Danna picked up Abraxas and flew to the English Channel in the blink of an eye, and she threw him out over the water. “Stay off my continent. It will be death for you to return here. I am sorry for my islands, but this is it. Do not interfere with the people. Do not impede their faith, whichever way they turn. Find your courage and go over to the other side where your mother and father are waiting for you. I will not give you forever.”
Abraxas floated in the air, afraid to touch the churning water of the channel beneath his feet. He turned and flew toward the white cliffs, but before he arrived, Danna got back to Abd al-Makti, who cried and looked like his mind finally snapped altogether. She blinked the man back to his Iberian home in Al-Andalus and turned to recall her men from the enemy camp.
The men came, some reluctantly, and Danna changed back to Margueritte and asked, “So how did you do?”
“Melanie is still one ahead of me,” Calista complained. Melanie only grinned.
“Well, we will be going home, to my home. Maybe you can find a Saxon or Frisian to slaughter, you bloodthirsty mink.”
Walaric walked up and waved the last of the men to safety. “Peppin took an arrow,” he said casually. Margueritte nodded.
“Boys,” she said, and the boys, the four men and two elves fell in behind her and Walaric and followed them down the hill. “We are going to have to get him and any other wounded to Charles before we stop.”
“I’ll work it out,” Walaric assured her, and stepped off.
Margueritte found Duke Odo at the bottom of the back side of the hill where the horses were being held by the men. The old duke did not look like he had enough strength left to climb the hill, but he smiled as hard as he could. He gave Margueritte a kiss on the cheek, and men came and helped him up on his horse for the ride back to the Frankish lines.
Greta and Doctor Mishka spent most of the late afternoon and night patching up who they could. Many Franks died and many more would not live long, but Peppin would live if the wound did not become infected, and it was always a big if in those days.
Tomberlain and Owien burst into Greta’s makeshift hospital tent early on and did not even blink on seeing Greta in place of Margueritte. “We got Abdul Rahman,” Tomberlain blurted out, and did a little dance.
“He was trying to rally his troops,” Owien explained. “His men were all deserting the line, and I don’t blame them. We had them beaten.”
“Owien hit the man with a javelin,” Tomberlain interrupted.
“You pulled him from his horse,” Owien turned on his brother.
“We both stabbed him, together. We got him together.”
“We did,” and the boys hooted, a very Breton sort of hoot.
“They did,” Roland said, as he came in. “Any chance I can see my wife soon? I want to scold her for even being here.” Roland showed a very loving smile which kind of negated his words.
Greta stood and put a hand to his chest to push him back. “Not just yet. I can still save some of these men, and Doctor Mishka can save a few more.”
“Is she around?” Charles came in the tent and saw Greta turn into Doctor Mishka. He had met the Doctor, but this was the first time he saw the instantaneous change take place. “Remarkable,” was his word for it.
Mishka stopped and faced the man. “So now you have earned the right to be called Charles Martel.” She started to clean one man’s shoulder wound as they talked.
“Many of the men call him that already,” Roland admitted. “Ever since you, or Margueritte said it back in Saxony.”
“I would think more like an anvil,” Tomberlain said. “The Saracens did the pounding, and we took it and were not moved.”
“Wrong image,” Mishka said.
“I like the hammer image,” Owien said.
“Me too,” Charles said quietly.
“So, Charles Le Martel it is,” Roland said. “But now, what can we expect tomorrow, or tonight for that matter?”
Mishka spoke up first. “In my opinion, they will argue all night. Abdul Rahman did not strike me as a man who appointed a second in command, so it is not clear who will take over now that Rahman is dead.” Mishka paused and gave Charles a hard stare until Charles got it.
“Roland,” he said. “If I were to die, Roland will take over the army. Everyone knows that.”
“Very good,” Mishka continued. “Though not for Margueritte, I suppose. But in the morning, I see three options. Either they will attack again, though that is least likely, or they will retreat to look for a better place to hold the line, or if some commanders sneak away, they may grab whatever treasure they have left and leave altogether. Pray for the third choice.”
“Yes,” Charles said and rubbed his hands. “I saw the treasure you collected from the camp.”
“And the people we set free, so they won’t become slaves or end up in some harem. The people are what matter most. Never forget that. Which reminds me, Carloman did his duty. And no, you may not knight him until he is twenty-one. Don’t break that rule. No exceptions. Pepin and the boys were kept out of it. They were only allowed to watch and are very upset by that. Too bad. And your daughter Gisele is going to marry if you are there to give her away or not. He is a fine young man.”
“Yes, I was thinking—”
“Don’t. Don’t think. She will marry her young man who will win his spurs, if he has not already after today, and she will live in a fine manor house with servants to help her, and she will have children and be happy, and let that be the end of the discussion.” Mishka stepped around and kissed Tomberlain, Owien, Roland and Charles on the cheek. “That is from Margueritte, and that is all you get. Now go away. These men are supposed to be getting rest and you are just spreading germs everywhere.”
They went, and Owien asked Tomberlain, “What are germs, anyway?”
“Hey, lady,” Peppin called from several men away. He had been sitting up, listening. Like all those in the know, he used the term the little ones used when he was not sure of her name. “Lady, you forgot to tell him about Hunald.”
“Hush,” Doctor Mishka said as she examined Greta’s handiwork on Peppin’s leg. “He will find out soon enough.”
Later that night, about an hour before dawn, Lord Larchmont came with a report. The Muslims were escaping, and they did not look to be united in their retreat. Yellow Leaf thought the Berbers started it, but Birch said it was the Syrians.
Mishka nodded and sent a mental message to all her little ones on the field and in the hills. They could follow and harass the enemy, but not engage them. They could take any strays, and any who couldn’t keep up, but otherwise they were to encourage the enemy to go all the way back over the Pyrenees. If they stop short, they are not to attack, but come and tell her. Understood?” Mishka got the general response from a thousand or more that they understood well enough. Whether or not they would keep her commands was a different question, and unlikely.
After that mental message, Mishka went away to avoid the inevitable migraine, and Margueritte came back, feeling as fresh as the morning. Except for a couple of hours the day before, she had been away, like off sleeping, and others took her place most of the day.
Margueritte told Larchmont to take a seat on her shoulder and went to Charles to tell him what she learned. She suggested Hunald and the men of Aquitaine with her horsemen from the march follow the enemy, at a distance. They wanted encouragement to vacate Frankish lands altogether, and that included Vascony.
“Yes,” Charles started thinking again—a good trait for a general who just came awake from a sound sleep. “It seems I will have to replace some of those Vascon nobles for their cowardice in the face of the enemy.”
“The Basques won’t like that,” Margueritte warned, but then Roland and Hunald came in, and Margueritte made sure they understood that Larchmont and his men would be keeping an eye on the retreating enemy. “They will keep you informed of the progress, so you don’t get ahead and stumble into them. If they stop and gather themselves in Bordeaux or Vascony, like they want to hold on to some territory, you need to get Charles to make them think again.”
“We can pick off some strays, maybe?” Roland thought out loud.
Margueritte shook her head. “Any strays will be dealt with, and don’t send your own scouts out. To be honest, some little ones have a hard time telling one human group from another.”
“Yes, I remember,” Hunald said, fascinated by Larchmont. “I was at Pouance, if you recall.” Margueritte recalled, but just then, Roland wanted some of her attention before he rode off again, and she wanted some of his. They emerged around nine o’clock when everyone said the Muslims were not coming again. Charles’ men scouted the abandoned camp, and indeed, they had packed up their goods and left. Roland and his thousand, and Hunald and his men from Aquitaine followed, and the rest headed back up the road to Tours.
Charles pulled off the road at Saint Catherine’s de Fierbois. Margueritte brought the nuns. Three nuns came this time, and the same old priest who now had to be near eighty, even older than Duke Odo. The nuns had the box, and the stone came up easily enough. Margueritte said Charles might still need the sword, but he said he had plenty of swords, and Caliburn saved his life, and that was enough.
“You said there is another who will need this, from under the stone of five crosses,” Charles remembered. Margueritte nodded, but when she got the box and placed the sword in its brown leather sheath into the box, she saw one of the nuns crying. Margueritte recognized the woman right away. They had been close. Charles took a minute before he spoke her name.
“Giselle,” he said. “My daughter’s name.”
“Lady,” Giselle wept. “I can never make up for what I did to you.”
Margueritte put the box with the sword in the floor, and the men laid the stone gently on top and sealed it, so no one would suspect there was something beneath that spot. Then Margueritte spoke.
“You have no need to make up for what you did,” she said. “I forgive you.”
Giselle cried all the harder, but Margueritte hurried herself and Charles out of the sanctuary. When they returned to the road, Charles asked if she really forgave the woman.
“I want to, but it is hard. But I really want to.”
Charles seemed satisfied. “It is good to know you are human after all,” and he said no more about it.
There are loose ends to tie up and tomorrow to consider. But tomorrow always remains a mystery, even to the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history. Until Monday. Toward Tomorrow Happy Reading.