That evening, she confessed to Roland. “I have to go, but I don’t want to leave. I just got you back.”
“Owien must be about twenty by now. That is almost grown up, and Elsbeth is what, seventeen?” Roland asked. “I married you when you were seventeen. I thought you were very grown up.”
“Owien is nineteen and Elsbeth is eighteen, and I can only imagine the disaster if I left things in their hands, no offence to Owien,” she responded.
“Now, come on. Elsbeth is a sensible young woman and probably well grown by now.”
Margueritte could not imagine it but said no more about it. She felt worried about her father, and what her mother would do when he had gone. She felt glad Jennifer stayed nearby. Tomberlain told her they built a cottage beside the church, and some others had come since then and were building their own cottages there, in a place that was safe for Christians. Margueritte thought that one day there would be a nice little town, and it already had a poor section where the serfs had their huts, just down the hill from the barn. Sometimes she hated the age she lived in. She rolled over to rest on Roland’s chest. Then again, she thought, some things were very nice. Brittany got fussy so she had to get up, and she thought, or not so nice in any age.
Roland gathered a hundred horsemen from the Breton side of the world to accompany Margueritte home. Boniface would be going with them as far as Paris. Sigisurd decided to stay on the Saxon border. She said it felt a land like the place where she grew up, but Margueritte figured Sigisurd and Geoffry would not be single for long. Horegard and Rosamund had already more or less given their blessing, and even Ingrid seemed to like Sigisurd, and talked to her more than she talked to Margueritte. Aduan liked everyone, so there was no trouble there, so overall, Margueritte kissed the girl good-bye and sighed as she got up in the wagon that she christened the S. S. Black-n-Blue.
Relii went with her for the first two days. Count Adelard was going home, and Herlindis had the good sense to ride on horseback. Relii bounced with Margueritte for those days, but when they reached the Abbey, Margueritte got left alone with her children.
Marigold came to visit every day they were along the Meuse River, and Tulip came twice. After they left the River, Tulip took over the visits and stayed with her, at least during the day, every day, until they reached Paris.
They stopped in Paris for a time. Margueritte saw that Boniface got well taken care of, and she also got treated well, going back to the same house Charles owned on the left bank of the Seine, the house with the servants. Rotrude, Charles wife, was not there, but the servants did not question her being there.
Margueritte took the time to visit several local blacksmiths and three saddleries while she was in town. It was not easy to do with the children along, but she found a young woman to help. Her name was Giselle, and her family came from Vascon, and came to Paris a generation ago by way of Orleans. The children seemed to like her, so Margueritte hired her to be an au-pair, though no one knew what that was. Then Margueritte found out what it would take to make a better saddle, one with stirrups, and how much it would cost to make real lances, a shield to balance the other side, and gauntlets to hold them. She had samples made of each, found a horse that could carry all that weight, and made Captain Wulfram ride the horse and get used to the equipment.
“My arms will fall off by the time we reach Little Britain,” Wulfram said.
“So you know better how you need to train the rest of the men,” she answered, and she crawled into the wagon.
For the next three days, Wulfram complained that he could see no military value in what she asked him and his men to do. “We have horsemen who can ride around an enemy flank and strike where least expected. All this equipment would make that impossible. They would hear us clinking and clanking from a mile away.”
“But your horsemen dismount to fight on foot. With this, you can fight from horseback.”
“That’s crazy. You can’t fight a man from the back of a horse. A man can move and turn. A horse can’t keep up.”
“You will see, when the time comes,” Margueritte insisted.
When they arrived at Margueritte’s manor home, the spring came in full bloom, and Captain Wulfram had only one thing to say. “Well, at least my sword doesn’t feel as heavy as it used to.”
“You will see,” Margueritte insisted, and she pointed Wulfram and his hundred horse back down the road they just came up. “Down the hill where the grassland flattens out. Try and keep your camp to the right side of the road. We will need the long field for practice.”
“Sorry Margueritte. Now that we have delivered you, we need to get back to Charles in Saxony.”
“No,” Margueritte interrupted the man. “I stood right there. Charles clearly said you were to stay with me until I dismissed you. Well, you are not dismissed. Even under the watchful eye of Charles and Roland, I have been kidnapped twice and held for hostage, and I would have been kidnapped a third time by the Saxons if I hadn’t found a way out of that dilemma. No, captain. You are not dismissed. You camp right here.” She turned away from the captain and spoke to the teamsters who were holding the wagon. “Lambert and Folmar, just stay here and relax for a bit. I’ll let you know where to take things in a minute.”
Margueritte’s mother, Brianna came running, Jennifer beside her, and Margueritte smiled to see them, but noticed how old Mother had gotten in the last four years. Her hair had turned completely gray, and her skin developed some real wrinkles in her face and hands, and crow’s feet around the eyes. Her eyes overall looked saggy and worn, like she had not slept well in months, but they still had a familiar sparkle when she held Brittany. The sparkle said mother, or maybe grandmother.
Jennifer’s eldest, her girl named LeFee was five and said to be sweet. Her boy, Cotton, two and a half, about Martin’s age, had been reported to be a hand full. Margueritte talked about her own. “Sigisurd used to call Martin the wrecker. I hope the house is childproofed.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Jennifer said. “But everything is put up where Cotton can’t reach it.”
“I don’t know. Martin is a climber,” Margueritte began, but she got interrupted by a flying streak of light.
“Lady! Lady! Lady!” Goldenrod grabbed Margueritte by the face and kissed her cheek over and over. Margueritte had to grab the fairy by the fairy weave that covered the girl’s butt to pull her off.
“Good to be home, but it helps to breathe,” Margueritte said. Mother and Jennifer laughed. Giselle’s eyes got big, but she said nothing.
The next interruption was by Puppy who came up barking and lolling his tongue, a tongue he used to lick Margueritte’s face when she got down to pet him. “Puppy, you remember me.” Margueritte felt happy.
“He does,” Goldenrod said. “And so do I, and me and Puppy take good care of the sheep, we do.”
“I am sure you do.”
“Just like you taught us. Isn’t that right, Puppy?” Puppy barked. Then a grown-up couple came from the barn, and Margueritte had to take a breath.
“Owien with a beard,” she said softly, and Jennifer nodded. Mother couldn’t seem to take her eyes away from Brittany who cooed in her arms and playing with Mother’s face. “Owien, son of Bedwin, good to see you, if that is really you beneath all that hair.”
“Good to have you home,” Owien said.
“And who is this well grown woman beside you?” Margueritte asked.
“Elsbeth,” Owien started to answer, but Elsbeth took his hand and stuck her tongue out at her sister, which made Margueritte laugh.
“I see she has matured well,” Margueritte said, and held out her arms. Elsbeth ran into them for a big hug. Then she backed up and had something to say.
“About time you got here.”
“It is very hard to get anything done when my workers run off.” Another woman stood in the barn door, and Grimly stood beside her.
“Me and Catspaw and Pipes are workers,” Grimly said.
“On a blue moon,” the woman responded, with blunt familiarity to the gnome and came out to see the visitors, even as LeFee came out of the house dragging a three-year-old girl by the hand.
Elsbeth spoke. “That’s Margo, Tomberlain’s wife, and the girls are LeFee and Larin.”
“LeFee is mine,” Jennifer said.
“I remember,” Margueritte said. “But Tomberlain told me nothing.”
“They married the year after you left with Roland. She is Sir Giles’ granddaughter,” Elsbeth explained. “They met when he went to Paris as Roland’s squire.”
“You must be Margueritte,” Margo said, as she walked up to join the group, Grimly in her trail. “Tomberlain told me all about you. I half expected you to fly in on a broom.”
“No. The broom flying was my work,” Grimly said in a voice that implied it was terribly hard work.
“No, I made the broom fly,” Goldenrod objected from Jennifer’s shoulder where she had taken a seat. She took that moment to flit to Elsbeth’s shoulder where she clearly felt most comfortable.
Margo and Margueritte kissed cheeks like sisters, but not much more because Margo was in her sixth month and beginning to round out.
“Got any names picked out?” Margueritte asked.
“Not yet,” Margo said, but she looked like she had a few possibilities in mind.
“Me neither,” Margueritte patted her stomach. She felt fairly sure she was pregnant, but maybe it was too soon. Brittany was not quite past five months old.
“Me neither,” Jennifer said with a grin and pat to her own stomach.
“Me neither,” Goldenrod said. She thought she knew what they were talking about but did not want to be left out of the discussion.
“I want one,” Elsbeth whined to Owien, who looked like he thought he knew what they were taking about.
“Now, let me introduce everyone. This appendage to my dress in Martin.” Martin, who had been staring, turned his face into his mother’s leg. “The one holding Mother’s nose is Brittany. And this one is Giselle, their au pair. She is from Paris.”
“Oh?” Margo responded. “News from home.”
These fine gentlemen are Lambert and Folmar, and they are going to unload our things in the house and take the wagon to the barn. Grimly, show these men where to store the wagon so it is out of the way, and get the mules settled. I am depending on you. Meanwhile, why don’t the rest of us go up to the house?”
“Yes,” Mother spoke at last. “You want to see your father.”
“And tell stories. We have a lot to catch up on.”
Margueritte returns home to The Breton March and finds trouble following her. Until Monday, Happy Reading