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The harrowing of gwynedd, p.1
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       The Harrowing of Gwynedd, p.1

           Katherine Kurtz
 
The Harrowing of Gwynedd


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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 Harrowing of Gwynedd

  The Heirs of Saint Camber, Volume One

  Katherine Kurtz

  For

  Anne McCaffrey,

  who saved our sanity, if not our lives

  too many times to count

  during that incredible first year in Ireland!

  CONTENTS

  PROLOGUE Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.

  —Ecclesiasticus 44:1

  I Every purpose is established by counsel.

  —Proverbs 22:18

  II They were killed, but by accursed men, and such as had taken up an unjust envy against them.

  —I Clement 20:7

  III For they speak not peace: but they devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.

  —Psalms 35:20

  IV Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their hearts?

  —Job 8:10

  V For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.

  —Acts 17:20

  VI He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch forth thy hand unto whether thou wirt.

  —Ecclesiasticus 15:16

  VII Yea, a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also, and the thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed.

  —Nicodemus 12:5

  VIII I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.

  —Psalms 69:8

  IX They will lay hands on the sick, who will recover.

  —Mark 16:18

  X Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine.

  —Micah 3:6

  XI For thou indeed mayest be tyrant over unrighteous men, but thou shalt not lord it over my resolution in the matter of righteousness either by thy words or through thy deeds.

  —IV Maccabees 2:58

  XII Who will rise up against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

  —Psalms 94:16

  XIII Woe be unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.

  —Proverbs 10:1

  XIV For thy power is the beginning of righteousness.

  —Wisdom of Solomon 12:16

  XV He discovereth deep things out of darkness.

  —Job 12:22

  XVI In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.

  —Job 33:15–16

  XVII A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren.

  —Acts 7:37

  XVIII So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.

  —Psalms 24:14

  XIX For thou seest that our sanctuary is laid waste, our altar broken down, our temple destroyed.

  —II Esdras 10:21

  XX Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their hearts?

  —Job 8:10

  XXI Foursquare shall it be being doubled.

  —Exodus 28:16

  XXII And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even in the midst of the altar.

  —Exodus 27:5

  XXIII But you shall not mock at me thus, neither will I break the sacred oaths of my ancestors to keep the Law, not even though you tear out mine eyes and burn out mine entrails.

  —IV Maccabees 2:53

  XXIV The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach … deliverance to the captives.

  —Luke 4:18

  XXV Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.

  —Acts 2:41

  XXVI I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.

  —Job 3:26

  XXVII And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed.

  —Isaiah 29:11

  XXVIII I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children.

  —Isaiah 47:8

  XXIX Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into morning.

  —Amos 5:9

  XXX Where is Uriel the angel, who came unto me at the first? for he hath caused me to fall into many trances.

  —II Esdras 10:28

  PREVIEW: King Javan’s Year

  BONUS STORY: Trial

  APPENDIX I: Index of Characters

  APPENDIX II: Index of Places

  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

  Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us.

  —Ecclesiasticus 44:1

  Silvery handfire preceded Evaine MacRorie down the narrow, cut-stone passageway. It lit the subterranean darkness ahead and glinted the gold of her coiled and braided hair to tarnished silver, but the dusty black of her gown swallowed up most of the remaining light.

  The close darkness fitted her mood—bleak and weary, especially this early in the morning. She had slept but little after she and Joram finished their work of the night before. Only the two of them knew what lay this deep beneath the Michaeline haven that they once again called home, as they had some twelve years before, when upholding the rights of a now-dead king. The secret of that knowledge would be guarded by every resource at their disposal—and the resources of Evaine and her kin were by no means inconsiderable, as the regents of the present king had cause to know full well. Still, caution mingled with uneasiness as Evaine quietly rounded the last corner.

  Different light shimmered cool and opalescent across the doorway she approached, parting like a curtain at her gesture, but she allowed herself only the faintest of smiles as she pushed at the narrow door beyond and felt it move beneath her hand—acknowledgment of a thing working as it should, rather than any real satisfaction, for what lay within the tiny cell was a source both of hope and of dread.

  I’m here, Father, she whispered, though she would not look at him until she had closed the door behind her. She had not been alone with him since she and Joram brought him from Saint Mary’s, two days before.

  She crossed herself as she turned, still wrenched anew to see him laid out thus, the blue-clad body shrouded from head to toe with a veil of white samite. Her hands shook as she lifted the part of the veil covering his own dear face and carefull
y folded it back. She did not cry, though. She had no tears left for crying.

  Camber. Camber Kyriell MacRorie. Father Camber. Father.

  Lovingly Evaine recited his true names in her mind as she sank to her knees beside his body, the fingertips of folded hands pressed hard against her lips to stop their trembling.

  Oh, Father, do you know what they’ve done? They called you Alister Cullen, and bishop, for these last twelve years—and Saint Camber, for more than a decade. Now there are those who want to ruin both good names. They’re calling you traitor and heretic, using our young king’s regency to enrich their own coffers.

  She shook her head as she gazed at him, finding but little comfort in the knowledge that he no longer need play at anyone’s conception of who or what he ought to be. He had worn the Alister Cullen identity for the last twelve years and more of his life, and vestiges of it remained—and would, even to the grave. The fine, silver-gilt hair capped close to his head was tonsured in the manner his alter-ego had favored, but both men had loved the white-sashed cassock of rich Michaeline blue. And the smooth, roundish face now dimly illuminated by her handfire was wholly his own.

  He looked more austere in death than he had seemed in life, even as Alister, but the well-loved face was peaceful in its repose, the agonies of those final moments all but erased by some small, secret satisfaction evinced in a gentle upturn of lip discernible only to close intimates.

  Well, the regents shall have their reward in the end, God willing, she mused. What do they know of truth, who twist and mold it to their own ends? Traitor and heretic you are none, nor ever were, for all that such declaration serves their evil purposes. Alister Cullen you are no more, though remaining priest forever. Saint, I know not. But you were and are my father, my teacher, my friend.

  She bowed her head at that, closing her eyes against the sight of him dead, and wished she could close her mind to memory as well—of finding him in the snow, nearly a week before, his own shape upon him, his quicksilver head pillowed on the breast of the dead Jebediah, their life’s blood mingled and frozen on the icy crusts surrounding them.

  But though “Alister Cullen” appeared to be as dead as Jebediah, Evaine had come to believe he had not died at all, but lay bound in a deep and powerful spell, thought by most magical practitioners to be only the stuff of legends. The coolly polished Deryni adept part of her warned that such speculation might be mere denial, an unrealistic refusal on her part to accept the inevitability of his death; but the loving daughter, so recently bereft of husband and first-born son as well as father, kept whispering seductively, What if? What if?

  Help me know what to do, Father, she breathed, raising her head to look at him again after a few seconds. I don’t know where you are now. If you really are—gone beyond my reach—then it is my fervent prayer that you abide in the Blessed Presence, as your beautiful soul most certainly must merit.

  But what if you aren’t really dead? Is that only my loving wish, to keep you with me a little longer, or does some part of you truly cling to life as we mortals know it, so that we really could somehow bring you back to us?

  She felt a fluctuation in the shields behind her and then the soft breath of the door opening and closing for another presence. Joram set his hand on her shoulder as he knelt beside her for a moment, golden head bowing in a brief prayer for the man who had sired both of them. Then he crossed himself in a brisk, automatic gesture and turned his gaze full upon her, grey eyes meeting blue.

  “Ansel is waiting for you to relieve him,” he said quietly. “The others will be expecting us at Dhassa.”

  Sighing, Evaine gave him a nod and rose as he, too, got to his feet.

  “I suppose it is time we began picking up the pieces,” she murmured. “I’ve indulged my grief quite long enough.”

  Joram managed a taut smile. “Don’t be too harsh with yourself. You’ve lost a husband and a first-born son as well as a father. I’d be the first to agree that grieving overlong begins to be self-indulgent to the point of selfishness, but the loss does need to be acknowledged.”

  “Yes, well, I think I’ve done that rather thoroughly. Now it’s time to make plans for the future. I can’t do anything about Rhys or Aidan, but Father …”

  “I wish you wouldn’t.”

  “Joram, we’ve had this discussion before.”

  “That doesn’t mean I have to like your conclusion.” He sighed and set his hands on his hips.

  “Look. He lived a long, full life in his own right. By taking on Alister’s identity twelve years ago, he had another full, productive life, at an age when most men are about ready to meet their Maker. He was seventy-one, for God’s sake, Evaine. Why can’t you just let him be dead?”

  “But what if he wasn’t ready to die?” she retorted.

  Joram snorted, shaking his head bitterly as he turned his gaze to the shrouded body.

  “How like Father, to presume to take that decision out of God’s hands!”

  “How is it presumption, if God gave him the means to continue, and it harms no one? His work was unfinished.”

  “All men leave work unfinished when they die. Why should he be any different?”

  She grinned, despite the weight of their conversation. “Are you going to tell me that he wasn’t different?”

  “We both know that he was,” Joram breathed. “That isn’t the question.”

  “Then, what is the question?”

  He sighed. “It’s the same question he asked himself, when Rhys was dying. By then, he was fairly confident that he could work the spell—and it might have spared Rhys until a Healer could be brought. But he also feared that a spell powerful enough to hold back Death might have its own terrible cost, to the subject as well as the operator. He would have been willing to accept the risk to himself; but he decided that no one has the right to make that decision for another soul.”

  “But no one else was involved in Father’s spell,” Evaine reminded him.

  Joram nodded. “That’s true. But again, the spell is powerful. If Father is still alive in some strange, mysterious way, who’s to say he wouldn’t rather stay that way? Who are we to try to bring him back?”

  She glanced down at the body before them, then drew the veil of samite over his face once more. Farther down the veil, she could still see the slight bulge of the hands—not just folded peacefully on his breast, the way they had folded Jebediah’s, but slightly curved—just—so. That he had tried to work the spell to hold back Death, she had no doubt. Whether or not he had succeeded, they would not know until they attempted to reverse it and bring him back. But she believed he would want them to try.

  “Joram, I know this isn’t an easy question,” she said quietly, not looking at him. “But when have we ever expected easy answers? Actually, we aren’t considering one question at all, but several. First of all, if he tried the spell and failed, then he’s merely dead, and nothing we do will make any difference—so it doesn’t hurt to try.

  “But if he is under the spell, then there are three distinct possibilities. Either we bring him out of it and restore him—which, presumably, is what he would have wanted, so he can carry on his work. Or we bring him out of it and he dies anyway—which at least releases him to the normal cycle of life and death. Or we can’t bring him out of it, and things stay the same.

  “But we can’t just leave him here, in limbo, not knowing whether we could have made a difference. And what if he’s somehow trapped in his body? We certainly couldn’t bury him, not knowing.”

  Joram nodded grimly, unable to refute that argument, at least. “The last is certainly a factor,” he agreed. “I can’t imagine anything much more terrifying than regaining consciousness in a tomb and realizing you’d been buried alive.”

  “I can,” Evaine murmured, not looking at him. “Being bound to a body that really, truly, is dead—decaying.”

  Joram shook his head and suppressed a shiver. “There’s no sign of that, at least. It’s something more than j
ust the cold, too. Almost as if Rhys—as if one of the Healers had put a preservation spell on it,” he amended awkwardly. “Jebediah’s body—isn’t in this condition.”

  “No, and the real Alister’s body isn’t in this condition, and there was a preservation spell on him,” she said quietly. “But Death-Readings were done on Alister and Jebediah. We know they’re dead.”

  Sighing, Joram nodded. “And we couldn’t Read Father,” he murmured. “Ergo, he isn’t dead. Or it could just be the blocks he would have set, to preserve the identity of his alter-ego—”

  “From us?” Evaine interjected. “Joram, it isn’t that there’s nothing to Read. It’s that something won’t let us Read. He knew we would be there soon. Do you really think he would have cut us off that way?”

  “No.”

  “Neither do I.” She looked at him oddly. “Something else is bothering you, though.”

  Joram cleared his throat, looking decidedly uncomfortable—but in a different manner than before.

  “Well, yes. How can I explain this to you without sounding as if I think it’s true?” He cocked his head at her, searching for just the right words.

  “Do you remember how, when everyone thought Father had been killed and they wanted to canonize him, we didn’t dare produce his body, for fear it would be discovered that Alister had died instead of him? The bishops said he had been ‘bodily assumed into heaven,’ and used that as part of the rationale for declaring him a saint. But if saints aren’t taken directly into heaven, what other thing sometimes happens to their bodies?”

  “They don’t decay,” Evaine breathed. “They remain incorruptible.”

  “Exactly. And right now, his body is incorruptible—for no logical reason that we can offer.” Joram glanced at the shrouded body with a mixture of disbelief and awe.

  “Evaine, what if he really is a saint?”

  CHAPTER ONE

  Every purpose is established by counsel.

  —Proverbs 22:18

  “I have to tell you that burying those three men was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do,” Joram confessed to their Dhassa compatriots an hour later—though he tried not to think about that fourth body he had just left, hidden beneath the chapel where the other three lay. “I know we must put our grief and outrage behind us now, and move on to the more constructive measures we all know they would have wished, but I won’t even pretend that can happen overnight. For now, we’re going to have to take it a day at a time—and maybe even hour by hour, when things get particularly difficult.”

 
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