Dacia was surprised to find herself in a
very comfortably furnished bedchamber when she woke. Her head still
ached from the aftereffects of the merasha, but she lay on a soft bed
with dark green hangings and coverlets.
"Ah, so you are back to
consciousness, my lady,"
said a smooth voice. "I do apologize for the necessity of that
initial dosing with merasha, but the men I sent were not Deryni, so I
had no choice but to be sure you were disabled." She pushed
herself up to a sitting position and looked at the speaker, who sat
calmly in a chair near the fire that burned on the hearth.
He was a man in his early 30's, lean
and fit, with the tawny hair and rather leonine look that she had
heard attributed to Wencit of Torenth. He wore a rich brpwn velvet
robe and a silver circlet denoting his claimed ducal rank, and he
studied her frankly and with some admiration and amusement. Beneath
the robe, she saw the gleam of chain mail and sensed, even with her
still ragged powers, the solid and powerful shields of a well-trained
and confident Deryni adept. Dacia refused to let her fear show.
"You must be Henrik, the
bastard of Landur." She
did not try to hide her contempt or dislike.
His eyebrows rose slightly and he
pursed his lips in disapproval. "Such vile language from such
a lovely lady." There was amusement in his tone.
"Vile treatment merits vile
language, does it not?"
she replied, lifting her chin stubbornly. This time there was mild
regret in his tone. "Ah. I had hoped we could be civil, at
least. I do not actually enjoy making war on women and children, my
lady, but I am tired of your father's border patrols and the threat of
his letting the Haldane's troops come up on my rear through Drumaere.
You are a hostage for his good behavior; that is all."
"Then have you sent my friends
home?" she demanded. His
smile was amused, tolerant, and condescending.
"Ah, no, my lady. They are
hostages for your good behavior. Come now, Lady Dacia. I've had eyes
and ears in Drumaere for months. I know all too well that you are at
least as brave as any of your brothers and quite likely more clever
than any of then. Without hostages you would not wish to see harmed, I
would have to keep you drugged not pleasant at all, wouldn't you
Dacia glared at him but refused to
dignify his comments with any reply. She inwardly cursed her own
foolhardiness for leaving Caer Dinan without a stronger escort or
better information. She could imagine Sean's consternation over the
capture of three ladies from the keep who should not, technically,
have been out of the keep without even his knowledge, much less his
permission. Even more disconcerting, Henrik seemed to read her mind.
"Tell me, my lady, what forces
is the all too efficient Lord Derry likely to bring along when he
comes to rescue you? As of course he will feel compelled to do, having
let you be captured."
"Lord Derry and my father and
brothers will skewer you individually and jointly without need of a
very large force."
"Oh, no, my dear lady. Your
father and your brothers are otherwise occupied at the moment. I timed
your capture for the same hour my troops began to pour through the
pass above the Eldar Dun. Your father and all his piddling little
patrols have become very tiresome, as I told you."
"If you thought you could
defeat my father and his patrols, why bother to capture me at
all?" she countered. "Perhaps
you do not think he is quite so small a threat."
"He is an annoyance. The
Haldane's troops coming up on my rear would be a threat, one I don't
care to deal with. I intend to march into Marley and defeat Kelson
Haldane in a proper battle no chance to let him cheat me of a victory
as he did my father, through treachery and deceit."
"It was not Kelson who deceived
"No, it was the precious
Camberian Council a body for which, by all reports, you too, have
little cause to express much love."
"My personal feelings toward
the Council do not enter into this matter at all."
"No? Perhaps they should, my
lady. I have it on good authority that you are not well pleased with
the arrangements for your marriage. Perhaps you would prefer to choose
your own bridegroom."
"I was under the impression
that my father's agreement with the Council was not quite so public.
How did you learn of it?"
"How do you think, my lady? One
of the precious Councillors considered me a likely match for
Dacia gasped in astonishment. Not in
her wildest imagination would she have guessed that! Surely the man
was mad . . .
"No, I am not mad. The Council
is concerned with the continuance of the race, my lady. They thought
to wed me to you and thus keep me under their collective thumb as they
were never able to keep my father. I turned them down, though perhaps,
had I seen you before, I would have thought twice of that. You are
indeed a lovely lady. Tell me, who is the lucky man to be, since poor
deluded Tiercel got himself killed by another of the treacherous
"I do not care to discuss any
details of my life with you."
"You owe me a courtesy title,
my lady. At least a my lord."
"Is that a condition of my
captivity as well? That I call my jailer 'my lord'?"
"If you wish to consider it
"Very well, my lord. I would
like to see my friends, to see that they are safe and well
"Of course, my lady. You may
see them both for a few moments. Not together, I regret, nor alone.
Your father may have underestimated your strength of will, but I shall
He extended a hand to her which she
took reluctantly and rose from the bed. They left the room together
and visited briefly both a weeping Amalie and a pale and frightened
Katie before returning to the room.
"I will leave you, my lady. I
have ordered food brought, you see. I assure it is not drugged. There
will be a guard outside the door, well protected against any shall we
say--influences? I must go and prepare a reception for the rescue
party. I am sure they will be along shortly. I should so hate to
disappoint them by not being ready for their arrival."
"You are insufferably smug, my
lord. I very much hope that Lord Derry brings a large and very
effective force against you!"
"Ah, but he won't, my dear
lady. He will try to sneak in as I would myself, if I were on a rescue
mission. And because I know that, I shall catch him quite easily. That
bothers you a great deal, does it not? You are quite fond of Lord
Derry, I think."
Dacia did not want to admit to that,
knowing what it might mean if Derry were captured, but she could
hardly lie to a Deryni of Henrik's power. He could Truth Read her with
very little effort. "Lord Derry is a long-time friend and my
father's garrison commander at the moment. I would not like to see him
"Then hope he does nothing
foolish in this rescue attempt, my lady. I have good reason to dislike
Derry a great deal. My father was unable to use him to his proper task
to rid the world of the odious Alaric Morgan, but I don't intend to be
so unlucky. Derry is one man I want alive when he comes into my hands.
Oh, yes very much alive and able to understand exactly what I intend
for him to do."
Dacia swallowed hard. Henrik's urbanity
had disappeared as he spoke of Derry and what he planned to do to him.
She had almost fallen for the polite banter and civility, the talk of
his regret for the necessity of holding the ladies captive. But when
he spoke of Derry, the mask slipped, and the monster underneath was
revealed a bit too vividly.
As the door closed behind him, Dacia
sought out the prie deux near the bed and prayed fervently that Derry
would be very, very careful when he came to find her and the others.