M4 Margueritte: A Few Words, part 1 of 3

So, 730 became a busy year, and not just because Charles finally started to form his permanent army.  When he took back some of the church land, the church got up in arms.  Priests and bishops called him a thief, and said he was stealing from Christ himself.  One would think he was as guilty as Judas.  Margueritte wrote to Charles.

Do not be intimidated.  The good Bishop Aden, whom you know, says a bishop needs enough land to meet his daily need and no more.  Beyond that is the sin of greed and covetousness.  A bishop is an overseer.  He watches over the priests and the flock in his care. As long as he can feed himself and have a little something to share with the poor, let that be enough. As long as you are not telling him what to preach, he has no reason to complain.

Margueritte could practically hear Charles say he would like to be able to tell some of the priests what to preach.

Margueritte sent for Boniface, and he gladly came.  He heard terrible things about Charles on route, but after Margueritte explained things, he wrote many letters to bishops, to several archbishops, and even to the Pope, defending Charles’ actions.  Boniface may have been the first to point to Islam and say Christendom, by which he meant Europe, needed a champion.  The church backed off, but Charles, who had been the darling of the church until then, fell from grace for a long while.

730 was the year Aden died.  Jennifer’s letter said he was in Kernev, sharing the gospel, and some believers in the old ways rose-up and stabbed him until he died.  King David caught and executed the men, but now Jennifer felt all alone.  Lefee is sixteen and only interested in boys.  Cotton is thirteen, but he will be starting as a page next year (in the summer of 730), and Mercy is nine, and sweet, but she misses her best friend Grace.  If you could come home for a while, I miss you, Lady.  It is so quiet around here since the work has all moved to Angers and Lemans.  Pouance still belongs to you, by Owien’s decree.  Marta, Maven, and I have done our best to keep it, but you can visit any time.  My love, Jennifer, Little White Flower. 

Margueritte talked to her people.

Luckless said he actually missed Lolly.  Grimly said he wanted to go home.  Besides, they both said the men had taken over the forges, and the pages and squires were handling the barn and the stables just fine.  That was how it should be.  The horses certainly knew what to do, so Grimly got homesick.  Margueritte knew that no matter how long she stayed in the Saxon March, Luckless and Grimly would have stayed faithfully with her.  She felt a bit saddened to think that they would never volunteer what they were feeling.  She certainly could have known what they were feeling if she thought about it, but she did not.  Her general rule was to not violate the thoughts and feelings of her little ones, but it might not always be a good rule.

Margueritte took a moment to see what Calista and Melanie were feeling.  Both were content and would follow her wherever she went.  They loved the children, even the older girls who could only think of boys, and the older boys who could only think of girls.  Calista said that was the way it was supposed to work with humans, since they lived such short lives, but Melanie had other thoughts.  King Oswald, the local elf king, married Laurien, who became concerned about Oswald’s friend, Ridgemont, because he lived alone.  Melanie thought she might rectify that problem, though she had only seen Ridgemont that one time, and she had no idea if he returned her feelings.  Melanie would not waste away for wanting the elf.  Her feelings would fade in time if she never saw him again or if he did not share her feelings.  Margueritte could not stop herself from taking a look, and she got the impression that it might work, so she made a decision.

“Melanie,” she said.  “I am entrusting you with protecting Ingrid, Aduan and Sigisurd while I am away.  And their girls and boys and young children, too.  I know it is a lot, but I cannot leave in good conscience without knowing they are safe, and without Roland here, I don’t know who else I can turn to.  Walaric and Ragobert will keep the squires training, and Bertulf, with Theobald, Cassius and Geoffry will variously keep tabs on the land and taxes and such, but the women and children are my chief concern.  I have spoken with Lady Laurien and agreed Oswald’s friend Ridgemont will keep watch on the house and the Rhine, and fetch help if there is serious trouble.”

Melanie looked at Margueritte and with a straight face asked, “Do you think he will like me?”


“My lady.  You are not a good liar.”

“I hope he loves you,” Margueritte said and leaned over to kiss the elf’s cheek.  Melanie began to cry.

“My lady, you have been so good to me, and I love you so much, my goddess.”

“And I love you,” Margueritte said as she stepped away with Calista, while Melanie cried harder in her happiness.  Sigisurd and Aduan were there to comfort Melanie as Margueritte went into the house.  Calista followed, and had a tear in her own eye, empathetic as elves are.

Margueritte packed as 730 came to an end.  Brittany turned twelve in mid-November and became a full-blown pre-teenager, concerned with her appearance, self-centered, ignoring adults, and inclined to giggle when she got around boys that she thought were cute.  Grace turned eleven just before the new year, and while she did not want Brittany to get ahead of her, she still had room in her to keep one hand on Gerald, who was six and would turn seven in March of 731 when they headed west toward Little Britain.

Martin finally turned fourteen early in December and became officially old enough to serve as a page.  Of course, the technicality of being thirteen and a half had not stopped him from serving and being with the pages all summer.  He made friends with Dodo and the gang, and Pepin got right there with him, and to be honest, they did not cause too much trouble that summer.  Martin and Pepin balked at being separated when Margueritte announced they were going to Pouance and would return in two years.  It was not so bad when Margueritte told Pepin he would be going with them.

Gisele, on the other hand, pitched a fit.  Margueritte saw the strong-willed character come out in full force as Gisele reminded Margueritte that she was not her mother and could not order her around.  Margueritte shocked Gisele by not responding to her stubborn anger with equal anger and shouting.  Instead, Margueritte spoke in a very calm and reassuring voice.

“You are right.  I am not your mother.  I am your guardian, the one your father selected, and I will give you a good home, and watch over you, and care for you, and love you as I loved my good friend, Rotrude, until you are fully grown at twenty-one, or happily married.  And then, your husband better be good to you, or he will feel your mother’s wrath, even if I am the one to do it.”  Margueritte smiled, stepped up and gave Giselle a kiss on the cheek.  “Now, get packed.  We have a long way to go.”  And she left.

Twelve-year-old Brittany came in wearing a new dress, or some jewelry, or a scarf, or something different, and she said, “What do you think?”  She seemed oblivious to Gisele who sat on the edge of her bed, staring at the wall.  Gisele reached for the girl.

“You look beautiful,” she said, hugged her, and cried.

Gisele was seventeen, six months older than Ingrid’s son Childebear, but that did not seem to matter.  They spent a lot of time together and the term “two years” got bandied about regularly.

Margueritte ignored them and turned her attention to Carloman.  He was Gisele’s twin, seventeen, and would not be elevated from page to squire until the end of the summer of 731.  He seemed to want to get on with it, not because he had interest in becoming a squire.  He was mediocre at everything except his schoolwork.  He ate history and the written word for breakfast, while he picked up his sword and went through the motions.

Margueritte put her hand gently on Carloman’s shoulder.  “Sadly, this is not an age that honors great learning.  Scholars will be appreciated at some points in the future, but now, not so much.  You need to trust me that I know something about the far future, but normally I have no idea what is happening in my lifetime, or for fifty or a hundred years out.  I suppose that is because that portion of history is not actually written yet.”

“Yes, I keep telling people you are not a witch.”

“Please, they already tried to burn me at the stake once for witchery.”  Margueritte shook her head.  “But what I wanted to say is for some reason, I happen to know that way up north in an Anglish monastery, a monk named Bede has finished, or is finishing a book titled Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum.  I could send for a copy if you would like.”

“Yes please.  I would like that very much.”

Margueritte walked to the door.  “I know your father can be a hard man, but he really wants the best for you and for the Franks.  He and Roland and I agree on that.  We want to keep the Frankish people peaceful, prosperous, secure, and safe from all the threats from the people that surround us.  He is pushing you to take up arms because this is the age for armies and battles, not scholars.  But remember, you have a younger brother who has taken to arms like a duck takes to water.  When your father passes on, you might consider a way to protect and encourage the scholars, and the great men of the church like Bede and Boniface, and the Adens of the world, and let your brother lead the armies in battle.  Just something to think about.”  She left.

M4 Margueritte: Settling Home, part 3 of 3

As if on cue, which is the sort of timing the little ones often exhibit, Luckless came from one direction and Grimly came from the other.  Luckless complained first.

“We are going to have to tear down that primitive blacksmith forge and build a proper one from scratch,” he said.

“Lady,” Grimly had something to say.  “We better get started building those stables right away.  Even though it is June, the way you humans build things, the cold weather will be upon us before we have a place to keep the horses warm and healthy.”

“And the barracks,” Walaric said.  “Some word of what you have been doing in Maine and Anjou has reached here, and all the ones we talked to on the way will send their young men soon enough.  I’m surprised some of them did not get here ahead of us.”

“It sounds like real work,” Cassius said.

“It will be, but the real work will be in the learning and teaching.  I brought a nest egg to get the work started, but we have to get our surveyors out starting yesterday so we can get the population settled and properly taxed.”

“I already know how to fight and ride,” Theobald caught up with the conversation.

“Good.  I was hoping as much,” Margueritte said. “So, you can help teach the young ones.”

“That is not what I meant.”

“Baron needs to set a good example,” she said and smiled.

It took until the following spring before the family really began to understand what this was all about and how this was going to work.  Gerald turned two, and then Margueritte turned thirty in the spring of 727, and she felt too old to have a two-year-old.  Theobald spent Margueritte’s birthday complaining that he would never get good with the lance.  Cassius teased him.

“Easy for you,” Theobald said.  “You are younger and carefree.”

“What about Geoffry?” Cassius rubbed it in.  Geoffry was a natural, and Theobald just frowned.

Mama Rosamund died that summer, and the family mourned, but Margueritte made sure to assure Ingrid that the house was now hers, and Ingrid still complained.

“Subject to you, of course, and my stupid brother.”

“And to Charles and the king, of course.  But you are a good person and will do good for the people on your land and under your care, and your brother and I will love you even when you feel like yelling.”

Ingrid walked away, confused as usual.

In 728, some of the first young ones really seemed to be getting it.  The number of true heavy horses that could reasonably carry the weight of all the armor and weapons remained small, but the herd grew under Grimly’s care, and Luckless found local dwarfs and a couple of dark elves to work under cover in the night, and the stockpile of weapons, armor and shields also grew.

Early on, Aduan proved to have a real talent for silk screening, as Margueritte described it.  She made the figure of a black eagle that impressed everyone.  The large version went on the flag that hung outside the barracks, which were really more like dormitories for the youth.  An annex where the teachers lived and held classes got built beside it, connected by a hallway.  Another flag flew outside the growing fortress, several miles upriver, on a hill overlooking the Rhine.

Aduan made a pattern of smaller eagles, and three in a red stripe ran diagonally down yellow-colored shields.  Aduan wanted to do a dragon, but Margueritte said no, she already did the dragon.  Instead, she made a design of simple red and white stripes for the lower Rhine, no animal images, and shortly decided on one horizontal white stripe across about a third of the red shield.  When she changed the bottom third of the shield to blue, she said it looked more Dutch, even if no one knew what she was talking about.

By 729, Margueritte felt confident enough in her men, mostly the older men, to cross the Rhine and reclaim all the land that got named in the original grant of Dagobert.  There were old Frankish families on the land, and plenty of new families since Charles came through and beat back both the Frisians and the Saxons.  But there were also plenty of Frisians and Saxons on the land, some of whom came back after Charles and his army left the area.

She gave no choice to the Franks, and for the most part that seemed fine.  They would rather answer to a Frankish overlord than be subject to either Saxons or Frisians.  For the Saxons and Frisians, she made it simple.  Acknowledge Roland, settle down and build a village, build and support a church, pay taxes and supply men when called to fight.  Do that, and they were welcome to stay on her land.  Refuse any part of the deal, and they would be given a peaceful escort to the border as soon as the surveyors laid it out.  Most stayed.  Some, both Saxons and Frisians, left.  A few started trouble but quickly discovered that a fight was not a good idea.  A very few paid with their lives.

Margueritte selected a man named Bertulf to be her sergeant at arms.  He worked right there from the beginning, with Ragobert and Walaric, both teaching and training the men, and he picked up the lance like he had been born to it.  He had a good and cheerful disposition, and always respected her and her family, though he learned to give Ingrid her space.  He also had a good eye for men and understood when to press them and when to back off.  He was the main reason Margueritte became successful with the Saxons and Frisians living on her land.  Margueritte praised him when they finally crossed back over the Rhine, not far from Ingrid’s home.

Three days passed before Margueritte left the house, and almost before she left her bed, and then it was only to saddle her horse and take a ride in the country.  Calista went with her but parted when they returned.  Calista made for the house.  She said she wanted to check in on Sigisurd’s little ones, and Gerald, just to be sure.

Margueritte smiled for Calista’s and Melanie’s loyalty to the children, and went on to the stables, but stopped short.  Martin was there and in a fight with a boy who looked older by a couple of years, and bigger.  Martin got in a good punch and the boy went down, and Margueritte thought that might be a good time to intervene.  Some of the other boys standing around, saw her ride up and made the combatants pause.

“Martin?” Margueritte said, and she could not quite keep the scolding out of her tongue.

“He started it,” Martin pointed.

“Lady, we have work to do, and we don’t need children looking over our shoulder,” the boy said.  Martin looked like he wanted to take another swing at the word, children.  “Lady,” the boy repeated and made a poor attempt at a bow. He probably did not know who she was.  This might have been his first summer, and she had been away all summer.

“And what did you learn?” Margueritte asked a surprise question.  Martin and the boy stared at each other like they did not know how to answer.  Margueritte helped them.  “Martin.  You should never let words rule your fists.  You know that words can never hurt you.  And you.”

“Dodo, son of Grimald of Cologne, your ladyship.”  The boy looked prepared to be scolded

“Dodo, son of Grimald, you should learn not to antagonize your enemies unless you want a black eye.”  The boys laughed but stopped suddenly when Ingrid came around the corner with Aduan’s Dombert and her own Childebear on her heels.  They were both sixteen and had paged for a couple of years, so were no strangers to stable fights.

“Margueritte,” Ingrid acknowledged her before she lit into the boys.  They were supposed to be cleaning the stables, not fighting.  She should give them a whole week of kitchen duty.  She should give them a whole week of laundry duty.  And Martin, “You have been told to stop hanging around the pages and getting into trouble.  It has been all summer with you.  Go up to the house and get cleaned off, er, with the countess’ permission, of course.”

Martin looked ready to shuffle off grumpily, even as Dodo figured out that he was in a fistfight with the viscount of the whole march, when Martin suddenly shouted, “Father!”  Margueritte turned and saw Roland ride up, three riders following him.

Margueritte smiled and wanted nothing more than to lean over and give him a kiss.  He had only visited a few times in those years, and never for more than a few weeks at a time.  She would have said something, but Martin shouted again.


Pepin returned the shout.  “Martin!” and Pepin bounded from his horse so the two boys could hug.  They had not seen each other in years, but nothing had changed.  Margueritte noted the other two riders were Carloman and Gisele, Charles’ eldest.  Roland quickly mentioned that Margueritte had two new recruits, and she felt something needed to be said right from the beginning.

“Pepin and Carloman.  You will report to Walaric whom you should remember from the battle of Pouance.  He will assign you to page for a squire and assign your duties according to the order of the day.  You will do your duties without complaint, you will learn something worth learning, and you will receive no special treatment for being Charles’ sons.  Is that clear?”

“Yes mum,” Pepin said with his eyes as wide as they could get.  “She hasn’t changed a bit,” he added softly and nudged Martin.

“Perfectly clear,” Carloman said as he got down and took his and Pepin’s horses into the stables where Grimly waited.

“And Gisele, why are you here?”

“Now that I am sixteen, Father’s new wife does not have room for me,” she said, sadly, and looked twice at both Childebear and Dombert.

“Swanachild doesn’t mind Aude and Hiltrude,” Roland explained.  “They were young enough to learn to call her mother, but Gisele rubbed her the wrong way from the beginning.  Strong willed.  Charles said he has had enough of the boys fighting and the cat fights, and you’re a girl, maybe you can talk sense into the child.  He says all Gisele wants is boys, and her other choice is a convent.”

Margueritte nodded.  “Clara is twenty-one and just married.  Her sister Thuldis is eighteen and has the same problem.  Boys everywhere.  This is Boy Central, you know.”  She turned to Gisele.  “Would you like to meet the girls?  They can tell you all about it.”

“Yes please,” Gisele said.

“Ingrid?” Margueritte asked.

“I might as well,” Ingrid said.  “I have the experience.  Get down from the horse and come on up to the house.  I’ll introduce you.”

Gisele slipped down from the horse and watched the boys watch her before she turned and followed Ingrid.

“You were never like that,” Roland said.

“Martin, up to the house and get cleaned off.  Pepin scat.  You can catch up later.”  Margueritte turned to Roland.  “When I was sixteen, I already knew what I wanted.”

“And did you get what you wanted?”

“Not when one or the other of us keep going away,” she said, and they dismounted, and Roland held her for a good long while before he took the horses into the stables.



Margueritte has a few words as too much time is spent apart from Roland…  until Monday, Happy Reading.


M4 Margueritte: Settling Home, part 2 of 3

“Let Ragenfrid live.  Charles, have you talked to him?  He is not just beaten in battle.  He is a defeated man.  He knew this was his last chance.  The men will not come to his call again.  He poses no threat, and can do no harm, unless you turn him into a Martyr.  There are still plenty of nobles in Neustria, and some in Austrasia who wonder about you taking your father’s place.  They may not be looking over your shoulder, but they are watching.  They are afraid you might turn into a tyrant.  You kill Ragenfrid and it will be like a festering boil on the nation.”

“How do I let a rebel live and not appear weak?”

“An act of Christian charity.  A statement that says Franks should not be fighting Franks, that the nation needs to be united against the external enemies that threaten us all.  Then take back the treasure of Austrasia that your father gained, that Plectrude stole and used to pay off Ragenfrid at Cologne.  That will hurt him worse than anything.  Then draw up a Plectrude agreement, and tell him if he is good, and his sons prove themselves in loyalty, bravery and Christian virtue, they may be allowed to inherit his land and home.”

“You know, Maine and Anjou are not signed off yet.  I all but promised Wulfram a title,” Charles said.

“Excellent.”  Margueritte did not react the way he expected.  “Give him to Count Owien to be baron over the portion of Owien’s land that happens to include Ragenfrid’s home.  Let Wulfram collect Ragenfrid’s taxes with the rest of his barony.  Wulfram can be the bad cop and Owien can be the good cop, and together they can watch over Ragenfrid and keep him in line, and the kingdom does not have a festering boil, and the lords in Neustria and Austrasia will not doubt that you want peace and unity in Frankish lands and are concerned about outsiders.  If you explain it the right way, they may even help you with your army.”

Charles let out a small laugh again.  “Your logic is so flawed I hardly know where to begin.  But I like the part about the Austrasian treasure and holding his sons’ inheritance over his head.  I suppose a Plectrude-like peace may be possible.”

“Charles, please let him live.  You don’t want all your nobles thinking you are a cruel tyrant.  There has been enough killing.  Make peace.”

“Enough,” Charles turned to walk away, but Margueritte stopped him.

“I saved the third thing, the most important thing for last.”  Charles paused and Margueritte had to speak up.  “It concerns Rotrude.”

Charles came back without a word.

“Charles,” Margueritte put her hand on his and showed all her sympathy in her eyes.  “Her lungs are filing with fluid and there is nothing anyone can do.”


“No, Charles.  Lung cancer, and she has only a short time to live.”

“Are you sure?” Roland asked.

“Greta examined her, and Doctor Mishka concurred.”

“Doctor Pincher?” Roland asked.

“Everyone examined her and agreed.  I am so sorry.”

Charles nodded.  “All the doctors in Paris agreed.  I will take her home.  You have two counts to worry about now, and I expect my heavy cavalry in ten years, no less, and no excuses.”  He left, and Margueritte grabbed Roland and made him go with her up to their room.


Margueritte did not get the full ten years.  Six years after Ragenfrid’s rebellion, in 730, Charles finally began to build his permanent standing army.  He filled it with veterans from his many battles, and then he had to pay for it.  To that end, the treasure of the Caliph, taken from Duke Odo of Aquitaine, and the treasure of Austrasia, retaken from Ragenfrid, went a long way to get things started the first few years, but he could not sustain the army without regular help.  He repossessed numerous church lands that he had given away when negotiating with Boniface all those years ago.  There was a row in the church.  At one point, the Pope threatened to excommunicate Charles.  Margueritte intervened directly with Boniface, and Boniface intervened with the Pope.  Boniface well understood what Charles was trying to do and given all the barbarity he had seen in Germanic lands, he did not blame him, and in fact supported Charles in the way Charles always supported him.

The spring after Ragenfrid’s rebellion, which is to say early March 725, Margueritte had her last child, a boy she named Gerald.  Martin turned eight and a half by then and not particularly interested in babies, though he said he was glad to have a brother.  Brittany turned six and a half, and Grace turned five and a third, and all they could talk about, and fight over, was the baby.  Some days were hard.

Of course, Owien and Tomberlain stayed home for a few years to settle all of their properties and appoint honest men to watch over various parts of the land.  Margo had another child, and Elsbeth had two more, almost as close together as Brittany and Grace, and she started to look plump, though Margueritte would never say so out loud.  Lucky for Elsbeth, the elder of the two was a girl, and the younger was a boy, so their rivalry would not be quite as sharp as the rivalry between Brittany and Grace.

It did not take too long, though, before Owien and Tomberlain gathered their men, as many as they could muster, and marched off to join Charles on the frontier.  That happened about April 727, the same month but a year after Margueritte got Walaric, some volunteers among the men, two clerics who knew surveying, and a bundle of mixed Frankish charger and Arabians and headed out for the Saxon march.

Horegard had passed away in 723, about the same time Margueritte lost her baby.  But Rosamund was still around, and though she had become very old, she greeted Margueritte with open arms and a warm smile.  Aduan and Cassius were happy to see her.  Geoffry looked happy as well, and Sigisurd shouted with joy.  She had two children of her own by then and never felt happier.  Theobald was nice, as he had always been nice in their limited contacts, but Ingrid got cold.

“I thought you went away,” Ingrid said.

“I did, but in a short while I fear I may be mistress of all this land, and I need to know what it entails.”

“What right do you have to this land?  You did not work it and slave over it for all these years.  You can’t come in here now and just take it.”

“We are women,” Margueritte said in a very flat voice.  “Like it or not, the land already belongs to Roland as the eldest son.”  Ingrid spit, but Margueritte continued.  “But one reason I want to survey the land is because I have seen the grants of the king, and there is more land than you probably imagined.  I want to know where to build the fortress where Roland and I and our children will live, and how would you like this house and the surrounding fields.”

Ingrid paused and smirked.  “What is the trick?”

“No trick.  How would you like a title, like say, baroness?  That would make Theobald the baron.  Of course, there will be taxes, to help build roads and keep men at arms against the Saxon border, and to help the poor, and support the church, but it should not be enough to inconvenience you, and you could levy a small tax yourself on the villages and land holders in the barony, as long as you help the poor and not make more poor.”

“Wait, wait.  Why would you do this?  I don’t understand.”  Ingrid looked confused.

“We are family.  Why would I not do good for family?”

Ingrid shook her head and went away, baffled by what she heard, but the others crowded around, and Margueritte had to assure them.  “Yes, yes I mean it.  You can look at the maps yourselves, later.  Yes, Aduan.  We can get you a nice home and some serfs to keep the fields, the house, and keep you fed.  Maybe you would like to live near Relii.  Yes, Geoffry.  I won’t leave you and Sigisurd out, but please, let me get unpacked.  The surveying work has not even started.  Let us first see what we are talking about.”

Rosamund hobbled over to the wagon, and so missed most of what got said, but Calista and Melanie were there with Gerald, Brittany and Grace, and the girls were complaining about bumps and bruises even though in June the road seemed fairly clear.  Rosamund fussed over Gerald, and Gerald liked being fussed over, so Margueritte knew they would get along great even if Gerald was being spoiled rotten.

Margueritte took Geoffry and Sigisurd aside and whispered like they were the oldest and dearest of friends.  “Meanwhile, I have picked up a terrible case of elves.  Shh!  Her comes one now.”

“Lady,” Calista stepped up and frowned.  “You know elf ears don’t miss much.”  Calista pointed at her ears, but they presently looked like regular human ears because of the glamour she wore.  She made friends with Geoffry and Sigisurd, something elves do easily, and Margueritte grinned an elf worthy grin and moved on.

“Captain Ragobert.  Please show Walaric’s men where to set up camp.  Same as last time?”  she said the last like a question as her eyes turned to Theobald.  He stared into space, no doubt thinking about being a baron of means.  Margueritte thought maybe in six or seven hundred years, but not so much in the eighth century.

“What?”  Theobald snapped out of it.  “Yes.  Ragobert, you know where to camp.  Same as last time.”

“Very good,” Ragobert responded as Walaric walked up.

Margueritte introduced the knight as one knighted by Charles himself.  She explained how a knight needed to be loyal to the king, brave in battle, and a paragon of Christian virtue.

“Sorry that I am still a sinner in need of a savior like anyone else,” Walaric excused himself.

“He and his men are the main reason I came here,” Margueritte said.  “They are going to teach you and all of your men to ride, and to lance, and fight and become the pride of the Frankish lands.  And we are especially interested in young men, sixteen to eighteen-years-old, that we can train from their youth, and yes, that means we will have to do some building around here.”

M4 Margueritte: Settling Home, part 1 of 3

Margueritte and Roland took Charles outside to the big oak tree that had been cracked down the middle, where the weathered bench offered a place for shade on a hot summer day.  Margueritte had a table set up there, and papers on the table held down by rocks.  She had three things to discuss and wanted privacy, so Charles did not feel put on the spot.

“I heard about your use of cavalry,” Charles started right in.  “Using the horsemen to drive your enemy into the waiting arms of your infantry was near genius.  Besides, I have seen enough with Wulfram and his hundred to begin to think there may be some merit in such a cavalry unit.”

Margueritte looked at Roland.  He smiled as he spoke.  “A year ago, the battle went back and forth. We would have taken the field eventually, but it was a struggle.  Wulfram got his hundred to pull out their lances and they led two hundred more horsemen right into the right side of the enemy.  Three hundred men on horse drove three thousand infantry soldiers right back into the river, and the enemy fell apart.  It was pretty amazing.”

Charles nodded and did not object to the story.  “I have been thinking of ways to use horsemen and have been seriously surprising our enemies with old tactics such as the Huns used in Roman days.  We got away from that, and most have forgotten, so they are like new again.”

“He is drooling at the prospect of a thousand of what you call heavy cavalry,” Roland teased.

“I would not say drooling,” Charles objected before he softened.  “But near enough.”

“Ten years,” Margueritte said.

“You said five, unless I dreamed it,” Charles protested.

“Revised,” Margueritte explained.  “Ask Walaric and Peppin.  They have been working with the men and horses, and they will tell you ten years.  It came to us that old men have old thoughts and are not the best candidates for this new thing.  I can get you several hundred older men, seasoned men, but it won’t be the same.  In ten years, I can get you your thousand, and maybe several thousand in their prime.  You see, it isn’t just the horses we have to train when they are young, it is the men.  Right now, Peppin and Walaric have five hundred boys, sixteen to eighteen, and some as young as fourteen.  We are training them in reading, writing, math, military tactics, history—including what the Huns did, and more.  They are learning to fight on horseback, but also on foot.  They will be all you ask for, but right now we only have them for two or three months in the summer.  Ten years.  By the time they are twenty-four, twenty-five and twenty-six, you can have them, and they can train the young squires that come after them.”

Charles tapped his lips, a sign he was thinking.  “But you are only talking local here.  Wouldn’t it be better to get young men from all over the realm?”

Margueritte smiled.  “Once Pouance is rebuilt, in a year, two at the most, I will be taking horses and men to Roland’s home, where I am sure Horegard and his old friend Adelard of Aldeneik will be fully supportive.  I will duplicate the work and training in Austrasia.”

Charles rubbed his hands in anticipation.  “I like the way your wife thinks,” he said to Roland.  “Did I ever mention that?”

“Ten years,” Margueritte repeated.  “We have to get them when they are young.”

“734,” Charles said.  “Not a year longer.”


“Pouance?” Roland interrupted, and Margueritte directed them to the papers on the table.  She let them look but talked at the same time.

“Talliso of Angers took an arrow in the belly and did not last the night.  He has a wife and daughter who might be given a nice home and a small stipend.  Maybe we could find a good husband for the daughter, a man loyal to Charles.  That leaves the whole of Anjou open, with Pouance here in the top western corner by the Breton border.  Pouance is the door to Anjou County.  I was thinking Sir Owien and Elsbeth could be elevated to Count and make their home in Angers.  They would be subject to Tomberlain as the marquis of the Breton Mark, but it would put the whole county in loyal hands, and give you access to more certain taxes as well as men at arms.”

“But what about Ragenfrid?  His property is in Anjou,” Roland asked.

“In a minute,” Charles put him off.  He studied the map.  “What is this other county?”

“Maine,” Margueritte said.  “Tomberlain gives up his corner of Anjou, and in return gets the properties of LeMans.”

“LeMans has sons,” Charles said.  One of his talents was remembering details like that, and Margueritte nodded.

“Two sons.  And the younger is interested in the church, and the elder does not share his father’s greedy nature.  LeMans may live a while, but he is crippled and probably won’t live long, especially if his wound turns.  Let the elder be made a baron for Tomberlain.  Let him keep his home and some small property to support him, and he may become the king’s good and loyal subject in time.  I have suggested as much to him, and he is agreeable.”

“Tomberlain’s headache,” Roland said.

Charles turned his eyes as if the matter was already decided.  “Now, Ragenfrid.”

“I own his sons,” Margueritte said sweetly.  “Do you recall the rental agreement we drew up and sent a copy to Paris?”

“Three cows or three sons,” Charles got a big grin on his face.  “I really like the way your wife thinks.”

“Boys,” Margueritte called.  They were standing off to the side waiting to be called, and they came, Bernard out front, Adalbert and Fredegar a step behind.  They had their hats off and looked very humble.  “They belong to me, and I give them to you.  Put them in your army and teach them how to be men.  Maybe they could be the first of your permanent standing army.”

“No,” Charles said decisively.  “Teaching is not my job.  It is your job.  You take them.  I give them to Roland.”

“Charles,” Roland protested.

“But Charles,” Margueritte interjected.  “I am teaching men how to be knights, not just soldiers.”

“Agreed,” Charles said.  “But the sons of Ragenfrid should be subject to potential knighthood.”

“Grr,” Margueritte said, borrowing the term from some past life.  She was not sure which one.  She stepped over and walked around each of the boys like she might have examined a horse.  “Bernard is a bit old, and Adalbert is already twenty-one.  Fredegar is eighteen.”

“Nearly nineteen,” Fredegar said.

Margueritte stared at her charges.  “Knighthood is a privilege, not a right.  It requires two things.  First, you must exhibit extraordinary loyalty and bravery in battle to win your spurs.  You must live honorably and be faithful to king and country.  Second, you must show evidence of true Christian character and live up to the Christian ideals, to defend and respect women and children, not try to grab them to use as hostages, to be charitable to the poor and help the needy and so on.  Satisfy Charles or Count Owien on these conditions, and he may grant you knighthood.  Then you might receive some property of your own.  I said might, do you understand?”

Fredegar nodded.  Adalbert looked down at the ground.  Bernard spoke like a young man being scolded, “Yes mum.”

“Dismissed,” Margueritte said.  “Go see Walaric and tell him I sent you to be enrolled and be good.”  She turned her back on them and after a few seconds, they shuffled off.

“I could use you in the camp to yell at my soldiers,” Charles remarked.

“She does a great reprimand,” Roland admitted.

“So, knighthood has requirements,” Charles continued.  “I knew the gist of it, but I did not know the act of Christian charity part.”

“Arthur’s rules.”

Charles shrugged.  “Gerraint should know.”

Margueritte looked at Roland with questions in her eyes.  “We heard,” he said.  “Everyone heard, though I am sure most people don’t believe it.”

“I was desperate to stall Ragenfrid and Gerraint was willing.  That’s all.”

“So, Count Owien and Count Tomberlain,” Charles brought them back to the topic.  “Pretty good for your family.”

“They have both proved themselves well on the battlefield,” Roland interjected

“Not for my family,” Margueritte said.  “I will be living on the other side of the world.”

“And their loyalty is without question,” Roland added.

“I’m not against the idea,” Charles said, his hands held up in surrender.  “I can think of many worse options.  I expect Margueritte to draw up the papers, and I will sign them, only you don’t get my sons.”

“I’ll get Pepin at least,” Margueritte said.  “Carloman may put the time in, but he is honestly a reader.”

Charles let out a little laugh.  “Yes, come to think of it, you probably will get them.”

“So, two counties, and men who can support each other in war and peace, and watch each other, even as they watch the Breton.  Is that it?”

“No, we have to talk about Ragenfrid,” Margueritte said.

“What is there to talk about?” Charles responded.  “There are only so many ways to cut a man’s head off.”

M4 Margueritte: Watch and Rescue, part 3 of 3

Luckless and his dwarfs started milling around the courtyard, waiting impatiently for someone to break in.  Grimly and his gnomes were still moving livestock back into the makeshift pens in the collapsed barn.  Goldenrod went down there.  The dogs got free when the kennels busted and the fence got knocked down, and now Goldenrod rode on Puppy’s back trying to corral the chickens that were still running wild all over the yard.  Margueritte almost laughed.  Then she caught sight of the boys.  Somehow, they escaped the underground and the clutches of Lolly and the dwarf wives.

Margueritte jumped up.  Her mind raced.  In seconds, every little one in the area had Pepin, Cotton, Weldig Junior and Martin corralled.  Somehow, the boys talked them into letting them climb the back wall, to watch the battle. Margueritte thought extra hard, though she hoped it did not come across as yelling.

“Heurst.  If you let them watch, you better make sure they don’t escape and try to join the fight.  If your men are needed, you better send sufficient men to escort them back underground, safely.”  Then she had a headache and imagined if she did much more of that she would get a migraine.

Margueritte refused to watch the battle.  She heard enough commentary from Elsbeth and Margo. She heard nothing from Calista and Melanie, but inside she understood they were both disappointed at not being allowed to be down in it.  Still, they did not mind guarding the women.  They understood the women, and children needed to be kept safe.

At the same time, Margueritte wondered what made certain elf maidens so bloodthirsty.  She hoped there was not some subtle influence she gave off or had given off through the centuries.  She had to admit, it was probably her fault.  Even without looking, she understood what happened down on the battlefield better than Margo or Elsbeth, who watched and explained.  Both Gerraint and Festuscato said it was not their fault.  The Princess and Diogenes both begged off responsibility.  Both Greta and Doctor Mishka said they were in the business of trying to save lives, and the storyteller said, peace baby, though no one laughed.  Margueritte answered them all.  It is all of my fault, and something terrible about the human race.  Sin, as Patrick or Boniface would say, and there will be no avoiding it until the Lord returns.

Margueritte finally looked when the big charge was due to come.  Ragenfrid tried several smaller attacks, individually, and several at once, but they got beaten back.  He tried sneaking men closer by using the cover Michael and David so conveniently put out, but that just got his men picked off by the elf archers on the wall.  Now it became time for the all-out attack.  Margueritte looked, hoping David and Michael had the good sense to pull back into the castle.  she squinted, but she could not send mental messages to Michael and David as she could to her little ones.  Just as well.  She was not down there and maybe they had an idea she did not think of.

“Hey,” Elsbeth shouted.  “Whose men are those?”

“What?” Margo asked and tried to see where Elsbeth pointed.

Margueritte saw and sighed a great sigh of relief.  “Hunald,” she said.  “From Aquitaine.  Probably advanced units on the point.  I hope Michael and David can hold the fort.  It would be terrible to have the enemy break in at the last second.”

“The charge came, but David and Michael apparently got the word, and so did Peppin and duBois.  Their men came out of the gates and struck the charge on each side.  Ragenfrid got boxed in, and did not advance, though the fighting got bloody.  As Hunald’s men moved more and more into the town on Ragenfrid’s rear, he finally gave up and squirted past duBois and back down the Paris Road.  He left his wounded where they lay, and now he had to think hard on how he would possibly break into the castle.  He still was not ready to concede defeat, even if Amager got ready to go home to Tours and Bouchart stayed frozen with indecision.


Hunald moved his five thousand men up into the half-burned town before dark.  David, Michael, duBois, and Peppin brought their men inside the castle.  There were lots of wounded to tend and Doctor Mishka took the first shift.  The elves, kobold, brownies, fairies, local dwarfs, and gnomes all went back into the woods.  Luckless and his smiths stayed, as did Grimly and his horse breeders, but they stayed to their place and tasks and otherwise made themselves scarce.

At sundown, having treated the worst that she reasonably felt she could save, Doctor Mishka checked with Doctor Pincher who treated the wounded among the little ones.  Doctor Pincher did not hide the fact that there were casualties, though being confined to bowshot distance, outside of a few hardheaded dwarfs, the casualties were slight.  Even so, Doctor Mishka cried for each one, and when Margueritte returned, she cried some more.

Margueritte went out to meet Hunald, followed by the ever-present Calista and Melanie, and a dozen men assigned by Childemund and Peppin.  King David, Michael of Nantes and Childemund himself went with her.  Walaric had the young men guarding the stables, the forges, and the horses they had to care for.  Peppin walked with Elsbeth and Margo and had one of the castle clerics write down everything they could find that needed repair.  He was still compiling the list at sundown when Margueritte went out.

Hunald waited for her, and spoke up right away, even waving to her from a distance, and smiled in a most pleasant way.  Margueritte came up to him and right in front of his captains, her hand flew up to his cheek, and stopped short.  Hunald squinted but did nothing to stop her.  His captains gasped, but then she touched his cheek gently, while he spoke.

“Sorry it took us so long.”

“Your timing was our salvation,” she said, and got on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek and then hugged him.  The captains relaxed when she said, “Your father is one of my best friends in the world.  Thank you for coming,” and she turned to those captains.  “And make sure you let Odo know how grateful I am.”  The captains smiled and nodded and assured her they would.

“I was glad to do it,” Hunald said as she let go of him.  “After that business in Tours, I need the penance.”

“Amager is here,” Margueritte said.  “On the other side, but he has not attacked us and is packing to leave.  I don’t think Ragenfrid was honest about the situation here and got him to come under false pretenses.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Hunald said.  “I thought he was a nice man.”

“As did I,” Margueritte said and turned Hunald by taking his arm.  “Now let me introduce you to some more nice men.”  Michael, Childemund, and David all looked like they had been through the wars, which they had.

“We have met,” Hunald said as he shook Michael’s hand, and Michael confirmed as much.

“Childemund came here escorting Charles’ wife, Rotrude.  He has represented Charles in our talks with Ragenfrid.”

“Pleased to meet you.  You talked with Ragenfrid?”  Hunald looked surprised.

“For three days,” Margueritte admitted.  “We were hoping to stall him until you got here, and once you arrived, we hoped he would think twice about attacking us.”

“I see.”

“But please, let me introduce David, King of Amorica, what you might call Little Britain.

“David?”  Hunald looked confused.  “Bogart?”

“His mother calls him David, and so do I.  He is my cousin, you know.”

“Either name will do,” David said, and in such a friendly manner, Hunald swallowed the words, “Your majesty.”

“And this, is Prince Hunald, son of Duke Odo the Great of Aquitaine.”

Hunald also swallowed his guffaw.  “Odo the Great?”

Margueritte shrugged.  “But we must get back to the great hall, and you must come to supper.  The dwarf wives are cooking something special in the way of pork, and applesauce.  Bring any men you want.  Your captains are welcome.  I am sure there will be enough for all.  Please ignore the hole in the ceiling, and the courtyard where so many men are resting.  And there are wounded, so if you have a physician with you, it would be greatly appreciated.

“Of course,” one of the older captains said.

“Oh, my apologies.  I should have thought of that right away.”

They returned to the castle, and Hunald and his captains got a good look at the damage, but the pork supper turned out as great as promised.  There were no complaints there.

One of the captains said the courtyard looked like a small scale of what they had after the battle of Toulouse when they drove the Saracens from their land.

“Hold that thought,” Margueritte said.  “I am sure Charles will want to hear all about it.”

“Charles?” Hunald asked.

“By my best estimate, he should be here with the Frankish army about the same time tomorrow that you came today.”

“That will end the rebellion,” Childemund stated flatly.

“Yes, but that does not mean Ragenfrid will not try something foolish in the morning.”

“Sadly, you may be right,” King David said.

“This is an excellent apple pie,” Hunald said.  “My compliments to the cook.”

“Sadly, I did not make this pie,” Margueritte said.

“Did your lovely sister make it?” he asked, looking at Elsbeth.

Margueritte, Margo, and Jennifer started to laugh, loud.  Elsbeth showed her tongue and gave them all her best raspberries.



Margueritte feels pulled back to Roland’s home, but she has to settle things on the Breton March first.  Until next time, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: Negotiations, part 4 of 4

They eventually got to discussing just Neustria, and Margueritte pointed out that Orleans, Chartres, Paris, and Soissons all failed to come to Ragenfrid’s call, which was the eastern half of Neustria

“I did not call for their help yet,” Ragenfrid lied.

“Well, even so, I can guarantee Lord Tomberlain, Marquis of the Breton March, will never support you.   His taxes as well as his right arm belong to Charles.”

“He can be replaced,” Ragenfrid threatened.

“Count Michael, what say you?”

“My loyalty is to Tomberlain as it was to his father, Bartholomew, and the people of Nantes and the whole southern march listen to my wife.”

“Here, here,” duBois said.  “And to be honest, I don’t know if Normandy will accept Lord Ragenfrid as Suzerain.”

Ragenfrid yelled.  “This is all nonsense.  I will decide who will be on my border.”

Margueritte smiled, because it was a concession that the Breton March would be on his border, not his territory, though she expected him to backtrack.

“And so will I,” King David spoke up.  “I have a small force here on short notice.  Do not be foolish to think this represents the strength of the Breton people.”

“But he does not know how many men and resources we may have right now,” Margueritte said, coyly.

“Not enough to drive me off,” Ragenfrid responded.

“Or maybe we were just hoping we could come to an agreement without the need for further bloodshed,” Childemund suggested.

“I will appoint men to hold the march that will be acceptable to King David,” Ragenfrid said, with a smile that made Margueritte want to gag.

No one believed him, including his own men.

Eventually, the idea of Marquis of Neustria came up, a title equal to Tomberlain, but not over him.  Ragenfrid insisted on the mayoralty, but that was not going to work.  Charles would see to that, and not be giving it up.

Then Margueritte brought up eastern Neustria again, and Tomberlain’s independence, and offered the title, Marquis of central Neustria.

“But I don’t know if Normandy will accept that,” duBois repeated.

“It had better be acceptable,” Ragenfrid said gruffly

“Of course, that would mean sending taxes and men to fight on the frontier, and accepting Charles as your suzerain,” Margueritte pointed out.

Ragenfrid yelled again that the suggestion of submitting to Charles was totally unacceptable, and no land deal would suffice without the march.  Obviously, he wanted the land to take what he wanted for himself and use the rest to pay off LeMans and Talliso for their loyalty.

Margueritte signaled, and Peppin stood and growled.  “Totally unacceptable.  Lord Tomberlain will not give his place to a rebel.”  He did a credible job, and the Childemund stood and spoke in a quiet voice.

“I don’t believe Charles will allow you to take fully half of Neustria, like a king.  You are not a king, but I will talk to Peppin and Lady Rotrude and find a compromise.”  He walked off, and Margueritte stood, so David, Michael and duBois stood.

“Please,” she said in her most forlorn voice.  “Give me tonight to try and talk sense into Peppin.  Give us tonight,” she said, pointing to the others.  “I know it is my brother Tomberlain whom you would beggar, but I would do almost anything to make peace.”

“Why?” Creasy asked for his own reasons, whatever they might be, and Margueritte suddenly wondered if Ragenfrid promised the man Tomberlain’s place.

“Because if you fight, I will not be able to save you from Charles’ wrath.  If you fight, he will come and destroy you, and your families will be the ones beggared, and the whole Frankish nation will suffer.  Please, give me tonight to talk sense to my friends, and we will have pork tomorrow, if you like.”  She looked at Amager.

“Pork would be fine,” he said, with a smile and a nod.

As she turned to walk up the hill, Baron Bouchart added, “Looking forward to it.”

Margueritte wondered if the baron understood enough of what was going on to have second thoughts.  At least he heard things from a point of view she was sure he never considered.

When she reached the top of the hill and climbed up the half-wall this time, Peppin and Childemund were waiting, and David, Michael and duBois followed her up.  Calista and Melanie, being elves, no doubt heard every word of the meeting and reported as much to the women.  This time the women were as quiet as the men.

“He will attack,” Margueritte said.  “My guess would be first thing in the morning when the sun is in our eyes.”  No one objected to her assessment.  “Even the Storyteller came to that conclusion, and he is a minister, what you would call a priest, and about the most non-violent person I know.”

“Then we better prepare our men and strengthen the sentry posts,” Peppin said.  As sergeant at arms, it was his duty to think of such things.

Margueritte nodded.  “But we are going to have to shift our positions.  I talked to my fairy spies last night.  Ragenfrid has moved away from the castle and toward the town.  I don’t know if he has become aware of the short wall facing the town or not.  Ronan and his men have been working like mad, and they have the wall just short of seven feet tall, so it is too high to jump, but not so high that it cannot be easily climbed.  Gerraint and the others who know about such things say we have to protect the wall.”

“I can move Bedwin and his men to the wall,” King David suggested, but Margueritte shook her head.

“LeMans and Amager are facing the castle, and I have hope that Amager may refuse to fight.  He is still suffering from the enchantment, but he has enough of his own spirit now to where he should be able to fight the enchantment.  I hope Bouchart may also back away, but I have less hope with him, and it should not seriously diminish Ragenfrid’s numbers for the attack on the town.  The people of the town have all been evacuated to Vergenville, so, if necessary, we may all withdraw to the wall.  It is best if we can defend the property, but not imperative.  David, your men fight best together.  DuBois, I need you to stay where you are, at the corner of the castle and the town.  Michael, you need to make a space between the town and the wall, which sadly means tearing down a couple of houses.  Then you need to get whatever wagons, boxes, barrels, and such to build a wall in front of the castle wall, one that your men can get behind.  You need to practice your archery skills.”

Peppin groused.  “You want my men inside the castle?”

“No,” Margueritte said.  “You need to stay in reserve.  Let your veteran men on horseback and foot support David and duBois in the line as needed, and let the rest, the young men on horseback, be ready to sweep in on the flank if it looks like Michael’s line is going to be overwhelmed.”

“And me?” Childemund did not exactly protest.  “You expect my hundred men to hold the castle alone?  If LeMans is facing the castle, I doubt we will be spared from the assault, even if Tours backs off.”

“I want twenty men on the Breton gate, thirty on the postern gate by the kitchens and forty on the main, Paris gate.  I want the other ten outside Rotrude’s room, unless we can convince her to go to Vergenville, at which point the ten can escort her safely there.  I will take care of the defense of the castle walls, and woe to LeMans if he attacks.”

“Lady,” Jennifer objected again.  “It has always been your way to refuse to put your little ones directly in the battle.”

“The Princess put little ones in the battle, I remember.  Generally, you are right, but in this case, Rotrude, Margo, Elsbeth and you, along with all the children who will be held captive underground, no exceptions, makes a difference. The women and children must be protected, and if you will not evacuate, I have no choice.  I just hope whichever one of you said we could hold him off for a day, two at the most was right.”

“Lady,” Calista stepped up, Melanie right beside her.  “We are honored to be included in your battle plans, for once.”

“And you are one of the women with children we will gladly protect,” Melanie said.

Margueritte shook her finger, and her voice was stern.  “And you better not get hurt, either.”



Battle seems inevitable.  The defenders need to hold out long enough for help to arrive.  Good luck.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.


M4 Margueritte: Negotiations, part 3 of 4

“Do you know the story of Gerraint, son of Erbin and his relationship with Arthur Pendragon?” she asked.  She paused a moment because they all knew something about Arthur, and a bit about Percival, but less about Gerraint.  Margueritte told about when Arthur was young and faced a rebellion of his own.  She told all about Loth, and how he sided with the rebels, yet Arthur, in victory, did not remove Loth from his place, and Loth, she said, became a great supporter of the Pendragon.  That was not always true, but that was the way she told the story.

“But I thought you were going to tell about Gerraint,” Baron Bouchart reminded her, and Amager and LeMans echoed the thought.

So she told about how Gerraint first met Enid and drove the Irish out of Caerdyf, and by the time she said the part about her trusting him which made him confess his love for her, and the men laughed, Gerraint arrived there, in Margueritte’s place, dressed in his armor, and telling his own story.  The men quieted and listened.  More than one man’s eyes got big at seeing Gerraint, but no one dared interrupt.

Gerraint told how Merlin tricked him and infected him with an incubus that made him believe Enid cheated on him.  When he got word that his stepfather was ill, he took her out and drove her over Mount Badon.  Amager could not hold back his words.

“I heard there was a great battle at Mount Badon.”

“That came much later,” Gerraint said.  “I may tell you about that another time.”  He went on to tell about the first village and the three robbers he killed.  Then he told about the little man and his people.  Then he told about the giants who attacked the young couple and how he had to slay all three, but by then became so grievously wounded and bleeding from so many places he could not go on.  He believed Enid would be happy if he just died and she could take whatever men she wanted, but Enid wept for him as he fell unconscious.  He awoke in a great tent.  The Lady of the Lake came and set him free from his enchantment, Gerraint explained with a sharp glance in Amager’s direction.  And then Arthur, Percival and so many others came and helped him finish the journey to Cornwall.  When his stepfather died, and his mother grieved for him, Gerraint got invested as King of Cornwall.  All the Lords of Devon Tintangle, Exeter, and even Lyoness acknowledged him as King.

“But Arthur was the Pendragon.  That was a place apart.  He was not a king, and I ruled in my kingdom without interference, sending only some taxes to Arthur to maintain Caerleon and the rapid defense force stationed there.  But when Arthur called, I did not hesitate to raise as many men as quickly as I could and ride to stand beside Arthur, ready for battle.”

Gerraint went on to explain how individually they would have been eaten alive.  But by acting together under a war chief, they beat back the barbaric Angles, Jutes and Saxons.  They kept the Scots north of the wall and ruined the Picts.  They drove out the Irish and broke the back of piracy on the seas and in the channel.  They kept back the tide of barbarism and paganism that threatened to overrun Christian civilization, but they only succeeded because they did not question the Dux Belorum Britannia, the war chief of Britain, Arthur Pendragon.

“In this place, Charles is the one who is out there beating back the barbarians and pagans on this continent, and he needs all the help we can give him.  He has already taken on the Frisians, the Saxons, and Alemans.  Right now, he is fighting the pagan Bavarians, keeping the world safe for the Frankish people, the faith, and the church, and we should be glad he is doing the hard work.  I believe even Lord Ragenfrid will say he is the best man for the job.  He has proven his worth in battle after battle.

“You know, I always found ruling a royal pain.  I collected the taxes, and everybody hated me for that.  Then I had to use the taxes to upkeep the roads, and educate the children, and train men for war, and supply horses and equipment for all the men, and deal with things like trade agreements and promoting the general welfare.  I didn’t get much for myself and my family.  Let me tell you, trying to find honest and honorable men to sheriff and magistrate, to keep the law and keep the peace is hard work.  I gave it up and made my sons take over as soon as possible.”  Margueritte came back and hardly took a breath in the telling.

“Tomberlain, and Owien too, they hardly know the headaches they have gotten themselves into, let me tell you.  And my husband, Roland on the far side of Austrasia, on the Saxon Mark.  He will get the same troubles, trying to be fair to all the people that depend on him and expect him to take the lead in defending the border.  But let me tell you this.  When the Muslims break out of Septimania and overrun Aquitaine, and they will not make the same mistakes twice, you can be sure when Charles calls, Tomberlain Owien and Roland will all be there with as many men as they can muster.  And you all better hope Charles can raise enough strength to gain the victory, because if we lose, all of you, including you, Lord Ragenfrid, will be overrun and reduced to slaves to the Caliph, and that is not a fate I wish on anyone.”

Margueritte looked at Ragenfrid who seemed to be deep in thought.  She did not care what anyone else thought.  She stood and looked at the sky as if judging the time.

“The sky is darkening,” she said.  “It may just be my eyes that are tired, but it looks like it may rain.  I am very tired.  Telling the story of Gerraint makes me feel like I suffered the wounds myself, and Arthur and Percival are not here to carry me.  We have hopefully said many things for us all to think about.  I promise, tomorrow we will discuss land and compensation, as well as title and control of the lands.  Please forgive me.  Lamb tomorrow.”  She did not wait for a response.  She started back up the hill, slowly, and soon King David, Michael and duBois caught up with her.  Peppin and Childemund were delayed assuring LeMans and Talliso of Angers that they were authorized to speak for Tomberlain and Charles.

“Don’t underestimate the wives,” Childemund said.  “Lady Rotrude will give the assurance of Charles, and the Countess Margo will insure Tomberlain’s word.”

“Or Lady Margueritte will beat both men up and that will be that,” Peppin said with a grin that made Childemund laugh.  Neither LeMans nor Talliso found it funny, but they accepted the word.

Back up top, Margueritte went for her critique.

“Nice to see Gerraint again,” Elsbeth said through her grin.

“Lady,” Jennifer remembered the last time she saw Gerraint, and she flushed with embarrassment.  It happened when she met Aden for the first time, and she was still a fairy.  “You should not have revealed yourself so.”

“Gerraint was willing,” Margueritte responded to say it had not only been her idea.  “The stories were pertinent, it made them pay attention, and it wasted another day.”

“That was truly the Lion of Cornwall, friend of Arthur the King?” Rotrude sounded amazed.

“Gerraint was willing,” Margueritte repeated.  “So, I borrowed him for a bit.”

“I suspected, you know,” Thomas of Evandell had joined them that day and sat on the wall next to Walaric and Aden who sat in their own little male enclave.  “I suspected, even when she was a little child.  I did not know the connection, but she corrected a few of my stories of Arthur, and always when Gerraint came into the story.”

“My Lady knows fairy food would bring a quick end to the negotiations,” Melanie said.

“They would become her slaves forever,” Calista agreed.  “But she would never do that.”

“It would be cheating,” Margueritte nodded.

“Poison would work,” Margo said.

“Hey, I know,” Elsbeth sat up.  “Maybe Doctor Mishka could whip up something to give them twenty-four hours of the runs.  Hunald should be here by then.  Then all we have to do is make them hesitate for a day, so Charles can get here.”

“Cheating,” Margueritte, Jennifer and Aden all responded.

“Besides, I would never ruin Lolly’s good cooking.  I just have to keep them busy for the pork and venison dishes,” Margueritte said and stood. “I have to go see the children,”

“I have to go in, myself,” Rotrude agreed.  “It looks like it is going to rain.”

On the following day, Margueritte had to negotiate, and it was going to be hard to keep it up all afternoon and extend it into tomorrow.  Ragenfrid, Lemans, and Talliso wanted the land they claimed, and it added up to more than the participants imagined, and they wanted it for free.

“That is not a reasonable expectation,” Margueritte pointed out.  They went on like that for a while, until Amager of Tours and Baron Bouchart looked like they were about to come over to Margueritte’s side.  Then Ragenfrid backed off.  Finally, Margueritte felt she might be losing LeMans and Talliso, so she went to the rent idea.

“Lord Ragenfrid.  You have already broken your rental agreement, though I do not intend to invoke your penalty at this time.”

“Not when I have an army at your gates,” Ragenfrid said flatly.

“But I might consider revising the agreement.  Let us say a hundred head in a one-time payment for fifty years of use without interference.”

Ragenfrid spit.  “It would take fifty years for my herd to rebuild itself to its present number and I would be right back in the same mess.”

“Perhaps so,” Margueritte responded, but by then you would have had fifty free years of milk and beef, I say again, without interference.”

“That is no deal.”

“It is a very good deal if you are able to tax your neighbors in some degree.  You want the fields and meadows on the march because they are prime for your beef.  With sufficient land, you may be able to contrive a way to add to your herd more quickly.”

“We are talking Neustria, at a minimum.”

“The Austrasians have fully accepted Charles, and Roland will not bow to your Suzerainty.”

Ragenfrid got mad at the mention of Charles and Roland.  He needed to stand and take a break.  That rule was laid out at the beginning of the negotiations, that they could call for a brief break if they needed to step back and make a decision, “Or to calm your anger,” Margueritte said first thing.

M4 Margueritte: Negotiations, part 2 of 4

“Wait,” Childemund shouted at Peppin, having put it together in his head.  “The question is, why are we stalling Ragenfrid.  We don’t have the numbers to hold him off more than a day or two, so it seems like we are just stalling the inevitable.”  Peppin looked at Margueritte and waited for her to explain.

“We are talking to try and find a way to make peace.  That much is true, and if we can settle things peacefully, everyone wins.  The thing is, if any of you say the wrong thing so Ragenfrid figures out we are stalling, he will attack immediately, and we will be fighting for our lives.  I will tell you this, but in the meeting, you must promise to keep your mouths shut.  You may directly answer a direct question, but any more would be risky.”  She waited until the men all agreed to stay silent before she told them.

“Maywood flew all the way here from the Rhine with the news.”

“What do you mean, flew?” duBois interrupted and asked about the unusual term, but concluded with an, “Oh, you mean flew.”  He waved his hand in imitation of a fairy.

Margueritte nodded.  “Charles and his whole army are roughly four days out, not counting today.  Larchmont got word to Roland, and they are on their way.  What is more, I got word last night through the dwarf grapevine.  Duke Odo of Aquitaine has sent his son, Hunald with five thousand men from the Bordeaux region.  They are three days away after today.  If we can stall Ragenfrid for three more days, we will have the men to equal his numbers, and on the fourth day, the rebellion will end.”

The men on the wall smiled and congratulated each other, like the battle had already been won, but Peppin had to say something.  “I don’t know if I am a good enough actor to do what you ask.”

Margueritte explained.  “Depending on how the talks go, on a prearranged signal, Peppin is to stand up and protest on behalf of Count Tomberlain and suggest Tomberlain will never agree to whatever it is.  He stomps off, angry.  Then I say I can control my brother and please give me the night so I can talk sense into Peppin’s stubborn head.  I figure that should gain us one more day.”

“I could do that,” Childemund spoke.  “On behalf of Charles, I mean.”  Margueritte stared at him and thought about it.  “I’ve seen plays in Paris,” he went on.  “I always thought it would be fascinating to get up on stage and pretend to be someone else for a while.”

“I’ll write some lines and we will practice,” Margueritte suggested.  “But only back-up.  The best option is with Tomberlain.  I can’t hardly suggest I can control Charles.”

“Ha.  I would like to see someone try,” Rotrude said, but then she began a coughing spell and since she had to go inside, they all went inside.

The following day, just before noon, Margueritte and her men made the trek to the canopy beside the Paris Road.  Ragenfrid and his men came out as soon as they saw Margueritte descending

“The lady is well?” Ragenfrid asked.  He was polite but sounded short tempered.

“Quite well, thank you.  And prepared to make peace,” Margueritte said, but waved and directed everyone’s attention to the beef.  It had been as well prepared as the chicken had been, and again, few words were spoken until the dwarf women brought dessert.  Even Ragenfrid, tempted as he might have been to get on with it, paused long enough to savor the food.  Margueritte felt glad the meal took up an hour or more.  That meant an hour less time she had to babble and delay things.

They had apple pie for dessert and cut nine pieces per pie so in the second pie there were six pieces left over.  It was deliberate.  Peppin helped himself to a second piece and Childemund went right there with him.  LeMans took a second without asking, but Amager of Tours asked, and when Margueritte offered he added a comment.

“If I had cooks like yours, I would never leave my home.”

“I made the pies,” Margueritte offered.

“A woman of talent,” Baron Bouchart praised her.

Creasy took a second piece, so one remained in the pie plate, but Ragenfrid started getting impatient to talk, so Margueritte had to talk.  She would try to guide the conversation.

“Yesterday, I asked what you can do about Charles,” Ragenfrid started right in.

“Quite a lot,” Margueritte answered with a perky smile.  “But first, let me apologize for yesterday.  It was impertinent of the sorcerer to interrupt the proceedings before they hardly got started.  I am sorry for reacting, but I felt he needed to be answered, and most strongly.”

“Yes, yes.” everyone agreed, remembered, and were not about to argue, given what they saw.  Margueritte felt glad one of them did not have the bad sense to call her a witch.

“I want these negotiations to be open and fair and honest, and to that end let me see if I can introduce everyone and suggest why you may be here and that might help us understand the stakes.”  She waited for objections, but she did not wait too long.

“King David is here to make sure the peace between the Franks and Bretons remains secure.  I don’t blame my cousin for not liking an army on his border.  And the Counts Michael and duBois wish the same, to leave Brittany undisturbed.  Beyond that, Michael and duBois have answered the call to arms sounded by the Marquis of the Breton March, Count Tomberlain, and Peppin speaks for him.  Childemund speaks for Charles, and the Lady Rotrude, and please hear me concerning the lady.  If any of you injure that sweet woman at any time or in any way, there will be nowhere on earth where you will be safe.”  Margueritte coughed to clear her throat.  Men held their tongues.

“Now, Lord Creasy and Baron Bouchart are here by invitation.  Creasy is here more on mercenary terms, wondering what he might gain in the way of power, or title, or money, or land, all reasonable commodities in his thinking, such as it is.”

Margueritte looked at Ragenfrid as she spoke and saw by his expression that he suspected as much.  Creasy, who was only minimally paying attention, said something else.

“Is anyone going to claim that last piece of pie.”  He grabbed it before anyone could answer.

“Chew your food,” Margueritte scolded the man.  “You are as bad as my children.  You don’t want to choke.”  She noticed Ragenfrid looked like he would not mind if Creasy choked.

“It is a wonder where the little man puts it all,” Peppin joked

Baron Bouchart, by no means a small man, responded with a laugh. “Indeed.  Though it was an excellent pie.”  He and Peppin shared a friendly look over Creasy’s head.

“Enough!”  Ragenfrid made his word sound like they were getting off topic, but Margueritte understood that Ragenfrid’s real concern was that these were supposed to be enemies.  He did not want them getting friendly.

“Quite right,” Margueritte said, and she picked right up where she left off before Ragenfrid could get another word in.  “The baron, quite to the contrary, believes in Ragenfrid’s cause, but it is a limited cause as Lord Ragenfrid will admit.”  Margueritte held up her hand to forestall Ragenfrid’s objections.

“Ragenfrid, LeMans and Angers all claim, or would like to claim land which is clearly land granted by the king to the Count of the Breton March.  Something equitable may be worked out.  It may cost, and you may not be entirely happy, but I am sure Tomberlain and Margo will not be entirely happy either, but let it be enough so there may be peace.”  Margueritte looked at Peppin, and he merely nodded.

And yes, Talliso of Angers, yesterday you heard me threaten your god, Abraxas, the one in whose name you practice so much cruelty.  That came as one god to another, you might say.  And, unless he has become a fool, I suspect you will not be hearing from him for quite a long time.”  Margueritte did not pause.  “Count Amager is the only one I do not understand.  My Lord Count, why are you here?”

“Because…” he paused.  The man had clearly been enchanted, but under the canopy and the protective spell of Pomadoro and his monks, he started shaking it off.  “I am not sure.”

“Do not fear,” Margueritte quickly told Ragenfrid.  “The enchantment will return as soon as he leaves the sanctuary of the canopy.”

Ragenfrid said nothing, but he denied nothing.  Margueritte continued.

“Now apart from wanting the land, which as I said may be negotiated for a fair price, the whole thing boils down to Lord Ragenfrid wanting the position of Mayor of Neustria— or do you now want all of the Frankish lands?”

“All, but…” Ragenfrid paused, and everyone felt great anticipation in that pause.  “We Franks have lived with two or more kingdoms in the past.  There are options.”

Margueritte smiled a genuine smile because he told her he might consider alternatives to taking everything.

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 3 of 3

The mail finally came in March.  She found two letters from Roland.  The first, a short note, such as he wrote, which told what they were doing on the frontier and professing his love for her and for her children.  The second seemed a response to her letter from a year earlier.  He assured her that the loss of their son was not her fault, and she should be assured that he was more determined than ever to give her and her children a safe and secure home, and he would in no way be distracted in his duty.  That letter had a note at the bottom from Tomberlain and Owien which essentially said, “Me too.”

Margueritte also received two unexpected letters.  The first came from Rosamund, Roland’s mother, and it came filled with news about the family, especially Geoffry and Sigisurd’s marriage.  It was signed with a hello at the bottom by Relii, who undoubtedly wrote the letter.  Margueritte was not sure if Rosamund could read and write.

The second letter was from Boniface, written about a year ago, dated April twelve, anno domini, 723.  He said with the full blessing and support of Charles, he was headed at last into the Saxon lands to bring them the good news.  He asked her to pray for him in the work, and she did right then.  She shared that letter with Aden and encouraged him to begin a correspondence with Boniface as they both faced such similar difficulties in their work.  Aden thought he might, and Margueritte prayed for them, too, that they might be mutually encouraging, and maybe even become friends.

Margueritte read Roland’s second letter for the tenth time and remembered when they were young and she wrote to him every day, whether she had news or not.  She laughed at her foolishness when Mother, Margo and Elsbeth came to her with concern etched all over their faces.  They carried Giselle’s letter.

Margo and Elsbeth babbled for a bit before Brianna handed the letter to Margueritte to read for herself.  Giselle confirmed that Abd al-Makti was behind the poison that killed her baby.  She said he had her family, and her own six-month-old son, and forced her to become as a servant to Margueritte.  She poisoned Margueritte’s father, but wrongly justified it in her mind as a mercy.  But she had no excuse for what she did to Margueritte’s child.

Giselle said she expected to never see her family again.  She knew now that the sorcerer had been lying to her all along.  But she wanted Margueritte to know that she felt eternally sorry, and miserable, and she loved Margueritte, and all her family, and all of her children, and she was willing to accept whatever punishment Margueritte might wish, even death.  She was going to Saint Catherine’s de Fierbois and stay with the nuns, but meanwhile, Margueritte should know what she heard in Anjou.

Margueritte finished reading and stood up to walk out.  Everyone wanted to ask her what she intended to do about Giselle, but they did not.


“All of the squires should be here by the first of May, but I expect some to straggle in any time in the first two weeks of May.  I am preparing a good speech to yell at them,” Peppin said as they looked down from the half-finished castle wall on to the Paris road.  Charles’ wife, Rotrude, was on the road with a hundred men at arms to escort her.

“Not a good time for a visit,” Walaric said.

“Now, we don’t even know if Ragenfrid is ready to bring out his army,” Brianna said.

“And I don’t know why he would bother with us,” Margo added.  “It is Charles he is after, not us women and children.”

Elsbeth and Jennifer both looked like they wanted to agree with Margo, but both looked at Margueritte as Margueritte explained.

“Ragenfrid won’t turn on Paris as long as we are at his back.  After Charles, he probably hates us most.  We humiliated him in front of his sons and made him pay rent for using the land.  Besides, with Charles’ wife and children here, the opportunity for hostages is too great for him to pass up.  He probably cannot beat Charles on the battlefield, but with the right hostages, he might negotiate for whatever it is he wants.”

“I’m not sure if we can negotiate anything to satisfy him,” Brianna said.

“We don’t have the strength to stand against him,” Jennifer said.  “Not without help.”  She looked at Margueritte, but Margueritte felt reluctant to involve her little ones if she did not have to.  Mother Brianna understood, but Margueritte thought she better speak again.

“We have sent word on short notice, but five hundred men have gathered from the county.  Stragglers due throughout May.  We will have five hundred young men learning the lance and almost a hundred better trained men and horses to lead them.”

“Can’t count much on the young men,” Pippin said.  “Some of them still need to practice sitting the horse.”

“If they can ride and point their lance, that is all we need for now.  I’ll not ask more.  But then we have a hundred arriving right now with Rotrude.  That is almost twelve hundred men, a goodly number for defense.”

“Not so good if Ragenfrid shows up with five thousand or more.”

“But even five to one against us, we have at least half-finished walls to defend.  Defending walls should give us at least a three-man advantage.  Pray he brings no siege equipment.”

“Still pretty-slim odds,” Walaric admitted.

“Let us see what Baron Michael brings from the south march, and Count duBois from the north against Normandy.  Even a few hundred from each might be enough to hold the fort until Charles can arrive.”

“Assuming our riders got through” Pippin said.  “They had the Paris road covered all year.  The post turned back three times before they found a way through.”

“And Bavaria is a long way from here, even if they did get through,” Walaric added.

“Let’s see who shows up before we surrender,” Brianna said sharply.  “Right now, we have a guest to welcome, and I expect all of you to keep your mouths closed about Ragenfrid and this whole business.”

“Yes,” Margo agreed.  “I was looking forward to pleasant conversation and hearing all the latest gossip, if you don’t mind.”

They went down off the wall and found the whole town turned out to see Rotrude and her soldiers march through the caste gate.  It had not yet become the fortress door Margueritte designed, but it stood a solid oak double door that would be hard to bust down.  Rotrude and her wagons came right up to the old oak which still stood at the edge of the courtyard, beside the house.  The captain of the troop looked to Peppin and Walaric for directions, which surprised the women until he removed his helmet.  It was Childemund, the man they thought of as their personal Paris postman.  They were all glad to see him, but they followed Margueritte up to the wagons where she spoke.

“Welcome to our home,” she helped Rotrude down from the wagon back.  She noticed Rotrude looked very pale, and she thought to say something.  “If you are not too black and blue to move, please come inside and refresh yourself.”

Rotrude grinned, but only a little.  She turned to introduce her children who were standing around looking uncertain.  “Carloman is my eldest.  He is eleven, and the studious type.  Carloman, say something to your hostess in Latin.”

“You have a lovely home,” Carloman said.

Margueritte responded in Latin.  “And you have lovely manners.  Thank you.”

Rotrude shook her head.  “He doesn’t get it from me,” she said.  “Gisele is his twin, also eleven.”  Gisele curtsied and Margueritte did not finch on the name, but Morgan, Marta’s eldest at twelve, and Jennifer’s Lefee, who was eleven looked happy to see someone their own age.  Margueritte could only imagine the pre-teen trouble they might cause.

“Pepin is my scoundrel,” Rotrude continued.  “He is nine going on trouble.”  Rotrude had to pause and cough.  It sounded unhealthy, like some serious fluid in her lungs.

Margueritte pointed out Weldig Junior and Cotton, both eight, and her own Martin who was the youngest at seven and a half.  “But Martin is not slow on the trouble department.”

“It’s the age,” Rotrude nodded as she recovered from her coughing fit.  She waved Margueritte off and pointed to her last two, both girls.  Aude was seven and Hitrude was just six.  Brittany was five, and Margueritte felt she could go either way, because Grace and Jennifer’s Mercy and Margo’s Adalman were all four, and Mercy and Grace were especially close, almost like twins, so there was not always room for Adalman or Brittany.

“Are you well?” Margueritte asked and reached out to take Rotrude’s arm.  This time she would not be put off.

“Yes, yes.” Rotrude said and tried to smile again.  “My doctor said I needed to get out of the city and visit in the country.  You have been twice to my home and been attacked by every man and priest with a request or complaint.  You know, and you were just my husband’s friend.”

Margueritte nodded.  “I promise to keep the annoyances to the minimum,” she said, though that was hardly going to be possible if Ragenfrid showed up with an army.

“My thanks,” Rotrude said again, and once more began a brief coughing spell.



It is hard for Margueritte to get anything done when she is face with so many disturbances.  MONDAY Disturbances.  Until then, Happy Reading.