Cedric & Daffyd
was dark in the ruined abbey kitchen at St Neot’s, and the door would
not give, even when Cedric flung his entire weight against it. Mireille
lay screaming on the hearth in the grip of her nightmare and men in
black were pouring in the door -
He tensed his body for one last blow at the door, but hands were already restraining him -
“No!” Cedric cried eyes tightly shut as hands pressed him onto his back. At any moment he’d feel the needles in the Deryni pricker and then the merasha-
“Easy, easy,” a calm voice assured him. “You’re quite safe. It was only a nightmare.”
Cedric opened his eyes in a dark little room. He was lying in a narrow bed - one with real sheets and blankets. And there was a pillow under his head. A strange man was leaning over him, and it was his hands that had pressed Cedric to lie back on the mattress. A sphere of bright yellow handfire floated near the stranger’s head.
“The Custodes can’t get you here,” the little man assured him. “Just lie back and relax. “
Cedric studied the man. Despite his lined face and the liberal threading of gray in his wiry reddish brown hair, he had a youthful aspect. Perhaps it was the very brightness of his dark eyes, or that his quick movements had none of the stiffness of age. In fact, he reminded Cedric vaguely of the old stories his mother used to tell him about wood elves who lived deep in the forests away from human eyes, or perhaps a bird or a squirrel. His hair fell loose almost to his shoulders. He wore a gray monk’s robe and a gray cloak over that, brooched at the right shoulder. The brooch was green enamel and bore the star-pierced open palm that was the badge of a Healer. He looked oddly familiar, but Cedric could not place where he might have seen the man before. At St. Neot’s possibly, and many years ago, although the man lacked the distinctive four strand Gabrilite braid.
“Yes, that’s right,” his companion answered his unspoken question with a smile that showed sound teeth. “I am a Healer, and for many years, I was a Gabrilite. My name is Dom Queron Kinevan.
“As for the braid, I had one as recently as two years ago, but it became necessary to cut it off, lest it betray me.” He fingered his hair and smiled. “Hasn’t yet grown out enough to start a new braid.”
“I remember now,” Cedric said. “I think I saw you at St. Neot’s when I was a student there.”
“Did a great deal of learning and a fair bit of teaching there in my day so it’s quite possible,” Dom Queron agreed. “And speaking of St. Neot’s I’d best feed you your supper while the broth is still hot.” His smile had faded a bit, and without it, his face looked far older and more careworn.
“I can manage,” Cedric protested trying to sit up in the bed, not looking forward to being spoon-fed even by another Healer.
“You’re welcome to try it, but your fever just broke this morning,” Dom Queron told him as he leaned to help Cedric sit up and propped him up with his pillow. “By the looks of you, I’d say you need every scrap of food that you can get. You and your wife are just sticks - there’s barely enough between the two of you to make one normal sized person.”
Cedric glanced down at his bare chest. He could every knob on his sternum, and his ribs looked like roofing beams. He rubbed his forehead, trying to think of his last clear memory. “Fever?”
“You were already in a high fever when you were rescued. You were delirious by the time Joram and the rest got you here” Dom Queron said gently, now producing a wooden bowl full of dark brown liquid. “Small wonder you don’t remember the journey. Although in a way it was good - we were able to find out a good bit about who and what you are without having to question you.”
Cedric sniffed appreciatively at the broth, which smelled delicious. He took the bowl from Dom Queron, but his hands were too shaky to both hold it and spoon up the liquid. He surrendered and allowed Dom Queron to feed him. The older Healer made a very efficient and thankfully unfussy business of it, and talked through it all with no trace of embarrassment.
“You’re not the most practical young man I’ve ever met, however good you may be at hiding and eluding capture,” Dom Queron said. “Whatever possessed you to go kneel in a ruined church for an hour and a half in the middle of a winter night of hard frost? It’s no wonder you were ill!”
“I don’t know. I can only tell you that it felt as if I’d been summoned. I know St. Neot’s is ruined, but all the same, I heard the Adsum Domine sung again.”
Dom Queron cocked his head to the side, the empty bowl now resting in his lap. “You heard it?”
“Yes,” Cedric set his chin stubbornly. “I know it sounds incredible, but -“
“I’m a priest,” Dom Queron interrupted him gently. “I’m more inclined to believe incredible things then some men you might meet, particularly when you were already at St. Neot’s. I don’t think my brethren will ever entirely desert that place.
“In any case, I don’t disbelieve you. You kept trying to sing parts of the Adsum while you were feverish.”
“Oh no!” Cedric groaned.
“I think once you’re well, that you’d best stick to healing rather than singing, young Cedric. I have heard better renditions of the Adsum Domine than yours,” Queron told him, although his black eyes twinkled. “Since the Adsum requires more voices than that of one feverish Healer, I have to say you gave it a gallant try, though.”
“One feverish, tone-deaf Healer,” Cedric said.
“That too,” Dom Queron agreed smiling.
Cedric glanced around the little stone room, as Spartan as a monk’s cell, containing just the bed, a small table that did duty as a washstand and the wooden stool that Dom Queron occupied. There were no windows, and the only other source of light was a candle in a wall sconce above and to the left of the bed. In that mild, benevolent light, the little room contrived to look cozy rather than severe. The mattress beneath Cedric was a straw tick, just as Geraint and Elspeth’s had been. But this time he knew he and Mireille wouldn’t have to leave the warmth -
“Miri!” Cedric gasped, throwing back the covers and beginning to swing his leg down to the floor.
“Easy, easy,” Queron protested, pushing him back. “For all that she was injured and you were not, Mistress Mireille’s in better health than you are, right now. Her arrow wound healed up very nicely and she’s sleeping in the next room. You can see one another in the morning. Father Joram would also like a word with you then, if you’re feeling well enough.”
Cedric lay down again without bothering to protest. “Where are we, and what is this place, Dom Queron?”
“This is an old Michaeline haven,” Dom Queron replied. “Father Joram and his father and the rest of their family hid King Cinhil and Queen Megan here during the year before Imre was ousted, along with most of the fighting brethren of the Michaeline Order. There are still some Michaelines here, although most have left Gwynedd for their own safety. Some of the Gabrilites from St. Neot’s are also here.”
“Is Dom Emrys here?"
“Dom Emrys bought his Order time so that as many could escape as possible,” Queron replied. “He died destroying the St. Neot’s Transfer Portal so that those who escaped couldn’t be traced.”
“By sniffers,” Cedric concluded. He swallowed hard suddenly remembering Dafydd.
“Is anything wrong?”
“I was thinking of Sir Andrew’s sniffer,” Cedric said.
“Dafydd ap Huw,” Queron nodded, his face very sad. “You talked to him in your fever.
“I am very sorry for his death. I had the privilege of teaching him once or twice at St. Neot’s. He had immense promise. Might have been another Rhys Thuryn.”
“Dom Queron, I hardly know what to think!” Cedric burst out. “You mustn’t think I’m ungrateful that my wife and I were rescued. And yet, because of all of you, my closest friend is dead.”
“I can’t tell you what to think,” Dom Queron replied. “Only that these are very dark times for our kind, Cedric. Especially on a day when we kill our own people, and a Healer at that, out of fear.”
Cedric closed his eyes, feeling worn out and shamefully close to tears, and suddenly wanting Dom Queron to go so that he need not keep talking.
“For now, I recommend sleep more than thinking or talking,” Queron said. “You did amazingly well to stay ahead of the Custodes for so many days in the wild, but it’s worn you out.”
He touched his fingertips firmly to Cedric’s forehead. “Go to sleep my friend and try not to worry about anything for tonight.”
Cedric sat in wooden tub late the next morning, scrubbing soft soap through and through his matted hair until he thought it might possibly be clean.
“If you keep scrubbing you’ll have no hair left,” Miri said. “Close your eyes, and I’ll rinse it.”
Cedric bent forward with his eyes closed as she dumped a bucket of hot water over his head. It took two more bucketsful of water to get all the soap out of his hair, although the sudsy, grayish-brown bath water didn’t grow any clearer with the additions. Finally Cedric stepped out of the bath and dried off. His clothes had been washed since the last time he’d put them on. It gave him a moment of intense pleasure to pull clean clothing onto his clean body.
“Come over here, and I’ll do something about your hair,” Mireille ordered, tapping the seat of a low stool. “You look like a sheep dog.”
Cedric grinned in resignation as he obeyed. Despite a long, sound sleep in a decent bed and a good breakfast, he still felt weak after his illness, and very tired.
“Ow!” Cedric protested as Mireille began combing the matts out of his damp hair pulling him backwards with every pass of the comb.
“Sorry” she said, still pulling the metal comb vigorously through his hair. “We haven’t much time.”
“Time for what?”
“Father MacRorie wants to talk to us,” Mireille said briskly. She laid the comb aside at last only to pick up a pair of shears. “Don’t move.”
Cedric watched with some regret as strands of his light brown hair began to fall to the stone floor around his feet, but now the cutting had begun, there was nothing to do but sit still until Mireille was done. Once his hair had been trimmed to a neat, collar length bob, she came around to look him in the face, still holding the shears and looking dissatisfied.
“It’s like moss hanging from tree branches,” she complained as she fingered his three-weeks growth of beard. “There’s just enough to make you look disreputable. There’s no time to give you a proper shave, but I can at least trim it.”
Cedric tilted his head back at her direction and watched her face as she snipped his beard close to his skin.
She wore a plain dark red gown that she’d told him she’d borrowed from someone named Lady Fiona who was evidently resident here. It hung on her, concealing every part of her body from collarbones to ankles. Still, it was a marked improvement on the overlarge, dirty, shabby men’s clothes that she’d been wearing for the last two years. The deep wine-red fabric gave her face some color, too. Her curly black hair had also grown long enough to brush her shoulders, and softened her stern expression as she concentrated on her barbering. Underneath it all, Cedric could sense her immense satisfaction and pleasure at wearing proper women’s clothes again. Impulsively, he wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her down into his lap.
“You fool, I almost took your ear off with these shears,” Mireille said when their kiss ended. “WARN me the next time you feel amorous!”
“I’d forgotten how pretty you are,” he told her honestly. “Will I do, now, Delilah?”
Mireille nodded, smiling. “You look very nearly respectable,” she told him. “I wish we could find you some better clothes, though. It’s not everyday one meets the son of a saint.”
Mireille sighed at Cedric’s mystified expression. “Pere Joram,” she supplied.
Cedric was no more enlightened.
“MacRorie,” Mireille said more emphatically. “Pere Joram MacRorie is the son of St. Camber! And Dom Queron is the founder of the Servants of Saint Camber.”
“What am I going to do with you?” Mireille sighed although she laughed a little as she said it. “Do you ever pay attention to anything spiritual?”
“I know Camber is a Deryni Saint, or he was before the Statutes of Ramos,” Cedric replied. “I just never paid much attention to the rest of his family.”
“You’ll be paying attention to one member of his family at least,” Dom Queron’s voice said from the door way behind them. “If you’re ready, I’ll take you to speak to Father Joram now.”
Mireille jumped up, smoothing her skirts to hide her embarrassment.
“We’re ready, Dom Queron.”
Cedric stood a bit more slowly, wishing he’d had more time to prepare for this interview. He walked a bit behind Mireille and Dom Queron, hearing but not really listening to their avid conversation about St. Camber and about Dom Queron’s order. Glad as he was not to be in Custodes hands, Cedric had to admit he felt uneasy. After living outdoors for so long, the Michaeline Haven seemed stuffy and dim. Even though the corridors were well lit with regularly placed torches and handfire lamps. The ceilings felt too low overhead and the main corridor here were just wide enough for three people to walk abreast, or to allow room to pass. Narrower, dimmer passageways branched off to either side at regular intervals. They passed several people on their way, all of whom Queron greeted and introduced, which also made Cedric uneasy. He had never liked large numbers of people, especially not now after months of only talking to Mireille. But he was now in the middle of an underground Deryni city. All those he met were courteous, and frankly curious. They all gave him and Mireille a thorough visual inspection, and one or two even brushed a light psychic probe against Cedric’s shields. He did not admit them, however. It was all too much too soon.
“Now then, “ Dom Queron stopped a few feet short of a door at the end of the main corridor. “This has been a most enjoyable conversation, Mistress FitzHamon. But it’s best that we continue it at another time, and not mention St. Camber to Father Joram.”
Mireille glanced aside in surprise, then nodded, understanding in her face. “He is modest about St. Camber, I expect.”
“That would be one way to put it,” Dom Queron, agreed uneasily. “The truth of the matter is, he was opposed to the canonization, and he’s still rather sensitive about the whole topic. It’s best to avoid bringing it up at all.”
“Excellent. Let’s not keep him waiting.” Queron strode forward and boldly knocked on the door.