Margueritte said to her little ones, “Thank you, and please make sure they actually cross the river and leave.”
“How many minutes?” Oswald asked.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a stopwatch. Just as long as they leave. And thank you again.” She clapped her hands and the little ones vanished. Her armor and weapons also went away, and she became clothed again in her many layers. They were not as warm as the fairy weave, and her gloves were not as good, but they looked normal. She had to breathe on her hands against the frost.
“So that was the next attempt?” Relii had come out of the barn with the others to watch.
“Yes, but he changed his mind before anything happened,” Margueritte said. “I think our sorcerer was afraid for his life. He got told by a greater power to stop picking on me.”
“Abd al-Makti,” Relii guessed. “I thought it might be him.”
“Clever girl,” Margueritte said. “But I cannot figure why, or who he is working for.” She turned to Geoffry. He spoke right up.
“Sigisurd told me, but I didn’t believe her,” he said.
Margueritte nodded. “And keep it that way. Don’t make more out of it than it is, and don’t be afraid to question even what you see.” Margueritte breathed on her hands again. “Relii and Sigisurd, please help our wounded men.” She pointed. “And check on the others to see if they are really dead. Watch out for the Saxons who may just be too badly wounded to escape. Geoffry and I need to go inside and check on the others.”
“Lady,” Sigisurd said, and curtsied the way she had seen Tulip curtsey.
Geoffry asked a question as they walked up to the door. “So, are you a witch or a sorceress?”
Margueritte hit him, not too hard. “I keep telling everyone, I am not a witch,” but when they went inside, she found the guard that Gunther the chief left and forgot about. He had the children cowering in the corner, seated with their backs to him. Ingrid, Aduan and Rosamund were in chairs, and Horegard lay on the floor where he bled from a stomach wound. She had to do something. “Gunther has abandoned you. If you hurry you can catch him.” Margueritte put out her arm to hold back Geoffry while the man looked at her. He decided. He looked like he might kill the hostages before he went in case she was not telling the truth.
Margueritte’s hands went up and a blue electrical charge escaped her fingertips and struck the man. He jerked violently and just missed striking Rosamund’s face before he could no longer hold on to his sword. The sword clattered to the ground as the man dropped to his knees.
Margueritte called to Oswald and Oswald’s friend, Ridgemont, and they appeared. “Please take this one to Gunther. No message. I just don’t want this one to miss the boat and have to swim home.”
“Very good,” Oswald said, and they hustled him out the back door and then ran faster with the man than humanly possible, but no one other than Margueritte saw, and maybe a few of the children. Geoffry got busy helping his sisters get their father up on the couch. The man started getting delirious and had lost a fair amount of blood.
“Let me see,” Margueritte said, “And no screaming. I am going to go away, and another person is going to stand in my shoes, but she is a physician, and she will do what she can to help.” Margueritte pointed at Aduan. “No screaming,” and she immediately went away so Doctor Mishka could examine the wound. Aduan let out a small shriek, but she was the only one out of them all, including the children. “Now let me see.”
Mishka had her bag with her, or she supposed in the current day and age it should still be Greta’s bag, but Mishka came because Greta was not a surgeon. Doctor Mishka practiced all too much battlefield surgery in the first and second world wars. She began by spreading an anesthetic cream to deaden the area before she looked. “The wound looks clean,” she said, and got out some thread and a very fine needle and a hemostat. After Ingrid and Rosamund got hold of Horegard’s hands, it took twenty-one stitches, and then iodine, which stung, and an anti-bacterial spray, and the cleanest cloth Aduan could find.
“I know it is asking a lot, but you must try to keep him off his feet for a few days. Does he toss and turn in the night?”
Rosamund took a minute to realize Mishka was talking to her. With Horegard tended to, she got a good look at the Doctor for the first time. “Uh, some. Not much.”
“Well, be careful with that, and keep him off his feet. I will give Margueritte something when I leave that will help him rest and sleep, but only if he needs it. Now some other men are wounded.” Doctor Mishka stood and walked toward the front door, but she went away, and Margueritte came back before she got to the door, because Margueritte thought to say something. “Oh, and it would be best if you did not talk about Mishka. That is something that is best not to be public knowledge, if you don’t mind. I am trusting you because you are family.” She went out.
It turned out Grandma Rosamund blocked Mishka completely out of her mind and credited Margueritte with saving Horegard’s life. Horegard, who was kind of out of it at the time, believed her. Aduan knew better, but she, Geoffry, Sigisurd and Relii all discussed it and decided that Margueritte had been wise to tell everyone to keep it a secret. Ingrid also knew, of course, but it seemed the blue lightning Margueritte produced from her fingertips much more than the appearance of Doctor Mishka that bothered her. She felt sure that Margueritte was a witch, but then Margueritte saved her life, and her father’s life, and apparently, everyone else’s life as well, so she said nothing. She and Margueritte were never that close to begin with, and Ingrid was not surprised her stupid brother would marry a witch, so nothing really changed between them. What the children saw and understood remained to be seen in the years to come. So, nothing much changed, except Geoffry and Sigisurd started spending time together. If it was another day and age, Margueritte would have said they were dating.
Count Adelard, Herlindis, Boniface and fifteen men at arms showed up about mid-March. They did some rearranging, as the Count and Herlindis moved into the room with Relii. Boniface got the eighth room by himself, and Sigisurd made peace with old lady Oda in the servant’s quarters. Margueritte said Sigisurd could stay with her and the children, but Sigisurd pointed out that Roland would be due in about two weeks, and they should have their own room.
Poor Rosamund fretted about where she could put Charles, the mayor. It felt like a visit from Royalty. Boniface offered to share his room, but Rosamund liked to fret about it, and Horegard said it would not do to have the mayor and a bishop in the same room. It started to look like Geoffry might have to sleep on the couch, and Margueritte could not help the comments.
“Separation of Church and State, huh? Too bad you don’t have a convertible sofa.”
Boniface became anxious to begin his work in Saxony, but Margueritte delayed him. She talked about church lands, and in the end convinced him to wait for Charles by practically promising Charles would be land generous to the church. When Charles finally arrived, and his twelve thousand men tried to camp without destroying every nearby field, he got very mad at her. He readily roomed with the bishop, but he would not talk to Margueritte for three days. Margueritte would have been very upset by that if she and Roland were not so busy catching up on things.
Roland explained to Charles what Margueritte told him; that if Boniface went into Saxony just before Charles started his campaign, it would be like suicide for the bishop. Charles understood that. In fact, he argued that before gallivanting off into new territory, Boniface should first set about organizing the disorganized and overlapping Frankish church. He tried to convince Boniface to go first to Paris, where Charles promised to meet him soon and talk about land donations to the church. Boniface felt reluctant, until Margueritte reminded him that the Franks were his distant cousins as well, perhaps not as close as his Saxon brothers and sisters, but cousins all the same.
In the end, the matter got settled when Margueritte’s brother, Tomberlain rode up to the farm with twenty men from the Breton border, which Sigisurd imagined was on the other side of the world. The message was not good. Father had gotten sick; like he went dead on the whole right side of his body, and Elsbeth, Mother, and Jennifer were all worried sick. They don’t know what to do, and Mother can’t raise Doctor Pincher or anyone.”
“Who is holding the Fort?” Margueritte asked.
Tomberlain looked put on the spot, though Margueritte did not mean that. “Sir Peppin is there, and Owien is in your old room, plus the north end of the mark is covered now, thanks to Charles, and Michael is doing well in the south, and the Breton are not going anywhere after all the mess they made with the Curdwallah hag. Everyone is safe if that is what you mean.”
“No, I’m sorry. It isn’t your job, and you have held the fort long enough. You deserve a chance to be here with Charles and Roland. It is my turn to hold things together back home, but from the sounds of it, I doubt there is much we can do for Father, except make him comfortable.”
“No, not even with extraordinary help.” Margueritte said, not wanting to get into it in detail.
“So, I rode a month through the snow for nothing,” Tomberlain said.
“Not for nothing,” Roland said to cheer him. “I am sure Charles has just the right place for you in the army. We are headed into Saxony.”
“Charles plans to be the hammer and the Wesser River will be the anvil, and we shall see how well he can flatten the steel in between and put a sharp edge to it,” Margueritte suggested.
“That is very good,” Roland praised her.
“Can I quote you?” Boniface and Charles walked up.
Geoffry came up holding Sigisurd’s hand and she looked shy and embarrassed.
“Let me do the introductions,” Margueritte said, and she took Tomberlain’s hand and took him to everyone and remembered everyone’s names, though Tomberlain would never remember that much. He was terrible with names.