A Cure For Ardry
let out a hiss of dismay and ran to the transfer portal. He set his
hands where the stranger's feet had been, already knowing there was no
hope of knowing where he'd gone with the irreplaceable scroll.
Michael straightened after a moment sighing heavily. To have lost the Healing Protocol in this way was worse than not knowing whether it existed, although the attack on Margaret was now explained. There was at least the hope that she'd seen her assailant's face. But that would not bring the scroll back and it would be a bitter pill, especially to his father and Vera.
When Michael went to rejoin his family, he saw Margaret supported by their father with Vera beside them, her hand on his arm to lend her energy to the Healing. A bloody tear in her left sleeve was all the evidence that remained of Margaret's stab wound. Kevin knelt at the bottom of the stairs, his hands on Margaret's shin, eyes closed in his concentration.
**We managed without the scroll for years,** Michael reminded himself. **Grandfather and Da and Cousin Alaric are all far better Healers now than they were when they first discovered the gift. And we have Kevin and Richard Morgan, now too. We *WON'T* let the gift be lost again!**
He didn't feel at all better, especially not when he looked at Vera's bent head.
**Will we be able to find a cure for Ardry in time, now? We couldn't even keep ahold of that scroll for twenty-four hours!**
Margaret stirred at last and opened her eyes, as did the other three.
"All right?" Dhugal asked, although he directed the question at Kevin rather than Margaret.
"Aye. It was a nasty break, so I took my time on it, Da," Kevin answered. "It's fine now Margaret, but don't go running any races for the next few days."
Dhugal nodded his approval then turned his attention to Margaret. "Lass, is there anything you can tell us about what happened? Who did this to you?"
"Ardry said he saw something outside, Da," she began, frowning in concentration. "Vera and I thought he might have been imagining things, but I volunteered to investigate while she stayed with him."
"So ye went trampin' about unarmed in a dark castle by yourself lookin' for a possibly dangerous intruder?" Dhugal snorted. "Why did ye not come get me an' your brothers to help?"
All four young McLains exchanged a quick look of amusement. They were used to their father's way of expressing his love with scolding's, and all had noticed his pronounced accent -- a thing that always happened when he was most concerned.
"I *was* coming to get you, Da," Margaret soothed quickly. "But the intruder and I literally bumped into one another on the stairs in the dark on my way down." She tilted her head looking puzzled. There was something very odd about him. He was wearing some kind of dark turban, and had a scarf tied over the lower half of his face, so I didn't really get a good look at him.
"In fact," she continued, "I'm not sure it was a man at all. This person was no taller than I am, and we were about equally strong. It could have been a boy or even a woman. If they hadn't had a dagger, I might have been able to stop them from escaping."
"It canna be helped, but we've got to find him," Dhugal sighed. "What could he have wanted?"
"I'm afraid I know, Da," Michael said coming forward now. "Whoever it was escaped through our transfer portal, and they took the Healer's Protocol with them."
The other four stared at him open mouthed in dismay. Vera mouthed a desperate "no!" without making a sound, her face white.
"Who could have known!" Kevin exclaimed. "We were so careful!"
"Not careful enough," Michael answered. "I didn't realize he had it until it was too late. It was my fault."
"Nay, it was mine, son," Dhugal said, shaking his head heavily. "I just left behind in plain sight on the table when we heard Margaret scream. It may be that her attacker was trying to create a diversion. An' they did, damn' em!"
"We have to get it back!" Vera burst out, her voice husky with tears. "It's the only hope we have to help Ardry!"
"We could try scrying for it," Margaret suggested. "I know it might not work, Da, but it's better than doing nothing, isn't it? And what else can we do tonight?"
"Nothing I'm afraid," Dhugal agreed. "But without knowing who did this or why..."
"We do have something that belonged to the intruder, Da," Kevin said. He picked up the dagger that lay on the floor by Margaret's feet, it's blade still stained with her blood. "At very least, we might find out something about who it was." He offered the dagger to his father hilt first.
"All right, we try it," Dhugal agreed accepting the dagger. "Vera, you've the best shiral crystal. An' take your sister up with you and put her to bed before you fetch it," he added, bending a stern look on Margaret.
"But I could help!"
"We'll handle this without you for once, Margaret Lass. To bed with you an' I don't want to see you downstairs again until late tomorrow morning."
Vera rose and pulled Margaret to her feet after her. "Michael, Ardry was asking for you. Would you please go up and say goodnight to him? He'll be so disappointed if he doesn't get to see you."
"Go on," Dhugal nodded to Michael. "Can't disappoint the poor lad. Kevin and I will get things ready while we wait. Just don't be too long."
"I'll go fetch my ward cubes, Da," Kevin said when the other three had gone. He stopped, and looked at his father curiously. "What's wrong?"
"I know this dagger," Dhugal said slowly, turning it over in his hands, looking closely at the silver trimmed mother-of-pearl hilt. "Caitrin Quinnell gave it me the same day she surrendered Meara to King Kelson. I gave it to your Great Aunt Caldreana in my turn."
"But Aunt Callie would never --"
"I know *she* wouldn't turn traitor," his father said slowly. "I just want to know how Margaret's attacker got ahold of it." he turned to face Kevin. "An it raises questions about Meara that I don't like at all."
Story Unfinished.... care to add to it?
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