02 - Chapter 2 - Rising of the Phoenix
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Rising of the Phoenix



Chapter II





Blessed are the peacemakers...

-- Matthew 5:9

Looking out, Kelos noticed a group of horsemen that outnumbered the companions by at least two to one. As Azim raised the parley flag, the leader of the other group signaled his group to halt. He and his second in command spurred their horses forward to halfway between the two groups and halted. At the same time, Kelos had signaled his group to halt, and with Azim at his side, descended the mountain to the other men to try to defuse the situation.

When they reached the other two men, Kelos felt even more concern, for the two looked rather upset, although Kelos didn't know of any possible reason for them to be. Suddenly, one of the two men facing Kelos leaned forward, apparently reaching for a bow, but the other one placed his hand firmly on the other's arm. In a language that only Azim fully understood, the man, obviously the leader of the force, told the other not to be a fool. Violating parley would be a serious mistake, as all four men knew. Kelos had stayed silent and kept his horse quiet, despite his horse's immediate reaction to the hostile move. Azim had done the same, but had had to use more effort, inadvertently revealing his Deryni origin with a very brief flaring of his shields. To Kelos' surprise, the two men relaxed.

"We were afraid you were human raiders; that pass is known hereabouts to be holy, and held to be haunted to boot, although I don't believe such drivel, at least as to the pass being haunted," the leader said. "Might I have your names, please?"

Kelos and Azim looked at each other in confusion. What had caused the sudden switch to relative peace? Neither knew (Azim not realizing his shields had flared briefly), and both were uncertain as to the wisdom of telling this stranger their names. "With all respect, sir, might I ask why you wish our names?" Azim asked, with caution evident in his tone and body language.

"To find out who you are, and why you braved the Narrow Pass, if not to raid us," the leader of the guards replied, a little impatiently. "Everyone around here knows not to attempt that pass, especially at night."

"We made the passage through the pass during the day for just that reason," Kelos attempted to explain, but got interrupted by the guard leader's second. "You have humans in your party, I can tell. Traitor!"

"You shut your mouth, Silan," the force leader said sharply, with a dark look in the direction of his second, "or do I have to remind you who is leader and who the follower again?"

"We are simply traveling through. We mean no person harm," Kelos began, before he was interrupted again by Silan's angry retort to the leader's threat. "And have yet another group learn just what type of scorpion you really are, Raul?"

Kelos raised an eyebrow, and noted privately to Azim, in a brief mind speech exchange, _I think I know who is the jerk and who the diplomat, of those two._ Azim simply sent agreement, without a visible cue that he'd heard anything out of the ordinary.

This time, it was Azim who began the dickering, since he apparently knew the language better. Suddenly, Raul looked alarmed, and Kelos spun his horse. Sure enough, two men of his company were speeding towards them. Kelos thought swiftly and caused a fireball to strike between the two horses, panicking them, and stopping the horsemen cold. He then passed the word via mind speech to Tevas, _Get those two idiots back where they belong, or I'll take fuller measures to ensure they don't interfere, ever again. This is their final warning._ Tevas sent an acknowledgement, then Kelos heard Tevas ordering the company to recover the two stupid ones. Kelos recognized the two; they were the same two who had argued so vociferously the first night at the oasis.

Within seconds, the two stunned men were bound securely, gagged, and tied into their saddles, in a show of efficiency that Raul was visibly impressed with. He nodded, as he realized that the leaders were both Deryni.

Azim and Raul finally concluded their dickering, and Raul told Kelos, "Your group is free to enter the area now. However, I do have some questions for you, like where you came from, and why the secrecy?"

Kelos considered his answer to the questions carefully, to avoid lying, yet withhold as much knowledge from this stranger as he could, at least until they discovered the other's true motives. "We came from an area two days' ride from here. We are an escort for the gifts to be given to the King of Gwynedd."

Raul wasn't satisfied, not really. He was downright suspicious, in fact, but the crazy thing was that their story was consistent with their gift train! The ten horses he saw in the center of their gift train were magnificent examples of the R'Kassan traditions, and five were mares that were, he assumed, in very early pregnancy, although it was not apparent from a distance. It left him with a dilemma, and he didn't like dilemmas. He either called Kelos a liar and provoked the fight neither group really wanted, or he accepted Kelos' word without comment, and failed his own mission, which was to discover who these intruders were, and why they had come. After struggling with his dilemmas, he finally asked another question of Kelos, which Azim translated. "Why does your second translate for you? Do you not know the trade language of the desert peoples?"

Kelos looked a little startled, having not thought of trying the trade patois. He answered in that tongue, which he was fluent in, "I apologize, Captain. I had honestly neglected to try it." His face was a study in chagrin for a moment. "Do you mind if I asked you a question, sir?"

It was Raul's turn to look slightly startled. "I believe you just did, but I don't mind you asking something pertinent." He calmed.

Kelos looked him straight in the eye, and asked, "Why did you mention that the fact that some of our party is Deryni meant we were not raiders? I honestly don't understand, for our history has been riddled with example after example of Deryni raiding Deryni, and even of betrayal of Deryni by Deryni, although much of that was under extreme duress."

"Humans have long used that pass, but usually only to attempt to raid the Mother House of the Brotherhood of the Anvil, which lies beyond." He swept his arm to the area behind his own troop. "And Silan is a fool if he believes that just because you are a mixed group, that you are a traitor to your kindred. He forgets that we ourselves are a mixed group, but it is easy to do so with long association. Anyone who is a stranger hereabouts is initially suspect."

Kelos nodded. "And wise that is." He wasn't unhappy about their caution; it spoke well of whoever was the commander of the Mother House.

"Come. Be welcomed into our demesnes for a few days, as you find transport to Gwynedd." Raul wasn't much happier, but he was somewhat reassured that they weren't raiders. After all, raiders would hardly have raised the parley flag so swiftly, nor would they have been overly burdened with excess horses or other gear, as this group obviously was. He was uncomfortable that they claimed to be an escort for the obviously extravagant gifts, since even a blind man could see the group was much too small for such a duty. With only twenty men, they'd be hard pressed to retain their gifts if serious raiders hit them. He signaled his own men to stand down from alert, and informed Kelos that his group could approach his troop without fear of harm. Within ten minutes, the two groups were basically one, and headed towards the main structure in the area.



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