M3 Margueritte: In the Tower, part 1 of 2

Margueritte awoke but did not open her eyes at first.  Her stomach churned a little and she did not know why.  She did not remember being sick.  She heard the sound of shuffling beside her, like someone rearranging things on a dresser.  She looked.

An old woman had her back turned to the bed.  Margueritte sat up a little and that got the woman’s attention.  The woman turned, and Margueritte threw a fist to her own mouth to stifle a scream.  The woman was frightening to look at, especially in her piercing eyes.

“Ah, you’re awake,” the old woman said.  “But you must not act that way toward your own, dear mother Curdwallah.”

“Mother?”  Margueritte felt confused, but that did not sound right.

“Yes, dear,” Curdwallah said.  “You left the tower again.  The little ones almost caught you, and you lost your memory again.  I bet you don’t even remember your name.”

Margueritte paused and wrinkled her brow.  She did not remember.

“Lucky for you your mother was able to save you again and bring you back to safety.  This tower is isolated.  You are safe here and no one will find you, but you must stay in the tower, my dear, or you will never remember anything.”

“What is my name?”  Margueritte asked.

Curdwallah paused as if she considered her options.  “Margueritte,” she said at last.  “I always did like that name.”

“Mother?”  Margueritte said it, but it was really a question.

“The only one you have,” Curdwallah responded, but she never did smile.

Margueritte shook her head.  That did not sound right, but the name Margueritte felt right and it made her wonder about the rest.  “I must stay in the tower?”  She did not exactly understand.

“It is the curse,” Curdwallah said with a raise of her brows.  No doubt, she intended to pretend concern, but in fact it made her look more frightening so Margueritte had to look away and just listen.  “You would not marry the evil one.”

“I am old enough to marry?”  Margueritte wondered.

“Not quite,” Curdwallah responded.  “That was part of the problem, but you must not interrupt your mother.  It isn’t polite.”

“I’m sorry, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, and swallowed, like the name caused a great lump in her throat.

Curdwallah paused, but Margueritte refused to look.

“You would not marry the evil one.  He made you lose all your memories and told you lies to try and trick you into his bed, but you would not.  I barely saved you the first time, when we came here.  Our great god, Abraxas, made this a safe place for you.  You will not be haunted by your past or by strange dreams of the future, and the spirits of the earth that the evil one has sent to find you will never find you here.  But you must stay here, always, er, until I can find a cure for the curse.  Every time you leave the tower, you lose all of your memories and we have to start all over again.”

Margueritte swallowed again.  She could think of no reason to disbelieve what she was told.  She screwed up her courage and looked again at Curdwallah.  It was not easy.  “Am I so beautiful then that he cannot resist me?”  She asked.

“Yes,” Curdwallah lied.  “And see, your hair has grown again as it should.”  Margueritte looked quickly.  For an instant, she remembered having long hair, hair to the floor, but this was ever so much more.  It looked twice as long as she was tall, and to be sure, she got up to see.

“Good.”  Curdwallah said.  “Come here, girl.”  Margueritte went and Curdwallah brought her to the window.  “Tie your hair to the pole here and let it down outside.”  Curdwallah said and showed her how.  “I have much to do today.”

“But mother Curdwallah, will you not stay with me?”  Margueritte asked.  She did not want to be left alone, at the moment, in unfamiliar surroundings.

“No.  But remember this.”  Curdwallah trained her sharp eyes on the girl and Margueritte shrank back ever so little.  “You must never go down to the first floor and the door to the tower must always remain closed to you or the spell of safety may be broken.  I go in and out the window.”

Margueritte changed her mind in that moment.  She wanted company, but Curdwallah, mother or not, frightened her terribly.  “Yes, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, thinking it prudent to be agreeable.

“I must go,” Curdwallah said and taking hold of Margueritte’s hair she easily stepped over the window seat to the sill.  “I am servant of our great god Abraxas, and there is always work in service to the god.”  She began to lower herself, hand by hand until she reached the ground.  “Now pull your hair up.”  She instructed.  “I will call you when I need you to let it down again.

“Yes, Mother Curdwallah,” Margueritte said, and complied, but to herself, she said, “Abraxas is no god of mine,” and she doubted in her heart that anyone so horrid could be her real mother.  When her hair got safely wrapped around her shoulders several times like a great scarf, she went and threw herself on her bed and cried.  She did not know why she felt so sad.  She really could not remember anything at all.  But she felt sad all the same and finally decided that life was simply too unfair for words.  She found a bit of bread and a cup of milk on the side table, but she did not feel hungry. There were no mirrors, but she decided she did not want to look anyway.  She nearly tripped on her own hair when she went to the door of her room but decided she did not want to search the tower.  She hoped her hair would not get much longer.  Finally, back on her bed, she cried herself to sleep.

###

Almost a year passed before King Urbon called off the search and sent his condolences to Lord Bartholomew and Lady Brianna.  They, of course, were not for giving up.

Early on, Luckless, who could stand at the front door and find the exact spot where a copper had fallen in the labyrinth on Crete, sniffed the air and spun around so many times he got dizzy; but he could not find a trace of her.  “But she isn’t dead,” he insisted.  “I would know if she was.”

“She isn’t dead,” Grimly confirmed over and over before he disappeared.

“Gone to raise the troops for a good look around.”  Little White Flower told Brianna.  They had indeed become best of friends, and Brianna did not mind at all that Elsbeth and Margueritte had in Little White Flower something of an older sister.  In fact, she sometimes treated Little White Flower like a daughter, and the fee, whose own mother was long gone, responded willingly and with her whole heart.

One afternoon, they walked beside the oak in the triangle and sat on the bench Brianna had put there.  “I don’t know if they may find her, though.  It is like she has been taken right out of this world.”

Little White Flower stayed big as much as she could stand, and she had taken to wearing the clothes of a true lady and calling herself Jennifer.  Brianna thought to change the subject.

“And will you marry Father Aden?”  She asked.

Little White Flower began to cry, and Brianna instantly felt sorry to have brought it up.  “Without Margueritte that may never happen,” Little White Flower explained.  “It is one of the oldest rules of all; that the sprites are not to marry or even mingle with people without permission.”

“Oh. I see,” Brianna said.  “But we will find her, and soon.”  Brianna always sounded positive about that and Little White Flower, that is, Jennifer perked up a little.

“Oh, I hope so,” she said.

“I have explained all that to Charles.”  Roland yelled as he came crashing out of the house.

“But son.”  Lord Bartholomew argued right back.  “It will do no good getting yourself in trouble as a deserter.  We will send word as soon as there is word to send.”

Roland shook his head and would not listen.  “Charles has plenty of swords and can take care of himself.”

“Damn, stubborn.”  Lord Barth started but pulled up short when he noticed the women.  “Sorry, my dear.”

Brianna stood.  “Roland.  I believe Charles may need you for more than just your sword,” she suggested.

“That’s right.”  Bartholomew picked up on the thought.  “A good head is worth more than sharp steel alone.”

Roland paused, looked first at Lord Barth and then at Lady Brianna and settled finally on the fairy.  “I’m not for giving up,” Roland said plainly.  “How about you, Lady Jennifer.”

“No giving up.”  Little White Flower agreed, and her cry was completely forgotten and replaced by a grim determination.  “I know my Lady LeFleur has kept the little ones to task, lest the world suffer while we search for our Lady; but I think I may pay her one more visit.  I can’t possibly do much more praying right now.  My knees are almost worn out as it is.”  That was quite a speech for the little lady, but then, when the fee spent considerable time in their big size, they tended to behave more like ordinary people.

Brianna took and patted Little White Flower’s hand for support.

M3 Margueritte: Bodanagus

The young man set his helmet on the ground and brushed back his dark hair.  He looked over the battlefield and tried to figure out what they could do better next time.  The image of a woman flashed through his mind.  He felt instantly curious.  It wasn’t Isoulde.  This woman looked remarkably like himself, with the same dark hair, green eyes and round face.  She might have been his identical twin, except she was a woman, of course.

“Margueritte.”  He breathed the name before he got interrupted.  Then he moaned as he felt a great wrenching on his heart.

“Son!  What’s wrong?”  His father came up the rise.  “You have just won a great victory.  You should be celebrating.”  Father looked all smiles.

The image of Margueritte was gone from his mind as quickly as it had come.  “It would have been a greater victory if your chiefs followed orders,” he said, as he came out of the pain.

“Son.  You told the chiefs to hide in the woods.  I did not even know if they would do it.  Nervii do not hide from battle.  They meet it, head on.”  Father punched his fist into his gloved hand.  “But I must say, when they came pouring out on the side of the enemy, I never saw men quit and run so fast.”  He laughed his great big laugh, but the young man did not laugh with him.

“But father,” the young man spoke plainly.  “They came out on the flank too soon.  It should have been a slaughter.”

“Spoken like a true Nervii.”  The old man said and laid a hand gently on his son’s shoulder.  “But Bodanagus.  You are just sixteen.  You have plenty of time for slaughter but listen.  You are never too young to learn this.  Peace is always better than war.”

“Yes, father,” Bodanagus responded.  “Only in this case, too many escaped.  They may reform and try again.”

The old man patted his son’s shoulder and laughed again.  “We will just leap that chasm when we come to it, eh?  Isn’t that what you say?”

Bodanagus nodded, but both heads turned as a rider approached.  The rider leapt from the horse, let the horse run free, and came running up to the others.

“What news, Verginex?”  The old man asked.

“Father.”  Verginex spoke.  “They had archers cover their retreat.  We couldn’t get close enough to find the Roman.  The prisoners say he led them into a trap.  I would guess they won’t let the Roman live much longer.”

“I would guess the same,” the father said.  “Never underestimate the Belgae and their ability to hold a grudge and blame others for their misfortune.”

“Never underestimate the Romans,” Bodanagus said, half to himself.

“Eh?”  Father spoke up.

“You bloodied your sword.”  Verginex interrupted and pointed.

Bodanagus looked down at his sword and spoke matter of fact.  “I had to kill him.”

“Father!”  Verginex began to whine.  “You made me stay with the horses, but Bodanagus got to bloody his sword.”

“It was his plan,” Father said.

“I know.”  Verginex raised the whine up a notch.  “He gets the victory, besides.”

Father put his arm around his other son and began to lead him back down the hill, only he could not stop smiling.  “Son?”

“Tell Isoulde I’ll be along in a while,” Bodanagus said.

“And he gets the girl, too!”  Verginex complained.  “What do I get?”

“Son.  You get to be king one day.  Don’t begrudge your younger brother his talents.  Instead, as future king, you need to learn to take advantage of them.”

Verginex looked back once.  Bodanagus saluted.  Being king was something Bodanagus wanted no part of, and fortunately, Verginex knew that.

Bodanagus stood alone again, but he could not draw up the image of that woman, Margueritte.  Even trying to imagine what a female version of himself might look like did not help.  He felt ready to give it up when he got startled by a different woman, one with a bit more substance.  She stood a few feet away and stared at him, though how she managed to get so close to him without him noticing was beyond him.

“Not much of a battle,” the woman said.  She brushed back her long blond locks and gave her armor full view of the sun.  She looked very young, but at the same time there seemed something ancient about her.  “I can smell Zeus’ pawn from here.”

“The Roman.”  Bodanagus understood that much.  He took a wild stab at the truth.  “Don’t you belong on the other side of the Rhine?”

“Very good, Kairos,” she said.  “But I knew it was you when I couldn’t read your thoughts, young as you are.”

“You will have to help me with the rest, like a name,” Bodanagus said.

“Not important,” she said.  “Let us just say Aesgard is concerned about which way Rome may turn now that Carthage is dust and Syria is being beaten down.”

“My concern, also.  And the concern of Tara, I suspect,” he said.

“Quite,” she responded.  “Thus, I have a request.”

Bodanagus felt startled.  A goddess making a request?  Such a thing was unheard of.  “I am listening,” he said at last.

“That you keep Rome out of Germany,” she said.

“But I am not German.  I am Nervii.  I am Gallic.”

“Your mother is Frankish.  This is enough,”

Bodanagus paused to consider.  He knew some day he would have his hands full of Romans.  “I will do what I can.”

“Very well said, Kairos.  The gods never make promises.”  She smiled at her own, private thoughts.  “Perhaps this will help when the time comes.”  She gave him something.  Bodanagus felt the electricity of it course through his body.

“Thank you,” he said, just to be polite, though he had no idea what the gift might be.  She, however, had already vanished.

Too many women, he thought, but not the right one.  He decided to find Isoulde.  She was all he really needed or wanted.

M3 Margueritte: Backed into a Corner, part 3 of 3

The king spoke again.  “I know he is young, having only turned twelve on the day of his declaration, but he has been given to be page into the hands of our faithful Bedwin.”  Bedwin bowed to his king and prince.  Lady Brianna and Margueritte looked quickly at the knight.  Margueritte could not tell, but Lady Brianna became convinced in her heart that this man belonged to Owien, son of Bedwin.

“Thomas.”  The king called quickly for the bard, mindful of his son’s discomfort, though not looking very happy about it.  “Tell us a tale of kings of old.”  And Thomas did in story and song.

He told the story of mighty King Bodanagus and his great love, young Esoulde the fair.  In her day, she was said to be the fairest of women, but she loved her king, and he loved her as men and women rarely do.  All this happened ages and ages ago, when the kings and great Lords of Gaul fought forever amongst themselves like dogs fighting over a bone.  They never had peace in those days, and the people suffered in grief for their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons taken by war, and great was the poverty and oppression that ruled over them.  Still the great lords and kings fought in Gaul and king Bodanagus among the mighty.  He won great honor and glory in battle, but never did he see the agony of the people.

Finally, in Bodanagus’ day, the people could fight no longer.  Their spirits had fallen to the lowest, and there was no more strength in their bones.  It was then, by the three fingers of fate, that a man came from the south like an all-consuming fire, like the whirlwind.  It was the man named Julius Caesar.  None could withstand him and the power of Rome.  Those who took up arms against him were quickly put to the sword, and in almost no time all the Lords and kings of Gaul bowed knee to Caesar.  All, that is, but the Lord of the Nervii, King Bodanagus, the mighty.  He had never bowed knee to man nor beast, and he vowed himself to fight this Caesar and win great glory in battle.

When the two worthies met, they fought for three days and three nights without stop, first one giving way, and then the other.  At last, exhausted, they agreed to a truce of one month to rest and tend their wounds.  Never before had Caesar faced such a mighty foe as the king of the Nervii.  The outcome of it all remained uncertain.  But even as the truce began, fate intervened once again, for fate had decreed the victory for Caesar and became angry at the valor and might of the king.  Under the dark cover of the new moon, the arrow of fate struck and Esoulde the young and fair fell, declaring her love for her king with her last breath.  All at once, mighty King Bodanagus, warrior without equal, saw the world as if for the first time.  He wandered from the battlefield, saw the misery of the people, and his heart went out to them in his grief.  He took all the treasure, both his and his forefathers and placed it around Esoulde, that she might forever be covered in gold. And he built a mound around her and so cleverly disguised it, that to this day, though it contains treasure more than a thousand kings could bear, no one has ever found the place.  They say, though, it lays somewhere near the place where I was born, which is why this tale is so near to my heart.

It was in the darkest part of the night, right before dawn, when mighty King Bodanagus came to the tent of Caesar.  They say he asked only for peace, that his people be secure in their homes and have a chance to prosper without fear of threat from Rome or their neighbors, and in return he granted to Caesar all of Gaul, Albion to the Firth of Fourth and the coast of Iberia, even inland to a certain degree.  Caesar agreed, and Bodanagus released his army and turned the crown to his beloved brother.  Then he wandered through the world.

That he went to Rome we know for certain.  It is well known that it was Bodanagus who tutored the young Octavian in the ways of men and kings.  Octavian was the one who followed after Caesar and was called Augustus.  Some say King Bodanagus wandered all the way to Egypt where he refused to place the crown on Cleopatra’s head and prophesied only doom for Egypt and the Egyptians under the queen.  Much is uncertain, but in his day, it is known that he did many mighty deeds and saw many wonders.  It is also known that under the new moon, he never failed to shed some tears for Esoulde, the fair and young.

Margueritte fell to tears.  The story made her ever so uneasy, but the tears she could not help.  Her father’s words did not help, either.

“Cheeky man,” Lord Bartholomew said.  “Giving away Gaul and Albion and Iberia as well, as if they were his to give.”

“Oh hush,” Lady Brianna said.  “That was always one of my favorite stories.”

“For the young Lady.”  A servant came and held out a cup to Margueritte.  “Soft cider.”  The servant assured Lady Brianna, and Margueritte decided she was indeed thirsty after her cry.  She drained the cup, and then turned her attention to the festivities because Thomas had finished, and the torches were being extinguished.  The great double doors at the side of the courtroom were flung open and the king’s great fire could be seen ready to burn.  The king lit it by his own hand, and then Duredain began the interminable ceremony which included several sacrifices like two young rabbits thrown into the open flames.

Margueritte put her head down.  She could not watch.  Besides, her head felt a little like it was spinning.  She did not feel quite right.  Suddenly, she felt a strong hand guiding her away from the light and she thought it was Roland.  She felt grateful because she felt like she might get sick.  They went outside, and she got lifted into a cart.  Then she did get sick.  Then she passed out.

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MONDAY

A bit of the story of Bodanagus before Margueritte wakes up in a tower not even knowing her own name.  Until Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday, as always) Happy Reading.

 

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M3 Margueritte: Backed into a Corner, part 2 of 3

One little one did come up to Margueritte.  “We don’t hold with slavery neither,” he said, before he vanished into the woods.

“Of course,” Margueritte said.  That was one of her rules.  Then Roland got there to help her up while a whole crowd had gathered because of her cry.  They all laughed hard, with the great guffaws of her father sounding out above all.  Finnian, to preserve what remained of his dignity, pulled up his pants, only to hear them tear at the seam.  He had a smiley face painted on the butt of his slacks, and yes, the sign pinned to the back of his jerkin said, “Kick me”, in three languages.

Margueritte still giggled when she reached the inn to change for the night’s festivities.

The king’s house seemed festive, but on entering, she felt the air of tension underneath it all.  They had music, and though a couple of tunes were danceable, for the most part they were not.  Margueritte felt sure it was deliberate so as not to encourage the queen.  She thought it must have been nearly impossible for the musicians to fill a night with Breton music to which one could not dance.  They had food, also in abundance, and spread around numerous tables where one could help themselves whenever the urge might strike.

All felt wonderful, and Margueritte found herself quite shy despite being with Roland who became very gregarious and outgoing.  He seemed to know a lot of people for having been in town for all of a day and a half, and the ones he did not know seemed to know him.  They mostly knew Margueritte as well, but in part her embarrassment came from being called such a sweet girl and, “My how you’ve grown,” and “You’re quite the young lady now.”  She knew she was only fifteen, but they did not have to treat her that way.  When she had just about had enough, her mother became her refuge and for a minute she wished she was back at the inn with Elsbeth and Squire Tomberlain.

Roland, for all his desire to be with her, kept so easily being dragged away by the men.  She told him, at last, to go and enjoy, and he did until the time came and the chamberlain called for quiet.  Roland stood beside Margueritte when the people attended the king.  The king sat in his place on the dais, and the queen beside him, but a bit further away and a bit lower than before.  Finnian filled the gap to the king’s left, and at the moment, he looked around the room with his hardest stare in case anyone should be tempted to smile in his direction.  Duredain stood to the king’s right, and he leaned over to whisper and the king then remembered.

“Gentlemen,” the king said.  “My lords.”  He paused.  “And ladies.”  He added.  “I have received correspondence from Charles, Aid decamp of the Franks.  He has suggested that Lord Ahlmored may pose a threat to our fair country.”  The king laughed and most of the Breton lords laughed with him.  Ahlmored, most not knowing him dead, had become the butt of quite a few jokes since his sudden departure.  The king waved for silence.  “Nevertheless, Lord Durin has volunteered to take a ride to the south coast a week hence.  When he returns, having sighted no African sails, I will return correspondence that we have indeed had our eyes on the coast.”  Most of the Lords snickered again as Lord Durin stepped briefly into the center and waved to all.

Duredain whispered in the king’s ear and the king waved him off, like he did not need to be reminded.  “Now as for this dragon,” he began, and many in the court smiled but those who knew became still and serious.  “I am not convinced there is such a beast.  I believe rather it is a petty chief or robbers, cleverly disguised.  Dragon stories are all around these days what with Beowulf and the stories around George the Saxon.  I say, we leave the dragon stories to the Danes and Germans.  Let us be more sensible about these matters, and let my petty chieftains settle their own squabbles as they see fit.”

“But I’ve seen it,” one man’s voice rang out.

“No, my Lord,” the king countered.  “I am not sure what you saw was really what it was.  I did say, cleverly disguised intentions.  Mark me, someone is growing rich off your delusions.  You must find the real culprit, and not bother me with such nonsense.”

“But.”

“Enough!”  The king’s rage flared for a moment as he slapped the arms of his chair and rose to his feet.  He calmed and sat.  “I’ll not speak of it anymore, as it will merely distract from the real joy of this day.”  With this, the queen, even in her lowly position, sat up a little straighter in her chair.

“Judon,” the king called.  If someone stood in the wings, they did not respond.  “David!”  The king tried again, and slowly a young boy poked his head around the curtain.  One could almost feel the push his nanny gave him as he stumbled, recovered, and walked slowly like one overawed by the gallant lords and ladies that surrounded him.  At last the king grabbed the boy around the middle and pretended affection.  The boy did not resist, but he never took his eyes off the crowd.  He looked scared, and almost like a child who could cry at any moment, though surely, he was too old for that.

“His mother calls him David,” the king said patently ignoring the queen.  “I objected at first, but I understand this David was a great king in his day, and a valiant warrior.  His name, though, is Judon and by royal decree three weeks gone, Wednesday, I have declared him my son and heir.”  Many present were not surprised, and of those who were, most were accepting.  A short round of applause went up.  Margueritte thought it very short.

M3 Margueritte: Backed into a Corner, part 1 of 3

Chief Brian took a deep breath.  “Please understand.  I love our people and I expect the witch’s plans will not be in their best interest.  I assume, though I may be wrong, that you may have the power to undo her wicked scheme, whatever it may actually be.”

Margueritte paused once more to consider.  “But how do you know I am not also a witch, maybe worse than the other?” she asked.  Brian looked at her again, briefly before he looked away once more.  He seemed to laugh.

“Because I have seen you and know you, and your mother and family as well.  If there is anything in you, it is purity, not wickedness.  You have the Christ in you.  And you have shown no signs of wanting to take over anything or bend anything to your nefarious will.  Why, you are no more witch than I am.”

“But what of the king’s left ear?  Surely, he has some sense there,” Margueritte said, but Brian sighed.

“Alas, his left ear is occupied by Finnian McVey, and that Irishman is only in it for himself.  Lord knows his agenda, except he is nobody’s fool, not even for the witch. But you see, now, whether the king turns to the left or to the right it will not go well for us, not well at all.”

Margueritte had a lot to think about, though she was not sure there was anything she could do.  She hardly had time to think, though, because as she stood to walk, she found herself cornered by Finnian McVey himself.

“Young Margueritte,” he said and turned up his thin lips in what Margueritte imagined he supposed was a friendly smile.  “A weard, if you would be so kind.”

“Of course,” Margueritte said, curious enough after what the village chief just told her.

“Over here, if you don’t mind,” he said and took her by the elbow and lead her to the edge of the woods.  “What I have to ask is delicate and I would not have untoward ears listening in.

Margueritte extracted her arm before she was pushed into the actual woods, but she found herself well within the shade of the trees and her back to one great tree, while Finnian blocked her way back into the light.  “I am sure there is nothing I might tell you which is worth such secrecy,” she said.

“Ah, but there is.”  He pressed his hands together and put his fingers to his lips as if deciding exactly how to phrase things.  He stepped closer, and she took a small step back, and so he moved her more surely into the shadows.

“I have it on authority that around your home there are certain powers in the world and spirits of the darkness.”

“Then your authority is wrong.”  Margueritte said quickly even as she wondered who else knew the supposed secret.  “For I would entertain no darkness around my house, and neither would my mother nor my father who is Count of the Frankish Mark, lest you have forgotten.”

“Light and dark,” Finnian said with a step to force her back.  “These are relative terms.  They say there is a god, Abraxas, who bears the burden for both.  Of that, I would not know, but of the cratures that surround you, I am certain,” he drawled.

“Sir,” Margueritte said.  “I must return to the grounds before the others miss me.”  She was not really with others apart from Roland, Tomberlain, Owien and her father, and they were engaged in the games, though Finnian did not need to know that.  She started to walk, but he put out his arm and stopped her steps.

“Not yet,” he said.  “For I also know these powers worship the ground you walk on and will do whatever you ask.”

“Sir.  Even if that were true, it would be in the asking,” Margueritte said.  “Your spirit belongs to you and for that only you are accountable.  Would it be any different with any other spirit?  I think not.  Whatever you have heard, each one belongs to him or herself, not to me.”

“Ah, but if you were to ask, you could give one to me and then I could see what is what,” he said, and Margueritte took two steps back on that note.

“I am not one to endorse slavery, especially to the likes of you.”

His hand came very close to her face, but he withheld his slap.  “I am not asking you, missy,” he said instead.  “I am telling you to give me one of the little people, one with power in this earth, and you will, soon, if you know what is good for you.”

“Never.”  Margueritte charged toward her freedom, but Finnian caught her and dragged her deeper into the woods.  Her eyes yelled for help, but her mouth got covered by his hand.  She dreaded the taste but bit him all the same.  He yelped and she got out one “Help!” before he hit her, hard.  The smile appeared long gone from Finnian’s face as his thin lips turned down in a growl.

Finnian let go suddenly when a little one ran up his back.  He giggled, even as he caught something out of the corner of his eye.  He spun round and round and tried to get a good look, but the fee moved too fast and stayed always just in his peripheral vision.  When he fell over from dizziness, an impish lady gave him a wet, slobbering kiss right before the two below pulled on the string that held up his pants.  He fell, face down into the puddle of mud, not there a minute ago.  Finnian got up, angry, but his pants stayed around his ankles and there came a great roar, like a lion got right behind him, though it came thundering out of the littlest dwarfish creature.  Finnian screamed for his life and ran.  He tripped several times because of his pants as he ran back to the ground of the games.  Margueritte fell-down, laughing.

M3 Margueritte: Roland, part 3 of 3

Roland paid the gypsy woman before Margueritte could speak, but the woman’s practiced eye caught her reluctance.

“Little unbeliever?”  The woman spoke better Frankish than Breton.  “Do not be afraid.  Though the world is far greater than you could ever imagine, full of sprites and demons of all shapes and sizes, you need not fear them.  They will not touch you here.”  The suggestive speech had been designed to stir up anticipation and a little fright, even as the woman said, do not be afraid.  Margueritte did not get taken.  Besides, she had friends in all shapes and sizes, so she heard nothing new in what the woman said.

“Lord.”  She took Roland’s hand and he looked to Margueritte with a most silly look.  “You have a strong hand.  I see you have already known battle, but many more will follow after the first.  You will be well renowned and well respected and win great honor and praise for your deeds.  Great courage I see, and even kings will seek your counsel.  Such is a future to be desired.”

Margueritte took a breath.  The woman told him what she undoubtedly thought he wanted to hear.  Perhaps she was safe.  Perhaps the woman was merely a fake.  Good grief, Margueritte thought.  The woman could have said that much just by looking at his clothes.

“Five children.  No.  Only four will live, but they will follow you in honor, especially your two sons.  Great are the days ahead for you, and this, then is your young Lady?”

And why should a fortune teller have to ask such a thing?  Margueritte wondered.  The woman reached for her hand, but Marguerite still felt reluctant.  “Go ahead,” Roland said, quietly, so as not to break the spell.

At last Margueritte put her hand out.  The woman looked and turned the hand over and back again.  She reached for Margueritte’s other hand and stood, knocked over the stool she sat on, her eyes wide and her look far away.  “It is the one,” she said.  “It is,” and she spoke for a minute in a language neither Roland, Margueritte, nor Thomas had ever heard, and then she leaned in close and breathed garlic and onions in Margueritte’s face.  “The curse,” she said in her breath.  “The curse!”  She screamed and hurried out the back of the tent.

Margueritte felt in shock and near tears, not knowing why.  Roland picked her up by the arm and with Thomas they left that area.

“What could have come over that woman?”  Roland wondered out loud.

“I can’t imagine.  I’ve never seen the like,” Thomas said.

“And she was doing such a marvelous job of telling us just what we wanted to hear.”  Roland said.  Margueritte looked up and felt glad he had not been taken in.

“Just what I was thinking,” she sniffed, and took out her handkerchief to wipe her nose and dab her eyes.

“Strange, that,” Thomas said.  “But I would not worry about what a gypsy says.  They are a strange breed altogether.”

“Breedies.”  Margueritte remembered what Goldenrod had called them, and they went back to the inn where Thomas left them to attend to the king’s table.

Margueritte did not sleep well that night.  She never did just before that time of the month.  She felt glad that the morning would be filled with races, and the afternoon filled with games.  Likely, she would see little of Roland until that evening.  She felt excited about that, because for the first time she would be attending the king’s feast instead of waiting in the cold and dark inn for the fire to return.  With that thought she slept a little.  She still got up in the morning before most.

Lord Bartholomew won the race that year, and handily.  Margueritte did her best to congratulate her father, but he said it was a hollow victory since there was no Gray Ghost to beat.  In the afternoon there were indeed games, and she was thrilled to see Roland do so well at so many things.  Normally, she would have been at the fair with Elsbeth and Maven, but this year she decided it would be best if she simple sat quietly.  She would have done so, cheering on her quarterback, as she thought of him, and lamenting the fact that she was not more the beautiful cheerleader type, except for two interruptions.

The first came in the form of fat Brian, the village chief who sat beside her on the bench and looked over the field where they were pitching stones and trees.  She just started wondering if Roland might think the Breton went in for some strange sports when the chief spoke.

“Have you seen Curdwallah?” he asked.  It seemed a very strange question.

“No,” Margueritte said.

“Neither have I,” Brian responded.  “But you can be sure she is around.”  He got silent for a moment, watched the games and pretended that he was not talking to anyone at all.  Margueritte’s curiosity finally got the better of her.

“Why do you ask?”

“Because Duredain the king’s druid and Canto, my own druid, are both completely under her spell, as far as I can tell.  Canto I can handle, but Duredain has the king’s right ear, you know.”

“Why do you say they are under her power like that?”  Margueritte asked.

“Because they do not seem themselves.  Because they are mouthing words I have heard her speak.  Because that woman is a witch in the worst possible terms,” he said.  Another moment came of watching before Margueritte spoke again.

“So why are you telling me this?”

Brian looked at her for the first time, but only briefly.  He looked away again before he spoke.  “Because I know you have some connection with the powers in this world, yourself.”  He put his hand up quickly to stop her mouth and then pretended to wipe his chin.  “I have my sources.  I know there are spirits hanging around your home and I know they answer to you.  I have seen things through the touch of your own hand, in case you have forgotten.”

Margueritte looked down at her lap and worried her hands.

************************

MONDAY

Margueritte gets Backed into a Corner.  Don’t Miss It.  Until then, Happy Reading.

*

M3 Margueritte: Roland, part 2 of 3

Roland looked up and Marguerite turned, both having rather silly smiles, just as Hammerhead stuck all six potatoes in his mouth at once and chewed and announced.  “These are good to eat.”  Margueritte barely stopped him before he disgorged his chewed bits into the good bin.

She thanked the little ones and asked them to see if Luckless or Tomberlain might need their assistance.

“Always glad to be of service,” Grimly said, and Roland rolled up his sleeves and helped.

“That gnome still has a lot of imp in him,” Margueritte said, and that sparked a good discussion, but the kiss they both thought about never got mentioned.

When the evening came. Marta came to Margueritte’s room where she helped brush Margueritte’s hair.  That near black hair, when taken down, now fell to the floor which made it more than five feet long.  Marta had begun to help her care for it, though she also bore the brunt of nearly every other duty in the house.  Margueritte was grateful, and they were both rather giddy that night, though Margueritte became a bit miffed by bedtime.  She could hardly get a word in about Roland.  Marta kept talking about her Weldig, the potter, whom she called, Mister Potter.  And every time Margueritte did mention something, it only reminded Marta of something else.  Marta was not long for this world, Margueritte reminded herself, and she reconciled herself to having good dreams, which she did.

By the time they reached Vergenville that next day, Margueritte felt rather grumpy.  She knew what was going on, physically, but she thought the timing rather poor.  While she waited at the inn for Roland to deliver his letters to the king, all the talk around her was of the dragon.  The people hoped that now that the king had come from his western court, something might be done about this scourge.

“I heard it was as big as a tower,” one said.

“Big as the whole village,” another countered.

“I heard it ate a whole fishing boat in one gulp, fisherman and all,” one said.

“A whole fishing fleet,” yet another spoke.

“It’s big, but not that big,” Lord Bartholomew turned to the table.

“You’ve seen it then,” the baron concluded.

“I have,” Sir Barth nodded, and stopped Margueritte’s hand.  “No,” he said.

“Father.”  She complained, rolled her eyes, but acquiescing in the end.  She contented herself with unfermented cider, though she thought she ought to be able to try the harder stuff.

“Bartholomew.”  Lady Brianna called from the doorway.  Owien stood there, and Elsbeth was going, too.  Bartholomew stood and downed his drink at once.

“Coming,” he said.  “Time for the Fens.”

“But I thought the king said you were not supposed to do that anymore,” Baron Bernard questioned, with a smile.

Bartholomew shrugged.  “Young Owien has so been looking forward to handing out the soap, I hate to disappoint the boy,” he said.

“You’re not going this year?”  The Baron asked after they left.  Margueritte shook her head.  “Oh, that’s right.  Your young man.”

“I bet he gets to drink the real stuff,” she said, in an attempt to not turn red at the thought of her young man.

“You had better wish he doesn’t like the stuff,” the baron suggested, as Constantus came crashing in the door, all but swearing.

“Don’t bother,” Baron Bernard said.  “Bartholomew’s gone to the Fens.”

Constantus calmed down instantly, got a drink and took a seat with his friend.  “That dragon got my Gray Ghost.”

“Ah!”  The Baron smiled, knowingly.

“It didn’t.”  Margueritte felt concerned.  Constantus looked up and patted her hand reassuringly.

“It was the Gray Ghost number two,” he said.  “And really too old to be racing again.  The truth is Gray Ghost number three is not ready.  Still too young.”

“Too young?”  The Baron asked.

“Yes, and not a true gray in any case.”

“Too bad,” Margueritte said.  “Father has been breeding Arabians to get a winner, and now he’ll never know.”  They all had a little chuckle at that thought.

Not long after that, Roland returned with the bard, Thomas of Evandell.  Margueritte slid down the bench so Roland could sit comfortably beside her, and then he, the bard, the baron and Lord Constantus had a grand old time all around her.

At last, Marguerite sighed, and Roland got the hint.  “I think it would be good to see this fair of yours, Thomas,” he said.  He rose-up and put his empty tankard which had been full of ale on the bar counter, and Thomas rose with him.  “And would my lady like to accompany us?”  Roland added.

Margueritte rose immediately.  She said nothing but merely took Roland’s arm, and then Thomas’ arm as well for balance.  Together, they went into the market fair.  Thomas said, “Well I’ll be,” more than once, because as long as he held Margueritte’s arm, he saw what she and Roland saw.  Every little one, every sprite, elf, dwarf and fee in the market area, though otherwise invisible to the people, came and paid their respects to the girl before they began to pilfer their little bits.  Odd, though, that Thomas was not truly amazed, nor the least bit frightened by it all.  He said he could not tell all those stories for all of those years without believing at least some of them.  He did ask, however, why they could see the sprites when no one else could and why the little spirits were so careful to pay their respects to Margueritte.

“Isn’t it obvious?” Roland teased.  “Clearly my lady’s charms surpass those of other, ordinary mortals.”

Margueritte struggled and at last produced the littlest burp.  “Excuse me, Gentlemen,” she said, and Roland fell over for laughing.

When they came to the end of the royal fair, they found a small gypsy camp had been set up.  Margueritte thought it odd that there were no little ones among the gypsies, but she said nothing to the others.  She felt reluctant to enter the area herself, but with some persuasion she came along, and the first place they came to, was a tent with an older woman who claimed she could tell fortunes in a man’s palm.

M3 Margueritte: Roland, part 1 of 3

Three days before Samhain in that same year, Roland came riding into the Triangle, much to the surprise of everyone, especially Margueritte.  “I was invited.”  He professed and pulled Margueritte’s embroidered handkerchief from his pocket.  Lady Brianna just smiled and welcomed him, regally.  Bartholomew, though glad to see the young man again, looked at his daughter with a different eye.  He knew nothing about it.

“Are you returning my token then?”  Margueritte asked later.

“Not a chance,” Roland said.  “I’ll let you know, but I suspect you may never get it back.”

Margueritte hardly knew what to say, but the joy got written all over her face.

At supper, Roland explained his presence.  He was sent by Charles with letters to Urbon, king of Amorica.  After leaving the Breton Mark and on returning to Paris with Father Stephano, he dug up the letters Bartholomew and Baron Bernard wrote over the last several years.  He read all about the Moslem Ambassador and wished to convey his congratulations on Urbon having the foresight to throw the man out.  The letters discussed at some length the incursions of the Moors into Aquitaine and suggested that Urbon keep a careful watch on the coast, knowing the coastline to be full of nooks and crannies where a raiding party might easily find a foothold.  Should he need the assistance of the Franks, Charles assured Urbon of his friendship and support.  And that was about it.

“Such letters could have been carried by courier.  Nothing secret there to move you out of your comforts in Paris,” Lord Bartholomew said.

“Actually, I volunteered to bring them,” he said.  Margueritte looked at her food and her heart fluttered.  “I wanted to see how Tomberlain was getting along with his swordplay.”

She kicked Roland this time, and she meant to.

Sadly, for her, Roland did seem to spend a lot of time with her father, Tomberlain, and even Owien.  They rode once for an hour or so.  They had a picnic on the second day, but Elsbeth came along and Goldenrod distracted everyone.  They did walk by the stream, but not much got said.  It seemed like they both became suddenly very shy.  Then Margueritte had her chores to do before they could leave for Vergenville, and she did her best to see them done.

Margueritte worked in the barn, in the potato bins, when Roland came unexpectedly.  She wore her apron.  Her hands were dirty, and she even had a streak of dirt across one cheek put there by the back of her hand used to wipe away the sweat.  “Oh, Sir.”  She started to turn away.

“Oh stop.”  He said in her same tone.  “My mother and sisters sorted potatoes all the time, and likely more than enough for a lifetime.”

“It is important, you know,” Margueritte said.

“Absolutely.  One rotten one can spoil the whole bin.”  He looked up at Grimly, whom he genuinely liked, and Goldenrod for whom he had the deepest love and affection, and Hammerhead, whom he at least respected, even if he still found it hard to look at the fellow.  They lounged around on the hay while their mistress sweated at her labor.  “Say, though,” he said.  “Wouldn’t it be better to let these little ones of yours sort the potatoes?  You and I could maybe walk again by the stream before your brother and father find me.”

“Oh, I don’t know if that would be such a good idea.”  Margueritte started.

“Why sure.”  Grimly jumped up.  “We would love to sort the taters.  I’m getting bored just sitting around anyway.”

“I can help.”  Goldenrod assured them all.

“Er, okay,” Hammerhead said, not quite sure what was being asked.

Margueritte explained while she wiped her hands as clean as she could on her apron.  “You just need to go through them one by one.  The good ones go here.”  She pointed to the empty bin.  “Any that are especially soft or if they are rotten, or even if you are not sure if they are good to eat, put them in the bucket.  Oh, I don’t know.”  She said in one breath, turned to Roland, and nearly bumped into him.  He put his arm over her shoulder as he spoke.

“We can stay a minute to see they get started,” he said.

Margueritte reached both hands up to hold his and make sure his arm stayed around her shoulder, but she said nothing.

“Now, if I’ve got it, the good ones go in the bin and the rotten ones in the bucket.  Come on, then.”  Grimly climbed up on the bin.  Each little one took a potato.  At least Goldenrod tried to take one, but she could not quite lift it.  Hammerhead took about six by accident and stared at them in utter uncertainty.  Grimly made up for the other two by instantly going from one to the next.

“No good, no good.  Definitely no good.  Nope. No way.  Not a chance.”

“Ugh!”  Goldenrod tugged with all her little might.

“Nope. No good. Ooo, this one looks like Herbert Hoover.”

“Let me see.”  Goldenrod left off her tug of war.

Hammerhead, still unmoved, stared at his spuds.

“Who is Herbert Hoover?”  Goldenrod asked.

“I don’t know, but this looks like him.”  He looked at Goldenrod and they spoke in unison.  “No good.”  The bucket started filling rapidly and not one was yet in the bin.

“Nope. Nope. Nope.”  Grimly started shoveling toward the bucket and Goldenrod got back to tugging until Grimly made enough of a dent for her potato to roll and take her with it with a “Weee!”

Margueritte’s sides were splitting with laughter, and Roland laughed right with her until she turned toward him, and their eyes met.  The laughter vanished in an instant and he drew her up to him and held her tight.  Their lips touched, soft and warm, and they might have remained that way for some time if Grimly had not whistled.

“Woohoo!”

“Whaty?”  Goldenrod said and got her little head above the edge of the bin.

M3 Margueritte: Guests, part 3 of 3

Once in bed, Marguerite stayed awake half the night, convinced that Roland must think her the most backward, provincial child on the earth.  She had no idea how the ladies of Paris were.  What did they wear?  What carried their conversation?  Their behavior?  Were courtly manners the same as her table manners, or was she hopeless?  How did they wear their hair and their faces?  Poor Margueritte felt miserably filled with unanswerable questions.

She overslept in the morning.  The sun topped the horizon when Elsbeth woke her.  She had to dress quickly for the ride to Lady Lavinia’s and her Wednesday Latin.  Charles and Roland would be going with them, of course, and that caused her to pause at her little mirror to be sure her face and lips were at least as good as she could make them.  By the time she got downstairs, she only had time for a quick bowl of yesterday’s bread crumbled into milk, as was the common breakfast among the Breton.  Then she went straight to the barn where Elsbeth already sat up on her horse.

Margueritte breathed when she saw her own mare saddled.  Meanwhile, Sir Roland checked the straps on his horse and Charles’, as well as the one Bartholomew sent in the hope that Father Stephano could be convinced to return to Paris.  She also saw the mixed Arabian they would be taking.  A present, Margueritte gathered.

“Sir Roland.”  She got his attention.

“Margueritte.”  He looked up and brightened from his work.  “And just Roland, please.”  Marguerite turned to her own horse, embarrassed once more because she had forgotten.  “And where is that Goldenrod of yours this morning?”  Roland asked.

“Flitting hither and yon,” Margueritte said.  “That is what she always says.”

“She doesn’t hang around much.”  Elsbeth spoke up.  “And never comes in the house, she sets Father to sneezing so bad.  He has the allergies, you know.”

“A condition I am glad not to share,” Roland said.

“But where is Sir Charles?” Margueritte asked in return.

“My Lord is in the chapel with your parents, your brother, Father Aden, and that most remarkably beautiful creature.  Jennifer, I believe.”

“That isn’t her real name.”  Elsbeth spoke up.  “It’s Little White Flower.”

“What an unusual name.”  Roland said, and with a thought he pointed to Margueritte.  “One of hers?”  Elsbeth nodded.  “I suspected,” Roland concluded.

“She came from the other side of the world,” Elsbeth said.

“As far as Cathay?”  Roland asked offhandedly.

“America,” Elsbeth said.  “That’s what Marguerite calls it.  She says the world is round, like a ball, and all the land from here to Cathay does not even fill a quarter of the ball.  She says most of the earth is covered by oceans, but far over the Atlantique there is another world unknown to us which she calls America, not Amorica, mind you.”

“I see you found your tongue today,” Margueritte said to her sister.

“Yes.”  Elsbeth said.  “Here it is.”  She stuck it out and Roland laughed as Owien came outside and mounted his much-improved horse.

“Have you met Owien, Elsbeth’s boyfriend?”  Margueritte asked, in a moment of cattiness.

“He is not,” Elsbeth shouted and spurred her horse some ways out into the triangle.

“I am not,” Owien protested as well, but his eyes followed Elsbeth all the way.

Roland really grinned then.  “Sisters,” he said.  “How I have missed my sisters.”

Not long after that, Charles, Bartholomew and Lady Brianna came from the chapel.  The two Franks who escorted them in those days, having already arrived and taken to their mounts, waited with Elsbeth and Owien out front.  Margueritte mounted and joined her sister.  Tomberlain and Roland followed.  Lady Brianna gave her usual advice about being careful on the road and to keep their eyes open for the dragon.  Then Charles paused to shake Lord Bartholomew’s hand and he, and a servant to bring the spare horse and the mixed Arabian completed the party, and they were off.

It took two hours, a gentle ride to the home of Constantus, and they normally planned to arrive by ten; but with this crew and their slightly later start, ten–thirty was the best to be hoped for.

The two guards lead the way followed by Roland and Charles.  As most of the way was only suited to two abreast, Margueritte rode beside her brother.  Owien and Elsbeth straggled along in the rear, followed only by the man with the horses in train.  Owien felt honored to be given the rear-guard position, as he called it.  Elsbeth rode most of the way doing her best to ignore the boy.

The only time Roland dropped back, Tomberlain pushed in and Margueritte found herself riding beside Sir Charles.  They passed pleasantries at first before Charles surprised her.

“Roland is quite taken with you, you know,” he said.

She could not help taking one quick look back before answering.  “And I with him,” she admitted, and then covered her tracks.  “What young girl would not be taken with such a brave and handsome knight?”

Charles said nothing, so Margueritte went on.  She talked about her Latin, being fluent in both the Frank and Breton languages, and even a little Greek that she learned from father Aden.  She spoke of spinning, weaving, sewing and pointed out the tapestry that covered the wall right by the front door of the Manor House, if he saw it.  That was hers.  She told him she played the harp and could hold a tune well enough.  Then she paused and thought she might be bragging a little like a man, and perhaps that was unbecoming.

“You’ll forgive me,” Charles said.  “I am not really conversant with the conversation of women and maidenly virtues but do go on.”

“Oh, no, Sir,” she said.  “In fact, I just remembered a rather serious question I wished to ask you.”  She changed the subject.  “It seems to me if the Saracens found an easy raid and grew rich in Aquitaine, they may test the waters again, do you think?”

He looked at her and cocked one brow.  “I think that very thing,” he said.

“And is there no help we can send to the people there to shore up their defenses?” she asked.

“My Father won’t have it,” Charles answered straight.  “Duke Odo of Aquitaine will have to see to his own.”

“But why, if we have been such good friends with the people there?”  Margueritte asked, not meaning to press, but to give the man a chance to talk on more familiar ground.

He looked at her again and nearly tipped his hat before he spoke.  “Our king is so enamored with Christian piety he spends most of his days locked away in his apartments.  He has lost touch with the real world and has left the running of the kingdom in the hands of my father, Pepin, who is himself getting old and stuck in his thinking.  This is not a good thing, because some have filled in the gaps, as it were, and most of those others cannot see past their noses or their purses, and they see no reason to help anyone but themselves.”

“Ragenfrid,” Margueritte nodded.

“Among others,” Charles affirmed.

Then Roland pushed up again, and Margueritte felt forced to fall back beside her brother, and there they rode until they reached the house.

The home of Constantus, built in the Roman style with a great fountain in the central courtyard, had rooms all around, upstairs and down.  This, of itself, did not appear unusual since the Romans had ruled over the land for some five hundred years.  What was odd in the household was the fact that Constantus insisted that nothing be spoken there except Latin.  In fact, the letter he wrote to the Pope in Rome concerning questions about certain finer theological points, so impressed the Pope in its’ perfect grammar, construct and style, the Pope felt moved to send Father Stephano all the way to Brittany.  Now, Charles and Roland waited in the courtyard while Father Stephano got fetched.  The girls, Tomberlain and Owien retired to their room to wait Lady Lavinia and the beginning of their lessons before the noonday meal.  Among other quirks, Constantus had never quite taken to doors, and so many of the rooms off the walkway were closed only by a curtain.  Margueritte could not help overhearing the conversation in the courtyard, though she did not have to listen.

“I am not sure I approve or disapprove of your sentiments.”  Charles said to Roland.  “She is certainly bright, and will no doubt make a fine woman and a fine wife when she is older.  But you must remember she is still quite young.”

“She will grow,” Roland said.

“Yes, but she is also a farm girl, a county maiden, and not a true member of the genteel court.”

“And I am a farm boy, lest you forget.  I grew up on the Saxon Mark,” Roland countered.

“Yes, but she is cute now, however she will age fast in the country.  Soon enough she will look haggard and quite likely fat.”

“Not so,” Roland countered again.  “I have seen her mother do not forget, and she is a very striking woman for her age.”

“Yes,” Charles said.  “I will grant you that one.  But still, you must be sure.  This is not the kind of girl you toy with.  For her it will be marriage or nothing.”

“I have had enough of toys,” Roland said, and they wandered to another quarter of the court and their conversation got lost.  Margueritte hid her face in her hands.  The boys stayed quiet enough, and kindly showed no great expression on their faces, but she was not about to look at Elsbeth.

In a short while, Lady Lavinia came to fetch them, to take them to an upstairs room.  Father Stephano had also arrived with Constantus and the pleasantries and introductions seemed about over when Margueritte arrived at the staircase where she lingered behind.

“You were at the queen’s birthday celebration when the cake was set out, were you not?”  Charles asked the priest.

“I was indeed,” the priest said.  “And I did see the chamberlain sprinkle the dead flies on the cake.  He told me he did it because of some offence the queen had done to him, and I will swear to this before the king.”

“Lover’s quarrel,” Roland quipped, and Charles tapped Roland’s arm to shut his mouth.

“I appreciate your help,” Charles said.

Father Stephano looked to his host.  “The king kept me all but prisoner in Paris for six months before he allowed me to finish my journey, and though I have not been here but a few days, I will set the record straight and pray for a safe return to this haven.”

“And I will pray for you,” Constantus said.

Margueritte moved then, by she knew not what.  She took the clean handkerchief out from the sleeve where she kept it and stepped toward the men who naturally paused in their talk for the lady.  “Sir Roland,” she said.  “I have enjoyed our conversation.  Please take this to remember me.”  She handed him the handkerchief.  “Perhaps you may wish to return it to me someday, as you please.”  She curtsied quickly and mouthed the word, “Gentlemen.”  Then she turned and hurried up the stairs to where the others waited before Roland could respond.

In the upstairs room, she nearly fainted for thinking of what she had done.  To her surprise, Elsbeth took her arm and smiled broadly for her sake.  She really was a good sister.

************************

MONDAY

Margueritte has sweet dreams, and is surprised to find that dreams can come true when Roland returns for a visit, Next time.  Happy Reading.

*

M3 Margueritte: Guests, part 2 of 3

“My Lords,” Roland said as he rose.  “Lady Brianna.  Will you pardon me?  I had better see to the horses before I retire.”

“I will help Maven with the dishes,” Margueritte said, knowing it would let her outside as Roland was going outside.  Then her father had to ruin it all.

“Don’t mind the ogre if he’s back.  He really is a nice fellow.”

“Oh, yes.”  Roland had forgotten and needed to think a minute.

“It’s all right,” Tomberlain said.  “I’ll go with you and help.”

“Thank you.”  Roland stole a glance from Margueritte.

Margueritte took out the plates, knives and cups and set them in the water, not too gently.  Marta came back in time to help and ended up doing most of it because Maven’s back hurt.

“What’s the matter missy?”  Lolly asked, shooting for the core.  “You like that hunk of a young man, don’t you?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Margueritte said, sounding ever so frustrated.  “Tomberlain won’t let me get a word in edgewise.”

“There, there.”  Lolly said in her most motherly fashion.  “You don’t want to go falling in love, anyway.  All that will get you is the three “H’s.”

“What are those?”  Margueritte fell right into it.

“Heartaches, Headaches, and Husbands,” Lolly said.  “And that last, ungrateful, self-centered child is the cause of most of the first two.”

“I would like a husband.”  Marta spoke up from her work and honestly tried to join the conversation.

“Yes, Marta.”  Margueritte got curious.  “Why aren’t you married.”

“No one ever asked me,” she said.

Maven got up then, grinning, and came forward, rubbing her hands together.  “Well, well, well,” she said.

“Now, now.”  Lolly tapped her cooking spoon tenderly against Maven’s hands and eyed Marta with a strange look.  “I think you need to be leaving this one to the experts.”

Margueritte knew Marta would not be long for this world.  “I gotta go,” she said, and she slipped off toward the barn, but could not imagine a reason to go closer than the old oak.  Think, think.  She said to herself, but it was no good.  The moon came up.  The stars twinkled and she knew, like Elsbeth, she ought to be in bed.  At last, when she could think of no excuse to wander into the barn, and indeed, she felt she could hardly think at all, she settled on returning to the house and to her sleep.  She got near the door, however, and heard a word.

“Hello.”  The word startled her.  “That brother of yours is hard to lose.”

“Thick head, good heart,” Margueritte said, smiled and suddenly felt very giddy.

Roland smiled his perfect smile and it made Margueritte turn her head, slightly.

“What?”  Roland wondered.  “You should not hide your smile.”

“But my smile is not perfect like your own,” she said, honestly.  “You see?”  She showed him where the crooked was.

“Who would notice?” he said and reached to touch her, as if looking, but let his fingers linger on her lips.  Margueritte looked deeply into his blue eyes before she pulled back ever so little.  “All night I thought you had something to ask me.”

“Oh, yes.”  Margueritte had to pause to remember.  “I wanted to know if you really saved Lord Charles’ life.”

“Yes,” he said.  “I suppose I did.  But I grew up on the Saxon Mark so in a way I knew what treachery he would face, and he could not have known.”

“You are modest,” Margueritte said, and thought this was a rare and prized quality not found among the braggarts who surrounded her father or who called Tomberlain friend.  “But I feel that is very important.  I have a sense about your lord; that he has only begun to step into his greatness.”

“The same as I feel,” Roland said, in a more serious tone.  “Even though he has already done more in his life than most men ever dream of doing.”

Both looked at each other, and Margueritte wondered why she kept speaking of Charles when Charles was not on her mind or heart.  She got ready to ask another question when a little voice interrupted them both.

“What am I missing?”  Goldenrod fluttered up and hovered briefly in between them.  Roland seemed to take a good long look at the fairy’s face, and she looked at him with curiosity.  “Are you loving?” she asked.  Neither felt quite sure what she was asking.  Roland looked uncomfortable for the first time, and Margueritte answered for her little one.

“I do hope we may be friends,” she said.

“Yes,” Roland agreed.  “You know what friends are, don’t you?”

“Oh yes,” Goldenrod said with some excitement.  “My Lady, and Elsbeth and I are best friends.  And my Lady Brianna and Little White Flower.”  And she started a list.  “And Luckless, Grimly, Lolly, Maven and Marta, Tomberlain, and even Hammerhead, and Miss Blossom and Lady LeFleur, my mother.  She is queen of the fairies, you know.”

Roland interrupted.  “So that makes you the fairy princess.”  He tipped his hat to her.

“It does?”  Goldenrod widened her little eyes.  “Wow.  Wait ‘till I tell Elsbeth.  She’ll be so proud of me.”  She flew off as quickly as she came.  Roland looked at Margueritte.

“We have pointed this out to her many times,” Margueritte said.  “But retention of the facts is a fleeting thing for a fairy so young.  She is only about seventy years old; you know.”  Roland swallowed and looked again in the direction Goldenrod had gone.  Margueritte took a deep breath.  “I should be in bed,” she said.  “Goodnight, Sir Roland.”

“Just Roland, if you don’t mind.  I’m still getting used to the sir part.”  He smiled again, but she turned toward the door and stopped only before entering as Roland spoke once more.  “By the way, you did not have to kick your brother.  He is a good young man, and despite his questions, my attention was all yours.”

Margueritte’s hand went to her mouth.  She kicked the wrong leg.  She felt very embarrassed.

“Oh, don’t think of it,” Roland said quickly.  “My sisters used to do that all the time.  It reminded me of home.  And I found it very refreshing after all the stiff formalities of the palace.  I don’t believe the ladies in Paris even know how to kick.”  He tried hard to help, and Margueritte smiled for his efforts, but she felt embarrassed all the same.

“Goodnight then,” she said, went inside, and only paused to say goodnight to her mother who was waiting to escort Sir Roland to his room.