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



Chapter  21

A Bastard to the Bone

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 agree?"

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 Wencit."

"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 you."

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 Haldanes?"

"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 such, yes."

"Very well, my lord. I would like to see my friends, to see that they are safe and well treated."

"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 not."

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 hurt, no."

"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.



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