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



Chapter  20

All Taken Unawares

Still somewhat stunned by what San Te had revealed to him about his own talent, Derry had gone looking for Dacia. He wanted to talk to her about all that San Te had just shown and told him. He had been looking for a good twenty minutes before he finally found someone who had any information as to her whereabouts, but it was not information that pleased him when he finally heard it.

"What do you mean, she left the town gates over an hour ago?" he demanded of the hapless soldier who had answered his question to that effect.

"Why, m'lord–she rode out wi' Lady Kathleen an' Lady Amalie an' two men-at-arms. Well, young David, Lady Kathleen's brother, was one o' them."

"I see." Derry's voice had an edge to it that made the man wince. "And just where were they going, did anyone say?"

"Oh, aye, m'lord," the man said, relaxing a bit. "Lady Dacia said there'd been a message from Partham that one o' the women was in a bad way, birthin' early, and she was sent for, and Lady Kathleen as well."

Derry took a deep breath in an attempt to control his irritation. A hard birth at Partham would indeed be cause for Dacia to be called, but why hadn't she at least told him? That independent streak that drove her father to distraction wasn't, he could tell, going to be much easier on him.

"Very well. Thank you, Sewall. I'll just send a few more guards after them. Partham's not too close to the border, but in these times--"

Actually, Partham wasn't close to the border at all, and Dacia had been glad of an excuse to leave the castle. Having been virtually pinned there for more than a month, she felt a need for release. Having Lady Vivienne in residence harping on and on about her obligation to marry Sir Sextus Arilan was almost more than she could bear, too, especially in light of her exchange with Derry the previous day. A message that she was needed at Partham had been just the excuse she needed, and she hadn't even thought of telling Derry that she was going.

Amalie had been with her in the still room when the message arrived; Dacia hadn't yet managed to get from her cousin whatever it was that was bothering the girl, but she had thought the ride would do Amalie no harm. Besides, Amalie was experienced at caring for new mothers and babies, having seven younger siblings at home. She was also trying to learn about midwifery and had been on several other such calls with Dacia, so it was natural for Dacia to ask her. The expectant mother was from Partham village on McIvers lands, so naturally she'd feel Lady Kathleen ought to be there. Dacia had found nothing odd in that request, either.

The three ladies and their escort–Kathleen's brother and a man-at-arms hadn't really given much thought to the possibility of any serious mishaps, what with the roving patrols guarding the border and with Partham being well out of harm's way. That, of course, had been a mistake.

The ambush, when it came, was swift and fierce. All Dacia managed to do was send a stab of alarm toward Caer Dinan, but she'd had no time for anything else, for their attackers outnumbered them about four to one, and there was no time even for arcane defense before she found herself held at knife point.

That would have been a small matter if there hadn't also been knives at Amalie's throat and Kathleen's. Neither of the other girls had enough training to defend themselves by either mundane or arcane means, and Dacia alone couldn't fight over a dozen men.

The leader was obviously the one holding Kathleen at knife point, for he shouted at David, "Drop that blade, young McIvers, or watch yer sister die!"

Dacia saw David's anguish as he was forced to yield. "Dose ‘em all, men," the leader continued. "Half these hills are Deryni of some sort, they say, so make sure they all get a swab o' that stuff His Grace gave ye."

Dacia didn't have to guess what the "stuff" would be, though her mind reeled at the thought. One of the men opened a jar and smeared a generous amount of ointment on her exposed arm. Almost at once a wave of nausea swept over her.


She had undergone merasha training, but never under the stress of being held captive by an enemy. The surface absorbed sort wasn't as potent as that taken in a drink or directly into the bloodstream through a cut, but it was potent enough.

She held onto consciousness long enough to hear the leader say, "Leave the boy and the guard. His Grace wanted the women only, not the cub. If they don't react to the stuff, knock ‘em senseless wi' yer sword hilt. We'll be away before they come to, and that's all we want."

Back in the solar at Caer Dinan, Lady Vivienne sat beside her relation, Lady Gwyneth, and complained on and on about the lack of courtesy of the younger generation. Lady Gwyneth wasn't paying much attention, using her need to watch her needlework as an excuse not to maintain eye contact. Suddenly, she gasped in alarm.

"What is it, Gwyneth?" the older lady demanded. "Did you stab yourself?"

"Dacia!" Lady Gwyneth exclaimed. "Oh, no!"

"What? Where is the girl, anyway?"

"It was an ambush! Rosemary, get Lord Derry! Now!"

Several of the younger girls had felt Dacia's stab of alarm as well, and now the wave of merasha disruption that cut it off, and the room was in a turmoil. Rosemary was on her feet at once, face pale, eyes wide.

Lady Vivienne, well shielded and not in the least affected, ordered imperiously, "He's nothing to do with Dacia! Get Sir Sextus instead."

Lady Gwyneth had the mildest of tempers and seldom did anything to cause controversy or hard feelings, but she was also the mistress of the house and not the least bit intimidated by her older cousin.

"Lord Derry is commander while my husband is not here, cousin. It is his place to see to the violation of the borders, and his place as well to see to the safety of all of us here. Get Lord Derry first, Rosemary."

"Yes, Mama," the girl answered and hurried out the door.

As it happened, both Derry and Sir Sextus were in the hall when Rosemary burst in and gasped out her message. They arrived together at the solar, both pale with worry.

"What happened?" Derry demanded.

"Dacia went out to Partham--" her mother began.

"Yes, I know.' His tone was still irritated.

"It was an ambush, Sean."

"Oh, God!"

"She and Katie and Amalie–all captured. Dosed with merasha as well."

Merasha! Derry, human that he was, went even paler at the thought. He had heard enough of it to know what it did to anyone of Deryni blood. He had even used it himself to keep Princess Morag quiescent during the several hours that Duchess Richenda had been in labor when Lord Kelric was born. He felt sick just thinking of it.

"Damn! I knew it sounded wrong!"

Sir Sextus had also gone even paler at the news. "They gave them merasha? Was it this Henrik?"

"Who else would it be?" Lady Vivienne snapped at him. "Don't be a fool, Sextus. You must go after her–"

"Where did it happen, Lady Gwyneth?" Derry interrupted. "Any indication where they might be headed?"

"No, I'm sorry. There's that deep defile just after you leave the main road to head up to Partham. There were a lot of them, and they dosed them as soon as they could."

"Damn, damn, damn!" Derry swore. "Forgive me, ladies. Arilan, get your sword if you're coming with me!"

"Sean, you can't--"

Lady Vivienne interrupted.

"Lord Sextus will go after his betrothed bride–and is better equipped than you to deal with this Henrik, Lord Derry!"

To everyone's surprise, Sextus Arilan rounded on her hotly.

"Lady Vivienne, you and the precious Council have meddled in my life and Lady Dacia's for the last time. It's plain to anyone with eyes that she's in love with Lord Derry, and he with her! And much as I admire her, Lady Dacia has a rescuer; Lord Derry will go after her. As the son of Jamyl Arilan, I will not be dictated to as to whom I will or will not marry. He would never allow it, nor will I. Lady Amalie is out there, God help her, dosed with merasha. I've loved her all my life and played the fool never to tell her so! Come, Lord Derry. The sooner we go, the sooner the ladies are all home safe!"

And despite the seriousness of the situation and the fear he felt for Dacia, Derry couldn't help but take a small grain of pleasure from the stunned look and the speechless state of the haughty Lady Vivienne de Jordanet. He thought he would give the haughty lady one more surprise to put her off balance. He grabbed Sextus by the sleeve, halting his exit. Gathering energy into his palm and setting it to glow there like a pale blue gem, he looked at the lady and said, "Lord Derry is not as helpless as you think, my lady."

His eyes boring into Vivienne’s widened ones, he allowed the energy to sparkle in his palm for a moment more. Then he closed his fist letting go of the energy, and ran out the door dragging an open-mouthed Sir Sextus.



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