03 - Into The Past
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Into The Past 



Chapter  3




  Shallia helped settle the man next to the door while she examined it. Contrary to first sight (or Sight), the door was not built straight into the hill. Rather, it was built into what appeared to be a square area of stone about five feet deep, before disappearing into the hill. Glancing down at the man, Shallia saw that his eyes were closed, and with a sigh, conjured handfire.

Examining the door with both eyes and mind revealed that there was a rusted iron handle, which looked fragile in the extreme, and might, at the merest touch, crumble away. Scraping away years of debris that had gathered around the bottom of the door with her hands, she moved to open the door.

Taking a deep breath, and whispering a swift prayer, Shallia grasped the handle and pulled. It did not crumble as she had feared, but neither did the door open easily. In fact, by merely pulling on the handle she was only able to create a crack between door and jamb. Abandoning the use of the handle, Shallia worked her fingers around the edge of the door, and planting her feet firmly on the ground, pulled back with all her strength.

Even so, she only managed to open the door about a hand-span. As she began to pull once more, a movement at the edge of her eye caused her to glance in that direction. It was the courier, and he had leaned forward enough to push on the inside of the door with his uninjured arm. Startled, Shallia abruptly extinguished her handfire, and involuntarily stepped backward. She became even more startled when a voice sounded in her head.

**Please rekindle the handfire. Otherwise we won't be able to see, and we need to get out of the rain rather quickly. **

He accompanied that explanation with a violent coughing fit that shook his frame.

Doing as instructed, a green glow once more appeared near the door. Another combined effort finally garnered an opening large enough for them to move inside. Shallia sent her handfire streaking into the opening while she bent down to help the courier stand. As both regained their feet, a rush of wings beat past them, and they ducked, rapidly, nearly loosing their balance as the bats fled the scene of their recent refuge. Moving into the entrance the Deryni could vaguely make out the accumulated debris of many years worth of animal occupation. Sinking wearily down inside the shelter; weak silver handfire sputtered and eventually grew, as the courier began to paw through his packs in the hope of finding flint and tinder. Seeing his intent, Shallia made it as far as her knees before swaying in exhaustion, and instead of gaining her feet, crawled to a small pile of wood, grass, and other matter best left unexamined, to pull it together into a pile right for fire.

Eventually a small blaze began to grow, and the Deryni settled around the fire as they attempted to get as warm and as dry as possible. After a few minutes, Shallia glanced up and saw the courier looking at her with a cocked eyebrow. Answering the unasked question, she explained her present circumstances. Finishing, she merely looked at him, and when he remained silent, with a slight smile she commented, "You know my story? what's yours? We've the rest of the night, and I don't think either of us should fall asleep right now -- exhaustion and cold such as this may cause us to slip into unconsciousness too easily. Well, I'm waiting."

With a smile, the man answered, "Fair enough. I'm Rhys MacKenzie, and I'm a courier for the King. But you figured that out for yourself, I'm sure," he continued as he caught her look of exasperation. "I was returning from a few of my family's holdings in Eastmarch when my horse got spooked by the lightening. I wasn't traveling the main roads because I enjoy riding in the woods -- well, most of the time anyway," he continued, pulling his damp jerkin away from his skin. "Not much else to tell, really. I'm to inherit MacKenzie lands when my father abdicates control later this year; but until then, I serve at the pleasure of the King. You told me quite a bit, but nothing really revealing about yourself, Shallia. How did you come to possess a talent that only a select few have?"

Biting her lip in apprehension, Shallia began to speak in a soft voice. "I've always had the ability. My Grandmother taught me as much as she could about using mental relaxation techniques to calm people, and she encouraged me to explore the soothing of hurts using that as a basis -- but I'm mostly self trained. I honestly didn't recognize my actions as bordering on the Healing Talent for years. It wasn't until I quite by accident Healed a villager without resorting to herbs, or the more "typical" manual actions of healing that I realized what I was doing. I still don't know who was more shocked -- my patient, or myself."

Shallia abruptly stopped speaking, and for a few moments the only sound was that of the rain and the crackle of fire. Then, she continued, "Shortly after that, however, word got out that there were Deryni about, and the Archbishop's troops came for us. My Grandmother took the blame onto herself -- she was later burned at the stake. She was an amazing woman, really," Shallia continued after another strained silence, "she could take the most mundane of our abilities and stretch it to its utmost use. When they were coming for her, she told me to never use my power that openly again. And I haven't -- until now. Please don't tell anyone," the healer implored.

"Why would I inform on you? I'm Deryni, too. It's not a crime anymore, you know -- being born Deryni. The King and Queen are practically Deryni. And you could offer a great service to Gwynedd with your talents, Shallia. But enough of that. What do you think this place is? It looks old," Rhys prompted her, hoping to get her mind off dark thoughts.

Shaking her head both mentally and physically, Shallia glanced around at the dreary surroundings, and began to cast out with her senses, even as Rhys copied her actions. The two Deryni could sense that the structure continued far underground, but that it had not been used for some time. "Shall we explore it, do you think?" she asked.

"Well, it will at least keep us warm and occupied until the storm blows itself out." With that, they helped each other up, and slowly moved into the darkness beyond their fire.

The small foyer in which they rested extended not much further beyond the light radius before meeting the top step of what looked to be a long staircase. With silver and green handfire streaking out before them, Rhys and Shallia began to follow the staircase down. After thirty steps or so, they came to a long hallway, and could see rooms branching off from it at regular intervals. Motioning for her to take the rooms on the right, while he explored those on the left, Rhys moved off and Shallia followed, both going slowly, all the while disturbing small creatures that had made the structure their home. Most of these were rats or mice, and Shallia could clearly hear them rustling in the darkness around her.

The first three rooms she examined were small -- barely large enough for the rotting bed-frames that rested against the northern walls. What bedding that had padded the beds was long gone -- some of it strewn across the floor to cracks in the wall, which were clearly the residences of mice. As she left the third room, Shallia heard her name called, and saw Rhys approaching her with a lit candle in his outstretched hand. "I found these in a room that must have been a study or library at some point in the past --- there are decaying tomes and papers scattered everywhere. I wonder what happened here -- it looks like they had to leave very quickly. Have you found anything?"

"I've found nothing but empty rooms which have the remains of beds in them. Thank you for the candle. Handfire is useful, but it can be draining after a while."

"I explored to the end of the hall -- the corridor branches off to the right and left about three doors down from here. I'll be in the right-hand passage-way if you need me."

The rest of the rooms Shallia explored were variations on a theme -- bedrooms or small meditation chambers. With the light from the candle, Shallia was able to distinguish features on the stone walls that had previously been obscured by her handfire. The walls were of a dark stone -- weathered and rough-hewn in spots, and yet shaped into orderliness in other places. When she came to the T-intersection, she moved to the left, and began to explore the rooms that were located all on the left side of the hall, save for a sole room in the center of the right wall.

Moving towards that room, Shallia began to feel a dormant power brushing against her shields. More curious than alarmed, the healer lowered her shields a bit further as she approached, and when she touched the wooden door that was banded by iron, Shallia clearly felt a presence -- the likes of which she had never felt before. It was a calming presence -- and it reminded her very closely of the feelings that had flowed from her Grandmother to her when they were in rapport together. Before she could explore further, Rhys' mental voice called to her. Leaving the door, Shallia moved off toward the direction of her companion, to find him kneeling in the back corner of a small room that was no larger than a garde-robe. Without turning around Rhys spoke. "I've found a Portal. It's been dormant for years, but I think I can still activate it. We can leave through here - I know the location of one of the Rhemuth Portals. Let us return for our things, and then we can return to Rhemuth."

"Rhys?. I've found something. I think we should investigate it before we leave. And besides, who said I was going to Rhemuth?"

"Where else would you go? It's still raining, and the King really should know about the presence of another Healer in Gwynedd. I'm sorry, Shallia, but you must go back with me. What did you find?"

Beckoning him to follow, Shallia returned to the door and motioned for Rhys to place his hand on it. When he had done so, Rhys immediately jerked it back, and stared at Shallia with wide eyes. "I felt as though I were a child once more, and my parents were enfolding me in their embrace?telling me that I wouldn't be harmed. What is behind this door?" Rhys asked in bewilderment. "I don't know, I received much the same feeling when I touched it. I want to find out. Help me open it."

By dint of much straining, the two Deryni opened the door to find an Octagonal chapel, with the remains of carpeting and broken slats of wood strewn across the chamber. Along the northern wall, three slabs of stone that were approximately two feet across and two feet high were set into the stone wall. They were made of a finer-grained stone, and even from the entrance, Shallia could see the outlines of faint writing upon them. Slowly moving towards them, she bent to read the one closest to the door. Unable to make it out with her eyes, she began to probe with her mind. Sensing that Rhys was behind her, the healer reached out and clasped his hand, drawing him into a link with her and focusing their attention on the faint lines.

Through much straining, the two Deryni were able to pick out few words. When the import of the text reached their tired brains, Rhys and Shallia could only look at each other in wonder -- they were looking at what was clearly a grave marker. But that wasn't what had shocked them. Straining a little, they saw that an inscription had been carved, but that the name of the person buried there was nearly indecipherable. All they could decipher was the last name: "Cullen", and the word "Michaeline." The inscription was in the Latin that was popular two centuries past:

"Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace."



Story is Unfinished. 




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