Joram MacRorie looked curiously at his
friend and foster-brother, Rhys Thuryn, as they rode toward the
MacRorie home at Caerrorie for Michaelmas. The Healer was normally
introspective, but today seemed even quieter than usual. Perhaps he
was thinking of the passing of his old friend Daniel, or the news that
the woolen merchant had given him. Rhys had shared that information
with Joram when they met at Saint Liam's, and the implications had
stunned the young Michaeline priest as well. It was good they were
going home; his father would be able to help them sort out the
Daniel Draper's death was but one of the reasons that Rhys was quiet. Oh, he would miss him; old Dan had been one of his first patients as the Healer started his practice, and had referred many people to his care. Thanks to Dan, Rhys had a long list of clients for his Healer practice, both human and Deryni. And the information Dan had given him, seen in the old man's memories, was disturbing.
But what caused Rhys' silence on the trip to Caerrorie was not Daniel or his news. It was what, or rather who, waited at the journey's end.
Early evening, before the family meal, Rhys approached the door of Camber MacRorie's study. He was familiar with the room; as a child, it was the place where the Deryni lord had given him his first guidance into the magical heritage they shared. Later, he had received early lessons in letters and figures with Joram and Ballard, the latter since long dead of a plague that had also claimed Joram and Evaine's sister Jerusha. And not in this room, but in this house, was where Rhys had discovered as a child that he was one of the rare Deryni who possessed the Healing talents, and his life had changed. Tonight, if all went well, another change would begin.
Rhys could hear the distant kitchen sounds as he tapped on the door tenuously. Perhaps the Deryni lord was sleeping, or meditating, or studying. Maybe he should come back tomorrow morning, or wait until Christmas.
"Come in, Rhys," the call came from beyond the door. Of course, there was no hiding from Camber.
Rhys set his shoulders, brushed a lock of his ever-unruly red hair from his face, and opened the door. Camber MacRorie looked up calmly from his scrolls with clear grey eyes.
"Ah, good to see you, Rhys. I was just puzzling over a discrepancy Evaine discovered in the Pargan Howiccan scrolls we were studying this week. I must admit, I am having some difficulty resolving it, and could definitely use a break. Joram mentioned that you had something to discuss, but I thought you wanted to wait until after supper."
"Sir, I." Rhys started, then paused briefly. "May we have some privacy, please?"
The older man raised one eyebrow, looked at the young Healer curiously, then he nodded. With a small gesture, he raised the Wards that had been set in the room many years before. Though Camber had spent most of his time at the Valoret court in service to two Festillic kings, he had held private meetings at Caerrorie many times; it would not have been well for certain discussions to have gone beyond the study walls.
Rhys briefly bowed his head in thanks. Camber wordlessly indicated that the Healer should sit, but Rhys shook his head, declining the offer.
"Sir," he said, beginning to pace slightly, "I've appreciated all that you have done for me; taking me in after my parents died, educating me, sending me to the Healer's schola for training."
"I had no choice," Camber said, a slight grin crossing his lips at the Healer's discomfiture. "Your father, God rest his soul, was my friend; before they were taken in plague, he asked me to care for you. And when you were discovered to be a Healer, well, I could not let that gift lie fallow; we've too few Healers already. From what I've heard, the investment in you has brought great returns." He thought he knew what the Healer had come for, but waited.
Rhys took a deep breath, then knelt in front of Camber's chair. "Sir, my Healer's practice is going very well. I have a long list of clients, and many other Healers who have recommended me to their clients when they themselves are unavailable. Now that I feel well established in my work, it is time I consider my future. With your permission, I would like your daughter, Evaine, to be part of that future, if she will have me."
It was the news that Camber had expected. Still, it did not come easily. Camber felt his eyes fill slightly with tears -- blast it! Ah well, a father was supposed to get all gushy over his daughter's impending marriage. "Have you spoken with her yet?" he asked gruffly, trying to mask his true emotions.
"Not yet," Rhys admitted. "I thought it best to ask your permission to speak with her. May I?" His heart was in his eyes.
Camber smiled inwardly. He remembered a day many years ago, when he was in a similar position to the young Healer, speaking to a father about a beautiful young woman named Jocelyn. Both father and daughter had died many years ago, but the memory still remained.
"Well," Camber said, "it's not like she'll be marrying a stranger. In fact," the Deryni lord said with a twinkle in his eye, "one could almost say she'll be staying in the family."
"So I have your permission?" Rhys said eagerly.
"If you think you can persuade my head-strong daughter to accept your proposal, you have my permission ? and my blessing." Camber picked up the scroll. "I believe Evaine is visiting her mother's tomb, as she is wont to do at Michaelmas. I shall remain here studying should you or Evaine have something to tell me."