M4 Margueritte: The Breton March, part 3 of 3

Margueritte sat, still patting Brittany’s back, though Brittany had gotten quiet.  She thought through what Gerraint proposed.  If Abd al-Makti was not permitted to get to her directly, either to have her killed or remove her from the picture in some way, he could still get to her through her family.  He could tie her up with worries and being needed at home, and thus keep her preoccupied forever.  She had no proof that Abd al-Makti might have been responsible for her father’s stroke.  God knew Father did not exactly eat right or properly take care of himself over the last few years especially, but it felt suspicious enough to get her thinking, or get Gerraint thinking.  She squeezed Brittany for a moment and let out a few tears.

“What is it?” Mother asked.

“The building is going well.”  Father felt he had to change the subject, even if there wasn’t any subject yet.

Margueritte nodded and wiped her eyes.  “All of it is going as well as might be expected.”

“Yes, but all the expense.  I scrimped and saved my whole life, and you are making me a pauper.”

“Father,” Margueritte looked up.  “Nobility is supposed to be land rich and cash poor.  Besides, it is worth it.  I will do almost anything to keep the Ahlmoreds of the world from coming here and taking over.”

Father nodded and reached out his good hand to take Mother’s hand, which she gladly gave him.  He looked at her and let out his crooked smile.  “I met the man, you know.”

Jennifer came in from the back where she had been out by the kitchen generally hiding from all the humans.  The servants, Marta and Maven were good friends, and Lolly was a dwarf as well, so that all seemed fine, but that was enough, especially when her hands were full of children.  LeFee kept trying to help, like a grown-up girl, but the boys, Martin, Cotton and Marta’s boy, Weldig Junior, the oldest boy at nearly three-and-a-half, were too much to handle.  Marta’s older girl, Morgan turned seven, but she seemed content to play with Margo’s three-year-old girl, Larin.

“Boys.  Sit.”  Jennifer ordered, and the boys got more or less up on the couch while Jennifer collapsed in a soft chair.  “I never imagined.”

Margueritte smiled at her own thoughts.  “It won’t be long before the boys go sneaking off to go fishing without telling anyone.  Before you know it, they will be getting into big trouble.”

“Getting into trouble is what boys do best,” Elsbeth said, as she came in holding Owien’s hand.

“It is not,” Owien protested.

“It is,” Mother confirmed.

“Soon, the boys will be coming home with frogs in their pockets and innocent faces that don’t understand what they did wrong,” Margueritte concluded.

“What we have to look forward to,” Jennifer said.

“Not my problem,” Margo said, but Margueritte shook her finger at the woman.

“Careful, or you will end up with junior there running after these three sixteen-year-olds yelling, “Wait up.  Wait up.”  Margueritte made a face and waved her hands. People laughed at the image, but Brittany interrupted.

“Ma-ma.”

Margueritte hugged her baby.  “You heard that.  You all heard that.”

Brittany continued.  “Da-da-da-da.”

“Dada is not here,” Margueritte said.  “Here, sit with your aunt Elsbeth for a minute.”  She handed Brittany to Elsbeth and stood to fetch Martin off the couch.  He had started to squirm, so she put him in her lap and brushed her fingers through his unkempt hair, like a nervous twitch while she talked.  She told them about Abd al-Makti, the sorcerer, and some of the harrowing experiences she had been through.  She shared her suspicions about him turning on her family to keep her occupied and out of the way.  Then she apologized, like it was her fault in some way.

“Don’t be stupid,” her father said.

“It’s not your fault,” Mother quickly joined him.

“But maybe what Abd al-Makti does not realize is I don’t have to be in Saxony to work.  The important work is being started right here.  But I am afraid he may figure it out, and then I will be afraid for you all.”

Not me,” Margo said and moaned a little.  She held her stomach.  “I would be more afraid for him if he gets you upset.”  The others generally agreed, but Margueritte thought of something else, and she called.

“Doctor Pincher.”

The half-dwarf doctor appeared, took one look at Margo, and scolded everyone.  “How long were you planning to keep this woman in labor before getting her to bed and calling me?”

“Oh,” Jennifer stood right away and Margueritte also went to Margo.  Mother followed while Margueritte and Jennifer helped Margo get back upstairs to bed.

“Boys.  Stay right where you are and don’t move an inch.”  Elsbeth’s words were sharp, and the boys stopped whatever they were doing and thinking.  Father chuckled.

Several hours later, Jennifer and Doctor Mishka came out of the room, and Mother said, “Well?”

“Sweet Babushka, you have another grandson,” Mishka said.

“Wait up, wait up,” Jennifer said, made the face and waved her hands.  Mishka joined her in a laugh and Mother tried not to snicker as she went in to see her new grandson.

###

Roland and Tomberlain showed up around November first.  Roland said they beat the Saxons back and moved down to thrash the Alemanni.  Charles finally had to let the army disband for a time, and anyway, he promised to meet Boniface in Paris.  Apparently, Boniface made a good start on organizing the church and reducing some of the overlap, but there was more to do, and he was anxious to see what land Charles had to offer.  A few prime spots would help the church, greatly.

It turned November thirteenth when they all sat down to supper in the Great Hall for the first time.  Margueritte thought she had to get more tapestries or something on the walls to deaden the echo.  Father called it the best room he ever saw, and four new rooms upstairs, which they struggled one day to get him up there to see, he said were perfect.  Now he knew his family would be well taken care of.

Brittany turned one on the thirteenth.  Martin would turn three on December second.  Jennifer would probably have her baby between the two, somewhere in those two weeks.  Margueritte probably wouldn’t have hers until after Christmas.  Roland and Father Aden were talking like old friends who had never been apart.  Margueritte thought the only one missing was Thomas of Evandell.  She had to interrupt.

“I trust in Boniface’s mind he is concerned about bringing peace to the church, but what I want to know is why are these bishops so greedy?”

Father Aden, who arrived a whole month before Roland shook his head.  “I would like to think it is not greed, even if I don’t know what else to think.  A monastery needs enough land to support itself, and that is all.  A bishop needs to provide oversight in matters of faith, and that is all.  That is what a bishop is, an overseer.  Anything more than that is of the devil, as Jesus said.  You can’t serve God and money.”

“But it does look like money and power are in the front of the mind of some of these men, and some women,” Roland said.  “Too many noble sons and daughters being elevated as a way to give them something when they are not going to inherit.”

“Money and power,” Margueritte concluded.  “They are generally not worth the trouble, but it does not look good for the church.”

“Attention.”  Father banged his spoon against the table.  He sat at the head of the big table.  The children had their own smaller table off to the side, and Giselle and Goldenrod volunteered to help, now that Margueritte had figured out how to let Goldenrod into the house without setting her father to sneezing his head off.  “Attention.”

Mother sat beside Father so she could cut his food to bite sized pieces.  Elsbeth and Owien were beside her while Tomberlain, Margo and their new baby boy, Adalman were right beside him.  Margueritte made Roland sit next to Tomberlain.  Father Aden sat next to Owien, which put Margueritte and Jennifer on the end, with four seats still empty at the table, but being at the end made it easier if they had to get up for the children, especially Margueritte who expected Brittany to start fussing any minute.

“Attention.  I just want to say how proud I am of all of you.”  Mother stopped him for a minute because he started drooling.  She wiped his chin, and he began again.  “You are all the best a father could hope for.  It was touch and go for some of you for a while.”  Mother wanted to interrupt, but he brushed her off.  “Let me speak.  Tomberlain was a hardhead ten years ago, and Margueritte kept getting whisked away by some monster or other, and Elsbeth.”  Father patted Elsbeth’s hand.  “But you all grew out of it, and this hall, this home is the proof that everything is about perfect.  You have the best children.  You are the best children, including all of you that married or got like adopted.  I am not leaving anyone out.  And right now, Owien wants to say something.”

Owien had no idea this was coming.  He looked at Elsbeth, looked to Mother, back to Elsbeth.  He looked embarrassed.  He stood up.  “Elsbeth said yes.”  Everyone applauded and cheered.  “I mean, we were going to wait until Elsbeth’s birthday to announce our engagement, but I guess we can say something now.”  He sat down, and Elsbeth gave him a kiss in front of everyone.  All Margueritte could think was now Goldenrod did not have anyone to tattle to that Elsbeth and Owien were getting all kissy face.

Father banged his spoon.  “I say, let al-Monkey do his worst.  I got the best family a man can have, and nothing can change that or take that away.”

It was a good little speech, and Margueritte saw Giselle, of all people, crying.  She meant to ask her about it later but forgot for a long time.  Father died within the week.

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

MONDAY

Margueritte discovers there is far more land in their land grant than she ever suspected.  She will have to survey it all for Count Tomberlain, and in the process, accidentally start the Middle Ages.  Until Monday.  Happy Reading

*

M4 Margueritte: Trouble All Around, part 2 of 3

Margueritte said to her little ones, “Thank you, and please make sure they actually cross the river and leave.”

“How many minutes?” Oswald asked.

“I don’t know.  I don’t have a stopwatch.  Just as long as they leave.  And thank you again.”  She clapped her hands and the little ones vanished.  Her armor and weapons also went away, and she became clothed again in her many layers.  They were not as warm as the fairy weave, and her gloves were not as good, but they looked normal.  She had to breathe on her hands against the frost.

“So that was the next attempt?” Relii had come out of the barn with the others to watch.

“Yes, but he changed his mind before anything happened,” Margueritte said.  “I think our sorcerer was afraid for his life.  He got told by a greater power to stop picking on me.”

“Abd al-Makti,” Relii guessed.  “I thought it might be him.”

“Clever girl,” Margueritte said.  “But I cannot figure why, or who he is working for.”  She turned to Geoffry.  He spoke right up.

“Sigisurd told me, but I didn’t believe her,” he said.

Margueritte nodded.  “And keep it that way.  Don’t make more out of it than it is, and don’t be afraid to question even what you see.”  Margueritte breathed on her hands again.  “Relii and Sigisurd, please help our wounded men.”  She pointed.  “And check on the others to see if they are really dead.  Watch out for the Saxons who may just be too badly wounded to escape.  Geoffry and I need to go inside and check on the others.”

“Lady,” Sigisurd said, and curtsied the way she had seen Tulip curtsey.

Geoffry asked a question as they walked up to the door.  “So, are you a witch or a sorceress?”

Margueritte hit him, not too hard.  “I keep telling everyone, I am not a witch,” but when they went inside, she found the guard that Gunther the chief left and forgot about.  He had the children cowering in the corner, seated with their backs to him.  Ingrid, Aduan and Rosamund were in chairs, and Horegard lay on the floor where he bled from a stomach wound.  She had to do something.  “Gunther has abandoned you.  If you hurry you can catch him.”  Margueritte put out her arm to hold back Geoffry while the man looked at her.  He decided.  He looked like he might kill the hostages before he went in case she was not telling the truth.

Margueritte’s hands went up and a blue electrical charge escaped her fingertips and struck the man.  He jerked violently and just missed striking Rosamund’s face before he could no longer hold on to his sword.  The sword clattered to the ground as the man dropped to his knees.

Margueritte called to Oswald and Oswald’s friend, Ridgemont, and they appeared.  “Please take this one to Gunther.  No message.  I just don’t want this one to miss the boat and have to swim home.”

“Very good,” Oswald said, and they hustled him out the back door and then ran faster with the man than humanly possible, but no one other than Margueritte saw, and maybe a few of the children.  Geoffry got busy helping his sisters get their father up on the couch.  The man started getting delirious and had lost a fair amount of blood.

“Let me see,” Margueritte said, “And no screaming.  I am going to go away, and another person is going to stand in my shoes, but she is a physician, and she will do what she can to help.”  Margueritte pointed at Aduan.  “No screaming,” and she immediately went away so Doctor Mishka could examine the wound.  Aduan let out a small shriek, but she was the only one out of them all, including the children.  “Now let me see.”

Mishka had her bag with her, or she supposed in the current day and age it should still be Greta’s bag, but Mishka came because Greta was not a surgeon.  Doctor Mishka practiced all too much battlefield surgery in the first and second world wars.  She began by spreading an anesthetic cream to deaden the area before she looked.  “The wound looks clean,” she said, and got out some thread and a very fine needle and a hemostat.  After Ingrid and Rosamund got hold of Horegard’s hands, it took twenty-one stitches, and then iodine, which stung, and an anti-bacterial spray, and the cleanest cloth Aduan could find.

“I know it is asking a lot, but you must try to keep him off his feet for a few days.  Does he toss and turn in the night?”

Rosamund took a minute to realize Mishka was talking to her.  With Horegard tended to, she got a good look at the Doctor for the first time.  “Uh, some.  Not much.”

“Well, be careful with that, and keep him off his feet.  I will give Margueritte something when I leave that will help him rest and sleep, but only if he needs it.  Now some other men are wounded.”  Doctor Mishka stood and walked toward the front door, but she went away, and Margueritte came back before she got to the door, because Margueritte thought to say something.  “Oh, and it would be best if you did not talk about Mishka.  That is something that is best not to be public knowledge, if you don’t mind.  I am trusting you because you are family.”  She went out.

###

It turned out Grandma Rosamund blocked Mishka completely out of her mind and credited Margueritte with saving Horegard’s life.  Horegard, who was kind of out of it at the time, believed her.  Aduan knew better, but she, Geoffry, Sigisurd and Relii all discussed it and decided that Margueritte had been wise to tell everyone to keep it a secret.  Ingrid also knew, of course, but it seemed the blue lightning Margueritte produced from her fingertips much more than the appearance of Doctor Mishka that bothered her.  She felt sure that Margueritte was a witch, but then Margueritte saved her life, and her father’s life, and apparently, everyone else’s life as well, so she said nothing.  She and Margueritte were never that close to begin with, and Ingrid was not surprised her stupid brother would marry a witch, so nothing really changed between them.  What the children saw and understood remained to be seen in the years to come.  So, nothing much changed, except Geoffry and Sigisurd started spending time together.  If it was another day and age, Margueritte would have said they were dating.

###  

Count Adelard, Herlindis, Boniface and fifteen men at arms showed up about mid-March.  They did some rearranging, as the Count and Herlindis moved into the room with Relii.  Boniface got the eighth room by himself, and Sigisurd made peace with old lady Oda in the servant’s quarters.  Margueritte said Sigisurd could stay with her and the children, but Sigisurd pointed out that Roland would be due in about two weeks, and they should have their own room.

Poor Rosamund fretted about where she could put Charles, the mayor.  It felt like a visit from Royalty.  Boniface offered to share his room, but Rosamund liked to fret about it, and Horegard said it would not do to have the mayor and a bishop in the same room.  It started to look like Geoffry might have to sleep on the couch, and Margueritte could not help the comments.

“Separation of Church and State, huh?  Too bad you don’t have a convertible sofa.”

Boniface became anxious to begin his work in Saxony, but Margueritte delayed him.  She talked about church lands, and in the end convinced him to wait for Charles by practically promising Charles would be land generous to the church.  When Charles finally arrived, and his twelve thousand men tried to camp without destroying every nearby field, he got very mad at her.  He readily roomed with the bishop, but he would not talk to Margueritte for three days.  Margueritte would have been very upset by that if she and Roland were not so busy catching up on things.

Roland explained to Charles what Margueritte told him; that if Boniface went into Saxony just before Charles started his campaign, it would be like suicide for the bishop.  Charles understood that.  In fact, he argued that before gallivanting off into new territory, Boniface should first set about organizing the disorganized and overlapping Frankish church.  He tried to convince Boniface to go first to Paris, where Charles promised to meet him soon and talk about land donations to the church.  Boniface felt reluctant, until Margueritte reminded him that the Franks were his distant cousins as well, perhaps not as close as his Saxon brothers and sisters, but cousins all the same.

In the end, the matter got settled when Margueritte’s brother, Tomberlain rode up to the farm with twenty men from the Breton border, which Sigisurd imagined was on the other side of the world.  The message was not good.  Father had gotten sick; like he went dead on the whole right side of his body, and Elsbeth, Mother, and Jennifer were all worried sick.  They don’t know what to do, and Mother can’t raise Doctor Pincher or anyone.”

“Who is holding the Fort?” Margueritte asked.

Tomberlain looked put on the spot, though Margueritte did not mean that.  “Sir Peppin is there, and Owien is in your old room, plus the north end of the mark is covered now, thanks to Charles, and Michael is doing well in the south, and the Breton are not going anywhere after all the mess they made with the Curdwallah hag.  Everyone is safe if that is what you mean.”

“No, I’m sorry.  It isn’t your job, and you have held the fort long enough.  You deserve a chance to be here with Charles and Roland.  It is my turn to hold things together back home, but from the sounds of it, I doubt there is much we can do for Father, except make him comfortable.”

“Not even—”  

“No, not even with extraordinary help.”  Margueritte said, not wanting to get into it in detail.

“So, I rode a month through the snow for nothing,” Tomberlain said.

“Not for nothing,” Roland said to cheer him.  “I am sure Charles has just the right place for you in the army.  We are headed into Saxony.”

“Charles plans to be the hammer and the Wesser River will be the anvil, and we shall see how well he can flatten the steel in between and put a sharp edge to it,” Margueritte suggested.

“That is very good,” Roland praised her.

“Can I quote you?” Boniface and Charles walked up.

Geoffry came up holding Sigisurd’s hand and she looked shy and embarrassed.

“Let me do the introductions,” Margueritte said, and she took Tomberlain’s hand and took him to everyone and remembered everyone’s names, though Tomberlain would never remember that much.  He was terrible with names.

M4 Margueritte: The Saxon March, part 2 of 3

The women said nothing, but there was a noise at the door.  A man spoke.  “Brilliant.”  Another man stepped in with another nun at his side.  Margueritte looked and named the man who stayed by the door.

“Boniface!”  That was all Margueritte got out, because the nun who came in wept and hugged her, and then went to hug and weep on Relii, and Margueritte guessed it was Herlindis.  The man with her had to be their father, Count Adelard.  He gave Margueritte the odd look of a man who did not like strangers much.

Boniface stepped over and gave Margueritte a kiss on the cheek and then introduced her.  “Count Adelard, this is Margueritte, wife of Roland, son of Horegard.”  The Count’s visage changed instantly.

“And these children?”

“Horegard’s grandchildren,” Margueritte said, with an excuse me.  Poor Brittany started struggling.  Margueritte stepped to the other table where she could have some privacy.  Martin began to object, but Sigisurd picked him up and held him, and let him bury his head in her shoulder to get away from all the strangers.  Too much talk and too many strange faces stood around for him to be comfortable.

###

Margueritte had to spend one evening at a difficult dinner party.  Count Adelard, a mean and grumpy old man in his fifties, sat at the end of a long table with his Major-Domo, Gerold and Captain Ragobert to his right.  Ragobert came from Count Adelard’s land and left as a young man to fight for Pepin of Herstal, the former mayor and Charles’ father.  He and Gerold were friends of a sort and in their forties.  The thirty-year-olds were to the Count’s left, his daughter Herlindis and Boniface.  Margueritte spent some time studying the faces and conversation of the local men, and decided they were all like Ragobert, not too bright and with no sense of humor.

Margueritte sat at the other end of the table, like the children’s end, next to Boniface, but with Sigisurd to her left hand, and Martin squeezed between them.  Martin had the good sense half-way through dinner to crawl down and go to the blanket where Brittany slept, so he could also lie down.  Sadly, Margueritte did not feel she had that option.

At the actual end of the table, Hildegard sat and said nothing all night, and indeed, she hardly lifter her eyes from her plate.  Hildegard was wife of Thierry, the Count’s only son, who had gone off to fight for Charles, and who Margueritte believed she met once.  A dull knife, like his father, if she remembered.  Squeezed between Hildegard and Relii, who sat opposite Margueritte, were Hildegard’s two children.  Bertrand was seven and seemed a fine girl, but quiet as her mother, or as Margueritte figured, cowed to know her place, keep her mouth shut and mind her own business, or in other words, she was a girl.  Her brother, Poppo, was a four-year-old brat.  He sat between Bertrand and Hildegard and liked to make noise and throw food.  In fact, the only time Margueritte ever saw the count smile was when Poppo got exceptionally loud and behaved especially bad.  While Martin still sat at the table, eating, Margueritte put her hand over Martin’s eyes several times to keep him from watching Poppo and getting any ideas.  Hildegard almost smiled to see that, and that told Margueritte a person might still be inside that shell somewhere.

Relii also stayed exceptionally quiet during supper.  She said she was being good.  Sigisurd stayed her natural quiet self, and also seemed to want to lie down with the children and escape the table.  It was not because of the tension at the table, exactly.  It felt more like a permanent pall that smothered anything approximating joy and good fellowship.  Margueritte heard all about it the next day when Relii accompanied them on the journey to Roland’s family home.

They camped half-way to the Rhine, and the soldiers under Ragobert made a separate campfire for the women and children at the door of their big tent.  Relii waited until they had eaten, but then Margueritte and Sigisurd could not wait to hear what Relii had to say.  Curiously, she did not talk about the difficult dinner and the forced silence of the women, or the behavior of Poppo, or the attitude of the men.  Mostly Relii shared about growing up, though in a way it helped explain those other things. 

“My best friend is Aduan, Roland’s younger sister.”  Relii said.  “Herlindis and Ingrid, Roland’s older sister, were cordial friends, but I don’t think they were ever close.  I turned nine when Mother got killed by Saxon raiders, and Aduan was ten.  Herlindis, at seventeen, had a boyfriend, sort of.  Father did not approve of the boy, so Herlindis got packed up and shipped off to a monastery in Reims, the old capitol.  There, she took her vows and became a nun, so Father, not wanting her so far away, built the Abbey of Aldeneik for women, and brought Herlindis home to be the Abbess.”

“Good for her, I suppose,” Sigisurd responded.  “But how did you end up a camp follower?”

“I got told from the age of thirteen that I was going to follow my sister into the abbey.  It was not what I had in mind, but I did not have any choice.”

Margueritte looked up from Martin who had fallen asleep beside his baby sister.  “You were to be the virgin sacrifice.”

Relii screwed up her face.  “Sort of,” she said.  “But in those days, Father and Horegard, Roland’s father, met all the time and discussed what to do about the Saxons.  They said even with Pepin taking the best for the army, they could raise a solid company of three hundred men and maybe another three hundred that were not so solid.  They played at soldier, and even talked of invading the Saxon lands.  They went over maps and scouted out the blacksmiths and workers to equip the men, but nothing ever came of it.  The only good thing was Aduan and I got close, being near the same age, and as we grew, we talked about boys a lot.”

“Not much else to talk about in this age,” Margueritte said, quietly.

“Yes, well, when I turned sixteen, Herlindis started to school me in the ways of Benedict, and I was not a very good student.  Herlindis thought she had to take Mother’s place and treated me like a child, but I was almost ten when Mother died, and not grown up, but not a baby.  Besides, I did just fine without Herlindis mothering me for three years while she was away in Reims.  I was thirteen when she returned, and I thought I was all grown up by then.”  Clearly, Relii still had some issues there.

“Father was the worst,” she continued.  “He turned hard, if you know what I mean by that word, and not at all like I remember him when I was young.  I think the loss of Mother changed him, but anyway, I put up with the schooling for a while, and snuck out often to visit my friends and boys, and got in plenty of trouble, but when I turned seventeen, I hatched a plan.  Pepin’s army camped near, planning a campaign against the Saxons to push them back to the Wesser River.  Aduan made it look like she and I got taken by Saxon raiders.  She went to stay with her boyfriend, Cassius, and his Gallo-Roman family down the road.  I went to Pepin’s army and attached myself to Mother Mary, who was younger in those days, and not called Mother.  I made up some story about my family being killed by Saxons, and she took me in.  I stayed with the army ever since.”

“But your father and Herlindis, didn’t they think you were dead?”  Sigisurd asked.

“I suppose, for a while, but Aduan eventually confessed herself.  Cassius made her confess before they got married, and good thing they got married because Aduan already got pregnant.  Aduan did not know where I was, of course, but Father and Herlindis kept hope that I was still alive, and so now I am going to be a nun.”

“Good for you, I suppose,” Margueritte paraphrased Sigisurd’s words, and she and Relii both looked at Sigisurd.

“Don’t look at me,” Sigisurd said.  “My family really all got killed, except by Alemans instead of Saxons, and I escaped because I was out tending the sheep at the time.  I cried for a long time, and my neighbors helped me in my need, and offered to take me in, but then I also ran away.  I have a distant cousin in Cologne, and I thought if I could find him, I could be safe.  But Mother Mary found me when Charles first arrived outside Cologne, and she took me in for my own safety.  We were all by the stream, washing clothes when we got captured.  Then I met you, Margueritte, and you saved me for real, and we had children.”

“And now you want children of your own,” Margueritte guessed.

“Yes, please.” Sigisurd smiled and she looked back at Relii, who shrugged.

“If I could have children, I would have a handful by now.  No telling who the fathers might be.”  Relii smiled before she got serious.  “The Lord saved me for himself, but it took me a long time to see that.  If I become a nun now, it will be by my own choice.  If Father and Herlindis agree, that is nice, but not important.  Freely, the Lord has given me his heart, and freely I return it to him.”

The women sat quietly for a while.  Martin and Brittany slept, so Margueritte imagined she could continue the conversation.  “Haven’t you seen Aduan since you have been back?” she asked Relii.

“Yes, and all is good, but I came on this trip for you, and Sigisurd if she wants.”

“What do you mean?”  Margueritte’s suspicious gland, as Festuscato called it, started to throb.

“I have come to tell you about the glory and wonder of life at the Abbey.  I see wars ahead, and so much killing.  But you will be safe at the Abbey.  We pray all day and have wonderful fellowship, and the outside world has no hold on us.”

“Hold it,” Margueritte practically growled.  “Just stop talking for a minute.  Who told you to talk to me about becoming a nun?”

“Why?  No one told me,” Relii said, and she sounded sincere.

“Tulip.” Margueritte called, and the fairy appeared.  Sigisurd remembered her instantly.  That was the way the spell worked.  Relii reacted like a person being attacked by some horrible monster.  She raised her hands, ready to unleash her magic, but she stopped there and remained unmoving when Margueritte stood.

“Lady?” Tulip asked.  Margueritte did not stand there.  Danna, the mother goddess of the Celts came through history to take her place.

“Tulip.  There is a great enchantment here.  It looks like a virus, transmitted from hand to hand.”  Danna traced it back to Herlindis, to the count, to one of the soldiers of Ragobert, to a man in Paris, to a captain in the army of Ragenfrid, and to Marco, servant of Abd al-Makti, the sorcerer, on whom she saw something like a fingerprint, and she sighed.  Danna easily removed the virus from all the carriers, and she sent an unmistakable message to al-Makti.  “Leave Margueritte alone.”  Then Danna left, so Margueritte could return to her own time and place and think about what she knew.  Relii moved again, dropped her hands in a moment of confusion, and promptly threw up.  Sigisurd and Tulip helped her recover.

M4 Margueritte: Strike Back, part 3 of 3

Gertrude the midwife got out of the city just before things got bad.  She fretted for her family, but she expressed gratitude for the bread.  What is more, she took her duty seriously, which encouraged Margueritte to relax.  When Gertrude examined Margueritte, Sigisurd always stayed there and watched, Rotunda always stayed near, making food, Mother Mary came to supply the clean linens, and even Relii stopped in to encourage her.  The result was a frustrated Abd al-Makti.  Margueritte felt it in the air.  She had no idea what nefarious plans the sorcerer had in mind, and honestly did not want to know.  She just felt glad the man was unable to do anything or get her alone.

The siege lines broke up in early November when Margueritte calculated she had about six weeks.  Gertrude said four, but at least she was not due that day or that week.  Over the last month, she spent most of her time missing Roland.  She wondered why circumstances always seemed to work in their lives to keep them apart.  Now, Margueritte had to move, and she got the option of riding in the wagon or walking.  She walked most of the time, she said for the exercise, but in truth the wagon hit every bump imaginable, and she got tossed around like a proverbial sack of potatoes, and bruised everywhere, so it felt safer to walk.

Boniface said good-bye when the army packed to leave.  He had three monks with him, and on Chilperic’s insistence, a dozen men at arms to protect him on his journey to Rome.  Margueritte wished him the best, said to call her when he got back so they could do lunch, without explaining what she meant, and waved for half the morning.  Then it came time to move.  Fortunately, the army moved slow.  They ambled along about three or four hours in the morning, took a four-hour mid-day break to let everyone catch up, and shuffled off another three or four hours in the afternoon before making camp early in the evening, before the sun went down.  At that pace, Margueritte wondered how any army could come to the rescue of any city, but she decided in this case, they were feeling victorious, like they conquered the city, and inclined to take it easy.  Besides, she figured Ragenfrid needed the time off to count his ill-gotten gains.

Margueritte and the camp wagons stopped for lunch near the town of Malmedy on the top of a rise where they could look down on the majority of the army.  She sat, holding her belly and feeling a little pain, when the rear guard came in.  The whole camp would sit and relax for another two hours yet before the first units started out and the army strung out like a slinky.  She pictured a well-timed charge at the middle when the worm spread out, and that would leave the rear guard cut off and easy pickings.  For some reason, a picture of Roncevaux Pass entered her mind, and she objected.  That was not her Roland, and not her Charles.  That was her Charles’ grandson, she imagined.  She missed her Roland.

“Lady.” Sigisurd interrupted Margueritte’s melancholy thoughts and pointed down below.  “Whose men are those?  Where are they coming from?”

Margueritte shrugged and squinted to see in the midday sun.  “They are not Ragenfrid’s friends,” she said, and they watched as a battle broke out.  It appeared all one sided at first, as the oncoming men caught Ragenfrid’s army literally napping.  Men, unaware, got cut down by the dozens, but eventually, Ragenfrid and Chilperic formed up the lines and counterattacked.  The men who fought without mercy when they had the advantage of total surprise, suddenly started to flee, and Ragenfrid followed.  He gave chase into the woods, and then Margueritte lost sight of them all.

Gertrude came up when Margueritte moaned a little.  She felt bloated and crampy.  “Aha,” Gertrude said.  “I told you four weeks.”

“What?” Margueritte got stupid.

“Come, get in the tent.  Sigisurd, help her so she can come lie down.”

Sigisurd grinned, but Margueritte did not get it.  “What?” she asked again.

Margueritte could not see the open field beyond the woods, and the slight rise in the field that lead up to a hillside meadow, still covered by tall grasses in the early winter.  The retreating men, some three thousand, ran through the trees and up the rise and over, but there they stopped and turned.  The Neustrian Franks chased the men with abandon, without proper leadership, and only their anger for fuel.  When they got to the top of the rise, they found ten thousand Austrasian Franks waiting for them, and it became the Neustrian’s turn to be slaughtered.

Margueritte stayed in labor all afternoon.  She still labored when Roland and Charles arrived.  Margueritte managed a yell.  “Roland.  We are having a baby.”  Then she needed to save her voice for a good scream.  She had a boy, Martin, who went to her breast, and when Roland stood there sweating, like he was the one who just gave birth, she spoke to him.  “Now we have to have a girl.”

###

Charles kept the men in training all winter long.  He let them go home to plant in the early spring, but he spent those weeks talking about the need for a standing army, like the Romans had.  “A permanent standing army,” he said.

“Yes, but you need to make a phalanx,” Margueritte said.  “That box thing you formed up outside Cologne was bound to fall apart, even if your commander didn’t turn stupid.”

Charles grunted.

Roland held Martin and tried to get him to stop chewing on the little wooden five-inch sword Roland carved for him.  Martin seemed determined to chew on something, going on four months old, but he found his father’s finger just as good.  Charles tried to help distract the child, but every time Martin saw Charles, Martin laughed out loud.  It was the cutest thing.

“I think he needs to be changed,” Roland finally admitted.

“So?” Margueritte said.  “Are your arms broken?”

“I’ll take him,” Sigisurd volunteered, and Roland gladly let her.

“So, we need a phalanx,” Charles said.

“Gerraint says you need heavy cavalry, and I am allowed to show you the lance and stirrups, since the Arabs and Moors are using stirrups in Iberia.”

“We have lances,” Roland said, now wanting in on the conversation.

“We have fancy spears and better saddles, so we don’t knock ourselves off the horse so easily.  We have what they have had in Great Britain for two hundred years, and ours are just as good, but it is not the same thing as lances and stirrups.  If we run into some Muslims, you will see what I mean.”

“Yes, I had been looking forward to meeting that Abd al-Makti fellow.  What happened to him?” Charles wondered.

Margueritte shrugged, but she knew the snake was slinking around somewhere, and no doubt up to no good.  “You are still worried about Septimania?”

Charles nodded and Roland spoke.  “It is even as you called him.  He’s a Septimaniac.”

Charles got serious.  “We are surrounded by annoyances, Saxons, Alimani, Frisians, Thuringians, Swabians, Bavarians, Lombards and Goths, but none of those are real threats to the realm, provided we can stop fighting ourselves.  But the Muslims of this Caliphate thing.  Who knows what kind of resources they can bring?  They have already threatened Narbonne.  From there, they can threaten us, all those I named, plus Aquitaine, Vascony, Greater and Lesser Britain and maybe even Rome itself.”  Charles got hot.  “We need a permanent standing army.”

Martin made some noise from the tent.  “Excuse me,” Margueritte stood.  “To quote my husband, this is where we started.”  She stepped into the tent because Martin was hungry.  Having a clean diaper always made him hungry.

###

Charles moved his army in the early spring.  With word of his victory over Ragenfrid and Chilperic at Ambleve, Charles found his ranks growing.  He hoped Ragenfrid’s support might be dwindling, but he doubted it.  He chose Vincy as the location and settled into the advantageous position to take advantage of the natural terrain.  Vincy sat just inside Neustrian territory, and a victory there would send a strong message to all the Neustrian Franks.  The show-down occurred on March 21, 717, when Martin got ready to have his four-month-old birthday party.

Ragenfrid and Chilperic attacked like they had once before, but this time Charles had prepared for them.  His long line box that Margueritte refused to call a phalanx stayed disciplined enough to hold formation and not break.  The Neustrians attacked three times in the morning and were soundly driven back all three times.

On the third attack, near the noon hour, Charles sent word to Roland who had twelve hundred men on horse, waiting.  While the main force under Ragenfrid and Chilperic engaged Charles’ infantry, Roland moved into the enemy camp, easily took prisoners, women and soldiers, and had a thousand men set behind a barricade of wagons when the foot soldiers came trudging back.  The Neustrians were tired and ready to take a break, as armies did at midday in those days. They got close before a volley of arrows found them.  Their ranks were unformed, they were unprepared, and they did not have the training of the Austrasians.  What is more, after driving off the third assault, Charles counted to a hundred and then sent his ten thousand to counterattack.  The Neustrians were strung out and half-beaten already after their third failure to break the enemy line.  Fortunately for them, Charles wanted prisoners.  Otherwise, not many would have survived.  

Roland could not hold the enemy camp for long.  The sheer numbers of enemy soldiers eventually overran the position, but Roland had the horses handy and made an easy escape.  He had not been expected to stick around.  What had been expected was that Ragenfrid and Chilperic would take their horsemen, abandon the field, and leave their army of footmen to face their own fate.  Roland followed the horsemen, or more nearly chased them all the way back to Paris.

There were plenty of Neustrian soldiers who escaped, including many in the camp who had the good sense to get themselves untied.  But there were also plenty of prisoners, and among them were quite a few who were willing to fight for Charles once they found out he intended to go back and deal with Cologne and Plectrude.  After all, they spent all that time there and saw nothing for it.  They certainly did not get any of the treasure.

“Besides,” one commander said.  “I can see how this whole thing is going and I don’t want to be on the wrong side when it is settled.”

From an enemy, Charles might have thought twice, but these were Franks.  They were his people.  “Cologne first,” Charles said.  “Then we end it with Ragenfrid and his allies.”

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

MONDAY

Charles has to clean up the mess and then meet Ragefrid one more time. Third time is the charm. Until Monday. Happy Reading.

*

M4 Margueritte: Strike Back, part 2 of 3

On the first day of the siege, when some soldiers set up two tents for Margueritte and her women, other men dug a great pit in the woods and constructed two wooden seats and a wooden covering with a curtain so the women could go in private.  Sigisurd knew what went on there, besides sitting and thinking, but no one else knew.  After her first conversation with Abd al-Makti, Margueritte knew she could not trust anyone, and even Sigisurd’s memory got deliberately blunted to be safe.

Abd al-Makti came to her tent after giving her a week to settle in for a long wait, as sieges often become.  “If the Lady is at liberty, I would ask a few questions about things of the Franks and such.  I am a stranger here, and I do not understood as I should.”

Margueritte would have corrected the man’s grammar, but presently she felt something like a fly speck against her mind, and she tried not to laugh.  When she became invested as the Kairos in ancient days, given the responsibility for the little spirits of the earth, air, fire and water, and counted among the gods as the god or goddess of history, the gods understood her mind contained too much information about the future; information that would be dangerous in the wrong hands.  Therefore, it was decided to establish unbreakable barriers around her mind.  Even the gods could not read her mind.  This Islamic sorcerer had no chance, but in trying, he gave himself away.  She would have to be careful whom she trusted and with what information as long as this man walked around the camp reading people’s minds.

“Can I help you?”  Margueritte finally spoke and watched the frustration cross Abd al-Makti’s face.

“Indeed.  I thought a lady such as yourself might offer a more pleasant conversation than these men of war.  It appears we will be here for a long time, and full of much boredom.  I hope things are settled before the diseases begin.”

“As I think.  Cholera, dysentery, and such are not to be hoped for.  I say, the things I have seen in long sieges would make you shudder.  I suppose it is a good thing you cannot read my mind.”  She could not resist the jab.

“Indeed.”

The conversation continued for a time, but Margueritte represented herself well as a paragon of Christian virtues, and otherwise just the ordinary Frankish woman that she was, well, half Frankish, half Breton.  And Abd al-Makti kept saying indeed until he had enough.  He would not get anything out of her by direct questioning.  If she was a witch, or worse, the power his Lord and Master insisted, he could not prove it.  For her part, Margueritte saw no other signs of the man’s power, though she did not doubt he was a powerful wizard.  She suspected there was more to it, something more behind this man of power, but she caught no indication of what or who that might be.  This man appeared to be a genuine Muslim missionary, well versed in the Koran and his faith.  She checked with her Storyteller who studied all that and could look things up.

“I must be off,” Abd al-Makti said at last.  “My servant Marco has much to be watched, but I may return, and we will speak again.”

“We may speak again, another time,” Margueritte said with a smile, and thought, then again, we may not, God willing.

“That was interesting,” Sigisurd said.

“Don’t be fooled,” Margueritte responded.  “Christ is the way of life.  The Prophet is the way of death to all who will not submit to their greedy ambition.  Besides, they treat women like cattle.”

“And how is that different from the way we are treated now?”

“Trust me, you have no idea.”

When they reached the toilet, Margueritte called out.  “Tulip.”  The fairy appeared and immediately sprinkled Sigisurd with dust.

After a moment, Tulip announced, “She’s clean,” and Margueritte checked to be sure Tulip was clean as well.

Margueritte called, “Maywood.  Larchmont.”  Both fairies appeared, and Maywood spoke first.

“Plectrude is still in isolation, but she has spoken with a local midwife.  The feeling I get is she has heard about your situation and is willing to send help if Ragenfrid will let the woman through the lines.”

“We shall see.  That is good news.  I know Doctor Mishka and Greta can only do so much, being me, if you know what I mean, and I am sure Ragenfrid does not have a midwife in the camp.”

“Mother Mary checked on that,” Sigisurd said, and shook her head.

“And how is my husband?” Margueritte asked Larchmont.

“Impatient.  Every time I tell him you are fine; he keeps saying he is missing it all.  He wants to go yesterday, but Charles keeps saying, not until they are ready.  I get the feeling if this siege goes on much longer, they will get ready.  Charles has twice as many men as before, and he is pushing them hard to prepare.”

“Good for him.  Please tell him I had a talk with the bishop today.  His name is Boniface, and they should meet one day.  Remind him if he will support the Church, the Church will surely support him.  Then tell him Abd-al-Makti the Sorcerer has plans and is gathering information on our strengths and weaknesses, which I have no doubt will be shared with the invading Islamic generals in Iberia.”

“I do remind him of this and will again.  Charles is worried about the south coast of Septimania, it being in Visigoth hands.  He says the Visigoths in Iberia have put up little struggle against the invading Muslims and he feels sure they will not stop at the Pyrenees.”

“And I agree,” Margueritte said.  “Thank you.”  She waved her hand, and Larchmont and Maywood went back to the place from which she called them.  Then she went behind the curtain and left Sigisurd with Tulip because she really did have to go.

“What is the news from the coasts?” Margueritte asked from behind the curtain.

“All is quiet, and lovely,” Tulip reported.  She was in love with a fairy named Waterborn and had been for going on three hundred years.  Tulip now neared seven hundred years old.  But everything was lovely when a fairy was in love, so Margueritte asked.

“Tell me about the Christians in Frisia.”  Tulip was certainly old enough and mature enough to not ask, “What about them?”

“The priests and churches are mostly gone,” Tulip said.  “But the people are mostly good neighbors, and families that have been friends for generations remain friends, and what one family believes does not make them bad neighbors.”  

Margueritte considered Abd al-Makti.  Muslims could also be good neighbors until they got the upper hand.  Islam spread, not as a religion of gentle persuasion, like Christianity for the most part.  Christians had their convert or die moments, but they were rare.  Convert or die became standard practice for Islam, from the beginning, and Margueritte decided if that made her prejudiced, then so be it.  Boniface was right about that.  She felt driven to save life, not take it.

“Thank you, Tulip,” she said, as she came out from behind the curtain.

“Can I stay this time and be friends with Sigisurd?” Tulip pleaded sweetly, and Sigisurd looked hopeful, but Margueritte shook her head.

“Not this time.  Not as long as the sorcerer-spy is around, but some day things will be better.”  Tulip vanished as Margueritte sent her back to her troop that lived and worked along what would one day be called the Dutch coast.  Sigisurd looked sad, but understood, and in short order she forgot all about the fairies.  It was safer that way.

###

Summer became autumn and the leaves began to change.  Ragenfrid saw that the local harvest got brought in and took the lion’s share for his army.  No siege is perfect, especially when the General wants to own the city, not destroy it. The trick is to let just enough food inside the city to keep the population near starvation, but not too little so the people are not forced to survive on rats.  Ragenfrid sat on the fence about that with Cologne.  He would destroy the city if he had to.  Chilperic had been declared king of the Neustrian Franks, not the Austrasian Franks, and Cologne was a very Austrasian city.  Both the king and Ragenfrid assumed if the people turned from Plectrude and her son, they might just as easily swear allegiance to Charles rather than to him.

The city had the normal supply of foodstuffs until the harvest, but after that, they were at the mercy of Ragenfrid, and instead of standing watch on the walls, the people began to protest in the streets.  Rat was a dish not to be taken lightly, no matter the sauce.

Plectrude came out of her isolation when things in the city began to turn.  She had to do something before hunger caused a revolt and the people handed the city and her life to Ragenfrid.  To be sure, surrender seemed her only option, but she was not above haggling.  When her husband Pepin died, she brought much of his treasure, the treasure of Austrasia, with her to Cologne.  She trusted in Chilperic, a man who once went under the name of Daniel, who got dragged out of a monastery and given a crown, and trust in his forgiving Christian nature, that Plectrude turned over the treasure and renounced the mayoralty of her son on condition Ragenfrid go away and leave Cologne, and her, alone.

Chilperic agreed, and after great arguments, Ragenfrid and Radbod agreed, especially after Radbod got paid off.

M4 Margueritte: Strike Back, part 1 of 3

In a week, the army got settled into a siege around Cologne.  They cut the city off from the countryside and took the food that would have gone to the city residents.  Cologne had a strong garrison, and the population augmented the troops, at least at first.  It seemed enough to discourage Ragenfrid from taking the city by straight assault.  Besides, he wanted to talk with Plectrude and see if something might be worked out.  Unfortunately, he waited all spring and all summer while the woman locked herself in her rooms and saw no one.

Margueritte got along with her new friends, for the most part.  Rotunda liked to cook, she said, because she liked to eat.  That explained a lot, as Margueritte thought.

Gray haired Mary stayed out front, in closest contact with the soldiers and officers of Ragenfrid’s army.  She ran errands and did the laundry when she could, and the women began to call her Mother Mary to remind the enemy that they were good Christian women who deserved their consideration, if not their respect.

Sigisurd acted like Margueritte’s handmaid.  She was a shy and quiet soul who said little as she tried to anticipate Margueritte’s wants and needs.  Never far away, she even slept at Margueritte’s feet.  It could get annoying, but most of the time it was nice, as long as Margueritte did not let it spoil her.

Then there was Relii.  As far as the others could tell, her talents included eating and sleeping late.  Fortunately, she was not around much.  Margueritte had the good sense not to ask where she went, and she volunteered nothing, so they kept a conspiracy of silence for as long as no one came asking for her or complaining about her.  Margueritte did confess to the bishop once that she found Relii in a brothel in Orleans, having learned that Relii came from that area, and she thought to save her from that environment.

“I felt it was my Christian duty,” she said, and the bishop bought it.  He seemed willing to buy about anything she said, because he felt worried.  He saw the pagan priest with the Frisians, and worse, the teacher Abd al-Makti from Iberia as real threats to his flock.  He very much wanted Margueritte and her ladies to be Christians, and models of piety, which for the most part, they were, except maybe Relii was not so pious.

Margueritte talked often with the bishop, and she got the feeling that he ran interference for her with the powers in the camp, and she felt grateful.  It got to where she could see King Chilperic II, and pass pleasantries without him shrieking and running away, so that seemed a plus.  True, Ragenfrid continued to snub her when she walked about, but Margueritte figured that might be a plus as well.

King Radbod of the Frisians came to visit her on three separate occasions over the spring and summer and his pagan priest, Org came the third time.  They believed she was a very powerful witch, which proved good, because they stayed respectful of her person the whole time, and the king instructed his troops to stay away as well.  But to be sure, there was not much she could tell them, even on the third visit when they asked about the spirits of the earth.

“I have spoken to Neustrian men who know your father,” Org said.  “They say there were spirits that lived at your farm when you were growing up, and those spirits answered to you.”

“Rumors, and hear-say,” Margueritte said.  “Soldiers, like sailors, often see things that are not there, and superstitious men, like drunks, see all sorts of things.  Life is such a wonderful mystery, but I know some people need to explain everything and if there isn’t an easy explanation, they make one up.”

“No.  These are steady men, not superstitious or drunk as you suggest.  My sources say you can call up the earth spirits and compel them to do your bidding, and I would see if this is so.”

“Org.  King Ratbot,” she said, deliberately mispronouncing the man’s name, “If I have ever seen a little spirit, it is only because I love them as I love all of the great mysteries of creation.  And if they should ever do anything I ask, it is because I ask out of love, and they do it out of kindness, and I am always grateful.  Spirits though they be, I imagine they have their own minds and their own hearts and like people, they cannot ultimately be compelled without affecting some great evil upon them, which I would never do.”

Radbod twirled his moustache while Org thought for a minute and Margueritte smiled a kind, cooperative smile, and waited patiently, as was her womanly duty.  She often had to wait patiently for all of the ideas, multi-faceted notions and ramifications to work through the morass called a man’s mind.  Org spoke at last.

“So, we will not be seeing any sprits of the earth around here, and you will not be cooperating.”

“I would be glad to cooperate if I knew how.  All I can say is if you come across a spirit of the earth someday, I suggest gentle persuasion.”

“Thus says a woman,” King Radbod said, and they left.

Sigisurd took a breath.  “That was close.”

“Close to what?” they heard from the tent door.  The bishop stood there.

“Close to accusing me of something for which I am not guilty.  They seem to think I have some power over creation, but I have only prayer.”

“Ah,” the bishop came in and sat while he raised a knowing finger.  “But prayer is the greatest power in the universe, and that is something those pagans fail to understand.”

“Indeed,” Margueritte said.  “And I have prayed for you because I know you are deeply troubled by the pagans in the camp.”

The bishop shifted in his seat and looked down for a moment before he opened-up.  “When Lord Pepin died, many people were quick to take advantage of that, not just Plectrude wanting her son to be recognized as Mayor over the Austrasian Franks, though he is just eight years old, and not just Ragenfrid holding King Chilperic by the neck until he recognized Ragenfrid as Mayor over the Neustrian Franks.  King Radbod took the liberty to throw out every Christian priest in his land and burn every church.  Poor Wilibrord had to flee to an abbey on the edge of Frisian land.  The Frisians are reverted to paganism by royal decree, and Christians there are suffering terrible persecution.”

“Worse than the Bretons,” Margueritte nodded.  “But as I told Charles, the old ways have gone, and the new ways have come.  I told him if he strongly supports the Church, the Church will strongly support him and the Christian Franks, Austrasian and Neustrian both will flock to his banner.”

“It is true.  I have heard many Neustrians whisper support for Charles, and I understand there are many Austrasians who feel the same way.  Some real sign of support for the faith and he could win the whole Frankish nation, and no doubt Burgundy besides.”

Margueritte stood before Sigisurd could help her.  “These are glad tidings for my ears,” she said.  “I will pray that he does this very thing, but now you must excuse me.”  She stepped to the tent door but paused there to ask him a question.  “All this time you have not given me your name because you said you were still thinking about it.  I wonder if you decided.  You see, back home we had two Breton servants who came to the Lord.  One decided right away his Christian name would be Andrew.  The other could not decide between James and John.  One week he was James and the next he was John.  I have not yet heard his final decision, but most people call him John-James or James-John and leave it at that.”

“Yes,” he said.  “I have decided, I think.  I have been so impressed by your beneficence with regard to your love for life, your saving these women who were not originally known to you, as I well know, and in the way you so openly give all that you have to encourage others to save life in these days rather than take life.  I have considered how you put yourself in danger to save the lives of these women and joined with them in their plight when you might have remained silent and had comforts.  You confessed yourself in front of pagans and men of questionable faith, even as Boniface of Tarsus confessed himself to persecution.  I have decided the only name I can take is Boniface.  It must remind me to save life and not remain silent, even though it may bring me suffering.”

Something in Margueritte’s head echoed down through time and went, ding!

“I was born Winfrid, in Britain,” he went on.  “And right now, I should be at Nursling, teaching, but my heart won’t let me rest.  The Frisians and Franks and especially the Saxons are all my cousins, my brothers and sisters, and they deserve to be saved.  They need to hear the good news of life.”

“You have my blessing, for what it is worth.” Margueritte smiled.

“You have called me Bishop, and the others have begun to do the same, though I have no such authority in real life.  I am a plain priest, not long ordained, truth be told.”

“So, go to Rome.  Meet the Pope.  See if the Pope will confirm the name Boniface.  Apply for a Bishopric and be what we might call a minister without portfolio.  Go convert the Saxons and the Alemani, and maybe the Frisians, but watch out for them.  Org does not seem the friendly sort.  Build the church, an organized church.”

“You seem to have my whole life planned out for me.”

“Just a guess,” she said.  “But now you have to excuse me.  I really have to go to the bathroom.  But I tell you what.  When you come back from Rome, if things go as I hope and pray, I will introduce you to Charles and maybe you and he can work something out.”

“I would be pleased to meet him.”

Margueritte nodded and stepped out, Sigisurd one step behind.  Margueritte saw Abd al-Makti slinking around in the shadows, and she yelled at him.  “I don’t have time for you right now.  I have to shit, and you don’t want to be part of that.”

Abd al-Makti looked terribly embarrassed by the conversation.  It took him by surprise, and he shook his head.  By the time he got hold of his thoughts, Margueritte had going into the woods, holding her belly.  She was six months pregnant, after all.