Categories > Original > Fantasy > In God's Hands

Chapter 2

by Gryvon 3 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: R - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Romance - Warnings: [V] [X] - Published: 2006-04-21 - Updated: 2006-04-22 - 4831 words

The library stayed quiet for most of a fortnight. Delian played the role of meek, quiet librarian perfectly, ensconcing himself in the lowest vault of the library and only coming out for meals, mass, and sleep. Musty history tomes kept him half-amused during the day, but tantalizing memories of the sun and sea air lingered in his mind, stealing away his concentration for hours at a time. The white sails stuck out most in his mind, bobbing along the library wall in the flickering shadows cast by the caged lamps.

He'd almost forgotten the incident at the harbor until an unfamiliar acolyte came to fetch him late in the evening. The boy was quiet, genial, and entirely forgettable. "Archbishop Tremare wishes to speak with you, Master Delian."

Delian nodded quietly. He waited until the acolyte was out of sight before he sighed and scrubbed his hands wearily over his face. The Archbishop only wanted to see him when he did something wrong. He didn't have to think long to figure out why the Tremare would call him. The harbor man would have kept his piece, which meant he had Lord Ketter and his band of nobles to thank for this new trouble. At least his robes were clean today, one less thing for Tremare to yell at him for.

He wound his way through the church, ignoring the glances and whispers that followed him through the halls. Brother Krafton caught his eye outside the Great Hall and smirked, no doubt reveling in the fact that Delian was getting in trouble yet again. Two armored church guards stood at either side of the Archbishop's door, neither moving as he knocked quietly.

"Enter," Tremare's voice sounded dark even through the thick panel of wood.

Plastering a neutral expression on his face, Delian stepped quietly into the ornate office. Gold glittered on almost every surface. He kept his eyes down as he walked across the plush carpeting to stand in front of the Archbishop's massive wooden desk.

"You called for me, Archbishop?" Delian bowed slightly.

"Delian," Tremare spoke the word as a warning, his voice carrying the same rolling boom it held during sermons. A rolled parchment was clenched in his left hand, his fingers flexing as he spoke, throttling the paper as if it were alive. "When did you meet the Duke of Ketter?"

Delian kept his emotions sealed behind a tight mask, outwardly portraying complete innocence. "I met his lordship briefly a fortnight prior. A young boy had fetched me while I was retrieving a book, and bade me tend an injured man his father found in the river. The injured man was a servant of his lordship."

Tremare's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Lord Ketter said you fetched him from the palace."

Delian nodded slightly, studying Tremare surreptitiously from beneath his bangs. "The man was being tended in the harbor district. There was no one I could send that would have been able to reach the palace compound."

"And you could?" Tremare's voice was ice.

Delian raised his eyes to meet Tremare's gaze with equal coldness. "I am of the noble class, Archbishop." He knew he shouldn't have reminded the Archbishop of his status, but he couldn't help the thinly veiled jab.

Tremare's face turned purple and for a moment Delian wondered if he'd accidentally rip the note in half as the Archbishop twisted it in his hands. The Archbishop stared at him for several minutes. Delian's pride wouldn't let him look away, though he knew quite well that he should. Tremare was the first to break the stare, tossing Delian the note in his hand with a loud snort. Delian caught the paper easily. He resisted the urge to glance at the contents, knowing the Archbishop would tell him what it was soon enough.

"His Lordship the Duke of Ketter," the Archbishop snarled, "has requested a priest to accompany him on his latest voyage. He requested you in particular." Tremare spat the last sentence out like a piece of bad meat. No doubt it galled him that the lord would choose Delian over one of the many higher-ranking priests Tremare had in his pocket. "I needn't remind you, Master Delian, that you are to keep you opinions to yourself during this voyage, now do I?"

"Of course not, Archbishop." Delian bowed politely. He knew exactly what would happen if he strayed from official church dogma.

"While you're out," Tremare continued, his mouth lifting in a self-satisfied smirk that meant Delian did not want to hear what he was about to say. "I suggest you keep your eye out for a smaller parish in the country that looks comfortable, because you'll be leaving for one as soon as you get back."

Only years of practice kept Delian from frowning outright. As it was he had to struggle to keep his face neutral as he bowed. "Yes, Archbishop." His stomach rolled as he glanced over at Tremare's smug expression. "Is there anything else you require of me?"

"That will be all," Tremare crowed.

Delian turned quickly, the parchment loose in his hand as he headed for the door.

"Oh, Delian?"

He paused at the door, staring straight at the wood instead of turning as politeness dictated. His mind was too far away to bother with social niceties.

"If you so much as breathe a word of your blasphemous notions to his lordship, I will see that your father hears of it."

Delian couldn't keep the frown off his face. He left without a word, stalking through the back halls in a dark mood. The few priests that past his way wisely kept silent, averting their faces so that Delian couldn't see their smiles. Once the door to his small cell was locked behind him, Delian finally allowed his emotions to range across his face.

He collapsed limply on his bed, the coarse blanket scratching against his bare hands. White walls closed around him and he shut his eyes tight, concentrating on his breathing until he could think clearly again. He wasn't going to move to another parish, not when the Archbishop's men would be by at least every fortnight if not every week to check that he was still keeping to strict doctrine. Here he at least had his books. There he'd have the outdoors and not much to do with it. A wry snort bubbled through his chest as he realized the Archbishop would probably place a spy or two in the village to make sure he couldn't even enjoy that.

Staring at the white ceiling, he addressed Adena directly. "I hope you know what you're doing."

Forcing himself off the bed, Delian started to pack.


"Master Delian," Acolyte Trey knocked quietly on Delian's door, waiting until Delian answered before entering the room. His childish face was lit with excitement, telling Delian exactly what had brought the boy to Delian's chamber.

"His Lordship the Duke of Ketter is waiting in the outer courtyard," Trey announced politely.

Nodding his thanks, Delian grabbed two small saddlebags from his bed, slinging the light packs easily over his shoulder. Several larger packages littered the room. "Would you mind performing a small service for me?" Delian asked with a slight smile, knowing before he asked what the answer would be.

The boy nodded eagerly, his face lighting up instantly.

Delian gestured to the packages on the bed. "Would you and some of your fellows take those packages down to Master Dirk's shop at the harbor?"

Trey beamed, bobbing his head eagerly. "Of course, Master Priest."

He handed the boy a small square of parchment. "I drew you a map to the shop. Follow the main avenue down and then it's just a short walk through the harbor district."

With a smile and backward wave, Delian left the excited boy to his task. He took the main corridors out, making sure that at least one of the priests that reported to Tremare saw him leave. A few priests turned away as he left. No doubt word had circulated that Delian wouldn't be returning to the church. He knew he wouldn't be missed.

The early morning sun was just peaking over the roofs of the city as he stepped out into the courtyard. Delian recognized the majority of the men from Lord Ketter's sitting room. The man Delian had treated at the harbor was there as well, near the center of the party, his blue eyes following Delian's every move. A tenth horse stood riderless, the reigns held by the redheaded fighter.

"Good morning, Master Priest," Lord Ketter greeted him with a broad smile. His horse stood nearest to the church, a bulky roan that pawed at the ground as Delian approached.

"Good morning as well, Lord Ketter." Delian bowed once before stepping over to the riderless horse. He held his palm next to the horse's nose, waiting until the creature nuzzled his hand before stepping up to affix his saddlebags.

"Need help mounting?" The redhead asked with a faint smirk.

Delian shook his head, crossing to the opposite side of the horse to affix the second bag without comment. Grabbing the pommel with one hand, Delian easily lifted himself up into the saddle. The redhead's eyebrow rose but he handed over the reigns without a comment.

"Interesting robes," Lord Ketter nodded towards the brown robe Delian wore. A split traveled up the front and back of the robe, appearing seamless when he was standing but falling easily over his legs as he sat on the horse.

Delian nodded once to the lord to signal that he was ready. "Some priests have been known to travel by horseback from time to time."

"You're the first I've seen," the redhead commented with a snort.

Lord Ketter smiled slightly and turned the procession out onto the church bridge.

"And the first I've seen to travel so lightly," the gray-haired man that rode next to Lord Ketter noted.

Delian shrugged but chose not to respond. The streets were vacant this early in the morning. Shopkeepers were just starting to set up, the rest of the city tending to their households or still in bed.

"This is Viscount Faolan of Arin," Lord Ketter introduced, gesturing towards the gray-haired lord. He continued pointing around at the men with them. All were dressed plainly, in simple riding clothes that belied their noble heritage. They were all well armed, each with at least one sword, two with quivers of arrows on their back. Delian had the distinct impression that he was being dragged along on something dangerous.

Ketter pointed to the blonde that had been so elegantly dressed the first time Delian had seen him, now appearing almost a simple commoner. "Baron Rory of Clay." The nobleman nodded as Ketter pointed next to the redhead riding close behind Delian. "Lord Blair of Cryr." Lord Cryr made no notice of the introduction.

Turning in his saddle, Lord Ketter pointed to the men ranging along the right side of the procession. Baron Marcas of Sarta was a plain clothed man with short-cropped blonde hair and a handsome face. Lord Hector of Iagan was dressed in light armor, the same as he had been in Lord Ketter's sitting room, though now a half-helmet covered his short black hair. Viscount Kendrick of Drughill seemed out of place in his riding clothes. The ornate clothing he'd worn when Delian had last seen him fit the long-haired brunette much better. The heavily-armed, tan-skinned man riding at the tail of the party was introduced simply as Jahir. Delian suspected the man was from the southern kingdom of Aydran, though what he was doing this far north in the company of Geldan nobles was anyone's guess.

Finally Lord Ketter turned to the man Delian had healed. "And I'm sure you remember Callen Kerras."

Delian nodded once in acknowledgement. Callen rode easily, a sign that his injuries had completely faded.

"Thank you for your help, Master Priest," Callen bowed slightly in his seat.

"Just Delian is fine," he answered quickly, "and it was nothing. Your injuries were not that grave." Delian felt eyes turn on him. He had the distinct feeling that the party had been waiting for him to speak of the incident at the harbor.

"Quite the contrary," Lord Ketter commented airily as they reached the west gate of the city. "Callen tells me there was an arrow sticking through his chest."

The guards at the gate let them pass with a simple nod, the few travelers heading into the city moving aside on the bridge to let the nobles pass.

Delian smiled easily. "He must have been mistaken, Lord Ketter. No offense," he nodded towards Callen. A chill wind rose around them, carrying with it the scent of the river below.

"Please, call me Allesan. We prefer to speak informally while traveling."

Delian nodded once to Lord Ketter. The horses' hooves clicked loudly on the stone bridge. Callen frowned suddenly, his eyes fixed on the water below until they cleared the short bridge.

"The man at the harbor corroborated Callen's tale," Viscount Arin commented with a sharp glance back at Delian. "He saw the arrow pierce clean through."

If these men were trying to ruffle him, they were doing a poor job. He'd lied to the head of his church a number of times, it was no trial to lie to inquisitive nobles. He had to. Adena would forgive him.

"I'm afraid he's mistaken, my lords." Delian answered easily, unruffled. He let his gaze wander across the open country surrounding the capital city. A part of him was glad to be out in the country again, even if he did have to deal with nosy noblemen. "If the arrow had pierced clean through he would never have survived, not without a surgeon's quick attention."

"I saw it." Callen insisted firmly, moving his horse next to Delian's.

"That's impossible." Delian turned to regard the man calmly. "You were tired, fatigued. It's not uncommon for men who have overexerted themselves to have delusions."

"And would you say the men of the harbor were sharing a delusion as well?" Faolan asked evenly. This man was the obvious negotiator of the group. Delian made a mental note to avoid prolonged conversations with the Viscount of Arin. His wits were sharp but no doubt Lord Arin's were sharper.

"I have no explanation for their accounts, Lord Arin. I only know what my eyes and my knowledge of medicine tell me. A man cannot survive a wound such as you are describing."

"Not without magic," the previously silent Jahir commented with a stilted accent.

Delian smiled ruefully on the outside, inwardly cursing the southern man. Superstition ran rampant in Aydran, though Delian had heard of few true magicians in the south. "There is no such thing as magic," he lied.

Lord Ketter's eyes narrowed, obviously not of the same belief. "Is that so?"

The open countryside stretched in front of them and Delian paused for a moment to inhale the fresh country air. How long had it been since he'd left the city walls? Eight years at the least, since the incident at Leshill. If he returned with the nobles and kept to Tremare's plan then he'd soon have all the countryside he could stand until he wasted away from it.

"Of course," Delian answered smoothly. "The church has long denounced the practice of magic as superstition and folklore. To speak of such things as fact would be heretical." Delian almost choked as the words fell from his mouth, his throat tightening suddenly, and he glared up at the sky. He had no idea what Adena's game was but he refused to play nicely into the noble's suspicions.

"Some might say the trick with the door was magic," Allesan commented offhandedly.

Delian could feign innocence better than any court actor. "What door are you referring to, Sir Allesan?"

"The door at the fisherman's hut. It wouldn't budge for anyone but you, Delian." Lord Faolan seemed to content to let Allesan continue the questioning for the moment, though the gray-haired man still watched Delian with a sharp eye.

This showed exactly where compassion always landed him. He'd given away too much at the harbor and now it had returned to bite at him, like it always did sooner or later. Luck had never been on his side, despite Adena's favor. He wasn't fooling the noblemen with his careful lies. They knew exactly what he was doing, and they'd eventually catch him out. The urge to sneak away whenever they finally stopped for the night was tempting, but he knew wouldn't be able to. He had the distinct sense that Adena wanted him with this group, which meant he'd have to suffer along until they returned to Glinden.

"The door stuck for me a number of times as well," Delian lied halfheartedly. Ahead of them he could see the beginnings of a forest, most likely the West Wood that stretched from the capital to the Northern Divide. He quickly changed the topic before Allesan or Faolan could come up with another question. "May I ask where we're headed?"

"West." The conversation died at that point, leaving Delian watch the passing scenery in silence.


They reached a secluded inn shortly after dusk. Delian prayed, silently, that they would stop. Lunch had been taken in the saddle, and while the party's silence had been alleviated since then, Delian was more than eager to be out of the saddle. He'd forgotten exactly how much riding a horse could hurt, particularly when out of practice.

The one good point of the evening, aside from traveling through the much-missed country, was that the nobles had decided to leave him alone for the time being. None of them had spoken more than a handful of words to him since their interrogation this morning, and he'd been disinclined to give more than a handful back. Instead, he'd let his attention wander first to the grassy fields they traversed, and then to the dark woods that had sprung up around the road.

Delian had found himself smiling more than once at the call of a bird or the chattering of a squirrel, most of the smaller creatures seeming eager to catch his attention. He had a feeling that if it weren't for the party of men surrounding him, he'd be covered in twittering birds like had often happened in his childhood. When he was younger, he'd counted it as a peculiarity how animals would flock to him. Now he just marked it as Adena's influence.

Once or twice he'd caught sight of larger beasts further into the wood, their silhouettes dancing among the shadows of the forest. Those creatures did not caper for him, but stalked silently by the side of the road for a good measure until they caught his eyes. Yellow eyes met with his, holding firm for a breathless moment before the creatures turned and disappeared into the forest. He knew, without a doubt, that if he had gotten off his horse and walked into the forest, the beasts would have met him and protected him as one of their own.

He stayed on his horse, more than a little leery of calling attention to the party's occasional guests.

The nobles were oblivious.

Lord Ketter drew his horse even with the stables and stopped, the other nobles coming to a halt behind him. Delian let his eyes rise to the darkened sky and mentally thanked Adena for the chance to rest. A pair of boys ran out from the stables as the lords started to dismount, Delian making sure to get off his horse behind the others lest they notice how stiffly he moved.

The inn was nearly deserted. Thick wooded walls gave the building a rustic feel though the notches in the wood told Delian that a night here could be far from peaceful. Blair and Hector led the party in, eyes scanning the room as if they expected the very walls to attack. Lord Ketter followed, approaching the innkeeper with a familiar greeting. They clasped hands like old friends while the rest of the party filed in. Delian followed absently, smiling slightly to himself as he watched Callen very pointedly making sure Delian was the last to enter.

The man obviously felt beholden to Delian for saving his life. That was the way Delian could explain his frequent attempt to include Delian in the conversation, or the way his eyes constantly tracked Delian's movements. Either that or Lord Allesan had set him as a guard to make sure Delian didn't sneak away from the party. In a way the latter seemed more appealing. He was well used to being under lock and key.

Two cloaked men sat in the corner, a pair of dark mugs resting untouched on the table in front of them. Delian's eyes seemed locked on the pair, a distinct sense of unease washing over him as he stared at their black cloaks. Unconsciously, he stepped further into the room, closer to the counter where Allesan was arranging for their rooms.

The innkeeper pulled five keys from under the counter, laying them on the counter in front of Allesan.

"We're near empty tonight, so you've got your choice of rooms." He pointed to the key furthest from Delian. "This one goes first door on the right, top of the stairs. Rest line the hall straight after it. Five rooms, one night, be ten silver."

"Done, and a couple more for food, both tonight and in the morning for the party and the horses." Coins passed hands, emerging from a pouch at Allesan's side and disappearing into a similar pouch hung from the innkeeper's belt.
"Done and done."

The innkeeper kept talking while the nobles milled around, Kendrik and Faolan making moves towards tables near the fire. Delian was frozen, unable to move as a fierce sense of dread crawled up his spine. Callen turned to him. He was saying something, the words unintelligible to Delian's suddenly deaf ears. The two cloaked men rose. Metal glinted beneath their cloaks. Delian wanted to flee.

A loud pounding came from outside, the only warning the nobles had before the door to the inn burst open suddenly and a crowd of black-armored men swarmed in with weapons drawn. The cloaked men drew swords and Delian was free to move as metal sprung up around the room. Lord Hector shoved him hard, sending his back slamming into the wooden counter. He winced but kept silent, slowly edging out of the way of the impromptu battle. The innkeeper was no where to be seen.

Lord Ketter grabbed Delian by the sleeve as soon as he was near, dropping a key in his hand before pushing Delian towards the back of the inn. "Get upstairs!" Their gaze met for a brief second and Delian nodded obediently before turning and running for the staircase. Five of the black-clad attackers were down, felled by the expert swordswork of the nobles, but more kept pouring in.

The attackers had seemed content to ignore Delian until he started moving. One of the two cloaked men slipped past Rory, the noblemen already over-engaged fighting two men simultaneously. The man stepped in front of Delian suddenly, a wicked smile stretched across to match the wickedly curved sword he carried, the metal tinged as red as his lips.

Delian frowned, switching directions to back slowly away. His back hit the end of the counter. The stairs were barely a quarter of the room's length away. Lamplight glinted off the sword as it raised and Delian panicked, his gaze rising to the ceiling.

"Adena!" He called, his voice carrying urgency and need.

Suddenly Callen was there, blocking the cloaked man's swing. The dark man tripped, his cloak catching beneath the foot of another attacker and sending them both to the ground. Callen took advantage of the man's distraction to press his sword through the man's stomach while Lord Marcas did the same to his opponent. Light left the men's eyes simultaneously and they moved no more.

Half-turning, his eye still on the battle raging, Callen shouted angrily. "Pull out a weapon and fight."

Fear made Delian snap back with equal vehemence. "What weapon? I'm a bloody priest!"

"Then stay out of the way." Callen shoved him towards the stairwell to the side, keeping pace beside Delian until they made it to the stairs, then placing himself in front of the entrance as two more men raced towards them.

Delian backed up a step, torn between the urge to help and his own need for secrecy. These men already suspected far too much. If he helped them again, here in the middle of open battle for all to see, then there would be no excusing his magic as the tricks of a tired man's eyes. If he didn't help, he'd be forced to sit back and watch as the nobles were slaughtered by the overwhelming press of men. For each attacker that fell, another stepped through the door to take his place.

Blair dispatched two men near the doorway, switching sword arms as one of the dying men landed a lucky strike on his right arm. No man stepped up to take their place at the door and Delian had a moment's hope that the nobles would win. Then Faolan fell, an attacker's blade cutting a long slice along his gut. Kendrick followed shortly after as a sword lanced through his shoulder, and Delian knew he had to do something, anything to make it stop. Closing his eyes to the battle, he prayed to Adena for luck.

Then Callen cried out, and Delian opened his eyes to a bloody sword emerging from Callen's back. Time stopped as Delian stared horrified at the viciously smiling man watching him over Callen's shoulder, a second attacker waiting behind. The sword made a squelching noise as it slipped from Callen's chest. Callen fell at Delian's feet, the corners of his eyes already starting to glass over as he looked pleadingly at Delian, as if apologizing for failing.

Delian screamed, anger and fear driving blood to the surface of his skin. Power surging at his fingertips and he knew Adena was already listening.

"Stop!" He commanded, his voice booming through the suddenly silent inn.

The attacking men froze at once, weapons slipping from their hands before the noblemen had even registered the sudden end to the fight. Delian was down the stairs before the first attacker hit the floor, either slumped unconscious or dead from a sword wound. Delian didn't care either way, his attention was focused on Callen.

He was chanting as he knelt, the words ripping off his tongue in a half-shout. White light flashed between them, singing the air under Delian's hand. Callen gasped, eyes widening with renewed color as the wound on his chest drew closed. Delian's stomach surged with shared pain.

The light followed Delian as he moved, reaching out to touch the wounds of the nobles he passed. He could feel it mending the skin, burning lines along his own skin in response. He knelt to Kendrick, speaking the same chant he'd used for Callen with confidence in his voice. The lord mouthed his thanks. All eyes in the room watched as Delian pushed himself unsteadily to his feet, almost stumbling as he lurched towards Faolan.

He hurt, worse than if he'd fallen down all five flights of the stone stairs at the church library. It was hard for him not to cry out as his stomach burned along with Faolan's closing wound. Kendrick and Callen were already rising as he finished, his breath escaping in shaky gasps.

Will made him move, made him grasp the back of a chair and force himself to his feet. The room key Lord Ketter had gave him weighed heavy in his pocket as he met the silent gazes of the noblemen. Anger, both at himself and the noblemen, gave his a last burst of strength. He marched across the room towards the stairs, glaring death as Callen opened his mouth to speak.

"You will tell no one that this happened," he snarled to the assembled nobles. Surprise flitted across every one of their faces, giving him time to get up the stairs before anyone had the mind to follow him.

The key shook as he tried to open the first door, relenting only when feet had started to pound up the stairs. He made it two steps into the room before his knees turned to porridge, hitting the wooden floor with a loud thunk as a shadow fell across the room.

"Delian!" Lord Ketter's voice sounded behind him. The floor vibrated with footsteps.

Blackness swam in Delian's vision as he pitched forward, hard wood greeting him. His head spun, and he closed his eyes, giving in to fatigue. The voices calling him disappeared in a swirl of black.
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