Cedric & Daffyd
didn't Joram just tell us to go water our horses with Custodes Holy
water** Jesse asked Ansel that night. **This place is simply stiff with
clergy and the Bishop's guardsmen.**
Ansel looked around Dhassa's dark cathedral, as uneasy as he'd felt in the little mountain inn with the Custodes party between the two of them and the door. But if he disliked crowds, the number of people here for Compline did give him and Jesse greater anonymity.
**Joram believes in challenges,** was all he replied to Jesse's observation. The two of them stayed carefully in the shadow of one of the massive pillars along the south aisle of the nave. For all that, others were pressing close in. Too close to suit Ansel and Jesse, and far too close for the taste of the prosperously dressed city Burgher and his wife who stood nearest to them. The wife kept a hand on the pouch at her belt, her other hand keeping a handkerchief pressed to her nose and mouth. Her bulgy brown eyes went narrow as she watched the two of them with outright suspicion.
Ansel wondered if she suspected that he and Jesse were Deryni. He squeezed a little farther away from her around to the back of the pillar so that at least no one was standing directly behind him. Best to keep a clear avenue of escape if he and Jesse had to make a run for it. But in moving, he caught a whiff of himself and realized what made the woman look askance at them both. Ansel almost grinned at his own fear. Both he and Jesse reeked of unwashed adolescent bodies in unwashed clothes worn over a week of hard travel on horseback with no chance to bathe or change. When Ansel reached up to push a lock of hair out of his eyes, he realized there were bits of straw in it. Jesse looked no more respectable than he did.
**We're here for Compline - that ought to count for some sort of respectability,** Jesse said. **If we were truly as disreputable as we look now, we'd be off drinking in some tavern.**
**Almost wish we were. Have you ever heard a duller bishop?**
Jesse kept his outward attention focused forward on the altar, where the new, human bishop of Dhassa, Archer of Arrand, was exhorting his flock against sin and Deryni, which appeared to be synonymous in his point of view.
**No. I'll bet old Niallan was better at keeping people awake while *he* was bishop of Dhassa.**
Ansel too kept his face pointed toward the altar, lest his restlessness attract unwanted attention, and even tried to listen. But he could not keep his mind fixed, or disregard the messenger for the message. After attending uncounted Masses at the Michaeline Haven celebrated by the best Deryni priests from both the Michaeline and Gabrilite disciplines, Ansel felt utterly earthbound by Archer of Arrand's mumbled Latin. At the height of a Mass celebrated by Joram or Dom Queron or almost any of the other Deryni priests he knew, Ansel had always felt himself lifted to a height where Heaven was only a little above and beyond his grasp, but close enough to strive for. This bishop made him feel heavy, ponderous and acutely conscious of the vast distance between Heaven and Earth.
**Sounds like a great purple bumble-bee to me,** Ansel said to Jesse mind to mind before he could stop himself.
Jesse covered his near-fatal snort of laughter by pretending to cough, but he glared sidelong at Ansel. **Don't you dare make me laugh here!**
Ansel fought hard and successfully against his own impulse to laugh, only managing it only by staring hard at the cathedral's stone floor. Both Deryni were conscious that this sudden hilarity had far more to do with their tension and the acknowledgement of their mutual danger in this place than it did with real amusement.
Since he was not deriving any spiritual benefit from the Office tonight, Ansel worked to calm himself by glancing up and to his right at the aisle and the nearest of the stained glass windows. Dark as it was outside, and with only lamplight to illuminate the window on the inside, it took some time for Ansel to realize it was St. Michael depicted in the stained glass.
**St. Michael, if you can hear me, we'll need your help tonight,** Ansel prayed. He felt no reassurance, and no sign of any otherworldly presence nearby, just himself and Jesse. He'd hoped the Archangel might hear the prayer of a Michaeline priest's nephew.
At last Compline was over and the bishop and his assisting clergy headed back toward the sacristy. Ansel and Jesse eased to their right into the blessed dimness of the south aisle. They peered ahead and saw that the cathedral was still disappointingly full of the bishop's guards. Furthermore, the choir to the east of the transept was still filled with choir monks, not a layman to be seen. Ansel doubted that they could just cross the transept without being stopped by one of the guards, which would be disastrous. Behind them, the rest of the congregation was filing out the western doors, pulling on their cloaks and hoods, plainly on their way home. They could not stay where they were, nor move toward the chapel housing the transfer portal without attracting attention and soon.
**This is splendid,** Ansel told Jesse mind to mind. **We know where the transfer portal *is*, but how do we get past _them_?**
**Mmm,** Jesse answered. **Did Niallan ever say whether that first chapel is dedicated to any particular saint?**
Ansel frowned in consideration. **I think it's St. Bearand, but - Jesse, where are you going?**
**We're going to brazen this out. Stick close by me and try not to look surprised at anything I say,** Jesse replied walking briskly up the South aisle.
**Are you insane?** Ansel asked as he hurried after. **We have to figure out a way to get to the chapel!**
**That's exactly what I'm doing,** Jesse replied. **If I think too hard about this, I'll never have the nerve to do it. We have to act before any of those guards ask us what we're doing here.**
"Pardon me sir, I'm looking for St. Bearand's chapel," Jesse said to the first guard they met, alerting the man to his presence by a touch on his arm.
"I promised my father I'd not leave Dhassa without a salute to his favorite saint, and the matter is of some urgency. Can you show me where it is?"
Already smoothly controlled from the moment of Jesse's first touch, the guard sergeant nodded and indicated the choir with a nod of his head.
"Aye, 'tis the first chapel east of the transept on this side," the guard replied obediently, although he didn't appear inclined to accompany them.
"I don't suppose you could show me?" Jesse persisted, his voice loud enough for those nearby to hear. "My poor father is in his last days, and he feels that an appeal to St. Bearand might ease his passage into Heaven."
He reached out to touch the guard again, and this time the man came with him willingly. Seeing Jesse's plan, Ansel followed directly on his heels, heart beating as if he'd just run a race.
Jesse could hardly be less tense as they left the sheltering dimness and started to cross the well-lit transept past several other pairs of the bishop's guards, but he kept up a smooth flow of talk for their companion's benefit. Ansel listened, both admiring and fearful at Jesse's daring, and tried to look as if he were unaware of the other guardsmen.
"He has lived an upright, blameless life, but no matter how often his Father confessor and I try to reassure him, he still insists that he has sinned gravely," Jesse continued. "And what else can a dutiful son do but fill his dying father's wish?"
"A worthy sentiment," their unwitting guest answered. "Whatever your father may have done in his life, he has taught his son well."
**He doesn't know how true *that* is,** Ansel told Jesse in grim amusement.
"You're too kind," Jesse said aloud, answering both the guard and Ansel. "Here ye are then, St. Bearand's Chapel," the guard announced, gesturing to a bronze gated chapel on their right.
"Thank you so much for showing us. I shan't be longer than a half hour or so, and we'll see ourselves out," Jesse said heartily, clasping the man's hand and no doubt setting some unspoken compulsions as he did so.
The guard nodded meekly and left them without argument. Ansel pushed open the chapel gate which squealed on its unoiled hinges. Both Deryni slipped inside, but left the gate ajar.
**Nice work,** Ansel said mind to mind. **Good Heavens, you're not really going to pray, are you? We have to find that Transfer Portal!**
**Of course not, but best that I *look* as if I am in case any of the guards decide to spy on us,** Jesse answered, genuflecting before the small altar covered with an altar cloth of Haldane Scarlet silk to honor Bearand's earthly family. **Start looking for it. The sooner we're gone from here the better.**
Heart still beating hard, Ansel began to quarter the polished stone floor by sliding his feet forward and from side to side at each step in search of the tingle of an active Transfer Portal at the same time as he quested for it with his mind.
**Where in the name of St. Bearand IS that portal?** Ansel asked desperately after he'd investigated nearly the entire chapel floor with his mind and the soles of his feet and found no sign of it. They'd already been in here well past the half hour Jesse had told the guards his prayers would take. If they didn't emerge soon, the guards would become suspicious - might even come looking to see what was keeping them.
**Could Niallan have told us the wrong chapel?** Jesse asked, still on his knees before the altar.
**Not Niallan. If anyone would know where a transfer portal was located in this cathedral complex, he would. So it must be here, but _where_?**
**I'll help,** Jesse said. **You've already looked all around the perimeter in the logical places, so it must be closer to the altar.**
Stiff and cramped from the half hour spent on his knees on the cold marble floor, Jesse started to his feet only to lose his balance, forcing him to thrust his arms out in front of him to catch his weight. Under the very tips of his fingers, he caught the ghostly hint of a tingle.
Ansel's muffled exclamation proclaimed his relief as he hurried over to Jesse's side.
**_That's_ a transfer portal? Niallan must have used a different one - doesn't feel as if this one's been active in years.**
**And it's unusual to find one out in the middle of the room like this. But it's this one or no portal at all.**
**Lets give it a jolt and see if it's energy signature becomes any clearer,** Ansel suggested
**We can't spare the energy or really the time,** Jesse objected. **I want to get out of here!**
**And *I* don't want to end up in the middle of the Anvil of the Lord because of a faulty portal!** Ansel said. **Just a quick blast of power may make all the difference - **
"You in there," a voice called. "That's enough praying. Come along, the Sacristan wishes to close the Cathedral for the night."
Jesse and Ansel whirled to find the guard captain and the standing at the chapel gate, watching them with no little suspicion, the sour- faced little cathedral sacristan right behind him.
**I hear the Anvil of the Lord is lovely in December,** Jesse told Ansel grimly.
He climbed to his feet and stepped onto the portal, hauling Ansel up with him in one smooth continuous movement
"Here, what are you doing?" the guard captain demanded, starting forward and beginning to draw his sword.
**Better there than here in any case. Time to get out of here whether this portal works or not!**
Both young men only paused long enough to fix on the *keeill* portal as their destination before St Bearand's chapel, and the horrified faces of the guard captain and the Sacristan winked out of sight, replaced three heartbeats later by the reassuring glow of Joram's handfire in the ante-chamber before the doors of the Camberian Council's *keeill*.