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* * *

Seisyll Arilan had been one of the courtiers attending the king that gray day in January, and was able to report the fate of Septimus de Nore when he met with the Camberian Council a few days later.

I must give Donal Haldane credit, he said, when he had outlined the basic events of the past week for those unable to be present at a previous emergency meeting. It was Old Testament justice there were some rumblings about some aspects of the proceedings but I think most would agree that the end result did fit the circumstances.

The execution of Lord Deldour's two men had, indeed, been met with general approval, as the word got out. Assaults against children were never condoned or even tolerated, whether the child was human or Deryni. Many years before, disgruntlement about a child predator had lit the first sparks that led to the Haldane Restoration of 917.

The fate of Father Septimus de Nore had sparked rather different reactions, not because he was innocent of murder because he was not but because he was a priest, and the brother of a bishop. Grandly claiming benefit of clergy, and making much of his family connection, he had demanded to be bound over to ecclesiastical justice, preferably his brother's, by which he might have anticipated being locked away to a life of penitence and self-mortification or even gone free with a mild reprimand, since his victim had been Deryni.

But the king had exercised his own notion of justice in the matter of the killing of Krispin MacAthan, and had dealt Septimus de Nore a sentence commensurate with what he had done to his innocent victim. He might be innocent of rapine, but his had been the hands that had tipped Krispin down the well to drown.

First stripping him of his clerical attire and of undergarments and boots as well they had flogged him thirty lashes, in token of his betrayal of a child's trust of his office. He then had been shoved head-first down that self-same well into which he had dropped young Krispin with a rope bound round his ankles and extending back up the well-shaft, to facilitate eventual retrieval of his body.

Because he was larger and stronger than Krispin had been, he had managed to delay the inevitable for close to half an hour, slipping incrementally closer to oblivion; but he had not been able to stop it or reverse it. When, the following morning, his body was pulled from the well, as had been done with Krispin's, the flesh of hands, elbows, and knees was lacerated nearly to the bone but none had pitied him.

And good riddance! Vivienne had said fiercely, when Seisyll finished his account. She and Dominy both had wept when they heard of Krispin's brutal slaying, and the fate of his killers bothered them not at all.

Aye, but it is having repercussions beyond what I think Donal probably expected, Seisyll replied. Septimus was the brother of Bishop Oliver de Nore, who is pressing the Archbishop of Rhemuth to excommunicate the king.

He won't do that will he? Dominy said.

Unknown, Michon answered. Ultimately, Archbishop William must take his direction from Valoret and Michael of Kheldour tends toward moderation. But neither archbishop has made more than token gestures to curb de Nore's excesses in Carthane. The death of one more Deryni boy, weighed against the dozens who have burned in the Nyford area, counts for very little in the grand scheme of things.

On the other hand, Khoren observed, these other Deryni were not possible kin to the king though Krispin's death does render that question academic now.

Do you still believe he was the king's son? Ois'in asked Seisyll.

Most probably, Seisyll replied. Not that there was any overt sign of it at the boy's funeral. I watched Donal closely, for any indication that his affection for the boy might have gone beyond that of any other page in his service, but he was cool as ice.

How is Jessamy holding up? Dominy asked.

Seisyll shook his head, sighing. She was devastated, as one might expect and definitely showing her age. She has buried children before, of course and a husband and Krispin was laid to rest near them, down in the crypts beneath the cathedral. Very sadly, I think she shall bear no more children, even should she marry again, so Krispin was her last hope of a son. I pity her grief.

This is all distressing news, to be sure, Barrett said after a moment. However, I am somewhat heartened by your report of Alyce de Corwyn through all of this sad unfolding. Her handling of the interrogation of the suspects was masterful avoiding as much as she could of any outward show of her abilities.

Seisyll inclined his head. True enough. She seemed to sense the importance of caution in the presence of Lord Deldour for she will have known that, whatever passed in that room, and whatever became of Father Septimus, word would find its way back to Bishop Oliver.

She has good sense, Khoren agreed. Fortunately, Truth-Reading is perhaps the least threatening of all our talents, since it does not involve any direct interference with the person being read.

Seisyll gave a nod of agreement. Aye, it was exceedingly well done. I would love to know what training has given her such wisdom. But since she already knew of de Nore's part in the affair, mere Truth-Reading was sufficient in the case of the guilty pair and by inducing the one to inform on the other, our Alyce cleverly avoided having to compel answers from any of them.

And once the first man was discovered in his lie, Michon agreed, it was he who exposed his fellow mostly out of fear for what more she might do, if answers were not forthcoming. That is both our strength and our vulnerability among humans that they don't know what we can actually do.

A few of them chuckled at that, for it was perfectly true.

What has been the reaction? Barrett asked. Nothing has yet reached Nur Sayyid.

Seisyll shrugged. Bishop Oliver is said to be livid over the outcome, as one might expect, but that is largely a question of the authority of the Church, aside from his personal pique at having lost a brother; Septimus was a murderer, after all, and had betrayed his office.

Few question the fate of the two sodomites. Among the common folk those who know of it I have talked to no one who argues with the king's disposition of the case. Though some might have stopped short of the gelding, all seem to agree that the punishment did fit the crime-especially since the two did acquiesce to the victim's death.

Then, it appears we must wait to see what further develops on that front, Ois'in said. I am very glad I do not live down in Carthane. He slapped his palm against the ivory table, shaking his head. 'Why did they do it?

Not for the obvious reasons, Barrett said evenly. It will not have been a matter of lust. Resentment might be a better guess even hatred. Young Krispin had been invested as a page that day. Most at court no longer remark that his mother is Deryni, but it is known; and some would resent that he was being brought up with the royal children. He was an intimate of the kings sons and their corruptor, by the reckoning of some, simply by association, by the sheer fact of being what he was.

Was that sufficient motive to kill him? Dominy asked.

It all would have played a part, Michon agreed. And opportunity also would have been a factor, especially with drink having been taken.

Then, what about Alyce de Corwyn? Khoren asked. She is far more prominent than Jessamy, especially since the death of her brother.

But she is marrying a human, Vivienne pointed out. By giving her to Kenneth Morgan, the king has chosen to dilute the blood of the only Deryni ducal line in the land. That would reassure some; it disturbs me. Especially with Corwyn being the principal barrier between Gwynedd and Torenth.

'This is a cause for concern, Michon agreed. But short of killing off Kenneth Morgan and having one of our kind abduct Alyce and marry her by force, the way her father did with Stevana de Corwyn, there is no way to change what has now been set in motion. Pray, rather, that Alyce de Corwyn quickly bears male heirs for Kenneth Morgan is a good and honorable man, and will instill the same qualities in his sons. And while you are praying, think how much worse it could be if Alyce bears no heirs at all.

Feh! A half-breed on the ducal throne in Corwyn! Vivienne muttered.

Patience, Vivienne! Barrett said with a gentle laugh. Alyce de Corwyn is not yet even wed!


Chapter 27 Blame not before thou hast examined the truth; understand first, and then rebuke. [28] | In the King`s Service | Chapter 28 We shall direct his counsel and knowledge, and in his secrets shall he meditate. [29]



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