Three well-armed lords rode up to the blacksmith shop shortly after sunrise. John sat at the stone and sharpened the sword, one side and the other, and ignored the riders. The men tied their horses to the railing that made the small penned in area where John and his men’s horses waited. The three wandered into the smithy area and the gruff one spoke.
“Blacksmith. Sir Guy’s horse appears to have picked up a stone.” He paused and watched John put the finishing touches on sharpening the sword and asked a question. “How much do you charge for sharpening a sword, and maybe a knife as well?”
John looked and paused a moment as his mind figured out who was talking to him. Meanwhile, the one John figured was Sir Guy pointed at the horses in the pen and identified them as Flemish horses. “I recognize the saddles,” he said.
“I’m not sure,” John said, coyly. The blacksmith came out of the back room and Gerald, the apprentice, paused in whatever he was doing to join his master. “Blacksmith. What do you charge for sharpening the instruments of war?”
The blacksmith took one look at his three guests and bowed deeply. Gerald bowed half-heartedly, not sure what was going on. “My lords, it would be an honor to prepare your weapons for battle.”
“Now, none of that,” John said. “A man is worthy of his labor. Your normal price will do.” He turned to shout toward the side of the back building. “Richard.” A man dressed in Flemish armor stuck his head around the edge of the building. “Hugh, fetch Sir Richard.” Hugh waved and disappeared for a moment. He came back with another man who did not appear to be awake.
John swung the sword in the air with some evident skill. He liked the feel of the weapon and handed it to Richard with a word. “There. This beast of a sword will take off a Saxon head and not break in the process.”
Richard took the sword and smiled. Then he woke up enough to see the three lords staring at him. He gasped and bowed like the blacksmith. “Duke William,” he said. The three men said nothing, but the third man, who had said nothing so far, stared at John like he was trying to figure something out. John helped the man out.
“Hello Uncle Roger,” John said. “How is Aunt Mabel?”
“Oliver’s son,” Roger responded without a smile.
“You know this blacksmith?” William asked.
“Blacksmith John. That’s me, though Father always insisted on the name John de Bellleme.”
Something clicked in William’s mind as Sir Guy spoke. “But you are not Flemish.”
“Well,” John said as he dipped his hands in the water barrel and splashed his face to clean off some soot. “I am sort of Flemish at this point, or at least my wife is. Emmelina is the grandniece of Baldwin one or two times removed. You see, Uncle Baldwin—my wife’s uncle—gave me a new name. I think he wanted to cover up the details of our background, but I told him it would not do him any good. My father is still Oliver de Belleme, but now it is Walter de Hesdin. Baldwin made him the Comte of Hesdin. I am officially Ernulf de Hesdin, and will no doubt inherit the lands if my Father dies before me.”
“Why are you here?” Uncle Roger did not look happy, and added the words, “Bastard son of a bastard son.”
“Careful.” John looked at William. He grinned a little and William had to cover his own grin. “My Lord Duke. I have some three hundred men from Brittany, my old stomping ground, camped on the West side of town. They are under the command of my childhood friends, Richard and Hugh. I have ships on the way, and the men of Flanders are gathering at St. Valery sur Somme on the coast, and a bunch of more ships. You know, you put Uncle Baldwin in an awkward position. He has supported the Anglo-Saxon crown for years, though mostly as an ally against invading Norsemen and Danes. He wants to support you in your quest, but he honestly cannot do so directly. So, he decided since my father is of Norman blood, he should represent Flanders and lead those who will join on this adventure. Sadly, my father is talking about going into a monastery since my stepmother, Emma died. Thus, it fell upon my shoulders to lead this charge.”
“How many men are we talking about?” Sir Guy wanted to know.
“At least a thousand,” John said, but his eyes remained on William. “Uncle Baldwin does want to support you as much as he can, if not the least for the sake of his daughter, your wife Matilda. He told me to ask how she is doing, by the way.”
William was thinking, but he came out of his reverie to say, “Fine. She is doing well.”
“The old man can only do so much,” John said. “But he clearly cares about his children, and his extended family. Meanwhile, the old man’s son is a piece of cow manure. I am sure when the old man dies, I will lose Hesdin.” He stared at Roger. “And be homeless once again.”
Roger said nothing, but William had something to say. “You give me good service, you and the men of Flanders, and the men of Brittany.” He paused to include Richard and Hugh. “And I will see that you are not left homeless.”
“Yes, your majesty. Thank you, your majesty,” John said, and to Roger’s and Sir Guy’s curious stares, he explained, “Just practicing.” William let out the full grin when a red-headed young woman ran up and hugged him. She went around the shop hugging every man in the shop. When she got to John, John said, “Ugh,”
Boston backed up, pointed at him, and said, “You must be John.”
“Ugh,” John repeated and waved. “Lockhart, good and bad timing as usual. There is nothing history shattering going on at the moment, but in two or three days, I have three hundred men who will be taking ship for St. Valery sur Somme on the coast of Flanders. I hope the time gate won’t end up somewhere out in the channel.”
Lockhart and Katie, Lincoln and Alexis, Decker and Nanette all arrived. They walked at a casual pace but came armed and ready. Sukki, Tony, and Elder Stow straggled behind. Lockhart took up the telling.
“We spent the last three days following Englebroad, Hoffen, and Budman from Charlemagne’s day, and when we got to town, we found the same doctor from Constantinople and also from Genevieve’s day, so that would make this at least his third lifetime. Don’t know what name he goes by in this time zone.”
Katie clarified. “Baron Edgar, his two knights, Hubert and Bernard, and the doctor.”
“Edgar?” William asked and looked up at Katie before he turned to look at John.
John shook his head. “They have to be prevented from whatever they are plotting. Well, at least there are no alien people this time.”
“Not true,” Decker said.
Lincoln spoke. “Elder Stow picked up an unknown life form on his scanner, and a bunch of electronic-type equipment, but it is in a covered wagon and so far, we have not been able to get a look to see what it is.”
“My guess is the doctor has been keeping it alive, whatever it is,” Alexis said.
“Damn,” John said
“What?” William asked, like he might demand an answer if one was not forthcoming. Roger and Sir Guy had the same look on their faces.
“It is kind of difficult to explain,” Lockhart said, as he looked back and saw Tony and Suki stopped to watch a stall being set up in front of a jewelry shop. Elder Stow stopped with them. He looked further and saw Baron Edgar, his two knights, a couple of soldiers, and the wagon on the road. “Damn,” he said it himself.
Don’t Forget Tomorrow’s post to end the episode