They heard a noise from the far door. An old nun dropped her mop and her bucket and shouted. “An angel.”
Tulip instantly got small and shot for Margueritte’s shoulder where she could hide in Margueritte’s hair.
“Relindis. I saw the angel you were speaking to, and the angel vanished.” The old woman ran off before the other could stop her.
Margueritte stood. “I’m going to fetch some tea,” she said. “Tulip, why don’t you sit on Relii’s shoulder and play with her hair for a while.”
“Yes, Lady,” Tulip said, and she zipped to Relii’s shoulder and whispered something in her ear that made Relii laugh.
With tea and little snacks, the afternoon seemed not so bad. Tulip made a home on Gisele’s shoulder, and Gisele made no more complaints about being forced to travel for the rest of the trip.
The next morning, they began the journey up the Meuse River to Verdun. In Verdun, they picked up the old Roman road which they followed all the way to Paris. It had gotten in terrible disrepair is several places, but for the most part, it still pretended to be a road.
They stayed three days in Paris, and Margueritte got visited by everyone, including the archbishop, who declared at this point she was as near to a queen as the people had. Margueritte rolled her eyes. She had enough on her plate, and besides, Roland would never go for it.
In Paris, they said goodbye to Tulip, and it became tearful, but Margueritte called Goldenrod and told her to tell Jennifer they were in Paris and would be home in a week or ten days. She told Goldenrod that she would call her to join them in the morning, but Goldenrod still got surprised when it happened.
“Now, Goldenrod. You need to get big so the girls can see you and recognize you in your big form.”
“Do I have to?” Goldenrod flitted gently back and forth like a leaf caught in the wind, a very different reaction than they got from Tulip.
“Yes, dear. You have to, please.”
“Okay.” Goldenrod changed her mind, and stood to face Brittany and Grace, looking for all the world like a fourteen-year-old girl. Brittany and Grace were delighted at the prospect of having a fairy near their ages. Margueritte later explained to Gisele.
Goldenrod is actually seventy-seven years old, but they age so slowly, it is hard to tell. They also mature slowly, so Goldenrod is about like a twelve or thirteen-year-old as far as her maturity goes. Sorry to saddle you with three pre-teens, but hopefully they will help with Gerald.”
“Not likely,” Gisele said, but she smiled. “But your lady friend, Calista has been a great help.”
“Then you should know,” Margueritte said, with a sly elf grin. “Calista is an elf. Don’t be fooled by the glamour she wears that makes her appear human.”
“Lady,” Gisele returned the smile. “If anyone else said that I would call them mad, but in your case, I suspected it was something like that.”
The Paris Road did not seem in bad shape. Margueritte guessed Tomberlain or his men worked on it, at least the section through Maine. The road went north of LeMans, but they came through Laval and stopped in Craon where they visited Peppin’s family. The family sergeant looked old and worn, but he said good things about Tomberlain’s rule over the county, and good things about Owien as well, and that helped Margueritte relax.
“My chief concern in all of this is to have a thousand heavy cavalry to send to Charles by the due date of 734. If I can raise a second thousand in the east, all well, but this side of the nation has had several years head start.”
“Don’t worry,” Peppin assured her. “We may have twice that by 734. We have a thousand already who are fully trained, as well as we can get them without testing them in battle. They are beginning to train other young ones. The work is spreading out. Pouance is not the center it used to be.”
In fact, Pouance seemed almost quiet for May. Several of Wulfram’s men and several from Peppin in Craon were there, and a Captain Lothar had the castle and town well defended, and the young ones who came well in hand. There were more than a hundred young men there, but there were also nearly fifty older men from that area trying to catch up with the new way of doing things.
“Count Michael down in Nantes, and Count duBois in the north are both training their own men, and the Counts Tomberlain and Owien have training going on in LeMans, Laval and Angers, so you see, it isn’t just here,” Captain Lothar explained as they came up to the Paris gate.
Goldenrod could not contain herself by then. She squirted ahead and hugged everyone on the cheek, Jennifer twice, and then she disappeared by the kennels. The gate was open of course, to welcome Margueritte, Lady of the castle, and Margueritte felt some Goldenrod impatience herself and could not wait to jump down from her horse and run to hug Jennifer. She hugged Marta and Maven and would have hugged Lolly if Lolly had not been busy scolding Luckless for being away for so long. Grimly sauntered over to the stables where Pipes and Catspaw were waiting, and he settled right back into their company without so much as a word.
Morgan, who was nineteen, and engaged, and Jennifer’s Lefee at eighteen were there to welcome and hug Gisele. “And Larin will be here any day,” Lefee said, cheerfully. “The gang back together. You remember Larin, don’t you?”
“Yes, the little one who kept following us around.” Gisele said.
“She is fifteen now, and thinks she is all grown up,” Morgan said with a roll of her eyes.
“I remember being fifteen,” Gisele responded with a laugh.
Weldig Junior and Cotton were there for the boys, and Pepin and Martin wasted no time getting reacquainted, though they did not hug so much as punch each other in the arms and slap one another’s backs. They were all pages, and Captain Lothar said he would gladly put them to work and keep them busy.
“He would want you to have it,” Jennifer said, and Carloman hugged her and offered his sympathy at her loss.
Jennifer’s Mercy was eleven. Marta’s Sylvan was ten. They looked hesitant as Brittany and Grace cane up to them and stopped. But Grace could not hold herself back. She and Mercy hugged and cried like they were four years old all over again. Brittany did not mind someone to hang out with other than her sister, but she did not want to be stuck with the ten-year-old.
“Lady, Lady.” Goldenrod came rushing up. “Puppy Two remembers me. He does.”
“Of course he does. It has only been eight days,” Margueritte said.
“It has?” Goldenrod wondered, like she thought it was forever, but then her mind moved on and she flew over to sit on Brittany’s shoulder and hear what the girls were talking about.
Calista came up with Gerald, and Jennifer, Marta and Maven all fussed over him, and Lolly promised him special honey treats. Gerald looked up at his mother with an expression that said this might work out after all. Walaric had a boy who would be eight in July, so at least Gerald would not be alone.
They went into the house and settled sleeping arrangements. Apparently, Jennifer sent for Owien and Tomberlain as soon as Margueritte got within range. She expected them to show up any day, and then things would be naturally hectic again.
“Well, at least they finished building the castle,” Margueritte said. “I no sooner left this mess than I went over to the east and started a new mess. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I am not building something.”
Tomberlain arrived first with Margo and the children, and plenty of men at arms, all on horseback, though most were still rather young. Owien and Elsbeth and their children arrived the next day, and their men looked just as young. Tomberlain picked up Peppin and some older men along the way, and Owien brought Wulfram and his men, so as Jennifer predicted it became a madhouse around the castle.
Margueritte sat on the bench that used to be beside the old oak, and once sat in the middle of the triangle of buildings that made up her childhood home. Now the triangle, with the old chapel and annex across the road, and a good bit of land cleared from the forest and the edge of the fields had all been surrounded by a great wall of stone joined by seven towers. The chapel looked the same, but all the buildings that surrounded the courtyard were new. Her greatly expanded home appeared unrecognizable. The barn, moved near the farm gate, looked brand new, and bigger than ever, and it had a long stable attached. Down by the farm gate itself there were new pens for the hogs and sheep, and the new kennels where Puppy Two started getting old, and great forges for the smiths that worked and lived in the old tower, a tower she hardly recognized since it had been renovated and attached to the wall.
Margueritte turned her head around to where the old oak once stood at her back. It had been dug up and an oak sapling planted in its place. It took well to the soil and would no doubt grow into a great tree, but it would be a generation before it offered any shade on a hot summer day. Margueritte cried a little. Her mother loved that old tree.
Margueritte turned her eyes back to the chapel and passed over the barracks for the castle guard that sat against the wall beside the Breton gate. Jennifer came out of the chapel, and Margueritte slid over to give her room on the bench.
Time has moved on. Tours is threatened. Charles need to bring the army. Christendom is in the balance. Until next time, Happy Reading