Sword of a Saint
Chapter 2 - Part 2
The next morning Michael's
training began in earnest. First Hassan led him to a track laid with
hoops buried partway in the loose dirt, hurdles set at varying heights
and weighted ropes that swung wildly. He ran the course until the sun
climbed half way to its zenith, when he was handed a damp cloth to wipe
the sweat and grime from his face.
"Enough!" Hassan's teeth shone bright in his dusky face as he poured a cup of lemon water and handed it to Michael. "Come. It is time you learned something important."
Michael followed his cheerful trainer through the gardens. A small ring surrounded by date palms with smooth granite paving waited near the far wall. In the center of the ring, bound to a stake by a length of chain, stood a powerfully muscled slave. The slave fixed Michael with a look of purest hatred as Hassan led him into the ring. Michael's stomach knotted.
"I know you have killed a man." Hassan's tone of voice might have suited a discussion on the merits of growing grapes. "But that was with a blade. Now it is time you learn to kill with a far more powerful weapon, your mind."
"What?" Michael gaped at his trainer, feeling all the while like the worst fool. "You want me to kill him? Why?"
"That is not your business." Hassan folded his hands and faced the bound slave. "Open your mind and I will show you how it is done."
Michael resisted the touch of Hassan's mind. He did not trust his teacher, nor could he see a reason to kill a helpless man who was clearly no threat to him.
After a moment Hassan withdrew. His sigh seemed to echo in the small stone lined ring. "You do not choose wisely, boy. There are no options here. You will kill that man, or you will die with him."
"You cannot make me a murderer." Michael stiffened his spine and lifted his chin. "You don't have the power to make me do anything I don't want to do. Nobody could do that."
"No?" Hassan's smile softened just a bit. "What about Sir Hugh Sinclair? Did he not hold you captive? Do you not wish revenge on him?"
"How did you know that?"
Hassan's shoulders relaxed beneath his soft black silk tunic. "We Read you while you slept the first night, of course. Did you think we would not?"
He held up a hand to silence Michael's protest. "I know you want revenge on those who hurt your family, boy. And you can have it. We will teach you how to punish them, how to make them suffer as you suffer. Then we will teach you how to kill them quickly and slowly, with mercy and with great pain. As to this one," Hassan continued before Michael could draw breath to reply, "you cannot save him. He has committed the unforgivable, and he will die. If you do not kill him here he will be thrown alive to jackals."
"What did he do?" Michael held his breath, waiting for the answer.
Hassan's lips thinned. For a moment he looked as if he might be sick. "He forced himself on a girl too young to realize what he wanted of her."
Michael closed his eyes. Jhenna's image came, clear and quick, innocent and trusting him to protect her. He had not been able to save her life, but at least she had never suffered that.
"How do I kill him?"
Hassan nodded. "Open your mind to me. I will show you."
Then his teacher's voice was in his mind. **Find his heart. Feel it beating. Stretch out your hand. Crush it.**
The slave grunted. From somewhere far off Michael heard him cry out in agony. Then there was silence, save for the trickling of the fountain.
Hugh Sinclair felt a warm rush of satisfaction as he led the little Healer into the cathedral. How such a scrawny fellow had managed to sire a son with the fire and fight of the escaped Michael he would never guess. Probably the man's wife played him false at least once. No matter. The Healer's life was now counted in moments. Hugh smiled as he caught the attention of his new comrade over the bowed head of the condemned Healer. Rolf was proving to be something most unusual, a Deryni with a heart much like his own.
"Here we are, Cameron. Take a moment to make your peace with your Creator." Hugh waited until the skinny Healer had bowed his greasy head before shoving him roughly toward the labyrinth. "It shouldn't take that long to pray. Or mayhap your kind spends so little time at it you have forgotten how itís done."
Donald Cameron lifted his head. A spark of life flashed in the back of his tired eyes. "My lord, since my family entered your house I have prayed ceaselessly for their salvation. Trust to that."
"Have you now?" Hugh laughed. The sound echoed through the empty chapel. "Well then, Cameron, your prayers are answered. Your wife and daughter are no longer my prisoners."
The Healer's shoulders slumped a shade more. "Then I take it they are dead?"
"Do you have so little faith in my word?" Disappointment at the little man's easy acceptance of cold facts darkened Hugh's mood. He had looked forward to breaking the news to the Healer and seeing the little man's suffering. No matter. There were other games to play. "You are right, you know," Hugh continued, watching the Healer's eyes. "Your wife found my attentions so vile she threw herself from her window nearly a year ago. Pity, really, for she could not be buried in consecrated ground. Suicide, you know."
Cameron stiffened at this new blow. Rolf chuckled and stepped closer to the Healer. Hugh wondered if his Deryni friend could somehow find agony in the wretched man that was denied to mere humans. If so, Hugh envied him the pleasure of watching it.
"Too bad, really." Rolf's voice, flavored with the dark tones of his Forcinn homeland, slid like a greased serpent through the still air. "I would have enjoyed meeting the lady, and your lovely daughter too. Children give life such meaning."
"You have not mentioned my son." Cameron's jaw quivered as he spoke. His eyes were bright with tears, but he did not blink as he faced Hugh. "What have you done with Michael?"
Hugh waited several heartbeats, savoring his victim's helplessness. At last, when he could stand the suspense no longer, he answered as casually he could. "To that I fear I have no answer. Perhaps you can best tell me. What would happen to a half-trained child who used a transfer portal without guidance?"
What little color remained in Cameron's face drained away as his eyes widened. "You cannot mean it! You would not do something so horrible."
"But I did not do it. The boy chose his fate for himself. And in the doing he showed me the location of one of your cursed bolt holes." Hugh pointed to the center of the labyrinth. "Close it. Forever. It's why I brought you here."
Cameron shook his head slowly, as if coming out of a dream. "If I do that, My Lord, my son would never be able to return. Michael knows of no other portals."
"Fool! Your brat is dead anyway. You know it yourself." When Cameron still resisted, Hugh waved a careless hand to Rolf. "Help him, will you?"
Rolf nodded with a gleeful smile. He raised his hand before Cameron's eyes. The Healer resisted, but a flash of crimson light told Hugh the battle was a brief one.
The Healer's eyes glazed and slid briefly out of focus. He walked through the labyrinth, his arms hanging limp by his sides, until he reached the center. Then he moved slowly, marking a circle from left to right, stopping now and again to motion in the air. Tracings of green flame followed his hands. At last Cameron stood in the center of the labyrinth, surrounded by living copper green flame. The fire flared about him. Rolf stepped back, releasing his victim as the power contained within the fire enveloped the transfer portal. Cameron's screams lasted only a score of heartbeats, but each one hit a new level of agony Hugh had not enjoyed before.
When at last the magic dissipated Rolf moved to check Cameron's smoking corpse, he stood after a moment and gave Hugh a respectful bow. "It is done, Sire. What shall we do with his body?"
"Toss him on the dead cart. Why should I be bothered with him now?" Hugh waited until his men had removed Donald Cameron's corpse before he clasped Rolf's hand. "Keep those talents close about you, my friend. My uncles have plans for us, as soon as the old king is dead. I mean to travel high with them, and so long as you are useful to me you will travel high as well."