Derry spent a hot and miserable afternoon
in the study with Gregory, dutifully listing down all the information
the latter had to report.
Finally Gregory finished his report
with, "And then we encountered Lady Vivienne and Sir Sextus and
their escort, and I figured I had better ride in with her, God help
" Who _is_ she?" Derry
demanded of his friend. " Why did no one tell me Dacia is
marrying Sextus Arilan?"
Gregory sighed and shook his head.
"You want a simple answer to a
very complex question, Sean. There are no simple answers here. To say
who Lady Vivienne is doesn't tell you much. Sieur Roker de Jordanet
was her husband; they were at court years ago; she still keeps in
touch. She's a distant relative of Mother's, to make the connection a
little clearer. As for the other, you'd best ask Dacia or
"That is not helpful, and you know
it. Dacia went off with the old crone, and your father won't be here
for two more days."
"Sean, it's – it's to do with
being Deryni. That's as much as I'm at liberty to say."
Derry knew his tone was curt and
regretted it at once. Gregory looked miserable.
"You don't really. Sean. It's
worse than you can imagine. They didn't want me to marry Meagan, who's
only a little Deryni, even though I'm nowhere near as talented as
"And I don't understand that,
either. Either you're Deryni or you're not."
"No, not really. Some of the
high-born Deryni don't consider those of mixed blood to be Deryni at
all; that's how they see Meagan, and your lord Morgan, despite the
fact he has the Healing talent. Within families, some children may be
more talented than others, too."
"But you and Dacia have the same
"Yes, but I can't sing, either,
Sean, and Dacia and Rosemary can. A lot of it has to do with the
interest you put into it, I think. I learned the basics as a child,
but I never really wanted to do the concentrated study required for
ritual magic. I knew my service to my people was more likely to mean
being able to fight and manage an estate, so I concentrated on those
aspects of my education."
He shrugged slightly.
"Anyhow, we were all tested and
basically trained, but Dacia and Rosemary are the really talented
ones, so they're the ones who are supposed to marry equally talented
"Sextus Arilan. Why not the older
"He's married already; you know
that. Since his father died when he was little, they married him off
when he was barely fifteen, and that was before Dacia had been
identified as having a tremendous talent, before they persuaded Father
to agree to this ridiculous arrangement--"
"You keep saying ‘they.' Who are
Gregory looked unhappy and
"We're not really supposed to talk
about it, Sean."
"Oh, all right. ‘They' are the
Camberian Council. There are eight of them, all full Deryni lords and
ladies, and they–regulate the use of Deryni powers, sort of. Some
Deryni don't pay them any attention, of course, and some have tried to
manipulate them, but they do try to discipline misuses of Deryni
powers. They also try to arrange marriages between scattered Deryni
families to ensure the continuance of the race. And if you tell anyone
I said so much, I'll swear you got me drunk and forced it out of
"We're not supposed to talk about
them because humans – well, most humans – would see them as a
threat, and the persecutions might start up again. Think what might
have happened if Loris had known there was a Deryni council!"
Derry nodded, forced to agree.
"All right, I see that. But why
didn't someone tell me about Dacia? I feel an utter fool!"
"What could we say without telling
you about the Council? It's not as if any of us actually knew they'd
chosen Sextus. I think Dacia hoped they'd just forgotten about
"She told me she was betrothed
before, that he died. Who was that?"
"I know that's not my place to
"Well, I wish someone would tell
me something! Lady Vivienne obviously knows a great deal about my
recent past. The first thing she said to me was a reference to those
rumors from court."
"She makes it her business to know
all the gossip, and uses it to needle people."
"She did that just looking at me,
as if I were a nasty bug she wanted to squash."
"She has a habit of that. At least
you didn't have to escort her for two hours, all the while listening
to her disparaging your wife and children!"
Derry felt a pang of sympathy for his
"I knew she must have done
something. I've rarely seen you so short-tempered."
"Aye. She has one true
talent–that of making everyone uncomfortable."
"Didn't seem to ruffle Dacia's
feathers a bit." Derry's tone was bitter.
"That's the last thing she'd want
Lady Vivienne to know, if she was upset. You know that."
Derry looked down at his toes, somewhat
ashamed of his childish display of temper.
"I suppose I do. But dammit,
Gregory, what is going to happen? Is she actually going to go through
Gregory looked distinctly unhappy.
"I dunno, Sean. I can't imagine
she will, know she doesn't want to – but I just don't know if
there's a way out of it for her."
Derry knew he should go to the hall for
supper despite the fact that his now restricted diet made it
uncomfortable to be there and see everyone else eating things he
couldn't have and drinking the wine he wanted. He _should_ go, but he
just couldn't bring himself to it. He definitely did not wish to share
the high table with Lady Vivienne nor see Dacia sitting beside Sir
Sextus. Instead he had Geoffrey bring his food to his room, then sent
the boy back to the hall, while he himself shipped out to the orchard,
where he could hear the musicians' efforts only faintly. He settled
onto the ground in the lotus position and tried to let the night
sounds of frogs and insects and rustling leaves calm his tangled
Closing his eyes, he took a deep
breath, held it, let it out slowly. Several tries later, he willed
himself to relax, but it wasn't working very well. The long and
miserable day had only given him new worries over and above those
about defending Drumaere and preparing himself to face the son of
Wencit of Torenth.
The thought of Wencit was like a spell
in and of itself. Instead of relaxing, Derry felt himself tense, saw
the mocking face of Wencit, heard his hateful words.
"What good is all this noble
integrity, little Lord Derry?" the phantom mocked him. "You
can't win against a Deryni. I took your honor and now Arilan will have
The laughter of the phantom–he knew
it was only in his mind–was no less disturbing than if the man
himself had risen from the grave to taunt him with yet another
failure. He hadn't been able to resist the binding Wencit had put on
him; now he could not resist the memory and worse, the imagined
gloating of the dead Torenthi king.
He opened his eyes with an oath, his
heart pounding. Was he never to be free of Wencit? Shaking his head in
defeat, he merely sat where he was. He had no desire to go into the
hall and knew he would not sleep if he returned to his bedchamber. He
could still, it seemed, hear the echo of Wencit's laughter at his
distress over Dacia's seeming betrayal.
He wasn't sure how long he had been
trying to ignore the sound he had taken for phantom laughter when he
became aware of what it actually was: the sound of muffled weeping. He
turned and looked around in the pale moonlight until he located the
huddled form on the bench against the garden wall. It took him a
moment to realize that it was a girl with her knees drawn up to her
chest, her arms wrapped about them, and her face buried against them
as well, to muffle her broken-hearted weeping.
He rose smoothly and crossed the space
between them without her ever looking up. He suspected she had neither
seen nor heard him at all, for when he spoke, she jumped in fright.
He thought he recognized her even
before she looked up, from her dark hair and the slightly musky
perfume she always wore.
"Lady Amalie, forgive me. I didn't
mean to frighten you."
"Oh. Lord Derry! I–I didn't know
anyone was here--"
Her voice was still choked with tears.
"You're upset. What's wrong, my
lady? Can I help?"
He sat down on the bench beside her.
"No one can help," she said
miserably, a small sob in her words. "No one in the world. What
can anyone do when the person you love doesn't love you back?"
Derry's throat constricted in shared
"Ah, my lady. I truly don't know
the answer to that. I wish I did."
"I wish I'd never come to Caer
Dinan this summer at all," she said unhappily. "Then at
least I wouldn't have to see it happening."
Derry hadn't the least idea who the
girl's heart was aching for, but he could easily empathize. He didn't
like what was happening to his emotions either.
"Yes. But here, my lady, you're
shivering. The mist is starting to rise off the lake. You must come
back inside. You needn't go to the hall if you'd rather not. But you
mustn't stay out here; you'll get a chill."
He rose and urged her to her feet,
pulling her cold little hand through his arm to lead her back through
the garden and to one of the doors near the kitchen, where she could
slip up the servants' stairs to her room. They had not yet reached the
door when they saw another couple slip out the door near the newel
stair and seek the privacy of the bench under the arbor. The girl gave
a soft cry and slipped quickly away and into the castle.
Derry himself turned back toward the
orchard but was arrested in his motion by yet another couple slipping
out of the garden's shifting shadows into the clearing by the
fountain. This was not the couple from the arbor; Derry had recognized
Collin Grant's straw-colored hair as that couple had crossed the
garden to the arbor's concealing shadows. This man had dark hair, and
though Derry couldn't see him well, he guessed from his height that it
was Sir Sextus Arilan, for the woman's golden hair was certainly
Dacia's. Their heads were bent close together in an attitude of
intimacy that sent a surge of jealousy and anger through Derry's
Fighting the urge to rush at them to
tear them apart, Derry forced himself to slip into the castle and up
to his room, where he spent a sleepless night in his lonely bed.