07 Uninvited Guests
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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A Glimmer In The Darkness


By: Susan

Chapter 7 of Uninvited Guests  




"Who's there?"

Liam repeated, sounding braver than Payne suspected he actually felt. Only the echo of Liam's words on the stone walls answered.

"What do we do now?" Payne whispered.

"Listen." Brendan replied.

Payne could just make out Brendan's shape beside him as his eyes adjusted to the darkness.

"We know you're there." Liam called into the shadows.

All three stilled at a sudden rustling sound. Payne could feel his heart thudding.

"Liam, is that you?" Concern edged the woman's voice. "Are Payne and Brendan with you?"

Payne emitted a nearly audigle sigh of relief. Liam took a step forward.

"We're here, Rebecca," Brendan said. "But what are you doing in this tunnel?"


Payne glanced sharply at Brendan.

"Rebecca, the pretty red-haired maid," Brendan whispered.

Liam chuckled softly.

"The one all the older boys find so intriguing?"

"I think my brother has mentioned her once or twice."

Payne grinned, recalling the admiring glances he had caught his brother sending in the serving maid 's direction during meals.

The swishing sound increased as the woman drew near. Her flickering candle sent odd elongated shadows racing up and tunnel walls. In the dim light, Payne could barely see Rebecca's fire-gold hair and fair skin.

"What new mischief have you boys discovered?"

she asked. The hint of a smile played at her lips.

"We..aah...decided to explore this tunnel."

Brendan's courage returned as he felt the danger dissipating.

"Did you find any hidden jewels or skeletons?" Rebecca's smile widened.

The boys exchanged glances. Perhaps Rebecca hadn't followed them all the way down the tunnel.

"Nothing of any import,"

Liam replied diplomatically.

Payne felt the tension drain out of his body as Rebecca escorted them back to the tunnel entrance. They probably had left the tapestry covering the tunnel entrance askew, as Rebecca said. Small wonder that someone had noticed and followed them. Thank goodness it only been Rebecca! Even if she overheard the King's secret council, she probably lacked the background in military tactics to use the information. And what would a maid care about such things anyway?

**Kelson, can you hear me?**

Kelson sat bolt upright in bed as Morgan's words brushed around the edges of his brain, waking him from an eerie nightmare about Richenda and Briony.

**Alaric, I can barely hear you. I'll have to get Duncan to help sustain the link.**

Kelson sent, leaping to his feet and reaching for his robe. He padded down the torchlit corridor heedless of the cold stone beneath his bare feet. He barely caught Morgan's affirmative response before losing the contact completely.

A few moments later he returned to his chamber, accompanied by Duncan and Dhugal. The silvery oblongs of the hastily set wards glowed around them as they waited for Morgan, hoping he would and could attempt another link.

The did not have long to wait. As soon as Kelson felt the tendrils of Alaric's mind, he reached out and pulled Dhugal and Duncan into the link.

**How are you, Alaric? Are you injured?**

**Not physically. But we need to keep this brief. I don't know how long we can maintain this link over this distance.**

Exhaustion pervaded Morgan's message.

**I assume Derry reached you. So you know--**
**Richenda and Briony will be fine. We'll make sure of that.**

Kelson answered, keenly aware of the depth of Morgan's pain.

**We? Who else knows about this?**

Morgan's tone grew tense.

**Duncan and Dhugal are here. Nigel and Derry will lead the army.**

Morgan's anger bombarded Kelson's senses and his comrades drew back, shaken.

**We planned this carefully.** Kelson protested. **We won't leave Rhemuth unguarded though.**

Disgust colored Morgan's mental tones.

**Alekseyevitch will kill my wife and daughter.**
**He won't know--**

Kelson began, but Morgan cut him off.

**He said he has a spy in your castle. He may already know.**

Kelson felt the blood drain from his face. If any harm befell Richenda or Briony, he would feel personally responsible.

**Maybe we can change the strategy. Only Nigel, Rory, Duncan, Dhugal, Derry, Cardiel, and Arilan know all the details.**


Kelson could almost hear Morgan's derisive snort.

**If Arilan knows, the Camberian Council knows by now. God only knows what they'll do. They've never liked me anyway.**

**But they do support me. And they're Deryni. We may need their help fighting Alekseyevitch if he turns out to be better trained than we are.**

Kelson hoped that didn't become necessary.

**You may have point there.** Morgan conceded. **But you can't send an army after Alekseyevitch.**

**And you can't sustain this conversation much longer. We'll change our stategy, though. I promise. And we _will_ rescue Richenda and Briony.**

Kelson tried to sound confident.

**I'll contact you tomorrow. **

Morgan sent before breaking the connection.

Kelson glanced from one worried face to the other.

"What have I done?" he asked bleakly.

Duncan laid a reassuring hand on Kelson's shoulder.

"We'll think of something."

"Suppose the army leaves tomorrow, as planned, but heads to a different location,"

Dhugal suggested.

Kelson squinted at him, perplexed.

"How does that help?"

"The spy has probably told Alekseyevitch that we started organizing troops. But he can't know the true reason. You announce that you're sending the army, or several small military bands if you prefer, out to deal with the brigands terrorizing travelers in the Llendours. You planned to send troops to Dhassa, anyway."

Kelson nodded slowly.

"Alekseyevitch won't realize the troops are after him until they catch him."

"Precisely." Dhugal's lips widened into his familiar border grin. "Only Nigel and Derry need to know the troop's true destination."

Catching Kelson's grimace at Derry's name, Duncan interjected,

"Or whomever you choose as leaders. Derry might not be the best choice, since Alekseyevitch knows him. Rory, perhaps, considering how well he presented his ideas this afternoon."

Rory Haldane crept soundlessly down the dark passageways. A torch would have provided illumination but he dared not risk detection. He paused, listened attentively for a few moments, then continued walking. He felt almost positive that he had heard footsteps. If someone had followed him, that person had stopped moving just when he had.

Glancing around, Rory saw only empty cressets, where candles had been extinguished, and a few tapestries hanging on the walls between the arched doorways.

The guard stood near one of them, though it took only a touch of Rory's hand and the proper whispered command to bring the man to his knees.

Finding the tapestry he sought, Rory lifted the edge and ran his fingers over the stone wall beneath. The portal creaked as he entered the tunnel, dragged the unconscious guard inside, and pulled the tapestry down the hide the entrance.

Rory ran a hand over the man's throat, feeling for a pulse.

"This won't take long," he whispered.

A second later sapphire handfire blazed in his palm. He took several deep breaths before entering the trance and reaching out with his mind.

**You're late.**

Alekseyevitch sounded annoyed.

**All went well. The Pretender believes you wish Rhemuth unguarded so you can attack. He's sending an army after you.**

Alekseyevitch cursed.

**He's chosen to send me along.**

Rory sent an icy laugh with the last comment.

**Thus the army goes where we choose.**
**Kelson trusts you that much?**

Alekseyevitch sounded incredulous.

Rory laughed again.

**Kelson seems to have a problem with trusting his cousins, doesn't he? He loved my story about wanting to restore my family honor after Conall disgraced us.**
**Good. You know what to do next.**

Alekseyevitch broke the link.

Rory took a few minutes to adjust the guards memories. He straightened and took a deep breath, then froze as he realized he was not alone.

"It's only me."

Silvery handfire illuminated Rebecca's drawn features as she approached.

"Why are you here?"
"Don't ask questions whose answers you don't really wish to hear." Rebecca looked pained.
"Spying for the Master again?"

Bitterness edged his tone.

"You've played your role to perfection, Valentin." Rebecca sidled closer to him. "But I know it hasn't been easy for you."

Valentin let the shape-change slip away for a moment, hoping to reassure her. Her sudden intake of breath made it clear that his exhaustion showed.

"I do what I must, Becca," he whispered, reaching over to run a finger down her cheek.

"So do we all. But the risks--"

"Are great. And will be greater if either Alekseyevitch or the Master figure out our true plans."

Rebecca shuddered.

"God help us all if that happens. Be careful, Valentin. Alaric Morgan isn't the only one whose child's life lies in enemy hands."



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