Week 6, Dinner with the Duke
It is now the early afternoon of 26 May. Cantrel has just told the group that there's another Rhodri in town. We repaired to a nearby bar, to leave Margaret behind -- with Penny, to keep an eye on her. There, we came to the stunning conclusion that we didn't have enough information to act on. However it would probably be a good idea if Rhodri could get in touch with his step- mother Llewella to see if she could come out here post haste for the dinner.
Returning to our rooms at the inn, we filled in Margaret and Penny. Margaret put up wards while Rhodri tried for a long range telepathic contact. He failed and only got exhaustion and a blinding headache. He decided to go into a trace to re-charge, then try again later in the evening.
While he did that, David, Cantrel, and Tom when out snooping again, Cantrel and Tom in pubs, David in the markets. David did some unsuccessful arrow-shopping, then caught a wisp of conversation starting "Rhydon..." He tried to follow the two discussants down an alley....
Meanwhile, Cantrel and Tom found Rhydon & Co. in another pub. Rhydon recognized Cantrel (who's very conspicuous) and deliberately made some off-color joke about noble pretenders. We ignored it and left. Two pubs later, we got back to the inn where Rhodri and Margaret were still re-charging. Rhodri shortly tried again and failed again, but without any blinding headaches. Penny offered to donate some psychic power to the operation and they tried again. THIS TIME they made it.
Llewella was very startled. She doesn't get telepathic contact very often. She also remarked, "Rhodri! I didn't recognize you." (Small wonder.) Rhodri relayed the news about our superfluity of Rhodris. Llewella gritted her teeth and agreed to try to make it out to the capital by tomorrow evening, to vouch for him at dinner. Being in telepathic contact, Rhodri got an excellent idea of how grueling this was going to be: riding in an unsprung coach and "relaxing" by cantering side-saddle. Rhodri broke contact.
It was now time to go down to dinner. "Where's the kid?" Tom asked. No one knew. Rhodri, Margaret, and Penny ate a sheep between them. Half way through dinner, Vivienne asked the same thing. (He hardly ever misses meals.) We decided we had better go look.
Vivienne borrowed a sleazy-looking dress from one of the barmaids and went out with Bronwyn to check out the bars and pubs. Cantrel and Tom went out to check back streets. They found him, apparently asleep and unhurt in an alleyway. He had been stripped of anything remotely valuable, notably his purse, his boots, and two knives. He roused normally and we took him back home. We think he must have been magically mugged by a Deryni. With luck, they did NOT batter down his mental shields, read his entire life story, then put them back the way they found them.
Vivienne, of course, did not find David. (Please, no more double identities!) Vivienne DID discover Rhydon's party and successfully seduced one of its minor members. Alas, he didn't have anything interesting to divulge. We trust she didn't catch anything. While Vivienne was busy upstairs, Bronwyn got some exercise downstairs when some of the other men-folk got rude.
It was soon the morning of the 27th. Cantrel went the rounds with David, looking for his muggers and/or Rhydon's party again. They found Rhydon's party but David couldn't make any positive identification. Later that day, he and Tom were heading to the cobbler when David spotted his boots on a kid playing in the street. This kid and his friends were either the children of merchants or rather upscale street-urchins. In either case, they loved bargaining. David approached them and haggled well, but nothing came of it except the exchange of banter and some veiled offers of violence, which Tom squelched in typical adult wet-blanket style. On to the cobbler.
That evening, Tom and David returned to pick up the boots. (We don't let David out alone anymore.) Tom noticed this morning's urchin lurking in an alleyway, eyeing David and holding a sack. "'Tis a fine night for catching rats," Tom hailed him. The kid fled, showing a fine pair of David's boot heels. Tom and David gave chase. The kid had three friends. Two just plain ran away, but the boot-wearer and another tried drawing knives on us. Both fumbled it, and the boot wearer managed to cut his calf as he drew David's knife out of David's boot. David and Tom surrounded them. "Now don't go damagin' the leatherwork," Tom advised him. "You should a' bargained with us this mornin' when we were willin to give ye gold instead of steel." The kid surrendered David's goods and left.
What with one thing and another, Tom and David were a little late getting ready for the ducal dinner party. But we still weren't conspicuously late. We arrived wearing the Greystoke arms, except for Rhodri, who merely wore the Greystoke badge. Hence the party is in the service of the Earl of Greystoke. Rhodri merely claims to be a Greystoke. Of course, we are in HIS service, so a quick inference...
We were passed noncommittally through the receiving line. Rhodri mentioned that his mother would be coming later. Once in the dining hall, the group was split up. Rhodri went to the high table, where four places were reserved for him. He took Cantrel and Margaret and saved a place for Llewella. The rest of us were seated at lower tables with the other retinues.
Uncle Harold showed up wearing the Greystoke badge and a light coronet. Margaret pointed out Lord Ian, Duke Robert's elder son (known by the party to be a true scum-bag, destined to assassinate King Brion seven years from now), and Lord Jamie, Ian's innocuous younger brother. Last to be seated were Rhydon and Rhodri-3, right next to Duke Robert. R3 seemed to be wearing a signet ring, turned bezel-in.
Rhydon proceeded to be devastatingly charming and witty all through the meal. Rhodri, seated further away, contented himself with chatting with a Lord Lloyd and being mildly entertaining to Jamie. Llewella kept not showing up.
At the end of the meal, Rhydon introduced Rhodri-3 as "Rhodri ..." (Significant pause) "Warfield." "He has the most interesting story. It seems he doesn't know who his parents are. He was left with the Warfield family, along with two nurses, as an infant. The Warfields live up north in Culdi, but the nurses, from their accents, were Eastmarchers. One survives, but she refuses to divulge the name of the man who left her with Rhodri here." Rhydon asks Robert if he would help clear up this mystery by ordering the nurse to break silence.
Robert made some vaguely affirmative noises. Rhydon snapped his fingers and two of his retinue left their places and returned in jig time with a 50ish woman. Robert looked distinctly irked. He didn't know Rhydon had the nurse right here and would force the issue immediately.
Thirty feet away from the high table, the nurse spotted our Rhodri (#2) and stopped dead. She then continued forward but with many a distracted, half- inhibited look Rhodri-2. Around this time, Cantrel noticed Rhydon making an arcane-looking gesture, but nothing obvious came of it. Rhodri meanwhile discovered that the nurse was one of those rare humans with natural Deryni- style shields.
Rhydon performed the necessary introductions and Robert grumpily asked the nurse to please speak out and say who brought this young man to the Warfield household. Rhodri-2 said, "Surely her oath is between herself and the man she gave it to."
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.