Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 822
The Chronicles of the Deryni rests on a history of conflict. Festil, a member of the Deryni people, who have magical powers, overthrew the Haldane King Ifor in 822 and tried to wipe out the Haldane family. All the heirs except Aidan were killed. Festil became king, and his family ruled for seventy-eight years. Each king became more arrogant in his use of power. Camber MacRorie and his family overthrew Imre, the last king of the Festilic line, and raised Aidan Haldane’s grandson Cinhil to the throne.
Camber gave Deryni-like powers to Cinhil to protect the Haldane line. Cinhil, a monk, resented being forced to forsake his vows. After Cinhil died, the human regents reacted to cruelty the Festilic kings had shown toward humans. They outlawed Deryni magic and stripped the Deryni of lands, rank, and privileges, including priestly service.
The main story of the chronicles begins when Kelson Cinhil Rhys Anthony Haldane comes to power in 1120 after Charissa, the great-granddaughter of Imre, kills Kelson’s father, Brion. The laws prohibiting Deryni influence were ignored by Brion, both because he possessed Deryni-like powers and because he had a friend and adviser who was public about being half Deryni. Kelson continues to rely on Alaric Morgan, the Deryni duke who was his father’s adviser and who presides over a secret rite to awaken Kelson’s Deryni-like powers. The rite does not seem to work.
The church and many average humans object to the Deryni as evil, causing the Deryni to be ostracized and persecuted. Kelson’s own mother, Jehana, objects to the Deryni presence and tries to prevent Morgan’s affiliation with Kelson by throwing Morgan off the council. Kelson refuses to permit Morgan’s banishment.
Kelson’s coronation is interrupted when Charissa arrives and challenges him to a potentially fatal magical duel. Jehana protects her son, and her use of magical powers reveals that she is Deryni. Kelson taps his powers shortly before the duel, wins the duel, and is crowned.
Frightened by the Deryni magical power and envious of Morgan’s influence with the young king, the archbishop of the Gwynedd church, Edmund Loris, calls the bishops together in a Curia (convocation) to pronounce an Interdict denying any sacraments for the population of Morgan’s Duchy of Corwin. The Interdict is an attempt to oust Morgan.
A human revivalist preacher, Warin de Grey, has been preaching against the Deryni. Archbishop Loris intends to help de Grey overthrow Morgan. Loris anticipates that Morgan and Father Duncan may address the Curia to prevent the Interdict, so he sets a successful trap. He arranges for de Grey’s men to trap Morgan at the entrance to Dhassa by using mersaha, a Deryni-specific drug that robs Morgan of his magic power. Father Duncan, while freeing Morgan, reveals that he is part Deryni, something few had known before, and contributes to starting a fire that destroys the shrine of Saint Torin.
When the Curia meets, some of the bishops, including the bishop of Dhassa, are hesitant to take the extreme action the archbishop wants. Six of them, withdrawing from the deliberations, deprive the Curia of a quorum. The remaining bishops vote the Interdict anyway. The bishop of Dhassa tells the remaining bishops to leave the city. Unaware of these developments, Morgan and Duncan return to the king.
The effects of the Interdict and the division of the bishops present a serious problem for the king, Morgan, and Duncan because spring is coming and they need every soldier to fight the Deryni ruler of Torenth, a nearby kingdom that shelters the Festilic family. Morgan and Duncan decide to go to Dhassa to appeal to the bishops and attempt to prove that they are not evil and should not be held responsible for the destruction of the shrine. In the meantime, Bran Coris, the earl of Marley, who protects the Cardosa’s approach to Gwynedd, is persuaded by Wencit of Torenth to betray Kelson’s forces.
Morgan and Duncan finally reach Dhassa and persuade the bishops of their innocence. As a result, the bishops commit their army to Kelson and the defense of Gwynedd. One of the bishops, Denis Arilan, turns out to be full Deryni and a member of the Camberian Council, which polices the use of Deryni powers.
Morgan, Duncan, Kelson, and his uncle Nigel persuade de Grey to join Kelson. De Grey believes that his own power to heal comes from God. Morgan convinces him to join the group by healing a serious wound that de Grey inflicts on Duncan.
The war is to be decided by an arcane duel to the death between the king’s side (Kelson, Morgan, Duncan, and Arilan) and Wencit’s (Wencit, Bran, Duke Lionel, and Lord Rhydon). The battle does not come to fruition because Rhydon, a disguised member of the Camberian Council, poisons the wine that Wencit’s side drinks as an opening salute to their enemies.
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