A fortnight of intensive training had
turned the twenty men assigned to Derry’s patrol into a unit, he
felt. The other commanders also felt their troops were as ready as
they were going to be.
"It’s not as if we
don’t have men who can fight," Alex
McGowan said as they sat in the hall at table. Alex, now Baron
Waverley, had arrived more than a week earlier with about twenty men
as well as his wife, Dacia’s sister Bethany, and their three
children. He’d been happy to see Derry back at Caer Dinan. "They
can all fight. It’s just getting them to work together, and I think
they’re as ready as they’re likely to be until we get into a real
skirmish. You can only drill so much."
"Aye, that’s so,
Alex," Lord Michael agreed. "And
it’s time we moved out. There’s no way we can keep two hundred men
a secret for long. Nor the fact that we’ve only that many. I want us
movin’ out beginnin’ tomorrow."
Lord Michael had already outlined his
rotation plan for them; each patrol would move out of Caer Dinan to
one of the main passes into Tolan, but on such a random-appearing
schedule that no one could possibly predict who would be where at any
given time. Sometimes there would be two patrols on each pass,
sometimes not. Each patrol would rotate back to Caer Dinan every few
days, so that at least two patrols were there at all times. Lord
Michael had given each commander his own schedule, and Derry had
decided not to try to comprehend the whole plan. He would deal with
his own and be glad not to worry about the rest.
Lord Michael continued his outline.
"Gregory, Sean, Lucas, Alex ye’ll go out first to the four
passes. Then Toby, Colin, Jacob, and Darrell. Nathan and I will be the
last out, and we’ll go from there. Ye all have yer own schedules;
stick to them unless there’s trouble. Ye all know the distress
calls; they’ll sound from one pass to the next if ye need help. I
doubt Henrik’s goin’ to post many men on the passes; I doubt he
thinks us as big a prize as Marley. He’ll be movin’ troops toward
the plains, not frettin’ overmuch about us."
"I hope he’s
right," Gregory muttered to Derry.
"So do I,"
he agreed. "God help us if he brings five or six hundred men
through those passes."
"Amen to that."
The patrols had been riding out for
drill every day for a fortnight, so the town didn’t get unduly
excited to see them departing again; It was not until the day ended
and not all the patrols returned that the town of Caer Dinan realized
that their men had gone to war. That had been one of Lord Michael’s
goals as well, to keep the spies in the dark for as long as possible.
By the time the spies realized it, Lord Michael had his roving troops
deployed, and the passes were essentially closed to the two-way
traffic that had been occurring previously.
Derry and his patrol reached their
campsite in mid-afternoon. They had ridden a winding path along the
edge of the lake and up into the hills. Now they camped within site of
the Undola Pass, yet not so close as to be ambushed. They would patrol
that section of the Eldar Dun trail between the way hut and Lambert
Hall for the first three days, then move on to a second location for
the rest of their first field duty period. Derry walked the camp as
the men set it up, checking the picket line for the horses, the outer
perimeter for any obstacles.
"Dig the fire pits good
and deep,"he reminded the men
performing that task. "There’s no way to hide the fact
we’re here, but let’s not give them an easy target, either."
Geoffrey followed at Derry’s heels,
like a good and dutiful squire. About the boy, at least, Derry was no
longer worried, though he understood now why Sir Adam had been driven
nearly to distraction by his constant questions about the reasons for
doing things. That was the only frustrating thing about his attempts
to teach the boy the forms of Tan Che and other things he had learned
from San Te. Derry recalled with chagrin the end of one of their
sessions the previous week.
"But, why, m’lord? I don’t
understand why this move always follows that one. Why am I doing all
this ‘groundwork’ as you call it rather than learning how to use
Derry gritted his teeth harder for each
question until he rounded on Geoffrey. "I don’t know, Geoff!
Why do you always have to know 'why'? Can't you just do it as I show
He whirled and stepped away, his breath
coming out in a rush. He tried to calm himself as he turned back. "I'm
sorry, Geoff. I just don't have all the answers you want. Please let
me try to explain things to you, and just try to follow along with
what I am showing you and save your questions for the end, all
He raised his eyebrows hopefully on the
last words. Geoff looked miserable, about to start apologizing
profusely once again. Derry cut him off before he began, saying, "Don't,
Geoff. It's not your fault; there is nothing for you to apologize for.
I think I need more training myself if I am ever going to give you the
training you need. I don't know the answers, and I need to learn them.
I see that now."
Having apologized to Geoffrey had not
lessened his feeling of failure. Dacia had found him later that day,
still feeling out of sorts. Sensing his mood, she had not teased or
slipped away but had sat down beside him and listened as he poured out
the story of the frustrating session.
Derry shook his head as he considered
the problem. "There's just so much I don't understand, Dacia.
I wish I had answers to his questions. I just didn't learn enough
"Why did San Te leave you only
partly trained, Sean? You and Father both say he's a great teacher.
But that's not sound teaching, to leave the job only partly
Derry shook his head again. "I
think that's not quite fair, Dacia. I - I think he left because I
stopped asking questions. I learned enough to control my fears, and
that was all I really wanted then. You can only teach someone what he
wants to know. If you try to teach something he's not interested in,
you're only wasting your own time. So it's my fault, not his."
"But he did say he thought
you'd meet again."
"Aye he did. Next time I'll
have sense enough to ask more questions."
At dawn the next morning, Derry and
Geoff were up for their daily session, and by the time the sun was
fully up, the whole patrol was mounted and moving out along the
east-running trail that met the Eldar Dun above the main trail to
Lambert Hall. They had hardly gone a mile from the campsite when the
scouts Derry had sent ahead were back, eyes bright–and with a
prisoner trussed up like a fowl for roasting.
"Look what we found, m'lord,"
one of the scouts grinned, "sneakin' about lookin' for
"I'd say he found some,"
Derry grinned back. "How many?"
"About thirty, m'lord. Making
for the pass. Look to have been raiding down toward Triune. They've a
good few cattle with 'em."
"All right, then. Let's go. You
all know what to do. Make your training count, men. Geoff, you stay by
me. Don't engage anyone unless you absolutely must."
The boy looked disappointed but nodded.
They had practiced the drill a dozen
times at least in the past fortnight, and now the patrol divided
itself neatly into two groups, the first dividing further to flank the
enemy and move in from behind once the raiders topped the hill just
ahead. Derry's half of the patrol drew up into two lines and drew
their swords quietly, then sat silent, listening for the raider band's
The Tolanese men, leading the stolen
cattle with ropes tied to saddles, crested the hill to find Derry's
men grinning and brandishing their swords. The cattle complained as
they were forced to halt when the Tolanese stopped moving. The
raiders, several on foot, warily eyed the setup they had walked into.
The leader of the band glared at his own scout, still trussed up and
now guarded and sullen at the rear of Derry's patrol. The leader
glanced back with a scowl in time to see the flanking patrol members
moving into place behind his own men, thus neatly surrounding his
His face flushed red with anger, the
leader drew his sword and spurred his horse directly toward Derry, who
sat in the center of the first line before him, clearly the leader of
the patrol with his arms blazoned on the shield he held. Derry readied
himself for the blow, glad his shoulder wound was healed now. He moved
forward but did not anticipate the man's strike at horse, not rider.
Trained for battle, Derry's horse
escaped the worst of the blow, but the movement unseated Derry,
fortunately, for the horse couldn't dodge and stay on his feet too; he
went down with enough force to have broken a rider's leg had he still
been in the saddle. Derry rolled clear and came up on his feet,
furious now, and saw his opponent also unseated as Geoffrey drove his
own mount into the Tolanese.
In two strides, Derry reached the man
and stopped him from striking at Geoff's horse. "Good work,
Geoff!" he called. "Back off now!" He
growled at the other man, "Fight a man, you dog of Tolan, not
The Tolan man was good; Derry gave him
that. They exchanged equal blows for several minutes, oblivious to the
other fighting going on around them. Derry was coldly calm now, a
sense of ease in each move he made. His mind was concentrated and
calm, his movements confident. Too much confidence, maybe, for the
other man was good, and he had a heavier sword that suddenly rang hard
against Derry's, which couldn't take the impact this time. It fell
broken from his hand, and Derry found himself with the other's sword
at his throat.
A broad and evil smile showed beneath
the big man's thick black mustache. "Hold, Drumaere!" he
roared, and glanced around to see that his command was obeyed. "Your
leader's my prisoner--" he began, but the smile faded as his
sword arm was suddenly numbed by a blow and the sword fell ringing to
the stony ground. He lunged forward to grab Derry only to find him
The sound of a footstep was all the
warning he had as his legs were abruptly swept from under him and he
landed roughly on his back, the breath knocked from him. Gasping, he
looked up the length of a long sword blade now leveled at his own
throat. It was his own sword, and the hand that held it steady
belonged to a grim Sean Lord Derry. The blue eyes were cold and hard,
but a sudden grin–a wickedly amused one–crossed Derry's
face. "Care to rephrase that?" he asked lightly.
Their leader fallen, the Tolanese
decided that the better part of wisdom was to leave as quickly as
possible, and Derry signaled his men to let them go. "Let them
spread the word in Tolan that Drumaere is no longer easy
pickings!" he exclaimed.
The cattle, scattered in the melee,
needed to be rounded up and headed home, and in addition to the
captured scout and the fallen and now bound leader, there was another
wounded Tolan man. These three had to be remanded to Lambert Hall for
confinement. Meanwhile, the patrol would regroup and repair any
damages to their own gear. Derry saw Geoff already collecting his
shield and the broken shards of his sword. He grimaced over the loss
of his own sword but hefted the one he had taken from the Tolanese
leader and told one of the men to bring him its scabbard as well since
his own was a good two inches too short for the weapon. It would do
until he had a chance to replace his own blade. His men had suffered
only a few minor cuts and some bruises, excellent for a first
engagement. Derry was very proud of his entire patrol and told them
"We've come through the first
encounter well, men. We'll face worse, maybe, but next time we won't
be new at it. I commend you all."
The tall, lanky sergeant, Norton, gave
him a smile. "I'm thinkin', m'lord, ye might better teach us
all that fancy work ye did on that fellow. He never knew what hit him
is what I think."
Derry laughed a bit. "Well,
I'll do what I can. That move was a fairly simple one, really. When he
turned his head, I just stepped up close behind him on the side away
from the way he was looking. It's called the Shadow Step. You stand in
the other person's shadow and he can't see you. Then you just sweep
his feet out from under him." He grinned and shrugged. "It
worked in this case, though mainly what we all need to do is what we
did today. Stick together, watch out for your comrades. Let's get
these three off to Lambert Hall. Sir Versil will keep them safe enough
until Lord Michael sees to them, I expect." And the prisoners
were put on some of the sumpter horses for the ride, hands bound. A
detail of four men was sent to guard them, and the rest of the patrol
gathered up the cattle and drove them back toward the Hall as well.
n a high mountain fortress on the other
side of the border, a tawny-haired man with eyes like a fox took his
hand off the large shiral crystal on the table before him. He
was not interested in Lambert Hall or its prisoners but in the man who
had sent them there. He called for the guard who stood outside the
"Yes, your Grace?"
Henrik of Landur, erstwhile Duke of
Tolan, smiled a mirthless smile.
"I want to see that fellow that
was with my father at Cardosa. Bring him to me."
"At once, Your Grace." And in
only moments, the door opened after a knock. "Tybalt the jailer,
A burly, grizzled man entered, bowing
to the man who so resembled the Torenthi king who had once employed
him as jailer and torturer.
>"You were at Cardosa, weren't you, Tybalt, when my father
held Sean Lord Derry there at the Esgair Ddu?"
"Aye, Your Grace, I was. A
mighty tough customer, Lord Derry, at least to ordinary torture."
"But my father employed other
means, did he not?"
"Aye, he did, Your Grace."
"And did you witness any of
"Aye, Your Grace. I did that.
Clever man, King Wencit."
"As am I, Tybalt. Come, sit
here by the fire. I need to know what my father did to Lord Derry. I
want to take the knowledge from your mind. Are you afraid?"
"I've served under Deryni all
my life, Your Grace. I'm not afraid to help you as I did your father.
What is it you want me to do?"
"Sit before the fire, Tybalt,
and look into the flames. Listen to my voice only." Henrik
moved to stand behind the chair while Tybalt sat. He placed his hands
on the other's shoulders. "Now just look into the flames.
Listen to my voice and relax. Drift with the flames. . ." The
jailer slipped into trance as if he had been doing it for years–as
perhaps he had. Henrik smiled grimly as he sensed the sewer that was
the jailer's well of memories of tortures and abuses. He let himself
sink into trance as well in order to learn which shadows of the past
would most unsettle the all-too-competent and confident Sean Lord