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.