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Deryni rising, p.1
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       Deryni Rising, p.1

           Katherine Kurtz
 
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Deryni Rising


  For

  CARL M. SELLE who knew all along that it would begin this way.

  A Del Rey Book

  .Published by Ballantine Books

  Copyright © 1970 by Katherine Kurtz

  *

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by BaUantine Books, a division of Random House, Iflc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

  ISBN 0-345-30426-8

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  First Edition: August 1970 Twelfth Printing: October 1983

  Cover art by Darrell K. Sweet

  CONTENTS

  I Lest the hunter become the hunted. 1

  II Princes met and talked against me. 24 Psalms 119:23

  III Hell hath no fury like the woman scorned,

  Or the woman mourning. 50

  IV And I will give him the morning star. 78 Revelation 2:28

  V O God, with your judgment endow the King, And with your justice the King's son, 99 Psalms 72:1

  VI And a voice shall speak from legend. 119 VTt A Spokesman of the Infinite must guide. 133 VIII Things are not what they seem. 150 DC In the unknown lies terror,

  and in the night, deceit. 161

  X From whence comes the wonder,

  from whence the miracle? 177

  XI Even as Father, so the Son. 189 Xn For surely laughter masks a nervous soul. 206

  XIII New mom, ring hand.

  Defender's Sign shall seal. 221

  XIV Who, then, is the Defender? " 238

  XV Now battle joins; the mind of mortal man

  cannot conceive. 253

  XVI You placed on his head, O Lord a crown of precious stones.

  He asked life of You, and You gave it to him. Psalms 21:3-4 264

  -

  DERYNI RISING

  CHAPTER ONE

  "Lest the hunter become the hunted."

  BRION HALDANE, King of Gwynedd, Prince of Meara, and Lord of the Purple March, reined in his horse sharply at the top of the hill and scanned the horizon.

  He was not a big man, though regal bearing and a catlike grace had convinced many a would-be adversary that he was. But his enemies rarely had time to notice this technicality.

  Dark, lean, with just a trace of grey beginning to show at his temples, hi the precise black beard, he commanded instant respect by his mere presence in a room. When he spoke, whether with the crackle of authority or the lower tones of subtle persuasion, men listened and obeyed.

  And ft fine words could not convince, often the persuasion of cold steel could. The worn scabbard of the broadsword at his side attested to that, as did the slim stiletto in its black suede sheath at his wrist.

  The hands that steadied the skittish war horse be-

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  tween his knees were gentle but firm on the red leather reins—the hands of a fighting man, the hands of one accustomed to command.

  If one studied him more closely, however, one was forced to revise the original impression of warrior-king. For the wide grey eyes held promise of much more than mere military prowess and expertise. Indeed, they glittered with a shrewd intelligence and wit which were known and admired throughout the Eleven Kingdoms.

  And if there were a fleeting aura of mystery, of forbidden magic about this man, that was discussed in whispers, if at all. For at thirty-nine, Brion of Hal-dane had kept the peace in Gwynedd for nearly fifteen years. The king who now sat his horse at the top of the hill had earned such infrequent moments of pleasure as he now pursued.

  Brion slipped his feet from the stirrups and stretched his legs. At mid-morning, the ground fog was just lifting, and the unseasonable cold of the night before still permeated everything. Even the protection of hunting leathers could not wholly prevent the light chain mail beneath Brion's tunic from chilling like ice. And silk beneath the mail was small consolation.

  He pulled the crimson wool of his cloak more closely around him, flexed numb fingers hi their leather gloves, drew the scarlet hunt cap farther down on his forehead, the white plume floating gently on the still air.

  The sounds of voices, barking hounds, the jingle of burnished bits and spurs and other horse noises drifted up on the mist. Turning to look back down the hill, he could catch fleeting glimpses of well-bred horses moving in the fog, their equally well-bred riders resplendent in finely embroidered velvets and polished leather.

  Brion smiled at that. For despite the outward show of splendor and self-assurance, he was certain that the riders below were enjoying the jaunt no more than he

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  was. The inclement weather had made the hunt a chore instead of the anticipated pleasure.

  Why, oh, why had he promised Jehana there would be venison for her table tonight? He had known, when he said it, that it was too early in the season. Still, one did not break one's promise to a lady—especially when that lady was one's beloved queen and mother of the royal heir.

  The low, plaintive call of the hunting horns con-finned his suspicion that the scent was lost, and he sighed resignedly. Unless the weather cleared dramatically, there was little hope of reassembling the scattered pack in anything less than hah* an hour. And with hounds this green, it could be days, even weeks!

  He shook his head and chuckled as Tie thought of Ewan—so proud of his new hounds earlier hi the week. He knew that the old Marcher lord would have a lot to say about this morning's performance. But however much he might make excuses, Brion was afraid Ewan deserved all the teasing he was certain to get in the weeks to come. A Duke of Claibourne should have known better than to bring such puppies out in the field this early in the season.

  The poor pups have probably never even seen a deer!

  The sound of closer hoofbeats reached Brion's ears, and he turned in the saddle to see who was approaching. At length, a young rider in scarlet silks and leathers emerged from the fog and urged his bay gelding up the bill. Brion watched with pride as the boy slowed his mount to a walk and reined in at his father's side.

  "Lord Ewan says it will be awhile, Sire," the boy reported, his eyes sparkling with the excitement of the chase. *The hounds flushed some rabbits."

  "Rabbits!" Brion laughed out loud. "You mean to tell me that after all the boasting we've had to endure

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  for the past week, Ewan's going to make us sit here and freeze while he rounds up his puppy dogs?"

  "So it appears, Sire," Kelson grinned. "But if it's any consolation, everyone in the hunt feels exactly the same way."

  He has his mother's smile, Brion thought fondly. But the eyes, the hair, are mine. He seems so young, though. Can it really be nearly fourteen years? Ah, Kelson, if only I could spare you what lies ahead . . . Brion dismissed the thought with a smile and a shake of the head. "Well, as long as everybody else is miserable, I suppose I feel a bit better."

  He yawned and stretched, then relaxed hi the saddle. The polished leather creaked as his weight shifted, and Brion sighed.

  "Ah, if Morgan were only here. Fog or no fog, I think he could charm the deer right to the city gates if he chose."

  "Really?" Kelson asked.

  "Well, perhaps not quite that close,** Brion conceded. "But he has a way with animals—and other things.** The king grew suddenly distant, and he toyed absently with the riding crop in his gloved hand.

  Kelson caught the change of mood, and after a studied pause he moved his horse closer to the older man. His father had not been entirely open about Morgan in the past few weeks. And the absence of conversation about the young general had been keenly felt. Perhaps this was the time to pursue the matter. He decided to be blunt.

  "Sire, forgiv
e me if I speak out of turn, but why haven't you recalled Morgan from the border marches?"

  Brion felt himself go tense, forced himself to conceal his surprise. How had the boy known that? Morgan's whereabouts had been a closely guarded secret for nearly two months now. Not even the Council knew

  DERYNI RISING 5

  just where he was, or why. He must tread softly until he could ascertain just how much the boy knew,

  "Why do you ask, Son?"

  "I don't mean to pry, Sire," the boy replied. "Fm certain you have reasons even the Council isn't aware of. I've missed him, though. And I $ink you have, too."

  Khadasa! The boy was perceptive! It was as though he'd read the unspoken thoughts. If he was to avoid the Morgan question, he would have to steer Kelson away from the subject quickly.

  Brion permitted himself a wan smile. "Thanks for your vote of confidence. I'm afraid you and I are among the few who've missed him, however. I'm sure you're aware of the rumors afoot in the past weeks."

  "That Morgan is out to depose you?" Kelson replied guardedly. "You don't really believe that, do you? And that isn't the reason he's still at Cardosa, either."

  Brion studied the boy out of the corner of his eye, his crop tapping lightly against his right boot where Kelson couldn't see it. Cardosa, even.

  The boy certainly had a good source of information, whatever it was. And he was persistent, too. He had deliberately turned the conversation back to Morgan's absence, despite his father's efforts to avoid the issue. Perhaps he'd misjudged the boy. He tended to forget that Kelson was nearly fourteen, of legal age. Brion himself had been only a few years older when he came to the throne.

  He decided to release a bit of concrete information and see how the boy would react.

  "No, it isn't. I can't go into too much detail right now, Son. But there is a major crisis brewing at Cardosa, and Morgan is keeping an eye on it, Wencit of Torenth wants the city, and he's already broken two treaties in his efforts to annex it By next spring we'll

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  probably be formally at war." He paused. "Does that

  frighten you?"

  Kelson studied tbe ends of his reins carefully before replying. "I've never known real war," he said slowly, his gaze shifting out across the plain. "As long as I've been alive, there's been peace in the Eleven Kingdoms. One would think men could forget how to fight after fifteen years of peace,"

  Brion smiled and allowed himself to relax slightly. He seemed to have succeeded in shifting the topic of discussion away from Morgan at last, and that was

  good.

  "They never forget, Kelson. That's part of being

  human, I'm sorry to say."

  "I suppose so," Kelson said. He reached down and patted the bay's neck, smoothed a stray wisp in the mane, turned wide grey eyes squarely on his father's

  face.

  "It's the Shadowed One again, isn't it, Father?"

  The insight of that simple statement momentarily rocked Brion's world. He had been prepared for any question, any comment—anything but a mention of the Shadowed One by his son. It was not fair for one so young to have to face such awesome reality! It so unnerved the older man that for an instant he was speechless, open-mouthed.

  How had Kelson known about the Shadowed One's threat? By Saint Camber, the boy must have the talent!

  "You're not supposed to know about that!" he blurted accusingly, trying desperately to remarshaU his thoughts and give a more coherent answer.

  Kelson was taken aback by his father's reaction and showed it, but he didn't allow his gaze to waver. There was a touch of challenge, almost defiance in his voice.

  *There are a good many things I'm not supposed to know about, Sire. But that hasn't kept me from learning. Would you want it any other way?"

  DERYNI RISING 7

  **No,M Brion murmured. He dropped his eyes uncertainly, searched for the proper phrasing for what he must ask next, found it. "Did Morgan tell you?"

  Kelson shifted uneasily, suddenly aware that the tables had turned, that he was in deeper than he'd planned. It was his own fault. He'd insisted on pursuing this matter. But now his father would not be satisfied until Kelson followed through. He cleared his throat.

  "Yes, he did—before he left," Kelson replied hesitantly. "He was afraid you wouldn't approve." He wet his lips. "He—ah—also mentioned your powers—and the basis for your rule."

  Brion frowned. That Morgan! He was annoyed he hadn't recognized the signs sooner, for he guessed now what must have happened. Still, the boy had done an admirable job of keeping the knowledge a secret. Perhaps Morgan had been right all along.

  "How much did Morgan tell you, Son?" he asked quietly.

  "Too much to please you—not enough to satisfy me," the boy admitted with some reluctance. He hazarded a glance at his father's face. "Are you angry, Sire?" "Angry?"

  It was all Brion could do to keep from shouting with relief. Angry? The inferences the boy had made, the guarded queries, the skill with which the boy had played the conversation back and forth, even on the defensive—by God, if not for this, then what had he and Morgan worked for all these years? Angry? By Heaven, how could he be angry?

  Brion reached across and slapped Kelson's knee affectionately. "Of course I'm not angry, Kelson," he said. "If only you knew how much you'd put my mind at ease. You gave me a few rough moments, granted.

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  DERYNI RISING

  But Tm more certain than ever, now, that my choice was the right one. I want you to promise me one thing, though."

  "Anything, Sire," Kelson agreed hesitantly.

  "Not so solemn, Son," Brion objected, smiling and touching Kelson's shoulder again to reassure him. "It isn't a difficult request. But if anything should happen to me, I want you to send for Morgan immediately. He'll be more help to you than any other single person I can think of. Will you do that for me?"

  Kelson sighed and smiled, relief written all across his face. "Of course, Sire. That would be my first thought in any event Morgan knows—about a lot of things."

  "On that I would stake my life," Brion smiled.

  He straightened in the saddle and gathered the red leather reins hi long, gloved fingers. "Look, the sun's coming out. Let's see if Ewan's got those hounds rounded up yet!"

  The sky had brightened appreciably as the sun climbed toward the zenith. And now the royal pair cast faint, short shadows before them as they trotted down the hill. It had grown so clear, one could see all the way across the meadow to the forest beyond. Brion's grey eyes scanned the scattered hunting party with interest as he and Kelson approached.

  There was Rogier, the Earl of Fallon, hi dark green velvet, riding a magnificent grey stallion Brion had never seen before. He seemed to be engaged in a very animated conversation with the fiery young Bishop Arilan and—very interesting—a flash of McLain tartan identified the third rider as Kevin, the younger Lord McLain. Ordinarily, he and Rogier did not get along. (For that matter, few people did get along with Rogier.) He wondered what the three had found to talk about.

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  He did not have time to speculate further. For the loud, booming voice of the Duke of Claibourne drew Brion's attention to the head of the ride. Lord Ewan, his great red beard fairly bristling in the sunlight, was giving someone a royal chewing-out—not an unexpected event in the tight of the hunt's success to date.

  Brion half-stood in his stirrups for a better look. As he'd suspected, it was one of the whippers-in who was getting die brunt of Ewan's anger. Poor man. It wasn't his fault the hounds weren't performing well. Then, again, he supposed Ewan had to have someone to blame.

  Brion smiled and directed Kelson's attention to the situation, indicating that he should rescue the unfortunate huntsman and placate Ewan. As Kelson rode off, Brion continued to scan the assembly. There was the man he'd been looking for—over by Rogier.

  Touching spurs to his mount, he galloped easily across the turf to hail a tall young man in the
purple and white of the House of Fianna. The man was drinking from a finely tooled leather flask.

  "Halloo! What's this I see? Young Colin of Fianna drinking up all the best wine, as usual! How about a few drops for your poor, shivering king, my friend?"

  He drew rein beside Colin with a flourish and eyed the flask as Colin lowered it from his lips.

  Colin smiled and wiped the mouth of the flask on his sleeve, then handed it across with a jovial bow.

  "Good morning, Sire. You know my wine is always yours for the asking."

  Rogier joined them and deftly backed his stallion a few paces as Brion's black reached out to nip. "Good morrow, My Liege," he said, bowing low in the saddle. "My Lord is most astute to locate the finest brew in the company so early. 'Tis a prodigious feat!"

  "Prodigious?" Brion chuckled. "On a morning like

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  DERYNI RISING

  this? Rogier, you have a fantastic gift for understatement."

  He threw back his head and took a long swallow from the flask, lowered it and sighed. "Ah, 'tis no secret that Colin's father keeps the finest cellars in all the Eleven Kingdoms. My compliments, as usual, Colin!" He raised the flask and drank again.

  Coiin smiled mischievously and leaned his forearms against the saddle horn. "Ah, Majesty, now I know you're just trying to flatter me so my father will send you another shipment. That isn't Fianna wine at all. A beautiful lady gave it to me only this morning."

  Brion paused in mid-swallow, then lowered the flask with concern. "A lady? Ah, Colin, you should have told me. I would never have asked for your lady's

  token."

  Colin laughed aloud, "She's not my lady, Sire. I never saw her before. She merely gave me the wine. Besides, she'd doubtless be honored should she learn you sampled and enjoyed her brew."

  Brion returned the flask and wiped across his moustache and beard with the back of a gloved hand. "Now, no excuses, Colin," he insisted. "It's I who have been amiss. Come and ride at my side. And you shall sit at my right at supper tonight Even a king must make amends when he trifles with a lady's favor."

  Kelson let his mind and eyes wander as he rode bade toward the king. Behind him, Ewan and the master-of-hounds had finally reached a tentative agreement as to what had gone wrong, and the hounds seemed to be under control again. The whippers-in were keeping them in a tight pack, waiting for the royal command to proceed. The hounds, though, had their own ideas, which did not include waiting for kings or lords. It was questionable just how long the huntsmen would be able to hold them.

 
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