04 Uninvited Guests
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
   
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Storm Journey

 
 

By: Bernadette

Chapter  4 of Uninvited Guests 

 
 

Note: This was originally written as an aside to the rest of the tale.

 
 

 
     
 
Despite his thick, fur lined hood, the driving snow encrusted Derry's thick, dark curls as he struggled on into the teeth of the blizzard. His mount faltered as he drove it relentlessly through the night toward Dhassa, hoping he was still on the right road.

::If I ever see you again, I'll kill you.::

Morgan's words echoed in his mind, an image of the Deryni's enraged face rose before his eyes, blocking out the snow momentarily.

Derry despised himself for a coward, yet even the thought of being in the hands of enemy Deryni caused the old terror to overwhelm him again. Mental images of his experiences at the hands of Wencit supplanted Morgan's face and, maddened by memory and shame and guilt, the Earl dug his spurred heels into his mount's sides trying to outrun the remembrance.

The hours passed in a freezing blur. Cold and ice-rimed, he was shaking as with an ague when sunrise overtook him. Some guardian angel had guided him unwittingly through the storm, it seemed, for he struggled up a ridge and the lake valley opened before him. The lake was a pale expanse seen through a lull in the storm in the dimness of a reluctant dawn.

The white-stockinged bay struggled through chest deep snow as the flakes resumed their wind driven fall, and it occurred to Derry as he peered ahead on the descending road that it would take almost another full day to circle the lake, assuming the path wasn't totally lost beneath the November snowfall. Most visitors to the city visited St.Torin's and crossed by the ferry. But between the wind and the snowfall, the ferryman wouldn't want to be out on the lake in the storm.

Perhaps it was simply exhaustion that blinded Derry to the danger of his final rash decision, but as he finally achieved the lake shore, he saw the lake surface was frozen with a thick layer of snow on it. As his horse lurched past the ferryman's hut, its hindquarters knocked against the wooden door with a thud. Derry forced the animal onto the ice, the hooves making rounded prints in the snow, leaving a trail plain to follow if one were quick enough.

The ice creaked beneath the horse's weight as he pushed onward toward the dim silhouette of the walled city on the tongue of land that extended into the lake. The danger finally occurred to him and he pulled the beast to a halt, and slid from the saddle. He hauled the horse's head around to face the way they'd come and urged it back to the far shore with a sharp slap on the rump. The animal neighed loudly and bolted away from him into the falling snow.

Derry didnít even feel the cold anymore, he dragged his numb feet one at a time through the windblown drifts and kept his eyes on the walls of the city.

"Father Nivard," he mumbled, "must get to Kelson..."

He tripped and lay sobbing on the ice, too exhausted to move further, so close to his destination, yet unable to achieve it. Derry's vision tunneled down as he lost his battle with the storm, and his awareness fled as a faint shout came from behind him.

"....Morgan....Alekseyevich... Nooooo.....Never again...."

The voice babbled on in the darkness as innumerable hot pins stabbed at his flesh.

"Your Grace... please.... must warn Kelson...No, please don't make me stay with him..... Father Nivard... must find Father Nivard..."

A soothing male voice reassured him.

"You've found me, Lord Derry. You've found me."

Gradually awareness expanded and Derry managed to open his swollen eyelids to peer dazedly at the face floating in the air over him. Then the disembodied face was attached to a black cassocked body and the movements of the man's mouth meshed with the words he was hearing.

The priest was placing wrapped hot stones alongside his body, and the warmth was bringing reluctant life into frozen limbs -- the pins and needles sensation he'd experienced.

"Lord Derry, I'm Father Nivard. You were calling for me when the Ferryman found you out on the ice."

The priest sat down on a stool next to the bed, and folded his hands in his lap.

"Perhaps you could tell me why you needed to get to me through this terrible storm?"

Full memory rushed back and Derry jerked to sit upright, panic in his eyes.

"Duchess Richenda and Lady Briony, they're in danger. I have to get to King Kelson in Rhemuth, we only have a week to get back or--"

::If I ever see you again I'll KILL you.::

Derry broke off in a sob as the rage in Morgan's voice pounded through his mind yet again.

Nivard flinched at the outburst of emotion, but leaned forward to press the Earl back down against the pillows.

"Calm, my lord. Calm. I cannot help you until I understand what the need is. Please, begin at the beginning."

He spoke quietly but the words had the force of command behind them, and Derry found himself complying, the words pouring out of the onset of the storm, the seeking of shelter and the appearance of the bandits.

"They pulled Lady Briony from Morgan's horse. They were after Kelric, but he's back home--"

Derry's voice faltered as it struck him that Coroth might never be home to him again.

"Continue, my lord."

The priests eyes were intense and Derry couldn't look away. He suddenly remembered that Nivard was Deryni and a part of his mind began to gibber in fear again, but he fought it down, knowing that the only way he could succeed in his mission was to trust this priest that Morgan had sent him to.

The terrible memories surged and he dug his fingernails into the palms of his hands.

"They let the men at arms, Morgan and me go to get the king. When the storm got too bad to go on, Morgan and I--we quarrelled. And he sent me to come to you and have you get me to the king at Rhemuth so I can tell His Majesty what happened."

::If I ever see you again, I'll kill you::

Derry shuddered as the words echoed again.

"I've got to get to Rhemuth now. I've lost so much time."

"Not as much as you think, my lord,"

Nivard told him.

"It's only been a few hours hours since you were brought in from the ice. And I can get you through the portal to the king, but not until after vespers. That's a few hours away."

He felt and removed the cooling stones and replaced them with warm ones from the room's hearth.

"Sleep, Lord Derry. I'll awaken you when it's time to leave."

He laid a hand on the Earl's forehead and made the suggestion a compulsion and Derry slid back down into warm, dreamless darkness.

 
     
 

 
 

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