As Henrik gloated to Dacia of his
expectations of Derry's rescue attempt, Derry himself was waiting
impatiently for his scouts to return. A grim Colin Grant sat staring
out toward the trail the scouts had taken, while a brooding Sextus
Arilan paced from horses to trail and back again. The long twilight of
the summer evening was fading slowly into darkness much too slowly to
suit Derry, who felt ready to burst with the pent up energy of his
frustration and need to act.
This day had brought such a mix of
wonder and anguish that he could hardly sort it out. San Te's
revelations and suggestions had filled him with awe and curiosity. He
had felt the energy he was able to harness, to gather in his own being
and release at will. That he could do this still seemed somewhat
unreal, but he accepted the fact that he could do it. As with all the
other things he had learned from the strange monk, this was something
he now realized had always been within his power; he had only to learn
to control its use.
He wasn't so sure about the other
suggestion from San Te, however. Derry was not the most devout of
Christians, but he knew full well the Church taught that each person's
soul was unique and that when the body died, the soul returned to God
or, if a person had done evil in his or her lifetime, to the Devil,
the soul thus delivered up for eternal torment in hellfire. That
notion was scary enough to make him shudder, but it was a familiar
notion, at least.
The suggestion that his soul was one
that had seen many lives was unfamiliar and somehow even more
frightening. To continue living an endless procession of lives was
rather daunting. At least in one lifetime, a person had a chance to
choose his path, whether to Heaven or Hell, and a chance to get there.
The way he understood what San Te had said, the Eastern belief held
that everyone eventually would reach Heaven, but it might take many
lifetimes of suffering to do so, and bad choices in one lifetime could
mean having to start over at the beginning of the long road even if
one were near its end. That was not a comforting thought.
Having just absorbed the news that San
Te thought Derry had been his own master, long since dead in a
previous lifetime. Derry had found Dacia missing and then learned the
horrifying news of her capture. In the turmoil of mounting a
search-and-rescue party, San Te had found him and put the staff in his
"Take this, Sing Hi. You may
"It holds energy from many
owners. Whether you yet believe what I have said or not, you know how
to draw on that energy now. It may aid you in a time of need more than
any other weapon."
Derry had taken the staff somewhat
reluctantly, a little wary of its innocent, smooth wood. He had
already felt the power within it and wondered if he did, indeed, have
enough strength and experience to control if he tapped it.
"Will you not come with us,
Master?" he had asked.
"No, Sing Hi. Mine is the part
of teacher and counselor, not warrior. I think I may be more needed
here. Your pupil is not pleased to be left behind. I shall see that he
comes to no harm through his desire to be part of the fighting."
Derry had nodded gratefully. He knew
Geoffrey was anything but happy to be ordered to stay at Caer Dinan.
He had wanted to protest Derry's orders but had bitten back his words
because Derry had been adamant and already angry. San Te might well
need to stop the boy from doing something foolhardy.
"Thank you, Master. I will do
my best to prove myself worthy of this gift."
"It is but the return of
something you once gave me. No, I see you do not yet accept that
fully. Well then, take it as a gift, Sing Hi. Use it well. Bring home
"That I fully intend,
They had found young David McIvers and
the guardsman both unconscious, the guard with a large lump on his
head. David was not injured but was showing the aftereffects of
merasha dosing. His face was deathly pale, and he could barely stand,
let alone fight. He was also very close to tears over his failure to
protect his sister and the other ladies.
The boy's highland cant was heavier
than usual in his distress. "There were easy twenty o' them,
m'lord," he told Derry. "And all armed heavy and
around us before anyone could ha' known. They went straight for the
ladies, first off. It was planned, sure, for that very purpose."
"They meant to capture them,
not injure them, then."
"Aye, m'lord. The leader had
Katie by the hair wi' a knife to her throat. There was naught I could
do but drop ma sword when he told me to."
"You'd only have got her and
yourself killed if you'd tried to fight, lad. They dosed you with the
merasha too, then?"
"Aye. I'm not much trained,
m'lord. Our Deryni blood's not so strong; our grandmother was Deryni,
but that's all. It was enough, though. God, poor Katie! She's never
had any but the most basic training either."
"We'll find them, David,"
Colin assured the young man. "And we'll make Henrik pay for
"Aye. I'll go along if ye'll
"No, lad," Derry had
told him. "You go back to Caer Dinan with poor Rolf here.
You're barely able to stand even now, and we have to go as quick as we
David had hated the order to stay
behind as much as Geoffrey had, but he had nodded in reluctant
agreement. "Aye, m'lord. I'd only be a hindrance to ye."
"I'm sorry, David, but yes, you
And so they had ridden on. The raiders
weren't particularly subtle about their way; the trackers found the
trail easily enough and had led them through one of the small passes
high up, one that was not on the main patrol circuit because it was
narrow and uneven. However, it led into Tolan, and that was where they
were now, waiting for the scouts to return and tell them more about
what lay ahead.
The first warning they had was a gasp
from Sextus Arilan. His pacing arrested, he spun toward the trees
behind them but not quickly enough to avoid the rush of the
assailants. By the time he let out a yell, they were everywhere, and
both Derry and Colin were fighting for their lives. Derry was just
gathering the energy from around him when a hard blow with a club from
behind sent him staggering into the path of another attacker.
A sickening crunch and a terrible pain
at his temple were simultaneous. He was already unconscious before his
body hit the ground.