11 Uninvited Guests
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Healer's Choice


By: Bernadette

Chapter 11 of Uninvited Guests 




  He could read her panic clearly, much as he could read the extreme emotions of humans with which he came in contact. Her scream echoed in his mind and he had to brace himself against the wall outside the cell to center himself. As he opened his eyes, Alekseyevich left the Duchess' cell, signaling the guard to bolt it again.

"Once again you prove your value, Renaud," he told the shorter, thinner man. "I'm glad that your little rebellion didn't last. I don't think your beloved wife could have borne another punishment on your behalf. I've decided that your obedience here has earned you another visit to her tonight."

He waved his hand toward another bolted door further down the torchlit corridor.

"Enjoy yourself, Healer. And be ready to do my bidding at dawn."

He unlocked the door himself and shoved the sandy-haired healer into the cell. Renaud stumbled to a halt before he stepped on the woman lying shuddering on her side on the pallet on the floor, partially covered by a thin, ragged blanket. He waited for Alekseyevich's footsteps to vanish toward the corridor's exit, controlling his hatred for the man, keeping his thoughts deep inside his shields, lest they reveal the plans he was making.

"Elise," he whispered softly as he dropped to his knees next to the semi-conscious lady. He extended a hand to touch her shoulder and gasped suddenly as he picked up on the pain and disorientation she was experiencing. Steeling himself, he extended his senses further and was further enraged as he realized that she'd been forced to imbibe merasha only hours earlier. He had to withdraw before the whirling maelstrom in her mind drew him in beyond release, and knelt next to her on the floor, desperately wanting to help but not able to. He touched a strand of her tangled black curls, comparing her features with the woman in the cell down the corridor; the one he'd been ordered to block.

Then it struck him--this awful talent that made him a valuable slave to a cruel master might perhaps actually help Elise. Merasha didn't affect humans as violently as it did Deryni, behaving more like a sedative. Before he could scare himself from making the attempt, he quickly touched her forehead and felt for the trigger point. Abruptly the mental disruption she radiated was gone and he became aware that the pain came from another source. He rolled her toward him, further onto her stomach.

"Oh, holy mother!"

He touched his fingers to the purple and black weal's that showed through a multitude of tears in the back of her thin gown. He spread his hands across her shoulder blades and, beseeching Heaven in a whispered prayer, urged the healing energies to fill them and transfer to the bruised tissue. Half expecting the power to be denied to him because of the less than holy procedures he'd been forced to accomplish at Alekseyevich's orders, he sobbed with relief as the bruising eased away under his fingertips. His wife's shallow breathing deepened into a more normal sleep pattern as he uttered a prayer of thanksgiving, crossing himself, grateful that her injuries had not been open wounds which the merasha in her system would have made impossible for him to heal.

He rolled her to lay on her back and stretched out beside her, wrapping his arms around her in a close embrace. Kissing her on the forehead, he felt her snuggle closer to him in her sleep, her arm shifting to hug his waist. While she slept, he stared up at the smoky torchlit ceiling and thought hard about his situation. Even he didn't know where the stronghold was located. He'd been brought to this place with Elise in a drugged sleep. The only hope for the imprisoned Duchess of Corwyn would be if her husband found them before whatever deadline Alekseyevich had set for his own purposes. The Duke of Corwyn had been instrumental in finding the King of Gwynedd who had been presumed dead the previous spring. But then he'd had the mind of a Deryni/Haldane to reach for and touch, to guide him. As long as the duchess was blocked, there would be no one for the Duke to trace. But if he, Renaud, unblocked her, Alekseyevich would do worse to Elise than he had already done. His arms tightened around his wife, as the though vividly crossed his mind. There had to be a way. Then he suddenly remembered the little girl who had been sleeping next to the Duchess. The Lady Briony Morgan was only three, but being the daughter of powerful Deryni, perhaps even at her tender age, she could be of use, to be a conduit through which to reach her father.

Renaud sat up and gingerly extended his senses outward. It wasn't wise to do so without setting up wards, but Alekseyevich had taken his warding cubes from him when he'd pulled the healer unwillingly into his service. He brushed the minds of the guards on the level the cells were located in--humans all--and beyond into the complex of levels and rooms built into living rock where the renegade kept his headquarters. Again, most minds were human, asleep or getting sleepy for the most part, at the end of a day doing their master's bidding.

Up in the aerie, one of the few rooms with exterior windows, Alekseyevich was absorbed in some sort of working, raising wards about himself. Renaud shied away from that cone of power, not wanting to attract the Deryni's attention. Moments later the warding was complete and he could no longer sense Alekseyevich directly, only the energy of the warding that surrounded him, which seemed to glow with a psychic taint of evil. If he couldn't sense the brigand, then he was safe to do his own reaching out.

**Lady Briony... wake up please.** he called, inserting his calmest, friendliest voice into the child's dreams. He soothed the nightmare that was causing her distress and gradually got her slowly waking attention.


**No, milady, but with your help I can try to get your father to help you** It was awkward communicating with a three year old mind that lacked vocabulary.

**Can you remember what happened to you?**

There was a sense of a hesitant affirmative.

**Bad men.**

The image of the scene in the ruins of the old abbey was vivid in her mind, the images of her father and of Alekseyevich huge from her child's perspective, bigger than life. As the memory of cold and terror ran its course, Renaud found it hard not to be sucked into it. He could feel the cold edge of the knife blade against the girl's throat and hear the wailing of her cries and sobs. He saw Richenda dismounting from her horse, after an interchange with the Duke where their hands touched and something glinting silver. He felt Briony's fear and disbelief as her father rode away, leaving her with only her mother and the bad men. There were disjointed images of being on a horse, her mother's reassuring presence amidst the bad men, a warm room and a cup of something that tasted funny and then nothing else. Renaud ran through the memories the little girl had shared and hesitated when he reached the point where the Duchess had bid farewell to her husband. The glint of silver...

**My lady, is your mother awake?**

**She's sleeping**

**Ah then, so should you be. I promise that I'll help your father come to rescue you, but you must keep it secret from everyone, even your mother right now. Promise?**

There was another minute hesitation, then she replied **Pwomise.**

He sent a compulsion to sleep, and to remember the "conversation" only as a dream that would fade with waking until he told her to recollect. Even as he reached for the sleeping mind of the enhumaned Richenda, he felt the three year old drift away into a dreamless rest. Hoping that Alekseyevich had not bothered to touch minds with the Duchess, he quickly probed the surface memories, avoiding those of her reaction after he'd removed her considerable powers. He found the one he sought and realized that the silver had been a medallion that could be the link he needed. He traced it through the events recorded in her mind and realized that it was hidden in the cloak that she'd spread across herself and little Briony as a cover. And there were ward cubes too! But how was he going to be able to get to it? Renaud hesitated in the sleeping Duchess's mind before withdrawing. It wasn't really ethical, but he couldn't give Alekseyevich any knowledge of the medal and it potentialities. He blurred Richenda's memory knowledge of the link that the medallion held to the Duke of Corwyn. He left her deep in exhausted sleep and pulled back inside his own shields, tired from the effort. Elise stirred against him and he was suddenly alert. Sitting up so that she could see his face, he held hers between his hands and stared into her green eyes as they fluttered open, somewhat panicked.


He halted her cry with a kiss then hurried to explain the head blindness.

"He gave you merasha. I had to block you to keep it from hurting you further."

"I'm so afraid."

She sat up in his arms then paused surprised at the lack of pain. Elise flung her arms about him and buried her face in the shoulder of his russet and green tunic.

"I don't think I can stand much more of this."

"I have an idea that will get us out of here. And the others held here too. But it's risky. If I'm caught--" He shuddered as he held her tightly. "But if I'm not, we'd be free."

"Free." Elise whispered the word almost reverently. "Renaud, even death is better than this. What is your idea?"

It bordered on that gray area of ethical use of Deryni powers which made Renaud uncomfortable, but, after ensuring that Alekseyevich was still incarcerated within his warding, the Healer extended his senses toward the little Deryni girl. He carefully slipped beneath her sleeping shields and made minute adjustments to the temperature of her body, raising it a few degrees and bringing on a fever. Then he set a thread of thought in Richenda's mind to demand the healer treat her daughter. That would allow him access to the cloak and the linked medallion hidden there. Unable to do more, he turned back to his wife and held her close. It was so odd not feeling her touch on his mind as the comforting embrace became more intimate, but he could not resist the insistent hunger that her kisses raised in him. At dawn when the guard opened the door with a bang that awakened the entwined couple, the healer ignored the smirking brute and ran his fingers through Elise's tangled hair. Disguised as a caress, he opened her to her powers again, sure that the merasha must have worked it way from her system by then.

**I love you** he sent as the soldier jerked him to his feet and threw his discarded clothing at him with a coarse comment. As Renaud pulled on the garments he had to disguise his relief when she told him

**I trust you. Do what you must--no matter the cost to Me.**



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