Chapter I - The Summons
Morgan and Dhugal MacArdry were grinning as they left the apartments of
King Kelson Haldane. It had been an enjoyable evening, sipping a fruity
Fianna red wine and for a rare time discussing non-consequentials.
Finally, Kelson declared his intention to spend some time with his Queen
before retiring; Morgan and Dhugal immediately took the hint.
"Kelson seems to be almost a new man since he married," Dhugal commented as they nodded at the guards posted at the doorway to the King's apartments.
"That, and peace on both borders," Morgan agreed. "I must admit, I'd prefer to have this Teymuraz situation resolved once and for all, but the bastard seems to have disappeared again; Liam and his people are doing their best to track him down." He glanced over at the young borderman. "Well, now that Kelson's married, maybe attention should turn to finding you a wife."
Dhugal lifted his hands in mock horror. "You mean, you didn't get your fill of matchmaking in trying to find Kelson a bride? I'm already catching grief from my vassals -- don't you start in on me too."
Morgan chuckled. "Well, please don't take as long as His Majesty, please. I'm certain your father would appreciate my request." They walked down the stairs toward the main hall. "You know, my vassals never really bothered me about my bachelorhood; I suppose my being Deryni was enough for them to deal with."
"Morgan! Dhugal!" The voice came from the bottom of the stairs. Father John Nivard, the young Deryni chaplain of the King's household approached the pair.
"Father Nivard," Morgan said, inclining his head. "What may I do for you this evening?"
"Actually," Nivard said, glancing at both of them, "I think this may involve both of you. There is a visitor in the library annex -- Prince Azim.
Morgan was surprised. Prince Azim was a powerful Deryni adept, the brother of the Emir of Nur Hallaj, a high ranking member of the desert order known as the Knights of the Anvil, a tutor of magic to both Gwynedd's Queen Araxie and his own beloved wife Richenda...and a member of the Camberian Council. Morgan wondered which role Azim was playing tonight.
With a nod, the two dukes followed the young priest. They entered the library and passed through the Veil that separated the main library from the annex; Father Nivard remained in the library outside the Veil.
Azim was standing in the center of the room, near the Transfer Portal. "My lord Alaric," he greeted the pair with a bow, "and young Dhugal. I am glad you were both able to come."
Alaric gave a neck bow in response. "Prince Azim." he said. "Since you asked for me and the Duke of Cassan and Kierney, and not for the King, I assume there is nothing new on the search for Teymuraz."
"Alas, no," Azim sighed. "Matyas has his best men working, and I have asked my brethren of the Knights of the Anvil for assistance as well. My request this evening comes from another source. Your presence is requested by the Council."
Morgan stiffened. "I remind you, sir, that my past dealings with the Council have been...less than pleasant," he said quietly.
Dhugal looked nervous. "What do they want from us? I always thought we were considered less than full Deryni, because of our human backgrounds."
"That has been, regrettably, the view of some in the past," Azim said, somewhat reluctantly. "However, I think there may be guarded optimism for a change in viewpoint, as new blood replaces old and the Council is forced to re-evaluate what it means to be Deryni. But you will see for yourself, if you come with me."
"May we have a moment?" Morgan asked.
Azim nodded, and Morgan and Dhugal passed through the Veil.
Father Nivard met them in the library. "Is there a problem?" he asked.
Morgan grimaced. "We -- Dhugal and I -- have been summoned by the Camberian Council." He looked at the young priest. "Are you aware of the group?"
The priest nodded. "Bishop Arilan has told me of the Council. I surprised him one evening in Dhassa when he was returning from a meeting, and I was in the chapel when he came through the Portal. I don't know who was more frightened, him or me." Nivard smiled faintly at the memory, then turned his attention back to Morgan and Dhugal. "What does the Council want with you?"
"We don't know," Morgan replied. "I must admit, I'm a little leery about the whole thing, but I can't see any reason to refuse. I must admit, I want to trust Azim, as he's been a man of honor in all my dealings with him, but when it comes to the Council...."
"I agree," Dhugal said. "I'm scared stiff, Morgan!"
"Is there any way I can help?" Nivard asked.
Morgan thought, then noddeed. "Yes -- get a message to the King advising him of this turn of events. If he isn't in his apartments, he will be with the Queen in hers. Tell him that we should be back by dawn -- if we are not, he will know what to do. Please send a message to my wife as well, so she will understand why I come not to bed. Azim has been her tutor, so she will not overworry."
"Should she?" Nivard asked softly.
Morgan paused before he entered the Veil. "I hope not."