The following day, as promised, began at
dawn with Ethan's departure and proceeded with little respite through
sword drill in the armory yard during the morning and patrol drill
outside the town walls for the entire afternoon. Derry was used to
both activities, but he was still sore from his wound and shaken by
the news that Wencit of Torenth had a son, and one who looked just
like him. On top of the long day of hard work, Lord Michael had made
sure Derry had no time to spend with Dacia. Immediately after supper,
he had summoned Derry, along with Gregory and Lucas, to the study and
given them additional tasks for the next day. Derry had not returned
to the hall but had gone straight to bed. He had not slept soon,
however, for he kept remembering Geoffrey's somewhat awkward movements
in the armory yard and the fact that he'd never had a minute alone
with Dacia throughout the entire day.
When he finally did sleep, it was only fitfully. He woke fully just
as the first hint of dawn began to lighten the sky and sighed in
disgust. He had another grueling day ahead, and he felt less rested
now than when he'd gone to bed. He didn't know why Lord Michael was so
insistent on keeping him away from Dacia; he just wanted to talk to
her! And then there was Geoffrey. What in the world was he going to do
about the boy? As if they didn't have enough trouble just training the
soldiers to protect the passes, he had all this other baggage to
Musing, he decided he knew one of his problems. It had been days
since he had actually relaxed, and he certainly wasn't doing it lying
here staring up at the canopy of his bed. Pushing the covers aside, he
rose and found his clothes. He dressed quickly in just hose and a
shirt, slipping on shoes and carrying his tunic and belt. It was
always better to run through the positions outside, where he could
hear and feel nature around him. He went quietly down the newel stairs
and out into the garden, where he would have some room to move about.
Dropping his tunic, belt, and shoes onto a stone bench at the edge of
a clearing in the middle of the garden, he moved to the center of the
circle and positioned himself so that he should face into the rising
He closed his eyes and settled his heart, concentrating on the
sounds and smells that came to his senses. He could feel the earth
beneath his bare feet and the wind wafting gently through his hair,
could smell the delicate scent of the blossoms of early-blooming fruit
trees. His mind and spirit began to still as he felt himself center
down into the mental state San Te had shown him. He began moving
slowly into the form, his mind clear, his body relaxed. He thought of
nothing except the little spark of perfection he seemed to feel as he
moved through the positions. Crane Walks the Stream became Dragon
Sweeps the Trees. The slow and rhymic coordinated movements of his
body settled into the form completely, and Derry felt as if he were
flying. The Pounding Wave became Eagle Keeps the Eyrie. He
concentrated on his breathing and on relaxing his muscles as he moved
through the form.
Almost before he realized, he was in the midst of Weasel Takes the
Snake, a complicated flying kick combined with a double catch low, and
he was settling into the final movement, The Humble Greet the Sun. The
telling of his training would be shown when he opened his eyes. He
bowed to what he hoped would be the east, where he would be greeted by
the rising sun. He smiled in satisfaction as he found that he had
indeed placed himself correctly and suddenly realized he was also face
to face with Dacia, who sat on the bench beside his other clothes,
watching him in fascination.
"Good morning," he smiled at her.
"Good morning indeed. What in the world were you doing,
"It's called a lotus form," he said as he sat down beside
her to pull on his shoes. "I was getting in touch with the
perfection of the spheres." He grinned his lopsided grin at the
surprise on her face. "Sorry. It helps me to relax."
She looked concerned. "What's got you so tense you need to
relax at daybreak, Sean? Did you not sleep?"
He shrugged and admitted, "Not very well, no. It's
just–everything, Dacia. Your father's working me like a very
peasant, and he hardly lets me speak to you, and he's assigned me a
squire who really needs a lot of training. And I guess it's mainly the
idea that Wencit's coming back to haunt me again. I thought I was
fairly well past the worst of that."
"It was bad, wasn't it?"
He nodded, refusing to meet her eyes. "It was worse than bad
sometimes. I–finally worked through it. At least I thought I had.
What you saw me doing–the forms of Tan Che–that was a real
beginning point for me. Learning that helped me begin to understand
that I had to find peace from within myself, that no one else could
give it to me."
"Did Duke Alaric teach it to you, then?"
Derry smiled, shaking his head. ‘No, not m'lord Alaric. I learned
it from a most amazing man named San Te, a gardener by trade."
She was surprised. "A–a gardener?"
"Aye, though I always suspected he was more than just a
"Why is that, Sean?"
He pulled on his tunic before he answered, slowly. "Well, it
was the oddest thing, Dacia. He just showed up out of nowhere. I mean,
the Duchess had wanted to repair the gardens at Castle Coroth, it's
true, but he just turned up at the gate one day to ask to be allowed
to work on the gardens. He was just a little man in brown homespun,
but his eyes–they were truly remarkable. Almond-shaped, and pale as
ice, and looking into them I felt like I was looking into–I don't
know exactly. A well of time, maybe. This wisdom of eons. Anyhow, I
took him to the Duchess, and she accepted him as gardener, and I
didn't think much more about it until--" he paused, lost in
"Yes? What happened, Sean?"
"Well, I–I had nightmares, Dacia, for a long time
after–after Cardosa. Still do, once in a while, though not so bad
now. I had one then, a day or two later, and I got up early–really
early, before sunrise, and went down into the garden. And he was
there, on the terrace, doing what you just saw me doing. I–I can't
exactly say why it seemed–well, to pull at me. As if I had to know
what he was doing. It was like–waves of calm just rolled off him and
washed over me. And he seemed to sense that I was upset, and he agreed
to show me how to relax, and–well, it did. I could just feel the
tension and fear draining away from me, and I must have been standing
there for half an hour or more, completely relaxed, when the Duchess
and Lady Rothana came out of the solar and found me. After that, San
Te taught me more and more, and I've been virtually free of Wencit's
terror since. Not–not entirely, but essentially so. I've learned how
to control my own fears, to find strength in myself. Does any of that
make sense to you?"
"It makes a great deal of sense, Sean. I could almost feel
your peacefulness myself just now. I just never saw anyone do those
sorts of things before. It was–well, almost like a slow dance, very
"Yes, exactly. There is a certain rhythm to them, that's in
tune with nature, you see. That's why it's better to do them outside.
All the positions have names that relate to natural forms in the world
"It sounds very complicated."
"Well, yes and no. I think there's a lot more San Te could
have taught me, but he didn't."
"He left Coroth after a year or so. He said he had ‘put
things on the proper path to wellness,' and he had to move on. I asked
him if he meant he'd put me on the path too, as well as the garden,
and he just smiled and said I was on it, yes, and that we'd likely
meet again before its end. And he left, took ship and sailed off
toward Fianna, and that's the last I heard of him. But I get the
feeling he's likely to turn up unexpectedly again. A most amazing man,
as I said."
"Aye, he sounds it, indeed." She tilted her head to one
side as if thinking, then said slowly, "Did you say
this–whatever you called it--"
"The forms of Tan Che," he smiled.
"Aye. Did you say it helped you find your own strength from
"It did. Why?"
"Well, I'm wondering if you could teach it to Geoffrey, Sean.
He's a good boy, really he is. Better in some ways than Peter, for he
wants to know why he does things, not just how. I stayed at Munro with
them for a while when he was just a little lad, and he nearly drove my
uncle to distraction asking why he had to do a thing one way and not
another. He has little confidence in himself; that's his only problem,
really. Always comparing himself to Peter, even when others try not
to. Do you think you could teach it to him? And do you think it might
Derry considered this for a moment, then nodded slowly. "I
could teach him what I know, yes. And it might help. It would be
something I expect his brother never did," he grinned.
"That's true," she laughed. "Somehow I cannot see
Peter up at dawn to bow to the sun."
"That's a really good idea, actually, Dacia. It will give us
some quiet time to get to know each other, and what little I know will
be at least a beginning for him. An excellent idea."
She gave him a teasing smile. "All my ideas are good ones. And
right now I've an idea I'd like another kiss from you, Sean
He answered her smile with one of his own. "Now that sounds
like the best idea of all,' he said, leaning forward and closing his
eyes as their lips touched. At the same time he heard the crunch of a
footstep on the graveled path beyond the clearing, and he opened his
eyes to meet the level, sea-green gaze of Lord Michael.
The Earl of Drumaere's expressive eyebrows rose toward his
hairline. "Weel now, Lord Derry. Ye're up early. And ye,
daughter. I'm just on ma way to Mass. Will ye not join me?"
Derry and Dacia exchanged a look of mutual frustration and wry
amusement before they both stood. Dacia spoke for both of them.
"Aye, Father. I expect we can both think of a thing or two to
pray for this morning."