Categories > Original > Fantasy > In God's Hands

Chapter 1

by Gryvon 0 reviews

Stuck in the priesthood by his father's expectations, Delian just wants to avoid digging himself further into the church's bad graces. After saving Lord Ketter's servant's life, he finds himself m...

Category: Fantasy - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2006-04-17 - Updated: 2006-04-18 - 6557 words

"Praise be to our Lord Adena, who in all His mercy has seen to grant us the happiness we enjoy today. In the light of His kind attention we thrive. In His divine knowledge..."

An old priest shifted in front of Delian, plunging the book in his lap into darkness. He angled the book without looking up, sliding to the left to catch the faint light that trickled into the back corner of the upper balcony through the high-vaulted eaves. Brother Krafton glared at him from Delian's left, more out of annoyance at being jostled than at Delian's irreverent behavior.

The Great Hall spread out below the balcony, a magnificent display of their God's mercy, or at least that's what Archbishop Tremare called it. Delian called it a lavish waste of parishioners' money, though rarely aloud.

Brother Krafton elbowed him sharply, a bit harder than necessary in revenge for the earlier jostling. Delian hastily tucked away his book as the priests around him started to rise. The Archbishop intoned a final prayer and Delian blithely parroted back the empty words along with the rest of the congregation. There was no piety in Tremare, only a fondness for showy ceremony and a comfortable lifestyle. No one spared Delian a glance if he missed a word or two.

Adena knew where he stood, and no amount of prayer would change that.

The crowd in the upper balcony started moving as soon as the final words of the prayer settled over the hall, all of them eager to get out of the opulent chamber and back to their own livelihoods. He sat back down, cracking open his book while he waited for the other priests to shuffle away. Brother Krafton edged his way along the pew and out into the press of bodies, not looking back as he walked away.

If any of the priests spared Delian a glance, they were either new or looking for someone else. None of them wanted to associate with the black sheep of the church.

Delian preferred it that way.


"Master Delian?" The shrill youthful voice of an acolyte echoed through the cavern. No doubt the boy stood on the terrace at front of the chamber, hovering at the edge of the stairwell. Few ventured this far into the library by choice, the rows and rows of bookshelves daunting those not used to the perpetual gloom.

Stretching up onto the tips of his toes, Delian waved a hand over the top of the shelf. His fingers barely cleared the top of the bookshelf in front of him. "In the back." The aged wooden ladder beneath him wobbled precariously.

Delian was currently ensconced in the very back of the chamber among shelves of ancient history tomes. He'd spent the last two hours pulling first one then another dusty volume off the shelf, glancing at their spines in the dim light of the covered lantern hung from a peg on the side of the shelf, before slipping the books back into their places on the shelf. Occasionally he'd pull a book out and balance it on a lower shelf for later retrieval.

He took the time to check the last few books on the top shelf, but none of them contained what he was looking for. Acolyte Trey, one of the newer additions to the flock of Adena's servants, came scurrying through the maze of bookshelves. Delian smiled slightly as the boy rounded the corner, almost colliding with the stack of books at the end of the row. He remembered being a young acolyte like Trey, though he had never been quite so eager. Delian had rarely been eager about anything that involved the church.

"Master Delian," the boy gasped, no doubt having run all the way down here. "A messenger came from a shop at the harbor. The man said he worked for a Master Dirk. He says there's a book in for you."

Delian fought down the urge to roll his eyes and plastered a kind smile on his face. The boy probably imagined it was a matter of great importance, some rare and exotic addition to the library. He could just picture the Archbishop's outrage if Delian even tried to add the book to the library. Either the old man would faint dead or he'd have Delian excommunicated. Neither of them seemed too bad of an option, but Delian had other plans for the book - addition into his own personal collection.

The boy stood eagerly at the bottom of the shelf, waiting for an answer.

"Right." Delian carefully worked his way down the ladder. "Thank you for letting me know."

"Do you need someone to fetch it for you?"

He couldn't hold back a chuckle at the boy's eagerness. "That's alright. I'll do it myself." He could sympathize with the boy's hope of leaving the church grounds, but Delian had few enough opportunities to do so that he wasn't about to pass it off on someone else. The boy's expression fell. "Though I could use your help."

Acolyte Trey perked up immediately, probably thinking that Delian would ask the acolyte to accompany him. Delian had a different idea.

"Hold out your arms," he commanded genially. He pulled out the books he'd balanced on the shelves earlier and stacked them in the boy's arms.

"If you'd be so kind, could you set those on my work table?" He didn't wait for the boy's response before he started off through the shelves. "If any of the priests come looking for me, I'll be out."

He wove his way through the shelves with practiced ease. The library was more his home than any other part of the church, particularly the deeper levels. He knew at least the name and general content of every book on all five floors of the library, though in his two decades here he had read less than a quarter of the books.

A set of stone steps was carved out of the wall at the front of the cavern, spiraling up to a small terrace. Both of the lower floors of the church library had once been part of a cave formation, now isolated from the other caverns with all the fissures sealed until they were almost air-tight. The floor above also connected with a series of storage areas and cells, but the only thing linking the lowest floor to the rest of the church was the tight stone stairwell that wound its way through the press of stone.

As he walked up the stairs, Delian plucked absently at his spotted and stained robes. There was a rather large wine stain on his sleeve, a sight that would surely cause Archbishop Tremare to launch into a long-winded tirade about the proper care of a priest's robes. Delian had a rather differing opinion of the dignity of the church, one that didn't involve gold-plated soup spoons like the ones adorning the Archbishop's dinner table.

Stilling his hands, he let his robes go at their current state. The church could use little indignity every once in a while, and Delian was more than happy to provide it. Tremare was far too high-strung for his own good. The amount of time the Archbishop spent worrying about etiquette and dignity would be better spent helping the sick and poor.

He knew Adena agreed.

Delian trudged through the gilded halls, a moving smudge marring the pristine glamour of the church. Most of the priests ignored him. A few bothered to notice him long enough to turn up their noses at him. The guards at the main doors didn't even glance his way. They were more interested in turning away the ragged beggars that occasionally approached the church than watching for any real threat entering or leaving the cathedral.

Sunlight warmed him as he started down the church steps. The light glinted off the white marble surrounding him, forcing him to squint for a good minute before his eyes adjusted to the bright light. Every structure on the small island had been constructed from the expensive stone, at least on the outside. The low walls, the stone courtyard, even the steps were all pristine white. Young acolytes and the servants at the church spent their mornings scrubbing the floors to maintain the opulent shine.

All of it was an enormous waste of time.

The gilded church gate stood open, a small window looking out onto the rest of the city. A light breeze ruffled his hair as Delian stepped onto the tiny bridge that connected the church to the city proper. The breeze brought with it the heat of the sun, spreading warmth comfortably through his body. Summer would be on them soon, but even on the worst summer days the heat never made it down into the library vaults. It was on these rare trips out of the church that he was reminded just how much he missed a summer day's warmth, and the freedom to be out under open sky whenever he wished. As a young boy he'd loved the outdoors, though his love for books had always been stronger. He'd spent days hiding up in one of the orchard trees at his family's manor with a book in his lap. By the time he'd left to join the priesthood, he'd read every book in his family's meager scrapping of a library at least five times.

That was part of the reason why he'd been sent away. His father had never had much use for books, or for Delian.

The sights and sounds of city life surrounded him as he stepped out of the church walls. To the south white masts of trading galleys bobbed in the harbor. A breeze from the south carried with it the salt of sea air and Delian paused halfway across the bridge, closing his eyes as he let his lungs fill with fresh air. In a way he hated his short excursions out into the city. They only served to remind him how much he missed his freedom.

Few citizens spared him more than a glance as he stepped off the bridge into the courtyard, though they did clear a path in front of him out of respect for his robes. Turning to the left, Delian took the closest of the three cobbled avenues branching off from the courtyard. Lavish townhouses and rich shops lined the street. He remembered a long time ago, when he had visited the city for the first time, riding down this same avenue on his father's horse. His father had told him all about the different levels of the city and the people that lived in them. This section, his father had said, was full of all the nobles and merchants not rich or important enough to live inside the upper city. But that didn't stop them from pretending they were just as good as the older noble families. A few even gained a spot in the coveted upper city, but only by disposing of one of the upper city's current residents.

They'd ridden right past the church on that visit, and every visit after that until they finally left him here.

The houses grew less opulent as he moved closer to the harbor. Jewelry shops gave way to tanners and humble craftsmen. Raucous singing could be heard from the taverns he passed, though it was barely past midday. The avenue continued its slow crawl downhill, though the road started to narrow as he got closer to the harbor. A smile spread across his face as he caught a glimpse of the twinkling ocean in the gaps between the buildings ahead.

He remembered the ocean. Years ago, when he'd just been an acolyte, he'd had a chance to travel by ship, though only as far as Leshill. In a single two-day trip, his first and last allowed by the church, he'd met his now close friend Dirk and earned his current reputation as an almost-heretic.

With a sigh, Delian forced himself off of the avenue, the usual eagerness to continue straight onto the ocean dragging his steps.

The side streets of the northern harbor district were almost as familiar to him as the church library. To outsiders, the streets were a massive, convoluted puzzle. In his more free youth Delian had wandered the streets with a curious naiveté now long lost. Now he only had one place he ever went outside the church grounds, and even that he was only allowed sparingly.


Delian was jolted out of his revere at the young boy's shout. The youth skidded to a halt in front of him, barely stopping before grabbing Delian's robes and swinging around to tug Delian back the way the boy had come. "You have to help us. A man's been hurt." Delian started running instantly.

The boy led him through the maze of tiny houses. He was small, dressed in shoddy clothing covered with dirt splotches and holes. His black hair was unkempt though not as bad as some of the children of the slums Delian had seen.

"What happened?" He didn't have anything with him to tend to a wounded man but he could hopefully salvage some supplies from the boy's neighborhood.

"He fell in the river. Daddy said he's hurt real bad."

"He sent you to get a priest from the church?" Delian kept his tone from straying into disrespect when he mentioned the church. Even if the boy had managed to get past both sets of guards, few of the priests would have any idea what to do with a wounded man.

They emerged from the warren of houses into a small, muddy courtyard. A few chickens pecked at some loose seed in the corners of the yard but beyond that, the courtyard was still. The boy led him towards a small shack set slightly apart from the others at the far end of the courtyard. There was no lock on the outer door, though Delian noticed a crude latch on the inside.

The boy's house was obviously poor but still respectably so. It was clean, if sparsely furnished. A burly man waited inside the small room, the worried wrinkles around his eyes easing as he saw Delian.

"I din't think they'd get anyone here that quick." The man spoke with a gruff air of command, moving as he spoke towards the second, and apparently only other, room of the shack.

"Your boy was lucky," Delian commented with a smile. "He found me not far down the road."

Delian's smile faded as he stepped into the back room. If the harbor man replied, Delian didn't hear it. The boy wasn't the only one favored with Adena's luck it seemed. The shaft of an arrow stuck out of the chest of the pale, black-haired man laid out before him, blood from the wound slowly dripping off the table and onto the floor. Even the few priests that knew medicine would have been worthless if faced with a wound this severe.

Stepping forward quickly, Delian pressed his fingers against the cool skin at the man's neck. Blood thrummed against his fingers, faint but enough to reassure Delian that the injured man hadn't already passed on.

"Get me some bandages and hot water," Delian commanded. Ignoring the father and son, he started stripping off the man's shirt, careful of the fragment of an arrow still stuck inside of him. It was a wonder the man hadn't bled to death yet, though he appeared seconds away from doing so.

Delian watched out of the corner of his eye as the bulky man hustled his son out of the room. "Close the door behind you," he shouted, haste making his voice rise unnecessarily loud.

The second the door clicked shut Delian started chanting, foreign words rolling off his tongue with ease though it had been years since he'd had need to use one of the ancient prayers. His words carried past the material of the world, parting earth and sky to reach the holy realm beyond. He pleaded to Adena in a language lost to man centuries ago. The power came immediately. It flowed in and around him as he grasped the arrow shaft in one hand.

A soft white glow filled the room, bringing with it the scent of old trees and the ocean breeze. The light pulled at his skin, making his chest ache in the same spot as where the black-haired man had been pierced by the arrow. Gripping the wood, Delian yanked sharply. He felt the arrow slip from skin as if he was pulling it from his own chest. The light flowed beneath his hands, filling the hole left by the arrow, mending muscle and flesh until it was mostly whole. Delian could feel the man's heart grow stronger with each second that passed.

As quick as it came, the white light disappeared, returning back to Adena's realm. A soft sigh slipped from Delian's lips as he slowly opened his eyes, feeling as tired as if he'd sprinted twice across the church courtyard. Blue eyes stared back at him and Delian started, a brief burst of panic filling him as he realized he'd been seen. Delian's mouth flapped open and closed while he tried to think of some excuse for the strange light.

"The note..." The strange man clutched weakly at Delian's robes, his voice a strangled whisper. "Lord Ketter needs the note..."

"Master Priest?" Delian turned quickly as the door opened. The harbor man walked in with a bowl of water and a handful of white cloth, his brow wrinkling as he looked past Delian.

Turning back, Delian found the injured man once more passed out on the table. The harbor man walked past him, setting the cloth and bowl on the edge of the table. If the man had any suspicions about what had happened in the tiny room, he didn't voice them.

Taking a cloth from the table, Delian lightly soaked it before wiping at the dried blood on the injured man's chest. After a moment's pause, the harbor man did the same. Glancing across the table through his messy bangs, Delian tried unsuccessfully to read the stoic man's face. Hesitantly, he opened conversation. "What is your name, good sir?"

"Teran, though I ain't a 'sir', Master Priest."

"Call me Delian. I'm not high enough in the ranks to warrant honor." Delian smiled wryly. Being a Master Priest was insignificant, yet even that little raise in the church ranks had taken years and the patronage of several high ranking priests.

"You saved a man's life, sir. That's enough to warrant honor."

Delian shook his head vehemently. "I didn't do much," he lied, hoping the harbor man would take the hint and not question him further. The last thing he needed was rumors spreading through the harbor district of a miraculous healing, particularly not with his name attached.

Teran looked straight at him as Delian finished moping up the blood on the man's chest, but he kept silent. Averting his gaze, Delian motioned to Teran to lift up the unconscious man. Delian moved to the man's back without a word, hiding behind the bulk of the injured man's body while he washed the blood off the man's back. The water in the bowl was turning red as Delian rinsed the cloth, blood forming a thin film at the surface of the water.

"Trevor!" Teran shouted suddenly, making Delian jump. "Bring us more water."

Delian nodded his thanks as the young man ran in with a fresh bowl of water. He let the small cloth he had been using drop into the dirty water to be taken away with the bowl and selected a new one, his fingers staining the white cloth a light pink wherever he touched.

"Do you have any salve?" He asked quietly. While the magic had taken care of most of the damage, the injured man had been left with a superficial wound on either side of his torso where the arrow had punctured. The man was no longer in life-threatening condition but he'd still need rest for at least another week before he was fully healed.

Teran shook his head before turning to his waiting son. "Run over to Ada's," Teran commanded the boy, "and ask her for some of that salve she makes."

The child ran off again without a word, bounding out the door in a flash of energy.

"You have a good child," Delian commented once the boy was gone. He remembered, maybe a decade ago, playing with the harbor children whenever he had the chance to sneak out between classes. Maybe Teran's boy was one of the ones he'd met back then. He couldn't even remember their names anymore.

"He is," Teran agreed. "When he's not off day-dreaming, at least."

A smile spread across Delian's face as he remembered his own childhood. He'd been fond of day-dreaming as well, spending hours out in the fields dreaming of swordfights and rescuing princesses like in the books.

"The boy wants to be a swordsman," Teran continued. "I keep telling him that it's impossible. He'd need a noble sponsor and no noble in his right man would sponsor a man from the harbor. But he still dreams."

Delian's smile slipped from his face. "Dreams are a wonderful thing to have." He dropped the bloody cloth into the water as he heard the door open again.

"Aye, they are." Teran agreed. He stayed silent while the boy handed over the salve for Teran to open. A quick gesture sent the boy back out of the house. Drying his hands on a spare cloth Delian dipped his hand in the jar of salve. The mixture felt greasy and coarse. From the smell, Delian guessed cindercorn and verian root.

Delian moved to apply the salve to the unconscious man's chest.

"This man's injuries are surprisingly small for being shot through the chest," Teran commented quietly.

Delian glanced sharply at the harbor man. Teran wouldn't believe any lie he attempted, so he kept his mouth shut. Picking up a bandage he started winding the long cloth tightly around the man's chest. The harbor man moved to give Delian more room to work, for the moment content not to press Delian.

"Did the man have anything with him?" Delian asked quietly as he finally tied off the bandages. He stepped back, wiping his hands on a spare cloth while Teran lowered the unconscious man back onto the table.

"Aye, he did." With a quick nod, Teran turned to a small chair at the side of the room. He handed Delian a small pouch and a roll of parchment with a large wax seal. "The paper's sealed somehow," Teran commented. "None of my men could open it."

Delian nodded absently, tucking the paper away inside the sleeve of his robes. Obviously this was the note the blue-eyed stranger had mentioned. If he was Lord Ketter's man then someone obviously didn't want the note to reach the lord. It was a shame the back of the arrow was missing. The fletching might have told him who had struck down Lord Ketter's messenger.

Ruffling through the man's pack he found nothing of note aside from a small gold mark. Picking up the coin, he examined it in the dim light of the hut. The royal seal was unmistakable on the coin. Delian quickly tucked the coin back into the man's pouch and handed the pack back to Teran.

"I'll alert this man's master. Someone should be along soon to collect him."

Teran nodded wordlessly, his gaze following Delian speculatively.

Delian paused in the doorway to the small room, half-turning to glance at the man on the table. Looking up, he met Teran's eyes in a serious gaze. "For your best interest, I suggest you don't mention to anyone that you have this man here."

"Aye, sir."

Delian let his fingers brush the door as he turned away, muttering a quick phrase low under his breath. A quiet series of notes sang in the air, sounding almost like metal chimes blowing in the wind. If Teran saw the tiny flash of light that sparked around Delian's fingers, he didn't comment.

"If there's trouble, shut the door with yourself inside and don't open it again until I return."

The sun welcomed him as he stepped out of the hut, a good deal lower towards the horizon than when Delian had set out from the church. The ocean breeze had died away while he had been inside, leaving the grassy courtyard with the beginnings of a muggy heat. Ignoring the warmth, Delian set out at a brisk pace towards the inner city. He barely glanced at his surroundings, letting memory guide him through the city.

He avoided the main roads. This time of day they'd be packed thick with the market crowds. Instead of heading straight north towards the nearest gate, he turned west towards the second. The closest stood not far from the church and he'd been gone long enough on his errand for some of the nosier priests to notice. If one of them spotted him there'd be no way for him to deliver the note.

The sun had barely slipped half an hour's mark by the time he made it to the inner city gate. The guards there gave him no notice, his priestly robes giving him free passage into the upper city. From there he followed the wide streets, heading straight towards the palace compound at the center of the city. Another set of stone walls was visible at the end of the street. According to his father, the palace walls were guarded by over two dozen sets of guards at any hour, making it near impossible for any thief or villain to enter the palace compound.

The guard at the palace gate did give him notice, glancing at his stained robes with a look of disgust. One of the men stepped in his path, a hand on his weapon. "Where do you think you're going?" The man drawled with a sneer. Palace guards had little respect for priests. He'd been the subject of their mocking far too often in his life to not come prepared.

Drawing himself up to his full height, Delian stared the guard down in the best impression of his father. He pulled a ring from the depths of his robes and shoved the metal sigil in the man's face. "Know your place." Delian snarled with such vehemence that the man stepped back a pace, dropping in a hasty bow.

"M-m-my apologies, Lord. It was my mistake. I'm sorry. I.."

Delian swept past without a glance at either guard, trusting that neither of them would mention the sigil for fear of being called out at not recognizing one of the nobility. Once he was several paces into the compound, Delian dropped the false bearing with a sigh, tucking the ring safely back into his pocket. As much as he hated his connections to the nobility, they did have their uses every once in a while.

He was familiar enough with the palace compound from the few times he'd visited to reach a side entrance of the castle but from there he was lost. Smiling gently, he grabbed a young serving girl by the sleeve as she passed near.

"Pardon me, miss," he asked as sweetly as he could, "but could you direct me to Lord Ketter's chambers?"

The girl dropped into a curtsy immediately. At least the palace staff had some respect for his profession. "Of course, Master Priest. Right this way."

Delian paid close attention as she led him through the halls, mentally mapping the route so that he would be able to find his own way back. The glory of the palace halls was lost on him, though the Glinden palace was said to be one of the finest in the known lands. He'd seen similar elegance all of his childhood, and throughout the church. Gold and riches had long ago lost all glamour to him.

The girl paused in front of a broad set of double doors, the rich wood inscribed with ornate depictions of a field of battle. "M'lord Ketter will be in his sitting room at this hour, Master Priest." With another curtsy, the girl disappeared down the hall.

Taking a deep, steadying breath, Delian knocked on the door. A voice answered immediately and Delian pushed open the door, stepping quietly inside. Several lords were gathered in the sitting room, most unfamiliar to Delian though he could guess at the identities of a few from what little he heard of current politics. Lord Ketter he recognized. The black-haired noble sat in the center of the room with the others surrounding him. He was less than a decade older than Delian, a fine swordsman if rumors were accurate, and fiercely loyal to the king.

The handsome noble looked up, a slight frown marring his features as Delian shut the door behind him. "I didn't send for a priest."

"You didn't, sir," Delian answered politely as he stepped further in the room. A red-haired man leaning against the wall to the right shifted forward a fraction of a step, his hand twitching slightly towards his sword. All eyes in the room were focused on Delian.

"Your messenger was waylaid," he explained softly, pulling the rolled note from his sleeve and holding it out for any of the noblemen to take. "He asked me to deliver this to you in his stead."

Lord Ketter's eyes narrowed and he nodded slightly. Out of the corner of his eye, Delian saw the redhead relax slightly though his hand still stayed close to his sword. The noble closest to Delian took the note, a gray-haired man that looked barely older than Lord Ketter. He guessed this man to be Lord Arin, a close advisor to the king. Delian stepped back as soon as the note was passed off.

The note was passed over to Lord Ketter, who unrolled it with haste. His eyes scanned the contents briefly before passing the note to the tall blonde on his right. The note disappeared into the blonde's doublet as Ketter stood, winding his way through the circle of chairs towards Delian.

"You said my man was waylaid?" Ketter asked, concern lining his voice.

Delian nodded. "He was found by a man of the harbor who in turn found me. I've seen to his injuries. He's in no harm of dying though he will need several days rest until he's fit to serve again."

"Show me to him." Delian nodded easily, turning towards the door. Through the curtain of his hair he saw Ketter gesture. Four of his men rose immediately. The redhead followed a step behind his lord, along with a black haired man dressed in light armor, a short-cropped blonde in plain clothes, and a brunette in an elegantly embroidered courtier's suit.

Lord Ketter led the way through the palace halls to the front gates of the palace. In the presence of the lords, no one spared the unkempt priest a glance. Delian felt his stomach sink as the lord led the party towards the inner city gate next to the church, but he kept his unease from showing on his face. There was no way he could push the group towards a side path without raising the question of why a priest would avoid the church.

Once out of the inner city, Delian took the lead, following the main roads in the most direct route he could think of. He spared a quick glance to the church as they passed but he spotted no other priests around to notice Delian in the company of the noblemen.

The air hummed as they neared the harbor and Delian turned his eyes away from the path to search the rooftops and the alley shadows. He was tempted to ask Lord Ketter about who might have attacked the messenger but he wisely kept his mouth shut. He'd already done enough today to force him to keep to his books for several months. The last thing he needed was the Archbishop catching word of who Delian was keeping company this night, which meant doing as little as possible to draw attention to himself.

"This way, my lords." Delian turned off the main road, leading the nobles through the same path the boy had taken earlier. His unease only rose as the buildings closed around them. A tingle of warning ran up his spine and he stopped at the edge of the courtyard before the little hut. The yard was silent, none of the earlier noises of the small community audible. The doors were all shut, including the door to the hut he'd left earlier.

"Can't remember where to go?" The redhead scoffed a pace behind him.

Delian glanced back, his face expressionless as he silently took in the man's arrogant smirk. He turned to Lord Ketter at his side. "The men who were after your messenger," he started quietly. "Would they come after him inside the city?"

Sharp blue eyes turned on him and Delian knew he had just given himself away partly. He didn't have a choice. Something moved on the roof to the right of the hut and Delian took a step back into the shadows.

"They're here," the redhead spoke.

Delian shot the redhead a glance, resisting the urge to snort. Instead he faded to the background, staying out of the way as Lord Ketter signaled to his men. The redhead was the first to step forward, entering the courtyard to a sudden shower of arrows. Men poured from between the buildings. Ketter and his men stepped out to meet them with weapons drawn.

Closing his eyes, Delian quietly prayed to Adena. The air lifted as he spoke and suddenly arrows flew askew, hitting the attacking men instead of the nobles. Delian stepped out of the alley once all the fighters were engaged, walking unnoticed past the throng of men. Ketter and his men fought expertly, taking down their foes with practiced ease. Delian winced in sympathy as he saw one of the attackers skewered by the redhead's sword. Life faded from the man's eyes and Delian made no move to alter the man's fate. The attacker was dead before he hit the ground.

There was little Adena would do for men like this. Compassion she had in droves, but it only extended to those in her good graces.

The redhead dispatched the last of his foes and turned, searching for more. He caught sight of Delian and frowned, reaching out to grab Delian's arm roughly.

"What in God's name are you doing out here, priest?"

Delian ignored the slight to Adena and pointed to the hut in front of him. "Your friend's in there."

"They'll be waiting."

"I know."

The redhead stepped in front of him, roughly pushing Delian to the side of the doorway. "Stay back."

Before Delian could answer, the redhead was moving. He kicked the door in with a shout, startling the two men waiting inside the hut. The first was dispatched with a slice along the neck, his body not halfway to the floor before the redhead turned to engage the second. A third man moved in the hut. He'd been standing in the back, probably trying to break through the door into the second room. Blood splattered as the redhead's pulled his sword out of his opponent's gut.

Delian stepped inside as the last man was engaged, moving past the fight through the disheveled hut to easily open the inner door. Teran lay inside, blood seeping from a gash in his side. Trevor knelt next to him, staunching the flow of blood with a piece of cloth, his eyes lighting up as Delian appeared.

Shutting the door behind him, Delian hurried to Teran's side. He glanced over at the child, then up into the harbor man's dimming eyes. The decision whether to give away his secret further by helping was an easy one.

Throwing his eyes heavenward he asked Adena for luck and let ancient words roll off his tongue. For the third time that day white light flashed inside the hut. This time he could feel it pulling at him worse than with Lord Ketter's messenger, slowly sapping at his strength. Trevor's eyes went wide as his father's flesh knit and healed, the wound closing until it was just an angry red line along the burly man's side.

"Don't speak of this," Delian admonished before either man or boy could utter their thanks.

He started to rise just as a pounding came on the door. Lord Ketter's voice sounded from outside, carrying clearly through the thin wood as he ordered his men to break down the door.

Delian stood with a slight smile, opening the door to see the lord's surprised face.

"Your man is safe," Delian spoke softly as he stepped aside. He nodded towards Teran and his boy. "These are the ones who pulled him from the river."

Lord Ketter and two of his men swept inside, moving quickly to their messenger's side. The lord was giving instructions, ordering his men to get the injured man back to the castle as fast as they could. Only the harbor man saw Delian slip out quietly. The man watching the outer door was looking to the far side when Delian emerged and he quickly slipped around the opposite side of the house.

Once behind the house he made his way into the dark alleys, slipping safely out of sight before anyone would even think of looking for him. It was better this way. He didn't need word of any of this to get back to the Archbishop. His dealings with the nobles he could explain away but the strange happenings at the harbor would give the Archbishop reason for suspicion.

Delian made a quick stop to Dirk's, a single glance all he needed to convey his need for haste to his old friend. Dirk handed over the book without a word, though he pointed to a spot on Delian's robe with a serious look. Delian fought down the urge to curse as he realized that he'd gotten blood on his robe sometime during the day. He was going to have to be extra careful when he returned to the church to avoid any undue questions. He nodded his thanks to Dirk as he left, keeping to the alley shadows the rest of the way back to the church.

It was dusk by the time he made it back to the church. His knowledge of all the church's back passageways came in handy as he snuck inside, keeping to the shadows until he made it to his room. Shucking his robe quickly he tucked it away beneath the bed, dawning a new one before hurrying down to the library. News had undoubtedly spread to the church officials by now of his absence and someone would be looking for him after the evening meal. In his mind he calculated a believable story to account for the lost time, apologizing in advance to Adena for the lie though he had no doubts she'd forgive him.
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