Profits & Losses
Chapter 22 of Uninvited Guests
Reynaud leaned his head
against the dark stone wall which blocked the passage they were in,
thinking hard. He wished that they still held Alekseyevich, and wished
that they hadn't encountered those guards--who were probably looking
for them now. He wished they hadn't had to run like that, fleeing
without direction. And he fervently wished himself back in West Tralia
with his new wife.
Crispal whimpered softly into Elise's grubby, torn skirts, echoed by little Briony in Richenda's arms. Both the Duchess and his wife were looking at him expectantly in the gloom of sparse, flickering torches.
"God, it was stupid of me to lose Alekseyevich like that!" Reynaud said, shaking his head.
"From the response of those men we met, I don't think he'd gain us very much protection," Rory responded sardonically.
"No, but he is Deryni, as you know -- he can look for us by other means. In addition, I met one- -other--tonight, here in this castle, who may even be stronger than Alekseyevich," the Healer told them.
"Who, my love?" asked Elise.
Reynaud hesitated, but there was no reason why they should not know. "Lord Mahael of Arjenol," he responded, eliciting a whispered curse from the prince. "I think I can shield us from him for a while, but I'll need help." He looked at Richenda. "My Lady?"
"It will cut us off from Ala--my husband trying to find us as well," she responded, painfully shying away from her husband's name. "But you're right; if we evade capture and manage to get ourselves out of here, he won't need to be able to reach us."
Uncanny; Reynaud hadn't felt a probe of any kind from her, and yet she knew exactly what he'd been thinking. Nodding wordlessly, he extended a hand to her, and within a few moments they had strengthened and merged their shields to protect the group from prying minds.
"Well, we'd best find this Transfer Portal, then," Richenda said softly ad she surfaced from her light trance, smoothing Briony's bright hair with one long, graceful hand. Only a slight crease between her golden brows betrayed the tension in her mind and powers.
"Right. There's just one problem with that," Reynaud admitted. "I don't know where it is."
Rory stopped fiddling with the hilt of his borrowed sword to cast a sharp glance at the Healer. "I thought you just said you knew!" he hissed.
Reynaud ducked his head, feeling suddenly very, very small. "I know there's a Portal somewhere in this castle, and I've felt its signature, yes," he murmured. "But when I was taken to it, I was blindfolded and misdirected at every turn. For all I know, it's right next door to your cells."
Richenda sighed explosively, watching Elise shiver in a strong, icy draft that suddenly blew down the corridor to swirl around their hiding place. "Well, for starters, let's try to find the inhabited portion of the castle," she said, trying to make the most of their predicament. "You know where that is, right?"
"I do, my Lady," Reynaud admitted, but the embarrassment didn't leave his voice. "I just wish I knew where we were."
"God, I hope he know's what he's doing," Kelson muttered under his breath as Azim disappeared with Derry. Duncan began moving among the circle of men, distributing blessings as his contribution to the expedition.
"I want you to remember this the next time the Council badgers me to take a wife," Kelson told the bishop in a voice low enough so that Alaric could not hear him. "This could very well have been _my_ family."
"Praise God it is not, my Prince," Duncan murmured, sketching a sign of benediction over Kelson's bowed head. "Go with God, and bring them back safely." The bishop moved on to his cousin, repeating the blessing before clasping hands with Alaric for a few moments with some low words of support.
Another approached the king as Duncan moved away. "Sire, if I might ask something of you?" Valentin-Rory murmured humbly.
Kelson glanced nervously at the Transfer Portal, wondering what in God's name was taking Lord Azim so long. "Yes, what is it?"
"My Lord, you and my Lord of Corwyn are not the first Zinovy has sought to control through threats to their family," Valentin told him. "My--the son of the woman I love is also held by this man. I would give all that I have, even my life, to get him back. But I fear that may not be enough."
Kelson's expression urged him to continue.
"My Lord, Rebecca's father is a very powerful man. More powerful even than Zinovy Kirilovich. He may have further plans beyond this, and I fear for our safety." Rory's eyes searched for words. "My Liege, I ask for your protection if all tonight goes as we would hope."
Kelson clasped his hand briefly. "You have it."
Anything more he had to add was cut off by a shimmer in the oratory that held Dhassa's private portal. In moment, Azim had reappeared, a fading glow of power briefly lighting his dark skin and eyes. Both Alaric and Kelson stepped closer to the Portal, drawing in their breath expectantly as the Anviller Knight turned to them.
"It's clear," he said quickly, "though I know not for how long. My Lord Derry guards the other side, but we must move quickly." He beckoned for Kelson, noticing Alaric's feral look at the mention of Derry. "Sire, let me bring you through, so you can learn the Portal and assist."
By the time their small band had been brought through to Skaggarak Island, Kelson was getting good practice out of the fatigue-banishing spell. Being safely ensconced in Rhemuth made him forget how exhausting using a Transfer Portal could be. But there was no time to worry about that now. Alaric was already on the prowl, hovering expectantly over Azim and Valentin as they conferred on the next measure. Sword drawn and ready, Derry stood on the far side of the group from his lord, looking alternately dejected and ready to redeem himself.
Passing his hand over his eyes once more, Kelson moved to the duke of Corwyn. "Can you sense Richenda at all, Alaric? Is she still here?"
Alaric gave him a momentary startled look. Apparently he hadn't thought of casting out for his wife. He nodded shortly. After a moment with his attention turned *inward* and *out*, Alaric turned haunted silver eyes on his liege lord. "Jesu, Kelson, I can't feel her! None of them!"
Kelson barely had time to curse before Azim brought him more bad news. "Sire. I'm afraid we have a problem."
"I've never been in this part of the castle before," Valentin said worriedly. "Much of it has fallen into disrepair over the years, and many of the inhabited locations have moved. I don't know how we're going to find where Zinovy is keeping your people," he admitted. "I'm not even sure which part of the castle we're in."