It got to be well after dark before Lord Barth and Lady Brianna became seriously worried.
“Damn, blasted girl! How can she go missing again?” Bartholomew paced. “I thought we played out this drama already.”
“She may not be missing.” Brianna tried to be positive.
“That would be worse,” he countered. “Her out there, fallen down somewhere, maybe with a broken leg, or worse.”
“Maven!” Brianna called, and Maven came in from the kitchen.
“I swear, lady, my lord., she was not to be found when I went to fetch her. I brought the sheep home, but she was not there, I swear.” Maven looked very nervous.
“Calm down.” Lord Barth assured her. “No one is blaming you.”
“I could ride out to have a look,” Owien volunteered.
“Me, too,” Elsbeth chimed in.
“Then maybe I should ride to Vergen to get help to search in the morning, or maybe to the king, or to Paris to fetch Tomberlain and Roland.” Owien was thinking.
“No one is going anywhere until morning,” Barth insisted.
“Perhaps some trouble with her little ones had detained her,” Lady Brianna said out loud, and then she went on as if talking to herself. “I worry about her, you know. That is a terrible responsibility for anyone, but especially one so young.”
Barth perked up. “Maybe the night people of the little people would be willing to help.” He also started thinking out loud.
“Since Lolly and Luckless left there are no spirit folk around to call on for help.” Brianna pointed out.
“Goldenrod?” Barth said quickly. “Maybe fetch her mother.”
Elsbeth shook her head. “No telling when she might come around. I can’t just call to her the way Margueritte can.”
“Little sneeze maker would probably get it all wrong, anyway,” Barth mumbled
“She would not.” Elsbeth defended her friend, but Barth had already moved on to his next thought.
This time Brianna shook her head. “As far as I know, her connection to that world has been completely severed. Besides, she and Aden went south, remember?”
“Oh, that’s right.” Barth said, and he sat heavily on the bench by the window and put his head in his hands.
Brianna went to him, speaking as she did. “Maven, please finish putting supper away. Owien, I believe you have duties in the barn. Elsbeth, to bed.”
“Mother!” Elsbeth protested, but she did not argue. She stole a last glance at Owien before she ran upstairs. She felt about to enter the age when she would ignore him all the time, but at just thirteen, she was not quite there yet. At the top of the stairs, she paused outside Margueritte’s room. “I’m praying,” she said, quietly.
Redux found nothing in the dark. At dawn, just as Lord Barth got ready to mount his charger for a proper search, Margueritte got tied to a cart, the gag still in place. No opportunity had presented itself in the night, and her bonds in the cart were secure. Her sole consolation came in the knowledge that Finnian McVey defeated his whole purpose by keeping her gagged. She hardly believed she could call to her little ones if her mouth stayed tied and useless. Then again, maybe he did not want her to call for them. Maybe he expected them to come and find her all on their own. He did not know. They would never do such a thing. That was the law. Maybe this was her time to die.
“I could help,” Gerraint spoke into Margueritte’s mind. Both he and Festuscato had volunteered any number of times, and Gerraint in particular because of the help she gave him in the halls of king Hoel, and again with the seal people. But it wouldn’t do. Their hands, especially Gerraint’s big hands would have been cut terribly by the ropes. That would not have helped at all. Of course, the Gods were all quiet, as was Bodanagus and the others. They really knew better, as did she. It was the law after all.
It seemed a long way to Caern Long and for that reason, Finnian McVey provided a tramp to watch Margueritte when Margueritte ate her pitiful portion of bread or relieved herself. The tramp, a hard woman, said very little, sat in the wagon beside the driver, and did her best to ignore Margueritte’s existence. The driver said nothing at all. In truth, if not for the occasional comments by Festuscato and Gerraint, she would have been bored to death. Of course, she wondered what her father and mother were doing, but she had no way of knowing.
Barth spent the day making such a thorough search of the farm, not one stone remained unturned. Brianna almost went hoarse calling for her daughter, and Elsbeth called for Goldenrod, but the sprite did not visit on that day. Andrew got sent south to fetch Jennifer and Father Aden if he could. John-James got sent to the south coast where Thomas of Evandell was reported to be.
“Might as well gather the troops,” Barth said. “Looks like we have to start looking all over again.” It appeared late in the afternoon when he said that, and because of that, he decided the rest of the riders could wait until morning.
They had a pitiful supper that evening, even with Marta back at work and her baby in attendance.
“I could ride to tell the king,” Owien volunteered again.
“No.” Sir Barth said, and with such a heavy air it almost made one cry to hear it. “We will leave the king out of it this time. Urbon would probably just complain about me being an incompetent father.”
“Now, he would say no such thing,” Brianna reacted.
He looked up, but his thoughts stayed far away. “Owien, you take Sir Giles to Paris. He has family there, and at his age he may wish to stay with them. He also knows some men at the court who should be able to help you locate Tomberlain to fetch him home. I’ll ride to Vergenville in the morning and maybe have a chat with Brian. Then, we’ll see.” He paused for only a moment before he rose to go up to bed. He looked every bit like an old man.
Brianna sent Owien off and Elsbeth up, and then she left Marta to close-up the house, and Maven to help if she could be found.