his eyes slowly to see Sir Andrew’s polished boot toes inches from his face. Continuing to lie still in this situation was bound to be dangerous. He closed his eyes again and tried to marshall enough strength to stand up.
"I said UP!" Sir Andrew shouted. And kicked Dafydd again.
Dafydd tried to curl into a ball to protect his ribs and stomach from any more kicks, but could barely move his legs.
"Ah, you’re useless!" Andrew growled.
"He’ll continue to be useless tomorrow unless you let him rest for tonight," Sir James said. "He may be balking you as you say, but he won’t even be able to do that tomorrow unless he gets some sleep now."
"Oh all right!" Andrew snapped. "Do you have a room where we can lock him up, Father?"
"Down in the cellar," Sir James answered. "I’ll call the servants."
Dafydd groaned as he was hauled to his feet by two of Sir James’ servants, and walked out of the hall between them, his arms draped over their shoulders. The steps down to the cellar felt endless, and at their end, his resting place was only a thin straw pallet on a floor of beaten earth with a single, very old blanket to pull over him. Dafydd stumbled to his knees as he was released just inside the storeroom, and crawled over to the pallet. Shivering and shivering, he lay down on it and wrapped the blanket around himself as the storeroom door banged shut, and the bolt went home with the clink of heavy iron.
Upstairs in his father’s study, Sir Andrew signed his note then folded and sealed it with a blob of dark blue sealing wax. He crossed to the door and flung it open.
"You will take this important message to our Abbey in Dhassa and give it to the Abbot personally," Sir Andrew instructed as he gave the younger knight his message. He’ll know how to reach my superiors in Valoret."
"Now?" Merdan was unable to keep the dismay from his face or voice.
"No, next week," Andrew rolled his eyes. "Of course *now*, you dunderhead! "My father will lend you one of his own horses. You will spend the night in Dhassa and then return here in the morning. The ride should take you about four hours. That will put you in Dhassa by Compline if you leave immediately."
"So what was the message, Andrew?" Sir James asked when Merdan had departed.
"Dafydd needs to be reminded of what he stands to lose by disobeying or thwarting me," Andrew replied. "I’ve just sent for the one person who can most effectively remind him of his duty. My superiors will back up my plan I’m sure. Even if they don’t, the threat alone will most likely be enough for my purposes."