Week 3, To Rhodri's Estate
Consider the gaming situation of Anton Chernoff. Anton, for the benefit of one and all, is Dr. Wu's player. Dr. Wu is now playing the role of Rhodri Greystoke, younger son of Martin, Earl Greystoke. Rhodri, in turn, was played by a time-traveler who established the Greystoke line and was Martin's father, having spirited away the real Rhodri as an infant. So Anton is playing a character who is playing a character who WAS played by another character, playing yet another character who never had the chance to really show up. Got that? The rest of us are merely playing characters playing false identities. Child's play.
All of us, in any case, are riding westward into Eastmarch, on 1 May 1114 of a simulated Julian calendar. On our first day out from the pantope, we camped within sight of "home," Rhode's manor. (By the way, I'm going to start calling Wu "Rhodri" and using everyone else's adopted names.) We found ourselves so saddlesore that we decided NOT to go to the manor the next day. Rather, we would ride around for a week, case out the countryside, try to get a feeling for local manners, and build calluses.
The week that followed was uneventful. However, on 8 May, as we started "home" for real, we met upon the road a kirtle friar, the whom gave us fair greeting (all the fairer for the alms of a few coins). Lord Rhodri asked him tidings, and learned that his father and older brother are dead. The friar was much disturbed to learn whom he addresses, but his tale, when told, came to this:
There has in recent years been resurgence of the Willamites, a violent sect within the Church who preach death to all Deryni. (The Church bears no love to Deryni, but is generally content to let them live, so they forswear to practice their magic. The Willamites exceed this policy and so forfeit the approval of the Curia.) The Deryni of Eastmarch, provoked by the Willamites and heartened, it may be, by the example of Alaric Morgan, Duke of Corwyn, the King's high general, and a Deryni of open practice, have fought back against the Willamites. Hence there was much disorder in the land. The earl and his heir rode out with their men to quell one such riot, and the heir, the younger Martin, was sorely wounded in the fray. The earl returned home with his heir, but was thrown from his horse and died, while Martin never opened his eyes again in this world.
This sad chance left in doubt the succession. On the one hand, Lady Moira, the earl's eldest daughter, puts forward her son Michael as the rightful earl. In this, she is but following the counsel of her husband, Aldous, Baron Davison. She would, with Aldous, rule the county if Michael were the recognized earl, since the latter is but a child of two years. On the other hand, Lord Harold, the late earl's younger brother, also claims the coronet, and now occupies the family's castle. (Aldous now occupies the castle of his barony.) Between the two, the Lady Llewella, now Dowager Countess by any reckoning, maintains that she has still another son, even our Lord Rhodri, and that he alone is the rightful earl. Llewella now resides in Rhode's manor, with her daughter Margaret.
We asked further of the friar, concerning the disposition of the commons, church, and crown to these various factions. The common folk, we were told, fear the Deryni as they ever did, but they fear especially the House of Tolan, far north and west, beyond Gwenedd, ruled by Charissa, a Deryni sorceress of evil name. Above all, the commons want a PRESENT earl, but Rhodri has mended that by arriving. The rival claims are not, in the popular mind, well-founded. Aldous is supported by the Willamites, he being loud in his hatred of the Deryni. Harold is reckoned easier on the Deryni. The church and crown have not favored any of the three sides, as yet.
Now, Rhodri knows his parents, Moira, and Margaret for Deryni. Llewella is also Deryni. (She is not Rhode's mother; she is the earl's third wife, while Rhodri was born to the second wife.) His uncle Harold and nephew Michael MAY be Deryni, but may not. In any case, Aldous is either a hypocrite or sadly uninformed.
At length, we rode on, coming to the manor gates well after sundown. We rode through without pause, much surprising the aged gatekeeper. The manor is a goodly place, and walled, but far from fortified; Aldous and Harold, in their castles, have a great advantage on us. We rode to the door, where Rhodri proclaimed himself and entered, with us, his outlandish retinue. After much flurry among the servants, we were met by Llewella, who recognized and greeted Rhodri with a good will. She greeted each courteously, but was glad (in private) to learn that none of the three women were a wife -- in particular not Victoria, whose garb and poise and stature are most outlandish and unladylike.
While the rest of us took refreshment (served by twelve-year-old maids near paralyzed with giggles and surprise), Rhodri and Llewella took counsel with each other. Llewella, Rhodri finds, dislikes Aldous and Harold equally. Moira she sees as a harmless soul who married badly. She predicts that Harold might give way to Rhodri, but only on condition that he prove his identity. And the proof that Harold will accept is some public show of the Deryni blood that all know to run in the family. In short, Harold will make us buy his support by bringing the Willamites and Aldous to a greater heat against us. Aldous, on the other hand, was impatient to fill Lord Martin's empty place. Father and son fell a year ago; six months since, Aldous and Moira put forward Michael's claim to the coronet.
Llewella, Harold, and Aldous have all requested permission to visit King Brion's court, that they might swear fealty to him (Llewella in Rhode's name, Aldous in Michael's). This, so far, has been refused. Now, Llewella counsels a second appeal, sent perhaps to Duke Alaric or the king's chamberlain. In this, Rhodri agrees. Finally, she warns Rhodri that even here it is dangerous to practice open magic; all know there is Deryni blood in the family, but they do not welcome it; rather, they forgive it, provided they may forget it.
In the next two days, Rhodri and the rest of us took up residence in the manor, and explored it. Rhodri found a hidden drawer in the library adjoining his bedroom (the master bedroom). The drawer was magically locked, but Rhodri mastered the spell and opened it. It contained the diary of the time-traveler, Rhodri's grandfather and erstwhile self. It contained much useful family lore, but no information reaching beyond the Eleven Kingdoms. Also in the drawer was a perfect copy of the earl's signet ring, which Rhodri gladly took. (He should not neglect to find the whereabouts of the original.) Also, there were some commonplace documents sealed with that signet, as proof of its legal use.
Rhodri also found a second closet hidden behind the first in his bedroom, but it contained nothing of interest beyond itself. In the main library, he found a hidden panel, concealing a shiral crystal, a small bag containing a set of Wards Major, a book of simple spells, and a jewelry box magically sealed and warded. Meanwhile, Tom Gordon, Vivienne, and Pendred (the former Tom Noon, Lorelei, and Pfusand) discovered a secret door connecting their adjoining bedrooms, and Cantrel found an escape tunnel in the cellar.
We now await word from the court.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.