It was a cold, windy winter day in Rhemuth.
Although the weather had shown some warmth in the last week of
February, this second day of March in the year of our Lord 1074 had
seen a return of the cold north wind. The docks along the river were
nearly deserted, with only 2 small boys trying their luck fishing in
"Itís no use, Edmund," said Jimmy, the tannerís son.
"The fish arenít biting and Iím cold all the way through.
Iím going home."
"I guess youíre right, Jimmy" said Edmund Loris. "Letís
The two boys coiled up their fishing lines and started towards
their homes. They walked past the great stone millhouse, where no
fewer than 4 stones ground wheat into flour when it was operating.
Today it was silent in the cold of winter due to the fear of damaging
the waterwheel from ice flows in the river.
Jimmy said goodbye and headed towards his home a few blocks south
of Kingís Way. Edmund continued along Kingís Way, but decided to
go through one of the two big brick market-houses of Rhemuth in an
attempt to stay warm. Edmund had heard from his father, a clerk in the
Royal Chancellery that King Malcolm had just recently approved a plan
to build a third market-house. This one would be huge, some 300 feet
long. Edmund was proud that he lived in such a great city, the home of
a great king.
As he passed through the market-house, Edmund overheard some of the
vendors talking excitedly. They were all saying something about the
king and an illness. He spied an older boy that he knew, George, now
the apprentice to a silversmith, and asked him what was going on.
"You mean you havenít heard about the kingís
illness?" said George.
"No, Iíve been fishing. What illness?" said Edmund.
"The guardsman said as they came on duty that the king woke
this morning with a terrible fever. Theyíre asking everyone to pray
for the kingís health. They said that Prince Donal himself has asked
for the Archbishop to come to the palace."
"But Archbishop Paul goes there all the time!" said
Edmund. "Thatís no proof that the kingís sick."
"Not Archbishop Paul, you simpleton!" said George
"Archbishop Balthasar. The Prince wouldnít send for the
Archbishop to come all the way down from Valoret in this weather
unless his father was dying!"
"Iím not a simpleton, you meanie! You never said which
Archbishop the Prince sent for!" said Edmund as he angrily
pushed George. A fight was averted when the old baker Ralph spoke up
from his stall in the market-house.
"Be quiet and show some respect for the king, you two!"
said the baker. "You should both go to the cathedral and pray
for the king. Heís the one who helped his father and brother defeat
the Festilic army at Killingford, and kept you both free from their
tyranny. I remember when King Urienís army marched through the town
on the way to that battle, when I was no older than you two lads were,
and how brave they looked. They came back with a lot fewer than they
left with, and the brought back both King Urien and Prince Cinhil in
coffins, but they won the battle. Since then, theyíve been too
afraid to try it again. Show some respect for a great man."
"But whatís happened to him, Master Baker?" said
Edmund. "The only thing we know is that heís sick."
"Neither the King nor Prince Donal talk to me, young lads. But
if you ask me, itís those cursed Deryni whoíve sent a plague to
kill our King. The couldnít defeat him in battle, and they
couldnít break his spirit when they put a spell on his niece,
Princess Rhetice, and kidnapped her from the palace, so theyíve sent
the plague back to kill him."
"But can the Deryni do that, Master Baker?" said
Edmund as he looked at George, their quarrel forgotten as they both
exchanged a frightened glance.
"Of course they can, lads. They can send plagues, draught and
famine as they please, to try and kill us humans. Only the Haldanes
can stand against them. Theyíre the ones that God Himself chose to
rule Gwynedd, everyone knows that. Now be off with both of you and no
fighting!" said the baker, dismissing the boys with a wave of
Edmund and George exchanged another frightened glance, and then
they each headed their separate ways home. Edmund fairly ran home
along Kingís Way, heedless of the ice on the street. When he got to
the modest house that he lived in, he ran through the front door and
said " Mother, Iím back! Guess what I heard about the King!
Mother!" Edmund paused, as he heard no answer. "Mother?!"
he cried out "Where are you?" Edmund went into the
bedroom where his parents slept and saw his mother still in bed,
looking very pale. "Mother? Whatís wrong?"
His mother opened her eyes and said weakly "Edmund, my love,
go get Father John from the church and tell him to bring Sister Edith
"But whatís wrong, mother?" said Edmund on the
verge of tears.
"Iím sick, Edmund. Now you must be strong for me and go get
Father John and Sister Edith to come by. Sister Edith is a midwife and
will know how to make me feel better. Father John can stay with you
and help you pray until your father gets home. Now be off with you,
and hurry back."
Edmund Loris bravely held back nine-year old tears and ran off down
the street for the church.
The tears that Edmund could not show earlier were now in full force
as he sat with Father John from the local parish church by the
fireplace. His father had not yet come home, and Sister Edith had
firmly ordered him from his motherís bedside while she looked at
"Can you help me pray for your mother, Edmund?" asked
"Iíll try Father," said Edmund between sobs. "What
do you think is wrong with my mother?"
"I donít know, Edmund. No one really understands what causes
sickness. It just comes upon us, and all we can do is pray."
"Master Baker Ralph told me at the market-house that the
Deryni have sent a plague kill King Malcolm. Do you think thatís
what wrong with my mother too, Father?"
"I donít think that the Deryni have sent a plague to us,
Edmund. If they had, there would be a lot more people sick than just
your mother and the King."
"But thatís two people that I know of, Father. Who knows how
many more could be sick that I donít know about?" Edmund
resumed his sobbing in full force.
"Well, if the Deryni have sent a plague, then itís important
that you pray for your mother and the King, Edmund. God is stronger
than the Deryni, if only you pray for his help."
"How do you know God is stronger than the Deryni,
Father John smiled at this question. "Because God is always
the strongest as long as we believe in Him. I saw this myself at the
seminary when God struck down a Deryni that was trying to be ordained
a priest in defiance of Godís law."
"What happened, Father?" said Edmund, as he looked up
in hope for his mother.
"Well, I was only at the seminary a month, and there were 4
candidates that were ready for the priesthood", said Father
John, glad of a way to distract Edmund while Sister Edith was
examining his mother. "Old Archbishop Leodegaire himself had
come from Valoret to ordain them. During the service, one of the
candidates stumbled and fell after he took communion. God had struck
him down and reviled him as a Deryni who was seeking to infiltrate the
priesthood. So if God can do that, then if you pray to him to save
your mother and the King, He might listen to you."
"Would he really listen to me, Father?" said a
wide-eyed Edmund, all traces of tears forgotten. "Iím really
not anyone important."
"God listens to everyone, Edmund. Pray to Him, and He will
listen. If you believe in Him, He can help you." Father John
smiled down at Edmund with deep concern and compassion.
Edmund closed his eyes and prayed as hard as he could for his
mother. He kept on praying when he heard his father come home. Father
John told Alvin Loris what had happened, and they all waited for
Sister Edith to come out and tell them what she could. Edmund
continued to pray while his father and Father John talked.
About an hour later, Sister Edith came out of the bedroom smiling.
"Itís all right now, the fever has broken" said the
kind old nun. "I wrapped her in blankets and gave her some
tacil. The fever just broke now. Keep her warm and in bed for the next
day, feed her some broth, and tomorrow give her some more of
this" said the good sister as she handed a small packet to
Edmundís father, who thanked the sister as he went in to see his
"Will she really be alright, Sister Edith?" asked
"She should be just fine, Edmund. Come fetch me if the fever
comes back up, but I donít think it will. With some rest, she should
be just fine," said Sister Edith as Father John helped her
put on her cloak.
"Whatís tacil, Sister Edith?"
"Itís a drug made from certain herbs that grow in our
cloister, Edmund. The secret of making it has been passed down through
my order for many years. Itís said that it comes from some very holy
wise men that knew many things about helping people who were hurt. Be
kind to your mother and remember to pray to God in thanksgiving"
said Sister Edith as she and Father John left.
Edmund prayed his thanks to God that night. His father joined him
for a little while, but went to bed to rest in case his wife needed
him. Edmund stayed up and prayed far into the night.
The next morning dawned no better than the previous day. Edmundís
mother was feeling much better. "Go into the Chancellery,
Alvin" she told her husband. "Thereís no reason for
you to miss work, Iím feeling much better and Edmund will be here to
help me, wonít you dear?"
"Yes mother", said Edmund.
"Only if youíre certain youíre felling better, Yanata,"
said his father.
"Iím fine, Alvin. No reason for you to miss a dayís work
and a dayís pay as well. We need the money," said his
mother. Alvin Loris shrugged in agreement, but before he could even
turn towards the door, they heard the ringing of the bell from St
Georgeís Cathedral. It started ringing and kept on ringing. Alvin
Loris went to the door and called out to a passing guard "Whatís
wrong, is Torenth invading us?"
"No, goodman" said the guard "The King is
Two days later, as King Malcolm lay in state in the Cathedral at
St. George, the Loris family was in a long line of common folk who had
come to bid their King farewell. The old King laid in a richly
decorated coffin, surrounded by 6 knights as guards and watched over
by several important looking lords and ladies in black clothes. The
line was long, as every in Rhemuth and the surrounding area wanted to
pay their last respects. Malcolm had been a strong king, under who had
helped win the freedom of everyone in Gwynedd from the tyranny of the
Festilic and Torenthi hordes at the Battle of Killingford, and then
brought peace and stability to the land afterwards. The common people
of Gwynedd filed by and said their farewells, many crying openly as
they moved past the coffin.
When they reached the kingís coffin, Edmund Loris cried out "Iím
sorry!" and broke out of the line running towards one of
the side chapels, startling several of the knights and causing several
of the lords and ladies to look up. His parents also broke out of the
line and followed him. One of the lords in black also went towards the
side chapel to see what was happening.
"Edmund, youíre making a scene here" said his
father when they had caught up with Edmund and found him weeping as he
knelt at a prie-dieu. "Whatís the matter? Youíve been very
quiet these past two days, and now this."
No one noticed that the lord in black who had followed the family
had come up quietly behind the family.
"Itís my fault, father. Itís my fault the Kingís
dead" said Edmund.
Both parents looked at each other in stunned amazement for a
moment, then his mother asked, "But how in the world can it be
your fault?" The lord in black looked just as amazed, but
Edmundís words came out in a jumble as the nine-year old tried to
tell his parents all the thoughts that had been going through his head
the past two days.
"When you were sick, mother, I prayed for you to get better,
but I didnít pray for the king. God listened to me about you, but I
never prayed to him about the king. I should have remembered to pray
to God about King Malcolm as well, but I didnít and now heís dead.
Iím going to be a priest when I grow up so that I can pray for
everyone. I promised God I would when He made you better."
Alvin and Yanata Loris looked at each other, completely at a loss
as to what to say to this. Their son had never been particularly
religious before, but his sincerity at what he had said clearly shone
forth. The lord in black was the first to speak, startling the Loris
"There were many people praying for my father, lad. Iím
certain that there was nothing more that your prayers could have done.
You should be happy that your mother is well," said the man
in black. Edmund looked up at the man.
"Prince Donal, I mean Sire, uhÖ" said Alvin Loris
as he bowed to the new king, completely at a loss for words. His wife
was too stunned to do anything but look at the new king.
"Youíre Alvin Loris, a clerk in the Royal Chancellery,
arenít you?" asked King Donal.
"Yes, Sire. Iím sorry about my son Edmund."
"Donít be. He seems to have his heart in the right
place" said the King as he looked at Edmund. "Edmund
Loris, if you are still determined to be a priest when you are older,
have your father ask me and I will have a place set aside for you in
With that King Donal Haldane smiled and went back to his vigil by
his father, leaving Edmund Loris to go home firmly believing that God
had put this in motion to make him a priest, and determined to answer