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       Childe Morgan, p.1

           Katherine Kurtz
 
Childe Morgan


  Praise for

  Childe Morgan

  “Devoted fans of the Deryni will enjoy seeing this fleshed-out version of the original trilogy’s backstory.”

  —SFRevu

  “The author’s meticulous re-creation of a medieval world provides a sumptuous background for her characters’ struggles to remain true to their honor and to their beliefs.”

  —Library Journal

  “Fans of the series will appreciate…when the Deryni use their magic.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  Praise for

  In the King’s Service

  “Kurtz is one of the best of those fantasy writers who use medieval-like settings for their novels, and this is one of her better books.”

  —Chronicle

  “Kurtz’s fidelity to the customs and mores of medieval Europe gives a richness of detail to her alternate medieval world.”

  —Library Journal

  “Exquisitely detailed…The scenes of daily life at court, plus the usual church versus magic conflict, will keep fans turning the pages.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “A vital continuation to the saga.”

  —Booklist

  “Katherine Kurtz still reigns as the queen of historical fantasies.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “The novel sparkles with Kurtz’s attention to detail…can be enjoyed by fans and newcomers alike.”

  —Romantic Times (Top Pick) continued…

  “A subtle novel, relying on well-written characters and intrigue. That is not to say there is not action, but it stems out of the politics of nations and kings.”

  —Rambles.net

  “Kurtz fills in some of the past of her Deryni tale…[She] practically invented alternate-world fantasy with her tales of the magically gifted Deryni.”

  —The Weekly Press (Philadelphia)

  Praise for

  King Kelson’s Bride

  “Kurtz’s triumphant return to the magical medieval realm of Gwynedd…exciting and intriguing.”

  —SF Site

  “Kurtz’s strengths lie in her patient accumulation of telling detail, well-articulated plots, and believable magics. Should bring the fans flocking and attract newcomers, too.”

  —Kirkus Reviews

  “The author remains just as polished and expert as ever…Kurtz, one of the founders of modern historical fantasy, after nearly thirty years continues to be one of its most accomplished practitioners.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “Ms. Kurtz creates compelling characters, a byzantine plot, and magical wonder for a beguiling reading experience.”

  —Romantic Times

  “A good choice for most fantasy collections.”

  —Library Journal

  “This Deryni yarn should satisfy all the fans the series has accumulated during its thirty-year run.”

  —Booklist

  “One of the happiest…books in this series.”

  —Locus

  “Avid Deryni readers will rush to this book, and novices to the series will not be disappointed.”

  —VOYA

  “A rich and romantic tale sure to please lovers of fantasy, romance, intrigue, and the Middle Ages.”

  —Realms of Fantasy

  “Excellent book. Deryni fans, enjoy.”

  —Billings (MT) Gazette

  More praise for Katherine Kurtz’s

  Deryni novels

  “An incredible historical tapestry of a world that never was and of immensely vital people who ought to be.”

  —Anne McCaffrey, award-winning author of the Dragonriders of Pern series

  “A rich feast of medieval chivalry, romance, and magic—the book that all Katherine Kurtz fans have been awaiting.”

  —Marion Zimmer Bradley, author of

  The Mists of Avalon

  “At her best, Kurtz’s love of history lets her do things with her characters and their world that no nonhistorian could hope to do.”

  —Chicago Sun-Times

  “Kurtz has created a fascinating idealization of the Middle Ages and infused it with a kind of magic one can truly believe in.”

  —Fantasy Review

  Deryni books available from Ace

  DERYNI RISING

  DERYNI CHECKMATE

  HIGH DERYNI

  KING KELSON’S BRIDE

  IN THE KING’S SERVICE

  CHILDE MORGAN

  Childe Morgan

  KATHERINE KURTZ

  ACE BOOKS, NEW YORK

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  CHILDE MORGAN

  An Ace Book / published by arrangement with the author

  Copyright © 2006 by Katherine Kurtz.

  The Eleven Kingdoms map copyright © 2003 by Grey Ghost Press, Inc., www.derynirealms.com; graphic design by Daniel M. Davis, Ann Dupuis, James A. Fox-Davis, and Martine Lynch.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 1-4295-5776-1

  ACE

  Ace Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ACE and the “A” design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  For Claudia Gruy,

  My Honorary Little Sister in Austria

  Contents

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

&n
bsp; Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Appendix I

  Appendix II

  Prologue

  “A woman that had for a long time mourned the dead…”

  —II SAMUEL 14:2

  Christmas Eve, 1093

  THE fair-haired woman who paused in the doorway to the royal crypt was the Lady Alyce, Deryni heiress to the Duchy of Corwyn and now the wife of Sir Kenneth Morgan, and mother of his son. Fondly she watched as the black-cloaked Queen of Gwynedd touched a wax spill to the torch set in a cresset on a side wall, then used the spill to light a votive candle shielded in red glass.

  The child sleeping beneath the stone lid of the sepulcher on which she placed the votive light had been gone more than a year now, but Alyce knew that a day never passed when Richeldis of Gwynedd did not remember this, the second-born of her four sons, and mourn his loss. Blaine Emanuel Haldane had been only nine when he passed into the care of God’s holy angels.

  Nor did it much matter now just how or why Prince Blaine had met his premature death, though his bravery had saved his younger sister from drowning. Gallant though his action had been, the chill he took that day had been the death of him hardly a week later, wheezing for breath and finally succumbing to the illness that gradually filled his lungs with fluid and finally choked out his life. Though the royal physicians had done their best to save him, the boy’s condition had been beyond their skill, either to cure him or even much to ease his suffering. Only recently had his mother begun to smile again, and to emerge from the profound depression she had suffered following the young prince’s death.

  Breathing a heavy sigh, the queen sank to her knees to pray, head bowing over her hands, which were folded on Blaine’s tomb. Alyce knelt as well, quietly reaching behind her to pull a basket of greenery closer. Earlier, she and another of the queen’s ladies had helped gather cuttings of what sparse winter foliage the royal gardens had to offer, floral tributes intended not just for Prince Blaine but for several other notables buried here in the royal crypt, sleeping with Haldane princes and princesses.

  “Please bring the basket, Alyce,” the queen said suddenly, getting to her feet and turning.

  Rising wordlessly, Alyce brought the basket closer so that Richeldis could select a single white camellia blossom, which she kissed and then laid on her son’s tomb beside the votive candle. She then added a sprig of winter holly, rich with berries, and a companion cutting of evergreen, tied with a ribbon of Haldane crimson.

  “Sleep gently, my son,” the queen murmured, bending briefly to touch her lips to the cool marble.

  As she took the basket and moved on to lay tributes at several other Haldane graves, Alyce paid her own respects at another pair of tombs: the Lady Jessamy, wife of Sir Sief MacAthan, and Krispin her son—who also had been the son of the king, though Alyce doubted that Richeldis had ever learned of this. The plan had been that Krispin, heir to the magic of his Deryni mother and the similar magic of the Haldanes, should grow to be a Deryni protector to the king’s eldest son and heir, Prince Brion.

  But the Deryni were feared in most of Gwynedd, and hated by many, especially Gwynedd’s clergy. It had been such fear and hatred that had led to young Krispin’s murder, setting at naught all the king’s plans. One of those responsible had been a priest, the brother of a bishop, the guilt of all the murderers discovered and revealed by Alyce’s own magic. In all, three men had been executed.

  Now it was Alyce’s son who was being groomed to assume the role meant for the ill-fated Krispin: another child of a Deryni mother. Young Alaric had turned two in September, and Prince Brion was a mature twelve-and-a-half, but already the two were bonding like brothers—and might have been brothers in fact, if the king had had his way.

  But in this, at least, Donal Haldane had found himself thwarted before he could even attempt to carry out his intent. Alyce still found herself awed by the loyalty and love that had enabled her husband to forgive the king for what he had tried to do, and to pledge their child to the king’s service even before his birth, so that Prince Brion should have his Deryni protector.

  Never mind that the two-year-old Alaric would be in no position to do much protecting of anyone for some time. Fortunately, King Donal was yet hale and strong, and might expect to live many more years before his own son came to the throne. In the meantime, God willing, Alaric would be given the time to grow into his responsibilities, and be ready to take them up when the time came.

  “So many Haldanes,” the queen said softly, intruding on Alyce’s reflections as she turned to look at the younger woman. “This is where they all lie, and where I shall lie, one day.”

  “True enough, madam,” Alyce replied lightly, “but, please God, not for many a year.”

  Behind them, a rustling of fabric reminded Alyce of another waiting just at the doorway to the royal crypt: Zoë Morgan, her husband’s eldest daughter, beloved friend from Alyce’s schoolgirl days, briefly the wife of her late brother, but still and always her sister of the heart—and now, by dint of marriage with Zoë’s father, her stepdaughter as well.

  “Alyce, there’s a squire clearing his throat at the top of the stair,” Zoë whispered, glancing over her shoulder as she moved nearer.

  “He’s expected,” Alyce whispered back. “He’ll be here about the council meeting. Madam,” she called, raising her voice slightly, “it’s time to go.”

  “Good heavens, already?” Richeldis turned in surprise, looking younger than her twenty-eight years. “I will have time to change, won’t I? I can’t go to the council looking like a crow, in all this black!”

  Smiling, Zoë moved a little nearer, lifting a beckoning arm. “We have time, if you come now, madam. I believe it’s Jamyl who’s come to remind us. He knows to bring the summons just that bit earlier than he’d need to do.”

  “Clever Jamyl,” Richeldis said with a low chuckle. “He is precisely the kind of squire I like. He must have sisters and lots of other female relatives. Now, if I could only persuade the king to give me earlier reminders when I’m dressing for a state occasion. He does hate it when I’m late.”

  So saying, she passed a final, wistful caress along the top of her dead son’s tomb, then gathered her skirts to pass Alyce and follow Zoë up the stairs, where a mounted escort and a carriage waited at the foot of the cathedral steps to take them back up to the castle.

  Chapter 1

  “For I was my father’s son,

  tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother.”

  —PROVERBS 4:3

  SEVERAL weeks later, on a bitter cold morning early in January of the new year, a solitary figure in a heavy cloak and hood emerged from a side door of that same cathedral and made his way into the cemetery beyond.

  An icy sleet was knifing the air on this Feast of the Epiphany, also called Twelfth Night, unlike that other, unspeakable Twelfth Night now four years past. Then, heavy snow had cast its pall over Gwynedd, the city of Rhemuth, and the bleak burial ground adjoining the cathedral, where Bishop Oliver de Nore now huddled in the lee of the apse and gazed unseeing at his brother’s grave.

  “Why, Sepp?” the bishop whispered to the rain, tugging his oiled leather hood farther onto his head.

  In the intervening years, he had learned far too much of his brother’s ignoble death—and imagination embellished such details as others had dared to tell him: how, on the word of a Deryni sorceress, the king had condemned Father Septimus de Nore as an accessory to murder and ordered him flogged and thrown headfirst down a well in the royal stable yard.

  The doomed man had not gone easily to his fate. Eyewitnesses said he had screamed as they let him fall, scrabbling frantically at the slimy sides of the well-shaft and abrading hands, elbows, and knees nearly to the bone, but finally had drowned. The monks who took charge of his frozen body afterward, giving him decent burial here in the cathedral grounds, had offered what reassurance they could, that the bishop’s brother had not suffered long;
but raw imaginings of Sepp’s final moments were an all-too-regular feature of Oliver’s nightmares.

  With a shudder and a shake of his head, the bishop turned his face from his brother’s grave, swallowing down the sour bile that rose in his throat. Though he very much doubted that Sepp had taken an active part in any murder, it probably was true that he had turned a blind eye to the victim’s fate—and had Septimus de Nore not been a priest, the sentence meted out to him might have been fitting punishment for one who had countenanced the heartless murder of a child.

  But not just any child. The boy had been Deryni—which, so far as Oliver was concerned, all but justified Sepp’s actions. Some there were who had come to accept the presence of Deryni in Gwynedd, secretly and not so secretly, allowing them to coexist among decent humans, but Oliver was not one of them. The king, however…

  Jaws clenching in disapproval, Oliver glanced up at the dark silhouette of Rhemuth Castle looming against the sky beyond the cathedral. Despite civil and canon law that seriously curtailed the rights of Deryni in Gwynedd, Donal Haldane was known to turn a blind eye to the letter of the law when it suited him, and had kept more than one Deryni in his employ and even in his friendship during his long reign. Some even whispered that the dead boy had been Donal’s bastard son, gotten on the Deryni wife of one of his former ministers of state who, rather conveniently, had died very soon after the boy’s birth. Since both mother and son were now dead as well, it served no useful purpose to dwell on that, but it could explain why the king had dealt so severely with those responsible for the boy’s death.

 
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