M4 Margueritte: A Few Words, part 3 of 3

They heard a noise from the far door.  An old nun dropped her mop and her bucket and shouted.  “An angel.”

Tulip instantly got small and shot for Margueritte’s shoulder where she could hide in Margueritte’s hair.

“Relindis.  I saw the angel you were speaking to, and the angel vanished.”  The old woman ran off before the other could stop her.

Margueritte stood.  “I’m going to fetch some tea,” she said.  “Tulip, why don’t you sit on Relii’s shoulder and play with her hair for a while.”

“Yes, Lady,” Tulip said, and she zipped to Relii’s shoulder and whispered something in her ear that made Relii laugh.

With tea and little snacks, the afternoon seemed not so bad.  Tulip made a home on Gisele’s shoulder, and Gisele made no more complaints about being forced to travel for the rest of the trip.

The next morning, they began the journey up the Meuse River to Verdun. In Verdun, they picked up the old Roman road which they followed all the way to Paris.  It had gotten in terrible disrepair is several places, but for the most part, it still pretended to be a road.

They stayed three days in Paris, and Margueritte got visited by everyone, including the archbishop, who declared at this point she was as near to a queen as the people had.  Margueritte rolled her eyes.  She had enough on her plate, and besides, Roland would never go for it.

In Paris, they said goodbye to Tulip, and it became tearful, but Margueritte called Goldenrod and told her to tell Jennifer they were in Paris and would be home in a week or ten days.  She told Goldenrod that she would call her to join them in the morning, but Goldenrod still got surprised when it happened.

“Now, Goldenrod.  You need to get big so the girls can see you and recognize you in your big form.”

“Do I have to?”  Goldenrod flitted gently back and forth like a leaf caught in the wind, a very different reaction than they got from Tulip.

“Yes, dear.  You have to, please.”

“Okay.” Goldenrod changed her mind, and stood to face Brittany and Grace, looking for all the world like a fourteen-year-old girl.  Brittany and Grace were delighted at the prospect of having a fairy near their ages.  Margueritte later explained to Gisele.

Goldenrod is actually seventy-seven years old, but they age so slowly, it is hard to tell.  They also mature slowly, so Goldenrod is about like a twelve or thirteen-year-old as far as her maturity goes.  Sorry to saddle you with three pre-teens, but hopefully they will help with Gerald.”

“Not likely,” Gisele said, but she smiled.  “But your lady friend, Calista has been a great help.”

“Then you should know,” Margueritte said, with a sly elf grin.  “Calista is an elf.  Don’t be fooled by the glamour she wears that makes her appear human.”

“Lady,” Gisele returned the smile.  “If anyone else said that I would call them mad, but in your case, I suspected it was something like that.”

The Paris Road did not seem in bad shape.  Margueritte guessed Tomberlain or his men worked on it, at least the section through Maine.  The road went north of LeMans, but they came through Laval and stopped in Craon where they visited Peppin’s family.  The family sergeant looked old and worn, but he said good things about Tomberlain’s rule over the county, and good things about Owien as well, and that helped Margueritte relax.

“My chief concern in all of this is to have a thousand heavy cavalry to send to Charles by the due date of 734.  If I can raise a second thousand in the east, all well, but this side of the nation has had several years head start.”

“Don’t worry,” Peppin assured her.  “We may have twice that by 734.  We have a thousand already who are fully trained, as well as we can get them without testing them in battle.  They are beginning to train other young ones.  The work is spreading out.  Pouance is not the center it used to be.”

In fact, Pouance seemed almost quiet for May.  Several of Wulfram’s men and several from Peppin in Craon were there, and a Captain Lothar had the castle and town well defended, and the young ones who came well in hand.  There were more than a hundred young men there, but there were also nearly fifty older men from that area trying to catch up with the new way of doing things.

“Count Michael down in Nantes, and Count duBois in the north are both training their own men, and the Counts Tomberlain and Owien have training going on in LeMans, Laval and Angers, so you see, it isn’t just here,” Captain Lothar explained as they came up to the Paris gate.

Goldenrod could not contain herself by then.  She squirted ahead and hugged everyone on the cheek, Jennifer twice, and then she disappeared by the kennels.  The gate was open of course, to welcome Margueritte, Lady of the castle, and Margueritte felt some Goldenrod impatience herself and could not wait to jump down from her horse and run to hug Jennifer.  She hugged Marta and Maven and would have hugged Lolly if Lolly had not been busy scolding Luckless for being away for so long.  Grimly sauntered over to the stables where Pipes and Catspaw were waiting, and he settled right back into their company without so much as a word.

Morgan, who was nineteen, and engaged, and Jennifer’s Lefee at eighteen were there to welcome and hug Gisele.  “And Larin will be here any day,” Lefee said, cheerfully.  “The gang back together.  You remember Larin, don’t you?”

“Yes, the little one who kept following us around.” Gisele said.

“She is fifteen now, and thinks she is all grown up,” Morgan said with a roll of her eyes.

“I remember being fifteen,” Gisele responded with a laugh.

Weldig Junior and Cotton were there for the boys, and Pepin and Martin wasted no time getting reacquainted, though they did not hug so much as punch each other in the arms and slap one another’s backs.  They were all pages, and Captain Lothar said he would gladly put them to work and keep them busy.

Carloman was a bit left out, until Jennifer stepped up and handed him a book.  It was Bishop Aden’s book on Greek.

“He would want you to have it,” Jennifer said, and Carloman hugged her and offered his sympathy at her loss.

Jennifer’s Mercy was eleven.  Marta’s Sylvan was ten.  They looked hesitant as Brittany and Grace cane up to them and stopped.  But Grace could not hold herself back.  She and Mercy hugged and cried like they were four years old all over again.  Brittany did not mind someone to hang out with other than her sister, but she did not want to be stuck with the ten-year-old.

“Lady, Lady.”  Goldenrod came rushing up.  “Puppy Two remembers me.  He does.”

“Of course he does.  It has only been eight days,” Margueritte said.

“It has?” Goldenrod wondered, like she thought it was forever, but then her mind moved on and she flew over to sit on Brittany’s shoulder and hear what the girls were talking about.

Calista came up with Gerald, and Jennifer, Marta and Maven all fussed over him, and Lolly promised him special honey treats.  Gerald looked up at his mother with an expression that said this might work out after all.  Walaric had a boy who would be eight in July, so at least Gerald would not be alone.

They went into the house and settled sleeping arrangements.  Apparently, Jennifer sent for Owien and Tomberlain as soon as Margueritte got within range.  She expected them to show up any day, and then things would be naturally hectic again.

“Well, at least they finished building the castle,” Margueritte said.  “I no sooner left this mess than I went over to the east and started a new mess.  I don’t think there will ever come a time when I am not building something.”

Tomberlain arrived first with Margo and the children, and plenty of men at arms, all on horseback, though most were still rather young.  Owien and Elsbeth and their children arrived the next day, and their men looked just as young.  Tomberlain picked up Peppin and some older men along the way, and Owien brought Wulfram and his men, so as Jennifer predicted it became a madhouse around the castle.

Margueritte sat on the bench that used to be beside the old oak, and once sat in the middle of the triangle of buildings that made up her childhood home.  Now the triangle, with the old chapel and annex across the road, and a good bit of land cleared from the forest and the edge of the fields had all been surrounded by a great wall of stone joined by seven towers.  The chapel looked the same, but all the buildings that surrounded the courtyard were new.  Her greatly expanded home appeared unrecognizable.  The barn, moved near the farm gate, looked brand new, and bigger than ever, and it had a long stable attached.  Down by the farm gate itself there were new pens for the hogs and sheep, and the new kennels where Puppy Two started getting old, and great forges for the smiths that worked and lived in the old tower, a tower she hardly recognized since it had been renovated and attached to the wall.

Margueritte turned her head around to where the old oak once stood at her back.  It had been dug up and an oak sapling planted in its place.  It took well to the soil and would no doubt grow into a great tree, but it would be a generation before it offered any shade on a hot summer day.  Margueritte cried a little.  Her mother loved that old tree.

Margueritte turned her eyes back to the chapel and passed over the barracks for the castle guard that sat against the wall beside the Breton gate.  Jennifer came out of the chapel, and Margueritte slid over to give her room on the bench.



Time has moved on.  Tours is threatened.  Charles need to bring the army.  Christendom is in the balance.  Until next time, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: Disturbances, part 3 of 3

Brianna was the first person buried in the yard set beside by the new church.  They laid her right next to the church where she could be near her husband, and Margueritte had a passing thought to wonder how quickly the yard might fill if Ragenfrid showed up.

Childemund finally remembered where he had seen Rolf in Paris.  The man was a petty thief at least twice brought before the magistrate.  He did hang around with a gang of thieves and pickpockets, but Childemund could not say there were twenty-three.  And he could not imagine what would send such a man on a suicide mission, to attack the castle and all.  When he saw the man in Paris, he rather imagined the man to be a coward.

Margo cried, but not like the girls.  She commented later that now she would have to be the grown up.  She did not sound too happy about that, but Rotrude assured her that it was not so hard.  She had sisters to help, and that was more than Rotrude ever had.  Rotrude also said the yard where Brianna got buried was lovely, with a few trees for shade and a view of the grotto where the sheep passed on their way to the fields to graze.  She said she would like to be buried in just such a place, but after the service, she had to go back to her room to rest.


Count duBois brought three hundred men from the northern march to the castle on the tenth of May.  He said they encountered advanced units from Ragenfrid’s army and had to fight their way through.  He only had thirty men, his personal retinue on horseback, and Margueritte felt disappointed, but it was better than she expected.

“I would say Ragenfrid is trying to move men in secret to surround your town and castle,” duBois reported.

“I would say he won’t be able to do that,” Margueritte responded.

DuBois did not understand.  He looked to the men, but they looked to Margueritte.

“I have people in the forest of the Vergen, on the Breton border, and people in the fields and trees south of the village, on the edge of the Banner.  They will watch day and night, and Ragenfrid’s men won’t go there, especially in the night.  We are not Cologne.  We are not a big city with big city walls, but Ragenfrid will find it impossible to cut us off from fresh food and water.  He will not be able to starve us into submission.  He will have to fight.”

“If his army is as big as Larchmont and his, er, men have reported, and I do not doubt that it is, he may not have to fight very hard or very much,” Walaric said.

“What are we talking about?” duBois wanted to know.

“The report says a minimum of eight thousand, and maybe ten.  With your men, we have fifteen hundred, but a third of them are untrained boys,” Peppin said.

“What?” duBois looked astonished they were even talking about making a defense.  “And I suppose a few hunters and farmers are going to keep that force from surrounding us and choking the life from us.  I hope you have a plan for negotiations.”

Margueritte nodded as three women came into the Great Hall.  Rotrude came to the table and sat.  Margo took the seat beside her, and Elsbeth came to stand beside her sister.  “I plan to negotiate Ragenfrid’s unconditional surrender.”

“You are crazy,” duBois said.

“Now hold on,” Childemund interrupted.  “Let us remember what the Lady Brianna said, God rest her.  Let us see what Ragenfrid has in mind before we go and surrender ourselves.”

“And a wise and wonderful lady she was,” Rotrude added, and Margo nodded.

DuBois stood up straight and looked again at the men in the room before he looked at the women.  “Don’t tell me, these are your personal Amazon guard.”

“Hardly,” Margueritte laughed, so the women and Peppin joined her laugh.  “I have Melanie and Calista for that.  The two elves that had been sitting quietly in the back, stood and found bows in their hands, weapons duBois had not seen when he came in.  “They have a kind of contest going on, and right now they are tied on how many of the enemy they have killed.  But you should know who it is that is defending the forest and south of the village.”  She looked at Margo who took Rotrude’s hand.  Rotrude had already been introduced to the fairy lord, Larchmont, and was delighted to find Melanie and Calista were house elves, but it was still a bit of a shock for the newly initiated, so Margo took Rotrude’s hand and Childemund and Walaric stood close to duBois to keep him steady in case he wanted to run away or do something stupid.

“I have no desire to keep secrets from my commanders, including Larchmont.”  Margueritte looked up. “Larchmont, you can come down now, please.  The Count duBois needs to be let into the circle of knowing.”

Larchmont fluttered down, offered a regal bow to Margueritte, and a nod to the others.  “It is an honor, lady, to be in such fine company.  I believe when Count Michael and King David arrive, we will certainly best the enemy, no matter his numbers.”

DuBois jumped on the sight, seemed frozen as he watched the fairy descend, and looked startled when the fairy spoke.  He clearly looked spooked.  It became a fight or flight situation, but then he appeared to change his mind as he spoke.  “So, it is true.  You are a witch to whom even the spirits of the earth must give answer.”

“I am not a witch,” Margueritte stomped her foot, and several others echoed her thought.  “I haven’t got a witchy bone in my body.  Elsbeth here has more witchery in her than I do.”

“Only once a month,” Elsbeth countered, and Rotrude covered her mouth in embarrassment.  Margo also covered her mouth, but to keep from laughing.

“You country girls,” Rotrude smiled and dismissed them as she turned her eyes and thoughts to Larchmont.  “Still, it is remarkable how this gentleman, and the kind ladies love you so dearly.”

“And you, sweet lady,” Melanie said.

“We love you, too,” Calista agreed.  Rotrude found a tear, and Margo comforted her.

“Meanwhile,” duBois said, back to business.  “If you have the forest covered, as you say, then I believe you about keeping Ragenfrid out.  But if he has ten to one odds he may not have to encircle us to crush us.”

“Don’t underestimate my sister’s devious mind,” Elsbeth said.  “She has resources,” but she knew not to say any more.

“And who are you?” duBois obviously felt the need to object to something.  “I understand the non-witch and her fairy friends, but why are these women in this war council?”

“Forgive me.  My manners,” Margueritte said.  “My sister is the baroness of this corner of Anjou and Lady of this Castle if my brother has any sense.”

“Hey,” Margo wanted to object, but Margueritte cut her off.

“Margo is Countess and Marchioness of the Breton March, and by treaty, your overlord.  And I heard you and Tomberlain talking about Laval.”  she turned on Margo.  “I believe you said it is a little city but at least it is a city.”  Margo reluctantly nodded.  “And this fine lady is wife of Charles, mayor of all the Franks.”

“My lady,” duBois said with a backwards step.  “I didn’t know.  I…” He was at a loss for words.

“What is more, Charles’ children are running around this castle even now with our children getting into various levels of trouble.”

“A break from Saint Denis,” Rotrude interjected.

“So you see, defending this place is the only option.  We cannot let these ladies and their children become bargaining chips against Charles and against the Frankish nation.

DuBois had a change of heart and he spoke.  “Ladies, my men and I will defend you to our last breath.  May it be when we are old and comfortably in bed.”

Walaric smiled.  “I think he has got it,” he said.



Ragenfrid arrives with an army of thousands.  Since surrender is not an option, battle plans must be made. Until next time, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: Broken, part 2 of 3

Margueritte spent most of January in the castle of Avalon, healing.  Doctor Pincher’s quick thinking and work saved her, but he could not save her baby.  She named him Galen and buried him in the sacred garden of the castle, beside the tower that held the Heart of Time.  Margueritte spent the month alternating between fits of tears and fits of rage.  In her angry times, everyone avoided her because she wanted to break things.  Mother Brianna, the only one allowed to follow her into the Second Heavens, said Margueritte could not go home until she stopped feeling the urge to break things.  They stayed the whole month.  Brianna went back and forth several times between the heavenly castle and the castle they were building on earth.  She updated Elsbeth, Margo and Jennifer on their progress, and invited Jennifer to join her, but Jennifer said no.  Going to Avalon would hurt her heart in some way, she said.

Elsbeth volunteered to go in Jennifer’s stead, but Brianna said, “No.  Absolutely not.”

By the end of January, Margueritte got over the feeling that she wanted to kill Giselle and instead felt sorry for the woman.  She wondered what leverage Abd al-Makti had over her to make her do such a horrid thing.  She had no doubt Abd al-Makti stood behind the death of her son.  His sorceries and murderous prints were all over the act.  But to what end? she wondered.

Margueritte spent almost the entire month of February inside, by the great fireplace, composing a letter to Roland.  Mother Brianna, Jennifer, Margo and Elsbeth all helped her think through the events.  Mother Brianna got the unquestionable word from the elf, fairy, dwarf, and dark elf lords and ladies that inhabited Avalon in the Second Heavens that Abd al-Makti was indeed behind the deed, so no one else doubted it.

“And I did like Giselle,” Margo kept saying.  “Even though she was Vascon.”

“We all liked her, and trusted her,” Brianna kept responding.  “She probably disappeared because she felt such guilt, she could not face us.  But she was always a kind and loving woman, and I feel it is best to remember her that way.”

“If she had stayed, we might have found forgiveness in our hearts,” Jennifer suggested.  “I have learned from Aden so much about grace and mercy.”  It came as such an honest thought, the others agreed it might have been possible, but Margueritte did not feel so sure for herself.  She spent many hours praying for forgiveness for wanting to see Ragenfrid and Giselle, and especially Abd al-Makti suffer horrible fates.

Elsbeth proved to be the most helpful in the letter writing.  “Maybe the sorcerer expected you to fall apart and become useless and stop making your soldiers, and stop building your castle, and collapse and cry every day for the rest of your life.  But that says he doesn’t know you.  You have all the Celtic blood in you, and from all the stories I have heard, the Breton are best at getting mad and getting revenge.”

Later, Elsbeth added, “He probably wanted you to go crying to Roland, and Roland would be disturbed and distracted from his battles, and that would disturb and distract Charles, so maybe they lose the battles.”

Margueritte tore up her letter and started over.  She wrote very carefully to Roland, and said she was sorry she failed him, but they had three healthy children who needed a good future, a future of peace, and the only way to insure that, was to beat the barbarians on the battlefield, and turn them to the faith of Jesus Christ, even as Father Aden, now called Bishop Aden, Apostle to the Breton, was turning the people to Christ.

Sadly, the pope will not confirm Aden as bishop, him being a married priest in the Celtic tradition, but everyone calls him bishop and treats him that way.  Even the Roman priests call him bishop and praise the work he is doing, so I suppose the approval of Rome is less important to the work here.  But likewise, you must concentrate on your more important duty of beating back the Bavarians, free Burgundians, Aleman, Thuringians, Saxons, Frisians, Lombards, Ostrogoths, and anyone else who might threaten the peace of Franconia.  And if the Muslims ever come out of Septimania, woe to them, and woe to Abd al-Makti.  But for now, our children need peace and a chance to grow up safe and secure in their lives.  Take care of yourself and Charles.  My love to Tomberlain and Owien.

She signed the letter at last and sent it with the post to Paris.  It would eventually reach Roland, and Margueritte only hoped her letter would get there ahead of the rumors, but she doubted it would.  For herself, she got to make clothes for the children, cook apple pies, watch one stone set upon another in her slowly growing castle wall, and go to church every Sunday.  Her father’s sarcophagus got laid in the wall of the new Saint Aubin’s church where it helped Margueritte remember that he still watched over them all.


Margueritte felt glad when spring of 723 arrived and she could saddle Concord and ride the rest of the Breton March.  A year earlier, Peppin, the march sergeant at arms, stayed home and got all the young men to train.  He had nearly three hundred by summer’s end, and he put them through such grueling training on horseback, they were glad to take three afternoons per week to study Latin and geography (science), math, history, and military matters.  This year, Peppin would be going with Margueritte, presumably knowing what sort of young men to look for, and Walaric would take over the training, and take whatever young men Margueritte sent to him all during the summer months.  By then, word of what she was doing with the young men had spread around, and she found any number of free Franks who did not want their sons to be overlooked.

For Margueritte, she still had her clerics to write rental agreements, her surveyors still made their up-to-date maps, and her eyes were still open for who might be best to be elevated to baron, or secondary fief holder that she called vassals.  It was not that the baron necessarily got more land, but he got made responsible for a larger area of the county that he could tax, and he got handed vassals of his own—mostly with little say in the matter.  He got told to get along with his vassals as they were told to get along with their baron and the count or lose their land.  Margueritte also probably overcompensated in retaining wilderness areas and hunting preserves between the various barons, to give some buffer space in the name of peace.  She had no doubt some of that land would eventually go to the church, but she did not start out looking for church lands.  Some of it would probably be settled someday.  But by far, and about all she really stayed interested in, was finding horses and the young men she could train to be her heavy cavalry.  She kept thinking about what she wanted to do to Abd al-Makti, and it motivated her.

Margueritte went home in early October.  The weather turned early that year, and she wanted to get out of the cold.  Mother Brianna and Jennifer were very worried about her, and when Margueritte assured them that she felt fine, Brianna smiled and said she hoped Margueritte did not break too many things while she was away.

“No, Mother,” Margueritte answered with a straight face, before she returned the smile.  “But I thought hard about it several times.”

Margo, who seemed to take everything in stride and proved very good about going with the flow, said she had not worried at all.  If anything, she felt worried about what Margueritte might do to her poor vassals.

Elsbeth said, “You went away?”

“Yes, little mother,” Margueritte called her that.

Elsbeth smiled.  “I think I want to be a mother again.”  Then, since she had everyone’s attention, she added, “I hope Owien is all right.”  They had not heard anything from Paris since July.

The winter got rough, and men had to go out to hunt in the Vergen forest and in the county.  The hunting was good, so no one went hungry, but Margueritte concluded they needed to farm more land come the spring.  She laid out places where they had cut trees in the last several years.  She thought it would be good if they had Hammerhead, the ogre and his family around to rip the stumps from the soil.  She got the impression that they had moved out of the Pyrenees and up into Aquitaine, but it still felt too far away to be any help with the farm.  They had to work the old-fashioned way, with shovels and torches to burn the wood in great bonfires.  That was hard work in the snow, but then Margueritte understood what kept Roland’s brothers-in-law so busy the winter she spent on the Saxon March.

Soon enough, the children had their birthdays.  Martin turned seven, Brittany turned five and Grace turned four and finally looked to be slimming a little.  Margueritte cried a lot that winter.  The feeling came upon her suddenly, every so often.  She would weep, and if someone came around, they tried to comfort her, but nothing helped.  It did not seem anything in particular triggered her tears, and nothing in particular stopped her weeping.  She just wept every now and then, right up until March.

M4 Margueritte: Broken, part 1 of 3

Come the spring of 722, Roland, Tomberlain and Owien packed to go join Charles for battles and adventures on the frontier, while Margueritte got to sit around and watch stone masons stack one rock on top of another.  It did not feel fair.

“But what about all the land around the Mayenne River?  What about Laval?  We promised to visit and set tax rates and talk about security questions for the people there and check on any bills of sale.”  Margueritte turned to her brother.  “As count of the mark, it is up to you to show yourself to the people.”

“Forget it.  He isn’t even listening,” Margo said.  Tomberlain hugged their mother.

“Owien is leaving me,” Elsbeth cried.  She entered her last month of pregnancy, due any day, and tended to tears.  Margueritte almost asked Owien why he did not want to see his child born, but that was not her culture.  People did not think that way.  In her world, women bore and raised the children while men went off on whatever business the men thought important.

“I’ll be back,” Owien assured her.  “I’ll make you proud.”

Elsbeth stomped her foot.  “I don’t want to be proud of your glorious death.  I want you alive.”  She grabbed Owien and cried into his shirt.

“Don’t worry, Margueritte,” Tomberlain said, as he turned to hug her good-bye.  “You are the smart one, and the only one who can get all this organized.  You don’t need me to muck it up.”

“But Margo is the countess,” Margueritte countered.

“No way.  I would muck it up worse than Tomberlain,” Margo said, as she kissed Tomberlain good-bye with no fanfare.

“Roland?”  Margueritte turned to her husband as her last hope, but he had five-year-old Martin in his arms while Brittany at three and Grace at two, remained inside with all the little ones, watched by Jennifer, and the servants, Marta and Maven, and Lolly the dwarf who could actually make faces that made the little ones giggle.

Roland set Martin down and hugged Margueritte.  “I’ll miss you every day,” he said, but Margueritte looked past his shoulder.  There were three hundred men down on the long field.  The two hundred infantry looked sloppy, but the hundred horsemen looked to be in well trained order.  Wulfram and his lieutenants, Lambert and Folmar rode up, and Margueritte turned on the man.

“Captain.  How can you leave us poor defenseless women and children alone?  And defenseless?”

Wulfram almost laughed at the word defenseless coming from Margueritte’s mouth, but he thought it better to look at Roland.

“Now, don’t be that way,” Roland said kindly.  “Peppin is staying, and Wulfram is leaving his number one, Walaric, to help train the young men and horses.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Margueritte said, pecked at Roland’s lips, and let go.

The women watched the men ride back down the gentle hill and start out, Margo waving and Elsbeth crying most of the time.  Margueritte finally broke the frieze by heading toward the house.  The others followed, Margo and Mother Brianna helping Elsbeth.

Margueritte waited for Elsbeth to deliver a fine boy that she named Bogart, though she said he had not been named after the current Breton King Bogart, who in any case called himself David.  That was fine.  It was not a name Margueritte would ever pick out.  But once Elsbeth delivered, Margueritte packed herself and Giselle, as they did when they went to Saint Catherine’s.  She gathered her clerics from the school she had built for the young men from all over her piece of Anjou province who were learning to lance and ride, took Walaric and fifty of the best trained men she had, and set out for Laval.  She started throwing up regularly in the mornings by then, but only Giselle knew, and she was sworn to secrecy.

“But shouldn’t you stay home and rest for the baby’s sake?” Gisele asked.  Margueritte shook her head.  The exercise at that point would be a good thing, and she would be home by the time she really began to show.

“I’ll be fine,” Margueritte insisted.  “I am fine, but what is the matter?” she asked, because Giselle started crying softly.

Giselle shook her head.  “I miss my family, sometimes.”  That was all Margueritte could get out of her when she found her now and then softly crying all summer long.

“Maybe this fall we can arrange to send you to Paris for a visit,” Margueritte said to encourage the girl, but Giselle cried all the same.

Poor Margueritte had to remember everything, and for the first time she had to start writing things down to remember.  She thought she might be getting old at twenty-five.  She was looking for a few good men, as she said, and the horses to go with them.  She had to keep track of claimed land and fallow land and arrange for taxes and for military service.  She looked for land that might go to the church, and for land they might keep as a preserve.  She also looked for land to support the barons Tomberlain would be appointing to oversee different areas of the grant.  Realistically, she had to find good knights and noble families already living on the land to elevate, and that was not going to be easy.  If she elevated one man over his neighbors, it had better be the right man.

Margueritte kept her clerks busy writing rental agreements.  She kept her surveyors busy making an accurate map of the land.  She settled a number of disputes where there were overlapping claims, and got wined and dined, as she called it, in every manor house and village she came across.  It became exhausting, and come September, she only had two thoughts in mind.  First, it would take another whole year to get through it all.  Second, she felt glad to be going home.

Back home, she watched stone being set upon stone as her castle slowly took shape.  It felt worse than watching grass grow, she said.  She thought of Roland with Tomberlain and Owien having exciting adventures while her life seemed so dull.  And church every Sunday, she thought.  All she did was make clothes for the children who grew out of things almost before they were made.  Naturally, Brittany became slim and petite, like her mother, and grace was round like her grandfather, or maybe her grandmother Rosamund.  She had no chance to hand down outgrown clothes.  Things brightened briefly when Brittany turned four in November.  Martin turned six on December second.  Grace turned three at the end of December, and Margueritte could hardly hold Grace in her lap as her baby took up all the room.

“Baby is too big,” Grace pointed out by putting her hand on Margueritte’s belly.  Margueritte laughed, but had to stand, then had to go upstairs and lie down.  About an hour later, Giselle brought her a small cup of cider.  Margueritte sipped and looked at her companion.

“You have been a wonderful help to me and the children.  I know they all love you very much.  But I have been wondering why you don’t seem interested in having any children of your own.  With all the men, mostly young men around training to the horse and the lance, I’m surprised one has not sparked your interest.”

Giselle shook her head and said softly.  “No.  I didn’t mean it.  I’m sorry.”

“But here, I thought you were happy,” Margueritte said.  “The only time I ever saw you cry before this summer was right before my father died.”  Margueritte’s eyes got big as everything came crashing together in her head.  “Giselle.  What have you done?”  She leaned over and threw up.

“I’m so sorry,” Gisele said, and while Margueritte began to convulse and have a fit on her bed, Giselle ran out of the room, shouting.  “Something is wrong.  Help.  Get Doctor Pincher.  It is Margueritte.  Something is wrong.”

Brianna raced up the stairs, just ahead of Elsbeth and Margo.  Brianna called Doctor Pincher, and he came, but immediately he sent the women to fetch Lolly, or Luckless, or Goldenrod.

“We need to open the way to Avalon.  Hurry,” he said.

Giselle ran down the stairs with the others, grabbed her cloak, and ran to the stables.  Grimly was there, and she hurried him to tend to the Lady.  Then she got the horse she had ridden all year and saddled the beast.  She had secreted a few coins into her pocket, but not much.  She thought a bit of bread would be nice, but she dared not waste time.  She rode off into the falling snow and hoped it would cover her tracks.

Giselle thought to cross the Loire at Angers, but by the time she got there, she thought instead to seek shelter at Saint Martins in Tours.  The abbot would give her sanctuary, and paper and ink.  She would write to Margo.  Margo would listen.  She would confess herself, and she would warn them.  All she saw and heard in Anjou was war talk.  With Charles away fighting in distant Bavaria, it looked like Ragenfrid started rebuilding his army.  She overheard that he was gaining pledges from many Neustrian nobles.  It sounded very bad.

Avalon Pilot part II-3: Avalon

Lockhart spoke as the door closed.  “I feel like I died.  I thought when I died I would get to be young again.”  Lincoln struggled to not throw up.  Boston looked around and grinned with all her might.

“If we died, we went to Heaven.”  Boston pointed at the castle, rubbed her shoe in the green grass and reveled in the fresh air and glorious colors everywhere she looked.  Somehow, the colors all seemed richer and brighter to her than they ever did back on drab old earth.  A field of ripe brown grain grew, not far away on her right, and a small sparkling blue river on her left flowed into the deep green sea not twenty yards to her rear.  It all felt too wonderful, and the castle, the most wonderful of all.  It looked like a veritable tapestry of colors with more spires, towers and keeps than she could count, all with flags fluttering in the cool breeze, and some of those towers shot right up into the clouds.  “I feel like I’m in Oz, you know, from black and white to color.”

“If it’s any consolation, I feel like I died too,” Glen said.  “But the feeling will pass, shortly.  And no, Boston, this isn’t Oz and it isn’t God’s heaven.  This is in the second heavens.”

“I don’t understand,” Lockhart admitted.

“Very simple.”  Glen motioned for Mister Bean to proceed.  The little one strutted up the path and the others fell in behind.  “The second heavens is my name for the place between Heaven and Earth.  It is where Aesgard, Olympus, the Golden City of the gods and all the other places of the gods used to be, including the places where the spirits of the dead were kept until the coming of the Christ, like Hades, you know.”

“This is the place between earth and heaven?”  Lincoln started to feel better.  “It must be small.  Thin like a line?”

Glen shook his head.  “Infinite and eternal as far as I know, and multi-layered, like a fine French pastry.  The isles of Avalon are called innumerable, but actually, they add up to very little compared to the vastness of it all.  Alice keeps the atmosphere and everything functioning well enough for this little part so we have a sanctuary for my little ones, and others across the various islands of the archipelago.”

“What do you mean she keeps the atmosphere?”  Lincoln took a deep breath and wondered.

“I mean the natural state of the second heavens is chaos.  It folds in and back on itself and even time is uncertain and in flux.  In order to have anything here that approximates earth and the natural laws of physics, it has to be carved out of the chaos and sustained.  Otherwise we would all be floating through an airless, ever changing and swirling mass of stuff the color of rainbow sherbet and with the consistency of something like cotton candy.”

“Hurry up.  Come on,” Boston interrupted.  She got excited.  “The Castle gate is opening.”

The others saw the gate opening but were presently huffing and puffing to get up the hill.  They paused to stare at the girl and Glen spoke.  “I’m fifty-seven, Lincoln is sixty-five, and Lockhart is sixty-eight, ready to retire.  We will get there.”

Boston frowned and ran ahead.

“I think it would be best if I let Lady Alice take it from here.”  Glen finished his thought and vanished from that spot.  Lady Alice met Boston as she ran inside the door to the castle courtyard.

“Thank you Mister Kalderoshineamotadecobean.  You did your job perfectly and brought them here safe and sound.”  Alice’s first thought was for her little one.  The little Bean grinned more broadly than a human face could possibly grin and marched off across the castle courtyard with a real swagger.  “Hello Boston dear.  It is good to see you again.”  Alice stepped up and gave Boston a kiss on each cheek, and Boston had a thought.  She spun around and saw Lockhart and Lincoln but no Glen.

“Glen?”  For all her reading and experience with the subject of the Kairos, she still felt uncertain about exactly how all these different lives of the Kairos actually worked, especially when an old man vanished and became a much younger woman, or traded places with her though time, or however he explained it.

“Yes, Glen is here.”  Alice touched her heart and responded with a very human smile.  “But not at the moment.  For now, he thought I would be best to explain.”

“Trouble?”  Lockhart picked up on something in Alice’s voice.  Once upon a time, he had been a police officer, and he still showed the instincts now and then.

“Eh?”  Lincoln originally worked with the CIA.  He had other virtues, though presently his thoughts were for his missing wife.

“If you will follow.”  Alice waved them forward and they crossed the courtyard.  They tried hard not to stare.

The yard overflowed with bustling little ones, all about on some errand or other.  Dwarfs, elves of light and dark, and others hard to categorize could be seen working and walking across the cobblestones.  Fairies and pixies of many different types and sizes fluttered through the air.  Two hobgoblins struggled with a barrel of something and tried to load it onto a wagon.  One big creature stood off in one corner, like an ogre or troll in the shadows.  The men did not want to look too close.  Boston, of course, delighted in all of it, and even clapped several times at the sights that came to her eyes.

At the back of the courtyard, they stepped through a gate and into a garden-like area.  It looked big and well groomed, but it seemed more nearly the size of a small forest than a garden.  The trees appeared to be placed randomly, like in an old growth forest, but the paths were clean of debris.

“One could get lost in this castle and wander for days without finding a door,” Lincoln remarked, quietly to himself.

“It has been known to happen.”  Alice heard, and threw the response over her shoulder.

They traveled through several buildings, several courtyards, and several gardens—all different—and came at last to the spring from which the small river flowed.  Boston guessed when she saw the naiad sunning herself.  She would have been more taken by the sight, however, if the naiad had not been lounging in a plastic lawn chair.

“Is nothing sacred?” Boston asked with a click of her tongue.

“Very little these days,” Alice sighed, and opened a door to a building which might have been called a cathedral back on Earth.  The building, a tower, contained only one room, all wood.  It looked like a construction as old as time itself.  The wood looked full of delicate carvings, the walls and floor full of intricate mosaics and the ceiling full of magnificent paintings all picturing the one hundred and twenty-one lifetimes of the Kairos, so far.  In the center of the room, there sat only one piece of furniture.  A three-pronged table held in its grasp a crystal that throbbed with a discernibly bright light.  The visitors found it otherwise impossible to tell where the rest of the light in the room came from, since there were no windows and no other visible doors but the one.  It seemed to Boston as if the building had been built around the light to trap the light inside for all eternity. Boston held her breath in that sacred space.