Week 9, Talks with Jeffry Cochrum
We left the party closeted with Jeffry Cochrum, our unexpected Deryni benefactor. He and Rhodri had a lengthy conversation:
C: Are you full Deryni?
R: [Who knows there is no such thing as half Deryni. You is or you ain't.] I'm as Deryni as you can get.
C: Have you heard of an -- uh -- organization of Deryni? [A presumed reference to the Camberian Council.]
R: Only heard of them. Never encountered any.
C: That could be dangerous. As a full Deryni, you are open to challenge to a duel arcane, and it would be some help if you knew your rights according to this ... organization.
R: Clearly we need a friend to show us the arcane ropes. You?
C: If you like. We'll need to verify that you ARE full Deryni. This means a check on your bloodlines -- which the king's investigator is already doing -- and also a deep mind-see.
R: [Not liking the mind-see part.] Um. What good IS this organization to me?
C: Protection. Full Deryni members are open to duels, but not to casual ambush or lynching, like tonight. Also, there are opportunities for arcane education, and a short grace period while we check you out. And you ARE going to have to fight it out with Rhydon, with or without organizational backing.
Rhodri took council with us by means of a few significant glances, then opened the conversation on a telepathic level, where lying is impossible. Also eavesdropping. The rest of us heard nothing. That doesn't mean I didn't record it though...
R: Look, we need a friend and guide badly. Will you swear to keep a secret?
C: As long as it is not treasonous or blasphemous. I am still a loyal subject of my king and a true son of the church.
R: It's neither of those.
C: Then I swear.
R: I am my own grandfather. [Empathic overtones of identity crisis, but not of untruth.] The other Rhodri is the real one, but I am still part of the family. I need a position in the world, to give me the freedom to pursue something very important. I am, as you will gather, very well preserved.
C: !!?!! [Then his shields snap shut. He opens a few moments later.] Sorry to cut you off like that. You put me in mind of some things I don't want to think publicly.
R: Llewella and Margaret don't know. And, now that I've told a secret, who are you?
C: [pause] I'm obliged not to tell. And to remove that obligation, I'd have to explain about you. [Very worried empathy readings.] I am your link to the Council, and you can call me Jeffry Cochrum.
R: Are you ON the Council?
C: I can't say. I've got a direct link.
R: [with deliberate shock value intended] Then you might be Stefan Corum.
C: !!! Either you're fishing, or you're bluffing.
R: Some of both, of course. What else are you doing? I've more information in these matters than practice.
Cochrum then gave a good, hard probe to Rhodri's body, without warning.
R: I wouldn't have minded that, but you should have asked. May I probe back?
C: That would be interesting.
Rhodri probed and found Cochrum was in some way shielded. Also, there was something essentially enchanted about his body. A shapeshift? Cochrum noticed that Rhodri was not shocked at what he found. Rhodri noticed him noticing. Cochrum noticed... Oh, you get the idea.
C: What do you want?
R: Acceptance, the opportunity to travel freely, access to high society. Got any suggestions?
C: We're dealing with multiple hierarchies here -- the peerage, the church, the hidden Deryni hierarchy. Given your current history, you want recognition as a Deryni as well as a peer.
R: A full-blown peerage isn't necessary. Being a younger son would have been great. [We're still telepathing, so Cochrum knows the sincerity in that.]
C: What if you claim to be the real Rhodri's younger twin? I could establish you with the Council at the same time.
R: How would Rhydon react to that?
C: Hard to say.
Rhodri thanked Cochrum aloud, brought the "conversation" to an end, and got rid of him, then Llewella and Margaret. ("You must be exhausted, mother...") Having narrowed it down to the player characters, we got caught up on the preceding conversation and discussed the previous plan of Telling All to the real Rhodri. Eventually, we decided that Rhodri/Wu and Bronwyn/Victoria would meet with Rhodri-3 and some one retainer of his, in an open field, e.g. the one we've been having picnics in.
Meanwhile, Aphron decided to try and wring some information out of our prisoners. He picked one, threatened him and offered him a massive bribe and safe passage out of town, and asked who sent him and why. No takers. Tom and Bronwyn took him out and Aphron brought another into the questioning room. Before he could get started, Tom and Bronwyn came back with the news that the first prisoner had died. Magic? Suicide? Murder?
Aphron tried the second guy anyway, this time without threats. No sale, but no death either. On the third try, we get information. They were sent by Rhydon (as we suspected) to kidnap Rhodri or Margaret and killing as many of the rest as convenient. Some of their (amazing) swords were from Rhydon's own armory. Satisfied, Aphron doses the guy with merasha and he, Bronwyn, and Cantrel proceed to ride him out of town, with his bribe.
Near the edge of town, in a crummy neighborhood, Bronwyn suddenly fell off her horse for no good reason, just after Aphron yelled "Watch out!" Acting on the advice, Cantrel leapt off his horse, pulled down the unconscious prisoner (and his bag of gold), and hit dirt. Instantly, he fell asleep.
Aphron is Deryni, so he didn't worry about being slept, but he worried about everything else. He probed like mad. Everyone around here was sleeping, either because of the time of night, or because they had been made to. Something probed back at Aphron and he spotted a set of shields up on a roof. (Nothing was visible to eyes in the night.) He probed at the shields and got a GO AWAY on the empathic level. He's not welcome. He now noticed odd glints of light on his sword, and realized this was what made him wary in the first place. He nudged Cantrel awake telepathically and snuck off into the shadows.
Once by himself, he turned on his gravity belt. [His WHAT?! Radically inappropriate technology for this world. We were warned against that. Oh, well....] He flitted up beside the building and the shielded presence, which was descending through the top floor, stopped dead. Aphron burst through a window and bounced off a high-level ward ( = magic force field). This ward turned out not to be entirely mace-proof and Aphron belabored its caster -- Rhydon. Rhydon replied with fireballs. Aphron didn't want to get snarled up with Rhydon for a variety of reasons, so he retreated. Rhydon's parting shot was a blast of plain nimbus, dazzling Aphron as he tries to steer.
Meanwhile, Cantrel had come to, in a way. He saw Aphron blundering about in the air like a dazzled moth and then knew about the flying belt. He also saw strange gleams of light on the prisoner's armor. And the prisoner gurgled and died. Rhydon, meanwhile, has vanished. From reading the books, we know he can teleport. He probably did.
Aphron, Cantrel, and Bronwyn came stumbling back to the inn with their alarming tale, and Rhodri probed the mysteriously glowing armaments. It seems someone cast a nimbus spell on them. Why?
Cantrel said nothing about the contraband flying belt. Not yet.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.