The Son Rises
Chapter 5 of Uninvited Guests
Kelson sat in the solar, attempting to
grab a minute of quiet time amidst the chaos of preparation for his
Birthday Court. He smiled as the sun washed over him. Not total quiet,
as Rory sat nearby, listening to Archbishop Cardiel explain the finer
points of Bremangi ecclesiastical heirarchy. Proper forms of address
was part of the page school that Nigel ran, but the Bremangi were
sticklers for formality, and Rory had thought it wise to ask for help,
which Cardiel was only too happy to give.
Kelson had to admit the festivities were shaping up well. Although he envied his younger cousins, who were allowed quiet birthdays to actually enjoy themselves, this feast was coming off well and could be a major success. Rory was proving himself to be more than ready for adult responsibilities, while Nigel and Meraude finally seemed to be recovering from their grief at Conall's betrayal and death. By and large the foreign embassies seemed pleased to help Kelson of Gwynedd celebrate another birthday. Only the continuing absense of Morgan put a damper on Kelson's good spirits.
Cardiel paused in his recitation as Duncan approached.
"Hello, Duncan. Can I help you with something?"
Duncan shook his head as Rory made the proper greeting to a bishop.
"No, Thomas. I need to speak to Kelson. It's very important."
He returned Rory's greeting with a bow and a smile, while Cardiel returned to his pupil.
Before Kelson could say anything, Duncan's voice was in his mind.
**It's Alaric, Kelson. There's trouble, and we must be as secret as possible. Can you and Thomas meet me in my study in fifteen minutes?**
Kelson nodded imperceptibly then turned.
"Rory, find your father and tell him to meet us in Bishop McLain's study."
Rory nodded and sped off, even as Kelson quietly let Cardiel know what was afoot.
It was a shock to find Bishop Arilan and Sean Lord Derry waiting for them in Duncan's study, but as the news they brought unfolded, Kelson well understood the reason for both their presence and their secrecy. After being sent off by Morgan, Derry had ridden a day and a night without stopping to get to Dhassa and Father Nivard. That worthy priest, by dint of his relative inexperience and lack of familiarity with Rhemuth Castle, turned Derry over to Bishop Arilan, who thought it wise to accompany him.
With Nigel and Rory, Duncan and Dhugal ranged around the room, Kelson considered Morgan's predicament. Cardiel sat between Arilan and Derry, murmuring quietly to the young lord; words of comfort, no doubt, for Derry's hurtful dismissal showed clearly in the slump of his shoulders.
Nigel steepled his fingers, grey Haldane eyes calculating.
"Perhaps an assassination attempt. Duke Nigel?"
Even though Dhugal had rank and titles to spare, he still addressed the senior dukes in a respectful, formal fashion.
"Like during the Mearan war? I wouldn't put it past Duke Mahael to try again, even though his first attempt failed."
Duncan shrugged as Nigel shook his head.
"I don't think so, son. This seems to be designed to put us on edge. Most assassins want their victims lulled into security."
"At least that's what happened to me. And you, Nigel?"
Nigel nodded with an ironic smile, and Kelson spoke.
"Perhaps he's trying to goad me? He might think I'll rush to horse to save Alaric and try to ambush me unawares. If he's as powerful as Morgan believes, he may think Rhemuth easy pickings without me."
While the older men nodded, Rory, who had been looking somewhat uncomfortable among so many notables of the kingdom suddenly spoke up.
"Perhaps the best thing to do would be to spring his trap, then? Kelson," he blinked and realized his mistake before stammering on, "I mean... your Grace, if we could get men in the field without anyone knowing, perhaps we could destroy the ambushers before they can warn Alekseyevitch, or whoever he is."
Arilan raised a hand to dismiss Rory's suggestion.
"I don't think Duke Alaric would welcome us putting his wife and child an any more danger--"
but Kelson broke in.
"Perhaps they don't need to know. The crack Haldane troops are experienced in covert manuevers and,"he paused, thoughtfully, until the grey eyes lighted on Derry, "Derry can guide them."
Kelson's smile made Rory beam.
"Good thinking, cousin. Nigel, would you lead them? I'd like someone I trust in charge when we capture this Aleksevitch. Try to meet up with Morgan as quickly as possible, but don't get into any fights if you can avoid it. There may be Deryni in any ambush, and even if they don't make things uncomfortable for you, they may be able to get a message to Alekseyevitch."
Nigel nodded, and Derry looked uncomfortable.
"Your Majesty, Duke Alaric told me--"
was as far as Derry got when Kelson cut him off.
"Nonsense, Derry. I know you are loyal and Morgan does too. When Richenda and Briony are safe, he will beg your pardon. In the meantime, we need you."
"Dhugal will go with you, so there will be at least one Deryni there before you meet up with Morgan."
The king was just about to ask Duncan and Cardiel to keep an eye out for the enemy spy, when Rory spoke up.
"My king, I ask that I, too, be allowed to accompany Earl Derry and Duke Dhugal."
Nigel gave a start of surprise, and Kelson paused thoughtfully.
"I had hoped for your help here, Rory. You are young yet for this."
The Haldane Prince shrugged eloquently.
::I never noticed how much he is like his father::
Kelson thought as Rory spoke.
"I am older than you were at Llyndruth Meadows, Kelson. And I ask the chance to restore honor to my family."
Kelson smiled sadly.
"Your honor has never been in doubt, Rory, nor that of your father, but I will allow you this."
Both Duncan and Arilan started to their feet, Duncan with
"Kelson, are you sure this is wise?"
and Arilan noting urgently,
"But he is your heir!"
Arilan's open acknowledgement of the reality after Nigel's illness and Conall's death was somewhat of a shock, but Kelson dismissed it with a wave.
"Enough! Rory goes, unless," he turned the Haldane gaze on Nigel, "you have a sound tactical complaint."
Nigel stifled a sigh with a smile.
"None, my king. Rory will do fine."
The son smiled at the father with love and relief.
As the others accepted their assigned tasks, Arilan arose.
"I had better start back to Dhassa. Father Nivard can only cover for me for so long."
"And you still have to inform the Council, eh, Arilan?"
Duncan's voice was cutting.
Arilan spared a glance for Rory, who was new to all this, but gave Duncan an enigmatic smile.
"Perhaps you will be grateful for the Council's assistance this time."
Payne was frightened. The secret passage had started out as a game. Just a little something to taunt Liam and Brendan with. Even though Liam was older, and a king, Payne was the undisputed leader of the little group that had been the terror of the page school for the last six months.
Teasing Brendan and Liam as they moved through the dark and twisty tunnel with the one torch between them had been fun, and finding the tunnel went all the way to Duncan's study had been an added bonus. Overhearing the king along with his father and brother had been a shock, though, and he'd wanted to leave, but Liam got some of his own back, taunting Payne's reluctance while Brendan shook with silent giggles. What they'd overheard had silenced them all. The three crept away as Brendan held back tears. Liam, despite being almost as badly shaken, kept up a steady stream of comfort for the younger child, and Payne led the way. It was then that they saw the shadow ahead of them.