Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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Derry's Wedding



Chapter  17

The Bartered Bride

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 me."

" 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 Father."

"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."

"I see."

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 Dacia."

"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 parents."

"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 men."

"Sextus Arilan. Why not the older brother?"

"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 ‘they?'"

Gregory looked unhappy and uncomfortable.

"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 me."


"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 it."

"She told me she was betrothed before, that he died. Who was that?"

"I know that's not my place to tell."

"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 friend.

"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 with this?"

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 emotions.

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 your woman."

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.

"My lady--"

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 misery.

"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 entire being.

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.



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