Chapter 14 of Uninvited Guests
"Now then," Alekseyevich
stated when their portal jump was complete. "I'll do the
talking and you will keep a still tongue in your head unless
specifically addressed, understood? Oh, this is a Royal Hunting Lodge
near the crest of the Komar Range, in case your curious. It's rough
mountain country up here, so don't try to escape." He led
Renaud from the small portal chamber into a small dim hall.
Despite his fear at Alekseyevich's threat, Renaud was curious. He followed the other man to the opposite end of the hall where two great armchairs had been pulled up to a fire, a bearskin hearthrug lying between them. Three huge deer hounds lounged behind the right hand chair. The stuffed head of a noble stag hung above the fireplace, and more antlered heads adorned the side walls.
"You're quite sure the Master has no idea you're here?" a man's voice asked from the right hand chair.
"None," Alekseyevich replied. "Now that I've convinced him my ambitions are in tandem with his, he's grown strangely trusting. Must be getting soft in his old age. And you, My Lord?"
"Those who know where I am actually believe I'm here for the deer hunting."
"It's not like the Royal Council to be so gullible." Alekseyevich sounded almost disappointed. "Never mind. I've brought the weapon that will make us invincible. Renaud, make your bow to His Grace Duke Mahael of Arjenol, Regent of the Kingdom of Torenth."
Renaud knelt and bowed his head, too shocked at what he'd heard to do anything but obey.
"*He's* the weapon you say will neutralize Kelson Haldane and Liam?" Duke Mahael asked. And laughed.
"He may not look like much, but he's got a very unusual and useful skill." Alekseyevich gestured to Renaud. "Show His Grace what I mean, Healer."
Renaud rose and obeyed then stepped back, hands hanging at his sides.
"Extraordinary," Mahael murmured, blinking rapidly. He shook his head carefully like a dog with a sore ear. Renaud had to admit the Duke's reaction was calmer than most of those Deryni whose powers he'd removed, but he could feel the man's shock and fear clearly.
"You see what I mean?" Alekseyevich asked. "With Renaud's touch, Kelson and Liam will be as easily dealt with as any human. So will Morgan and McLain, and after them anyone else standing in your way. Even the Princess Morag if she won't concede you're the only possible King of To--"
"Not so loud if you please, Zinovy Kirilovitch," Mahael warned. "Even up here, the walls can hear rather too well."
"And *you* know that I don't like my real name spoken aloud," Alekseyevich whispered. "Neither of us can afford to be careless, Mahael."
Renaud glanced to his side, and struggled wildly with his temptation. Alekseyevich was within easy reach and all his attention was focused on Mahael who was already blocked. If he could just block Alekseyevich --
"He *can* undo what he did to me, can't he?" Mahael asked, waving a hand toward Renaud. "We have much to talk about and only a few hours."
"Certainly. Renaud, restore the Duke's powers then go upstairs. I'll send for you when I'm ready to go."
Renaud longed to disobey or pretend that he couldn't restore Mahael. Instead he obediently reset the trigger point and bitterly noted the Duke's smile of relief.
"Take him upstairs and lock him up," Mahael ordered.
Two guards Renaud hadn't seen before pushed him up a turnpike stair and locked him in a small bedroom on the upper floor. Out of curiosity, Renaud peered out the small window. He was at least twelve feet off the ground, the ground in question being a steep, rocky slope leading down to a river loud with rapids. Truly no escape, here. He merely shrugged and retrieved the Camber Medal from his satchel. Lying back on the bed with the medal cupped in his hands at chest level, Renaud counted his rapid heartbeats to calm himself. Here alone at the crest of the Komar Range, he might never be closer to Gwynedd or have a better chance to seek contact with Duke Alaric. He hoped Alekseyevich and Mahael would be several hours about what they were doing, for he wasn't sure how soon he could reach the man unsupported as he was. As soon as he was fairly centered, Renaud explored the Duke's psychic imprint on the silver, then gradually stretched his mind Westward in search of the man himself.