Welcome to the weekly reread of Camber the Heretic!
Last time, Javan and Tavis concocted a plot to trap Rhys, and the prelates of Gwynedd met to choose a new Primate—with deadly consequences. This week our heroes race to save the last of the Gabrilite and Michaeline Orders before the regents can destroy them, Rhys falls into said trap, and Tavis confronts a terrible dilemma.
Camber the Heretic: Chapters 24-25
Here’s What Happens: As Chapter 24 opens, Camber, Rhys, Joram, and the bishops react to the message from Tavis. They push the messenger gently out and decide to raise the wards again, to be safe, and discuss whether Tavis can be trusted. Joram (the resident grouch) says no. Camber opts for yes.
Once Camber has the wards up, they get down to business. Camber goes on about how he should never have let them talk him into getting elected archbishop, and now the consequences are about to hit. It’s time for damage control. He and Joram will Portal to St. Neot’s with the warning. He asks Jebediah to do the same to Haut Eirial and the Gabrilites.
Joram is still grouching. He has a bad feeling. This is just too convenient.
Whatever, says Rhys. Javan is ill. He has to take care of that. He’s a tiny bit suspicious, but like the rest of them, he hasn’t any more of a clue.
Rhys heads off merrily into the trap. The others get organized. The bishops will cover for Camber at midnight Mass if necessary. They discuss logistics and contingencies, until eventually Camber and Joram, with Jebediah, head off to the Portal.
Camber takes a short trip down memory lane in the process, to the wedding of Cinhil and Queen Megan, then says goodbye to Jeb. Camber picks up Jaffray’s crozier—might make a good weapon, observes Joram—and Joram puts a miter on him, to help identify him on arrival.
Luckily the other end is deserted. Rhun hasn’t attacked yet. Compline is in progress, with the Deryni monks glowing in the dark.
They deliberately ignore the arrivals. Camber cools his heels and wonders if Tavis lied after all.
Finally the service ends and Camber can approach Don Emrys with his warning. Emrys is not surprised. The monks have an evacuation plan, which he immediately sets in motion.
Just as they get started, a student runs in. The attack has begun. Camber almost despairs, but Emrys stays calm. He won’t fight—it’s against the rules of the Order. They’ll get as many people away as they can, including Camber and Joram.
Camber doesn’t want to go. Emrys reminds him that he can’t be seen here he’s needed too badly at court.
Emrys has to beg. The Gabrilites are lined up to leave. He chokes off a sob (truly unusual for the supernaturally confident Camber) and lets himself be rushed to the Portal. With one last poignant blessing for the monastery, he teleports out.
Meanwhile, back at St. Neot’s, Emrys and another Healer work an illusion to protect the remaining Gabrilites as they evacuate. He knows he won’t escape.
The attackers draw closer, smashing and burning as they go. Finally Emrys sends the other Healer through the Portal. When that’s done, he destroys it, and himself.
Rhun arrives just in time to see him die. Drat, he thinks. He wanted that Portal. But it’s done for.
So is the abbey and anyone left in it. As we’re told in considerable and painful detail. At chapter’s end, there’s some karma, and some fan service: Rhun’s tame Deryni, who is not at all a willing captive, picks up the warning to all Deryni that Emrys left, which Morgan and Duncan will also pick up, centuries later. “The humans kill what they do not understand.”
This is what Camber picks up in Chapter 25 when he checks back in. He managed to save most of the Gabrilites.
Unfortunately Jebediah was too late—Rhun got to the two Michaeline houses first, before Saint Neot’s. Neither was occupied by Michaelines by that time; the monks Rhun killed were of other orders.
Jeb reports back to Camber. Camber has sent Joram to move Evaine and the rest of the family to a safer place than Sheele. He’s in a quandary about Evaine’s eldest; there’s no Portal where Aidan is. He goes into detail about the family connections, and the fact that the MacRorie lands and possessions have been given to Bishop Hubert’s brother, with further detail about who’s who and who’s married to whom and who’s where. It’s all very family-gossipy.
Camber is sending the family to a remote monastery—and that includes the very pregnant Evaine riding across country in the winter, because she’s the only one who can persuade Aidan’s guardians to let him go. Jeb frets, but there’s nothing to be done. He also frets over Joram and Rhys, but again, they’re doing all they can.
As the scene ends, Camber worries a bit about Rhys. “I certainly hope he’s had better luck than we have.”
This is the signal for the narrative to shift back to Rhys’ earlier departure and arrival in Javan’s room, where an apparently frantic Tavis is dealing with an apparently deathly ill Javan. Rhys gets to work while Tavis fills him in on onset and symptoms. He then administers drugged wine, after tasting some of it and finding it bitter.
It takes a while, but finally he gets Javan settled. This gives him the opportunity to be condescending about how very experienced he is in dealing with children. Tavis is all grateful and relieved, and asks him if he wants some wine—it’s awfully sweet, but it’s there. (We know what that means.)
This reminds Rhys of the time he fed a similar sweet wine to Tavis—the infamous night, of course. He’s totally full of himself and completely unsuspicious. He takes one good swallow and one smaller one.
Then he realizes Tavis hasn’t had any. And is looking extremely satisfied.
Tavis goes into gloating mode while Rhys succumbs to the drug. He gives Javan the antidote and tells Rhys he remembers what happened that night. Now he’s going to find out what happened to Javan.
Rhys finally understands it all, but he’s too far gone to defend himself. His shields are almost completely down. He hopes and prays he doesn’t give it all away, including the Council and the truth about Camber.
Javan comes to. He doesn’t want Rhys hurt, he says. He just wants the truth.
Tavis reassures Javan that this won’t hurt Rhys. Much. He’ll be as gentle as he can.
Tavis goes into Rhys’ mind and recaps the night of Cinhil’s death. Tavis is shocked to witness high Deryni magic. He can see what Cinhil does but not what it signifies. He sees Cinhil’s death but realizes he’s missed something major.
He explains all this to Javan, and also explains that there’s nothing more to be got from Rhys without damaging him. However! There is one person who knows, though his memory has been suppressed. That’s Javan.
Tavis thinks he can get that memory into the open, but not now. Javan needs to clear the drugs out of his system first. That will take a while, and it needs to happen, because Javan needs to be fully in control of himself to do this.
Tavis has a bit more to do with Rhys before he comes to. He explores more memories, finds the ones about Davin, and discovers the Deryni shutoff switch.
And of course, lo and behold, Tavis alone of any Healer so far not only can see the switch, he knows how to flip it.
Tavis keeps on reading. He finds out about Revan, and the evacuation plans, and what happened with Tavis’ warning, and ever so much more.
Tavis is stunned. Javan doesn’t understand. Tavis sends him to bed and stays with Rhys, and the chapter ends.
And I’m Thinking: I get the feeling these are the events Kurtz really wanted to write, the ones she aimed for from the beginning. The fall of St. Neot’s is pure fan-service from the Morgan and Kelson trilogy, where it shows up multiple times in its ruined state. Finally we get to see how it got that way, and who was the monk who left the magical warning.
The fact we barely get anything about the Michaeline houses kind of bears that out. Those aren’t important because Morgan and Duncan and Kelson didn’t personally experience anything related to them. So they get a quick summary and then back to what matters.
Evaine is back on the female track, pregnant and offstage, though she gets an equally offstage adventure (breezily explained away as “the roads aren’t all that bad where she’s going”) to rescue her son and spirit him away to the rest of the family. Rhys in the meantime finally pays his karmic debt to Tavis, and it’s kind of blazingly inevitable that Tavis is the Healer they’ve all been looking for since they came up with the crazy plan to flip off Deryni powers.
So naturally the big question is, What will Tavis do with what he knows?
I’m fairly sure I know the answer. Time, and the last few chapters of the book, will tell.
Judith Tarr’s first novel, The Isle of Glass, a medieval fantasy that owed a great deal to Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books, appeared in 1985. Her new short novel, Dragons in the Earth, a contemporary fantasy set in Arizona, has just been published by Book View Cafe. In between, she’s written historicals and historical fantasies and epic fantasies and space operas, some of which have been published as ebooks from Book View Café. She has won the Crawford Award, and been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. She lives in Arizona with an assortment of cats, a blue-eyed spirit dog, and a herd of Lipizzan horses.