Week 20, Protecting the King
It is now Monday, the 26th of June. On her way back from an assignation, Lorelei overhears a pair of peers discussing "them." "They" are suspicious characters, maybe spies, since they all appeared suddenly, around the same time, and seem to hang around with each other.
Lorelei hastened to relay this to Dr. Wu via telepathic rapport. He spreads the word to the rest of the party. Tom soon notices that a visiting knight, Sir Sean frequently loiters where he can watch the smithy. He also hangs around the infirmary. He has a sidekick, a squire named Mark. Victoria thinks that she and Cantrel are being watched as they set out on their afternoon outings. Cantrel, Fogi, and Aphron, being new hires to the guard, are somewhat watched. David, Lorelei, and Pfusand remain unobserved, so far as they can tell.
We lie low and let a week pass without incident. Cantrel and Victoria subtly encourage Sean and/or Mark to follow them all the way through an outing, and observe a picnic lunch followed by amateur sword practice and needlework.
After the week passes, Aphron picks a moment when the Earl Marshal is hanging about the courtyard and Cantrel has just come off sword practice and... backs off. He's formulating a plan, but the time is not yet.
Another week passes. We're well into July. While making some routine repairs in the top floors of the palace, Tom slips in a diadem reading. The segment is down below, in the central regions of the keep.
Aphron now goes searching for boar-repellent. (?) He asks among the monks at the palace cathedral and one recommends an alchemist, to whom he acts as go-between. The alchemist produces some gunk to smear on a boar-spear. It is indeed a repellent, not a poison.
To experiment with it, Aphron goes to market to buy a fat pig, home again, home again, jiggety-jig. Actually, he takes it to some open field outside town. He ties it up and shoots it with poisoned arrows. The pig goes wild, of course, then the boar-bane take effect and it goes wilder. It thrashes its way out of the ropes and takes off into the sunset. It weaves, staggers, and gets another arrow in its fanny, staggers some more, collects another arrow, and dies.
While the players chew over that one, Pfusand had an encounter while running room service in the palace. She was bringing a tray up to a roomful of nobles and, when she knocked on the door, she got probed from behind it. Someone in the room was Deryni -- and now knew she was. The group in the room included the squire Mark and a fatherly old gent some considerable rank. She acted shy and flustered (not that it was really acting) and left.
Saturday night, the mysterious Aphron spent an evening at an inn near the palace. He stalked the upstairs halls and found a sleeper. He Suggested that the man get up and open his bedroom door without waking, and lo it was even so. He then read the poor sod's memory and implanted a subconscious idea that he (the victim) is a secret agent for Torenth, an enemy kingdom ruled by Deryni, sent to assassinate Gwenedd's high court. He then bound and gagged his victim, left the window open, and departed. It was by now early Sunday morning.
He started to do something else and once more decided the time was not yet. So he went BACK to the in, BACK into the room, UNTIED the victim (a harmless and moderately prosperous tinker, by the way), and forgot about the whole thing, making sure that the tinker did likewise.
Thus endeth the second week since we learned we were under suspicion.
Tom, you may recall, was working for the palace smith for free, on a month's probation. He made a good impression -- though it was funny how his talent came and went (Knack of Tools is like that) -- and was hired.
We let three weeks go by. It's now early August. We acted dull and harmless. The observation seems to slack off, though Lorelei got probed once during one of her nocturnal migrations. We waited another week.
Aphron buys a crossbow and leaves it with an innkeeper to hand out on request to him and his friends for hunting parties.
A gentlewoman arrives for a visit. Victoria tells us she is Lady Alice de Morgan, daughter of Duke Louis de Corwyn. The duke turns out to be the fatherly gent Pfusand encountered. From their names and relationship, it is clear that these are the grandfather and mother of Alaric Anthony Morgan, future Duke of Corwyn and the main character of the whole series. The duke is probably Deryni and very likely the one who probed Pfusand through a solid wood door.
Two more weeks pass -- eight since the start of this log -- and the duke and his daughter leave court for home, taking Sir Sean with them but leaving Mark behind. Mark doesn't watch us much any more.
A few days later, Aphron is at it again. He claims his weapon, cases that inn, finds and hypnotizes another sleep, loads the crossbow with boar-bane quarrels, and puppets the man to the window, ready to fire on the street. It is, by the way, Sunday morning and the king and retinue are on their way to church. But Aphron sees Duke Corwyn in the entourage, back at court for a surprise visit. Mission scrubbed.
Two more weeks. Early September. Lorelei seduces a noble in a well-placed room and, once he's asleep and magically slept as well, goes wandering with the diadem tracer. The segment seems to be on the third floor. She hangs onto the tracer through her morning duties. Third floor and central -- the royal suites. Another week, and another date, and she finds it's slightly south of center. That part of the palace is little known to her, but Victoria says its the king's apartments. Of course. Why should this be easy?
Another week -- the twelfth. While folk are hanging around watching Aphron take riding lessons, he seizes telepathic control of a horse and has it charge the Earl Marshal, then try to trample him. The Earl Marshal dodges and mounts the beast in a feat of superb horsemanship. (He would.) Aphron bucks him off and Cantrel interposes his mount between the Earl and the possessed horse. Cantrel then scooped up the Earl and rode off.
Not fancying the role of heroine, the Earl Marshal asked to be taken back. He leapt back on the horse. Aphron dropped control and the EM quickly mastered it. He's very good.
Just by the way, Tom was watching from the sidelines and got a funny tingle reminiscent of his time spent as a Deryni. A latent knack for detecting psychic and/or magical activity just kicked in. He made a few deductions about people he knew with powers he knew and pegged Aphron. Apparently, this was staged so Cantrel could look good.
The next week, luck thirteenth, Aphron set up his private assassination attempt again. Come Sunday morning, he was seated on a green near the palace/cathedral junction, apparently having a casual breakfast, really puppeting some poor peasant found in the inn last night. The puppet stepped out of the inn and leveled the crossbow at the king's approaching church party.
Because of the equestrian antics of the previous week, the Earl Marshal decided to throw in a mounted escort, including himself and Cantrel. The EM charged the crossbowman who missed the king entirely (as Aphron intended) and hit the Duke of Corwyn (as Aphron did NOT intend). Cantrel dismounted and threw himself in front of the king, while the EM shredded the puppet with his sword.
Aphron was still linked to his victim, telepathically. He barely avoided passing out and was completely drained of magical energy. The EM saw him staggering around and put him on report for being drunk in the middle of an emergency. (Aphron has now pulled even with Cantrel who, you may remember, pushed a drunken guard off the walls, which guard later died under the infirmarian's incompetent care.)
The duke, stuck full of boar-bane, ran in front of a horseman. The horseman fell off and his mount trampled the duke. People mobbed around and Lady Alice had hysterics, not the useful patharchic kind. Cantrel hustled the king into the cathedral. Tom ran for Dr. Wu but was passed by a horseman who fetched the infirmarian.
By the time Tom and Wu got to the scene, the infirmarian was already undoing the good done by Cantrel's first aid to the duke. Cantrel was coping with Alice. The infirmarian, who is jealous of Wu's medical popularity with the guards, cold-shouldered Wu and moved the shot, poisoned, trampled duke to his bed, thus costing him some more blood.
WU is in a quandary. Is this guy scheduled to die as part of the plot? (Wu doesn't know about Aphron's tricks.) He's very close to the plot, so his death is probably scheduled. If it should be now, and Wu interferes, the worldbenders will off him anyway. If he should not die now, the worldbenders would have to save him ... unless Wu interferes.
He decides to try healing the duke. If the duke is scheduled to die now, it will be easy for the worldbenders to knock him off in an inconspicuous manner without bothering about minor characters (like us). If the duke is not yet supposed to die, the worldbenders need do nothing at all.
Now to get to the duke, past the jealous doctor.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.