The afternoon got spent with Maven again, shopping, while Tomberlain went with the boys to practice feats of skill and stupidity, as Margueritte had come to call them. Sir Barth and Brianna also made the rounds before they had to get ready for the feast and the evening festivities at the king’s court. For most of the time, Roan and Morgan were not too carefully shadowing the girls. Margueritte once pulled Elsbeth quickly behind a booth while Maven went after some sweets and when the fools came racing up to look every which way for the girls, she and Elsbeth jumped out.
“Surprise!” Margueritte stomped on Roan’s foot as hard as she could and Elsbeth kicked Morgan in the shins.
“Girls?” Maven turned around.
“Here Maven,” Marguerite said, sweetly.
“Don’t do that,” Maven breathed and completely ignored the two men hopping around, each on one foot. “I lost you once. I’ll not lose you again.” Margueritte simply smiled.
Not long after that, the fat old village chief, Brian himself caught up with them. He came decked out in a long blue robe with gold trim and looked every bit a prince, though he was not. He also had the chain and oversized symbol of his office around his neck, and Elsbeth laughed at the way it bounced off his plump tummy with each step. He wanted to know a bit more about the unicorn. He could not quite grasp that the unicorn had a plain, silver horn rather than one colored like the rainbow. “Or at least white,” he said. “Maybe it just looked gray in the dark of the woods.”
“No, it was gray,” Margueritte said, as her eye caught a sight, she felt surprised to see. A little gnome pinched a sweet. She gasped. Suddenly she saw a dozen little ones, imps, brownies, pixies, and the like, all taking little bits of food and drink here and there. A snatch of cloth and a broken needle, and she wondered why no one noticed, but then she realized they were all invisible to mortal eyes, except her own.
“What a shame,” Brian said. “If only I could believe you. What a wonderful find that would be, to catch and preserve a real, live unicorn, right here in my village. Prosperity and health would be ours forever.”
“No.” Margueritte shook her head. “A unicorn can heal the heart, only. It is not a fertility or prosperity beast.”
“And how do you know this?” Brian asked.
“Well, I’m not sure.” Margueritte said, as Elsbeth reached for her hand, curious at what could be on her sister’s mind. Immediately, Elsbeth had to stifle a shriek since on touching her sister, she saw all that her sister saw. “But I think that is right. You understand unicorns are greater spirits, way beyond my little ones.”
“Your little ones?” Brian tried to follow.
“Mmm,” Margueritte said. “Like these.” She took Brian’s hand and pointed. Brian saw and gasped. Maven reached to move Margueritte along, thinking the conversation had finished, but as she touched Margueritte’s shoulder, she also saw and screamed. Some of the little ones ignored the scream and assumed it was what “mudders” did once in a while, but some looked up, and one particularly little gnome-like dwarf leapt up on a table and shouted.
“Do it again.”
Chief Brian went off, silent in the wonder of his vision, his great iron symbol of office bouncing all the way.
Maven stopped screaming after a while.
That evening when the fires were put out, there were no untoward incidents. Tomberlain chose that time to tell the story he heard about the robbers of Cairn Brees and how they broke into the tombs of the kings in search of booty. When the next Samhain came, the ghosts of the kings and queens rose-up in the dark and exacted a terrible vengeance on those unfortunates. He did a fairly good job for an amateur storyteller. Margueritte felt frightened at the proper time. Maven laughed. Marta did not say a word the whole next day. Elsbeth did not speak to her brother for a whole week.
The next day, the day of Samhain felt like a bit of a let-down. Much of it got spent in the company of Lady Lavinia who took the girls to many of the same places they had already visited with Maven, except she made them talk and name everything the whole time in Latin. Every time Elsbeth got something nearly right, Lavinia praised her. Every time Marguerite so much as conjugated incorrectly, she got scolded. Margueritte noticed.
After that, they began to dream of home and being in their own rooms and sleeping in their own beds. Even Tomberlain said as much, and they started out early in the day, nearly at daybreak, so apparently, it was a well shared feeling. Around ten that morning, a strong drizzle started, which did not help their spirits, but perhaps hustled up their feet. They passed the coast road and the south road, and the rain slackened off. They got within three bends of the triangle when they stopped completely. Behind them they heard the sound of many horses coming up fast.
They had no time to get the wagons away safely, so Sir Barth ordered Redux, Andrew and John-James on their honor to guard the women, and especially the children. When he turned to face the horsemen, they had already arrived. The Moors appeared, and their swords were drawn. The melee began at once along with Elsbeth’s scream. Margueritte joined her scream when they saw Tomberlain knocked from his horse by a wicked hit on the head.
Few of the men were able to keep to their horses on the slippery grass and in the mud and rain. Slick saddles sent men to the ground while horses sauntered off into the woods, away from the commotion. Margueritte found herself and Elsbeth pushed down into the wagon and a wet, woolen blanket thrown hastily over them by their mother.
Lady Brianna sat still with a dagger in her hand while Redux the blacksmith took the tool he brought for the wagon wheels, something like a tire iron, and faced off with one of the enemy. Brianna got startled, when one came up behind her, still on horseback. She spun with the knife and cut the man’s hand, and then thought fast and kicked the horse which bucked and threw its’ rider. With her back turned, however, it became easy for two strong hands to grab her from behind and pull her from the wagon seat. It took two of them to hold her, and even then, it was only because she landed flat on the ground, on her back, and had no leverage. Unfortunately, she had dropped the knife.
Margueritte, who thought, “Way to go, Mother,” when Brianna cut her attacker, cried out when her mother got grabbed from behind. She reached out of the blanket to try and catch her mother and keep her from being dragged from the cart, but it was too far to reach. Then, she felt herself lifted right out of the back of the wagon, and though she kicked, her feet could not quite reach the ground.
“Let me go!” she screamed and wriggled. “Help!” she yelled. “Hammerhead!” It was the first name that came to mind. Perhaps she did not think at all but merely bubbled something up from her unconscious. Her mother and Tomberlain were both down and who knew in what condition. Elsbeth was surely no help, and her father fought face to face with Lord Ahlmored who kept shouting, “Save me the woman and the older girl. Kill the rest.” So Margueritte shouted for Hammerhead, odd as it seemed. Odder still was the fact that he answered.