Princess of Meara
woke in a cold sweat. It was that dream again - the dream of a man,
lying on what seemed to be a funeral bier with a coverlet of string
and stone. Underneath the bier was carved
Branwen knew enough Latin to know that it read:
No more reading ancient history before bed she decided.
Unable to return to sleep, Branwen put on her robe and slippers and went to the palace kitchen to get something to eat. She startled the footman on duty.
"Your Highness" he objected, "you had only to ring and I would have brought you a tray." The Princess of Meara smiled and wished him good night.
Branwen walked down the hallway lined with portraits of her royal ancestors. Haldanes had ruled Gwynedd for over a thousand years, with only two interregnums to break their reign. Her father's portrait was most prominent, which was only fitting for the current King of Gwynedd, but Branwen preferred the older portraits. As she looked at her favorite, she thought again of her strange dream. She always connected the old St. Camber with the Kelson Haldane who ruled Gwynedd in the 12th century; she knew Kelson had felt a personal connection and had worked to restore Camber's sainthood. Someday, probably soon, her own portrait would hang where her father's was now. Her father was dying of cancer; no one outside the palace knew this, but the end would come sooner rather than later.
She looked at Kelson's portrait again. What a great and noble king, she thought. Eight hundred years ago, kings and queens were important, defending their kingdom against many enemies. She looked in the mirror hanging behind the portrait. The black hair and dark eyes that had long been a trait of the Haldanes looked back. What did she have to look forward to when she was queen? Opening shopping malls and wondering what the press was saying about her latest clothes or latest boyfriend.
She returned to her suite and settled back into bed. Certain that she wouldn't be able to sleep, she picked up the book she was reading before she went to bed. Codex Deryianus was a strange title. The mysterious book arrived in the day's mail. Normally, Branwen wouldn't have seen the package. She was usually busy opening pensioners' homes or giving speeches for one of the many charities of which she was patroness.
Today had no scheduled appearances and her chief secretary had the day off so she decided to spend some time in her office catching up on her mail. The letter with the book had read:
Remarkably well preserved, she thought. Probably a hoax - another scholarly effort to prove that a magical race called the Deryni once existed. Her guess was "Brother Theophilus" was Dr. Kurtz, or Dr. Reginald, two PhDs from Valoret who believed that Deryni nonsense. They probably made up this Codex and are hoping she'll come out in support of their bizarre theories. According to Kurtz and Reginald, these Deryni had mystical powers that could summon the archangels to their bidding. They could even read minds, work magical spells and heal the sick and wounded. Even Kelson I was supposed to have been Deryni, or part Deryni. According to tradition, the Haldane line was somehow invested with this Deryni power. Amazing what people used to believe! Even more amazing that people still believed it in the beginning of the 21 st century.
Branwen was considered something of an expert on Kelson I, and for her to agree that the Deryni existed would be quite a coup for Kurtz and Reginald. And yet, Branwen thought back to the ritual that her father performed 10 years ago when she turned 14, the traditional age of adulthood in medieval Gwynedd. According to him, every king of Gwynedd performed this ritual on his heir. Until very recently, only men could rule Gwynedd. It was only about 70 years ago that her grandmother Evaine was named heir to Kelson V. She didn't remember much of the ritual - just some weird Latin incantations and then her father piercing her ear. She touched the gold hoop earring remembering the pain of the needle. She wanted both ears pierced, but according to tradition, the king's heir had only one ear pierced. Her father said he was just repeating what his mother had done to him. Branwen never thought much about it. Just a silly tradition that probably meant something once upon a time.
Suddenly, Branwen had the feeling that she wasn't alone. She turned slowly and saw a man sitting at the end of her bed. Dressed in a gray robe, his head had a cowl pulled over it, obscuring his features. Somehow Branwen knew that if he pulled the cowl away, he would have gray eyes and gilt hair, close cropped and tonsured. The man on the funeral bier.
"I don't know who you are, or how you got into my room, but I just have to ring this bell and security will be swarming all over you." she said, trying to not let fear shake her voice.
"Who do you think I am, Branwen Princess of Meara." the apparition asked.
"I don't know." she said aloud. She thought "You're probably some delusional psychopath escaped from the local asylum"
The apparition smiled. "I assure you, I am no psychopath. Some have called me Saint Camber of Culdi."
Branwen felt faint. She knew she hadn't spoken, but somehow he could read her thoughts. "I don't believe in saints" she finally managed to say. "I 'm not even sure I believe in God."
He only smiled. "The time will soon come, your Highness, when you will be Queen of Gwynedd. When you were 14, your father prepared you for what is about to happen, even if he didn't know it. Already your Deryni and Haldane heritages are showing themselves. You can read a man's heart and know the truth, you can banish fatigue..."
"Wait a minute" Branwen protested. "I admit I can usually tell when someone's lying, but that's just because I'm a good judge of character. As for 'banishing fatigue', I'm just in good health. That's hardly proof of magical heritages!"
"Perhaps. Tell me, what do you remember of your mother?"
"My mother? Only vague things. She was beautiful and she used to sing me to sleep. She died when I was very young. I can't believe I'm sitting here discussing this with you! I'm going to call security." But Branwen didn't pull the bell cord.
"Your mother was beautiful. She was also very well educated in her heritage, an education you would have had if she had not died so young. Your mother was Deryni."
"Right. And my father's really Peter Pan."