Reflections Flern-12 part 1 of 3

Three four wheeled, double-axle wagons, each drawn by a double team of horses—a terrible breach of the temporal order—stopped just outside the village beneath the mountain pass. Scores of gnomes of various sorts, some like imps and some like dwarfs, swarmed all over the wagons, greased every joint, checked all the stress points, tracked the cargo, and set the horses free to be groomed and fed.

Some hundred and twenty light elves: elves, brownies, kobold and various fairies came behind the wagons and camped at a distance beneath the village, along the Dnepr River. They would be joined by thirty elves from Miroven, the ones led by Laurel that Flern thought of as her own personal guardians. Fifty sturdy dwarfs with three ogres under Balken’s command would march beside them, down from Movan Mountain. In the night, more than a hundred dark elves, goblins mostly with a couple of trolls, would move down the mountain to guard the precious cargo in the hours of darkness.

That precious cargo in the wagons was the promised bronze, weapons in the first wagon – swords, spears and plenty of arrows. The second wagon carried mostly weapons as well, but on Flern’s insistence it also carried some plows, hoes and such tools that would benefit the people. The third wagon held the tools and pieces to put together their own forge along with enough raw material to get them started. Pinn and the boys had high hopes once they set their families free. Thrud and Vinnu were pregnant and just wanted to get home.

Eight young people and Riah the elf, wearing a glamour to make her appear human, with Goldenwing at rest and hidden in her horse’s mane, rode ahead to meet the village elders and the waiting travelers. The travelers spent six months moving down the Dinester and back up the Dnepr drumming up support in every town and village along the way. There were presently some four hundred people, mostly men and mostly hunters camped on the grasslands across the river to the east.

“Good to see you.” Venislav was the one who spoke for the village. “Our food stores are exhausted.”

Flern figured that. “I have people bringing game and bread from the Brugh and others bringing in a whole herd from the wilderness between the rivers.”

“Good to hear,” Tird said. He rode on horseback beside Venislav. Trell, hair greased down which made him almost unrecognizable, rode beside Karenski of the travelers.

“Where are the girls?” Pinn asked.

“Vincas and Arania?” Flern remembered.

“Measuring their tummies,” Trell said with a straight face before he grinned and gave a sideways glance at Tird who returned the grin.

“Vinnu and Thrud are pregnant, too,” Flern said

“Flern and I are still working on it,” Pinn added.

“Children.” That was all Karenski said before they turned to ride into the village. They were going to feast that night, pass out weapons in the morning, and from the way some of the elders acted, hopefully leave in the afternoon. Flern knew it would not be quite so easy.

It was Vilder who nudged Pinn and that got Flern’s attention. Venislav and Karenski also paid attention as it seemed they agreed to stick close to Flern. “There are campfires there at the foot of the pass.” Vilder pointed. Flern shook her head. It was not Movan or Miroven. She did not know who they might be. But it appeared as if three people headed their way.

“Ah,” Venislav made the sound before he spoke. “They came down the pass two days ago and claim to be from the other side of the mountain and the plateau, though I cannot imagine it. They say the plateau is full of monsters.”

“Hello!” One of the oncoming three waved and yelled. Vilder at least returned the wave. The other waited until they were close enough for Pinn to shout.

“Fritt!” When they got closer, Pinn’s word became a question. “Fritt?” Fat Fritt no longer looked fat.

“Nadia.” Flern recognized the girl and gave her a sisterly kiss in greeting before she remembered she never met the girl. Wlvn did. Nadia looked embarrassed, even if it had been explained to her. Fortunately, the third member of their party took everyone’s attention when he dropped to one knee.

“Mother of old,” he said.

Flern remembered the young man from her brief time on the plateau, or rather Faya’s time. “Horan. My name is Flern if you don’t mind. I’m not sure I like the old part.”

“From the plateau?” Pinn asked. She wanted to be sure.

Flern knew what she was asking. She nodded. He was Were, a shape shifter who had the good sense to appear human. “Come on,” she said. “We are going to eat food.”

At the door to the main building, which would not be nearly big enough for all the chiefs, Flern ran into Elluin. She also looked pregnant and very glad to see them. She made a point of saying that Drud had been good that whole time. Flern did not exactly believe her when she noticed that Drud stayed conspicuously absent from the festivities.

“I’m feeling left out,” Pinn complained. She did not have to spell it out that she wanted a baby. Flern took her arm as they went inside.

“We will just have to work at it harder,” she said, and got lost for a minute in her own thoughts.

In the morning took all day. They had a limited number of swords and spears to hand out and tried to get them into the right hands. They had the ungodly number of a thousand arrows with bronze tips. Everyone got two.

Miroven and Movan arrived in time for breakfast, which did wonders for the food supply. It also scared some of the locals and the travelers when they heard the food came from the Brugh. That great forest was seen as the land of ghosts and spirits and unnatural things. Flern wisely had the troops camp beside the Were, well away from the village and the sight of men.

It did not get much better when her gnomes brought in the herd from the land between the rivers that evening. Flern had a makeshift pen constructed that used a natural bend in the river. It gave all those men something to do other than sit around and gripe. But then, she insisted her gnomes stay invisible when they brought in the beasts, and it got hard for some of the men to watch the beasts they normally hunted willingly move into captivity unguided by any hands. Of course, some by then had settled on the idea that Flern was the witch. Curiously, that comforted many of the men, like they had a secret weapon.

As the sun set, Karenski took up speaking where Venislav left off. “I see you have men camped some distance below the wagons and have not brought them up to join the other men.” From a distance, they mostly looked like men.

Flern stood with Kined to watch the sunset and she took Kined’s hand while he spoke. “Not a good idea.”

“They don’t mix well,” Flern added.

Karenski looked thoughtful. “And also, I know the ones camped at the foot of the pass are more than we can see. We know them only by the fires they light in the night.”

“Best to leave them alone,” Kined said.

Karenski nodded. “But to be curious, may I ask how many fighters you have brought?”

“Enough to double the number of men camped on the grasses.”

“So many?” Karenski acted surprised, but it appeared to be an act. Venislav spoke then what was on his mind.

“So, what do we do next?”

“We leave in the morning,” Flern said, and squeezed Kined’s hand. “It will take the men close to a week to cross the land between here and our village. The ones by the pass will stay above them the whole way and the ones below the wagons will stay below them. That way the Jaccar will not be able to sneak around and surprise the men from the side or from the rear.”

“Such wisdom, and from children,” Karenski smiled.

“I almost wish the Jaccar would get around behind the men in the night,” Kined said, and he grinned as he thought about it.

Flern quickly explained. “There is a third group who will follow behind the men. It would be best if you did not ask about them at all.”

“I see,” Karenski sounded thoughtful again. “I think I better go tell my people to stay close to their homes in the night.”

“Yes, me too,” said Venislav

“Good idea,” Flern said. Vilder, Gunder and Tiren were presently telling the men in the camp that very thing.

Reflections Flern-7 part 2 of 3

Flern rested in her own time and place in history but she sat up when the girls called. She got to her feet when she heard the noise of horses in the camp. “They are here,” old Gallred stuck his head in the door, but Flern already started on her way.

Laurel came first to the top of the rise on her elf-steed, one more capable than any the humans rode, and Flern’s mare followed dutifully behind. Kined and Fat Fritt came next, their jaws dropped as they pointed out amazing things about this world where the elf had taken them. The couples came last, Pinn beside Vilder, Vinnu beside Gunder and Thrud beside Tiren who brought up the rear.

Flern walked up as they dismounted. She introduced Gallred, the gray-haired elder elf before she gave her little speech. “I imagine Laurel explained. I was wrong. I’m sorry. I was here a day before I realized I can’t do this without you. Anyway, you all volunteered, and it is your village as much as mine. It was not fair to leave you behind. I understand that none of us may survive this journey, and that includes me.” She stopped because she started crying and could not say more.

 Pinn, the first to reach her, hugged her. Vinnu and Thrud were not far behind. The boys stood back and let the girls commiserate, but Laurel stepped up, spoke when she could.  “There, you see?” She added her own hug to the party. Flern simply wiped her eyes and nodded while Vilder spoke up.

“Trell has gone with Arania and the travelers. Tird has stayed with Vincas, and they will be married soon, I think. Elluin and Drud have also stayed in the village. I feel for her as much as any of us, but Drud has said he wants to do right and maybe make up for Bunder and their years of being ox droppings.”

“Vilder!” Pinn objected.

Vilder frowned before he grinned. “Okay, their years of being bad. But as you can see, the rest of us are here. You were the one who wanted to fetch the bronze all along. Maybe it would have helped if we went sooner, and maybe not. I was not sure when we escaped if we might all just end up settling somewhere. I thought the Jaccar could not be beaten. You showed us they can. You showed the village and the travelers that the Jaccar are not invincible. Now I feel we have a real chance to save our village and all of our families and friends. But we have to finish the journey together or die trying.” He paused and looked around at every face. “We understand the risks and I think now we understand why the Jaccar want to stop you, especially. We talked about that. We need to keep you alive to finish the journey because you are the best chance we have to set our people free.” Vilder stopped and looked again at everyone. His face asked if he said that right and if anyone had anything to add.

“I—” Kined started to speak but stopped when Flern turned to walk toward him. She wiped her nose and eyes on the sleeve of her dress as she walked up and gave him a hug, a quick thing before she turned away, but it felt important, or at least she felt it was.

“Got anything to eat around here?” Fritt broke the tension with the question and old Gallred stepped up.

“Of course, young human. Leave your horses to us and come and refresh yourselves. We have non-enchanted food specially prepared, just for you.”

Flern looked at the smiling elf. “It’s all right. I have already decided they won’t be enchanted by the food so feed them what you will.” She returned his smile.

That afternoon, Flern took the girls to the small pool in the woods. It appeared to be just a bit of crystal-clear water, but it had been surrounded by a soft lawn and plenty of flowers that grew to make the whole area smell lovely.  Laurel also accompanied them, but she kept back and kept her thoughts to herself.

“This is called the pool of reflection,” Flern explained with a look at Laurel who nodded. “The elves tell me that sometimes, instead of your own image, it can reflect what is most pressing on your mind and heart.”

“So, what?” Vinnu asked. “It will show me what I really want?”

“Not what you want, necessarily.” Flern started to explain better.

“Oh, go ahead,” Thrud interrupted. “If it is what you want, you will probably only see yourself.”

“Thrud!” Flern and Pinn objected, and Pinn pushed ahead to the pool. She looked, and at first, she only saw herself. The others watched, but from an angle so as not to disturb the image. After a moment, the water began to swirl, or rather the picture began to swirl. The water stayed as still and calm as ever. Slowly, a different picture formed. It remained Pinn, but she sat to the side, smiling, and nursing a baby. Pinn quickly backed away.

“Pinn,” Vinnu touched her friend on the hand. “I never knew.

“Who would have thought it?” Thrud spoke up.

“I never would have guessed,” Flern agreed, and Pinn turned a little red for one of the few times in her life. She moved Flern’s hand toward the pool.

“So, let’s see you,” she said.

Flern lifted her eyebrows, shook her head, and tried to back away, but the others would not let her. The more she said, “No, no, guys. Please, not me,” the more the others insisted until she finally gave in. She got in position, and looked and saw herself, but another picture came into focus quickly—the picture of a young man.

“Oh, where did you find him?” Thrud quickly asked. Pinn looked a little closer.

“Why, he looks just like you,” Pinn said.

“Who is it?” Vinnu asked.

Flern mouthed the word carefully. “Wlvn.” She saw Wlvn mouth a word in return, and she heard that word clearly in her head. “Flern.” Then their eyes met and Flern became terribly dizzy. She fell back, and after a moment, Wlvn sat up.

Wlvn smiled for Pinn, Thrud and Vinnu each in turn. He quickly checked the pool, but all he saw was his own reflection. He looked again at the girls and then up at the Lady elf who stood quietly by a tree. “Laurel.” He named her. “I see you are all grown up, and may I add, you are lovely.”

“My Lord,” Laurel came close. “You did that, or rather Flern did that despite knowing what was going to happen. Why?”

“I didn’t know what was going to happen. Flern did not know. We are partners in time as well as being male and female reflections of each other, you see. I am experiencing Flern and myself at the same time, more or less. Why?”

“Because you have double traded, as you called it. And as I understand it you are stuck now living Flern’s life and she is stuck living yours.”

“That can’t be good.” Wlvn reached out for Flern with his mind, but for the first time in years she was not there.

“I don’t understand,” Vinnu said.

“She is taking up not following things where Elluin left off,” Thrud said. Pinn elbowed Thrud but otherwise stayed exceptionally quiet.

“I assume I won’t find her again in the pool.” Wlvn spoke to Laurel.

“No Lord,” Laurel admitted, and then she appeared to think very hard before she spoke again. “When I was young and Flern appeared in your world I had a vision. In it, I saw you continuing her quest while she continued yours. Whether or not you find a way to straighten out your lives, I cannot say. But what you do is up to you. It is always up to you.”

“You will come with us?” Wlvn asked and Pinn, Vinnu and Thrud all looked at the elf. They had not considered that possibility, but they did not seem to object to the idea of bringing along a little magical help, as they saw it.

“I dare not. I rode with Flern, and I know the outcome of those days. I may speak of things out of turn which may change things in the future.” Wlvn looked disappointed, but he understood. “But there is one, if you wish.” Laurel let out a sound like the whip-o-will at sundown. It echoed through the woods, and it did not take long before they all heard an answer.

“Sounds like a girl,” Thrud said, and in only a moment, a girl ran up much faster than human legs could run. She looked young, maybe fourteen or fifteen, but she was not dressed in a dress like Laurel and the girls. Laurel, in fact, looked majestic to Wlvn’s ancient eyes, but this girl had more of the Peter Pan look about her, being in shorts, leggings and an alpine-type hat. She held a bow in her hand like it was her best friend.

“Is it done?” the girl asked, breathless.

Laurel nodded and introduced Wlvn and the girls and then introduced her daughter, “Moriah. She is not interested in the past and thinks she is an Amazon.” Moriah gave her mother a dirty look.

Thrud and Vinnu stood and said that they were glad to meet the girl, and happy to have someone on the journey who knew where she was going. Pinn looked at Wlvn, and so did Moriah. Wlvn spoke slowly as he framed his thoughts into words.

“After myself you must listen to Pinn and follow her instructions. Then you must listen to Vilder who is in charge of the boys and do what he says after Pinn. Is this clear?”

Moriah wrinkled her nose and looked at her mother who only smiled. “He is worse than you.”

“And another thing. I knew Moriah, the one I am sure you were named after.” Wlvn looked at Laurel who nodded. “I think we need to call you Riah instead. I get so easily confused.”

Pinn interrupted. “But Wolven, won’t you be in charge?”

Wlvn lifted his eyebrows and shook his head and the young women all gasped. It was what Flern always did. “I am an accidental traveler,” he said. “My chief job is to find a way to trade back so Flern can live her own life. Barring that, I have to figure out some way to overcome the Wicca.”

“The what?” Vinnu asked.

“She is the one in charge of the Jaccar. They only do her bidding.”

“And her magic is far stronger than my own,” Laurel said. “No little spirit can resist her power. We are safe here, but only because there are many of us.”

Wlvn nodded like he understood. “It must be in her blood,” he said, and Laurel agreed, though she could not imagine who the Wicca’s mother or father might be.

Wlvn shook off his thoughts and turned to Riah. “Well?” He asked, and it sounded a bit sharp. Riah jumped.

“Yes, Lord. I will do this.”

“Good.” Wlvn stood. “I need to introduce myself to the men, if a certain elf will accompany me.” Laurel just smiled broadly and stepped up to take his arm.

He smiled for her and shot the words over his shoulder. “We leave in the morning.”

Reflections Flern-6 part 3 of 3

“The Jaccar will wait until morning at the very least,” one big man said. Vilder, Tiren, Gunder, Borsiloff and Karenski all looked at Flern, and she did not disappoint them as she shook her head most firmly. She heard from Diogenes and the Princess, her two experts in this sort of thing, and she spoke as well as she could, and with an uncharacteristic decisiveness.

“The Jaccar may wait until morning or until the rain stops, but we cannot count on that. My decision would be to press forward in the bad conditions because I would expect my enemy to become lax and lazy. I say double the watchers in the night and be sure they can keep watch on each other as well. That way, if some sneaky, grass covered Jaccar takes out one watcher, the other can raise the alarm.” Flern looked down at her boots. She felt sure that whether in the night or in the morning, good men were going to die to protect her. The Jaccar seemed only interested in getting to her, after all. “Maybe we can plan a surprise for them in the morning,” Flern said offhandedly. “A good bit of morning fog might help.” She looked up toward the sky, full of rain clouds. She started toward the tent, not wanting to argue with anyone. Vilder called after her to ask where she was going, and she did not mind telling him. “Doctor Mishka needs a nap,” she said. “And so do I.”

Flern woke up before sunrise and sat up to very little light. It took a few seconds of eye adjustment to discern that the other girls were all present and sleeping. The rain had stopped, and the clouds had cleared off, so the light of the nearly full moon helped a lot. What is that knocking at my door, Flern wondered. “Who is there?” She asked out loud, but soft enough to not wake the others.

“Miroven.” The answer came quickly, and a message came with it. “The Jaccar have arrived in force, nearly a hundred, and they are preparing to move.”

Flern jumped up. “Show time!” She shouted, and everyone in the tent began to stir, slowly. Flern called for her weapons and felt surprised to learn that she now knew how to use them. Of course, she understood that head knowledge and hand knowledge were two different things. She felt the other gift, too—the one from Baldur. Wlvn received the gift of speed. She knew, but it probably would not help her fly. “Show time!” Flern shouted again. “Hurry up!” She said, as she left the tent.

Flern listened to Miroven as she walked to what she called the command tarp. “We are presently arrayed behind their position. If they pull back, we will have them.”

“I hope by the time we are done, there will be none left to pull back,” Flern said, and she cut the connection and found that her headache did not feel as bad as before. Perhaps, in time, she thought she might be able to do this without any headache at all. Flern had gotten up when Mishka awoke, and she arranged things before she put herself back to bed. Now she would see, and she let her thoughts drift up to the sky, and the few lazy clouds that remained there.

“Little friends in the sky, come down now. Bring the clouds to make the wall and I will be so grateful.” That was all she thought before she came to Karenski and the lone village elder who presently had the duty. Gunder stood there as well to represent the young people, and they all looked at her for what to do. “Get the men up and moving,” Flern said. “They are coming.”

“Are you sure?” Gunder asked, and Flern frowned. She did not need her own people questioning her. She was not used to this command business, and such a question might make her question herself.

“I am sure.” That seemed all she could say. Fortunately, it was enough. As the men went off to their appointed tasks, Flern floated up to the top of the nearest house wagon. She looked up briefly and said thank you to Nanna, the moon goddess for the flight, and again as she felt the light of the moon rise up inside of her. When she raised her hands, she still did not know if it might work, but sure enough, light came from her hands and then from her eyes, and it looked like several spotlights of moonlight, like moonbeams that she could move back and forth. To be sure, it looked dim, not much better than spotlight flashlights, but it looked strong enough to reflect off the gathering fog bank. The bank looked more like two hundred yards off rather than a hundred yards, but it should still work if the sky sprites made it thick enough. If the Jaccar came on foot, she figured the travelers and villagers would have an advantage, being able to deploy some of their men on horseback. But if the Jaccar came on horseback, she felt they would be in trouble. A cavalry charge would overwhelm the poor defenses of the village. This artificial fog bank created by her sky sprites should make a cavalry charge impossible. The Jaccar would have to slow considerably to get through the fog lest they become disoriented and begin crashing into each other.

Flern turned off her lights when they began to simply reflect back from the fog. She scared herself a little because it took a minute to figure out how to do that. “Entering the fog on this side. They are on foot.” Flern heard from her elf spy while she floated back to the earth. “There are thirty horsemen down the riverbank. I suspect they will charge once the footmen engage your forces.” Flern’s panic must have been palpable as she ran to where Vilder waited, Pinn beside him.

“Vilder. They have horsemen downriver. What are we going to do if they charge our flank?”

Vilder might not have known what a flank was, exactly, but he moved quickly to draw one in five men on the wall of wagons to reinforce that side. The sides of the wall had been virtually deserted to strengthen the center where they all felt sure the Jaccar would strike. Now, the downriver side of the wall got staffed again. “We can’t do more,” Vilder said. “We can only hope that if they charge, these men will be able to hold them until we can send more help.”

All of a sudden, poor Flern became a nervous wreck. She felt sure that this would not work, and good men were going to die needlessly, for her, to protect her. “Pinn?” She looked to her friend, the strong one on whom they always depended.

“There isn’t any more we can do. We are as ready as we are going to be. I only wish it was over,” Pinn said, and walked away to catch up with Vilder. Flern followed more slowly and dragged her feet but started when she heard from Miroven once again.

“They are coming to the edge of the fog bank and should present targets soon.” Flern ran.

“Get ready!” She yelled. “Get ready!” she shouted down the wall and jumped-floated up again to the top of a house wagon. She saw the first, and then more and more, coming on slowly and carefully. There seemed so many of them, Flern had to hold her breath and listen very closely to the words inside her head. She had to bite her lower lip to keep from screaming despite Diogenes repeating his phrases, “Be patient. Not yet. Be patient.” When Diogenes finally said, “Now!” She almost did not hear it. Then she shouted, and while the barrage of arrows turned out to be an intermittent thing, there were enough arrows all at once to pin more than one Jaccar to the ground.

The Jaccar charged as arrows continued to rain on them. Flern’s hunters knew how to shoot a bow and hit their target, even if they were not warriors and did not have the experience at war that the Jaccar had.

“Again!” Flern shouted, and she let her moonbeams fall on those places where the Jaccar were bunched up. Any archer attracted to the light could hardly help hitting someone with an arrow. Then the arrows stopped, not all at once, but in a ragged sort of way as the horsemen from the villagers and travelers pushed out between the wagons and, spears in hand, affected a counter charge. These men were chosen for their ability to hunt with their spears from horseback, and they cut big gaping holes in the Jaccar charge, but there were still plenty of Jaccar coming on, screaming and yelling in a way that would frighten the villagers and travelers, not because the Jaccar were courageous, but because they were giving voice to their own fears. The screams were the sounds of terror and imminent death. Many were going to die.



There is a battle and Flern runs away, but then the mixup happens and Flern ends up vanishing.  Wlvn takes her place and there does not seem to be a way back. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Reflections Flern-6 part 2 of 3

Vincas’ father, Venislav turned out to be as verbal as his daughter. “That young man saved my life. He saved us all.” He reached up with his good hand and patted his daughter’s hand and smiled for her when she came over to watch. Venislav’s other hand rested in his lap. His arm broke, but it did not hurt much as long as he kept it still. Mishka smiled and sent Borsiloff and Thrud off in search of what she needed for a splint and sling. A broken bone in those days often did not heal right and it meant loss of some use in that limb, if it did not cripple, but it would not be that big a deal to one who knew her anatomy. The big deal would be keeping it immobilized until the bones knit together. She distracted Vincas and her father with a question.

“Pivdenny Bugh, it used to be all woods. What happened to all the trees?”

“The Brugh?” Venislav said, before he squinted and groaned softly as Mishka made sure the bones lined up correctly. It had been a clean break and should heal completely. “We cut them, for our homes and to make our fields and, well, everything we needed.” Vincas spoke up in her father’s place.

“Our forefathers did.” Venislav corrected his daughter while a few tears dropped from his eyes. “That was well before my time. Anyway, if you go further up into the hills, the woods are still there. We hunt there sometimes, but nobody goes very far into the woods.”

“Why is that?” Mishka asked as her things arrived and she began to immobilize the arm. Venislav watched the doctor work, so Vincas spoke up again.

“Because the woods are full of ancient spirit people, elves and dwarfs.” Her eyes got big as she spoke. “And they have magic and play terrible tricks on the poor souls who get lost in the woods.”

“Silly superstition.” Venislav spoke when he saw that the Doctor was not going to hurt him anymore. “It is just too easy to get lost in the woods, that’s all.”

Doctor Mishka nodded. She heard what she wanted to hear, and now all she needed was to charge Venislav with every terrible thing she could think of to be sure he left his splint on and his arm in the sling long enough to properly heal. When she stood, she told the others she needed a break before seeing any more patients. She had treated the worst, so no one would die on her.

While they walked outside, Doctor Mishka asked Flern a question. “Would you like me to do it?”

Flern took a minute to come out of whatever spaced-out condition she rested in, and she realize that she knew everything the good Doctor said and did, so while Flern might not be in her own time and place, in a way she still was. “No.” Flern responded in Mishka’s mind. “It is my life. I should do it myself.”

“Doctore.” Pinn pronounced the unfamiliar word imperfectly. “Thrud, Arania and I are going back to the wagon wall to check on the boys. Vinnu and Elluin say they can help here, but we feel kind of useless.”

“Mishka,” she said. “And that would be fine. I will be along, shortly.”

“See ya, Flern,” Thrud said, with a broad grin.

Just for that, Mishka smiled and instantly changed back to Flern, startling Thrud and almost making her stumble. “See ya,” Flern said, and she watched Pinn laugh, turn the girl in the right direction, and watched them walk away.

I have to concentrate, Flern thought to herself as she looked away. She was going to try and contact the earth spirits that might not even be there. It could not be harder than contacting the water spirits, she thought, but then, if they were there, they would be terribly far away. “Miroven.” The word popped into her head, and at first, she did not know what it meant. She understood it as a name, but whose? She shrugged. She called. “Miroven.” Nothing happened. She tried again, and a third time, and still nothing happened. She felt frustrated, because she felt sure something was supposed to happen, so on the fourth call, she shouted, and in her heart, she demanded some response. She jumped in her skin when the response came into her mind. She had heard from other lives she had lived, but this felt different. It sounded clearly like a voice outside of herself coming, she imagined, on a very private wavelength.

 “We are here, my Lady.” Miroven said. “We knew you were coming, and we have prepared. There are thirty of us, all volunteers, who will help in this struggle, and more who will help to defend the river and keep the enemy from crossing over.”

“What? Prepared? Thirty?” Flern looked around, but she did not see thirty people or thirty elves.  “No, wait. Don’t come here. I will come to you, but I don’t know when.”

A long pause followed before Flern heard an answer. “We will not come there if you do not wish it, but we are very close if you need us.” That felt like enough. Flern cut the contact and put her hand to her head. She was going to have a nice headache.

Vincas took that moment to come out of the common house, and she came up to Flern, immediately. “Are you well?” she asked, sweetly. Flern smiled for the girl, though a weak smile, and she nodded, though it did not help her throbbing temples. “Maybe if you became the Dokter—the healer again.” Vincas suggested. Flern nodded and made the change, and Mishka’s smile felt more genuine.

“Trouble is,” Mishka said. “When Flern comes home, she will still have a headache, I believe.”

“Oh.” Vincas clearly did not know what to say. She had no idea how it worked and simply felt overwhelmed on watching the transformation from one person to what looked mostly like a completely different person.

Doctor Mishka eventually made her way over to the house where they kept the Jaccar prisoner. His wounds were the worst of all, and she knew he did not have much time to live. If he did, she felt sure the village elders would be getting out the rope; but the village healer, more or less a shaman for the people confirmed her diagnosis. She questioned the prisoner, which surprised the shaman. None of them had been able to talk to the man, and Mishka figured Flern might not have understood the words either, but she had access to a lifetime that Flern did not yet know, so she got the language and got to ask her questions. It soon became clear that the man seemed normal in all respects, except he seemed convinced that serving the Wicca and doing whatever she asked was the most important thing in his life. He asked Mishka several times if she knew where the young red-haired girl might be. He spoke very frank in saying that his only desire was to find this girl and kill her. This is what the Wicca asked, and so it was what he must do. Even in his half-dead condition, Mishka felt certain that given the opportunity, the man would try.

“It is a very powerful enchantment,” the healer said, when Mishka explained the situation. “I have no way of undoing something so strong.”

“Nor I,” Mishka agreed, and she gave the Jaccar some pain killers so at least his last few hours would not be so painful. When she went back outside, she saw that it started raining again. She returned to being Flern, the right person in her own time and place, and Flern suffered with her headache all the way back to the wall of wagons. Pinn and the others sat there under a hastily erected tarp. Karenski, also present, said nothing. He just looked at Flern the way he did. Flern started getting used to that. Two of the village elders were also present, and they were currently arguing that now that the rain returned, and now that it would soon be dark, surely the Jaccar would not do anything.

Reflections Flern-2 part 2 of 3

When Flern awoke, she found herself dressed in the same armor and weapons that Wlvn had been wearing. She thought of it as Diogenes’ armor, at least that was what she called it, but then that did not make much sense since Diogenes lived so far away in the future. It must belong to me, she thought again, to the Kairos I mean, all of my lifetimes throughout history; and that meant since this was her lifetime, it belonged to her. That felt good because she thought she might need the protection, even if she did not know what to do with the weapons. Flern sat up and felt for the long knife that rested across the small of her back. The knife poked her and woke her, though the sword sort of felt like sleeping on a metal rod. “Hey!” Flern shouted and pulled that long knife from its sheath. She looked at it closely and tried not to cut herself in the process. Bronze, she thought, and too bad she did not have a hundred of these. She put it back carefully in its sheath and checked the time. The sun looked about ready to set.

Flern stood, brushed herself off and thought that the armor felt remarkably light and soft. She reached carefully beneath her sleeve and confirmed that something came between her and the leather so wonderfully covered in chain mail. She touched her undergarment. She had a brief vision of elves spinning with spider webs and morning dew and she could not be sure what all else, but it made the garment extremely comfortable. The boots felt comfortable, too, as comfortable as her own ultra-soft winter moccasin boots, but with a hard sole and what she imagined as something like a steel toe. Of course, it isn’t steel yet. She knew that much.

Flern smiled and wished she had a mirror. She just started craning her neck to try and see herself from the back side when she heard a sound and stopped still. Voices, male voices sounded like they were coming up the hill. Flern panicked, afraid that she would surely be caught. She ran to the rugged side of the clearing where it became impossible to climb up or down the hill because of all the loose rocks and bramble bushes. She scrunched down to wait and see.

The first man she saw enter the clearing, Strawhead Trell, got followed in order by Vilder, Gunder, Tiren, Kined, Fat Fritt, and last of all, Tird, the skinny. “It is Flern’s horse, I tell you.” Kined spoke. “She must be here.”

“Flern.” Fritt called out, but not too loud lest his words echo off the cliff and reach some enemy ears. “Flern.” Others called, too.

Flern wanted to giggle, she felt so happy not to be alone, but then she could not resist a good tease. She lowered her voice as dramatically as she could and spoke into her cupped hands. “Who calls for Flern, the Elven Queen? Speak, or feel her wrath.”

Tird jumped, but the others recognized her voice despite her best efforts to disguise it. They mostly remained unsure of her location, except for Vilder and Tiren who looked straight in her direction.

“Not funny, Flern,” Tiren said.

“You could get in real trouble if the elves hear you,” Tird added.

Flern stood up and sighed. “Help me,” she said, unsure of her footing. Vilder and Tiren each grabbed a gloved hand and hauled her free of the brambles. “I didn’t know who might be coming. I was afraid it might be the Jaccar. What?” She asked what because no one said anything. They just stared at her in the light of the setting sun.

Flern understood, smiled, and spun once in a slow circle to model her armor. She asked, “Do you like it?”

“Yeah.” Three voices spoke at once, and three others spoke at nearly the same time.

“Is that a real sword?”

“What is it made of?”

“Nice legs.” That last word came from Strawhead Trell.

Flern’s leather skirt fell to just above her knees, and the boots that came up almost to her knees were form fitting. Normally, girls wore dresses that fell to the ground, so for Flern, this felt a bit risqué.

“We’re going to fight the Jaccar.” Fritt interrupted them all and wanted to get Flern’s attention back from Trell’s comment on her anatomy.

“What? The six of you and Tird against a thousand Jaccar warriors?” Flern scoffed.

“Hey!” Tird objected. He might not want to fight, but he would if he had to.

“We are waiting for darkness and plan to sneak in after the Jaccar are asleep.” Gunder gave the whole plan and Flern heard something else in the words. She touched the big man’s angry arm and reassured him.

“I am sure Vinnu is fine for now.” She broadened her assurances. “And Thrud, Pinn and Elluin. At least I did not see their heads up on poles.”

“What?” The boys all turned toward the village, still discernible in the dwindling light, and more visible in spots where the camp and home fires burned.

“What are you talking about?” Tiren asked because he was not sure he wanted to accept her plain words. “Heads on poles?”

Flern nodded and looked away as she felt the tears well up inside of her at the thought. “Some of the men have had their heads chopped off and they have been set up on poles in the village center.”

“What?” Both Trell and Fritt looked ready to tear down the hill and ride back to the village right then, but Gunder and Vilder stopped them. Then Vilder stepped up and took over asking the questions.

“How do you know there are heads on poles? We got as close as we dared, and we did not see anything like that.”

“Mother Vrya helped me see,” Flern admitted, and she saw no reason to hide that fact. “I have been up here all afternoon and I did not even know the Jaccar had come until she came and pointed it out.”

“Mother Vrya?” Kined asked. The smart one always got allowed to interject a question, even if the leader had the floor. Just to be sure, though, Vilder repeated the question.

“Mother Vrya?”

Flern nodded. “The goddess,” she clarified.

“And I suppose these are her clothes and weapons. Fit for a fight by the look of them.” Vilder said.

Tird tapped Vilder on the shoulder and Vilder looked at him as if giving a kind of permission to speak. “They say that Vrya is as quick with her sword as she is with her kiss.” Tird said, but now Flern shook her head again.

“No, actually, these are mine.” She touched her waist and chest. “Mother Vrya has her own, and very fine it is, too, I am sure.”


Flern nodded again. “Vilder and Kined, I need to see you privately for a minute. I have something to show you before you make your mad dash into the village.” She tried to think of a way to keep the boys from committing suicide, and she felt sure that would be the outcome of any attack on the Jaccar at this point, even if they waited until it got really dark.

“All right.” Kined seemed game, but Vilder looked reluctant.

“No. You just need to stay here where you are safe. We will come for you later if we can.”

“Vilder.” Flern would not accept that. “I am not asking. You must come and see first, and then if you want to follow through with your madness, that will be up to you.”

“Come on,” Kined encouraged. Vilder frowned, but he made a general announcement.

“Wait here.”

Reflections Wlvn-8 part 1 of 3

By the time Wlvn woke up, the morning had arrived, and he found himself lying on a cot in a simple wood cabin. A maid of the wood elves sat beside him, looking truly elfish as opposed to Moriah. This one had pitch black hair, dark eyes, sharp features including her ears, and appeared to be very skinny, what a human might call anorexic. Wlvn found himself admiring her when she noticed his eyes were open. She left him at once and fetched her elder. They returned in only a moment of time.

“Thank you Laurel.” The Elder smiled for the maid when he saw Wlvn’s eyes open. “Please fetch some water.”

“What…” Wlvn tried to speak but the elder held up his hand to hush him.

“There will be time for talk, later,” he said. “We don’t normally countenance human mortals in our territory, but clearly there is something extraordinary about you, and half of your people are not human in any case. I should say, welcome to Miroven.”

“Night creatures.” Wlvn managed the words while the elf maid returned with a very welcomed cup of water.

“Fearsome beasts.” The elder looked down for a moment. “But they will not come here in any case, and they will not cross the river as long as my people hold the fords.”

“Thank you.” Wlvn said, and he let his head fall back again on the pillow and closed his eyes for a minute. The young elf maid went to retrieve his cup, and he added a word. “Thank you Laurel. You have been kind to this poor human who has found himself lost in Lothlorien.”

The maid curtsied. “I do not know this Lothlorien you speak of, but our goddess has told us that we must not prevent the humans from taking dominion over all the earth. We may share it, but it is rightfully yours.” With that mouthful, the maid looked up suddenly at her elder with a thought that perhaps she said too much, and maybe she should not have spoken at all. The Elder looked unmoved, but the brief flash in his eyes suggested that perhaps he was not happy with her. Wlvn felt the sentiment in his gut even without noticing the eyes. These were part of his watch, after all.

“Don’t be angry with her, Gallred. I did say that very thing, I think.”

The elder paused. “I do not remember giving you my name.”

Laurel caught the obvious. “You said it?”

Badl burst into the room before Wlvn could respond. “Lord!” Badl got hot about something. “They have given everyone fairy food and enchanted them all. Even Moriah is not acting quite right.”

“Eh?” The elder took a step back and his nostrils flared; but to be sure, he mostly appeared upset at being ratted out, not inclined to dispute the facts.

“Oh.” Wlvn thought. “I suppose they should not be enchanted while they are under my protection.” He waved his hand, though it still felt hard to lift that hand. “And I think Moriah needs to be immune in her human half since she is going to see her father.” He tried another wave, but he did not actually succeed. He listened, and the first thing he heard was Wlkn’s gasp.

Then he heard Elleya shout. “Why am I doing someone’s laundry?”

When he heard Andrea scream, he knew they were all back to normal and he smiled, but decided he still needed some rest. He closed his eyes, turned on his side to turn his back to them all, and went back to sleep for a nap.

That afternoon, Wlvn found himself sitting by a clear pool, a small bit of water out in the woods, surrounded by a well manicured lawn and some flowers that had obviously been planted. Badl and Moriah were near, and Wlvn felt glad that Moriah had temporarily stopped crying. The elf ladies wanted nothing to do with her, and the men all treated her like she had some plague. Wlvn had not imagined that his little ones could be so cruel, but Moriah, being half-human, brought out the prejudice against her. Wlkn and Elleya were also near, but very much being together.

“I don’t know what Skinny Wilken sees in her.” Andrea said, calling the man by what had become his official name. Wlvn turned to look in her direction. She had not been out of arm’s reach, though never quite close enough to touch since he awoke.

“A strange case,” Wlvn admitted. “He used to be an old man, at the end of his days, when he caught a taste of the apples of youth, what you might call Ambrosia. It didn’t make him immortal, but it made him young again, and Elleya happened to be the first good looking young woman to pay him any attention in a long time. I don’t think he could have resisted her at first if he wanted to. Now, I suppose it is too late.”

Andrea swallowed. “She seems to like him well enough,” she said before she burst out with a serious question. “Is that what happened to you? Did you eat Ambrosia? Are you now like one of the gods?”

“Not hardly.”

“But these spirits say you are. They say you are their god.”

“But never a god over humans.” Wlvn said. “History, maybe, you know the Greek word Kairos, event time, but not people. I’ve just lived before. Gallred says this is my nineteenth life by their counting. I know I will live a bunch of lifetimes in the future, too.”

“But I saw you do all kinds of impossible things.” Andrea protested. “You can fly.” That seemed to impress her most.

“I feel like an X-Men dropout. Maybe I should paint a big “S” on my chest.” Wlvn shook his head. He knew she had no idea what he was talking about. “I can do a few things because I have been given gifts from several Gods, like Poseidon and the horses. They want me to do some dirty work for them and they are willing to entice me.”

“Like with women.”  All of a sudden Andrea understood what she was there for, and she made it clear in every way that she wanted no part of it. “Odd, them laying this, whatever it is, on your head, though.”

Wlvn shrugged and scooted up to where he could look into the pool. Gallred called it the pool of reflection. He said that often one could see in the water what felt most pressing on the mind and heart and thus it could bring the whole reflection into focus, and Wlvn finally decided that he needed some focus. He hoped he could see more than just a vision of Loki, the Titan and their various attempts to kill him; but then he was not assured of seeing anything at all. When Gallred told them of the pool, Elleya immediately went to look, but she said all she could see was herself. Wlkn said he saw himself drowning, but that seemed all right. It was about what he expected. Badl, Moriah and Andrea all kept silent about whatever they might have seen. Wlvn avoided the pool for most of the day, but at last he decided that it might be like a dare. He would never sleep well again if he did not look and went through the rest of his life always wondering what he might have seen.

Wlvn saw himself. He tried to empty his mind to let his own deep waters be revealed, as he had been told, but it felt hard. Flern had arrived in the Elf woods some time ago, so they had caught up with each other even though they were still six months and a number of centuries apart. Wlvn spoke out loud. “Make that five hundred, eighty-five years and six months apart, Storyteller’s estimate.”

“What is that?” Andrea asked and scooted up to the water’s edge. “Why, she is very pretty.” Andrea added, and Wlvn started. He realized he was looking at Flern in the water, and somehow, at the same time, she was looking at him. “Why, she looks exactly like you, except a girl, like if you were a girl instead of so very much male. No, it looks like if you were born a girl and now you are a young woman. I think we could be friends, maybe.” Andrea had trouble describing it, and Wlkn and Elleya came over for a look. They had just stood up when Andrea started to speak.

“She looks exactly like you.” Elleya had to add her thoughts, and rather loudly.

“What’s this?” Badl stepped up and he had Moriah by the hand.

Flern moved her lips and Wlvn heard her say his name in his head, ringing all of the way from the future. He returned the word. “Flern.” He spoke out loud, and then their eyes met. He felt very dizzy until he broke eye contact, and then he may have passed out for a second. He certainly fell over, face down in the dirt.

He knew he was conscious when he heard Andrea screaming and Badl trying to shut her up while Moriah held her ears. Elleya talked a mile a minute and all Wlkn could say was “Yes, yes and yes.” He sat up, and only then did he realize that he did not sit up. She sat up, and she was Flern in Wlvn’s time and place, and she wondered how that happened since she and Wlvn made no effort to trade places in time.

Wlvn sat up at the same time, but in the far future, and he smiled for Pinn and the girls that were with him. He quickly checked the pool, but all he saw was his own reflection. He looked again at the girls and then up at the Lady elf who stood quietly by a tree. “Laurel.” He named her. “I see you are all grown up, and may I add, you are lovely.”

Flern also checked the pool again and saw only herself. As Andrea caught her tongue, Flern spoke out loud. It was perfectly understandable, being in Wlvn’s language, but it was honestly spoken to herself. “Oh dear. I think I have double traded. I don’t know how to undo that.”

Reflections Wlvn-7 part 3 of 3

When they arrived at the Pivdenny Brugh it had to be later than four in the afternoon, about an hour from the sunset at that time of year. They moved mostly below the hills and forest, though they had seen it for miles as they approached. The river ran as Badl described it, deep enough and fast-moving water, though not terribly wide. Badl knew one ford.

“Normally, I don’t go too near the wood elves. I just like the grassland better I guess.”

“Oh.” Moriah sounded a little disappointed. She had seen elves a few times when they came to trade in her village, perhaps some of these very ones, but she never had a chance to talk to any or spend any time at all with them. The prospect of seeing a real elf village, as she imagined it, intrigued her.

“Here we are,” Badl said, when they arrived at the ford. To be honest, none of the others would have ever guessed that this stretch of the river might be any different than any other, except perhaps it widened out a bit and thus slowed the current across that wider field. “Of course, I never crossed this time of year without ice. It may be deep, and it will be cold for them that feel the cold.”

“Make it across as quickly as you can.” Wlvn told everyone, and then he let Thred take him down into the water where he waited and watched. He figured the current had to be stronger than they were used to, and he wanted to be available in case someone got swept away. It turned out they came to a spot where the horses had to swim, but not for long before they could touch bottom again and walk out the other side. They found a field, not too far from the woods, but a long field where deer could graze and come to the water to drink.

“What is that?” Elleya became the first to speak, even as Wlvn nudged Thred ahead to join them on the far bank.

“I have never seen the like.” Badl said, as Wlkn interrupted with his loud voice.

“Helpers!” As he shouted, Wlvn felt hands grab him, drag him off Thred’s back and pull him underwater. The last thing he saw, as he looked to the sky, was his swan hurtling down toward the river.

Three of them wore what Wlvn assumed to be their space suits. He guessed they were waiting for him in the deep. He also guessed they did not know that he could breathe underwater, or that the god Thor had filled him with a strength greater than their own. He easily broke their grips and pulled out the nearest air hose. The swan paused just below the surface before imitating Wlvn’s move and yanking out a second air hose. She almost got nabbed but rose too rapidly and took to flight as she broke the surface. She may have thought to make another dive, but it would not be necessary. Elleya showed up to de-hose the third helper, and suddenly, the Gott-Druk were the ones in danger of drowning.

One grabbed Elleya and she shrieked underwater. She sounded not unlike a dolphin caught in a net, but Wlvn easily set her free. He grabbed the Gott-Druk by the hands and towed him out of the water altogether, and up on to the near bank. The second followed, but then Wlvn felt two massive Gott-Druk arms circle his throat from behind. Wlvn kicked off from the bottom as he grabbed the wrists and forced the arms open. He broke the surface of the water and surprisingly kept rising. Nanna, the moon, he thought, consciously identifying the source of his ability to fly. He stopped about ten feet above the surface of the water, and by then, he was in a position to toss the third Gott-Druk onto the riverbank to join his hacking and coughing brothers.

Helmets came off, and Wlvn recognized his Gott-Druk from that first day outside the electric fence. “I told you to leave this world!” He yelled at the man.

The man nodded. “Elenar,” he said, still gasping for air. “But if we kill you, we can come back later.”

“You can’t come back. You aren’t allowed.” Wlvn still yelled. He did not realize the Gott-Druk mother ship parked on that field of green, just up the way, where some trees blocked a view from the river. Now that he had crossed the river, he came within sight of their guns. They fired, and he got caught dead center and pushed back through the air until he crashed through tree branches and disappeared in the woods.

The others all saw it happen and were stricken with silence. They hardly believed their eyes as they made it to the nearest bit of trees. Elleya held on to Brmr’s mare for dear life since she had gotten wet, and her legs were not back yet. Andrea, the first to arrive at the trees, turned, but would not go far in. She preferred to stare at the aliens and their massive craft with dumbfounded eyes. Badl and Moriah spoke in hushed tones.

“He isn’t dead.”

“He can’t be dead.”

“I would know it if he was.”

A sudden distraction that gained all of their attention. Arrows poured from the woods and bounced off the metal hull of the ship. It kept the three suited Gott-Druk on the shore and kept their heads down, though one got an arrow in the arm. The Gott-Druk aimed their guns, but by the time they fired, they smoked only the trees. The archers moved.

Back among the trees, Wlvn moaned and shook his head. He thanked the gods for his armor, but he knew that the armor by itself had not saved him. The armor felt hot, and the edges of his cloak appeared singed. “Frigga.” He named the goddess that gave him the energy screen. Probably to fend off whatever titanic bolt of primal energy the titan might hurl at him, he thought. He sat up and found himself in a tree branch some ten feet off the ground. He ached and felt bruised everywhere, but nothing appeared to be broken. “Damn it!” He got angry, and his adrenaline started to pump. “I gave them fair warning.” He dove, or rather, flew to the water and submerged, glad to find his ability to fly proved strong enough to move him underwater, even against a strong current. He popped out of the water again at the ford and grabbed the Gott-Druk around the throat from behind, even as he had been grabbed, and he lifted the man up into the air.

“I warned you about the Elenar and asked you kindly to leave. This time I am not asking. I am telling. Contact your ship. You are leaving this world because if I catch you again, the Children of Layettee will end with this generation.”

The Gott-Druk did not argue. He proved powerless to break Wlvn’s grip around his throat, and while a human would have been in real trouble hanging there by the neck, such were the muscles in a Neanderthal neck; the Gott-Druk became restricted, but not incapacitated. He lifted his arm, pushed a button on his wrist and spoke into it, and he either forgot that Wlvn spoke his language, or he thought it did not matter. Wlvn immediately dropped him, and he fell to the ground below and twisted his ankle as he landed. Wlvn raised both arms and let loose with Odin’s thunderbolt before the Gott-Druk could fire, because what the Gott-Druk said was to sacrifice his own life for a shot at Wlvn with the ship’s main guns. The main guns of the Gott-Druk cruiser melted under Wlvn’s assault, and that caused a short circuit in the system which blew out the Gott-Druk weapon’s system. Wlvn floated down to the three on the riverbank and shouted as he arrived.

“Hold your fire! These folks are leaving, hold your fire.” He looked at the three on the bank, one with a twisted ankle, and one bleeding from the place where the arrow had pierced his arm. “You are leaving this time, aren’t you? Without weapons, I can’t imagine how you will stand against the Elenar when they come.”

“Elder?” The one without a wound looked at the one with the twisted ankle, and Wlvn realized that this was news to the man.

“Oh, yes,” Wlvn said. “They were called some weeks ago and should be arriving very soon.”

The two beside Wlvn’s friend got hastily to their feet, grabbed their comrade, and dragged him, ankle and all to the ship, talking into their wrist communicators on the way. They were not long inside before the ship started to rise into the sky, and Wlvn hoped that might finally be the last he would see of them, especially since there was nothing he could do about it if they decided to change their mind. At that moment, he had to collapse and pass out.



Wlvn and his crew reach Miroven, the home of the elves, but while there, Wlvn and Flern, two lives of the Kairos that are genetic reflections accidentally double trade paces through time, and now Flern needs to  find a way to kill theTitan, a task for which she is in no way prepared.  Until Monday, Happy Reading


M4 Margueritte: Tours, part 3 of 3

Danna picked up Abraxas and flew to the English Channel in the blink of an eye, and she threw him out over the water.  “Stay off my continent.  It will be death for you to return here.  I am sorry for my islands, but this is it.  Do not interfere with the people.  Do not impede their faith, whichever way they turn.  Find your courage and go over to the other side where your mother and father are waiting for you.  I will not give you forever.”

Abraxas floated in the air, afraid to touch the churning water of the channel beneath his feet.  He turned and flew toward the white cliffs, but before he arrived, Danna got back to Abd al-Makti, who cried and looked like his mind finally snapped altogether.  She blinked the man back to his Iberian home in Al-Andalus and turned to recall her men from the enemy camp.

The men came, some reluctantly, and Danna changed back to Margueritte and asked, “So how did you do?”

“Melanie is still one ahead of me,” Calista complained.  Melanie only grinned.

“Well, we will be going home, to my home.  Maybe you can find a Saxon or Frisian to slaughter, you bloodthirsty mink.”

Walaric walked up and waved the last of the men to safety.  “Peppin took an arrow,” he said casually.  Margueritte nodded.

“Boys,” she said, and the boys, the four men and two elves fell in behind her and Walaric and followed them down the hill.  “We are going to have to get him and any other wounded to Charles before we stop.”

“I’ll work it out,” Walaric assured her, and stepped off.

Margueritte found Duke Odo at the bottom of the back side of the hill where the horses were being held by the men.  The old duke did not look like he had enough strength left to climb the hill, but he smiled as hard as he could.  He gave Margueritte a kiss on the cheek, and men came and helped him up on his horse for the ride back to the Frankish lines.


Greta and Doctor Mishka spent most of the late afternoon and night patching up who they could.  Many Franks died and many more would not live long, but Peppin would live if the wound did not become infected, and it was always a big if in those days.

Tomberlain and Owien burst into Greta’s makeshift hospital tent early on and did not even blink on seeing Greta in place of Margueritte.  “We got Abdul Rahman,” Tomberlain blurted out, and did a little dance.

“He was trying to rally his troops,” Owien explained.  “His men were all deserting the line, and I don’t blame them.  We had them beaten.”

“Owien hit the man with a javelin,” Tomberlain interrupted.

“You pulled him from his horse,” Owien turned on his brother.

“We both stabbed him, together.  We got him together.”

“We did,” and the boys hooted, a very Breton sort of hoot.

“They did,” Roland said, as he came in.  “Any chance I can see my wife soon?  I want to scold her for even being here.”  Roland showed a very loving smile which kind of negated his words.

Greta stood and put a hand to his chest to push him back.  “Not just yet.  I can still save some of these men, and Doctor Mishka can save a few more.”

“Is she around?” Charles came in the tent and saw Greta turn into Doctor Mishka.  He had met the Doctor, but this was the first time he saw the instantaneous change take place.  “Remarkable,” was his word for it.

Mishka stopped and faced the man.  “So now you have earned the right to be called Charles Martel.”  She started to clean one man’s shoulder wound as they talked.

“Many of the men call him that already,” Roland admitted.  “Ever since you, or Margueritte said it back in Saxony.”

“I would think more like an anvil,” Tomberlain said.  “The Saracens did the pounding, and we took it and were not moved.”

“Wrong image,” Mishka said.

“I like the hammer image,” Owien said.

“Me too,” Charles said quietly.

“So, Charles Le Martel it is,” Roland said.  “But now, what can we expect tomorrow, or tonight for that matter?”

Mishka spoke up first.  “In my opinion, they will argue all night.  Abdul Rahman did not strike me as a man who appointed a second in command, so it is not clear who will take over now that Rahman is dead.”  Mishka paused and gave Charles a hard stare until Charles got it.

“Roland,” he said.  “If I were to die, Roland will take over the army.  Everyone knows that.”

“Very good,” Mishka continued.  “Though not for Margueritte, I suppose.  But in the morning, I see three options.  Either they will attack again, though that is least likely, or they will retreat to look for a better place to hold the line, or if some commanders sneak away, they may grab whatever treasure they have left and leave altogether.  Pray for the third choice.”

“Yes,” Charles said and rubbed his hands.  “I saw the treasure you collected from the camp.”

“And the people we set free, so they won’t become slaves or end up in some harem.  The people are what matter most.  Never forget that.  Which reminds me, Carloman did his duty.  And no, you may not knight him until he is twenty-one.  Don’t break that rule.  No exceptions.  Pepin and the boys were kept out of it.  They were only allowed to watch and are very upset by that.  Too bad.  And your daughter Gisele is going to marry if you are there to give her away or not.  He is a fine young man.”

“Yes, I was thinking—”

“Don’t.  Don’t think.  She will marry her young man who will win his spurs, if he has not already after today, and she will live in a fine manor house with servants to help her, and she will have children and be happy, and let that be the end of the discussion.”  Mishka stepped around and kissed Tomberlain, Owien, Roland and Charles on the cheek.  “That is from Margueritte, and that is all you get.  Now go away.  These men are supposed to be getting rest and you are just spreading germs everywhere.”

They went, and Owien asked Tomberlain, “What are germs, anyway?”

“Hey, lady,” Peppin called from several men away.  He had been sitting up, listening.  Like all those in the know, he used the term the little ones used when he was not sure of her name.  “Lady, you forgot to tell him about Hunald.”

“Hush,” Doctor Mishka said as she examined Greta’s handiwork on Peppin’s leg.  “He will find out soon enough.”

Later that night, about an hour before dawn, Lord Larchmont came with a report.  The Muslims were escaping, and they did not look to be united in their retreat.  Yellow Leaf thought the Berbers started it, but Birch said it was the Syrians.

Mishka nodded and sent a mental message to all her little ones on the field and in the hills.  They could follow and harass the enemy, but not engage them.  They could take any strays, and any who couldn’t keep up, but otherwise they were to encourage the enemy to go all the way back over the Pyrenees.  If they stop short, they are not to attack, but come and tell her.  Understood?”  Mishka got the general response from a thousand or more that they understood well enough.  Whether or not they would keep her commands was a different question, and unlikely.

After that mental message, Mishka went away to avoid the inevitable migraine, and Margueritte came back, feeling as fresh as the morning.  Except for a couple of hours the day before, she had been away, like off sleeping, and others took her place most of the day.

Margueritte told Larchmont to take a seat on her shoulder and went to Charles to tell him what she learned.  She suggested Hunald and the men of Aquitaine with her horsemen from the march follow the enemy, at a distance.  They wanted encouragement to vacate Frankish lands altogether, and that included Vascony.

“Yes,” Charles started thinking again—a good trait for a general who just came awake from a sound sleep.  “It seems I will have to replace some of those Vascon nobles for their cowardice in the face of the enemy.”

“The Basques won’t like that,” Margueritte warned, but then Roland and Hunald came in, and Margueritte made sure they understood that Larchmont and his men would be keeping an eye on the retreating enemy.  “They will keep you informed of the progress, so you don’t get ahead and stumble into them.  If they stop and gather themselves in Bordeaux or Vascony, like they want to hold on to some territory, you need to get Charles to make them think again.”

“We can pick off some strays, maybe?” Roland thought out loud.

Margueritte shook her head.  “Any strays will be dealt with, and don’t send your own scouts out.  To be honest, some little ones have a hard time telling one human group from another.”

“Yes, I remember,” Hunald said, fascinated by Larchmont.  “I was at Pouance, if you recall.”  Margueritte recalled, but just then, Roland wanted some of her attention before he rode off again, and she wanted some of his.  They emerged around nine o’clock when everyone said the Muslims were not coming again.  Charles’ men scouted the abandoned camp, and indeed, they had packed up their goods and left.  Roland and his thousand, and Hunald and his men from Aquitaine followed, and the rest headed back up the road to Tours.

Charles pulled off the road at Saint Catherine’s de Fierbois.  Margueritte brought the nuns.  Three nuns came this time, and the same old priest who now had to be near eighty, even older than Duke Odo.  The nuns had the box, and the stone came up easily enough.  Margueritte said Charles might still need the sword, but he said he had plenty of swords, and Caliburn saved his life, and that was enough.

“You said there is another who will need this, from under the stone of five crosses,” Charles remembered.  Margueritte nodded, but when she got the box and placed the sword in its brown leather sheath into the box, she saw one of the nuns crying.  Margueritte recognized the woman right away.  They had been close.  Charles took a minute before he spoke her name.

“Giselle,” he said.  “My daughter’s name.”

“Lady,” Giselle wept.  “I can never make up for what I did to you.”

Margueritte put the box with the sword in the floor, and the men laid the stone gently on top and sealed it, so no one would suspect there was something beneath that spot.  Then Margueritte spoke.

“You have no need to make up for what you did,” she said.  “I forgive you.”

Giselle cried all the harder, but Margueritte hurried herself and Charles out of the sanctuary.  When they returned to the road, Charles asked if she really forgave the woman.

“I want to, but it is hard.  But I really want to.”

Charles seemed satisfied.  “It is good to know you are human after all,” and he said no more about it.



There are loose ends to tie up and tomorrow to consider.  But tomorrow always remains a mystery, even to the Kairos, the Traveler in time, the Watcher over history.  Until Monday.  Toward Tomorrow Happy Reading.


M4 Margueritte: Banners of Christendom, part 3 of 3

Charles moved at the beginning of September.  Abdul Rahman had groups of men looting and pillaging all over western Aquitaine.  He met Odo at the river Garrone and defeated Odo a second time.  Odo limped north and begged Charles for help.  Charles moved and expected to meet the Wali at some point in early October.  He noted that Abdul Rahman’s men had not moved into eastern Aquitaine, had avoided Tolouse, and had not come up to Bourges, but the rest of the duchy was being burned.

Margueritte and her family, and all the horsemen and footmen they could muster went to Tours.  She made a note of the flags and coats of arms on display.  Flags and painted shields became yet another relatively new thing, not well displayed in the past, if the lord even had a flag to display.  Then there were tunics with symbols worn over the armor so men could better tell the good guys from the bad guys.  But they were becoming the Middle Ages, leaving the old Roman world well behind, like ancient history, and making a new way of living and doing business.  Margueritte felt saddened by the fact that she could not build any public schools for all the children of the Franks, and Bretons for that matter, but she dared not.  She had introduced enough innovations and was already in danger of going too far.  Besides, the first university of sorts would not be built until Charlemagne and that monk, what’s-his-name, got around to it.

When Charles arrived in Tours he was impressed by her turnout, but he said something that Margueritte had forgotten.  “Do you think this is what that assassin meant when he mentioned the battle of Tours?”

Margueritte shrugged.  “It may be, and he said he wanted to change the outcome.  Too bad he did not say how the battle came out.”

“I know,” Charles agreed.  “And it has bothered me for these ten or so years.”

“Not yet.  The ten years are not up.”

“And I know this too.  I am fully convinced of the great potential of your heavy cavalry, but they are still like a half-cooked meal.  You need to keep them here with yourself in reserve.  If my veterans break, we may need them to defend Tours.”

“Between Tomberlain, Owien, Wulfram, Walaric and Peppin, we have over a thousand veterans, though not veterans who fought with a lance.”

“Keep them here.  I will take your footmen, and Tomberlain, Owien, Childemund and Wulfram.  You keep Walaric and Peppin with you.”

Roland came into the tent and Margueritte turned on him.  “You put him up to this, didn’t you?” she accused.

Roland wanted to say no, but he nodded.  “You are still weak from your wound.  The battlefield is not where you belong.”

Margueritte frowned.  “But maybe I do belong.  I have no doubt Abd al-Makti has come out of his isolation and is with Abdul Rahman.  In fact, it has been confirmed for me.  No doubt Odo’s men were affected by the man’s sorcery, and I fear your men, veterans though they be, may be affected in the same way unless you have some extraordinary protection.”  Margueritte got as blunt as she could.

“I will overlook the aberration in your defense of Pouance.  You once said we humans have to fight our own battles, and this we have done.  My men need to stand on their own feet or not, as God will decide.”

Margueritte looked down before she nodded.  “You are right.  The Almighty will decide.”

“Besides,” Roland added, though he almost started it up again.  “I suspect Abd al-Makti was behind your attempted assassination in the Vergen forest.”

“You need to live long enough to finish training the men,” Charles said, thought for a second, and added, “And hopefully a long and happy life.”

“Abd al-Makti was behind the attempt, but not for the reasons you think.  The man is a scholar, not a general.  For all his time hanging around armies and military men, I doubt he has learned anything and has no idea how it works, and he does not care.  He is a man who is so enamored with his own bits of power, he does not have room for such a strange subject.  He has others to do that work for him.  No, it is simple.  He has been told I am a danger to the plan, and for that reason he has tried for years to remove me or have me removed from the playing field.  The attempted assassination was desperation on his part.  But will he warn Abdul Rahman about our cavalry?  I doubt he could tell heavy cavalry from plow horses or describe the difference between a sword and a sheath.”

Charles’ hand went to his side.  “Caliburn served me well,” he said.

“And this battle may be the reason I gave it to you,” Margueritte said, and she took Roland out from the tent to have a little private time before he rushed off again to war.

Two days later, Charles, Roland and all their officers and lords, including Tomberlain, Owien and Count Amager of Tours, sat around a great fire with the Bishop of Tours who came to offer a blessing for the troops. That done, they sat and relaxed, and took an early lunch.  They would be moving out in the morning.

“It would be wonderful to know God’s will in all of this, to hear his voice, but that would be too much to ask,” the bishop said.

“I would like to know what pit of Hell these Saracens came from so I can put them back where they belong,” Charles suggested.

“To actually hear God’s voice would certainly be something,” Count Amager said.

Roland saw Margueritte come up to talk a moment with Tomberlain, and he spoke up.  “I don’t see why that should be so special.  I talk to God every morning when I wake up, and God talks to me and reminds me of everything I need to do that day, and how I need to set a good example for my children and the people in my care, how I always need to consider grace and mercy, and justice, and how peace is better than war.  Let me tell you, talking to God sends shivers down my spine.”  The others looked at him with staring, open-mouthed expressions.  “Yes,” he continued.  “What is most remarkable, however, is how much God sounds like my wife.”

The men paused before the laughter broke out.  Their eyes turned toward Margueritte, who had turned and heard enough.  She felt a response was necessary, so she said, “In the immortal words of my sister, Elsbeth,” and she gave Roland her best raspberries before walking off.  Of course, the men merely laughed harder.


When Charles moved down from Tours, he put Saint Catherine’s behind him and took a position off the road to Poitiers.  He set his men behind a wood at the top of a slight rise and waited.  Charles had ten thousand men in his army, and another five thousand veterans from various campaigns.  He also had five thousand conscripts whom he sent off to gather the necessary food stuff from the countryside, and while twenty thousand was not the largest army in the world, he was confident that his was the best

Abdul Rahman would have to travel up the road with his main force if he wanted to get at Tours and the abbey of Marmoutier, which was Saint Martin’s.  The abbey was said to have riches beyond dreams, which it did not have, and Christian relics, which the Muslims loved to destroy.

“He could sidestep in this area and go across country,” Wulfram pointed out.

“We need to hope he does not,” Charles said.  “There is no better position for what we are facing between here and Tours.”

“Let me see if I can do anything,” Roland said, and he left Charles’ tent to talk to Margueritte’s people.

Since our Lady is in Tours,” Birch spoke.  “She said it would be best to help you here, but it is for you to decide how we may best serve.”

Roland considered the elves, brownies and kobold, the hundreds of gnomes and dwarfs, and the goblins who waited his command.  Hammerhead the ogre even brought his whole family to help, if they could, and there were trolls and hobgoblins and others that he had never seen, but he knew them all, being married to Margueritte.  It became a heady experience, but he felt a deep, abiding love for every one of them and he hated the idea that any of them should be hurt. Then he had a thought.

“Can you make yourselves appear to be Frankish soldiers?” he asked.

“What did he ask?”

“He wants us to pretend to be human beanings?”

“Eww,” the little ones objected.

“It’s a terrible idea, Lord,” Grimly said.  “You ask a lot”

“Just pretend,” Roland said.  “To trick the enemy is all.  I thought you liked to trick people.”

“What us?”

“No, never.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the little ones said.

“Well, just do it,” Roland responded.  “And here is what I want you to do.”  He explained his plan, and they understood right away.  Roland thought, for people who did not like tricking people, they took to the idea without a second thought.

“Right Lord,” Luckless said at last.  “Now where do you want us when the battle starts?”

“Nowhere near the battle,” Roland answered, and some of the dwarfs and some others threw a fit, until a hobgoblin named Ringwater stepped up with a proposal.

“Since you are forcing us to do terrible, nasty tricks on the Saracens, the least we can do is set a haunting in the woods to scare them when they move through to attack the Franks.”

“As long as you don’t have to stay in the woods,” Roland said.  “Margueritte would be very upset if I let any of you folks get hurt.”  The little ones all nodded and smiled at how much they loved their goddess and how much she loved them.

Roland finished by sending Larchmont’s men to scout the Muslims and keep Margueritte informed as to their progress. The very next day, Larchmont himself came in with Duke Odo, Hunald and five thousand men of Aquitaine.  Charles shook his head, but since this was their land, he could hardy tell them to go away.  He set them on his right where the hill went steeply up.  He figured there they would be less likely to break and run

The men of Aquitaine made the old duke stay at the back of the formation.  Hunald took command and placed two dozen horsemen around the duke.  They were to whisk him away if the Muslims broke through the line.  Charles said the Muslims were not going to break the line, so he had no need to worry.

“We have been practicing for this very engagement over the last ten plus years,” he said.  “I think we know our business by now,” but he had some private concerns.  He figured he could count on fifteen thousand men, while the men from Aquitaine and his conscripts could help, but he could not count on them.  Abdul Rahman came up the road with twenty-five thousand men in tow, and Charles figured they were all battle-hardened veterans.



Tours.  There is a battle to be fought.  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.”