Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
          Hall of Seasons  







Derry's Wedding



Chapter  23

Rescue Him from Foul Despair

As Derry's senses began to focus, he became aware of the searing pain in his temple and the cramps in his shoulders and knees. "Ahh, I see that you are finally with us, Lord Derry," a voice intoned, intruding on and amplifying Derry's pain. Slowly he opened his eyes and saw his prison for the first time, yet it was all too familiar. With a sickening shock that cleared his focus all too sharply, he realized it was identical to the cell where Wencit had held and tormented him.

"I see you recognize your accommodations," the voice continued sarcastically.

Warily, Derry turned his head to see Henrik walking around behind him, holding a long staff. The cell was cramped and dark, but Derry did not need to turn around to see the window just out of reach of the chains that bound him to the floor. As he eased the muscles in his shoulders and tried to stand defiantly before his captor, he was forced to the floor once more. Henrik had shortened the chains, to force his prisoner to kneel before him. Feeling the gibbering terror trying to rise back to the surface, Derry shut his eyes and took several deep breaths. But before a feeling of calm could settle over him, he was interrupted by a voice in his mind.

"You cannot defy me!"raged that voice, sounding frighteningly like that of Wencit just before he broke Derry in a cell just like this.

The terror bubbled to the surface as Derry was forced down by pure fear. **The bindings are not gone!**Derry thought to himself in panic. He could feel Henrik's mind in his own mind, controlling the fear as his father had done.

"Do you see what your Lord Derry has become, my dear?" said a voice somewhere outside the ball of fear that had enveloped Derry's heart. His eyes darted to Henrik, only to see him looking into the shadows at a person Derry had not seen before. "A weak, pathetic fool, trying to win back his lady from the evil tyrant, is that right? Fool!" The last words were spat out in contempt, an inch away from where Derry lay in a heap, quivering with fear.

The voice that answered Henrik with some bravado was more familiar, but in this setting not the least bit comforting to Derry. "You are the fool, Henrik. Your father may have broken Lord Derry before, but you are not half the man he was, nor are you anywhere close to being the man that Sean is. Let us go, and we will let you live."

Henrik chuckled softly, looking at Derry, who had turned his face toward the dark corner. Derry's mind tried to swim up out of the depths of his induced terror, but nothing was making sense. Henrik stood and paced over toward the door. He placed the staff against the door and took the torch from the wall sconce to light other torches in the room. The dark corner was revealed, and Derry saw Dacia surrounded by a sort of misty glow. A groan escaped his lips as he realized that she had seen him in this state.

"Sean, snap out of it! Don't let him do this to you; you can overcome this!" Dacia pleaded with him, but as his head sank slowly down to the ground, she knew that words alone would not help him here and now. Despair was etched in his posture and in his face.

Dacia abandoned trying to reach Derry with words and turned her attention to the wards Henrik had cast around her to keep her presence from disrupting his nasty game of breaking Derry. She had seen the weakness in Henrik's wards; holding them was consuming much of his energy. A distraction of her making should be enough to make him let them slip even further.

"You monster!" she shouted at Henrik. "How can you enjoy such torment of an innocent human? Lord Derry has done nothing but his duty!"

"As I am doing mine, my dear," Henrik said smoothly. "Will you watch your Lord Derry die? Oh, but I don't mean to kill him just yet. Morgan is on the way, did you know that? They do say Morgan and Derry share a bed. You had of course heard that?"

"You are a vile, sadistic man!"

The evil laughter was purely delighted. "Why, Lady Dacia, you surely know that a man may bed both a woman and other men. Come, come, you are a woman not so innocent as all that, surely!"

Henrik thought to insult both her and Derry -- not that he was paying much attention to the man -- with that remark, but it actually provided the opening Dacia had sought. A man who is amused is not one who has the leisure to hold wards at the same time he is laughing, no matter how perverted the source of his pleasure. Dacia's thought cut across the wards that bound her body away from Derry.

** Sing Hi! Use the power within you! Do it now! **

Henrik's smile faded as Derry's head jerked towards Dacia in recognition. Two hurried steps took Henrik across the room. His fist lashed out to backhand Dacia across the jaw, and she went limp and crumpled in a heap to the floor.

Henrik, puzzled by a sudden drop in temperature, looked from the dazed Dacia to see his captive no longer gibbering and afraid but contorted by pure rage.




Rage burned through the drugs in Derry's system and cleared away the clouds in his mind. Henrik turned away from Dacia to behold Derry crouched in his original position, yet blazing with blue-white light. His mien was no longer that of a tortured prisoner, but that of an avenging angel. "You....Will....Not.!!!!!"

Seizing on the harnessed power from within, Derry rose slowly, gathering more energy into himself. Henrik's expression was one of open-mouthed astonishment and fear as the aura around Derry dimmed slightly while the shackles on his arms and feet glowed with pure energy. Suddenly, with a shower of sparks, the shackles snapped like string pulled too tight. Henrik's link to Derry's subconscious was similarly severed. The sound of Henrik's shield snapping into place was almost audible as he regained control of himself.

Derry's facial expression has changed from animal rage to icy sternness. He set his feet and extended his right hand toward the door. The staff floated out of the corner to rest in his hands, and the last vestiges of his previous fear melted away. The change from fear to grim determination and vengeance was evident to Henrik as he watched the flaring blue-white aura settle to solid, impenetrable personal shields.

Derry's voice seemed to be overlaid with another as he spoke, low and menacing, but with certainty and confidence: "Never again will you strike an innocent, Lao Jun. Never again will someone suffer your vile touch. Your guards are not here to hold me as they did while you kill my students. It is only you and I. Come and fight me, if you dare."

"So it is you! I thought it was only that meddler San Te." As if in answer to the energy from Derry, Henrik's aura flared purple about him as he grasped his sword. "It will be a pleasure killing you again, you fool."

Neither man saw Dacia sit up at that moment, hand to her aching jaw. She started to speak but realized that both were beyond the sound of her voice now. Silently, she crossed herself and scooted back into her corner for what protection it might offer from what was about to happen. She snapped her own not inconsiderable personal shields into place as she did her best to get out of the way of the surging energies in the cell.

Both combatants suddenly raised their arms and closed their eyes. As the twin shield rose, its ghostly light seemed to show Dacia the forms of different combatants altogether. Standing in cat stance, left hand in guard position, Derry whirled his staff to a ready position behind his right arm. His dirty clothes had been replaced by a simple white monk's robe, tied with a black sash. The grimy boots were now gone. The only thing that was the same was his face, and it seemed almost unrecognizable in its calmness. Henrik stood in guard position, fully facing his opponent, his sword held two handed. Gone were the rich robes, replaced by strange dark wood and leather armor. As Dacia, in awe, watched the combatants square off, she realized that beneath the shield she saw not their current forms but their true forms.

Biting down on her lip, Dacia watched the two stalk one another. As they moved around in their grim dance, each attempted feints, with the first blow struck after they had completed the first circuit of their deadly pavane. Henrik whipped his sword around and charged Derry with a yell. More quickly than Dacia has ever seen Derry move in the past, he deflected the sword and whirled to face the next move of his opponent. The savagery and speed of the sparring that ensued took her breath away. Both combatants blazed with inner light, both sword and staff extensions of their wills. This was no fancy sparring match, but a brutal fight to the death.

Whirling suddenly, Derry brought the staff around in one hand, seeking to trip Henrik low at the knees. Seeing the move, Henrik jumped over the staff and led in with an attack. Eagle Leads the Way blocked the overhand sword strike as Derry crouched low and brought the staff over his head to block the blow that would have severed his neck. His face was still calm as he flowed into his next combination, Dragon Crosses the Mountain. Springing up on his feet, he was momentarily floating in the air, striking at Henrik's knees, midsection, and head with blinding speed. Henrik succeeded in blocking the staff strikes, but the flying kick that finished the combination grazed him. Flinching too late, he nonetheless moved enough to avoid having his head taken off. He spun away to avoid the next combination, but he was moving slower than before. The tale of how the fight was going was apparent in Henrik's grunts and the sweat that poured off his face compared to the calmness in Derry's.

A sudden clanging at the door caused Dacia to whirl towards it She came face to face with San Te, who greeted her with a nod and slipped into the cell to observe. Surprised as she was to see the monk in the castle, she was doubly surprised as the King and his Champion filed into the room. Kelson nodded to her as well., but Morgan spoke.

"My Lady Dacia," the Duke of Corwyn said with great concern, "you should not be here. Pray, allow the guards to escort you to safety."

"I am as safe as you are, Your Grace, and my interests in one of the combatants here even more vested," she shot back defiantly.

Kelson gave a snort of amusement. "She's right on both counts, Alaric." And the king and his champion moved to stand beside Dacia and San Te.

"We should do something, San Te," Morgan said under his breath.

"Patience, my good Duke. As I said before we entered, I believe my student has things well in hand," San Te said mildly, but his stance was rigidly alert as his eyes followed every move of the two in the shielded circle.

The fight had continued unabated; for the combatants, it is as if no one else existed. It was clear to the observers that Derry was, indeed, very much in command of his flagging foe. In desperation, Henrik attempted to use a move he hoped would distract Derry. Feigning a fall, he scooped up some dirt and launched it at his opponent. However, the opponent was no longer where he had been. Henrik did not have time to roll even to his knees before the sword was knocked away from his hand. Landing on his back with a startled grunt, he found himself staring up into the face of his adversary. The voice not quite Derry's own said, "It is over. Yield. I do not kill unarmed men."

Knowing he was beaten, Henrik signaled his defeat by bringing down his side of the circle. Derry stepped back and brought down the other side, footing his staff by his right side. He bowed to his opponent, his eyes never leaving Henrik. As Henrik slowly moved to his feet, Derry turned to his teacher, bowing once more. He then bowed to the King and said, "I believe this is the miscreant you are looking for, Sire. I hand him over into your custody."

He smiled slightly and was about to speak to Morgan when Dacia screamed, "Sean, look out!!!"

Derry whirled to see Henrik glowing with power, muttering in an unfamiliar language. "For the glory of my emperor," he said softly. San Te and Derry nodded knowingly; the other three were left wondering. San Te gestured, and a golden shield materialized in front of those behind Derry, faster than their personal shields could be raised.

San Te muttered in a voice cold with lack of emotion, "He is too far gone now. Finish it, Sing Hi. There is no other way." Although Derry had turned his head slightly to listen to San Te, he kept his eyes on his adversary He nodded, and moved to face his enemy.

Derry bowed once to his opponent. Henrik's visage was one of pure hatred. His feet bare upon the floor, Derry assumed a horse stance, his legs spread at shoulder width, his knees bent. Holding the staff in his right hand halfway up its length, Derry gathered power into himself and used his left hand to sketch a rune that hung in the air. The rune glowed golden and midnight as it rose over him and settled like a mantle on his shoulders. He straightened from his stance into a fighting position as a similar rune floated in the air and settled onto Henrik.

The spectators on the side, with the exception of San Te, stood open mouthed and tense. The King looked at Morgan who shrugged incomprehension and returned his attention to the two combatants facing one another. Kelson whipped his head around as a voice too loud for human speech boomed from Derry's mouth.

"It ends here and now!" the voice proclaimed as Derry's whole being began to glow. Doubt began to show in Henrik's eyes as he moved to the side to begin circling Derry once more. He was halted as Derry launched straight at him. A few feet from Henrik, Derry leaped into the air, glowing like a miniature sun. He brought the staff held over his head down in a vicious arc towards Henrik's head. Henrik barely had time to raise his sword to block, only to have it shatter in his hand. He had only a split second to stare at it before the staff cleaved in his head.

For those on the sidelines, it was as if a light went out. The cell returned to its gloomy, dark reality, and they could see only the crumpled form of Derry, the white robe that covered him heaving in and out where he lay exhausted from his efforts.



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