M3 Margueritte: Guests, part 2 of 3

“My Lords,” Roland said as he rose.  “Lady Brianna.  Will you pardon me?  I had better see to the horses before I retire.”

“I will help Maven with the dishes,” Margueritte said, knowing it would let her outside as Roland was going outside.  Then her father had to ruin it all.

“Don’t mind the ogre if he’s back.  He really is a nice fellow.”

“Oh, yes.”  Roland had forgotten and needed to think a minute.

“It’s all right,” Tomberlain said.  “I’ll go with you and help.”

“Thank you.”  Roland stole a glance from Margueritte.

Margueritte took out the plates, knives and cups and set them in the water, not too gently.  Marta came back in time to help and ended up doing most of it because Maven’s back hurt.

“What’s the matter missy?”  Lolly asked, shooting for the core.  “You like that hunk of a young man, don’t you?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Margueritte said, sounding ever so frustrated.  “Tomberlain won’t let me get a word in edgewise.”

“There, there.”  Lolly said in her most motherly fashion.  “You don’t want to go falling in love, anyway.  All that will get you is the three “H’s.”

“What are those?”  Margueritte fell right into it.

“Heartaches, Headaches, and Husbands,” Lolly said.  “And that last, ungrateful, self-centered child is the cause of most of the first two.”

“I would like a husband.”  Marta spoke up from her work and honestly tried to join the conversation.

“Yes, Marta.”  Margueritte got curious.  “Why aren’t you married.”

“No one ever asked me,” she said.

Maven got up then, grinning, and came forward, rubbing her hands together.  “Well, well, well,” she said.

“Now, now.”  Lolly tapped her cooking spoon tenderly against Maven’s hands and eyed Marta with a strange look.  “I think you need to be leaving this one to the experts.”

Margueritte knew Marta would not be long for this world.  “I gotta go,” she said, and she slipped off toward the barn, but could not imagine a reason to go closer than the old oak.  Think, think.  She said to herself, but it was no good.  The moon came up.  The stars twinkled and she knew, like Elsbeth, she ought to be in bed.  At last, when she could think of no excuse to wander into the barn, and indeed, she felt she could hardly think at all, she settled on returning to the house and to her sleep.  She got near the door, however, and heard a word.

“Hello.”  The word startled her.  “That brother of yours is hard to lose.”

“Thick head, good heart,” Margueritte said, smiled and suddenly felt very giddy.

Roland smiled his perfect smile and it made Margueritte turn her head, slightly.

“What?”  Roland wondered.  “You should not hide your smile.”

“But my smile is not perfect like your own,” she said, honestly.  “You see?”  She showed him where the crooked was.

“Who would notice?” he said and reached to touch her, as if looking, but let his fingers linger on her lips.  Margueritte looked deeply into his blue eyes before she pulled back ever so little.  “All night I thought you had something to ask me.”

“Oh, yes.”  Margueritte had to pause to remember.  “I wanted to know if you really saved Lord Charles’ life.”

“Yes,” he said.  “I suppose I did.  But I grew up on the Saxon Mark so in a way I knew what treachery he would face, and he could not have known.”

“You are modest,” Margueritte said, and thought this was a rare and prized quality not found among the braggarts who surrounded her father or who called Tomberlain friend.  “But I feel that is very important.  I have a sense about your lord; that he has only begun to step into his greatness.”

“The same as I feel,” Roland said, in a more serious tone.  “Even though he has already done more in his life than most men ever dream of doing.”

Both looked at each other, and Margueritte wondered why she kept speaking of Charles when Charles was not on her mind or heart.  She got ready to ask another question when a little voice interrupted them both.

“What am I missing?”  Goldenrod fluttered up and hovered briefly in between them.  Roland seemed to take a good long look at the fairy’s face, and she looked at him with curiosity.  “Are you loving?” she asked.  Neither felt quite sure what she was asking.  Roland looked uncomfortable for the first time, and Margueritte answered for her little one.

“I do hope we may be friends,” she said.

“Yes,” Roland agreed.  “You know what friends are, don’t you?”

“Oh yes,” Goldenrod said with some excitement.  “My Lady, and Elsbeth and I are best friends.  And my Lady Brianna and Little White Flower.”  And she started a list.  “And Luckless, Grimly, Lolly, Maven and Marta, Tomberlain, and even Hammerhead, and Miss Blossom and Lady LeFleur, my mother.  She is queen of the fairies, you know.”

Roland interrupted.  “So that makes you the fairy princess.”  He tipped his hat to her.

“It does?”  Goldenrod widened her little eyes.  “Wow.  Wait ‘till I tell Elsbeth.  She’ll be so proud of me.”  She flew off as quickly as she came.  Roland looked at Margueritte.

“We have pointed this out to her many times,” Margueritte said.  “But retention of the facts is a fleeting thing for a fairy so young.  She is only about seventy years old; you know.”  Roland swallowed and looked again in the direction Goldenrod had gone.  Margueritte took a deep breath.  “I should be in bed,” she said.  “Goodnight, Sir Roland.”

“Just Roland, if you don’t mind.  I’m still getting used to the sir part.”  He smiled again, but she turned toward the door and stopped only before entering as Roland spoke once more.  “By the way, you did not have to kick your brother.  He is a good young man, and despite his questions, my attention was all yours.”

Margueritte’s hand went to her mouth.  She kicked the wrong leg.  She felt very embarrassed.

“Oh, don’t think of it,” Roland said quickly.  “My sisters used to do that all the time.  It reminded me of home.  And I found it very refreshing after all the stiff formalities of the palace.  I don’t believe the ladies in Paris even know how to kick.”  He tried hard to help, and Margueritte smiled for his efforts, but she felt embarrassed all the same.

“Goodnight then,” she said, went inside, and only paused to say goodnight to her mother who was waiting to escort Sir Roland to his room.

M3 Margueritte: Visitors from the Real World, part 3 of 3

Bernard looked around at Redux and then the formidable little woman guarding the house and decided the barn made the best place to start.  They pushed passed Margueritte and bumped little Elsbeth out of the way, spilling two of the eggs she had so carefully salvaged and went in.

“You two, up the loft.  You search the hay.  You the horse stalls and you the bins. You look around for anything out of place.”  Bernard was good at giving orders, but not about to soil himself actually looking through a barn.  The man at the hay began to poke with his sword, but then the cavalry arrived just in time.

“What’s all this then?”  Lord Barth asked, almost before he dismounted.  Tomberlain, Owien and the sergeant at arms with two men from the fields came to the barn door and the intruders paused in their search while Bernard explained.

“Two escaped men are wanted for questioning by the king.  Lord Ragenfrid has ordered us to search the barn, the house and the tower while he has taken the main force on to Vergenville.”

Margueritte spoke up.  “I told them the men may have ridden on to Vergen while Elsbeth and I were at our chores, but they do not believe me.”  She tried to look forlorn.  Tomberlain thought she was serious.

“Are you calling my sister a liar?” he shouted, and only Sir Barth’s arm held him back.

“My Lord,” Bernard spoke quickly.  “These men can be dangerous.  It is for your own protection that we offer to search on the chance that they may have snuck in without the girls knowing.”

Bartholomew looked at his daughters and got quite a different message than Tomberlain.  “I’ll see to the safety of my home and my family.  You can move on.”

“My Lord.  A secret door.”  A soldier shouted and the soldiers gathered there.

“No secret.”  Margueritte thought fast.  “We keep preserves down there.  A root cellar.”  Bernard did not accept that.  He ordered, and two soldiers raised the lid and one started down the stairs and stopped when he heard a voice.  And what a voice it was!

“Hey!”  The thunder rolled up the staircase.  “Who is that to disturb my sleep?”

“Didn’t I mention the ogre,” Margueritte said.  “Much better than a watchdog, you know.”

Bernard went white and the soldiers were already headed for their mounts when the voice returned.  “I’m coming up!”

Bernard snapped his head at Lord Bartholomew.  “M’lord” and ran for his steed. Six men left as quickly as six ever left anywhere.  They did not even see Hammerhead rise like a monster from the deep.

“That was a good dream, too,” he said.

“It’s been two days,” Margueritte pointed out.  “I think you may be growing up.” Hammerhead straightened in his pride.

“After a good meal my folks can sleep a whole season,” he said, but then Sir Barth wanted some answers.  Elsbeth already started uncovering the men who appeared frozen by what they saw.

“Little White Flower saw the riders from the chapel, and she rushed to get me.  Now what is this all about?”  Bartholomew asked.  He looked at Elsbeth but spoke to Margueritte.

“Don’t worry,” Elsbeth said to the two strangers as she came over and patted Hammerhead on the thigh, about as high as she could comfortably reach.  “He won’t hurt you, much.”  She paused to let it sink in.

“Ha.”  Hammerhead blasted a laugh.  “Much.”

“Great Lady.  You put one over on them Franks,” Grimly said.  “Slick as an elf selling water to a drowning man.”

“Actually,” the short man spoke as he came out from behind the hay, but in a direction that would take him farthest from the ogre’s reach.  “That was the most courage and quick thinking I have seen in some time.  You are a lucky man, Lord Bartholomew, to have such a daughter.”  The short man took Margueritte’s hand and kissed it.  “It was the best case of misleading truth I ever heard, and not one untruth in a single word.  Have you ever considered politics?

“I think not, m’lord,” Marguerite said, and felt a little embarrassed.

“My sister’s not a liar,” Tomberlain said.

“Water to a drowning man,” Grimly repeated himself.

“May I ask what will become of our horses?” the young man said.  He followed his Lord’s lead in kissing Margueritte’s hand.  She rather did not mind that.

“A temporary spell,” she said.  “It will wear off soon.”

“That’s right,” Grimly said.  “Temporary.”

“And who are you?”  Lord Bartholomew got tired of waiting for his daughter to give him an answer.

“Charles, aid decamp to the king by order of my father Pepin.”  The short man spoke simply.  “And my hulking young friend is Sir Roland, knighted three weeks ago last Lord’s day by the king himself hard on his twenty-first birthday.  But the honor was long overdue.  Best man at arms in the palace.  Saved my life, twice now if we can find the priest Stephano.  Ahem.”

Roland still held Margueritte’s hand and they were looking, eye to eye.  “Er, yes,” Roland said and quickly let go.  “My Lord Charles is too kind in his praise.”  Margueritte, with a glance at her father, put her hand quickly behind her back.

“Well, come up to the house and let us straighten all this out.”

“Wait,” Charles said.  “We must first be sure Ragenfrid did not leave behind someone to spy us out.

“Oh, yes.”  Margueritte came to herself.  “Goldenrod, would you mind taking a fly about to see if there are any spies lurking?”  The fairy came right up, and Roland was glad he stood far enough from Charles not to have his arm grabbed again.

“Yes. A good wing stretchy,” she said, and vanished.

“You’re not the Charles of the Saxon campaign, are you?”  Bartholomew asked.

“The same,” Charles said, but before more could be said, Goldenrod already came back to report to Marguerite.

“I went all around the triangle and around the chapel and everything,” she said.  “There is one horse by the first road bend, and a man, sneaky, with his head around the tree there.”  She pointed to the back corner of the barn where, clearly, no one could see anything but barn.  Still, most looked.  Hammerhead, who had been having trouble following all the conversation to that point had a thought.  He spoke as quietly as he could.

“I think I’ll stretch my legs now that I’ve slept,” he said.  “I might just go down the road a bit and see what I might find.”  He excused himself, everyone gave him plenty of room to exit the barn, and he began a little sing-song chant.  “I love to bite a crunchy head and grind the bones to make my bread.  I sing the song that’s in my head, and grind the bones…no, I said that part.”  Hammerhead got silent for a minute, then he began to whistle as he walked.  If you have ever heard an ogre try to whistle, you will know why everyone in the barn had to hold their sides to keep from laughing out loud.

After a minute, all assumed the way was clear.  Lord Bartholomew had been thinking in the meantime.  “Father Stephano has gone to the house of my Romanish friend, Constantus,” he said.

“You know the way?”  Charles asked.

“Of course.  But it is getting late and it will be dark soon.  Come and have supper and stay the night.  For all their zeal, your friends will have to stop as well in Vergenville, at least to rest the horses, and even if they leave at daybreak, it will be noon at the earliest before they are back here.”  He put his arm around Charles’ shoulder.  “Now tell me about the Saxon campaign.  God, I’m sorry I missed it.”  They headed for the house.

“Sir Roland,” Margueritte invited him toward the house.

“Lady Margueritte,” Roland responded.  He took one more look into her green eyes before he caught up with the other men and got tackled by Tomberlain.  As Margueritte followed, he looked back once more, and Margueritte felt herself turn a little red.

Margueritte thought her figure seemed to be turning out very nice.  All the curves and bumps were exactly as they ought to be, and it seemed her best feature.  Apart from her figure, however, she imagined she might be pretty enough in her way, but hardly exceptional.  Her features were too big: her ears, nose, hands, feet, and lips as well.  Her face looked much too round.  Just then, Elsbeth, with her perfect, sharp, angular, beautiful face bumped past her with her pert little nose stuck straight up in the air and her hips wiggling like a tramp.  “Lady Margueritte,” she whispered.

Margueritte did not feel too grown up to make a face at her sister, even if Elsbeth was not looking.  Besides, she thought, Elsbeth has freckles.  She withdrew the face, and just in time, as Roland turned his head for one more look before he entered the house.

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MONDAY

Guests stay in the triangle, and Margueritte  feels especially interested in one of the guests.  Until Monday, Happy Reading.

*

M3 Margueritte: Visitors from the Real World, part 2 of 3

“In the Hay.”  Margueritte and the short man spoke together.

“It will have to do,” the short man said

“I will cover you,” Elsbeth volunteered.

“I’ll hide the pitchforks,” Margueritte said, and the short man and young man stopped short.

“Thanks,” the young man said.

Margueritte moved quick and then she helped Elsbeth while the short man kept saying to move further back because a sword could poke as well as a fork.

There were riders coming into the triangle.

“M’lady.  I got all but the tails.”  Grimly said hurriedly, having caught the excitement in the air.

“Margueritte!”  Elsbeth fretted and put her hand to her cheek.

“Goldenrod.”  Margueritte did not hesitate and commanded the Fairy’s attendance.  Goldenrod appeared out of nowhere and flitted around once to orient herself before she curtsied.

“Lady?”  It sounded like a question.

Margueritte pointed.  “Make the tails invisible.  Quickly.”

“But what should I do?”  Elsbeth looked flustered.

“You pick up your mess in the doorway and try to save a couple of eggs,” Margueritte said, to bring her sister back down to earth.  “Nothing more natural than you having to pick up the mess you made.”

“Humph!”  Elsbeth grumped but got a basket and got to her knees.

The last of the horses seemed to have stopped and a man shouted.  “Check the house, the tower, the barn.  Look for signs.  Look for horses, hard ridden.”  Margueritte stepped out and there appeared to be two dozen soldiers in the center by the oak with at least one lightly armed but well-dressed Lord among them.

“Can I help you?”  Margueritte spoke very loudly to gain everyone’s attention.

The well-dressed lord whipped around to face her.  “Whose place is this?”

“Lord Bartholomew, Victor in Brittany and Count of the Breton Mark, and I am his Daughter, the Lady Margueritte.”  She continued to speak loudly.  Maven and Marta were already at the front door and Lolly stood between them, gently tapping her cooking spoon in the palm of her hand.

“You’re not coming in here.”  Maven muttered with enough determination to make the soldiers think.

Likewise, Redux, his apprentice Graham and Luckless the dwarf blocked the path to the tower.  The big blacksmith and his companions were enough, at least, to cause the soldiers to pause and await orders.

Margueritte spoke quickly into the developing silence.  “I would not recommend invading my father’s house, uninvited.”  Then she smiled for the Lord.  “But perhaps I can answer any questions you might have.”  She wiped her hands clean on her apron as a sign of casualness and friendly attention.

The lord assessed things quickly and decided some questions might not hurt.  “Two riders were ahead of us.  Have you seen them?”

“I heard riders.  There may have been two,” Margueritte said, sweetly.  “My sister Elsbeth and I have been busy in the barn.  Perhaps they have ridden to Vergenville hoping to gain the village before dark.”  She pointed down the road.  “There is an inn there and if they believe they have lost you, they may stop to rest and refresh themselves.”  She smiled again.

“And the priest,” the lord was thinking out loud.

“Father Aden is in the chapel, if you wish to see him,” she suggested, in all innocence.

“No.  This one came from Rome.  His name is Father Stephano.  Do you know him?  Do you know where he can be found?”

“Yes.”  Margueritte sounded hopeful.  “Father Stephano was here three days before he moved on.  As to where he may be, I would inquire of the king.  I would believe if the Pope sent him all the way from Rome, it must have been to the king’s court, don’t you think?  If he could turn King Urbon to the Lord, the rest of the country would follow, no?”  She smiled again, and then looked serious.  “I am sorry, though, the king’s court is much further away than Vergenville, but then anyone going there would have to come back through Vergenville eventually, wouldn’t they?”

“My Lord.”  An older man spoke up, one near him who was also still on horseback.  He spoke in Latin supposing to disguise his comment.  “This wench knows nothing.  Let us search so we may find them.”

“Quiet DuBarry.  Let me think.  What would Charles do?  Take refuge in an outland county?  Appeal for refuge from King Urbon?  Or hopelessly search for a Roman priest from among a thousand villages of the Breton?

“Appeal to the king?”  Margueritte guessed, in Latin.  “You may tell the rude man I understand more than he thinks.  I will overlook the word, wench, as one spoken by an ignorant fool, unless, of course, he believes the word true, at which point he should say so to my father who will be glad to point out his error with the point of his sword.”

The man nearly rose out of his seat, but the head lord held him down with a wave and smiled, and a nasty looking smile it was.  He returned to the Frankish tongue.  “Vergenville.”  He pointed down the road.

“Vergen to the Breton.  You must pass the road to the southlands and the road that runs south to the coast.  Keep straight on through the woods and you will find it.”  She said, with just the right amount of shy for her age.  “And between us, I hope you catch them.  They must be terrible men to be pursued by such a noble lord as yourself.  I am glad such men did not stop here.  I would be very afraid.”

The lord scrutinized Margueritte, and though she stood in a truly submissive pose and had her eyes lowered so he could not see into them, he came to a conclusion all the same.  “I don’t suppose you are afraid of anything,” he said.

“Bernard,” he shouted.  “Take six men.  Search the house, the tower, the barn and the fields.”  He paused for one last look at Margueritte.  “With the lord’s permission, of course.  The rest of us ride.”  Most of the men mounted and they were off to Vergenville.

M3 Margueritte: Burning Questions, part 3 of 3

A commotion could be heard in the fields as men ran, and many pointed when the creature circled in low.  Fortunately, the creature chose a back corner of the far quarter, by the Vergen forest to set down.  It did not look, from that distance, nearly as big as its’ shadow, but no one doubted what it could do.  It flamed the grain in that corner before setting down.

Margueritte and Elsbeth came to the edge of the wood, laughing and sighing for the stories they told and heard from Goldenrod’s storehouse of stories.  Some of them were about the Kairos, the Traveler in Time, and that embarrassed Margueritte a little.  She reminded Goldenrod that she was not supposed to talk about lives which Margueritte could not herself remember, but Goldenrod said they were elf perfected stories, so who knew how much of them was true.  Margueritte accepted that and listened while Goldenrod told about the three dwarfs at the bottom of the well.

“They should have been named Moe, Larry and Curly,” Margueritte said, even as Goldenrod became very agitated.

“What is it?” Elsbeth asked.

“Roan and Morgan again?”  Margueritte wondered because that was the only other time she saw Goldenrod in such a state.

“Worser,” Goldenrod insisted, and she flew into Elsbeth’s hair to hide.  “Dragon.” Her voice sounded barely above a whisper.  As if on cue, Margueritte’s horse reared up and Elsbeth’s horse stepped back from the field and shook her head vigorously, so both girls had a hard time staying up and keeping control of their mares.

“Get down.”  Margueritte commanded when she could, and Elsbeth did not argue. The horses, well trained, did not run, but they did step further from the edge of the woods.  The girls quickly tied them to keep from losing them, and none too soon as even then the dragon came to land in a great ball of fire.  The smoke and the acrid, acid smell came instantaneously, before the mere smell of burning grain and charcoal.  The beast roared once.  It sounded ear splitting.  Then something happened which shocked Margueritte to no end.  The beast spoke.  It said only one word.  “Hungry.”  It spoke in a strange tongue, and it looked to snatch up a horse from the edge of the trees.  The horse got cooked in an instant, and with great jaws and almost useless front claws the horse got quartered.  These bite-sized morsels were then taken into the worm’s mouth rapidly, one after the other, to become four lumps in the worm’s throat.  Margueritte watched the worm undulating to swallow the lumps as far as it could.

“Where did that horse come from?”  Elsbeth asked.  She peeked around Margueritte’s shoulder.  “Owien,” she shrieked.  The master at arms could not be seen, but Marguerite guessed he got injured and dragged somewhere behind a tree by the boy who now knelt behind his master’s shield, facing the dragon, with his master’s sword pointed up, though he could barely lift it.

“Stay here!”  Margueritte commanded her sister like she never before commanded anything.  Not that it would do any good, she thought, as she turned back toward her own horse.

Margueritte reached out in time, not for the Danna who said this was not the place for her, and neither for Gerraint, though he was a great warrior in his way, but for Festuscato, the Roman Senator who came north in the days just before Rome fell to the Goths and Vandals.  Festuscato had some practical experience with dragons.

“And several saints.”  She heard the words clearly in her head, paused and closed her eyes.  She went away, and Festuscato took her place, dressed not in her dress, but in the armor he called from home.  That armor was a gift of the gods and the last made before the time of dissolution, and the sword called Fate was one of the two that came after Caliburn.  At the moment, however, Festuscato felt mostly interested in the cloak which was woven by the hand of Athena herself.  It was fireproof, among other things.

Festuscato got up on Margueritte’s mare which he judged would give him the least problem, though he did not like his choices, and with a kick, horse and rider bounded out into the open.

Festuscato knew he had a few moments yet.  Dragons were quick to strike and eat, but then they had to take time to swallow and think about what to do next.  They had been bred by a strange race, the Agdaline, who bred a command language into their system.  Festuscato knew that language, but he felt uncertain if the dragon would respond.  “Do no harm.”  Festuscato shouted in the Agdaline tongue over and over as he approached the beast.  “No fire.  Do no harm.”

The dragon looked at him as he approached and turned its’ head at the sight almost a full one hundred and eighty degrees, so Festuscato could be seen upside down.  The head snapped back as the man came to face the beast.  He was ready to hide beneath his cloak on the least provocation, though the horse would have undoubtedly become toast.

“Do no harm.  No fire.”  Festuscato repeated.

“No harm.”  The dragon said in barely discernible tones.

“No harm.  No fire.”  Festuscato repeated, again.

The dragon looked straight up and belched a great roar of flame.  Festuscato was barely able to keep his horse under him.  The dragon still smoked when it came to look again on horse and rider.  “No fire.”  It repeated.

Before another thought might enter the dragon brain, Festuscato spurred to snatch up Owien.  Their other horse, the nag Owien got to ride was apparently too old and lazy to even run too far.  “Can you ride?”  He asked the sergeant at arms, who just came around from being knocked unconscious when the dragon snatched his horse.

“I think so,” he moaned.  His arm looked busted all to pieces.  Festuscato helped him up on the nag, put Owien in front and took the sword and shield to discard as an unnecessary burden.  At the edge of the woods, he knew the dragon had nearly finished swallowing.

“No harm.  No fire.”  Festuscato repeated the command.  The dragon said nothing in response.  It merely stared at them with the fire dancing in its’ red eyes.  Neither did Festuscato wait for an answer, but immediately rode towards Elsbeth, snatched her by the hands so she would ride behind him, and they did not stop riding until they were well away. They turned from the top of a small hillock by the woods and heard the dragon roar and spew fire once more into the sky. It took to wing and paused only briefly over the far pasture to snatch a cow in its’ larger hind claws.  It flew north and passed right over the rider’s heads, who followed its’ flight as well as they could until it got lost in the clouds.

“Owien, dear,” Festuscato said, inadvertently calling him by Margueritte’s term.  “You need to get your master to the house, but not too fast lest you worsen his condition by banging across the uneven ground.

“Yes sir,” Owien said.

“Your name, Lord?”  The sergeant asked, though the delirium of his pain came on him, so he had to struggle to keep conscious.

“Festuscato,” he said.  “And I will see to the girls and their safety.”

Owien started out at a slow and steady walk which he did his best to maintain even after he reached the flatter fields.  Luckily, the old nag seemed content to move at that pace.

Festuscato took Elsbeth back to her own horse.  When they got down, Elsbeth stared at him.  Goldenrod came fluttering back from wherever she had hidden and clapped both hands with delight.  Elsbeth squinted and cocked her head, though not nearly as far as the dragon.

“I can kind of see my sister in you,” she said.  “Only she doesn’t have any red in her hair and your light brown eyes don’t look like her green ones.”

“But Elsbeth.  Aren’t you forgetting what you should do when you are saved by a brave knight?” he said.

Elsbeth stiffened briefly, but then she saw he was teasing her.  She played along with a curtsy.  “Thank you, most brave and noble knight.”  Then she went one further and stepped up to kiss his cheek.  He laughed and immediately traded places with Margueritte, who continued the laugh, and Elsbeth joined her in the release of their fears, until they fell to the ground, laughing.  Goldenrod’s fairy laugh, a powerful enchantment in its’ own right, kept them at it until they could hardly breathe.  Goldenrod then broke the spell with her question.

“What are we laughing about?”

It got late, well after all the talk of dragons and other monsters had subsided, well after Owien had been praised and Elsbeth had kept silent for once, and well after bedtime when Margueritte sat straight up in bed.  It came to her like an electric shock.  She had no idea who Festuscato was.

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MONDAY

Margueritte and Elsbeth are surprised by Visitors from the Real World.  Don’t Miss it.  Until then,

*

M3 Margueritte: Burning Questions, part 2 of 3

“If the Lord saw fit to make these little spirits, they must have some purpose in his plan.  And in the end, they must be accountable to him in some way, even as we are,” he finished.

“Now as to Margueritte’s place among them, that is something to think about.”

“But my Lord.”  Little White Flower spoke up.  “If the little ones did not have someone to watch over us and set boundaries for us, there is no telling how much mischief we would do to this world and to all the people in it.”

“I believe this,” Lady Brianna agreed.  “Even under Margueritte’s watchful eye they can’t seem to resist lying, cheating and stealing.”  She shook her head.

“But we’ve brought it all back.”  Little White Flower spoke for the defense.  “Or nearly all of it.”

Father Aden looked at the fairy and then Margueritte and prepared for two experiences for which he could hardly prepare.

“Margueritte, I do not know why you should have to be born again and again as you say, but I understand that only such a one would be graced with the gift of these little spirits of the Lord,” Aden said.

“Gift?”  Margueritte half-kidded to lighten the atmosphere.  She knew it was her turn to show something.  She took her Mother’s hand and held tight.  Taking Aden the Convert’s hand with her other hand, she closed her eyes.  She and her mother had discussed it.  This was not the place for the Danna.  But Gerraint, Son of Erbin, was willing to come through, and he was a well-known man of faith.  In only a moment, Margueritte disappeared and Gerraint sat in her place.  A tear came to his eye as he spoke in the chapel.

Good Father,” he said.  “I too do not know why I am reborn and never know the glories of Heaven, nor did any of the scholars of my day, not even Merlin, only one thing is needful to remember.  This is Margueritte’s life, and this fine Lady is her mother as surely as anyone was ever mother to a child, and this surprisingly quiet one is her good sister, annoying though she can be.”  Gerraint smiled a little as Elsbeth was not too old to stick out her tongue and make a face.  “And this one is part of her responsibility as it was part of mine in my time.”  He smiled for Margueritte’s mother and squeezed her hand and then he went home and Margueritte appeared back in her own place.  Her mother hugged her, and none too soon.

The last surprise became a surprise for all except for Aden who had been forewarned. Brianna looked at Little White Flower and spoke clearly.  “Get big, please,” she said.

“Must I?”  Little White Flower asked one last time.

“Yes, you must.”  Brianna affirmed, and the fairy did and stood tall and slim in a full-length white deerskin-like dress that made her swarthy skin stand out.  Her long hair that reached to her knees looked nearly as long as Margueritte’s, and certainly as dark, and her eyes, a rich loam brown appeared to dance with sparkles of Gold.

“Golly Gosh.”  Goldenrod said from one pew back where she had snuck in to watch.  Little White Flower appeared to be twenty something, much older than Elsbeth ever suspected, and much more beautiful, as fairies are, than human eyes normally get to behold.  Little White Flower immediately looked to her friend, but Elsbeth did not know what to think.  She always thought of her fairy friend as about her own age, which was not quite ten.  She never imagined her as a full-grown woman.  She did not know what to think.

Little White Flower looked again at the Cleric who was but thirty, after all.  And there was something in the look to make a heart stop.  Father Aden also did not know what to think or what to say, though it crossed his mind that many of the scholars at Iona were married.  They had not given into that silly Roman superstition concerning celibacy, and he felt glad for that.

Lady Brianna finally, and graciously, as was her way, broke the ice and hugged Little White Flower.  “Welcome to the family,” she said, and added, “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.”

Margueritte nodded, and then got up to hug her too.  She suspected for some time that this might be the case, and probably could have known for sure if she thought hard about it.

Elsbeth got up last of all.  She neared tears and knew what would happen long before any of the others.  She had lost her fairy.  Little White Flower would be Father Aden’s fairy now, and she would remain his for the rest of his days.

They had peace in the triangle after that, or as much as there can ever be when there are little ones literally under foot.  The promised prosperity came to the farm, and everyone benefited from the bounty.

In the Lord’s year 711, Tomberlain got formally invested as a Squire as he turned seventeen.  All of those who had been calling him that already cheered.  The rest cheered as well and said it was well deserved.  Owien, age 12 cheered loudest of all as the two boys were indeed becoming fast friends.  Owien looked up to Tomberlain as an older brother and mentor, while Tomberlain found in Owien an alternative to having sisters.  He also did not mind the adulation of the youngster, but unlike some who would have swelled their heads, Owien’s adoration of Tomberlain drove Tomberlain to always do his best and try to be the best so as to not disappoint the boy.

Lady Brianna recognized in young Owien a quick mind and a sharp wit which she claimed would be wasted in the fens.  She brought him and his mother to the Triangle.  She set him to page for the master at arms, and when he turned twelve, she began to send him with Tomberlain and the girls to Lady Lavinia’s to learn his letters.

Thus, the children grew.  Margueritte turned fourteen in the spring of that year and showed every sign of becoming a fine young lady.  Elsbeth turned eleven that summer, and she also tried very hard to be grown up.  She was eleven, going on twenty, Margueritte teased, and there was some truth in that, though Elsbeth still had plenty of childish moments.  Elsbeth, Margueritte, and sometimes Goldenrod became fast friends again, and did nearly everything together.  They often rode far into the wilderness to picnic and play, and though Lord Bartholomew resisted the idea because, as he said, there are still spies around, and there were, Lady Brianna convinced him to let them go, because she knew the time the girls spent together was drawing short, and soon enough they would find nice young men, and after that they would never have such time together again.

“And they better be nice young men.”  That was all Sir Barth had to say.

Once again, everything changed when the fall came, and the leaves first began to change in the Vergen.  It seemed a warm day, what Little White Flower called a Navajo Summer, when a great shadow appeared, circling around the open fields.  The men came running in.  Sir Barth and Tomberlain were with Redux and Luckless by the forges, and from there, looking down on the grain, the shadow looked clear as a new cast bell.

“I can’t see it.”  Tomberlain squinted towards the Heavens.  He used his hand to help shade his eyes, but it did not help.  Bartholomew spoke after a glance upward.

“But it is big, whatever it is.  Where are the girls?” he asked.

“Riding,” Redux said.  “I helped saddle their mounts only an hour ago.”

“Damn.”  Lord Bartholomew swore, which he rarely did, and then he turned his eyes to the dwarf who seemed to be trembling with certainty.

Luckless swallowed hard.  “Dragon,” he said, and the men turned white.

M3 Margueritte: Burning Questions, part 1 of 3

Late in the spring in the year of our Lord, 710, when Margueritte turned thirteen, a great caravan got spotted in the northeast quarter, headed toward the Mark and for Amorica.  Margueritte was out riding with Elsbeth and Tomberlain when they found it.  There were some riders with the caravan, but mostly mule and oxen wagons that moved slowly across the fields.  Tomberlain went for Bartholomew, but Margueritte and Elsbeth refused to move from their perch.  They were on a hillside, hidden enough by the trees to not be an obvious target, so on the promise that they not move an inch, Tomberlain went, and he was not gone long.

Lord Bartholomew and every man of the March he could muster came armed to the rendezvous.  Even young Owien came with them, having taken up as page to Sir Gilles, Bartholomew’s sergeant at arms.  They rode down toward the oncoming troop, slowly and carefully, not knowing what to expect.  Bartholomew, of course, told the girls to stay put, but of course they did not.

Several men rode out from the wagons to face their visitors.  The men did not appear hostile, and they did not appear to be armed.  Appearances can be deceiving, but in this case, they turned out to be gypsies, that wretched and miserable race said to be doomed to wander over the earth, never to have a home of their own for the great sins of their forefathers.  Margueritte never thought that was quite fair to the children and grandchildren, and she felt a pang of conscience when she drew near.

Margueritte pulled up to wait, but Elsbeth could hardly keep herself from riding into the midst of them.  They were stopping at any rate.  The day was on.  Marguerite did not hear what deal her father made to have them pass through the Mark unmolested, but she felt sure it was pass through.  There would be no long camps on the Breton border.

Margueritte, however, did hear what Goldenrod whispered.  “Breedies,” she called them with a turned-up nose.

“What do you mean, breedies?”  Margueritte asked.

“They got little one blood in them,” she said.  “Not much, but enough to make them smelly.”

“Hey!  I’m a breedie, half Frank and half Breton,” Margueritte said.

“You’re a human bean.”

“Being.”

“You all smell stinky, the same,” Goldenrod said and rolled her eyes, as if everyone knew this.

“Thanks a lot.”  Margueritte kicked her horse to get a closer look.

Lord Bartholomew got invited to examine the camp to be sure the gypsies were not hiding the weapons of a secret army, and Tomberlain and Elsbeth went with him and his troops, so Margueritte thought it would be all right.  When she got near, however, she saw something she did not expect to see.  Curdwallah was speaking with one of the gypsy chiefs while at the same time trying to blend into the background with the hope that Sir Barth and his troop would not recognize her.  Margueritte recognized her.  Curdwallah the hag could not escape recognition despite how much she appeared like just another gypsy witch.

“Invisible?”  Margueritte checked with Goldenrod.

“Naturally,” Goldenrod responded with some miff to think that Margueritte had to remind her.

“Fly there.”  Margueritte pointed and quickly looked away so as not to let on that she saw Curdwallah.  “I must know what she is doing here so far south of her place.  I must know what she is saying.”

“Oooo.”  Goldenrod stood on Margueritte’s shoulder.  “Spies for gossip.”  Margueritte felt the fee practice peeking in and out from behind her hair several times before she took off.

“But Lady, the price you ask is too steep,” the gypsy said.

“I warned you not to enter my territory without my permission.”

“But we have gone around.  You are not disturbed.”

“You misjudge.”  Curdwallah put her hand to his shoulder, squeezed a little, which caused the man to grimace in pain.  “Amorica is mine.  All the territory is mine, and you will meet my price, or you will pay in other, less pleasant ways.”

“I will do what I can.”  She squeezed a little more.  “All right. All right.”  He yelped and fell to his knees.

“But wait.  There are too many eyes here, and I feel certain someone is listening in.”  Curdwallah turned slowly around and nearly stopped right where Goldenrod hid.  Fortunately, the fairy, though invisible to mortal eyes, thought it prudent to also hide behind a bucket.  Curdwallah’s eyes moved on.  “We will be better in your wagon,” Curdwallah said, and the poor gypsy led the way while Goldenrod sped back to Margueritte’s shoulder. She peeked out from the security of Margueritte’s hair before she said anything at all.

On hearing, Margueritte wheeled about and rode back to the hill, and then home, thinking the whole way.  When she told her father about it later, he chided her.

“Why didn’t you tell me right away, while we were there?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” Margueritte admitted.  “I didn’t think of that.  I did not know if it was important or not.”

One thing that was important came up some days later. It happened during Beltain of that year, not many days after the gypsies, when lady Brianna’s conscience finally needed to be cleared.  Tomberlain and Owien were out proving what hard heads they had, as Margueritte put it, but the girls were kept close to home.  Lady Brianna was not going to risk another Beltain romp, and on that day, she took the girls into the chapel where Aden the Convert had taken up temporary residence.

This thing had weighed heavily on Lady Brianna’s mind since Beltain a year ago, and really since the little ones first arrived in their lives.  To that end, she insisted that Little White Flower come to church.  The poor fee acted frightened out of her wits just to think of it, but one look at Father Aden calmed her, greatly.

Aden had actually been taken to Iona as a baby in his mother’s arms.  His own father had died doing no less a thing than saving the king’s life.  Aden grew up in Iona and lived twenty years under the eyes and tutelage of the monks. At age twenty, he felt the great calling to return to his native land and spread the gospel, and he received a warm reception at first for the sake of his father.  Some ten years later, the reception had cooled considerably, and at times, especially during the seasons, Aden felt grateful for the safety of the Frankish mark.

“But it is the Celtic way,” he said.  “I look to the scholars of Iona and the people look to me.  The children look to their parents, and on down the generations until we are able to make our own Iona here in Amorica, and grow our own scholars, steeped in the knowledge of the Lord.  It is better than looking, like sheep, to some distant Bishop to know what we are supposed to think and do.”

Then the topic turned to Little White Flower and the rest.  The fairy turned beet red when Aden examined her, and he seemed not a little embarrassed himself.  Then there were hours of discussion, searching as much of the scriptures as they had, and finally concluding on this note:  First, that it was wise of Sir Barth to charge his people in the strongest possible terms to say nothing of their presence to anyone at any time, and second, that there were more things in Heaven and on Earth than they could imagine

M3 Margueritte: Year of the Unicorn, part 1 of 3

In the fall, right before Samhain in the same year that Elsbeth danced, not being the year to go to Vergenville, King Urbon, Duredain the druid and Finnian McVey paid their own visit to the triangle along with Chief Brian, his druid Canto, and a very wary Roan and Morgan.  They brought a dozen men at arms, three strong hunters, and plenty of hounds.

Lady Brianna welcomed them most regally and apologized that her small manor home hardly had the room or the facilities to entertain royalty.

“Never mind,” the king said, as he pointed his men toward a newly mowed field.  “I’ve brought our hunting tents.  We will be quite comfortable in the field.”

Sir Bartholomew rode up, having gotten the word from Little White Flower.  Tomberlain rode beside him as did several peasant Franks, but Grimly was nowhere to be seen.  Luckless the dwarf also absented himself from the forges, and, in fact, Margueritte went down into the lair of the little ones in the side of the hill beneath the barn to make it very clear to all of them that they were neither to be seen nor heard during that whole visit.  Fortunately, Hammerhead the ogre had been given two cows which he took off as a present for his family in Banner Bein.

“He certainly earned them.”  Bartholomew remarked to his wife’s question.  Hammerhead was one little one who did not mind working.  In fact, he rather enjoyed it, and he certainly did enough around the farm that spring and summer to earn a great deal.

“Lord Urbon,” Bartholomew said.  “Your majesty graces our poor home with your presence.”

“Yes, yes.”  Urbon waved off the formalities.  “Bartholomew, we have to talk.”  They went inside with Finnian and Duredain, even as Margueritte came out from the barn, having climbed up the underground stairs to the secret door.  Urbon’s men were already half-way down the hill.  Chief Brian appeared to want to speak with her first, privately, but Canto held his arm and led him also into the house.  Roan and Morgan dared not look at her and they quickly hustled their few servants down the hill to set up Chief Brian’s tents.

Elsbeth squirted out the front door, looking for Little White Flower.  “psst.”  The word came from the mistletoe oak and both girls looked up.  Little White Flower risked coming down to kiss Elsbeth on the cheek and added a bit of motherly advice.  “Be good now,” she said and wagged her tiny finger in Elsbeth’s face.  She curtsied to Margueritte and sped off to the fairy glen—a good ten miles into the Vergen forest.  Margueritte knew it would take Little White Flower almost a minute to get there.  Margueritte faced her sister who wore a devilish grin.  It was not the first time Margueritte wondered exactly what the relationship was between her sister and the fairy, but that thought got interrupted when Elsbeth spoke.

“You forgot Lolly,” she said.

Margueritte put her hand to her mouth before she said something rude.  She feared what might happen, but inside she laughed.  They ran to the side of the house, to where the kitchens were out back, and saw that Chief Brian had already walked out the back door for a little repast, as he called it, after his long, long journey.  Lolly had already slapped his hand once with her cooking spoon, and Marguerite, herself, knew how that would sting.

“Wait ‘till it’s ready, you big fat slobber, or next knock will be on your noggin,” Lolly said.

Brian was taken aback for a moment, not the least to nurse his hand, but then he laughed out loud.  “I didn’t know Bartholomew had a little person about.  I love you midgets. You always make me laugh.”

“Little people hitting each other,” Margueritte said quickly, not knowing what else to say.  She wanted to get Chief Brian’s attention before he looked at Lolly too closely.  “That’s what Napoleon liked, too.”

“Huh?”  Brian asked.  “Who’s that?”

Margueritte shrugged.  “You wanted to ask me some questions?”  She reminded him while Elsbeth hustled Lolly toward the barn, and not without some argument.

“Huh?  Yes,” Brian said.  “But I’ve quite forgotten what it was, exactly.  Anyway, I do hope all my questions will be answered tomorrow after you girls are dropped off in Banner Bein.”  He went inside.  Margueritte followed, shocked by what she heard.

Inside, the subject had already been breached, and Sir Barth stood red with anger and only refused to do anything foolish in his own home.

“Come now.”  Duredain spoke up.  “You Christians are always claiming Christ as your true protector.  You should not fear for your girls.”

“Besides,” Finnian added in his Irish drawl.  “The unicorn is reparted to be a most gentle and loving crature who is most kind to young innocent garls.”

“No.”  Bartholomew repeated himself for the hundredth time.  “You’ll not use my children as bait.  And besides, I am not a Christian.”

Poor Lady Brianna did not know what to say.  She was moved to speechlessness by the whole suggestion.

“Then by your own pagan Gods.”  Duredain looked ready to spit.

“I’m not exactly asking,” Urbon said, mostly to Lady Brianna who remained a native of Amorica.  “But it would be greatly of value to the whole kingdom and a benefit to all the people.”  He knew he had little or no say over the Franks.  In fact, having three Frankish Lords on his border watching over him rather spoke for the opposite.  Still, he hoped to appeal to the Lady as one of his own, whose daughters were at least half his.

Lady Brianna shook her head when Margueritte stepped up and Elsbeth came in the front door.

“What?”  Elsbeth asked straight out.

“Baby,” Brianna explained.  “The king and his men propose to try and catch the unicorn, if they can, and save it for all the people, for the purity and health it will bring.”

“But what?”  Elsbeth spoke again.  Apparently, she heard enough before coming inside to ask.  Margueritte stood quietly at her mother’s shoulder looked up and down the row of faces seated at the table and did not like any of them very much.

“Baby.  They propose to take you and Margueritte to the woods, alone, in the hope that the unicorn will return to you.”

“Bait,” Elsbeth said what her father said, and she turned her eyes on the men at the table.

“To Banner Bein?” Margueritte confirmed.  At least Chief Brian nodded.

“Think on it.”  The king rose so everyone rose with him.

“You will come for supper,” Brianna said.  It was a statement of invitation, not a question.

“Of course,” the king answered.  He planned to settle the matter that evening.  He stepped out, Duredain on his heels, and Finnian who sauntered a bit.  Chief Brian sent Canto on ahead but tarried until it became safe to speak.

“Care, Sir Barth.  There is much talk about you Franks being responsible for this Christian business and the dissolution of the old ways.”

“What?  Get out!”  Lord Bartholomew roared.  Chief Brain shrugged, but Brianna walked him to the door and thanked him.

“It was only a fair warning.  He risked telling you,” she said.  “It was not a threat, veiled or otherwise.”

“Oh.”  Bartholomew got it, but his ire was so engaged, he could hardly hear anything unthreatening.

“Father.”  Margueritte spoke as Tomberlain came in from caring for the horses.  “Isn’t Hammerhead in Banner Bein visiting his family?”

Bartholomew looked at her and Lady Brianna was not sure what she might be suggesting, but Elsbeth seemed to understand.  “Oh, yes.”  She clapped her hands together.

“And I don’t see why, with a little help, if you know what I mean, we might not be safe enough.  Far be it from Elsbeth and me to break the peace between the Franks and the Breton.”

“Margueritte!”  Brianna’s voice scolded, but Lord Bartholomew clearly thought about it.  If the girls could pull it off, whether they got their unicorn or not, it would give him certain leverage on the king.

“What’s it all about?”  Tomberlain asked, and Margueritte explained her plan more fully, accepting the ways in which her father amended those plans, and Brianna, though not believing her ears, nevertheless did not object.

M3 Margueritte: Beltane, part 2 of 3

With great care, and all the quiet they could muster, they went down the stairs and out the front door.  Luckily, Father began to snore, and that racket helped hide the sound of the creaky floor.  Once outside, they straddled the broom, Tomberlain in the back and Margueritte up front.  Goldenrod could fly on her own, of course, without help.  Grimly could hover, but not move fast in the air.

“Come.”  Margueritte called him and set him in the middle between her and her brother.

“But what if we fall?” Tomberlain asked

“I just thought of that,” Grimly said.  “I’ll make sure we keep our seats.  That much I can do.”

“Okay now.”  Margueritte addressed the broom which shuttered and shook, but finally rose to a height just above the house and trees.  It could go no higher because of the weight and she would have to steer around the tower and any big trees, like the old oak in the triangle, but it was a great deal faster than walking and much easier on the feet.

“Come on, come on.”  Goldenrod fluttered about, impatient.

They started out slowly and Margueritte almost lost control right at the start as they heard a horse whinny and saw it raise its’ front hooves briefly in their direction.  They saw two riders, hidden down the road, back behind the near trees.  Both rushed off quickly on being spotted.  They headed toward Vergen and the roads to the south and the coast. Margueritte very much wanted to know who it was.  Tomberlain said so.

“No time to find out who the spies are,” Grimly said.  Goldenrod started tugging on the end of the broomstick.

“Come on, come on,” she kept saying.

They flew, barely fast enough to feel the breeze in their faces.  Margueritte wished then that she had changed from her nightgown, or at least taken the time to get her cloak.  The wind felt cold and a little damp.

Goldenrod lead them past the fields and out over the deep woods of the Vergen.  There were miles of trees, leaves green now in the freshness of spring and many an apple blossom could be seen.  People did not often go into the depths of the forest unless they were hunters, and even they tended to keep to familiar trails and favorite spots for fear of getting altogether lost.  They traveled for several miles before Margueritte heard the first wisps of music.  Then she saw the light of the great fire, and at last, the clearing where great stones, taller than a man, had been set up on a small hill in a perfect circle.  She began to guide the broom toward the ground.

“But why are we falling?”  Tomberlain asked in his voice too loud against the wind.  “I see nothing but a clearing of sorts in the moonlight, but it looks cold and empty to me.”

“Shh.”  Margueritte hushed him.  “I’ll show you when we get there.”  And Tomberlain appeared willing to wait, though he felt anxious for Elsbeth’s sake.

Once on the ground, the children walked slowly to where they could see.  Grimly stood out front, ready, just in case.  Margueritte took her brother’s hand and he drew in his breath, sharply as a whole scene, not entirely in this world, opened up in front of him.  The enchanted music that he heard made him want to tap his feet, and run, and fight, and become delirious for joy in the night

“No!”  Margueritte cried and barely held on to Tomberlain’s hand.  “You are my brother.  You are not to be enchanted by the little ones.”

Tomberlain stopped tugging for his freedom after a moment.  He rubbed his eyes and shook his head like one who had tried to stay awake but nearly fell asleep.

“Of course,” he said.  “What was I thinking?”  And he turned to take in what he could see.  The fire blazed in the center of the circle and shot sparks higher than the stones and deep into the night sky where they looked like little stars. There were creatures feasting and dancing all about, and there, in the midst of them, Elsbeth smiled as broadly as she could, and danced in sheer joy.

Margueritte stopped Tomberlain short of the circle.

“Aren’t we going to get her?” he asked.

“I don’t know how, yet,” Margueritte answered.  “The magic here is much greater than just the magic of my little ones.  They participate, but do not originate.”  She knew what she meant.

“This is the fire of strength,” Grimly explained.  “It is thousands of years old and was set to honor the god of the North, the son of Thor who became the third husband of the Don and whose children became the great gods of the Celts and all the people in this land.

“But the Breton call it the fire of peace,” Tomberlain objected.

“A later name,” Grimly said.  “There is strength of peace in the flames, but also strength of war, for the god was strong to do all things well.”

Margueritte sighed.

“And Samhain then is not just a village thing?”  Tomberlain asked.  He remembered something vague from his youngest years before his mother Brianna came to Jesus.

“In truth,” Grimly said.  “It is the fire of healing, lit in honor of the Don’s second husband, the god of the sun and of life.”

“But he was not allowed to follow her north of the Pyrenees,” Margueritte said, as she remembered more clearly.  She had remembered Danna in Gerraint’s time, and now she remembered that she lived Danna’s life those thousands of years ago.  Danna came north on the urging of all the gods to confront the Titaness who had stolen the most western lands and was becoming a threat to all.

“But what then of her first husband?” Tomberlain asked in all innocence.

“We don’t speak of him,” Grimly said, but Marguerite spoke all the same.

“He was a god of the dead who wrongly abused Danna as a young child.  She bore him twin son, who grew tall and strong, but then that one son married Morrigu, a wicked, evil creature who bore him the daughters of fury.  Those girls could set a man’s blood to boil and go berserk for the killing of war.”  She confused her stories a little, but Grimly did not correct her.

“Only a mother-in-law would remember her in that way.”  A woman’s voice took their attention.  Margueritte and Tomberlain looked up to see the fairy queen, and Goldenrod who had vanished for a time came with her.  Grimly bowed once before looking.

The fairy queen and Goldenrod curtsied to Margueritte who curtsied in return and named the little one.  “Lady LeFleur,” she said.  “Majesty.”  And she nudged her brother who bowed, though he never lowered his eyes.  Lady LeFleur was queen of all the fee in that region, and as two and two came together in Margueritte’s mind, she knew that the queen was also Goldenrod’s mother.

“If your majesty may help,” Margueritte said.  “I cannot think of how to get her out of there.”

“Nor I, exactly,” Lady LeFleur said.  “There are too many lesser and greater spirits at the feast, and most have no interest in being reasonable, but if we do not get her out of there, she may well dance forever.  If the fire is not extinguished before sunrise, she will be trapped, and you might not see her again until next Beltain.”

At that moment, one beautiful and utterly naked woman came to the edge of the circle and stared at the watchers.  Fifteen-year-old Tomberlain’s blood got the better of his tongue.  The woman laughed, seductively, and reached for the boy.  His hand started to rise, but Grimly slapped it down.

“All hollow,” he said, and the woman, with another short laugh, turned and danced away, and, in fact, from the back she did appear to be hollow, like no more than a woman imposed on a piece of bark that had been stripped from a tree.

“Woodwife,” Grimly named her.

“Not mine,” Margueritte said frankly.  And the more she looked around, the less she saw of her own little ones.

“Fauns.”  Tomberlain pointed.  Sure enough, several goat-hooved creatures came dancing into the circle, adding their pipes to the never-ending music.  Margueritte felt her own feet tap a little at that, until one of the fauns twirled Elsbeth like a ballerina, and then all Margueritte felt was anger.

“It is getting too strong,” Lady LeFleur admitted.  “There is one chance, but I have hesitated because I will face consequences, and it is very dangerous.”

“I will defend you.”  Tomberlain spoke up too quickly.  He became keen to play a part and win some knightly honor.

“And I am sure you will, good sir, but perhaps not this evening.”  Lady LeFleur smiled for his sake.

“Unsavories.”  Goldenrod whispered in Margueritte’s ear, though Margueritte did not feel sure what that meant.  All at once, Lady LeFleur let out a great cry.  She let out a call that echoed all through the woods, and with such force, if not volume, Margueritte wondered if it might wake her parents, miles from there.  The music stopped and a hush fell on the crowd in the circle.  Then, there came an echoing cry, near to hand, and it came with such evil intent, Margueritte screamed.  The fire went out.  The feasters all vanished.  Elsbeth collapsed to the ground and Grimly and Lady LeFleur rushed to her side.  Tomberlain got distracted by the sound of horse hooves on the rocks, and fortunately for him, Margueritte got distracted with him.

“What a magnificent beast,” Tomberlain breathed.

“No!”  Margueritte shouted once more, having some idea of what the horse was; but the enchantment fell very strong on Tomberlain.  The beast drew him in like an insect to the light.  There was nothing Margueritte could do but rush ahead of her brother and leap on the horse’s back.  Immediately, the horse took to the air and headed at great speed toward the sea.

M3 Margueritte: And Secrets, part 3 of 3

Sir Bartholomew stepped back a step on seeing the doctor disappear, but quickly recovered and turned to Grimly and Luckless the Dwarf.  He tried hard not to look up at the ogre.  “And what can I do for you gentlemen?” he asked.

Luckless stepped up again.  “Actually,” he said.  “We were kind of hoping we could stick around for a while.”  He looked at Grimly who nodded vigorously, and at Hammerhead, who was not sure what was happening.

Sir Barth took another step back and looked to the girls and to his wife.  Surprisingly, Lady Brianna did not seem to have any objections, while Elsbeth quickly said, “Please.”

“Pleasy,” Little White Flower echoed.

“But.”  Bartholomew hardly knew what to say.  “Where will they stay?” he asked.

“Under the hill, under the barn,” Margueritte suggested quickly.  “They dig fast and well, and no one need ever know they are there.”

“Aha!  But what will we feed them?”  Bartholomew thought he had the right idea.  “We can’t possibly feed the lot of them for free.”

“I understand fairies need only a little milk and some bread for sustenance,” Lady Brianna said, and Sir Barth knew he was already outvoted.

“And berries.”  Little White Flower spoke up from Elsbeth’s hair and shoulder.  Elsbeth giggled because it tickled.  “I like berries.”

“I can cook a bit,” Lolly chimed in.  “I been practicing, er, ‘bout four hundred years.  I ought to be pretty good by now, so wouldn’t be for free.”

“You ought to be good,” Luckless mumbled.

“Never heard you complaining yet,” Lolly shot at him and Lady Brianna covered her grin.

“M’lord.”  Redux the blacksmith stepped forward.  “I would be pleased to learn from this good dwarf, all of whom are known to be experts in the smithy crafts.”

“I’m no expert,” Luckless said, as he straightened his helmet which was a bit large and had begun to slip to one side.  He paused, but then rubbed his hands.  “Still, it would be good to get my hands on a good furnace again.  All play and no work makes for a fat dwarf.”

“No.  It’s my good cookin’,” Lolly said and smiled from ear to ear, literally.

“And Grimly the brownie.”  Margueritte gave him the Breton name rather than the Frankish “hobgoblin.”  “He can help in the fields.  Gnomes are known to be very good with crops and bring bounty and blessing.”

“So, it would not be feeding them for free.”  Brianna summed it up.

Bartholomew put his hand to his chin.  “Ah!” he said at last.  “But what about this big one.  He looks like he could eat a horse for breakfast.”

Grimly stepped straight up to the lord who had to look straight down to pay attention.  “You got a problem with rocks and boulders in your fields?  Like who doesn’t in these parts?  You got a problem with sandy soil and needing tons of fertilizer?  Like who doesn’t around here?  You got stumps and things to clear, and sink holes and little hillocks and the like?  Well, my friend can fix all that, and better than a whole herd of oxen and bunches of you human beans.”

“Beings,” Margueritte corrected, then held her tongue.

Sir Barth thought a minute longer before he turned to Margueritte.  “Can you guarantee their good behavior?  I’ve heard some pretty strange stories, as have you.”

“Well.”  Margueritte hesitated.  “No, father, I cannot promise.”

“That’s right.”  Lolly stuck up for her Great Lady.  “The gods never make promises.”

“’sright.”  Luckless confirmed.

“But they will be loyal and faithful and won’t hurt anybody.  Isn’t that right?”  All the little ones agreed to that and swore mightily.

Sir Barth looked around at his men, and especially at Marta and Maven.  “If any one of you ever says anything about this to anyone at any time, I will not rest until I find out who did the telling and it will be worse for them than if they had never been born.”  His men and women also swore they would keep it all a secret, though they did not swear nearly as colorfully as the little ones.  Margueritte knew the Franks, and even Marta and Maven would keep their word, at least up to a point.  She also knew the little one’s word was hardly worth the breath it took to say it, but her father seemed satisfied.

“Let’s go home,” he said.

They rounded up the horses and found a half dozen Arabians added to the spoils.  Those horses carried the dead who would be buried by the chapel, but already Lord Bartholomew’s mind turned to breeding.  He thought the right combination of Arabian and Frankish charger would be a horse that could finally beat the Gray Ghost.

Luckless, constantly straightened his helmet and walked beside Redux.  “Got a wife?”  Margueritte heard him ask.

“No,” Redux answered.

“Lucky man,” Luckless said.  “I can see maybe there’s a thing or two I could learn myself.”

Margueritte, knew how good the ears of a lady dwarf really were and felt surprised Lolly had no comment to shout.  Then she saw her in the cart with Marta and Maven.  Marta reached out to touch the dwarf like one might fear to touch a leper.  Maven was already looking for a comfortable spot for twenty more winks.

“Lady.”  Margueritte heard and almost answered before she realized Little White Flower was speaking to her mother.  “Can I spend the night in Elsbeth’s room?  Pleasy?”

Lady Brianna laughed and nodded.  She understood this would become a regular thing.  Both Elsbeth and Little White Flower cheered.

Margueritte then looked back to the end of the small procession, just past the third wagon.  Hammerhead walked slowly to keep from accidentally kicking the last wagon.  He grinned ever so broadly, and Margueritte felt glad no one else looked back.  The sight of an ogre grinning was not something normal people would ever want to see.

“So, it’s you and me.”  Margueritte heard Grimly’s voice, but the brownie was obscured by the wagon where she could not see him.  When the ogre did not respond, probably because he did not hear the little voice, being lost in his own though, in the singular, Grimly floated up until he got to ear level.  He leaned in, spoke right into the ogre’s ear and cupped his hands for the extra volume.  “I said, so it’s you and me.”

Hammerhead dumbly turned his head in the direction of the sound and bumped Grimly who flew back and down and landed smack in a mud puddle.  “Sorry,” Hammerhead said, sincerely.  He tried to whisper so as not to frighten the beasts or the people.  Margueritte laughed.

Come evening, Margueritte could not help dreaming of little ones, but oddly, she also dreamed of Gerraint, son of Erbin that Thomas of Evandell sang so well about.  At least it seemed like a dream, at first.

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MONDAY

Beltane, because, you know, for every fall festival there has to be a spring festival.  Until Monday, Happy Reading

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M3 Gerraint: Epilogue

Gerraint, and all of the people with him, took the last ship from Avalon of the Apples.  They made a turn toward a stable harbor on Avalon proper.  Water sprites danced on the sea as they approached.  Mermaids and mermen made fast the ship at the docks.  Elves helped them disembark and dwarfs gave the ship the once over, Luckless waving to one of them like an old friend.  An ogre stood guard at the door and in the shadows, a goblin waited to record the names of all the visitors.  But despite all of these wonders, every eye looked up the cliff face to the castle of the Kairos, the palace of limitless spires and towers where the great kings and queens of all the little ones lived and rested from their labors.

“Castle Perilous,” Lancelot called it.

“Castle Turning,” Arthur said.

“Lunch,” Luckless had a different name.

“That’s not what we’re here for,” Gerraint said.

“I’ve heard it said the castle turns to always present a different face to the enemy,” Bedivere said.

Gerraint shook his head.  “Alice realigns things now and then, but that is really like rearranging the furniture.”

“And why shouldn’t she?”  Enid came up with Guimier who was delightedly pointing out everyone, including the ogre.

Gwynyvar could not look at the ogre, or the dark elf behind the book.  “And why have we come?” she asked.

“I have to speak with Guimier’s brother of a sort,” Gerraint said, and he took them to a comfortable room where they could have some privacy.  Then he called, and he put plenty of emphasis in it to be sure he got obeyed.  “Talesin.” The fairy who had just enough blood of the goddess in him to be immortal and to not be uncomfortable being big for long periods of time, appeared in a corner.

“Were those your hands that carried the cauldron across the round table?”  Gerraint started right in and did not make nice first.

“Maybe,” Talesin said.

“Was this search for the cauldron your idea, or did some other put you up to it?” Gerraint asked.

“My idea, some, maybe.  Maybe not, no, not alone,” Talesin hedged.  He started sweating.  Gerraint turned toward the others in the room.

“Has the search for the Graal been a good thing for the kingdom, or not?” he asked the others.

“Mostly,” Gwynyvar said.

“It has given the young ones some taste of adventure and kept them off our backs for a time,” Lancelot spoke straight.

“It has given the headaches to the church for a change and left my meager bits of a treasury alone,” Arthur admitted.

“Overall,” Uwaine said.  “Though we’ve been through a bit to keep it from going the wrong way.”

“Very true,” Trevor said.  Gwillim stayed quiet, still trying to swallow all that he saw and had seen.

Gerraint nodded and turned again to Talesin.   “Come here.”  Talesin swallowed like Gwillim but came like one who had been through this often.  He even turned around and presented himself.  Gerraint gave him one whack on the rump, but it was a good one.  They could see it on Talesin’s face and several winced when they heard the slap.  “Get thee to a,” and Gerraint had to pause.  “Monastery,” he said, and added, “Now we go home.”

“That’s it?”  Talesin protested.  “Aren’t you going to do any more than that?  I sweated all this time and that’s it?”

“Anticipation son.  It is the worst.”  Arthur gave some hard-earned advice.

Talesin walked out, red with embarrassment.

“Monastery,” Gerraint shouted after him.  Then he made two archways appear in the room, or Alice did.  It felt hard to say, exactly.

“Two ways?”  Bedivere asked.

“Luckless and Lolly.”  Gerraint nodded and pointed to one.  “A way back to the Continent.  “You have things to do ahead that don’t involve lying about with Rhiannon and her court.”

“Lord?”  Lolly wondered, but Luckless took her hand.

“I’ll explain it to you when we get there.”  Luckless said, and they vanished with the door.

“This other door?”  Gwillim wondered.  He finally, honestly, questioned everything.

“Cadbury Castle,” Gerraint said.  “I think Arthur owes us one good meal before we go home.”

“And a hot bath,” Enid added.  Gerraint nodded, but Guimier turned up her nose.

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Tomorrow:  In anticipation, a sneak peak at The Kairos Medieval, book 3 (M3), A Light in the Dark Ages, the story of Margueritte: The Old Way has Gone.  It is the story of a young girl growing up in the middle ages, the dark ages, and… Well… Wait and see.  Happy Reading

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