46a - Chapter 46 - Part 1 - The Queen of Meara By: Martine A. Lynch
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The Queen of Meara  



Chapter 46  - Part 1



Workman had been busy at the site, for the nave was clear of snow, grass and weeds, cleaned to the original granite floor, which was laid out in large squares and rectangles bordered in green marble. “This must have been quite a little church at one time,” Cardiel commented. Kelson agreed, looking around him at the partially dismantled walls, which once would have been richly painted. The hole that tripped Ailín had been enlarged, but the masons had sent word that it was merely a small, featureless chamber with a door that had long been bricked over. Kelson had not wanted the door broken through until Deryni examination had assured him that there was nothing important to damage on the other side. That left the altar as the focus for the day.

"Father Thomas,” Mairona called. “Have you ever seen an altar like that?” She gestured to the alternating black and white cubes of stone in the east.

"Never,” Cardiel admitted. “Duncan?”

“It almost looks like stacked ward cubes,” the Deryni bishop commented.

“That is what I thought,” Mairona confirmed as she started walking toward the curious structure.

“The bottom half is clipped,” Kelson observed as he followed, curiosity piqued.

“The whole thing is too short, like it has sunk,” Mairona confirmed, pausing at the edge of the dais. With a little sigh, she bent and swept her right hand across its top. It still hummed. Kelson reached her side and did likewise, raising his eyebrows when he felt the power captured in the stone.

“Incredible,” he breathed. “Rothana, do the Servants have anything like this?”

Frowning, the princess shook her head as she came up with the rest of the party. “We have lost much knowledge, Sire, and there is no telling if this were a construct of the Servants of old.”

“Well.” Kelson swallowed his disappointment. “Shall we see what can be seen?”

“Heard, more like,” Mairona commented as Kelson drew her to the northern side of the cubic altar. Duncan took the east, Rothana fell into place for the west, and Dhugal took the south.

“Ailín,” the border duke called, holding his hand out to his wife. “Will you try your wings with us?”

“Aye,” she smiled, showing only a small hint of her first encounter’s fear as she trustingly placed her hand in his to fill out the southern quarter.

“That leaves you, Thomas,” Duncan called to his human archbishop. “Would you like me to bring you along for the ride?”

“What should I do?” Cardiel asked, approaching the nearly complete ring around the altar. He had long ago learned there was nothing to fear when the king and his inner circle exercised their skills.

“Stand beside me and let me take your hand. Kelson will take the other.”

Cardiel did as was asked of him, and returned Kelson’s brief reassuring smile as the king clasped his fingers. The ring of hands closed round the altar and the Deryni closed their eyes. Cardiel did likewise, following their lead. “Relax, Thomas,” Duncan instructed. “When we are joined I will bring you in our link.”

Breathing calmly, Kelson fell into easy rapport with Mairona, smiling softly as her presence filled him. Across from the royal pair, Dhugal encouraged Ailín to join her mind with his, which she did, letting herself enjoy his psychic touch without the previous taint of threatened panic. Mairona reached out for Rothana, who hesitated only a little before accepting invitation into the growing link. Dhugal joined with his father as Rothana connected with the less experienced Ailín, bringing all the Deryni together.

“Now it is your turn, Thomas,” Duncan said aloud. “Just breathe deeply, and relax. You have done this before.” The archbishop nodded, though no one could see, and did as instructed. There was the expected rush as Duncan swooped in, lending Cardiel his own psychic sight. Once Duncan confirmed that he had the archbishop, everyone brought their linked hands over the altar and settled them lightly on its top.

It sang to them, radiating peace and tranquility. Cunctipotens genitor Deus omnicreator eleyson. Almighty Father, God, Creator of all, have mercy.

Salvificet pietas tua nos bone rector eleyson. That Your compassion may save us, good Master, have mercy.

“I can hear it,” Cardiel breathed in wonder. “’Tis a form of the Easter Kyrie”

Plasmatis humanis factor lapsis reparator eleyson. Creator of humankind, Healer of those who fall, have mercy.

It was the echoing plea of an extinct Deryni community, run underground by deadly persecution. Here, at Druimkyriel, they had found safety for some short time, perhaps led by St. Camber’s great-granddaughter, who had married into the Dugains of Druimfada.

Ne tua dampnatur Jesu factura benigne eleyson. So Thy creation is not damned, kind Jesus, have mercy.

Kelson and Mairona shuddered, and could feel Duncan doing the same at the heartfelt prayer of those risking death, unwilling to save themselves by renouncing what they were so their gifts and knowledge would not be lost.

Procedens fomes vite fons purificans vis eleyson. Advancing flame, fountain of life, purifying power, have mercy.

Spirite alme eleyson. Gracious Spirit, have mercy.

Mairona thought she could feel the breath of passage behind her, and opened her eyes. “Dear Mother of God!” she breathed aloud, bidding the others to see what she did.

“No, Cardiel!” Duncan called when the archbishop’s eyelids fluttered. “Keep yours closed and I will show you.”

The blue winter sky was gone, shut out by heavy mountain timber supported on complete walls. The church was lovingly painted in jewel-like colors, stars set in a midnight sky on the upper walls, designs of God’s creation winding around murals representing Deryni ritual on the bottom. Night’s starts twinkled outside the unglazed but complete windows, and moonbeams shone from the south. The nave was ablaze in colored light emanating from the auras and handfire of this wholly Deryni community, celebrating Mass in the shelter of their remote mountain sanctuary. Three priests were chanting the Kyrie, and the middle one arranged a set of ward cubes on top of the altar as it came to a close. He activated each one with a touch of his finger, Prime to Octave, as all trained Deryni children learned. The next part was different, as he swapped the positions of several pairs as they had never seen before. Before the priest could complete this new permutation of ward cubes, the vision flickered and started to fade, brightening once again to daylight streaming through an open roof, walls falling to ruin, but a hint of sound lingered.

Primus est Deus, primus in aeternitate.

“Your scrying wards!” Kelson exclaimed to Mairona as the link dissolved. “That was the invocation you used!”

“Aye,” Mairona breathed. “Old Halek was on to something, but what?”

“Too bad we do not have ward cubes,” Ailín added, having seen the scrying wards herself. Duncan, Cardiel, Dhugal and Rothana just looked back and forth in puzzlement, having no knowledge of what the three discussed. Mairona raised an eyebrow, reaching into the neck of her gown to pull a cord from around her neck, lifting it over her head. A small, blue velvet pouch hung on its end, catching on the chain holding her cloak about her shoulders. She worked it free and dumped its contents on the altar top.

“I thought these might come in handy after seeing the altar before,” she grinned, corralling the tumbled black and white stones in a neat group. “Duncan, if I show you how to raise my scrying wards, would you like to give it a try?”

“Give what a try?” he returned, looking at her as if she were an overly precocious child. “I do not know what I would be doing, so how could I focus properly?”

“The altar has trapped memories of the proper working,” Mairona argued. “You can try to tap into its knowledge.”

“I do not feel comfortable doing this,” Duncan shook his head. “I am not fully trained as it is.”

“Well, I cannot do it. I am not a priest,” Mairona countered.

Cardiel leaned forward, placing his hands on the smooth stone to interject himself between the two. “What do you hope to find?” he asked the queen.

“Knowledge,” Mairona replied immediately, as if it were self-evident. “Learning. Clues. Hints of St. Camber. Whatever there is to find.”

“Not power, then?”

“Nay,” she shook her head. “God has already gifted the power he intends for me, and it is considerable. I have no need for more.”

“Well, then, Mairona,” Cardiel continued. “If there were any priest with this knowledge, I would agree with you. However, knowing how knowledge combats ignorant fear and hatred, I would say it is more important to discover and preserve learning than adhere blindly to tradition. Since this altar is technically no longer sanctified, you may try if you wish.”

“How can it no longer be sanctified after what we have seen and heard?” she returned.

“I said technically, my lady,” Cardiel answered. “I do not believe our Lord would wish us to remain in ignorance simply because there is not an educated priest to be had.”

“Very well, then,” she conceded, admiring the human archbishop as she began to see how he had led the Church to not only stop persecuting Deryni, but surreptitiously start to welcome them into its ranks. His beliefs were not led by presupposition or literal interpretation of law and tradition, but by what he saw as God’s greater love and the needs of His flock. She moved around to the western side of the altar to face east, as a priest would do. Rothana stepped out of her way as Kelson looked at her nervously.

“Are you certain you want to do this?” he asked.

“Aye,” she said firmly, setting her eyes in determination. “The power here is benign, meant for celebration and worship. It will not harm me.” Her hands scooped the ward cubes closer and neatly arranged them in their starting pattern, white cubes joined in a square at the middle, black ones set diagonally at the corners. She used the motion as a focus to settle into trance. “The priest had two others assisting. I do not know if it is necessary, but Kel, will you link with me?”

“Aye.” He came around to her left side, placing a hand on her shoulder to open their bond. She sighed as he offered loving strength.

“Who else?” Mairona called, sweeping glassy eyes around her husband’s friends.

“I will,” Rothana offered. “If we are to work in partnership, there is no sense in delay.” She stepped up again, placing her hand on Mairona’s right shoulder. Her own support was less intense than Kelson’s Haldane potential mixed with Deryni blood, but it was nearly as strong.

“Thank you,” Mairona said, bringing a finger to rest on the upper left white cube. “Prime,” she intoned, and the opal came to life with fiery brilliance. “Seconde,” she continued, then finished the white center of her pattern. “Tierce. Quarte.” Her focus shifted slightly as she turned to the black cubes, again starting in the upper left corner. “Quinte. Sixte. Septime. Octave.” They glimmered a silvery black as Mairona sank deep into her memory of the vision, trying to touch how the priest had performed this next part. She rested her two hands on each of the upper left cubes, one white and one black. “Prime et Quinte inversus,” she intoned, switching positions of the two. Next was the diagonally opposing corner. “Quarte et Octave inversus.”  Now the two outer cubes on the left side. “Prime et Septime inversus.” Finally, the rightmost outer cubes. “Sixte et Quartus inversus.”

Now she was uncertain how exactly to continue. The cubes were arranged to stack white on white, black on black, polarizing their energies. She had always been taught to balance them by joining white and black to form the four quarters of the wards. St. Camber, lend me your guidance, she breathed as she pressed the palms of her hands against the altar’s once-polished stone, looking for direction. None came consciously, but there was a niggling hint that this was not right. She did not know what that priest from so long ago was trying to do with this configuration, but the current arrangement of cubes would create two pillars of white and two black. That did not match the design of the altar’s construction, which alternated each color. Hadn’t Halek always lectured about the importance of balance?

Brows furrowed, Mairona ignored Kelson’s growing uneasiness for her safety as she undid the last two position swaps. 

“Quartus et Sixte inversus. Septime et Prime inversus.” 

Yes, that was better. Now, to build the altar matrix—

Lord Christ, forgive me for what I attempt, for I am not a priest. 

She picked up Prime, which now lay in the uppermost left outside corner, and rested it on Quinte. 

“Primus est Deus, Primus in Aeternitate. Amen,” she intoned in a strange sing-song chant, imitating the melody whispered to them as the vision had faded. The two cubes fused, but didn’t mingle into the silvery oblong used to erect wards. Curiously, they retained their separate black and white color. On to the next pair, Sixte on Seconde, black on white. “Secundus est Filius, Coaeternus cum Patre. Amen.” Now, Septime on Terce. “Tertius est Trinitas: Pater, Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen.” Finally, the white Quarte on black Octave. “Quattuor archangeli custodes quadrantibus sunt.” This was where her invocation of scrying wards had ended, but the long-ago priest’s chant whispered a continuation to her as she called on the altar’s memory. “Quattuor quadrant coram Domino uno. Amen.” Four archangels guard the quarters. The four quarters stand in the sight of the One God. Preparations were over, time to discover the actual working.

St. Camber, guide me so that I may discover, learn, and pass this on to the Holy Church.


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