Thomas Cardiel, acting Archbishop of
Valoret, slowly raised his hand to knock at the door, but, pondering
the lateness of the hour he lowered it again. Indecision marked his
face and then moments later, having reached a decision, he again
raised his hand and began to knock on the doors to Denis Arilan's
apartment. The door opened almost immediately as if the occupant
within was simply waiting for his knock. Just inside the door was
Denis Arilan gazing mildly at his visitor. Despite the hour, he seemed
unpeturbed by Cardiel's presence,
"Thomas, what brings you banging
on my door at this time of the night?"
"Denis? It's Corrigan, it's his
heart, he's - he's dying!"
"Well," replied Arilan the
corners of his mouth curving up slightly, "that's going to be one
less problem for the Ecclestiastical Tribunal to worry about!"
"Denis!" came Cardiel's
shocked reply, "He's refusing the last rites and sacraments from
any of us!"
"Ahh!" mused Arilan,
"and let me guess, he wants Loris?"
"Yes! He wouldn't respond to me or
Wolfram and Morris is too sick!"
"I wonder if Bradene..."
Arilan paused briefly, "but he hasn't arrived at the Curia yet
"No, he's due to arrive from
Rhemuth tomorrow with the King"
Arilan thought for a minute and then
said, "I have been Corrigan's auxiliary for several years, maybe
I can convince him that I am acceptable"
"Denis? You're not going to
..." Cardiel trailed off, "you're not going to ... you
"What? Use my powers on him?"
Arilan wiggled his fingers dramatically as he spoke, "Even if I
desired it, I doubt that there is anything that my magic could do to
aid Corrigan now". He smiled at Cardiel, "I meant, maybe he
will find me to be an acceptable priest. After all we don't really
want to bring Loris into this unless we absolutely have to."
Patrick Corrigan's face was an ashen
grey, his once solid frame, drenched in sweat, had transformed into a
skeletal frame, ravaged by the effects of his lengthy illness.
Periodically his body shuddered with excruciating pain but he did not
make any noises. He became aware of two faces gazing down upon him but
he could not focus on them, "Edmund my friend is that you?"
he ventured. The two faces slowly came into focus, but to Corrigan's
disappointment the faces belonged to Thomas Cardiel and Denis Arilan.
Standing some distance behind them was Bishop Wolfram de Blanet.
"Corrigan, can you hear me?"
came Arilan's voice, "it's Denis Arilan here. Will you take the
last rites and sacrements? We would not have you go before Our Lord
"I've already told Cardiel that I
want Archbishop Loris not some upstart traitor bishop!"
"Loris is unavailable, Corrigan,
he is under confinement by order of the King" replied Arilan.
"I want to speak to Loris one more
time!" gasped Corrigan, "Please Arilan! Let my friend do
this last deed for me!"
Corrigan began shaking uncontrollably
in spasms of pain.
"Will you accept the last rites
and sacraments?" said Arilan pointedly ignoring Corrigan's
"Denis?" came Cardiel's
worried voice, "maybe we should get Loris, he can't do any harm
and we would be failing in our duty if we didn't give a dying man an
opportunity to confess his sins and prepare his way into the next
"Thomas, we have given him an
opportunity - and he's refused three perfectly good bishops"
"But Denis, he will die unshriven
if we don't let Loris see him. He has asked for a specific priest and
we should provide him"
"Loris isn't a priest, or at least
he won't be after his trial" replied Arilan, "in fact, he'll
be lucky if he keeps his head!"
"Loathsome as he is, Loris is
still a priest and Corrigan has asked for him. Denis, I know that this
is the right thing to do. For the sake of his immortal soul, let us
send for Loris, so that he can do what Corrigan will not let us
Wolfram spoke for the first time,
"He's right Arilan, Loris is probably Corrigan's only friend and
it can't hurt anyone for the last special rites to be done by
Slowly Arilan nodded his head,
"Very well, but I don't think he really deserves it!" When
Wolfram looked like interupting he continued on, "But right or
wrong, let us go and collect Loris"
Wolfram bent down towards Corrigan,
"Patrick?" he said, "They're going to get Loris for
"Thank you Bishop Wolfram but
please tell them to hurry" came Corrigan's unsteady response.
As the two bishops left Corrigan's
chambers Cardiel said to Arilan, "Why were you so harsh in there
Denis?" but Arilan did not seem to hear him or did not deign to
answer. They continued up the passageway in silence when Arilan
abruptly said, "For many reasons, Thomas"
"Thomas, when he was archbishop he
refused to provide the last sacraments to one of my people, saying
that it was a waste as he was already damned anyway. He also refused
to allow another priest who was willing to undertake the last rites to
"But Denis, two wrongs do not make
a right - you cannot undo the past and whatever mistakes and wrongs
Corrigan has done, he will have to account to a higher authority"
"NO! You do not understand - he
condemned a good man by his actions! And the other priest was ME! If I
had been stronger in my convictions, I would have defied him!! But I
was a newly raised Bishop and unsure of my standing. I also had a
greater long-term responsibility to my people, I could not risk
exposing myself so soon in my tenure as Bishop, but I cannot forgive
him for his actions!! He ..."
"Denis!" interjected Cardiel,
"you are a Bishop - you have a responsibility and obligation to
minister to all souls, human and deryni, especially those souls in
need of comfort and salvation - if we need to use Loris then we must.
Besides, as irritating as Loris is, he is a priest like us and must
have had some redeeming attributes since he was elected Archbishop of
Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd"
"Only because he was a protege of
de Nore!" snorted Arilan.
"And I was a protege of Hudroid du
Mollard and you experienced Royal favour in your rise to the Bishop's
mitre! He still had to get elected by a majority of the synod and he
was a far better choice than that frothing fanatic Alexander!"
"That's true but I am worried that
we will be giving Loris a degree of legitimacy if we allow him to
minister the last rites to Corrigan. His supporters will emphasise
that it was Archbishop Loris who ministered to Archbishop Corrigan on
his deathbed, while we stood by and did nothing"
They arrived at the doors to Loris'
apartments, two guards standing silently at attention. They bowed when
they realised the two men approaching were Cardiel and Arilan.
"Open the doors" commanded
One of the guards gave a stattaco rap
at the door before he produced a key and unlocked the door. As he
opened the door he said "Do you wish to be announced, Your
"That won't be necessary"
Cardiel and Arilan entered the chambers
and were surprised to find that it was still well lit. They could see
Loris in his private sacristy kneeling in prayer. It did not look as
though he had been sleeping as he was fully dressed.
"Now we wait" murmured Arilan,
"although I do not think we will have to wait for long"
He was proved right in his judgement
because shortly afterwards Loris rose up from his knees and appraised
the two men with a steely glare. As he walked towards them he extended
his hand towards them, his amethyst ring twinkling in the light. When
it was evident that neither man would move forward to kiss the ring,
Loris drew back his hand and sighed.
"I had hoped that my two young
errant bishops had decided to come back to the fold and seek my
forgiveness but I see your stance has not changed a whit. A
The expression on Loris' face akin to
that of an indulgent father and then abruptly hardened, "So what
brings you to my chambers then?"
Arilan was already heading for the
door, "Come with us now, please" he said.
Loris chuckled in response, "I
see! My trial is all set to begin then or perhaps you wish to lead me
to my executioners, and at such an early hour too!"
Cardiel moved towards Loris, touching
him on the shoulder, "It's Corrigan, he wants to see you..."
"And you gentlemen are willing to
oblige him, how kind of..."
Loris suddenly broke off his banter and
seemed to stumble as the realization hit him, "His heart! Quickly
take me to him!!"
They made their way at a quicker pace
towards Corrigan's chambers arriving in time to hear Wolfram de Blanet
concluding the Office for the Dead.
"May he rest in Peace, Amen"
Loris swept into the chambers and knelt
beside Corrigan's body taking his still warm hand in his own. Corrigan
seemed to be gazing serenely at some abstract figure only he could see
and his expression seemed to be tinged with slight sadness.
"Patrick, my friend, what have
they done to you?" murmured Loris.
"He slipped away just a few
minutes ago" explained Wolfram, "He was adamant that he
would last until you arrived but his heart just gave up the
But Loris did not seem to hear Wolfram
because he was caught up in a whirlpool of conflicting thoughts and
emotions. Patrick my friend, may you rest in peace. Why did they not
send for me sooner? Of them all only you remained true to me. Do they
hate me so much that they would not allow me to comfort a dying
friend? Now I am truly alone against those who would persecute me.
What then will my fate be? Lord, grant me the strength to continue on
the path of righteouness...