Chapter 15 of Uninvited Guests
too waited to contact Alaric Morgan. It was a bright chilly morning in
Dhassa, and when Kelson had sent him down to the ferry dock at the shore
of Lake Jashan, Valentin had been happy to go. Chances for a few private
minutes to himself had been rare in the last fortnight. Impersonating
Rory Haldane had been harder, more stressful work than Valentin had ever
imagined. He hoped Alekseyevich would make his move soon for good or
ill, for Valentin truly wasn't sure how safe he was from discovery. The
Court in Rhemuth believed he *was* Prince Rory. But then, people
saw what they expected to see and Valentin's visual disguise was
impenetrable. The trouble came from Rory's family. Prince Nigel and his
wife might not be Deryni, but they were intelligent, perceptive people
who knew their son far better than Valentin did. More than once,
Valentin had seen Prince Nigel glance at him and frown, or shake his
head as if something were not quite *right* in his estimation.
Duchess Meraude had even taken Valentin aside yesterday and asked if
there were anything troubling him.
**And if I told the poor woman even *half* the truth, she'd be more than a little troubled herself, ** he thought, grimly amused. It was true though that he didn't like to think what might be happening to the real Rory Haldane right now.
The first ferry of the morning glided alongside the dock, sobering Valentin further. The hardest part of his task was yet to come. If anything went wrong with Alekseyevich's plan, it would fall to Valentin to kill the Haldane by any means possible. The presence of the King's champion could only make that task more difficult. If Alaric Morgan was famous for anything, it was for his personal devotion and fierce loyalty to his king.
**At least I don't have to worry about identifying the man, ** Valentin thought. The tall blonde man in the deep green cloak and riding leathers couldn't be anyone but the Duke of Corwyn. He was followed down the gangplank by half a dozen men in the green and black Corwyn Ducal livery. Morgan glanced in Valentin's direction, then strode over, frowning his puzzlement. He looked exhausted and unshaven, and at close range, Valentin could his splendid clothes had had a bad encounter with the wet snowy weather.
"Rory! What are you doing in Dhassa?" the Duke asked in a low voice, staring up at Valentin, one hand on his horse's reins.
"Kelson sent me to find you and bring you to his inn, Your Grace," Valentin murmured, bowing in the saddle. "He wanted to see you as soon as possible, and give you a chance for a rest and a decent meal."
Almost two hours later, Valentin sat virtually forgotten in the corner of Kelson's room at the inn and continued to observe. Bishop McLain was present, as was his son the Duke of Cassan. Morgan looked far better for a bath and shave and some fresh clothes, eating a late breakfast. He looked too exhausted to know what he ate, but he did notice the wine.
"Fianna red," Morgan murmured after an approving sip. He smiled and saluted the king with his goblet. "It was above the call of duty to remember to bring it along, My Prince. Thank you."
"I'm the King and I've standards to maintain," Kelson replied. "Also, I don't have the heart to make you drink that dirty dishwater the Dhassians call wine when I know you're worried to death over Richenda and Briony."
"I tried to link with her last night for almost two hours," Morgan said, bowing his head. "Nothing."He looked so desolate that even Valentin felt a twinge of sympathy.
"We'll get them back, Alaric," Kelson whispered. "You have my pledge on that. But first things first," the king went on more briskly. "I questioned Mansard while you were in your bath, and truth-read him, too. I'm convinced he didn't know he was leading you into a trap, he's just the victim of whoever *was* trying to trap you. But Mansard is human and he doesn't have any powers."
"So you think it was a trap?" Morgan said and nodded.
"That snowstorm made me suspicious. A storm that severe this early and that far South in the Lendours? It's only November, after all. But it blew up just when that ruined abbey would be the closest shelter -- what's wrong?"
The King came to his feet in concern, for Morgan had set down his cup and his eyes were screwed tightly shut.
"Finally!" Morgan whispered. "I think Richenda's finally trying to contact me," he explained looking up again. "It's very faint and far away. Link with me, quickly. She may not have much time."
Instantly, the four around the table linked hands, bolstered by their support, Morgan sought the contact again, desperate to contact his wife.
**Your Grace, for your wife's and daughter's sakes, I beg you to listen to me**, Renaud sent when the link was strong enough. **I'm a stranger I know, but I swear I'm not your enemy. **