Avalon 8.3 Above and Beyond, part 1 of 4

After 697 A.D. The Breton March

Kairos 101: Margueritte, the Bride

Recording …

A blonde, about thirteen, sat on her old mare like a young woman who spent plenty of time on horseback. She wore a fine-looking dress and had a silk scarf, which spoke of money, if not nobility.  Her old mare waited quietly, unlike the younger stallion beside her that pranced a little and did not seem to want to settle down in the face of the oncoming strangers.  The young man, maybe a year or two older than the girl, sat on the stallion and fidgeted a bit himself.  He did not appear alarmed, however, and had no weapons in any case other than the knife he wore on his belt.

Boston and Sukki drew near, but then stopped a few feet away from the young couple.  “Is this the road to the Breton March?” Boston asked.  “We are looking for Margueritte.”

The blonde rolled her eyes at the mention of Margueritte’s name, but before she could say anything, a fairy squirted out from her horse’s mane and flew up to face Boston.

“Hello Elf,” the fairy said.

Boston grinned and Sukki looked positively delighted.  “Hello fairy.  My name is Boston, and my sister’s name is Sukki.”

“My name is Goldenrod.  My best friend is Elsbeth, and Owien is her boyfriend.,” the fairy reported.

The boy and girl looked at each other, and Elsbeth raised her voice a little.  “Owien is not my boyfriend.”  She glanced at the boy.  Owien looked like he would be happy to be her boyfriend.  Sukki covered her smile.

“The rest of our group will be here in a minute,” Boston said.  Even as she spoke, Katie and Lockhart came around the bend in the road, followed by Tony and Nanette.  Lincoln and Alexis drove the wagon and Decker and Elder Stow brought up the rear in the rear-guard position.  Everyone waited for them to catch up, then Boston introduced everyone, including Goldenrod.

“Are you going to the wedding?” Katie asked, kindly.  They heard all about it in the village where they spent the night.  The King and Queen of Brittany with their son Judon, who often went by the name of David would be going.  They felt, after all the trouble they caused it was the least they could do.  The village chief, Brian was looking forward to it, though he never did explain exactly what the trouble was.  They would all be following in the morning.  “I expect Margueritte will make a lovely bride,” Katie finished with an encouraging smile.

Elsbeth rolled her eyes again as she and Owien turned around to lead the group to the triangle, which is what they called the home of the Lord of the March.  Then she opened up and seemed to want to talk about it.

“Margueritte is my sister, and the Breton are coming because my mother is a Breton.  My father is Count Bartholomew, Marquis of the Breton March.  He is Frankish, so Margueritte and I are half and half.  Owien, son of Bedwin, is all Breton.”

“I am not,” Owien objected.  “I am page to Lord Bartholomew and have pledged to the King in Paris, so I am a Frank now.”

“Lord Charles and Roland have been fighting in Vascony,” Elsbeth continued after another eye roll.  “We got word that they will be here tomorrow, and the wedding will be the next day.  Then Margueritte and Roland will go away with the army and Mother and Lady Jennifer will cry and miss her.  Then she will have adventures while Owien and I will have Latin every Wednesday.”  She made a face.

“It’s not so bad,” Owien said, and they all continued for a time at a very leisurely pace, letting the horses walk as they will.  Owien eventually thought of a question.  “So, where are you from?”

“And how do you know my sister?” Elsbeth added, though she seemed to have an idea.

“We are from a land far in the west called America, not Amorica,” Katie said.  “And how we know Margueritte is kind of complicated.”

Elsbeth harumphed.  “It’s that Kairos thing, I bet.  I met Gerraint and Festuscato, and she has got about a hundred more people that she has been in the past and some in the future.  It must be hard to keep track of them all.”

“We met Gerraint and Festuscato,” Lockhart said.  “We haven’t actually met Margueritte yet, to be honest.”

“I figured that,” Elsbeth said.  “Otherwise, I would remember you, or at least heard of you.  You know, Little White Flower, that is who Lady Jennifer used to be, she and her father Lord Yellow Leaf, the fairies, they came from America when I was little.”

“Lady Jennifer used to be a fairy?” Nanette asked from behind.

Elsbeth nodded.  “Margueritte made her human so she could marry Father Aden.  They have a little girl.  Father Aden will be doing the ceremony.”

Katie spoke up.  “Alexis, the one driving the wagon with Lincoln, she used to be an elf and the Kairos made her human so she could marry Lincoln.”

“Boston used to be human,” Lockhart added.  “She went the other way.”

“I didn’t know she could do that,” Owien said, sounding interested in the subject, but Elsbeth turned her nose up at the idea of being an elf.

“You could be a fairy,” Goldenrod spoke from where she relaxed in the mare’s mane.  Elsbeth nodded slightly, like maybe that would not be too terrible.

It was not that long before the group rounded the bend and arrived in the triangle.  The big barn in one corner sat nearest the road and backed toward the fields which spread out, just down a small incline.  At the top of the triangle, a tall tower of stone sat like a castle keep, and in the third corner sat the manor house.  A great, old oak grew outside the house, and a bench sat beneath the tree where one could sit in the shade on a hot summer day.  The whole scene looked peaceful and quiet, but the sensitive members of the group felt the hurried tension in the air.  A table had been built outside, under an awning.  It looked like it might seat thirty, but the man who stepped over from the blacksmith area outside the tower looked at the table and all the new people in the triangle and wondered if the table would be big enough.

“Father,” Elsbeth called to the man while she got down and let Owien take her horse with his into the barn.  Two women and a man dressed like a priest came out of the house, smiling and anxious to greet their guests.   Elsbeth went to stand beside the older woman who Katie guessed was Brianna, the mother. Then a young woman with dark hair and green eyes came barreling out of the door, shouting for Boston, her arms already open in anticipation of her hug.  Boston happily obliged.  Then Margueritte, who the young woman was, went happily from traveler to traveler hugging them all.

Margueritte’s mother, Brianna, did not know what to make of it all, but she did not seem surprised that her daughter knew complete strangers.  Margueritte’s father, the one from the blacksmith area simply looked confused.

Margueritte ran to him to grab his hand, and as she did, his mouth opened to say something, but he paused as a clear blue light filled the triangle and half of the people vanished.  Sukki, and Elder Stow stayed, since it was their turn to care for the horses and they followed Owien into the barn.  Tony and Decker did not disappear since they got busy taking the wagon across the road where they could park it next to the church that stood there.  But Katie, Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis, and Nanette, all vanished, along with Elsbeth, Brianna, Jennifer, and Father Aden.  Boston stood there suddenly alone, until Goldenrod fluttered up to land gently on Boston’s shoulder and speak in Boston’s ear.

“What just happened?”

The people vanished, but the horses remained in the yard with Boston and Goldenrod the fairy who tugged on Boston’s hair to get comfortable.  She repeated herself.  “What just happened?”

“What?” Margueritte’s father, Sir Barth spouted, and Margueritte let go of his hand to run forward to get a closer look.  Owien came running out of the barn, followed by Elder Stow and Sukki.

“Where did everybody go?” Owien asked.

Decker and Tony left Ghost and the wagon to cross the road.  Decker spoke.  “Somehow I don’t think the Masters are involved in this one.”

“No,” Margueritte agreed.  “Even Elder Stow’s people do not have that level of technology, if I am reading it right.”

“What just happened?” Goldenrod asked again.

M4 Margueritte: Sword of the Five Crosses, part 1 of 3

Wulfram got the men to set up camp on the pasture next to Ragenfrid’s people.  They figured they would have to wait, maybe until morning.  He took the extra precaution of setting the men in defensible positions, because he said there was no telling if Ragenfrid might show up with an entire army.

Tomberlain praised his sister.  “I am so glad you came along.  I never know what to say in those kinds of awkward situations.”

“I am not sure Margueritte said the right thing,” Roland admitted, with a glance at Margueritte, who sulked.  “We shall see what Ragenfrid comes up with.”

“Walk with me,” Margueritte grabbed Roland’s hand and stepped over to talk to Ragenfrid’s sons.  “Adalbert and Fredegar.”  Margueritte tried the names.  The young men looked but said nothing.  “May we sit?”  Adalbert waved at the grass, and Margueritte sat, but not without a cold look at the man who sat there on a log where he could keep his pants free from grass stains.

“Did father really hold you hostage?” Fredegar blurted out, and Margueritte nodded.

“I was young and pregnant, and he was not cruel to me, but he was not kind to me.”

“Sounds like father,” Adalbert said, gruffly.  “He decides something, and everyone is supposed to jump and do it, while he puts it completely out of his mind and moves on to the next thing.”

“Sir Roland, I’ve heard of you,” Fredegar interrupted.  “You fought for Charles the Usurper.”

“That’s Charles, son of Pepin of Herstal, Mayor of all the Franks, as was his father,” Margueritte corrected.

Roland nodded.  “Charles and I have been friends for a long time.  I hope your brother Bernard has the good sense to explain things well to your father.  I would like to wrap this up amicably and not get Charles involved.”

“So how long have you boys been coming to this side of the river?” Margueritte asked casually.

“Oh, all my life,” Fredegar insisted.  Adalbert looked more thoughtful.

“We only have Father’s word that his father came to this side of the river before him.”

“And these are all of you cows?” Margueritte asked, sweetly.

“Oh no,” Fredegar said.  “We have two other herds out in other pastures.”

“Really?” Margueritte sounded fascinated.  “How many would that be?”

“Over two hundred,” Fredegar said proudly before Adalbert hit him.  “What?”

Margueritte spoke directly to Adalbert.  “Don’t worry.  The tax will be reasonable.”

As expected, Ragenfrid did not arrive until mid-morning on the next day.  He came with roughly fifty men of his own, but it was easy to tell who the soldiers were, and who had the collection of farm hands.  Also, as expected, Ragenfrid had no bill of sale.

“My father sometimes has the bad sense to take what he wants,” Bernard all but apologized.

“I understand, but in this case, he can’t have it unless he pays for it,” Tomberlain said.  “I am not willing to sell this land, but I might be willing to rent it for ten years, for a price and on conditions.”

Ragenfrid balked on the down payment price, but Margueritte and the others agreed that he had to suffer some penalty for using the land for three generations without paying.  That was three cows for each generation, a cheap price all things considered.  He also balked on the payment price of three cows per year, but as Roland pointed out, if his herd of over two hundred could not produce three replacement calves per year, at a minimum, then they could not help him. Finally, he threw a fit about the conditions.  Any refusal or failure to pay, whether he used the land that year or not, no excuses, and they would take his three sons as hostages.

“No.  Absolutely not.  I will not sign the agreement,” he steamed.

“Larchmont,” Margueritte called.  The fairy appeared, but in hunter’s garb and full sized so as not to cause a panic.  “Have your people located the other two herds.”

“Yes Lady, we await only your word.”

“Let’s start with the herd we have here,” Roland said.  “Wulfram.  These cows are trespassing.  Please slaughter the herd.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Wulfram said and did not bat an eye.  Wulfram turned to shout orders, but Ragenfrid interrupted.

“Wait, wait.”  He stepped up to the table where the clerics had everything written out in triplicate.  Ragenfrid signed and sealed the papers, one for him, one for the count and one for the king.  Tomberlain did the same.  “Take your stolen property and be gone,” Ragenfrid said, and Margueritte smiled because it looked like he almost said, take you stolen property and get off my land.  That would have been a great choke.

Outside, Margueritte paused to speak to the boys.

“If your father screws up, I look forward to showing you the wonders of Potentius and the castle we are building,” she said, and mounted Concord, a horse the boys were admiring, and rode to the top of the hill to wait.

After that, they had to go some distance to the ford of the Mayenne, but then went straight across the land to home.  They stopped in Gontier and in Craon, where they visited with Peppin and his family, but then they went straight on.  It became the end of August, and Margueritte missed her children.  Wulfram told Roland and Tomberlain, too bad Ragenfrid conceded to the demands.  He had been looking forward to giving his men a workout against Ragenfrid’s men and really see what they could do with all the new training.  Margueritte chalked it up to the age being a bloodthirsty age and laughed before she spent the rest of her time, all the way home, asking forgiveness for wanting to see Ragenfrid suffer.


Margueritte barely got in the house and hugged her children before she heard the news.  As Margueritte suspected, the Muslims came out of Septimania and laid siege to Toulouse.  Duke Odo, being forewarned, escaped.  He went to Bordeaux where he raised the army, and on June ninth he returned to Toulouse, crushed the enemy, and drove them out of Aquitaine.  It proved a great victory for the duke and a crushing defeat for the Muslims who were not used to losing.  Margueritte felt happy to hear the news, but she puzzled over the fact that there were no reports of heavy cavalry among the Muslims.

“Something is wrong here,” was all she said, until she added, “This isn’t right.”

“Right or not, I think it is great news,” Roland responded.

“Are you talking about a boy?” Elsbeth asked.

“I’ve felt that way sometimes,” Jennifer said.

“What did Martin do now?” Margo asked.

“I am sure it will all work out in the end,” Mother said.

“What?” Goldenrod asked, and after Margueritte explained it and everyone else said now they understood what she was talking about, Goldenrod still said, “What?”

Margueritte stepped out to check on the construction of the castle if she could call it that.  Ronan, the general contractor had laid out pairs of stones the width of the expected wall.  The pairs ran all the way around the proposed castle, every three yards.

“I spent the winter checking the fortress where you said Charles had been held prisoner some years back.  It is well made, and solid, but I think we can improve the design in some ways.”  He explained how the proposed wall could be angled at points to allow for a crossfire of arrows and strengthened in between with strong towers.  He detailed his thoughts on how to shape the wall to resist catapult blows, and how he wanted to construct an inside walkway to allow a second layer of defense where men could use slim windows to cut down ropes and push down ladders, or just add to the arrow barrage as may be.”

“An inner hallway between the towers,” Margueritte said, and blinked to keep her eyes awake.  Ronan was long winded and technically minded.

“You could call it that,” Ronan nodded and got interrupted.  Margueritte breathed.

“Lord Ronan,” two workers came up.

“Sven and Gunter,” Ronan introduced them, and added that Gunter gave him the idea of the inner hallway and some thoughts on how to catapult-proof the walls.

“What is it?”  Ronan turned to the workers.

“We have marked out the four gates,” Gunter, the short, dark, and ugly one spoke.  Sven, the big, blond, ogre-looking one merely nodded.  “We got the two main gates, east and west on the old Roman road, and the big back gate by the barn, but I want to try once more to speak against the small postern gate by the kitchens.  All that makes is an additional way for an enemy to break in.”

Ronan looked at Margueritte, but she merely shook her head.  “We are building a defensible home, not a fortress.  I hope to make it impossible for raiders, brigands, and small forces, and maybe discourage an opposing army from making the attempt, but I do not want to see the walls splattered with blood.  For an army, we negotiate.”

“Very good, milady,” Ronan gave a slight bow before he turned to his workers.  “There you have it.”

“Fine,” Gunter said, though he did not sound too happy about it.  “But what about the little Serveen River.  I’ve surveyed the area.  It would not be too hard to divert it into the hollow where that little stream runs.  It would make a nice little lake there on the west side and a nice barrier against the Bretons.  And you could stock it with fish; good eating for the ladies.”  Gunter tried to smile, but his bulbous nose got in the way.

“Not at this time,” Margueritte said, but she wondered what sort of technology the dark ages had that could divert a river, and who, in that age, would even think of such a thing.

Sven sneezed all over Gunter’s head.  Gunter turned and hit him in the arm.

“Watch it,” he said, as he wiped off his head.  “I don’t want your germs.”

“Leave the river where it is,” Ronan said.

“Very good,” Gunter turned and tried a pleasant face before he turned back to Sven and hit him again as they walked off.

“I don’t know where the man comes up with such strange ideas,” Ronan said.

Margueritte just smiled for him and told him to keep up the good work, but she walked away with some strange thoughts.  Who, in her day, would even imagine diverting a river?  And that walkway through the stone wall—that would require some serious engineering skills.  She doubted Ronan had such skills.  She doubted Ronan could do the math with Roman numerals.

M4 Margueritte: Potentius, part 2 of 3

Margueritte rode Concord every day in the spring, worked out with the weights Luckless made, and walked everywhere.  Roland often rode with her, and sometimes Elsbeth and Goldenrod, just like the old days.  Margo and Giselle took turns walking with her, and Margo understood that Margueritte, having had two girls just thirteen months apart, became determined to shape up and lose all the baby fat.  Margo knew it would be a good idea in her own life, but she was not as determined.

Captain Wulfram returned in the spring, and he and Peppin had worked out a system to train the men to be lancers in the true medieval sense, as Margueritte thought of it.  Knighthood remained connected, somehow, to horsemen, as opposed to foot soldiers, and Margueritte knew it would not be long before the lance became the staple of the horsemen.

Once Peppin and Wulfram understood what Margueritte was doing with the weights, they had more made and started sending their men regularly for strength and conditioning workouts.  Margueritte had some special equipment built for the conditioning, and Gerraint kindly volunteered to show the men how to use it all, while Festuscato marked out several trails for running and walking through the woods of the Vergen.  At the last, Margueritte put a hold on building the barracks for the men so she could build a gymnasium of sorts.  There, the men worked on close combat, including working with staffs, swords, and hand to hand.

“I figure it will take three to five years,” Margueritte said, of her building projects.  She had big plans but kept saying the money would run out first.  Roland hushed her and took her, her mother Brianna, and Tomberlain to the Great Hall, where he had maps laid out on the big table.  Wulfram and Peppin were already there, and Childemund, who was becoming a familiar face around the house.  Elsbeth came in, wondering what everyone was doing, and Childemund spoke to her.

“I just brought the mail.  You need to look at this.”

Roland spoke.  “I have been going over the grants on the Breton border that make up the actual Breton Mark.  They were established by Chlothar the First, the son of Clovis, a long time back, and your ancestor, I mean Margueritte, Elsbeth and Tomberlain’s ancestor got the lion’s share, being at the center of the whole Mark. All I can say is Chlothar was very generous, or he did not have a good map at the time and wasn’t aware of what all was involved.”

“Or he overcompensated the three Lords he willingly spared for the duty,” Margueritte said.  “Go on.”

“Well, as near as I can make out, the North march starts at Fougere, where the tower was built, and goes north to the sea at Mount Tombe, what we now call Mount-Saint-Michel.  Most of it contains a corner of the province of Normandy.”

“The South march surrounds the mouth of the Loire River. It includes Nantes, and though I know the new Marquise there, Count Michael realizes it, I am not sure he quite knows what to do with it.  The South march does not include much above the Loire, but it stretches slightly north, mostly east to Ancenis.”

“It isn’t quite clear in these papers who owns Ancenis, but basically, you own everything from Ancenis north all along the Breton border to Fougere.  It is a pretty wide grant as well, stretching all the way east to the Sarthe River, which was used as the boundary.  You do not own Angers, but almost, and you do own a number of Frankish towns all through the area.  And here is the big thing.  You own Laval.”

“What are we going to do with a small city?” Margueritte asked.

“Impose a small tax,” Childemund answered.

Peppin pointed to the map.  “My place is up here around Craon, and we pay ten percent of our earnings every year.  As your father said, if ten percent is good enough for the Lord, it is good enough for him.”

“Basically, you own everything between well west of the Oudon and the Sarthe River, and south along both sides of the Mayenne and a good chunk southeast of the Erdre River.”

“Too much,” Margueritte said.

“Enough for your own small kingdom,” Wulfram suggested.

Margueritte hit her brother.  “Don’t get any ideas,” she said.  “Has Charles seen this?”

“He was the one who suggested the small tax to pay for whatever it is you are doing out here,” Childemund said with a nod.

“I need to think,” Margueritte said.  “This is a lot to take in.”  She turned to her mother.  “Did you know all this?”

“Some,” she said.  “I never imagined it to this extent, but I knew there was a lot more land than your father or his father or his grandfather ever settled.”

“Some of it may have been sold since Chlothar’s day.” Roland suggested, and Tomberlain balked.

“There goes my plans.”

“A palace in Laval for your old mother?” Mother asked, sweetly.

“So, I get to spend the next three to five years traveling the family lands to determine what has been sold and what we still own, if any.”  Margueritte said.

“By the way.”  Childemund spoke.  “Charles wants to know the name of this new town you are building right here so he can mark it on the maps.”  Many of the contract workers ended up staying and building ever more houses.  Even the Breton farm workers were moving into town.  Margueritte had the Paris Road diverted from its straight Roman line, so it went through the evolving market square of the new village instead of coming straight by the manor house.  Margueritte had plans to encircle the house, barn, stables, and barracks with a stone wall.  She wanted to take the church and parish house inside the castle walls as well, but that would cut right across the straight Roman road.  Father Aden said that would be fine, though, because the way the community kept growing, they would have to build a bigger church in town, anyway, and already picked out a site and a name, Saint-Audin.  The old church was really only a chapel.

“Potentius,” Margueritte decided on a name.  “It is Latin.  Potens means powerful, but in my mind, it also serves as the root for potential.  At present, that is all it is.  Potential.”

“Where’s Vergenville?” Elsbeth stared at the map and spoke up for the first time.  She pointed at the map, but she was not sure.

“No,” Roland said.  “That’s Remmes.  Vergenville is this small dot.”

“Looks like only one house,” Elsbeth complained.

“That must be Chief Brian’s house,” Tomberlain said.

Margueritte had a thought.  “That’s what they ought to call the place, House of Brian,” which of course came out, Chateaubrian.  “But I guess they will have to wait a hundred years before that happens.”


“Of course, Margueritte could not get started on her tour of the family lands for more than a year.  Grace needed to be eating regular food, regularly.  It became a dull year in Margueritte’s mind.  The only news of note was Chilperic IV’s sickness and passing away.  Charles wrote that since Chilperic had been Daniel the monk and had no direct heirs, he appointed young Theuderic IV to be king.  And let that be an end to the discussion.  Charles was very clear about that.  The only break in Margueritte’s work and routine came on Samhain, the once in four years visit to Vergenville, where the Lords of the Frankish mark met with the Breton King and renewed the ties of friendship and peace, and discussed grievances, if any.

The work in Potentius continued in 720.  The dimensions for the castle were laid out and the towers planned and marked, but little actual work on the castle got done that year.  The barracks were finished, but some of the men, who were not strangers to the Breton and to the area, fetched their families and thus built more homes in the growing village.  Potentius got to be a boom town, but then again, there was work to be done in Potentius, and men actually got paid for their labor.

Brittany turned two on November thirteenth.  Martin turned four on December second, and Margueritte began to consider looking for a tutor for his reading and writing in Latin, and his arithmetic.  Grace turned one on December twenty-sixth, and Margueritte began to casually think about a travel route.  She wrote a letter on the first day of the year of our Lord, 721, to Duke Odo in Aquitaine warning him about the Muslim ambitions and to be on the lookout.  Toulouse came next in line after Narbonne and Septimania, and she did not want him to be caught unprepared.

Margueritte, Roland and Tomberlain went over the maps very carefully in 720, and Margueritte wrote kind letters to everyone she could that she knew was squatting on Tomberlain’s land, including the little city of Laval.  She said she would visit in the next several years and hoped to work out an equitable payment of taxes as well as to hear any grievances or thoughts concerning the land distribution and usage.  It was not at all a threatening letter, but she knew some would take it that way, regardless.

She did get some letters back, mostly from out toward the Sarthe River, where some claimed they had bills of sale written by her sires, and Margueritte encouraged them to produce the papers because her only substantial information was the original land grant of Chlothar, son of Clovis, and she expected there were some properties sold in the meanwhile.  Margueritte decided at that time, that whatever had not already sold east of a certain point, needed to be sold if possible, or given to the church.  The Storyteller looked things up for her, and she decided the twenty-first century department of Mayenne would more than enough for Tomberlain.

Margueritte did not feel sure what to do about the quarter of Anjou province, which was all that land west of the Sarthe and north of the Loire. and west to the Breton border.  That land included her made up town of Potentius as well as Peppin’s Craon.  She thought that might do well for Elsbeth and Owien, though it would require some serious talking to Tomberlain.  Mother would help.  As for herself, she did not worry.  Roland would be getting the lion’s share of his father’s property, which she thought was a more frugal grant, but more than enough for them and their children and grandchildren.

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.


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.



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 3 of 3

That evening, she confessed to Roland.  “I have to go, but I don’t want to leave.  I just got you back.”

“Owien must be about twenty by now.  That is almost grown up, and Elsbeth is what, seventeen?” Roland asked.  “I married you when you were seventeen.  I thought you were very grown up.”

“Owien is nineteen and Elsbeth is eighteen, and I can only imagine the disaster if I left things in their hands, no offence to Owien,” she responded.

“Now, come on.  Elsbeth is a sensible young woman and probably well grown by now.”

Margueritte could not imagine it but said no more about it.  She felt worried about her father, and what her mother would do when he had gone.  She felt glad Jennifer stayed nearby.  Tomberlain told her they built a cottage beside the church, and some others had come since then and were building their own cottages there, in a place that was safe for Christians.  Margueritte thought that one day there would be a nice little town, and it already had a poor section where the serfs had their huts, just down the hill from the barn.  Sometimes she hated the age she lived in.  She rolled over to rest on Roland’s chest.  Then again, she thought, some things were very nice.  Brittany got fussy so she had to get up, and she thought, or not so nice in any age.


Roland gathered a hundred horsemen from the Breton side of the world to accompany Margueritte home.  Boniface would be going with them as far as Paris.  Sigisurd decided to stay on the Saxon border.  She said it felt a land like the place where she grew up, but Margueritte figured Sigisurd and Geoffry would not be single for long.  Horegard and Rosamund had already more or less given their blessing, and even Ingrid seemed to like Sigisurd, and talked to her more than she talked to Margueritte.  Aduan liked everyone, so there was no trouble there, so overall, Margueritte kissed the girl good-bye and sighed as she got up in the wagon that she christened the S. S. Black-n-Blue. 

Relii went with her for the first two days.  Count Adelard was going home, and Herlindis had the good sense to ride on horseback.  Relii bounced with Margueritte for those days, but when they reached the Abbey, Margueritte got left alone with her children.

Marigold came to visit every day they were along the Meuse River, and Tulip came twice.  After they left the River, Tulip took over the visits and stayed with her, at least during the day, every day, until they reached Paris.  

They stopped in Paris for a time.  Margueritte saw that Boniface got well taken care of, and she also got treated well, going back to the same house Charles owned on the left bank of the Seine, the house with the servants.  Rotrude, Charles wife, was not there, but the servants did not question her being there.

Margueritte took the time to visit several local blacksmiths and three saddleries while she was in town.  It was not easy to do with the children along, but she found a young woman to help.  Her name was Giselle, and her family came from Vascon, and came to Paris a generation ago by way of Orleans.  The children seemed to like her, so Margueritte hired her to be an au-pair, though no one knew what that was.  Then Margueritte found out what it would take to make a better saddle, one with stirrups, and how much it would cost to make real lances, a shield to balance the other side, and gauntlets to hold them.  She had samples made of each, found a horse that could carry all that weight, and made Captain Wulfram ride the horse and get used to the equipment.

“My arms will fall off by the time we reach Little Britain,” Wulfram said.

“So you know better how you need to train the rest of the men,” she answered, and she crawled into the wagon.  

For the next three days, Wulfram complained that he could see no military value in what she asked him and his men to do.  “We have horsemen who can ride around an enemy flank and strike where least expected.  All this equipment would make that impossible.  They would hear us clinking and clanking from a mile away.”

“But your horsemen dismount to fight on foot.  With this, you can fight from horseback.”

“That’s crazy.  You can’t fight a man from the back of a horse.  A man can move and turn.  A horse can’t keep up.”

“You will see, when the time comes,” Margueritte insisted.

When they arrived at Margueritte’s manor home, the spring came in full bloom, and Captain Wulfram had only one thing to say.  “Well, at least my sword doesn’t feel as heavy as it used to.”

“You will see,” Margueritte insisted, and she pointed Wulfram and his hundred horse back down the road they just came up.  “Down the hill where the grassland flattens out.  Try and keep your camp to the right side of the road.  We will need the long field for practice.”

“Sorry Margueritte.  Now that we have delivered you, we need to get back to Charles in Saxony.”

“No,” Margueritte interrupted the man.  “I stood right there.  Charles clearly said you were to stay with me until I dismissed you.  Well, you are not dismissed.  Even under the watchful eye of Charles and Roland, I have been kidnapped twice and held for hostage, and I would have been kidnapped a third time by the Saxons if I hadn’t found a way out of that dilemma.  No, captain.  You are not dismissed.  You camp right here.”  She turned away from the captain and spoke to the teamsters who were holding the wagon.  “Lambert and Folmar, just stay here and relax for a bit.  I’ll let you know where to take things in a minute.”

Margueritte’s mother, Brianna came running, Jennifer beside her, and Margueritte smiled to see them, but noticed how old Mother had gotten in the last four years.  Her hair had turned completely gray, and her skin developed some real wrinkles in her face and hands, and crow’s feet around the eyes.  Her eyes overall looked saggy and worn, like she had not slept well in months, but they still had a familiar sparkle when she held Brittany.  The sparkle said mother, or maybe grandmother.

Jennifer’s eldest, her girl named LeFee was five and said to be sweet.  Her boy, Cotton, two and a half, about Martin’s age, had been reported to be a hand full.  Margueritte talked about her own.  “Sigisurd used to call Martin the wrecker.  I hope the house is childproofed.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Jennifer said.  “But everything is put up where Cotton can’t reach it.”

“I don’t know.  Martin is a climber,” Margueritte began, but she got interrupted by a flying streak of light.

“Lady!  Lady!  Lady!”  Goldenrod grabbed Margueritte by the face and kissed her cheek over and over. Margueritte had to grab the fairy by the fairy weave that covered the girl’s butt to pull her off.

“Good to be home, but it helps to breathe,” Margueritte said.  Mother and Jennifer laughed.  Giselle’s eyes got big, but she said nothing.

The next interruption was by Puppy who came up barking and lolling his tongue, a tongue he used to lick Margueritte’s face when she got down to pet him.  “Puppy, you remember me.”  Margueritte felt happy.

“He does,” Goldenrod said.  “And so do I, and me and Puppy take good care of the sheep, we do.”

“I am sure you do.”

“Just like you taught us.  Isn’t that right, Puppy?”  Puppy barked.  Then a grown-up couple came from the barn, and Margueritte had to take a breath.

“Owien with a beard,” she said softly, and Jennifer nodded.  Mother couldn’t seem to take her eyes away from Brittany who cooed in her arms and playing with Mother’s face.  “Owien, son of Bedwin, good to see you, if that is really you beneath all that hair.”

“Good to have you home,” Owien said.

“And who is this well grown woman beside you?” Margueritte asked.

“Elsbeth,” Owien started to answer, but Elsbeth took his hand and stuck her tongue out at her sister, which made Margueritte laugh.

“I see she has matured well,” Margueritte said, and held out her arms.  Elsbeth ran into them for a big hug.  Then she backed up and had something to say.

“About time you got here.”

“It is very hard to get anything done when my workers run off.”  Another woman stood in the barn door, and Grimly stood beside her.

“Me and Catspaw and Pipes are workers,” Grimly said.

“On a blue moon,” the woman responded, with blunt familiarity to the gnome and came out to see the visitors, even as LeFee came out of the house dragging a three-year-old girl by the hand.

Elsbeth spoke.  “That’s Margo, Tomberlain’s wife, and the girls are LeFee and Larin.”

“LeFee is mine,” Jennifer said.

“I remember,” Margueritte said.  “But Tomberlain told me nothing.”  

“They married the year after you left with Roland.  She is Sir Giles’ granddaughter,” Elsbeth explained.  “They met when he went to Paris as Roland’s squire.”

“You must be Margueritte,” Margo said, as she walked up to join the group, Grimly in her trail.  “Tomberlain told me all about you.  I half expected you to fly in on a broom.”

“No.  The broom flying was my work,” Grimly said in a voice that implied it was terribly hard work.

“No, I made the broom fly,” Goldenrod objected from Jennifer’s shoulder where she had taken a seat.  She took that moment to flit to Elsbeth’s shoulder where she clearly felt most comfortable.  

Margo and Margueritte kissed cheeks like sisters, but not much more because Margo was in her sixth month and beginning to round out.

“Got any names picked out?” Margueritte asked.

“Not yet,” Margo said, but she looked like she had a few possibilities in mind.

“Me neither,” Margueritte patted her stomach.  She felt fairly sure she was pregnant, but maybe it was too soon.  Brittany was not quite past five months old.

“Me neither,” Jennifer said with a grin and pat to her own stomach. 

“Me neither,” Goldenrod said.  She thought she knew what they were talking about but did not want to be left out of the discussion.

“I want one,” Elsbeth whined to Owien, who looked like he thought he knew what they were taking about.

 “Now, let me introduce everyone.  This appendage to my dress in Martin.”  Martin, who had been staring, turned his face into his mother’s leg.  “The one holding Mother’s nose is Brittany.  And this one is Giselle, their au pair.  She is from Paris.”

“Oh?” Margo responded.  “News from home.”

These fine gentlemen are Lambert and Folmar, and they are going to unload our things in the house and take the wagon to the barn.  Grimly, show these men where to store the wagon so it is out of the way, and get the mules settled.  I am depending on you.  Meanwhile, why don’t the rest of us go up to the house?”

“Yes,” Mother spoke at last.  “You want to see your father.”

“And tell stories.  We have a lot to catch up on.”



Margueritte returns home to The Breton March and finds trouble following her. Until Monday, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: The Saxon March, part 1 of 3


Between today and the end of the year, you can get Avalon, the Prequel, Invasion of Memories, Avalon The Pilot Episode, and all six seasons of the Avalon series in e-book format for free.

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By the time everything got settled in Paris, and Margueritte understood what Gerraint said about the women in Paris only having one brain which they took turns using, the autumn weather hinted of winter.  Roland wanted to leave Margueritte in a comfortable home over the winter, but she insisted on going with him.  If he left without her, she would follow him as soon as the baby got born.  It became their first real argument, but in the end, they had no say in the matter.

Charles would head for Frisia before the winter set in.  He planned to trim Radbod’s mustache, permanently.  He also wanted to be in a position to confront the Saxons as soon as the spring came, because they were raiding into Frankish territory and that had to be stopped.  The Saxons had to be told the in-fighting among the Franks was over, so they raided at their own risk.  And Margueritte would deliver in a couple of weeks at most.  She could not go anywhere, and she could not delay the men.

Charles and Roland rode off and Margueritte’s delivery went without complications.  Sigisurd kept Martin who would be two years old in a mere three weeks.  Margueritte called that recovery time, but the truth was she got little time to recover.  As soon as she was on her feet, one noble after another came to call.  Word had gone out that she had Charles’ ear, and every man and woman in Paris had some beef or gripe or cause to support.  The worst were the bishops and priests, and even the archbishop paid his respects.  It became tiring, not the least because she had to remain pleasant and positive, not promise anything, yet not send them away dissatisfied.

Roland really did understand.  He left a company of men under a Captain Ragobert from his home province on the Saxon March and suggested if Paris got impossible, she should go visit his family and he would find her there in the spring.  Margueritte waited three whole weeks.  Martin turned two and they had a private celebration.  The very next day she packed, and against doctor’s orders, she set out in December for the other side of Austrasia.

Once again, Margueritte had to ride in the wagon, but this time they kept to the roads.  They were mostly old Roman roads, and not that badly kept, so the black and blues were not too bad.  Ragobert was not much of a conversationalist, but he seemed a competent military officer, and this time she had plenty of private time that the soldiers from Aquitaine never allowed.  With that time, she called Tulip, Queen of the Fairies in what was Frisia, and sometimes she called Marigold, Maywood’s wife and Queen of the fairies in east Austrasia and Saxony, around the Rhine, between the Meuse and Wesser Rivers.

On the thirteenth of December, they arrived in Verdun and took rooms at a local inn on the Meuse River.  Margueritte’s baby girl, Brittany turned one month old and already owned her brother Martin’s heart.  Between the children and the fairies, Sigisurd never seemed so happy, and so sad.  She turned eighteen and wanted a good husband and children of her own.  She did not say as much, but Margueritte and Tulip were not fooled.

Baby Brittany caught a little cold in Verdun, but the sun came out the next day and the snow rapidly melted.  “But we shall have a white Christmas,” Margueritte announced, and then she had to explain.

From Verdun, they took a flatboat and traveled for days down the Meuse, always headed north toward the Frisian and Saxon border, with the soldiers riding parallel to their course on the eastern bank.  They finally came to a little village called Aldeneik where they departed and took once again to the wagon.  They did not go far.  They found an inn, though it proved more of a tavern with a couple of rooms at best.

Captain Ragobert went in first.  He had the purse and proposed a warm and comfortable night or two before they moved two or three days across country to the Rhine.  “It’s a one-day trip to old Horegard’s place,” he said, “but your wagon does not exactly move fast where the roads are bad.”

“Great,” Margueritte practiced her sarcasm.  “We will arrive looking like you and your men have been beating us up.”  Ragobert knew enough by then to know she was joking, and he nodded when he went in, but his face seemed frozen in serious thoughts.

“Not so much as a smile,” Sigisurd whispered.

“I bet he doesn’t cry, either.” Margueritte whispered in return.

There were two nuns and a novice inside the tavern, speaking with the tavern keeper.  Nuns were not an unusual sight in those days, even in a tavern, but there seemed something familiar about the young one.  When she turned, and looked at the newcomers, Margueritte knew and shouted.


“Margueritte!” Relii shouted back and they hugged around Brittany who was in Margueritte’s arms.

“What are you doing here?” both asked before Relii hugged Sigisurd and bent down to see Martin.  Sigisurd held Martin’s hand and Martin held his mother’s dress.  He turned his shy face into his mother’s dress when Relii spoke to him and said how big he was getting.

“Martin, you remember Relii don’t you?” Margueritte said, but Relii shook her head as she stood.

“He was very young.  But what are you doing here?” Relii guided them to a table to sit, and Margueritte spoke plainly.

“I am taking the children to visit Roland’s family.  Now that Charles has taken charge over all the Franks, he has turned first on Radbod and the Frisians before he goes after the raiding Saxons.  The plan is for them to be here by spring.  We shall see, knowing how rarely plans go according to plan.  But you?  I thought you were dead.”

“I knew you weren’t.  After I recovered, a man told me at sunrise he saw soldiers outside the inn and two women, and a baby being forcibly loaded into a cart and taken out of town.  I figured out who it was when they did not find your bodies.”  Relii reached out and covered Margueritte’s hand as the two older nuns came over and sat quietly to listen.  “They all died, Mother Mary and Rotunda, and that nice older couple.”

“Did you have any of the soup?” Margueritte asked.  “The poison was in the soup.”

Relii’s eyes got big.  “I knew it wasn’t witchcraft.  I told the people you would never do such a thing.”

“Me?” Margueritte felt shocked at the suggestion.  “I keep telling people, I am not a witch.”

“You can’t always tell a witch from her looks,” Relii said, and looked down at the table and worried her hands.  Margueritte understood that Relii had some power that was not normal.  Now it made sense why Abd al-Makti the sorcerer never came around at the same time Relii stayed in the camp.  She wanted to ask Relii her impression of Abd al-Makti, but with the nuns there, she thought it better to avoid that subject.

“Anyway,” Relii continued.  “Poison makes sense.  I know I was deathly ill for three days, and everyone died, but somehow, I recovered.  It could only have been a miracle, by the grace of God.  I was in the village, in a home when Charles and Roland came.  The villagers told them what they knew, and I know they looked in on me.  I don’t know if Roland recognized me.  You know, I always avoided him seeing me.  But anyway, they burned the inn to the ground and left.  I recovered, truly a miracle, and I felt then and there it was time to go home and follow my destiny.”

“But you?  A nun?  That is about the last thing I would expect.”

Relii turned a bit red and looked at her fellow nuns.  “It is my destiny.  Father built the abbey for his daughters who he said were never going to be defiled by wicked men.  My sister, Herlindis is the Abbess.  My real name is Relindis, but you can call me Relii.  It is what my mother called me when I was really young.  Of course, Herlindis was always Herlindis, full name.  Did I mention she is the Abbess?”

“Yes, you did,” Sigisurd interjected.

“Your father?” Margueritte asked.

“Count Adelard.  All of this land is his.  We are in the second line of the Saxon Mark, as he calls it.  If the Saxons ever break through the Mark, we need to be prepared.”

Margueritte had a moment of insight.  “It must have been hard for you in the camp, trying not to be recognized.”

Relii nodded.  “There were certain men I had to avoid.”

“I was not aware you avoided any men,” Sigisurd said, and Margueritte pinched her to get her to shut up.

“I was grateful for the way you and Sigisurd took care of me when I was with child and helpless, and the times you helped Rotunda with the cooking and Mother Mary with the washing and the errands,” Margueritte said.

“I didn’t do much,” Relii admitted.  “But I saw your example and I learned.”

“Please,” Margueritte looked down at Brittany and uncovered enough so she could nurse.  “I am no saint.”

“But you are, more than you know,” Relii said, and Sigisurd nodded vigorously.  “And you can do things, such blessings as most people cannot imagine.”

Brittany settled in and Margueritte looked up and got serious.  She looked also at the two nuns to be sure they were paying attention.  “I only do things that are perfectly natural for me.  If I walk or talk, or nurse my baby, no one calls these things miracles because they are perfectly natural things.  If I can do something most people cannot, it does not make it a miracle if it is natural for me.  As much as I love him, Roland would not nurse our baby very well.”  She smiled and the others smiled with her.

“But this is the important thing,” Margueritte continued.  “It has nothing to do with what you are able to do.  It has everything to do with what you are authorized to do.  If I can do some things most people cannot, it is only because I have been gifted, you might say.  But of those who have received much, much will be expected.  Like your sister, Herlindis, who has been given the authority to be Abbess.  She must make good and wise decisions and only do what God authorizes her to do.  She must not overreach her authority, even if she is able, because that would be the essence of pride and sin.  So, I try only to do what I am authorized to do, and it is not always easy to determine.  Just because I am able to do something, that does not mean I am authorized in a given circumstance to do it.  Sometimes I fail.  Sometimes I just plain mess up.  But I thank the Lord every day that I am a forgiven sinner, and I get up every morning and pray that today I may be a good and faithful servant and a good steward with all that God has given me.”

M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 4 of 4

“Lord Birch.” Gerraint turned to the fairy.

Lord Birch made a short bow.  “I have people ready to move as soon as they get the word.  When Chlothar leaves Soissons, they will bring him and his select retinue here in a day.”

“That is five or six days before his army gets here,” Gerraint pointed out.

“Well, that should shake him up, anyway,” Percival said.

“And there is this,” Gerraint smiled.  “I hesitated to say this, because I don’t want him to get a swelled head, but I have talked to quite a few Franks in the past weeks, antrustiones and pueri, and I would not underestimate the name of Arthur.  Saxons talk, you know.  And here, the Franks thought they had you with a two to one advantage and an easy road to victory, but Arthur shows up and the Franks end up running for their lives.”

“Uh, Lord Birch.  Any chance you can get us back to Amorica in a day should that become necessary?” Bohort had to ask.

Gerraint looked at Percival and they shouted together, “For Arthur!”  All the men in that tent echoed the shout, and Arthur gave Lancelot and Bohort a strange look.  Lancelot answered the look.

“Old habits are hard to break.”

The Bretons arrived at the gates of Paris on the next day.  Childebert made a show of drawing his horsemen up in front of the gate, but then he waited.  He was not going to start anything, at least not until Chlothar came to back him up. He expected that would be a few days.

Chlothar himself arrived the next mid-afternoon at about three o’clock.  He just appeared suddenly in front of Gerraint’s tent with twenty men on horseback who looked very confused.  Gerraint sat, relaxing on a chair, waiting.  Gerraint’s men were all around, watchful, but he told them to make no hostile moves.  He hoped Chlothar’s men reciprocated.

“Chlothar,” Gerraint stood up and smiled.  “I’ll be with you in a minute.”  He practiced his Saxon as he imagined it was a language Chlothar would know.  He knew, the gifts his little one’s gave him so long ago included the gift to understand and be understood, no matter the language, but like the little ones themselves, he refused to depend on those gifts, though he was grateful at times when the little ones were willing to help.

Lord Birch’s seven fee came in their hunter’s outfits and knelt to Gerraint.  “Lord,” they called him.

Gerraint shook his head and said, “Please stand.  I want to thank you for this special work in bringing our guests here safely.  Now, I know it goes against etiquette, but please get small and return to Lord Birch for whatever other instructions he may have.

“Lord,” they repeated the phrase, and got small and fluttered off.  Some of Gerraint’s own men raised an eyebrow at that.  Chlothar’s men became more confused than ever, but Chlothar, and a few merely nodded.  Chlothar dismounted, so the rest followed.

“Allow me to introduce myself.  I am Gerraint, son of Erbin.”  He reached out and Chlothar reluctantly shook Gerraint’s hand as a man behind whispered in Chlothar’s ear.  Chlothar gripped a little harder before he let go and spoke.

“I have heard of you.”

“Only good, I hope.”  Gerraint smiled.  “But come, I have others I want you to meet.”  He began to walk while the man at Chlothar’s ear continued to whisper.  The Franks led their horses, as long as no one came to take them.  Gerraint hated himself for doing it, but he listened in to what the man was whispering.  The man was a Gallo-Roman and filling Chlothar in on his estimation of the disposition of Gerraint’s troops.

“We are your prisoners?”  Chlothar brushed the man from his ear.

“You are our guests.  Your brother Childebert is lounging around in front of the gate to Paris with about two thousand horsemen.  I imagine he is waiting for your army to show up.  He doesn’t have much initiative, I would guess.”

“No,” Chlothar admitted.  “But tell me, if we are your guests, what if we decide to ride out and visit my brother?”

Gerraint stopped and faced the man. “No one will stop you.  We can fight, if you want to waste your men and ours.  But at least come and listen first to what my friends have to say.  I think you will find it worth your while.”

“And what do you have to say?” Chlothar looked hard at Gerraint, no doubt a practiced look, but it did not faze Gerraint.

“Larchmont!” Gerraint called.  The fairy appeared, full sized, but Gerraint tapped his shoulder.  “Come and sit.  I have to ask you some questions.”

“Lord.”  Larchmont, a good looking, blond headed young man got small and took a seat on Gerraint’s shoulder.  Chlothar and the others looked surprised again, as if they had forgotten.

“Right now, I am just an observer,” Gerraint told Chlothar.  “The two you need to talk to are in here.”  He pointed to the tent as Uwaine and Bedivere stepped up and opened the tent doors.  “Only four, please.  The tent is not too big.”

Chlothar stopped and pointed to four men, one of which was the Gallo-Roman.  They entered and Gerraint introduced the others.  Bohort, King of Amorica and Lancelot, his right hand.  Arthur, Pendragon of Britain, Wales and Cornwall, and Percival, his brother.

The eyes of the Franks got as big on the word Arthur as they did on seeing the fairies.  Chlothar stuck out his hand.  “It is an honor.”  After that, the ideas were presented in short order, and as Gerraint had suggested, every advantage of a friendly neighbor got underlined while the disadvantages of conquest were plainly stated.

Gerraint stood up and went to the door and Chlothar stood as well.  “You must wait,” Chlothar said.  “My brother must hear this.  You talk to my men.”  He followed Gerraint outside and gave a command.  “Conrad.  Take three men and fetch Childebert, alone.  No, he can bring that dotty old priest with him, but no more.”  He paused.

A jousting pole had been set up not far away.  Chlothar’s men were fascinated.  The Cornish were using the lances with the cushioned ends, since they did not want men injured who might need to go into battle, but it made a rough sport all the same.

“Two coppers on Marcus,” Uwaine said.

“Taken,” Bedivere answered.  He pulled out two coins and groused when Marcus unseated his opponent.  A couple of Chlothar’s men saw and laughed.  Chlothar, being of a military mind, instinctively saw the benefit of such training.

“You have well trained men,” he commented.

“Yes,” Gerraint agreed.  “But I am more interested in the women.  I was just about to ask Larchmont what the women were like in Paris.”  Chlothar looked, like he had forgotten Gerraint had a fairy on his shoulder.

“Dull and mindless,” Larchmont said.  “They spend all of their time in fancy dress and parties, like the world is no bigger than their boudoir.  I think there is only one female brain in all of the city and the women take turns using it.”

Chlothar laughed.  “Exactly my thinking.”

Gerraint laughed as well, but then said, “I think you better go see what Birch is up to, and tell Galoren, Baran and Gemstone to stand down for now.  I hope these men will be able to work things out for everyone’s benefit.

“Very good, Lord.”  Larchmont sped off.

“These others?” Chlothar asked.

“Elf King, dwarf King and goblin King.”

“How is it that you…”

“They are friends.  Sometimes I have an opportunity to ask them for help, and they are good enough to oblige.  But I have a feeling you really want to ask me something else.”

Chlothar looked up.  “The Lion of Cornwall.  I should have guessed from your height, you know.”

“I am, but I have gotten old now.  It is something we all do, even kings.”

“Yes, but Arthur?”

“He brought just a few men to help a friend.  That is something you must also consider, but if you decide on peace and friendship, it is Bohort with whom you must speak.”

“I understand.  But I will say this.  Arthur is the only man on earth I would not like to fight.”

Gerraint smiled.  “I think you will find friendship with Great Britain and Little Britain is much better.”

Chlothar nodded and remained silent for a minute.  Then he turned and pointed at the joust.  “Tell me about this game your men are playing.”



M4 Gerraint: The Frankish Peace, part 3 of 4

Someone, not Charles because he died in the first strike, got to his horse and decided the battle had been lost.  He rode off, and near two thousand Franks followed him. Arthur and Bohort met in the center, and Arthur said something that raised Bohort’s eyebrows.

“Now we chase them.”

“What?  For how long?”

“All the way to Paris if necessary,” Arthur said.

“They will never stop unless they are forced to sit and make peace,” Gerraint added.  He and Arthur discussed it.  Arthur had been against it at first until Percival pointed out that if Amorica had a guarantee of peace, Lancelot might be willing to lead some of his men back to Britain.

“But who will hold the land and defend the border?” Bohort asked.  He felt trapped in the idea of defending the land and could not see alternatives.

“The best defense is a good offense,” Gerraint said.

“Can I quote you on that?”  Bedivere asked.  He and Uwaine had come up to join the conference.

“The Franks have two armies on the German border, north and south, in Swabia” Arthur said, having already talked to Lord Birch.  “They have more men in the Atlantique province and an army down in Aquataine, by the Burgundian border.  It made good sense for the Franks to let the sons of Claudus do the hard work against Amorica.”

Gerraint looked at Bohort, his friend.  “My scouts tell me the road to Paris is wide open and undefended.”

“Your scouts?” Bohort asked, and then remembered.  “Oh.”

“We go,” Arthur said, and he started out at a trot.  His men turned with him.  Only Gerraint, Uwaine and Bedivere waited on Bohort to make a decision.  They listened to the man swear, before he shouted.

“Bedwin.  You and your men bring the prisoners up to Lionel and then you can follow.  Tell Lionel to hold the line and kill any Franks who try to escape.  We will be a week.”  He saw Gerraint shake his head and hold up two fingers.  “Make that two weeks.”  He turned to Gerraint and could not help the sarcasm.  “After you, your majesty.”

“Thank you, your majesty.”  Gerraint returned the compliment, and the sarcasm, but with a smile.

Lancelot was not content with holding the line with the foot soldiers.  They had plenty of serviceable horses taken from Charles and deGuise.  He found seven hundred men who were reasonably good on horseback, and that gave him and Bedwin a thousand to follow Arthur.

Lionel spent the time grousing.  He did not want to have to guard three thousand Franks for the next two weeks. Arthur’s men had no interest in doing that, either.  Lionel spent a week carting all the Frankish leaders and chiefs to the nearest jails and prisons.  The rest of the Franks he kept there, on the fields, in the open.  He let them build fires, put up tents and gave them blankets.  He also gave them food to cook, once a day at noon.  But that was it.

The elves Ringwald and Heurst found Lionel early on and offered to hold the line at the trees in case any Franks got the idea that sneaking off into the woods as a way of escape.  Lionel was grateful, but he had to ask, “Does Gerraint know you are volunteering?”

“We don’t have to ask permission,” Lupen, the grumpy old fairy King said.  “We might get in trouble if we overstep our bounds, but I have met you, and you seem a reasonable man for one so very young.  I am sure you can keep this between you and me.  I mean, he can hardly complain.  He has Birch and young Larchmont flying all over the countryside.”

Lady LeFleur stepped up and spoke more to the point.  “Manskin, the King of the dark elves will watch the Frankish perimeter between sundown and sunrise.  Best you keep your men back in the night.  Ringwald and Heurst will stay in the trees during the day.  I understand your orders are to kill any who try to escape.”  Lionel nodded.  “I can assure you; none will escape by the forest or in the night.  Come along, Lupen.”

“Dear.”  The fairies left, and Lionel got down to planning.

Arthur’s foot soldiers pushed as far into Frankish lands as was reasonable, about half a day’s march.  They found a place where they could ambush the enemy on the road, and they waited in case Arthur reached a point where he had to make a hasty retreat.

Lionel kept the men in the center, to guard the prisoners, certainly, but also to guard the border.  He sent five hundred men to the lake, with orders to secure the road that lead to the port town, and also to patrol the coastal road.  DeGuise found a way down that coastal road with a thousand horsemen.  Lionel did not want any repeats.  Lionel also sent five hundred to the base of the Bringloren, the forest of the Banner Bain, to keep an eye on the Atlantique province and to hold the southern coastal road.  The Franks in the Atlantique were still an occupation force and that meant they pretty much had to stay where they were, but Lionel imagined they might try an end run in the south the way deGuise did in the north.  Then all of those men waited for Bohort, their King to return.

Gerraint lead the way down the Paris road, having done something similar back when they faced Claudus.  He drove the Franks ahead of him as refugees and burned the villages.  He only killed a few of the men who resisted.  Most of them he disarmed and drove off with a warning that they should be grateful being let go this one and only time.  The few he killed made the point.

There were two towns with walls on the route, but he bypassed them, not wanting to slow things down.   He gave warning that if they did not get satisfaction from the Frankish Kings, they would be back to burn the town and kill any who resisted.  He left them alone, but he set Larchmont as rear guard to watch for any enterprising young Lord or townspeople who might be tempted to come out and follow them.  At the same time, Gerraint hoped word that they wanted to talk with the king went ahead of him.

The two thousand Franks who escaped and rode away from the battle, and sometimes some locals with them, set numerous traps and ambushes along their route.  Lord Birch did not get fooled.  Those traps and ambushes were invariably turned on the Franks with dire consequences for the Franks.  Gerraint hoped that word went out front as well, and apparently, some information went ahead of them, because as they approached Paris, they found the villages deserted by the time they arrived.

While Gerraint watched over their progress, Bohort and Arthur argued until they hammered out an acceptable peace.  Arthur insisted they have some negotiable points where they could be seen giving the Franks some of what they wanted.

“The object here, as I see it,” Lancelot mused out loud.  “Is to get a peace agreement that both sides will keep, not to make a stone around the neck where one side has all the advantage over the other.”

“Border watch is sensible,” Arthur insisted.  “Representatives of the Franks that regularly renew the pledge of peace.  I would not suggest it, but I imagine they will insist on something.”

“I’m not sure I can be comfortable having Frankish Lords on my border, looking over my shoulder,” Bohort said.

“We have to be honest about this,” Lancelot continued.  “The Franks would leave their other borders at risk, but they could call up twice what the Saxons brought to Badon if they wanted.”

“There are ways to work things out, especially if there are men committed to peace on both sides of the border,” Arthur said.

“Marriage is a classic way to peace,” Uwaine said, and all eyes turned to him.  “Or so Gerraint tells me.”

“Saxon wife,” Percival pointed at Uwaine.

“Oh?” Bohort was interested.  “Does she?”

“Yes,” Uwaine said.

“Two sons and two daughters,” Percival added, and then Bohort had to think through some options.

“Gentlemen.”  Gerraint stuck his head into the big tent.  “We have news from Lord Birch.”  He got followed by a man dressed in plain hunter’s fare, but everyone knew he was not a plain hunter.

“Childebert, King in Paris has appealed to his brother Chlothar in Soissons for help.  The army in Austrasia is on the Frisian border, but Chlothar has some five thousand men at his call, mostly antrustiones with their pueri and they will be at Paris in about a week.”

“He has what?”  Bohort did not understand the terms

“Aristocrats, lords and rich men, often on horseback, with their peasant soldiers.” Percival explained.  He had taken the time to discuss thing with Gerraint who understood these things.

“The trustees are the king’s personal bodyguards.  They don’t have near the training, but you might think of them as Frankish RDF,” Uwaine added.  He listened when Gerraint talked.

“I don’t know,” Arthur said. “Childebert already has a reported four thousand men and another two thousand on the walls of the city.  That is already a match for our numbers.”

“By himself, Childebert might be able to turn us away from Paris,” Lancelot concurred.

“No.  You are missing the point,” Gerraint said.  “Chlothar is the brother you want to make peace with.  Theudebert, his son. rules Austrasia with Chlothar’s blessing.  Chlothar has already taken Orleans, since the death of his brother, Choldomer.  Childebert rules Paris and the immediate area, but he is surrounded by land ruled by Chlothar, and he knows it.”

“But with five thousand men added to what Childebert already has and we don’t stand much of a chance,” Bohort sounded calm about it.

“If we turn back now, the Franks will see that as weakness,” Lancelot countered.

“We have made our point, that we can hurt them,” Arthur said.

“You are still missing the point,” Gerraint interrupted.  “We talk to Chlothar.  Tell him we only want to make an acceptable peace.  As long as the Franks leave us alone, we will leave them alone.  Look at the advantages for him.  He will have one border he won’t have to waste men defending.  In fact, as a friend, Amorica can open up trade for the Franks with Cornwall, Wales, Britain, even Ireland.  That can bring riches to his lands.  Amorica still has a fine fleet.  It can help guard the Atlantique against Visigoths and Vandals, and the Channel against Saxons, Frisians, and Picts.  Look, with Amorica as a friend, he has everything to gain and nothing to lose.  You just need to explain that in a way he will understand.”

“But so many men,” Bohort did not sound convinced.



First, they have to make peace with the Franks.  Then Arthur and his men are stuck in Little Britain for the winter, and find no help for the home-front.  Until then, Happy Reading


M4 Gerraint 3: The Frankish Peace, part 1 of 4

Gerraint went reluctantly to Amorica.  Arthur had gathered roughly twenty-five hundred men willing to make the trip, a far cry from the thousands that used to gather.  Six hundred were from Cornwall, and most of the rest were from Wales.  Not many came from Oxford or Leogria or the Midlands.  A few traveled from York, but none at all from the north.  Some came from the Summer Country and Southampton, but it was not like it used to be.

If Arthur was unhappy, he did not show it.  His face showed a hardness that he never had in his youth.  Gerraint chalked it up to age, but he suspected it had to do with the house tumbling down.  Britain turned out to be a house of cards.  Arthur kept it as long as he could, but one strong wind and it would all collapse.

Enid, on the other hand, became very unhappy, and she had no qualms about expressing her unhappiness.  They had children and grandchildren to care for, and Guimier, who kept busy ignoring all of the boys who were interested in her, pining away for a boy who did not seem to care about her one bit.  Gerraint had done his time.  It should be time for the younger men to take over.  Gerraint deserved to live the rest of his days in comfortable surroundings and should not have to gallivant all over the world.  It was not right, and it was not fair.

All Gerraint could say was, “I have to go because Arthur says Lancelot won’t listen to anyone else.  Sadly, I think that may be true.”

“But what if I lose you?”  Her lovely old eyes became moist, but she did not cry.  “We have come this far together, I want to finish the journey, together.”

“As do I,” Gerraint said, but he left anyway.

The crossing in late September went surprisingly well.  Later in the fall and winter could be rough in the Channel.  Gerraint hoped they could wrap things up quickly so they could get back home before the winter storms settled in.

Uwaine leaned over the railing for most of the voyage.  It comforted Gerraint to see it.  It seemed like old times, even if it did not do Uwaine any good.  Bedivere spent the day making friends with the crew, and only once remarked how he hoped they did not get squid-stopped this time.  Gerraint had to take a moment to remember.

Gerraint spent the time pondering the future.  He caught a glimpse of jungle, but he had no idea where in the world that might be.  He also tried to imagine a woman, because he had been male, with Festuscato, twice in a row, and whoever controlled his rebirths had figured out, early on, that three times in a row as the same sex made things too complicated.  So Gerraint thought of Margueritte and of women in general, caught a glimpse of skin a bit darker than his own, and tried to imagine what it might be like to be a woman.  It eluded him.  It all eluded him, but he figured he would get there soon enough.

Gerraint had turned sixty.  Historically, that seemed about the longest he lived.  For millennia, if he didn’t die young for one reason or another, he died at fifty-eight to sixty, which was actually longer than most people lived on average.  It presently seemed about as long as a man tended to live in Western Europe, provided he did not die in childhood, or get killed in some conflict, or have some sort of accident while hunting, or simply while toiling away at his regular job, invariably his farm, or die from some disease.  Geraint thought they had too much toil in his day and age.  But barring some early death, for all of those who died of natural causes, as they called it, sixty seemed about it.  Seventy would be a venerable old age.  And if, by reason of strength, one should live four score years, Gerraint thought, that would have to be an act of God’s grace.  Gerraint shifted in his seat because he stiffened up and thought further that maybe 80 would be a sign of God’s displeasure.

Theirs had been the first ship from Cornwall, by design.  They docked in the port they visited years ago, the one just up the road from the Lake of Vivane, inside the old border of Amorica.  Arthur chose it because it was familiar.  He used that port to bring his army back to Britain after the defeat of Claudus.

Percival had already arrived with men from the Midlands.  The son of Urien, the Raven, arrived there as well, the one whose name Gerraint could never remember.  There were men there from Somerset, Dorset and the south coast of Britain, with sons and a couple of grandsons of Gwillim and Thomas, brought by ships from Southampton.  All of that only added up to about six hundred men, a pittance, a token of days gone by.  Gerraint thought when his men arrived from Cornwall and Devon, they would at least double their numbers.  Arthur would be a few more days to arrive.  He had the farthest to go.

“Cousin,” Percival called.  They weren’t really cousins, but it seemed an easy term.  “Lionel is here, around somewhere.”

“I suppose he has come to ask our help somewhere,” Gerraint guessed.  After ten or twelve years of skirmishes, tit-for-tat, what Gerraint called guerilla warfare, the sons of Claudus were finished, and Lancelot had just about pushed the Franks back to the original border line.  Gerraint felt glad to hear that Lancelot, or rather Bohort who had been proclaimed King when Howel died, did not have any ambitions beyond a secure border.  Keeping it secure, though, would be tricky, at least until certain ambitious Franks dropped out of the picture.

“I don’t know where he could have gotten to.”  Percival craned his neck to give a good look around, over and through all the boxes, bags and whole wagons being unloaded.

“Have you set up a watch on the perimeter of the town?”  Gerraint changed the subject.

“Surely not.  We are in friendly territory.”

“Surely so,” Gerraint said, feeling a bit like Kai in the face of Bedwyr. “We are too close to the border to be truly safe, and the way Lancelot and the Franks have been playing cat and dog these twelve years.”  He shook his head.  “If Lionel knew we were coming and to what port, you can be sure the Franks know.  Such secrets are hard to keep, and I would not be surprised if the Franks tried to stop us before we start.”

Percival needed no other encouragement.  He started yelling.  “Get those boxes open.  I want everyone armed.  Owen, get your men out to the perimeter of the town and keep your eyes sharp.

“My lord?”  Uwaine stepped up.  Gerraint pointed.  “Get two watchmen up in the old church tower.  I remember there being a bell up there that can give warning but be careful.  It looks burned and ready to fall.  Let me know if it is untenable.”  Uwaine moved like he already had a couple of men in mind.

“Uncle?”  Bedivere stood right there.

“You just need to get our ships and men unloaded and ready.  I can see three more ships on the horizon.”

Bedivere gawked a moment.  “You have the eyes of a hawk.  You complain about losing your vision, but you can still see further than anyone alive.”

“And ears.”  Gerraint looked up.  “I hear horses, maybe a hundred, coming on strong.”  Gerraint stuffed the port papers back into the hands of the bureaucrat and yelled.  “Bows and arrows.  Now.  Get under cover.”

Lionel chose that moment to ride up with some twenty men.  “Franks!”  His word got the townspeople to scatter for cover.  Then the church bell began to ring.

Even with the bell, men yelling, people running like mad people, some still got caught and speared, and some died.  Gerraint stood, defiant in the open.  Bedivere grabbed him to drag him behind some crates, but he raised his sword and shouted, “Now.”  It seemed a pitiful few arrows, maybe forty altogether, but about twenty of the hundred or so Franks went down.  “At will.”  He shouted and finally allowed himself to be dragged to cover.  Perhaps ten more Franks hit the cobblestones before they turned and rode out as fast as they came in.  Uwaine later reported that a half-dozen more were taken out on the way out of town by the men setting up the perimeter watch.  All told, that became some thirty-five out of a hundred, and if the ones down on the ground and left behind were not yet dead, they did not last long.  Nearly a dozen townspeople got speared, including several women, and most of them died.

Gerraint’s, or rather Percival’s losses were less than a handful.  Bedivere said he would take thirty-five to five any day.  Gerraint pointed out it was more like twenty than five.  And defenseless people should count double.

Gerraint did manage to save two Franks from the slaughter, and he questioned them at length.  Lionel filled in the gaps of information until Gerraint had a good picture of events.  Lancelot had some thirty-five hundred men, but they were spread out from the lake to the Atlantic.  Lionel had some two hundred and fifty men camped in the woods by the lake.  He was afraid the Franks might march down the coast road in an effort to get behind Lancelot.  His fears proved true.

One Frankish Lord by the name of deGuise brought a thousand men down the road.  There were five thousand more Franks ready to burst through the center of Lancelot’s spread out position, but it would come when the signal was given—the signal that deGuise and his thousand were ready to pounce on Lancelot’s rear.

Lionel could not imagine how deGuise learned Arthur was coming, but from the attack, he obviously knew something.  Lionel felt relieved to see eight hundred men in the port town, with more on the way.  He knew his troop alone did not have the strength to hold back a thousand Franks.

“We don’t want to hold them back,” Gerraint said.  “We want them to give the signal, and then drive them from behind right into their own oncoming troops.  If nothing else, it should confuse the Franks long enough to fall on them and drive them right back to Paris.  That is where there is peace to be brokered.  As long as you stick to the border, the Franks will never stop knocking on your door, and it is too early in history for trench warfare.”

“I was with you until the last part,” Lionel said.

“It was clear to me,” Uwaine responded.  “Schrench warfare.”

“I thought it was wrench warfare,” Bedivere said, as an aside.

M3 Margueritte: Year of the Unicorn, part 1 of 3

In the fall, right before Samhain in the same year that Elsbeth danced, not being the year to go to Vergenville, King Urbon, Duredain the druid and Finnian McVey paid their own visit to the triangle along with Chief Brian, his druid Canto, and a very wary Roan and Morgan.  They brought a dozen men at arms, three strong hunters, and plenty of hounds.

Lady Brianna welcomed them most regally and apologized that her small manor home hardly had the room or the facilities to entertain royalty.

“Never mind,” the king said, as he pointed his men toward a newly mowed field.  “I’ve brought our hunting tents.  We will be quite comfortable in the field.”

Sir Bartholomew rode up, having gotten the word from Little White Flower.  Tomberlain rode beside him as did several peasant Franks, but Grimly was nowhere to be seen.  Luckless the dwarf also absented himself from the forges, and, in fact, Margueritte went down into the lair of the little ones in the side of the hill beneath the barn to make it very clear to all of them that they were neither to be seen nor heard during that whole visit.  Fortunately, Hammerhead the ogre had been given two cows which he took off as a present for his family in Banner Bein.

“He certainly earned them.”  Bartholomew remarked to his wife’s question.  Hammerhead was one little one who did not mind working.  In fact, he rather enjoyed it, and he certainly did enough around the farm that spring and summer to earn a great deal.

“Lord Urbon,” Bartholomew said.  “Your majesty graces our poor home with your presence.”

“Yes, yes.”  Urbon waved off the formalities.  “Bartholomew, we have to talk.”  They went inside with Finnian and Duredain, even as Margueritte came out from the barn, having climbed up the underground stairs to the secret door.  Urbon’s men were already half-way down the hill.  Chief Brian appeared to want to speak with her first, privately, but Canto held his arm and led him also into the house.  Roan and Morgan dared not look at her and they quickly hustled their few servants down the hill to set up Chief Brian’s tents.

Elsbeth squirted out the front door, looking for Little White Flower.  “psst.”  The word came from the mistletoe oak and both girls looked up.  Little White Flower risked coming down to kiss Elsbeth on the cheek and added a bit of motherly advice.  “Be good now,” she said and wagged her tiny finger in Elsbeth’s face.  She curtsied to Margueritte and sped off to the fairy glen—a good ten miles into the Vergen forest.  Margueritte knew it would take Little White Flower almost a minute to get there.  Margueritte faced her sister who wore a devilish grin.  It was not the first time Margueritte wondered exactly what the relationship was between her sister and the fairy, but that thought got interrupted when Elsbeth spoke.

“You forgot Lolly,” she said.

Margueritte put her hand to her mouth before she said something rude.  She feared what might happen, but inside she laughed.  They ran to the side of the house, to where the kitchens were out back, and saw that Chief Brian had already walked out the back door for a little repast, as he called it, after his long, long journey.  Lolly had already slapped his hand once with her cooking spoon, and Marguerite, herself, knew how that would sting.

“Wait ‘till it’s ready, you big fat slobber, or next knock will be on your noggin,” Lolly said.

Brian was taken aback for a moment, not the least to nurse his hand, but then he laughed out loud.  “I didn’t know Bartholomew had a little person about.  I love you midgets. You always make me laugh.”

“Little people hitting each other,” Margueritte said quickly, not knowing what else to say.  She wanted to get Chief Brian’s attention before he looked at Lolly too closely.  “That’s what Napoleon liked, too.”

“Huh?”  Brian asked.  “Who’s that?”

Margueritte shrugged.  “You wanted to ask me some questions?”  She reminded him while Elsbeth hustled Lolly toward the barn, and not without some argument.

“Huh?  Yes,” Brian said.  “But I’ve quite forgotten what it was, exactly.  Anyway, I do hope all my questions will be answered tomorrow after you girls are dropped off in Banner Bein.”  He went inside.  Margueritte followed, shocked by what she heard.

Inside, the subject had already been breached, and Sir Barth stood red with anger and only refused to do anything foolish in his own home.

“Come now.”  Duredain spoke up.  “You Christians are always claiming Christ as your true protector.  You should not fear for your girls.”

“Besides,” Finnian added in his Irish drawl.  “The unicorn is reparted to be a most gentle and loving crature who is most kind to young innocent garls.”

“No.”  Bartholomew repeated himself for the hundredth time.  “You’ll not use my children as bait.  And besides, I am not a Christian.”

Poor Lady Brianna did not know what to say.  She was moved to speechlessness by the whole suggestion.

“Then by your own pagan Gods.”  Duredain looked ready to spit.

“I’m not exactly asking,” Urbon said, mostly to Lady Brianna who remained a native of Amorica.  “But it would be greatly of value to the whole kingdom and a benefit to all the people.”  He knew he had little or no say over the Franks.  In fact, having three Frankish Lords on his border watching over him rather spoke for the opposite.  Still, he hoped to appeal to the Lady as one of his own, whose daughters were at least half his.

Lady Brianna shook her head when Margueritte stepped up and Elsbeth came in the front door.

“What?”  Elsbeth asked straight out.

“Baby,” Brianna explained.  “The king and his men propose to try and catch the unicorn, if they can, and save it for all the people, for the purity and health it will bring.”

“But what?”  Elsbeth spoke again.  Apparently, she heard enough before coming inside to ask.  Margueritte stood quietly at her mother’s shoulder looked up and down the row of faces seated at the table and did not like any of them very much.

“Baby.  They propose to take you and Margueritte to the woods, alone, in the hope that the unicorn will return to you.”

“Bait,” Elsbeth said what her father said, and she turned her eyes on the men at the table.

“To Banner Bein?” Margueritte confirmed.  At least Chief Brian nodded.

“Think on it.”  The king rose so everyone rose with him.

“You will come for supper,” Brianna said.  It was a statement of invitation, not a question.

“Of course,” the king answered.  He planned to settle the matter that evening.  He stepped out, Duredain on his heels, and Finnian who sauntered a bit.  Chief Brian sent Canto on ahead but tarried until it became safe to speak.

“Care, Sir Barth.  There is much talk about you Franks being responsible for this Christian business and the dissolution of the old ways.”

“What?  Get out!”  Lord Bartholomew roared.  Chief Brain shrugged, but Brianna walked him to the door and thanked him.

“It was only a fair warning.  He risked telling you,” she said.  “It was not a threat, veiled or otherwise.”

“Oh.”  Bartholomew got it, but his ire was so engaged, he could hardly hear anything unthreatening.

“Father.”  Margueritte spoke as Tomberlain came in from caring for the horses.  “Isn’t Hammerhead in Banner Bein visiting his family?”

Bartholomew looked at her and Lady Brianna was not sure what she might be suggesting, but Elsbeth seemed to understand.  “Oh, yes.”  She clapped her hands together.

“And I don’t see why, with a little help, if you know what I mean, we might not be safe enough.  Far be it from Elsbeth and me to break the peace between the Franks and the Breton.”

“Margueritte!”  Brianna’s voice scolded, but Lord Bartholomew clearly thought about it.  If the girls could pull it off, whether they got their unicorn or not, it would give him certain leverage on the king.

“What’s it all about?”  Tomberlain asked, and Margueritte explained her plan more fully, accepting the ways in which her father amended those plans, and Brianna, though not believing her ears, nevertheless did not object.