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Camber the heretic, p.1
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       Camber the Heretic, p.1

           Katherine Kurtz
 
Camber the Heretic


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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

  Camber the Heretic

  The Legends of Camber of Culdi, Volume Three

  Katherine Kurtz

  For Sven Lugar and John Innis

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.—I Peter 2:9

  I For of the Most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honour of the king.—Ecclesiasticus 38:2

  II And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries.—Daniel 11:21

  III He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end.—Ecclesiasticus 30:1

  IV Judge none blessed before his death: for a man shall be known in his children.—Ecclesiasticus 11:28

  V For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie; though it may tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come.—Habakkuk 2:3

  VI Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.—I Timothy 4:14

  VII Or ever the silver cord be loosed … then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.—Ecclesiastes 12:6–7

  VIII Now I say, that the heir, so long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by his father.—Galatians 4:1–2

  IX Woe unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child.—Ecclesiastes 10:16

  X But at present it is expedient for thee, and for thy house, to be grieved.—III Hermas 7:12

  XI Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?—Isaiah 28:9

  XII Show new signs, and make other strange wonders.—Ecclesiasticus 36:6

  XIII Strangers conspired together against him, and maligned him in the wilderness.—Ecclesiasticus 45:18

  XIV And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand.—Micah 5:12

  XV I will not be ashamed to defend a friend; neither will I hide myself from him.—Ecclesiasticus 22:25

  XVI For the elements were changed in themselves by a kind of harmony.—Wisdom of Solomon 19:18

  XVII A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure.—Ecclesiasticus 6:14

  XVIII The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.—Isaiah 40:3

  XIX There is no healing of thy bruise; thy wound is grievous.—Nahum 3:19

  XX Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him.—Wisdom of Solomon 2:17

  XXI An enemy speaketh sweetly with his lips, but in his heart he imagineth how to throw thee into a pit: he will weep with his eyes, but if he find opportunity, he will not be satisfied with blood.—Ecclesiasticus 12:16

  XXII For the chief-priest has his proper services, and to the priests their proper place is appointed.—I Clement 18:18

  XXIII And they shall scoff at the kings, and the princes shall be a scorn unto them: they shall deride every stronghold.—Habakkuk 1:16

  XXIV They plundered the sanctuary of God, as though there was no avenger.—Psalms of Solomon 8:10

  XXV In the day of our king the princes have made him sick with bottles of wine.—Hosea 7:5

  XXVI So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.—Zechariah 3:5

  XXVII As for the illusions of art magick, they were put down, and their vaunting in wisdom was reproved with disgrace.—Wisdom of Solomon 17:7

  XXVIII It is the part of a brave combatant to be wounded, yet overcome.—Polycarp 1:14

  XXIX But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.—Isaiah 47:9

  XXX For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branches thereof will not cease.—Job 14:7

  EPILOGUE And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places; thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.—Isaiah 58:12

  Appendix I: Index of Characters

  Appendix II: Index of Place

  Appendix III: Partial Lineage of the Haldane Kings

  Appendix IV: The Festillic Kings of Gwynedd and Their Descendants

  Appendix V: Partial Lineage of the MacRories

  About the Author

  PROLOGUE

  But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.

  —I Peter 2:9

  The document was written in the tight, crabbed court hand of one of the castle scribes, and covered an entire large sheet of creamy vellum. The man reading it had thought it innocent enough at first glance—dull, routine procedures for the running of yet another royal commission—but now, as he scanned it a second time and began to catch the more subtle nuances of phrase and intent, he looked up at his companions in amazement.

  “Murdoch, I don’t know what to say. This is brilliant—everything we could have hoped for. He’ll never sign it, though.”

  “He already has,” Murdoch said in his thin, nasal voice, taking the document and handing it to a third man. “I slipped it in among a stack of other routine documents yesterday. This is only a copy.”

  The third man, who was also the youngest of them, glanced over the text with hungry eyes that did not miss a thing, an oddly academic quirk in a man so obviously a soldier in every other way. Big-boned, well-muscled, solid but not fat, Baron Rhun of Horthness was a rising star in the army of Gwynedd at only thirty-two. The sparse, wolfish grin now spreading slowly across his face was a feature which had made friends and enemies alike refer to him as Rhun the Ruthless.

  “I assume that Cullen hasn’t seen this,” Rhun said, his tone clearly confirming a fact rather than asking a question.

  Murdoch nodded, steepling spiderlike fingers in a gesture mixed of confidence and arrogance. “He hasn’t, and he won’t,” he said. “As far as our dear chancellor is concerned, the king’s will remains exactly as we all witnessed it last fall. And because this is not a change of the will, but only an alteration of the guidelines for a potential regency council, there is no reason that he should see it until after the king is dead and it cannot be changed. God grant that the king’s death may be painless, and soon,” he added piously.

  Rhun chuckled at that, a low, dangerous rumb
le, but the first man did not even smile. As he glanced at Murdoch again, his expression was thoughtful.

  “Tell me, does anyone know when Bishop Cullen will be returning?” he asked.

  “Too soon to suit me,” Murdoch said. “The king sent Jebediah to fetch him yesterday. Knowing the way our illustrious earl marshal rides, he should reach Grecotha by tomorrow at the latest, even allowing for bad weather. That puts Cullen back in Valoret well before the first of February. I had hoped he would winter at Grecotha, but—” He shrugged, a surly twitch of the narrow shoulders. “At least this will probably be the last time. The king can’t last much longer.”

  “He’s that ill, then?” asked the third man.

  “I wasn’t certain he would survive past Twelfth Night,” Murdoch replied coolly, “though the Healer Rhys seems to have kept body and soul together rather better than I hoped. Curse the miserable Deryni, anyway!”

  The exclamation elicited a short, taut silence, as each of the men considered what the king’s death might mean to him personally. Finally Murdoch rolled up the document and bound it with a length of vermillion cord. As he glanced at his companions again, he tapped it several times against the heel of his hand.

  “Well, I’m off, then. I want to show this to Hubert before I put it away for safe-keeping. Either of you care to come along?”

  “I will,” said Rhun.

  After they had gone, Earl Tammaron Fitz-Arthur, Third Lord of the High Council of Gwynedd, sat quietly for several minutes, thinking. If things went according to plan, he could very shortly be the next Chancellor of Gwynedd.

  A few days later, on a snow-clogged road leading south toward Valoret, the Deryni Camber MacRorie and his escort trotted at a steady pace, the sound of their passage muffled by the snow and carried away by the wind.

  Camber, whom the world knew as Bishop Alister Cullen, onetime Vicar General of the powerful Order of Saint Michael and now Lord Chancellor of Gwynedd, had received the king’s message before dawn, grouchy at being rousted from his warm bed until he realized that the king’s messenger was his old friend Jebediah of Alcara, Grand Master of the Michaelines as well as Earl Marshal of Gwynedd. He and Jebediah read the words of the royal missive together in the bishop’s study—terse and typical of King Cinhil. Jebediah then gave Camber the true gist of the message.

  Yes, the king was sick. Alister must come. Yes, his condition was serious; and yes, he had seen the royal Healer. No, he was not about to die until his good friend and chancellor, Alister, got back to the capital—and maybe not even then, if he could help it.

  But Cinhil had also made it abundantly clear that he would brook no delay in Alister’s coming. And though he had not made it precisely clear, he had certainly implied that there were other reasons for calling the chancellor-bishop back from Grecotha so soon after Twelfth Night—reasons which might not be consigned to the written word, even in the hands of his earl marshal.

  At that, Camber had begun to hope—both that the king’s condition was not so grave as he had first been led to expect, and that Cinhil might have reached the decision which Camber, as Alister, had been urging for more than a decade.

  And so the Bishop of Grecotha had summoned his household guard and set out for the capital just after first light, riding hard through the snowdrifts of late January and pausing only to change horses and occasionally take a hot meal. At this pace, they would be in Valoret before nightfall. As they rode, Camber had time for reflection, for wondering, for playing the tempting game of if only.

  If only Cinhil were not dying. If only his final illness might have been delayed, even for a few more years. For that matter, if only Cinhil had been younger when they put him on the throne. A man in his mid-forties was hardly of an age to be starting a royal family, especially if he hoped to see that family grow to maturity.

  His eldest son had been poisoned as an infant, before Cinhil even came to the throne. The twins, next in age, were not quite twelve, a full two years and more from their legal majority. The youngest was just ten, and their mother dead these nine years of bearing a final son who outlived her by only a few months. Even when the twins came of age, it would be several years before the first of these, young Alroy, could be expected to rule competently on his own. Until that time, Gwynedd would continue to be effectively governed by a council of regents.

  Camber had feared that this day would come; had known, when he and his children had placed the reluctant Cinhil on the throne, nearly thirteen years ago, that it would likely come far, far too soon—but he had never given up hope that the inevitable might be delayed for yet a little longer. Even now, a potential regency council not entirely of Camber’s liking had been named by Cinhil; and many of them watched and plotted and waited for Cinhil to die, solidifying their influence over the three young princes, prodding and undermining the spirit of human-Deryni coexistence which wise men of both races had tried for years to inculcate both in the future heirs and in the people of Gwynedd—and Cinhil would not see the danger.

  Now the anti-Deryni factions were about to get their wish. Cinhil would die within the year, probably within the month, if Rhys’s estimates were correct, and young King Alroy would be ruled by his regents. The last of the Deryni loyal to the Crown would be ousted from their offices, their positions of influence, no matter that many of them had served Gwynedd and its present king well and with distinction. And then the ostracism would begin, and the persecutions, and finally the bloodshed. It had happened before, in other lands, in other times. Perhaps it was happening already.

  And so Camber hurried along the Valoret road to the summons of his king, himself still young for his seventy years, in the guise of a man ten years younger still, and by appearance and action no more than fifty or so, to meet his children and his king and try to accomplish the goal they had set when they began this road, now fourteen years before. Then they had made a former priest a king and given him powers equal to any Deryni—though the king had always been reluctant to use those powers. Now that king must pass on his power, or at least its potential, to his young sons, in hopes that they would learn to use it more wisely and with less fear than he had shown.

  Camber did not know whether or not they could succeed, for time was running out; but he knew they had to try.

  CHAPTER ONE

  For of the Most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honour of the king.

  —Ecclesiasticus 38:2

  Rhys Thuryn, perhaps the most highly respected Healer in all the Eleven Kingdoms, paced back and forth in the Earl of Ebor’s sleeping chamber and tried to decide what to do next. On the bed beside him, the earl tossed and writhed in unrelieved agony, perspiration drenching his high forehead and dampening the reddish-blond hair and beard, even though the room was chill on this last day of January, in the year 917.

  Cinhil himself had sent Rhys to Ebor. When word of the earl’s accident reached the king, he had nearly worked himself into a coughing fit in his anxiety, barely able to gasp out the words when Rhys appeared in answer to his summons. Nothing would appease him but that Rhys go to Ebor at once. No other Healer would do. What if the earl were dying?

  Despite Cinhil’s agitation—and perhaps a little because of it, though another part of him was chilled at the news—Rhys had demurred at first. Even though the king was somewhat improved now that Camber had returned from Grecotha, Rhys still did not like the idea of being several hours away when Cinhil might need him. The king was not going to get well this time. At best, Rhys might be able to ease his discomfort in these last days or weeks. The sickness in Cinhil’s lungs was beyond the ability of Rhys or any other Healer to cure. Neither he nor Cinhil harbored any illusions about the eventual outcome of his illness.

  But neither did the king harbor any hesitation about the urgency of assistance for his injured earl. Gregory of Ebor, though a full Deryni adept of remarkable ability, had nonetheless won Cinhil’s great respect and friendship in this past decade on the throne; he had been appointed Warden o
f the Western Marches only two years before. Rhys would go—and go, he did.

  But now that Rhys was here with Gregory, he had to admit that he was uncertain how to proceed. He knew Gregory very well, as Gregory knew him. For the past five years, Gregory had been a member of the powerful and very secret alliance of Deryni known as the Camberian Council, so-called at the insistence of Archbishop Jaffray, also a member, who had felt the name appropriate as a reminder of the ideals the group strove to uphold. Rhys and Evaine were members, as were Joram and Jebediah and Camber himself—though Jaffray and Gregory, of course, did not know that last.

  Over the eight years of their existence, the Camberian Council had done much to police the ranks of less responsible Deryni and to keep the peace between the races, Deryni and human; and Evaine’s continued research, now supposedly in conjunction with Bishop Alister instead of her father, had unearthed a wealth of hitherto lost knowledge of their ancient Deryni forbears. Grecotha, where Camber now made his home, had been and continued to be a mine of magical information. And Gregory, Earl of Ebor, had been a part of much of it.

  Now Gregory lay in a delirium from which he seemed unable or unwilling to escape, neither royal patronage nor Camberian affiliation able to help him quell the unbridled energies which ran amok in his body and sometimes in the room. Even his eldest son and heir, a studious young man not unskilled himself in the channeling of Deryni might, had not been able to break the cycle. The floor before the fireplace was still littered with shards of smashed crockery and glass which none of the servants were bold enough to clean up—mute testimony to the potential danger of a High Deryni lord apparently gone mad.

  Pensive, Rhys paused before one of the earl’s expensive colored windows which had thus far escaped destruction and laid both palms flat against the sun-warmed glass, wondering idly how the earl had missed them. He and Evaine, his wife and working companion of nearly thirteen years, had tried on arrival to ease Gregory’s pain and ascertain the extent of his injuries. The two of them were strong enough psychically that the earl could not breach their shields and do them serious threat in his incoherent condition.

 
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