13 - Chapter 13 - The Madness of the Wicked By: Martine A. Lynch
Webmistress's Drawing of a Sculpture.  Artist Unknown.
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The Madness of the Wicked  



Chapter  13  


As he had promised the boy, they were in the library within two heartbeats, facing a surprised Prince Nigel, who had been studying a newly-arrived text on the art of Deryni magic and its place in warfare.

“Uncle,” Kelson greeted. Nigel recovered quickly when he saw the look on his nephew’s face.

“My liege,” he returned, carefully formal in front of the unknown boy as he rose to sketch a slight bow. “You return sooner than I expected. Is something wrong?”

Shepherding Conor off the portal, Kelson nodded wretchedly. “Dhugal’s son has been murdered by Ailín’s father, the former Geoffrey of Kilshane.”

“What?! Khadasa, it cannot be!”

“I witnessed his crime. I must return as soon as possible, Uncle, for Dhugal’s sake. This is Ailín’s brother, Conor Lord of Kilshane.”

At the sound of his new title, Conor let out a small sob, then quickly choked its following brethren back down. Kelson looked back at the boy, trapping his eyes in his own. “I know, Conor. I lost a father, too, when I was your age. It does not matter what sort of man he was, he was your father.” He pulled Conor into a quick embrace, as he had once longed for so badly in similar circumstances. “Uncle, will you see to him?”

“Aye,” Nigel returned, coming to take the boy into his protection. Satisfied, Kelson left to determine Mairona’s whereabouts.

As it turned out, she was in the gardens, so he met her there with her trusted lady-in-waiting Gwenhwyfar. Mairona had Evaine in her arms, and their daughter’s nurse was standing attentively nearby. “Kelson!” Mairona exclaimed, grinning as she came to greet him, but that grin died when she saw his eyes. She kissed him just the same, holding Evaine carefully to the side. What happened?

He slipped into easy rapport with her and sent the whole wretched, evil scene of Caulay’s murder in a flash of thought.

Sweet Brigid, no! Mairona exclaimed, clutching Evaine close. Oh, God, Ailín! And Dhugal!

“I am returning to Transha before the day is over,” Kelson told her, switching to verbal speech for Gwenhwyfar’s benefit. “Will you join me?”

“Aye, of course I will! Gwenhwyfar, come! I need some items packed immediately.”

“Aye, my lady,” the girl jumped, rushing to assist her mistress. With that, Mairona turned to Evaine’s nurse.

“Give her to me,” Kelson interrupted, already reaching for his daughter. “Go on, and send word when you are ready.”

They kissed in parting, then Mairona and Gwenhwyfar were moving toward the solar stair as quickly as was seemly. Evaine sputtered as Kelson pressed her to his shoulder, and she snuggled her small head against his neck in recognition. He could feel her contentment at his presence, an emotion that was starting to expand to happiness as she grew. The tickle of her soft, fuzz-like hair on his chin lit a warm glow deep in his chest. Despite the horrors of the past hour, Kelson found himself smiling slightly at her innocent welcome.

“Remain here,” he ordered the nursemaid as he strolled with his daughter toward Trysting Corner. Its seclusion from casual eyes had long made it a favorite meeting place for lovers, and it was that illusion of privacy that Kelson now sought, making time to take pleasure in his daughter, and thank God and St. Camber that she was safe.

*My dear little princess, he thought to her, knowing she would not hear vocal speech.   *I pray that you will never be taken from me, for I do not know if I could bear your loss, sweet one. Oh, how I love you so.*

 Her hand came up, seeking his raven hair, and her tiny fingers were momentarily tangled in its locks. 

*Your mother and I have wasted too much time, asking our Lord Christ why our sins had to be visited upon you, in all your innocence. When we should be sheltering you in joy and love, we have surrounded you with our pain and guilt. We have nearly lost sight of the blessing of you, which Lord God in His wisdom could so easily have denied us, and could deny us yet by calling you home to Him. Sweet little Evaine, I swear I will do everything in my power to keep you safe, healthy and happy. As God is my witness, I will henceforth only have thanks for the gift of you.*

Bowing his head, Kelson rested his cheek gently against his daughter’s. My little princess, can you forgive your father for his foolishness?

Evaine’s chubby little hand reached up to touch his lips, as if she could understand and accept his words. Smiling, yet still grieving from the sorrow in his heart over Dhugal’s loss, he bent down to kiss the black fuzz on his small daughter’s head.


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