Sword of a Saint
Chapter 8 - Part 2
"What did you
mean by it?" Joram's voice echoed off the walls of the council
chamber. "Treason, Gregory! The worst kind!"
Gregory of Ebor braced his feet and faced the rest of the assembled Cambrian Council squarely. "Restored the honor of this Council, that's what I've done! You'd have thrown it away with that bit of kidnapping."
From their seats beside Gregory, Jesse MacGregor and Ansel MacRorie muttered agreement.
"Did you never think of speaking with us first?" Bishop Niallen Trey spoke more softly, but he was heard none the less.
Gregory whirled on him with a glower that might have cracked crystal. "What would you have done? No doubt attacked the poor lad straight off."
Niallen chuckled, clearly unaffected by Gregory's rush of emotion. "I doubt the 'poor lad' needed any of your assistance, Gregory."
Joram had listened to all he was going to. "That undisciplined barbarian put three of my best men in the care of the few Healers we have. Queron worked on one of them nearly all the night!"
"What are you so angry about?" Gregory's fury dissolved into laughter he seemed barely able to control. "That he beat you, or that you woke up with your chin resting on his dagger? If he'd meant you harm, Joram, he could have done his worst."
"He did!" Joram pounded the table, venting his temper in the only way available. "He defied the will of this council openly. That knife was nothing more than a taunt, an incredibly blatant, hideously arrogant boast. And you are letting him get away with it!"
"Don't bring the Council into this," Ansel interjected without leaving his chair. "Seems to me it was you three that cooked up the entire scheme."
"And if Hubert or Tammeron had planned it, you'd be saying now that they got what they deserved." Jesse MacGregor rose to stand beside his father. "How does it feel to use the tactics you despise?"
The younger men's words stopped Joram's raging anger cold. With a sigh he sank into his chair, unable to refute their assertion. As he did, he felt the touch of Rhysel's mind against his, insistent and increasingly desperate.
"Forgive me. One moment." Joram focused his attention on a knot in the arm of his chair and sank into a light trance. **Rhysel? What's happened?**
**Something terrible. The council lords are in a fury.**
The anxiety Joram sensed in his niece alarmed him more than her words. **Give me a moment to bring the rest of the room into this. Then show us all what you saw.**
**I haven't time. I've been trying to reach you for a while now.** Rhysel spoke more quickly, clearly wanting the conversation over with. **Let me show you, then you can show the rest of them.**
Before Joram could protest, she sent the stream of images she had Read from Rhys Michael's memory. Then, with assurance that both Cathan and the king were safe at least for now, Rhysel was gone.
Joram gripped the arms of his chair. The solid feel of the polished oak steadied his nerves. "I've just gotten a message from Rhysel. It seems the hotheaded subject of our conversation has driven the king's keepers to more reckless measures. I'll give you all the images she showed me, but I'd rather not have to repeat myself."
By the time Joram finished sharing Rhysel's message with the assembled Cambrian Council, the mood in the room had quieted sharply. Gregory, he noticed with some satisfaction, seemed stunned by the violence of what he had just witnessed. When the old border lord looked up, his lined face had the color of new parchment.
"We've got to keep that lad quiet for a bit." Gregory's words hung in the air. "Dear Christ, I never thought they'd be so ruthless."
"And how do you suggest we manage that?" Joram tried not to show the satisfaction blazing inside him. "We obviously can't invite him to dinner again."
"Not that that would have done you much good." Queron lifted an eyebrow. He seemed fascinated. "Didn't you say Lord Michael drank two cups of drugged wine before he knocked the five of you senseless?"
"Well, the last cup was only about half finished. But I see what you mean." Joram wished he'd considered the problem earlier. "I remember my father talking about some Deryni who, thanks to long and rigorous training, could withstand near lethal doses of merasha. I thought the tales were exaggerated."
"Clearly they are not." Queron leaned forward on his elbows. His eyes sparkled with curiosity Joram had not seen there in years. "I wonder how he does it? If the technique could be learned it might prove as useful as blocking for our purposes."
"And that still leaves us with the difficulty of how to control a man we cannot drug, and who will no doubt prove difficult to overpower." Niallen shook his head, his lips pursed as he considered the problem. "I don't fancy the idea of ripping through his shields by brute force."
"I'll take him with me to Trevalga." Gregory's shoulders slumped. "Not that I'm saying I created this problem, mind you. You'd not have managed him with merasha in any case. But if I ask him to guard those nuns I'll be escorting, he'll be kept busy for a couple of weeks at least."
Joram felt the tension in his shoulders ease. "A good plan. With women to protect, I think he will be less likely to do something rash. When will you leave?"
"At first light." Gregory laid a hand on Jesse's shoulder. "We'd best get ready for a longer trip than we'd planned on. I'll ask Lord Michael directly."
"One moment, Gregory." Queron rose as the borderman shoved his chair back. "I'd like a word with you before you speak with Lord Michael, if you don't mind."
"So long as you're not shouting at me."
Queron chuckled. "No worries. I think that issue has been settled, or at least rendered moot."
Gregory settled back in his chair as the room emptied. He waived Jesse off when the boy would have stayed. "Get started preparing us for the trip, lad. I'll catch up with you."
"Thank you for hearing me out." Queron leaned forward and lowered his voice. "I wondered if you remembered Lord Michael's parents? They were at court several times, up to the year before Cinhill died."
Gregory racked his memory. Nothing came to mind. He shook his head, feeling foolish.
Queron chuckled. "Think about a Healer, dark haired, small and slender. He served the Sinclairs. His wife was a plump brunette who never said more than three words at a time."
"It's been a while, you know." Gregory strained his memory. "Wait a moment. You aren't saying that Lord Michael is Rabbit's son?"
"That's what you used to call his father." Queron nodded. "And not without reason, truth be told."
Recognition hit Gregory in a rush. He felt foolish. "Why did I not see it before?"
"Because the son is very different from the father. Had I not seen him as a youth, I would never have made the connection. If you look at his nose, the set of his shoulders and the line of his mouth you can see a shadow of his father there."
"And you thought my remembering his parents would help me deal with their son?"
Queron shrugged. "I can only hope. Whatever happened to him after he left Gwynedd, he at least had their teaching during his formative years. There must be something of them left in him. If you can reach that, you might have a chance."
"Aye, that makes sense." Gregory tried to sound confident, while his insides were churning. He would rather have a sword in his hand than attempt this diplomatic nightmare.
"Another thing." Queron stood, clearly having said his piece. "Keep an eye on Sister Valerian for me. I'll be at Trevalga in a couple of weeks to check on her. Don't let her exhaust herself."
This was becoming absurd. Gregory chuckled. "You know of her, too? Queron, for an old man, you get around.
"Aging, maybe. Not old, at least not yet." Queron's smile widened. "And yes, I knew her father too. There weren't many Healers in Gwynedd, even back then. Fewer were Gabrilite trained. I studied with Lord Michael's father, Robert. Valerian's father was younger, but memorable none the less."
Gregory's mind spun over the conversation as he hurried off to find Michael. This journey to Trevalga was becoming more complex by the moment. At first he had only intended to guide a gypsy caravan with an escort of nuns across Gwynedd without attracting notice. Now he also had to nursemaid a nun who, no doubt, would not welcome his concern. On top of that he had to find a way to civilize a barbarian who just happened to be the only son of the gentlest fellow Gregory had ever met.
Why didn't he just run a spear through his own foot and have the excuse to stay here?
Because he had no doubt Queron would heal the wound in a matter of minutes and he'd be back on the road, suffering embarrassment in addition to the other problems.