The Deryni Archives Part 19

Morgan and Kelson meet with Duncan, Morgan's half-Deryni priest-cousin. In Duncan's study, Morgan produces his Gryphon Signet, which will open a secret compartment in the main altar. Duncan takes the seal and returns shortly with a flat black box, about six inches square. Inside is a folded slip of parchment written in Brion's hand, and another similar box which cannot be opened. The parchment reads: When shall the Son deflect the running tide? A Spokesman of the Infinite must guide The Dark Protector's hand to shed the blood Which lights the Eye of Rom at Eventide.

Same blood must swiftly feed the Ring of Fire. But, careful, lest ye rouse the Demon's ire: If soon thy hand despoil the virgin band, Just retribution d.a.m.ns what ye desire!

Now that the Eye of Rom can see the light, Release the Crimson Lion in the night. With sinister hand unflinching, Lion's Tooth Must pierce the flesh and make the Power right.

Thus Eye and Fire and Lion drink their fill. Ye have a.s.suaged the warring might of 111. New morn, ring hand. Defender's Sign shall seal Thy force. No Power Below shall thwart thy will.

Morgan has the Ring of Fire in his pocket. But the Eye of Rom, a ruby set in an earring, was buried with Brion. They must open Brion's tomb to retrieve it.

Outside, Archbishop Loris, a militant persecutor of Deryni, arrives with a detachment of royal guards to arrest Morgan. The three agree to go to the crypt that night. Morgan rea.s.sures Kelson, then surrenders to Loris. Loris seizes Morgan and serves him with a writ commanding him to appear before the Council and answer to charges of heresy and high treason.

CHAPTER FIVE.

The Council is in turmoil when Kelson and Morgan arrive. Kelson gestures for silence as he takes his place at the head of the table. His eyes touch briefly on the empty Council seat as he orders Morgan's sword placed before him on the table. Jehana wastes no time announcing the Council's vote; six to five against Morgan. Morgan is doomed.

Kelson polls the Council and learns that Derry was not permitted to vote in Morgan's absence. Morgan votes for himself, making the vote six to six. Jehana demands she be allowed to vote, since she is no longer chairman in Kelson's absence. Therefore, the vote is seven to six against Morgan.

Kelson orders the formal charges against Morgan read out. Basilica and Cathedral bells toll three as the clerk finishes the reading. Kelson announces he will fill the empty Council seat before continuing: Lord Derry is appointed. Derry votes to acquit Morgan, Kelson breaks the new tied vote, and Morgan is acquitted, eight to seven.

Jehana challenges Kelson's right to appoint Derry without the approval of the Regents. Kelson retorts that he no longer needs approval since the Council is no longer a Regency Council. Kelson came of age with the tolling of the bells. If everyone will recall, it was his afternoon hour of birth which scheduled the Coronation for tomorrow in the first place. The Council is adjourned.

Kelson cuts Morgan's bonds, returns his sword, and sweeps out of the chamber with Morgan and Derry at his heels, leaving a stunned Council in his wake.

CHAPTER Six.

As soon as the three have cleared the Council chambers, Morgan sends Derry to a.s.sure Duncan that all is well. Morean anrt Kelson will hole up in Keelson's quar- ters and rest until evening. Derry will return and guard when he has finished.

As the Council disperses, lan is concerned by the favorable reaction Kelson's brilliant maneuvering is receiving. He slips away and overpowers a guard in a little-used corridor, then uses the man as a medium to contact Charissa. He tells her of the defeat in Council, and the two plot strategy. lan kills the guard, then smears some of his blood in the rough outline of a gryphon. When he has some of Morgan's knights discover the body later that night, they will require little persuasion to believe that their liege lord is a murderer as well as a traitor.

Morgan wakes shortly after dark. With a set of black and white cubes, he constructs a Master Ward to guard the sleeping Kelson while he searches Brion's library for information on the ritual verse. The boy awakens while Morgan is setting the wards and asks to go along, but Morgan vetoes the request and puts Kelson to sleep with a touch of Deryni control.

Morgan's search of the library discloses nothing. Wearily, he meditates on the possible meaning of the ritual verse, using his Gryphon Seal as a focus for his concentration. For a fraction of a second, he seems to have a vision. There is the fleeting impression of a man's face surrounded by blackness, a feeling both of urgency and rea.s.surance-and the moment is past.

Morgan glances around quickly, but there is no one there. Again, he goes through Brion's books. This time, one well-thumbed volume falls open to a place marked by a slip of parchment in Brion's hand. But it is the picture opposite the pa.s.sage which chills Morgan most. For the portrait, that of St. Camber of Culdi, is the face he saw in the vision. St. Camber, an Lord.

Intently Morgan scans the pa.s.sage, absently pocketing the parchment as he reads. As he closes the volume, he hears the door opening softly behind him and turns to see Charissa stealthily entering the room. She pretends not to be startled when Morgan addresses her, and the two exchange polite conversation and veiled threats. Charissa finally boasts of having "looked in" on Kelson and laughs as Morgan dashes from the room. Then she picks up the volume Morgan was reading and flips worriedly through its pages.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

Morgan wakes shortly after dark. With a set of black and white cubes, he constructs a Master Ward to guard the sleeping Kelson while he searches Brion's library for information on the ritual verse. The boy awakens while Morgan is setting the wards and asks to go along, but Morgan vetoes the request and puts Kelson to sleep with a touch of Deryni control.

Morgan's search of the library discloses nothing. Wearily, he meditates on the possible meaning of the ritual verse, using his Gryphon Seal as a focus for his concentration. For a fraction of a second, he seems to have a vision. There is the fleeting impression of a man's face surrounded by blackness, a feeling both of urgency and rea.s.surance-and the moment is past.

Morgan glances around quickly, but there is no one there. Again, he goes through Brion's books. This time, one well-thumbed volume falls open to a place marked by a slip of parchment in Brion's hand. But it is the picture opposite the pa.s.sage which chills Morgan most. For the portrait, that of St. Camber of Culdi, is the face he saw in the vision. St. Camber, an ancient Deryni Lord.

Intently Morgan scans the pa.s.sage, absently pocketing the parchment as he reads. As he closes the volume, he hears the door opening softly behind him and turns to see Charissa stealthily entering the room. She pretends not to be startled when Morgan addresses her, and the two exchange polite conversation and veiled threats. Charissa finally boasts of having "looked in" on Kelson and laughs as Morgan dashes from the room. Then she picks up the volume Morgan was reading and flips worriedly through its pages.

CHAPTER EIGHT.

Morgan returns immediately to Kelson's quarters, but the boy is safe. Morgan breaks the wards and wakes Kelson. They make their way through a secret pa.s.sage to St. Hilary's but Morgan does not mention his strange vision.

Duncan shows them an ancient Deryni Transfer Portal to the Cathedral where Brion's body lies. Going ahead to be sure the way is clear, he encounters Brother Jerome, the elderly and half-blind sacristan. Duncan allays the monk's suspicions and sends him on his way with a Deryni command to forget what he has seen, then brings Morgan and Kelson through the Portal.

Morgan and Duncan use their Deryni powers to silence two guards outside the royal crypt. As Morgan picks the lock on the gate, Lord Rogier comes to check on the guards. Duncan overpowers Rogier, and the three enter the crypt. Kelson points out Brion's tomb and brings a candlelabra closer as Morgan and Duncan slide back the cover. After a slight hesitation, Morgan pulls back the white silk shroud covering the face. It isn't Brion!

CHAPTER NINE.

The body in the tomb is totally unfamiliar. After agitated speculation, Duncan hypothesizes that Brion's body is possibly still within the crypt, perhaps swapped with another tenant. They begin the grisly task of opening other sepulchers, only to have Morgan suddenly rush back to the original and call the others to his side. He contends that the strange body is Brion's, only under a shape-changing spell. Duncan removes the spell, experiencing Brion's death as he releases the final essence, and the body resumes its normal shape.

Morgan removes the Eye of Rom. Duncan leaves his crucifix in Brion's hands to ward off further spellbinding, and they reseal the sepulcher.

Back in Duncan's study, the three gather the elements for the power transfer: the Eye of Rom, the Ring of Fire, and the box with the Crimson Lion. Morgan pierces Kelson's right earlobe and "feeds" the Eye and Ring with the blood from that piercing. Then Kelson, wearing the Eye of Rom, opens the box and removes a large, crimson-enameled brooch with a golden lion emblazoned upon it. They consult the ritual verse again, but they seem to have reached a stalemate: the Lion has no tooth!

CHAPTER TEN.

Duncan re-reads the verse. Of course: there is always the challenge, the obstacle, the need for bravery. The Lion's Tooth is the clasp of the brooch-three inches of gleaming gold. And it is this which must "pierce the flesh and make the power right."

Morgan and Duncan leave the boy to prepare himself. Morgan is frankly uneasy, especially since Duncan plans to use the secret chapel adjoining his study: a chapel sacred to, among others, St. Camber. Morgan tells Duncan of his vision, how it led him to the pa.s.sage in the book-and remembers the parchment. Withdrawing it, they read, "St. Camber defend us!"

Duncan is hesitant, for as priest as well as Deryni, he is well aware how slender is the balance between good and evil. And St. Camber's sainthood was recalled long ago by a fearfu! church. But they have no choice but to continue. For without his father's powers, Kelson will surely die.

They return to Kelson and enter the chapel. Morgan and Kelson doff their swords and kneel, and Duncan begins the ritual. At the appropriate moment, Kelson plunges the golden shaft through the palm of his hand. He reels drunkenly as a pale aura surrounds him, then hallucinates briefly and pa.s.ses out. Apparently, the power transfer has worked, though Kelson will not be able to use his powers until the sequence is completed tomorrow at the Coronation.

Morgan and Duncan gather up the unconscious prince and return to Kelson's quarters. As Duncan closes the pa.s.sage, a voice from the shadows roars, "Traitors! Blasphemers! What have you done to Prince Kelson?" Three armed knights emerge from the darkness and advance on Duncan and Morgan.

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

Morgan catches the sword Duncan tosses and lowers the unconscious Kelson to the floor. As guards hammer on the door, he and Duncan battle the three knights. Duncan finally kills his man and overcomes one of Morgan's with a Deryni power touch. Morgan disarms the third and holds him at bay, blocking his memory of Duncan as the priest slips out on the balcony to hide. Kelson staggers to his feet and retrieves Duncan's fallen sword as the guards burst in.

The prisoner, one of Morgan's va.s.sals, tells of the guard he and his companions found slain, of the telltale gryphon smeared in the man's dying blood. The guards are ready to seize Morgan, but Kelson forbids it. Morgan could not have killed the guard, for he was with Kelson. When asked how he found the body, the knight replies they "just happened to go there." Did someone tell them to? Kelson insists, sensing he's getting to the source of the frame-up. But the man panics, seizes a dagger from one of the guards, plunges it into his own chest before anyone can stop him. Kelson orders the bodies removed. Morgan slips outside to discover what happened to the corridor guards. He finds them all dead or dying, with Derry, too, very near death.

Kneeling desperately at Derry's side, Morgan remembers something he once read about Deryni. Placing both hands lightly on Derry's forehead, he con- centrates through his Gryphon Seal once more, trying to summon up the healing power which Deryni are reputed to have. For an instant, he has the impression of another pair of hands on top of his. Derry's eyes flicker and he pa.s.ses into a natural sleep, his wounds and injured arm completely healed.

As Morgan stares at his hands in disbelief, he hears a voice behind him say, "Well done, Morgan!"

CHAPTER TWELVE.

Morgan whirls defensively, half expecting to see the face in his vision again. But it is Bran Coris who approaches, accompanied by Ewan, Nigel, lan, and a thoroughly angry Jehana. "Ah, yes. Well done, indeed!" Bran continues. "You've finally killed him, too, haven't you? Now you're the only one alive who knows what really happened on that long ride to Rhemuth?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but he isn't dead," Morgan retorts, consigning Derry to the care of the surgeons. Jehana rages at Morgan about the slain guard, but she dares do nothing against him. She subsides only when Kelson appears at the door, haggard and worn, and orders them all to disperse. lan glances back at Morgan as he disappears down the corridor, then calls a guard to attend him.

As the door closes and Duncan is finally able to emerge from hiding, Kelson collapses under the strain. He regains consciousness briefly as Morgan and Dun-can put him to bed, and mumbles about seeing faces during the ritual. When Kelson drifts off to sleep again, Morgan crosses to the fireplace and searches rapidly through Kelson's books, finding at last a picture of St.

Camber. There, he maintains, is the face Kelson saw. And it's the same one Morgan saw in his vision. He tells Duncan then of healing Derry, and they explore the possibility of a common factor in all three cases.

Duncan comments that at least Kelson seems to have a few useful talents tucked away: Morgan was very clever to teach Kelson those Deryni questioning techniques he used on the guard. Morgan objects: he didn't teach Kelson-he thought Duncan did. Implication: can Kelson be Deryni? Unless someone else of Deryni blood taught him, which is highly unlikely, it would be impossible for him to know. But if he is Deryni, how? Brion, they know, was full human. And Jehana... Khadasa! If Jehana is Deryni, and doesn't know it, or only suspects, it could explain much of her hostility.

Projections: Deryni blood may give Kelson the edge he needs tomorrow against Charissa, especially if the power sequence should fail in any way. On the other hand, it makes Jehana's opposition that much more unpredictable. On that ominous note, Duncan leaves and Morgan settles down for some much-needed sleep.

In his room, lan binds his captive guard in another communication with Charissa. "He's been to the crypt," lan tells her, "and he's wearing the Eye of Rom. No one else noticed." "Good," Charissa replies. "Go back to the Cathedral, then. You know what to do."

lan erases the guard's memory of the event and sends him on his way, then slips out of the palace to carry out his orders. Later, he arrives in Charissa's chambers, where he will remain until morning.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

Next morning, the royal wardrobers and dressers take Kelson in hand to prepare him for the Coronation. Derry, fully recovered, arrives to a.s.sist Morgan with last minute details. Elsewhere, lan stops a wardrober and makes a switch in Morgan's chain of office, subst.i.tuting one which will relay information to Charissa.

Duncan arrives and informs Morgan he has been named King's Champion-a great honor, but one which could prove most arduous if physical as well as occult challenge is made at the Coronation.

Kelson appears in his Coronation regalia to congratulate Morgan on his new t.i.tle. He and Duncan retire to the privacy of the balcony, where the priest rea.s.sures Kelson of his suitability for kingship and hears his confession.

Inside, Morgan dons the accoutrements of King's Champion, unaware that his chain of office is now relaying all he says and does to the Shadowed One.

Nigel arrives in a daze, relating a horrible scene of carnage found in the royal crypt early this morning. During the night, someone has ransacked Brion's tomb and stolen the jewels from the body. The two guards were found with their throats neatly slit, and Rogier is dead with his own hand on the dagger and an awful expression on his face. Clutched tightly in his other hand was a gilded crucifix. It is Duncan's.

Before the three can react, Jehana bursts angrily into the chamber, full of fresh outrage at the slaying, for Rogier was a distant relative. She knows of the fatal crucifix and confronts Duncan and Morgan with it. But her anger turns to cold fury when she spots the Eye of Rom glittering in Kelson's ear. For she knows it came from Brion's tomb.

"Monster!" she screams. "You would desecrate your own father's tomb, you would murder for this power! Oh, Kelson, see what this foul Deryni curse has brought you to!"

She swears she will not attend the Coronation. Morgan realizes explanation is useless at this point, so he issues an ultimatum: either Jehana will attend, or Morgan will Mind-See to discover whether she is Deryni as he believes her to be. Jehana is horrified, but the threat is a powerful one: Jehana has suspected her origin, though she is not willing to accept it. She agrees reluctantly to go along, but she will have to be watched. All a.s.semble for the procession to the Cathedral.

Charissa has observed the royal friction with great interest and now she, too, begins her journey to the Cathedral. En route, she alerts lan to the new potential threat of Jehana. She also considers her plans for Morgan and Kelson-and the treacherous lan.

Kelson's procession arrives at the Cathedral. The partic.i.p.ants take their places, Derry keeps watch from a bell tower, and three Archbishops lead Kelson inside to begin the ceremonies.

Kelson takes the Coronation Oath. During the annointing, Derry slips in with word that Charissa is approaching with a band of armed soldiers. The ranking archbishop invests Kelson with the Ring of Fire and the Sword of State. Morgan comes forward to redeem the sword and has Kelson touch his Gryphon Seal to fulfill the final condition of the tirual verse.

But nothing happens. Morgan's Gryphon is not the Defender's Sign. The Cathedral doors crash open and Charissa stands silhouetted in the doorway.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

As Morgan and Duncan try desperately to think of some other seal which might fulfill the verse, Charissa sweeps down the aisle with her retainers. She forbids the Coronation to continue, then challenges Kelson to mortal combat for the rule of Gwynedd.

Kelson knows Charissa is trying to goad him into a duel of magic, but he pretends to understand her challenge as a traditional trial by combat. He names Morgan as his Champion, and Charissa names lan. The two battle until Morgan finally inflicts a mortal wound on lan. But the dying lan flings his dagger at Morgan with his last effort. Morgan's rigged chain of office impedes his movement and he's gravely wounded in the shoulder. Morgan gets rid of the chain, but the damage is done.

The duel has decided nothing. Charissa renews her challenge, calling for trial by magic according to ancient tradition. Kelson hesitates and Jehana makes her move.

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