A time of silence followed, while Relii stared at the fairy, and Tulip tried to hide in Sigisurd’s long blond hair but did not entirely succeed because it was wispy hair. After a bit, Relii looked ready to speak, but Margueritte got there first.
“So, your job was to convince me to become a nun and be locked away from the events of the world?” It came out as a question, but Margueritte said it more like a statement.
“I guess,” Relii said. “I didn’t know that was my job, but I think you are right. That was what was in the back of my mind the whole time, pushing me.”
“Just so you know,” Margueritte said. “Herlindis and your father were feeling the same compulsion, and that is probably why they encouraged you to go on this little trip.”
“Yes, now that you mention it. Father is still angry with Aduan for deceiving him. He wants me to have nothing to do with that wicked girl, as he calls her. And Herlindis is reluctant to let me out of her sight unless I have two nuns with me to guard me at all times. But when the opportunity came up to go with you on this journey, they both insisted I go. That doesn’t make sense.”
“They were enchanted,” Margueritte said.
“You were enchanted,” Tulip spoke to Relii with only her head peeking out from Sigisurd’s hair.
“I must have been,” Relii said. “But how?”
“Like a bad cold spread from one person to the next, but you are all free now, and so is your father, so we will see if your father decides to come after you. Meanwhile, I have something to run by you so you can keep your eyes and ears open. Please don’t talk about this with others, but someone, some great power wants to remove me from this time and place. I suspect great events are planned for the future and they don’t want me around to mess things up.”
“Seriously? What can you, a woman, do to mess things up?” Relii asked.
“Roland said you were responsible for making Charles into a hard taskmaster,” Sigisurd offered a thought. “He said you kept annoying Charles about training the men to follow orders and hold their position at all costs, and after the defeat at Cologne, he finally took you seriously. He said you were the one who first suggested the need for a standing army that was there all year to train and be the best, instead of a called-up army of untrained farmers and fishermen. Roland said you told Charles to select his battleground, to take the advantageous position, to add the element of surprise to his bag of tricks, as you called it. He said you told Charles about that eastern trick of pretending to retreat and pulling an enemy into a trap. Roland said you are the reason Charles prevailed in this civil war.”
“These things are just common sense,” Margueritte said, with a shake of her head. “But I will admit common sense has always been in short supply in the human race. But here is the thing. I don’t know what the future holds, exactly, or what my part in it might be, but the fact that someone wants me out of the way is clear.” She gathered her thoughts and began at the beginning. “First, it was probably not an accident that Ragenfrid’s men picked me up outside of Cologne. As far as I know, Ragenfrid did not send any men around to the hill, but suddenly, there they were. I think whoever is behind this hoped Ragenfrid would just kill me and be done with it, but Ragenfrid thought hostage and Radbod encouraged that thought, and I feel Boniface argued mightily on my behalf, I should say on our behalf, so we survived.” Relii looked embarrassed so Margueritte asked, “What?”
“I know the bishop argued several times for us. I spoke with him several times while we were there, you know. I was not always sneaking off to get into someone’s bed.”
Margueritte nodded as if not surprised. She continued. “Then I think the castor seeds were meant for me, but maybe they were too easy to trace and point a finger, so at the last there came a change of mind. Something blunted my appetite that night, and Sigisurd’s appetite, so we didn’t have any soup, but then plan B was to have us captured by soldiers from Aquitaine. If the Neustrians and Frisians failed to kill me, maybe the men from Aquitaine would. That did not work either, because the hostage idea was too good an idea. So now whoever it is has to get creative.”
“If you went into the Abbey, you would leave the word behind,” Relii nodded.
“But wait, before the Abbey idea, he tried to get me into a Muslim harem.”
“What is a harem?” Sigisurd asked, not having understood the full story when it was going on. Margueritte explained and Sigisurd and Relii both got big eyes and said, “Oh.”
“But why are you speaking of this now?” Relii asked.
“Because I want you to look out for whatever the next attempt might be.”
“Why doesn’t this power just kill you himself?” Relii wondered.
“Oh no,” Tulip joined the conversation. “To kill the Kairos is very bad Karma. A sin of all sins. Even the gods of old were prevented from killing the Kairos outright. Our Lady might die of natural causes, and those causes might even include an enemy sword, but for any power it would be an invitation straight to Hell for the killer.”
“So, they are trying to manipulate me into a position where someone does the killing for them, or where I voluntarily remove myself from the playing field, like to the Abbey, or involuntarily get removed, like to a harem.”
“So, what will be the next move?” Sigisurd asked.
“So, what is the big coming event where you will play such an important part?” Relii asked.
They were both good questions.
Near the end of December, about the twenty-fifth, Captain Ragobert, his twenty men and two overloaded wagons showed up at a farm which sat on a rise above a wide river. Margueritte thought the manor house looked huge, almost as big as the barn. An elderly man with a limp came out of the house, stopped when his leg would not go further, and he frowned. An elderly woman came up to the captain, spoke briefly, and then ran to the wagon. Grandma Rosamund took baby Brittany in her arms and looked very happy. Martin went with his mother to confront the old man. A woman, only a couple of years older than Margueritte came running out of the house and gave Relii a big hug and kisses. Margueritte thought it looked more than just friendly, but what did she know? A younger man also came out of the house and stopped to stare at the strangers and imitate his father’s hard glare. Margueritte guessed the woman was Aduan, Roland’s younger sister, and the young man, about nineteen, was the baby of the family, Geoffry; but first Margueritte had to confront Grandpa Horegard.
Margueritte said nothing. She had no doubt this was Horegard since he had been described to her in such detail. She stepped up and kissed the man on the cheek, and then brought Martin up to her hip, though at two, he started to get big and heavy. She spoke to Martin and pointed at the frowning face, turned curious.
“Martin. This is your grandfather.” Martin took his cue from his mother and reached out for the old man.
Horegard looked at Margueritte and asked. “Margueritte?” She nodded, and he put his hand out for the boy. “Let’s go inside.”
Martin took his grandfather’s hand and at two years old, he walked about as well as the man limped, and as long as his mother was right there with him, they went inside to the big open rooms, downstairs in the manor. Festuscato and Gerraint both said it looked a bit like a great hall in a Roman fort, and the table looked big enough for a family of twenty, which they nearly were.
Ingrid, the eldest, about age thirty, and with her husband Theobald, had two girls and a boy. Clara was eleven, Thuldis was eight, and the boy Childebear was six. Roland came next in line at twenty-seven, going on twenty-eight, and Margueritte had two and already started thinking about three of her own. Aduan and her Gallo-Roman husband Cassius also had three; boy, girl, boy. Dombert was six, the girl Corimer was three, and Lavius was one. Then there came Geoffry. He was not married and said he was not going to get married.
Theobald and Cassius came in from the fields at dark, exhausted. They welcomed Margueritte almost in passing and reported that they got a good start on clearing the far corner, wherever that meant. Horegard said they better get it cleared by spring, the way the family kept growing. Margueritte got an idea of the land in her mind, where the serf houses were, filled mostly with some combination of Gallic and Roman people, and where the dependent free Franks lived, the ones who would make the bulk of Horegard’s fighting force if they should be needed.
Supper became a madhouse. The kitchen, out back, included two big brick ovens and a fire pit for the pig, lamb or occasional deer or beef. Most of the time, they ate vegetable stock soup with some eggs, with chicken, or fish from the river. Not a bad diet overall, but everything had to be cooked in bulk and the washing up took forever. After supper, as the children slowly dropped off to sleep, the exhausted adults went with them. Every family had their own room, and they were big rooms, like families were anticipated in the building, and there were eight bedrooms in that big house. Margueritte and her children got Roland’s room, and it felt more than adequate. They even moved in a small bed for Martin, though he preferred to sleep with his mother.
After the Master bedroom, Ingrid, Roland, Aduan and Geoffry all had rooms. The sixth room, one of the biggest, was for the servants, which presently consisted of only one very old woman named Oda who did not actually do much of anything as far as Margueritte could tell. Margueritte guessed the woman might be something like Grandma Rosamund’s nanny, and that had to make her very, very old, like close to seventy if not already arrived.
Relii got the seventh room, with Sigisurd, though Sigisurd got offered a bed in the servant’s room with the old woman. Sigisurd slept mostly in the room with Relii, though occasionally she preferred to stay with Margueritte and the children. She said sometimes Relii got carried away with her prayers and devotions and more devotions, and Sigisurd was more comfortable with the children.
Between today and the end of the year, you can get Avalon, the Prequel, Invasion of Memories, Avalon The Pilot Episode, and all six seasons of the Avalon series in e-book format for free.
The free e-books are only available from Smashwords year end sale: https://www.smashwords.com/shelves/promos
They can be formatted to your needs, including for the Kindle. Look for the author M. G. Kizzia (mgkizzia).
Happy Holidays, and Happy Reading.
Margueritte settles in, but it is not so easy. There is trouble all around. Until Monday. Happy Reading