Chapter 3 - Part 8 of Sword of a Saint by Katy Colby
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Sword of a Saint



Chapter 3 - Part 8


"Very well." Hugh vented his annoyance by shoving the still bound wench to his squire. "I'll be along in a minute. See that she's ready for me."

"I would not make plans for tonight." A black cloaked man wearing the Episcopal badge of the Archbishop of Valoret shoved his way through the crowd. "His Eminence has ordered you immediately to Caerrorie."

Hugh took a tightly rolled scroll from the messenger and broke the seal impatiently. He spat a foul curse as he read the missive, for it left no room for interpretation. "Damn and blast! Another day and we'd have had a chance to get dry. Why send us to question peasants?"

The messenger's eyes narrowed to disapproving slits. "Why do you imagine? No doubt he feels the commoners have valuable information regarding the recent attacks. You have heard of the latest, have you not?"

"Rumors, but nothing solid. And who can believe what ignorant peasants say?"

"His Excellency believes enough in the damage such rumors can do. He commands you to leave immediately, my lord. And that means now." The messenger glared at Hugh as if he were a poisonous toad. "I am here to see that you do so."

"Alright. Alright." Hugh tucked the Archbishop's command into his belt. Now he would be robbed of a most stimulating wench not only for the evening but for all time. There was no way to delay her execution now. In fact, he would have to dispose of both captives immediately.

"My men will remain here and finish what needs done before catching up with us tomorrow. Rolf!" He turned to the dark Deryni who looked, somehow, amused by his master's plight. "You come with me. If I freeze in this storm so do you."

Rolf bowed to his master with a grin that showed he found the entire situation amusing. "No doubt there will be compensation at the end of our journey."

"True. True. I will trust in God's good mercy to that." Hugh whirled on one of the Equis Custodes who stood just behind him. "You are in command until you find us on the road. Burn these two at first light and make best speed to reach us."

The knight bowed in recognition of his responsibility. He immediately began issuing orders that had the entire group groaning. Finding enough dry wood to make pyres for two adults would take most of the night.

Hugh cast one glance at his tent as he mounted his tired horse. Too bad really, that red haired wench was the best he'd had in more than a year.

From the shelter of the trees, the Archangel Uriel watched the Equis Custodes camp prepare for two unscheduled executions. This opportunity was simply too good to pass up. Oh, certainly the Master smiled on him this night for how else could such a convenient coincidence happen?

Uriel knew with a single look there was life left in the young nun. Beauty, too, if she were cleaned up a bit. As it was she had an appealing waifish look that would draw someone like Michael Cameron at a run.

More important, the pretty Sister had just the right combination of gentleness and strength to reach the battered remnants of Michael Cameron's heart and draw the shattered shards into healing sunlight. Uriel grinned so broadly the corners of his lips ached. He could save a strong and valiant man and at the same time tweak his friend's nose a bit.

Uriel made sure nothing would happen before morning. Then he left the Custodes to their odious task and went to find Michael Cameron. He had to be certain the rescue party did not pass up their chance to become heroes.

Near the other side of the wood, Uriel's frequent companion the Archangel Michael breathed a sigh of relief. Two Michaeline knights and a grumpy looking Gregory of Ebor reined in their horses. All three men looked as discouraged as their squires and exhausted horses.

Gregory swore at the darkening sky. "If that rotted little Healer had kept himself put where he belonged we'd not be out in this muck! I'm going to ring his fool neck myself as soon as we find the little scutt."

"Pray God you get the chance." One of the knights shifted in his saddle. "We've heard enough tales of Custodes in the area to put me on edge."

"And if looking for that Gabrielite gets us all snatched I'll knock him senseless." Gregory shook a shower of freezing droplets off the fur lined hood of his cloak. "Even if I have to come back from my grave to get the job done."

"Let's find a somewhat dry spot to sleep on and start fresh in the morning." The third knight glanced at the sky and crossed himself. "I like not the look of those clouds."

"Not here!" Michael fairly screamed the command. He had to get them farther into the forest if they were going to find Michael Cameron and his band of Deryni roughnecks. This opportunity was simply too close to lose.

"I think you're right." The second knight shook the water from his cloak. He was preparing to dismount, paying no attention.

Darn all humans anyway! They never listened to the subtle.

Michael drew his sword and struck a huge oak not far from where the Michaelines sat. Lightning split the sky with a crack that echoed off the distant mountains and the scorching scent of ozone. The tree Michael had targeted took the full force of the bolt and fell blazing, close enough to terrify the horses.

It took a moment or two for the men to bring their mounts back under control. When at last they managed to calm themselves and their horses all agreed to move farther into the forest before making camp. After all, best not be the tallest thing about in such a storm.

And the archangel followed them, unwilling now that he was so close to trust they would find the right path on their own.





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