08 Uninvited Guests
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
          Hall of Seasons  

Into Deceit


By: Kiri

Chapter 8 of Uninvited Guests




  Richenda wearily dismounted from her mare. They had been travelling for hours through the snowstorm, the snow and poor visibility had slowed their progress through the mountain paths. As she slid off of her mare, she focused on the soldier who had taken Briony from her when the paths became treacherous.

As they had traveled Richenda had learned that most of the soldiers were hired for the job -- rather than in on the plot itself. The soldier holding Briony had been told that Alekseyevich was revenging himself upon a rival lord and rescuing his beloved sister and niece. When Richenda had scanned him briefly, before she'd let him help her with Briony, she'd learned that he didn't care about the lord's doings - only wished to earn enough to feed and provide for his own family through the harsh winter. While it hadn't helped her find a method of escape, she at least took comfort in knowing that not all of the soldiers intended her and her child immediate harm.

The snow came well past her knees as she sunk into the drifts. Barely able to move with her heavy travel skirts weighted down with ice and snow she just stood shivering in her cloak for a moment. D'Erick carefully handed Briony off to another soldier before coming over to help Richenda.

"Milady, let me help you inside," he offered respectfully.

Expressing her thanks Richenda took D'Erick's offered arm and with his help stumbled through the snow to the entrance.

"There ma'am," he said as soon as they were safely inside. "All safe and sound. Soon ye'll be back with your family and not be bothered by that wicked Duke no more."

He turned swiftly to take Briony from the other soldier and restore her to Richenda's keeping. Then with a bow and a smile both soldiers departed.

Richenda was stunned. She had not been able to read much with her hurried and surreptitious scan, and had not realized the extent of the deception Alekseyevich had fabricated. She now realized that none of the hired soldiers would help her, as they believed that she was being returned to her family. Her acceptant behavior, out of concern for Briony's safety, had only reinforced Alekseyevich's lie. Now that opportunity was gone.

Looking up Richenda saw that the remaining men were all Deryni and all loyal to Alekseyevich.

:: No, there would be no help from them :: she thought tiredly.

Alekseyevich strode forward to address Richenda.

"You and your daughter will be taken to a room where you may dry off." he barked coldly. "We will be moving again soon. I suggest you make the most of this respite."

Turning he motioned to two of his aides and left.

The two aides escorted them down a dim corridor of stone and into a small chamber. Entering, Richenda was glad to see a well-laid fire already burning in the small fireplace.

"There is food for you and wash water," The taller of the two said.

"Don't be long about it either," added the shorter "His Lordship will be along presently to talk to you."
"And don't try to escape - we'll be just outside if you get any ideas." Finished the taller one.

Without further delay the pair closed the door, loudly shooting the bolt and locking her and Briony inside.

Denis Arilan strode down the corridor giving terse instructions to Father Nivard.

"And then John you'll need to cover for me at the midnight offices, as I have no idea how long this will take. With this storm tonight and my returning just 4 days ago a slight indisposition will not seem amiss. Have Father Ambrose give the homily as well."

Scurrying to keep up with the Deryni Bishop, Father John Nivard replied,

"Yes, Your Grace. Father Ambrose it is. Do you think you'll return by the morning? Should I wait for you after final mass tonight?"

With an indulgent smile Denis turned and placed his hand upon the good Fathers' shoulder.

"No my son. I sometimes forget how much I depend upon you. Don't wait up for me, just see that my quarters are prepared and bring the infirmarian with you in the morning to check on me. That should suffice."

With a smile the Bishop turned and they continued down the passage towards Dhassa's portal.

Jehana was dreaming.

Brion...... darkness… Brion pulling away from her in disgust, distaste burning in his eyes. The abbey priest from her childhood standing there admonishing her about the inherent evil within her…. telling her that if she didn't follow God's law she would contaminate those around her… the priests eyes turning upon Brion, then swinging back to Jehana… Your fault… You've damned the kingdom with your evil ways.. You've brought corruption into the very heart of Gwynedd! Your evil blood has tainted the throne! Atonement… The priest moving between her and Brion.. her beloved Brion.. We must protect the innocent from such evil as you! Kelson being held by the priest and Brion now standing behind them. you must atone… you must atone… or be damned for all eternity….*

With a sobbing cry Jehana awoke, tears streaking her face. She shakily sat up.

"My Lady," came a voice from outside the bed curtains, "are you well? I heard you cry out. Do you require anything?"

With a sobbing breath Jehana utters

"No, nothing…"

"If you're certain Your Highness"
"Wait." Jehana moved the covers aside. "I could use something to drink. Please bring some water."
"Yes ma'am"

Jehana heard the sound of feet padding across the floor and into the outer room to fetch the water flagon.

As the feet returned Jehana rose and wrapped her bedrobe around her against the wintry chill in her apartments. Settling into the chair by the fireplace she said,

"Could you please stoke the fire, it's gotten chilly in here tonight."

"Yes ma'am" the girl responded.

As the flames grew to comfortable warmth, Jehana began to relax. This was not the first time she had had that nightmare, although she prayed it would be the last. Jehana examined the maid that Meraude had been training and had lent her for her stay. She decided that Meraude was still as skilled as she ever was, choosing sensible and proper girls to take into service. Watching the girl move about tidying the room, Jehana decided to retain her while in the Capital.

"Lady Meraude told me that you are recently widowed," said Jehana conversationally.

"Yes Ma'am, he was killed in the last campaign," came the subdued reply.
"Oh my dear I am sorry to hear that." Jehana said, now uncomfortable. "Do you have any children?"
"Yes ma'am, a little boy."

The maid replied as she came to refill Jehana's cup.

"How old is your son?"

"Crispal's just seven Your Highness," the girl replied bowing her head.
"Ah," Jehana nodded "I remember when my Kelson was that age," she smiled. "Is your son here with you?"
"No he isn't ma'am."

Jehana sensed the girls' distress and dropped the subject, deciding that the boy was with the maid's family. Looking about, Jehana spied the item she was seeking.

"You do read do you not? Lady Meraude told me you were somewhat educated."

"Yes ma'am, I can read a little."
"Very good, please bring that book over here. You may read to me from the life of St. Ostrythe. Begin at the fourth chapter please."

The maid went to fetch the tome. Returning she settled near the fire at Jehana's feet. Moving her auburn tresses aside she began…

"One moment," Jehana stopped her "should I fall asleep please take a message to my confessor, asking him to attend me before mass in the morning."

"I will ma'am," the girl replied.
"Alright Rebecca, please begin."


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