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The bishops heir, p.1
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       The Bishop’s Heir, p.1

           Katherine Kurtz
 
The Bishop’s Heir


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  Also by Katherine Kurtz

  The Deryni Novels

  The Chronicles of the Deryni

  Deryni Rising

  Deryni Checkmate

  High Deryni

  The Legends of Camber of Culdi

  Camber of Culdi

  Saint Camber

  Camber the Heretic

  The Histories of King Kelson

  The Bishop’s Heir

  The King’s Justice

  The Quest for Saint Camber

  The Heirs of Saint Camber

  The Harrowing of Gwynedd

  King Javan’s Year

  The Bastard Prince

  The Childe Morgan Trilogy

  In the King’s Service

  Childe Morgan

  The King’s Deryni

  Other novels

  King Kelson’s Bride

  The Bishop’s Heir

  The Histories of King Kelson, Volume One

  Katherine Kurtz

  This one is for my Sibling,

  JEANNE MARIE BROWN,

  and the rest of the Brown Clan:

  David, Graham, and Adriane

  Contents

  Prologue

  And he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal for a cloak.

  —Isaiah 59:17

  I He made him a lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure.

  —Psalms 105:21–22

  II They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh.

  —Song of Solomon 3:8

  III And thou shalt put the mitre upon his head …

  —Exodus 29:6

  IV Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.

  —Psalms 60:3

  V They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not.

  —Hosea 8:4

  VI They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.

  —Psalms 62:4

  VII The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were drawn swords.

  —Psalms 55:21

  VIII Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.

  —Isaiah 47:13

  IX But thou, mastering thy power, judgest with equity, and orderest us with great favor: for thou mayest use power when thou wilt.

  —Wisdom of Solomon 12:18

  X Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time.

  —Amos 5:13

  XI They fall into many actions and businesses, and are void of sense, and when they think of things pertaining unto God, they understand nothing at all.

  —II Hermas 10:12

  XII All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee.

  —Obadiah 1:7

  XIII Yet was she carried away, she went into captivity.

  —Nahum 3:10

  XIV Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be nothing worth.

  —Wisdom of Solomon 2:11

  XV But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.

  —Job 4:5

  XVI In the valley of vision …

  —Isaiah 22:5

  XVII He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abominations to the Lord.

  —Proverbs 17:15

  XVIII And I shall even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness.

  —Hosea 2:20

  XIX A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

  —Proverbs 17:22

  XX Yet will I bring an heir unto thee.

  —Micah 1:15

  XXI I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son.

  —Hebrews 1:5

  XXII For the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.

  —Isaiah 62:4

  PREVIEW: The King’s Justice

  BONUS STORY: The Priesting of Arilan

  APPENDIX I: Index of Characters

  APPENDIX II: Index to Place Names

  APPENDIX III: Partial Lineage of Haldane Kings

  APPENDIX IV: The Festillic Kings of Gwynedd and Their Descendants

  APPENDIX V: Partial Lineage of the MacRories

  About the Author

  PROLOGUE

  And he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal for a cloak.

  —Isaiah 59:17

  Edmund Loris, once the Archbishop of Valoret and Primate of All Gwynedd, stared out to sea through the salt-smeared windowpanes of his tower prison and allowed himself a thin smile. The rare display of self-indulgence did nothing to diminish the fury of the wind shrilling at the ill-fitted glass, but the letter secreted in the breviary under his arm gave its own grim comfort. The offer was princely, befitting even the exalted status he had enjoyed before his fall.

  Exhaling softly of his long-hoarded bitterness, Loris bowed his head and shifted the book to hold it in both hands, wary lest the gesture seem to make it too precious in the eyes of his jailers, who could look in on him at any time. For two years now they had kept him here against his will. For two years his existence had been defined by the walls of this monastic cell and the token participation permitted him in the life of the rest of the abbey: daily attendance at Mass and Vespers, always in the company of two silent and all-too-attentive monks, and access to a confessor once each month—seldom the same man twice, and never the same one any two months in succession. Were it not for one of the lay brothers who brought his meals, whose fondness for intrigue Loris had early discovered, he would have had no contact whatsoever with the outside world.

  The outside world—how he longed for it again! The two years spent in Saint Iveagh’s were but an extension of the outrage which had begun a full year before that, with the death of King Brion. On just such a chill November day as this had Brion Haldane met his doom—blasted from life by the hell-spawned magic of a Deryni sorceress, but leaving an unexpected legacy of forbidden powers to his son and heir, the fourteen-year-old Kelson.

  Nor had young Kelson hesitated to seize his unholy patrimony and use it to overturn almost everything Loris held sacred, not the least of which was the Church’s stand against the use of magic in whatever form. And all of this had been done under the guise of his “Divine right” to rule and his sacred duty to protect his people—though how a king could justify consorting with the powers of evil to effect that protection was beyond Loris’ comprehension. By the end of the following summer, with the help of the Deryni heretics Morgan and McLain, Kelson had even managed to turn most of Loris’ fellow bishops against him. Only the ailing Corrigan had remained true—and his faithful heart had given out before he could be subjected to the humiliation Loris finally endured. The rebel bishops actually believed they had done a great kindness by allowing Loris to attend the travesty of a trial at which they stripped away his offices and banished him to a life of forced contemplation.

  Bitter still, but heartened by the prospect of a chance to set things right, the former archbishop tapped the edge of his book lightly against his lips and thought about its secret contents—yet another communication from folk with similar cause to feel uneasy at what the new king had wrought. The wind whining in the roof slates of Saint Iveagh’s sea-girt towers sang of the freedom of the open seas whence it came, bearing the tang
of salt air and the cries of the wheeling gulls that circled the abbey during all but the darkest hours of night, and for the first time since his imprisonment, Loris allowed himself to hope that he, too, might soon be free. For many, many months, he had feared never to taste freedom again except in death.

  Oh, he was not fool enough to think there would not be a price—but he could afford to promise anything, for now. With care and craft, he might play more than one side to his advantage, perhaps eventually becoming even more powerful than before his fall. Then he would make himself the instrument of God’s retribution, driving the cursed Deryni from the land once and for all.

  And the Deryni taint was in the very blood of the king—perhaps in all the Haldane line, not in Kelson alone. In the very beginning, Loris had thought Kelson’s forbidden magic strictly the legacy of his Deryni mother—that poor, conscience-hounded lady who even now kept strict seclusion in another remote abbey, praying for the soul of her Deryni son as well as her own and devoting her life to penance for the evil she carried. She had confessed her guilt before them all, that solemn day of Kelson’s coronation, prepared to sacrifice life and even soul to protect him from the sorceress who had already been responsible for his father’s death.

  But Queen Jehana, though she had the will, had not the power to fight Kelson’s battle for him; and in the end, the young king had had to face the challenge with his own resources—prodigious resources, as it happened, easily equal to the challenge, but frightening in their implications. While granting that his mother’s Deryni blood might have made its contribution, Kelson had publicly claimed sacred right as the source of his newfound abilities. Loris had feared otherwise, even at the time, for he remembered stories about the boy’s father.

  In fact, the more Loris thought on it—and he had had ample time for that in the last two years—the more convinced he became that Brion and hitherto unsuspected Deryni ancestors were as much to blame for Kelson’s condition as Jehana. The full extent of the taint could only be guessed. Certainly both Brion and his father before him had harbored Deryni at court from time to time. The detested Morgan and McLain were but the most recent and blatant of many such—and the latter a priest all the while, hypocrite to the core—on both of whom Loris wished only the vilest of fates, for the two were largely responsible for his present situation.

  As for Brion, who could deny that the late king once had faced and killed a Deryni sorcerer in single combat? Loris, then but a parish priest of rising prominence, had heard of the incident only at second and third hand, but even in the first throes of public jubilation at the king’s victory, he had been chilled by the recurring suggestion that Brion’s opponent, father to the woman eventually responsible for his death, had fallen not alone to Brion’s sword but to strange powers wielded by the king himself. In the taverns for months afterward, haunted eyewitnesses with tongues loosened by ale whispered fearfully of magic worked upon the king by young Morgan before that fateful confrontation—the unleashing of awesome forces which Brion said were benign, the royal legacy of his father—but even that admission cast grave suspicions on the king, so far as Loris was concerned. Though a man of honest if rigid religious conviction, he was not naive enough to concede that purity of intent and fervence of faith—or Divine favor to an anointed king—had been Brion’s salvation, though he kept his misgivings to himself so long as Brion lived.

  Now Loris knew that only power such as the Enemy himself wielded could have given Brion victory against such odds, and over such a foe. And if that power had been granted, or even merely released, by one of the accursed Deryni, then its source was clear: an evil legacy from years of dark alliance with that unholy race. The double inheritance of evil from Brion and Jehana was doubly damning in their son. Kelson was beyond redemption, and must be eliminated.

  Nor, by the same logic, were Brion’s brother Nigel and his brood to be spared—for though uncontaminated by Jehana’s blood, still they, like Kelson, traced their ancestry back through the generations of Haldane kings who had carried forward some other variant of Deryni curse from the time of the Restoration. The land must be freed of this evil, cleansed of the dark Deryni taint. A new royal line must be raised to rule in Gwynedd—and what better source, and who with better legal claim, than the old royal line of Meara, human to the core, one of whose supporters even now offered assistance to Gwynedd’s rightful Primate, if that Primate would support Mearan independence?

  With a shiver, Loris slipped his breviary into the breast of his homespun woolen robe and drew his meager cloak around his shoulders—he, who had worn fine linen and silk and furs before being deprived of his office! Two years of the sparse, simple fare of the Fratri Silentii had pared a handspan from an already trim waist and honed the hawklike features to even sharper definition, but the hunger which gnawed at Loris now had nothing to do with physical appetites. As he laid one hand flat against the window glass, his eye was caught by the amethyst on his finger—sole reminder left him of his former rank—and he savored the words of the letter next to his heart.

  Meara will bow no more to a Deryni king, the missive had said, echoing his own determination. If this plan meets with your approval, ask shriving of a monk named Jeroboam who shall come within the week to preach, and be guided by his advice. Until Laas.…

  Laas. The very name conjured images of ancient glories. It had been the capital of an independent Meara a hundred years before the first Haldanes came to Gwynedd. From Laas, sovereign Mearan princes had ruled as proudly as any Haldane, and over lands by no means less fair.

  But Jolyon, the last Mearan prince, had sired only daughters by the time he lay dying a century before, and the eldest, Roisian, was only twelve. To prevent the rending of his lands by avaricious guardians, regents, and suitors, Jolyon willed his coronet and the hand of Roisian to the strongest man he could find: Malcolm Haldane, newly crowned King of Gwynedd, a respected former adversary.

  But Jolyon’s final act found little favor with Meara’s native sons; the prince had read his nobles well. Before Malcolm could even bed his young bride, dissident Mearan knights abducted both of the queen’s sisters and proclaimed the elder, Roisian’s twin, Meara’s sovereign princess. Malcolm put down the ensuing rebellion in less than a month, capturing and hanging several of the ringleaders, but he never did locate the stolen princesses—though he encountered their heirs many times in the years which followed. He moved Meara’s territorial capital from Laas to the more central Ratharkin the following summer, both for greater ease of administration and to lessen the importance of Laas as a symbol of former Mearan sovereignty, but the ancient city remained, from time to time, a rallying point for cadet lines of the old royal house which waxed with each new generation and as swiftly waned whenever Haldane expeditions swept into the principality to quash the beginnings of revolt—and execute pretenders. Malcolm and his son Donal were scrupulous about their periodic “Mearan housecleaning,” as Donal called it, but King Brion had taken such action only once during his reign, shortly after the birth of his own son. The venture, while necessary, had been so personally distasteful that he had avoided even considering the need for a repeat campaign a generation later.

  Now Brion’s softness was likely to cost his son a throne. The current Mearan Pretender had no cause to love King Kelson, for she had lost a husband as well as a child the last time a Haldane flexed his strength in Meara. It was even rumored in Meara that an impassive Brion had watched the baby prince put to the sword—a lie promulgated by Mearan dissidents, though it was true that the child had died. Soon afterward, the self-styled Princess Caitrin of Meara, descendant of Queen Roisian’s twin, took as husband and consort the ambitious younger brother of one of Gwynedd’s earls and disappeared into the mountains to breed rebellion and more pretenders—until Brion’s death brought them out of hiding. It was one of Caitrin’s agents who had contacted Loris.

  Sighing, Loris pressed his nose against the glass of his prison and watched an autumn squall-line crawl toward
the shore from the northwest, well aware that many would regard what he was about to do as treason. He did not. It was a means to an end. If he had learned one thing in more than half a century of service to his faith, it was that the integrity of Holy Mother Church depended upon temporal dealings as well as spiritual ones. Higher loyalties than those binding him to any temporal lord bound him to his future course, for as bishop as well as priest he was duty-bound to root out evil and corruption. Inevitably, the source of that corruption lay in the devil’s brood called the Deryni.

  The Deryni must be eradicated—every last one of them. The time was past for leniency, for trying to save their souls. Though Loris’ mind recoiled at the thought of raising hand against an anointed king—Kelson, whom he himself had crowned—the thought of not raising hand against a servant of darkness on the throne repelled him even more.

  The boy had put on a bold charade, but blood would always run true, in the end. For the sake of every soul in Gwynedd, the Deryni heresy must be stamped out—and Edmund Loris would use whatever means he must to accomplish that end.

  CHAPTER ONE

  He made him a lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure.

  —Psalms 105:21–22

  The Bishop of Meara was dead. In more stable times, that fact might have elicited little more than academic interest on the part of Duke Alaric Morgan, for his duchy of Corwyn lay far on the other side of Gwynedd, well beyond the reach of any Mearan prelate’s influence. Bishops there were whose passing would have meant a personal loss to Morgan, but Carsten of Meara was not one of them.

  This is not to say that Morgan had regarded Carsten as an enemy. On the contrary, even though the old bishop had been of a very different generation, bred in an age when fear of magic had made far greater men rabid in their intolerance of such as Corwyn’s Deryni duke, Carsten had never succumbed to the open hostility displayed by some. When, on the premature accession of Kelson Haldane to the throne of Gwynedd, it had become increasingly clear that the young king was somehow heir to magical abilities which the Church had come to condemn as heretical over the years—powers that Kelson intended to use for the protection of his kingdom—Carsten had retired quietly to his episcopal holdings in Meara, rather than choose between his fanatically anti-Deryni archbishop and his more moderate brethren who supported the king despite the questionable status of his Deryni soul. The king’s party had eventually prevailed, and the deposed Archbishop Loris languished even now in the secure Abbey of Saint Iveagh, high in the sea cliffs north of Carbury. Morgan himself thought the sentence far too lenient to balance the harm Loris had done human-Deryni relations by his venom, but it had been the recommendation of Loris’ successor, the scholarly Bradene of Grecotha, and was actively supported by the majority of Gwynedd’s other bishops.

 
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