Chapter 12 of Uninvited Guests
looked tired when the guard escorted the Healer into his presence.
"Breeding a new generation of blocker's for me?" he sneered as he took a steaming mug from one of the servitors who waited by his chair.
Renaud nearly blanched at the thought as he sat down on the stool across the table from his master. Keeping control of his reaction, he replied,
"Ah, I thought that would be a challenge for you to deal with. Besides your refusal to assist Valentin with the shape change could have caused all my plans to fail. You deserved to be punished for it. Further refusals will bring even worse upon you through your wife; as I think my demonstration has proved. Now eat and regain some of your strength. There's someone who wants to meet you. Since we'll be travelling by portal, you will need it."
Even as Renaud reluctantly took a portion of cold capon, leftover from the previous night's evening meal, a knock came on the door of the chamber.
"Enter!" Alekseyevich commanded irritably.
One of the guards from the cell level bowed as he approached the renegade Deryni.
"My lord, the duchess is demanding the healer. She won't be quiet. She's insisting the girl is sick." He bobbed his head. "The girl doesn't look good, sir. She's all sweating and moaning."
Alekseyevich slammed his tankard down on the table. "By all that's holy! I need her to be healthy at least until the end of the week. Get down there, Renaud, and see what you can do."
Moving unhurriedly, the Healer suppressed his excitement as he was escorted from the room and down the multitude of stairs to the prison level, with a detour to the chamber where he usually slept under guard and where his medicine satchel was stored. Carrying the battered leather bag, he followed the guard to Richenda's cell.
"You might want to stay out here," he advised the hulking figure, "just in case there's some sort of contagion."
The soldier immediately shot back the bolt and backed away from the door.
"Close it once, you're in," he said, fingering the short sword that hung from his belt nervously.
He slammed the bolt home once more as Renaud did so, closing off direct observation of the cell. Richenda sat on the pallet, holding a shivering Briony in her lap, closely wrapped in the fur-lined cloak, even though the cell was warm from the subterranean hot springs that underlay the complex. She eyed the Healer with distrust as he sat down his satchel and crouched down to look at the sick child.
"Madam, if I had had any kind of alternative I wouldn't have done it to you. But another would pay the price had I refused to do it." He kept his voice low. "If you want your powers back, I'll need your help to make a certain event happen that will free us all."
He touched Briony's perspiration slick forehead and undid the alteration he'd performed in the night, resetting her internal temperature.
"This--illness--was an excuse to get in here and talk to you, but I won't have much time."
He ran his hands down the length of Briony's body, as if he were scanning her with his powers, but instead he focused on the residual energies in the medallion and wards that were tucked in an interior pocket of the cloak. He paused his hand directly over the medal.
"You can't call for help or set a beacon for others to find you, but I can." He met her eyes directly and projected his intent into her unshielded mind. "I'll have to blur this memory for our safety, but if I can have your link with the Duke, I can find a way to bring him here to rescue you."
"Why can't you just get us out of here?" she demanded quietly, following his lead.
"Because, my lady, I have absolutely no idea of where this complex is. I go nowhere inside without a guard or escort, and the only times I was taken out of here to do work for Alekseyevich elsewhere, I was drugged just as you were to keep this place secret." He paused, "And if I were to escape, my wife would suffer greatly until, and probably after, I was brought back."
"He's good at using people's loves to control them, isn't he?" Richenda replied bitterly.
She stared into his eyes, wishing that she could truth read him. Then she slipped her hand inside the cloak where a secret pocket had been built into the furred lining. The medal was cool in his palm as she handed it surreptitiously to the healer, and, after a hesitation, the ward cubes as well. Renaud got to his feet.
"I'll mix up something to bring down the fever. I think it was caused by all that traveling through the cold weather," he said in a louder voice, one that would carry through the doorway should the guard be eavesdropping.
Taking a vial of a harmless herb from the
satchel, he shook a minute amount into a cup he filled with water from
the clay pitcher that rested on a tray with two bowls of uneaten
porridge. He took one of the horn spoons that lay with the bowls and
stirred it quickly. Before putting the vial back, he dropped the medal
into it, chain and all, and tucked the ward cubes into a pouch of
medicinal bark. Thus far, no one had ever searched his medicine bag save
for Alekseyevich, and he had only scanned it briefly, taking the small
velvet pouch of ward cubes and the blue bottle of merasha. Hopefully the
token would be safe until he had the opportunity to investigate the link
and call for assistance from the Duke.
"When she wakes up, have her drink
this. But it the fever recurs, have them get me."
"When she wakes up, have her drink this. But it the fever recurs, have them get me."
Richenda stared up at him.
She put her hand in his and he adjusted her memory of the past minutes to protect the key to his plan. He picked up his satchel and pounded on the door, calling out, "I'm done!"
Right before the bolt opened, he heard the sound of clinking chain through the small window into the next cell and an idea blossomed. To the guard who was rapidly closing the door as soon as he got in the corridor, Renaud said, "I'd better dose the other two, just in case the fever's humors spread through that window," indicating the door to the neighboring cell.
Willing to avoid the risk of contracting the illness himself, the guard admitted the Healer into the cell that housed Prince Rory Haldane and the little Deryni boy, Crispal. Renaud raised a finger to his lips to keep them silent until the door had closed completely.
Rory eyed him suspiciously. "I saw you when I got captured. You were with the leader of the party that attacked us."
He smiled at Crispal and brushed his fingers through the boy's golden red curls.
It wasn't a rhetorical question, for he couldn't penetrate past the child's shields into his mind. The strength of them was astounding for a Deryni of his age.
He turned his attention back to Rory.
He suddenly realized from the expression on Rory's face that the prince had no idea that another person had taken his place.
"I don't know what his mission was, only that he took on your voice and form. But--" he glanced at the door, half expecting the guard to interrupt him, "The Duchess has given me means to make contact with her husband. There's still a hope of freedom for us all. I've got the guards believing the Lady Briony is ill with a contagious fever... if I can use this to get you moved to less secure quarters, I will."
He glanced down at the fetter on Rory's ankle and crouched down to touch the abraded flesh. His hand warmed, and seconds later, the sores were gone.
Rory gave a short laugh. "And if wishes were winged horses, we could fly back to Rhemuth."
Renaud quickly mixed up another cup of the herbal potion using Rory's cup and water pitcher.
"This will help prevent any fever," he said louder, as his quick ears heard the bolt to the door shoot back again. "Each of you drink half of the cup."
As his fingers brushed with Rory's in handing the cup over, he blurred the memories of confiding the plan to him, until such time as would be safe to restore them. After the prince tossed back his share of the contents, Renaud passed it to Crispal who sniffed at it before sipping it cautiously. There was no way to adjust the boy's memories, but the Healer doubted that Alekseyevich would be able to get past the lad's adamantine shields either.
"Come on, child, it doesn't taste that bad," he cajoled him as the guard stuck his head in the door.
Renaud picked up his sachel and left the cell, after a last reminder to tell the guards if they felt feverish at all, eliciting a shudder from the soldier. He was privately amused all the way back up to the threshold of the room where Alekseyevich was finishing his breakfast.
"Well, is the child in any danger?"
After Renaud explained that he'd given her a fever-reducing potion and that he was fairly sure it was just from the cold weather and not a contagion, the noble brigand waved at the trencher at Renaud's place.
The Healer didn't respond to the sneering jibe, but took the trencher and returned to his room. He didn't even care that the door was locked, imprisoning him within. He sat cross-legged on the draped bed and retrieved the medallion from its hiding place. For the first time he got a good look at it and his jaw dropped.
"Sanctus Camberus Ora pro nobis," he quietly recited the inscription around the edge of the medal. He closed his eyes and let his senses open to the tingling energy that lay barely dormant in the cast oval. An image began to form behind his closed eyelids, of a round-faced man with silver gilt hair and benevolent eyes. A sense of approval came from the vision then it changed to the features of another man with golden hair, and gray eyes wearing the blazon of a green griffin on a black surcoat. Renaud absorbed a sense of the man's identity, to be able to recognize the Duke of Corwyn when he got the chance to safely seek for his presence out beyond the hidden fortress that was his own prison.