The Queen of Meara
Chapter 10 - Part I
All the ingredients for the scrying attempt
had been gathered, and Saraid had returned with some embroidery to
occupy herself while she waited, this time more comfortably in the
king's bedchamber. Kelson had removed the bear rug from the floor and
pushed the chairs back at Mairona's instruction. She cleared the table
that had been holding their drinks and moved it with Kelson's help to
the middle of the space. The white table cover was carefully draped over
it to form a makeshift altar for the working, and the candle, water,
salt, and scroll were placed on the table. Mairona held a blue velvet
pouch containing her ward cubes in her right hand.
"Are you ready?" she smiled at Kelson.
"As ready as I shall ever be," he grinned in return. "This is very different from anything I have tried before."
"'Tis probably only difference in training. The eastern tradition is more advanced than the remnants of working that remain in Gwynedd, and Halek's experimentation led to different approaches than you would find even in the east."
Mairona sat on the floor near the altar, arranging her skirts comfortably around her. Kelson sat across from her, waiting expectantly. "Now I am going to cast the wards. I am certain you have done this a thousand times."
"Actually, I do not have my own set of cubes," Kelson confessed sheepishly.
"What?" Mairona exclaimed. "That is the first working Deryni children are taught!"
"My training has been a bit, ah, unusual," Kelson told her. "Morgan and Duncan have taught me what they know, but it has been far from formal."
"And, if what I heard is correct, neither Morgan nor Duncan were fully trained themselves." She shook her head, unable to believe that a Deryni king crusading to restore the good name of his Deryni people had never erected a Wards Major.
"Well, if I ever needed Wards Major erected, there was always someone nearby," he argued. "And there is more than one way to erect wards."
"Some day there might not be anybody nearby, and the standard Wards Major is the easiest, least draining way to erect wards. Ah, well. I think I could procure you a set. You should learn how to use them." She stared at him stubbornly.
He grinned self-consciously again. "I have no objections, if you would teach me," he told her.
"And that I will, as soon as possible. You are not leaving on campaign until you are proficient with them," she told him defiantly.
"Morgan warned me about this," Kelson laughed. "Here, we are not even married yet and you are already badgering your king."
"If you wanted someone to meekly obey your ever whim, you chose the wrong bride," she dared, staring at him.
"I chose aright," he smiled warmly. "Now, shall we begin?"
Kelson watched her curiously as she hefted the bag of cubes in her hand. They appeared heavier than any set he had seen before, from the way she handled them. Carefully, she loosened the drawstring and poured them into her hand before placing them on the floor. They were the most beautiful cubes Kelson had ever seen, though they were so rounded at the edges they were barely square. The white set was formed of a fiery opal that flared in the firelight, and the black were of onyx. Kelson whistled.
"Where did you get those?" he breathed.
"They belonged to Halek, and he gave them to me when he died. He received them as a gift of service to the Emir Nur Hallaj, I believe."
Kelson sucked in a breath, a funny look on his face. "Nur Hallaj?" he whispered.
"What is the matter?" she asked him, frowning. Kelson smiled wistfully.
"The Emir has a daughter," he replied.
"The eastern princess," Mairona concluded.
"You have heard about her?" He raised an eyebrow. "Her name was Rothana. We intended to marry."
"And she married your traitor cousin instead," she finished for him.
"'Twas not her fault," he said quietly. "She thought I was dead."
"Then why did you not marry when Conall was executed?" Mairona asked.
"She did not wish it," Kelson replied, looking at the floor. "She was with child by him, and that would have created complications…" he trailed off.
Mairona watched him carefully, her innards tying in unpleasant knots. She knew he had courted before, and that didn't bother her. This reaction to Princess Rothana's memory did.
Kelson held Mairona in deep affection, and she knew it, but was there a rival in his heart? "You still care for Rothana?" It was halfway between a question and a statement.
"The Lord God had something better in mind for me," he told her, grasping her hand. "I love you."
Her breath caught at his startling declaration, wide eyes locked onto his. Her stomach churned at the thought that he may be expecting her to return it, but she was not yet ready. "I have another set of cubes I could use," she told him, changing the subject. This kind of soul searching was inappropriate before a working.
"These will be fine," he replied. She sent a questioning tendril of thought his way, but he simply confirmed what he had just said.
Taking a few breaths to center herself and clear the negative emotion, she arranged the cubes in the familiar starting pattern.
"This will be different from what you have seen before," she told him. "Scrying is partway between a normal working and ritual magic, so the warding has elements of both. Halek largely made it up as he went along. I think you will notice an affinity he had for the Book of Genesis. He always likened the construction of a ritual setting to the creation of the world. It bound the four elements more closely, he said, by referring to their beginning and their one source."
Mairona placed her finger on the first white cube.
"On the first day, the Lord God created light from the void. May we work tonight in the service of the Light. Prime."
The cube glowed a brilliant white, with little rainbows dancing on its surface. It was an effect Kelson hadn't seen before, and he supposed it was due to the opal from which the rounded stone was fashioned. Mairona moved her finger to the next white cube.
"On the second day, the Lord God separated the waters from the heavens. May He command the lords of water and air to aid us in our work. Seconde."
Once again, the second cube shone with the brilliant rainbowed fire of the first. Kelson felt the energy harnessed by the cubes in front of him as Mairona pointed to the next.
"On the third day, the Lord God separated the waters from the earth. May He command the lord of earth to aid us in our work. Tierce."
The third cube came to life, flaring with its partners.
"On the fourth day, the Lord God set the sun, moon, and stars in the heavens to shed their light on the earth. May the Light illumine us for our work. Quarte."
Now all the white cubes were activated, and rainbows danced on their surfaces, intertwining in one another. Kelson watched, fascinated as Mairona shifted the balance of energies before pointing to the first black cube.
"On the fifth day, the Lord God created the fish in the sea, the beasts of the earth, and the birds to fly in the sky. May we fly straight and true in the Lord's service. Quinte."
The onyx flared with a blue-black flame, different from the green-black Kelson was used to seeing in Morgan's or Duncan's set.
"On the sixth day, God created man in His image. May we serve and praise our Creator. Sixte.
On the seventh day, God proclaimed a day of rest. May we work towards the day we, too, are granted eternal rest in the Lord's presence. Septime."
Story also located at the Author's website - Brenwell Manor
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