Avalon 8.11 Tax Collectors and Other Thieves, part 5 of 6

By the time Boston, Sukki, Elder Stow, Lincoln, Alexis, and Tony driving the wagon arrived in Maunsfeld, surrounded by armed men, word had gone out and people, mostly wives and mothers of the men, waited in the street.  Lockhart and Katie were not far behind, and meanwhile, a young girl about thirteen, with platinum locks and hazel-light brown eyes came dragging a dark-haired, blue eyed young woman by the hand.  Two much older women followed the group until suddenly the thirteen-year-old dropped the young beauty’s hand and ran forward yelling.  “Boston.”  The red streak ran into her arms for a wonderful hug.

“You are young again,” Boston said.

“U-huh,” the girl nodded and dragged Boston to meet her friend.  “This is Marian de Furnival.  Her brother is going to marry my sister Maud.  I feel sorry for him, but what are you going to do?  They are in Looove.”

“Helen?”  Lincoln had to ask, and the girl nodded.  “Come on,” she said, but it was not that easy.  They had horses and a wagon to tend.

“You go on,” Lincoln told Alexis.  “Elder Stow, Tony and I will find a place for the horses.”  Alexis nodded, and she, and Sukki, followed Helen and Marian.

“Maid Marian?” Alexis asked and watched Helen and Boston nod.

“That is what Helen called me when we got stopped on the road and kidnapped, to be held for ransom.  She said it was safer.  It was for the men, to tell them they should not touch me.”

“And we all agreed with that,” one of the older ladies who followed spoke.

Helen took them to the tent where a man ran around like a wild chicken.  He had helpers, but he was obviously very busy.  “No time now, Lady,” the man said.  “I got hungry men to feed soon enough.”  They found two deer roasting over a pit and plenty of vegetables to go with it along with great loaves of bread laid out to cool on racks.

“This is Frypan,” Helen said.  “Four squares.  Sunup, noon, teatime or what they call dinner, and supper at sundown.  I don’t know who started three squares in your time.  It’s stupid. Three is a triangle, not a square.””

“Frypan?” Boston asked.

“Yeah,” Helen said.  “He is guarding me.  I am a prisoner, you know.”

“Does he have a name?” Alexis asked.

Helen shrugged.  “Frypan.  It is what everyone calls him.”

“You are being held for ransom?” Boston asked, intrigued by the whole idea.

“Yeah,” Helen repeated, and waved to a boy.  He looked to be about sixteen, and he came straight to her wave.

“Milch,” she named him.  “This is Alexis, Boston, and Sukki, old friends.”

“Oh? Pleased to meet you,” Milch said.  “Old friends?”

“Yeah.”  Boston imitated Helen.  “From about nine hundred years in the future.”  She grinned and turned her grin on Helen, who gave her a snooty face.

“Milch is the miller’s son,” Helen said, and touched the boy’s chest to identify him.  “Most of the flour for the bread comes from his father’s mill down on the river Leen, by Linby.  I call him Milch Miller, but he doesn’t sing so good.”  Alexis laughed.  Boston was not sure if she understood the joke.  Sukki had no idea what Helen was talking about, but before she could ask, Katie came up.

“Katie!” Helen shouted and turned to Milch.  “This is Katie.”

“I guessed.”

“This is Milch, the miller’s son.  And this is Maid Marian.”

“Maid Marian?” Katie said.

“I said the same thing,” Alexis told her, and Katie nodded.

“Oh,” Helen perked up and got everyone’s attention again.  “I need you and Lockhart to go with me and check something out.  We had the strangest thing, just three nights ago.  You missed it.”

Frypan heard and came over, wiping his hands on his apron.  Milch got excited to tell the tale, but Frypan beat him to it.  “A strange ball, not that big.  It came down so fast, people were afraid it was going to crash on their heads, but it stopped, all of a sudden.  It looked suspended in the sky, and it was smoking, like maybe it was on fire.  Big billows of smoke.”

“I saw it first,” Milch said.  “I told everyone.”

“Milch screamed the sky was falling.” Helen interrupted.  “I thought his screams might wake the dead.  Then I told him he should not steal Chicken Little’s line.  He said, who’s Chicken Little?”  Milch shrugged and Frypan picked up the telling.

“Helen here identified the ball as a kind of craft, she said like a big boat, but one flying on the air instead of floating on the river.”  He looked at the travelers to see how they reacted to that idea, but when he saw they had no trouble believing him, he continued.  “It came down maybe a mile or so from here, in the woods.  I know some men went to look for it, but they all reported they found nothing, like it vanished or something.

“It made no sound when it came down,” Milch added.  “I expected it to Crash! and make the ground shake.”  Milch shrugged again.

“So, Katie,” Helen took the conversation.  “I need you and Lockhart to go with me to check it out.  After three days, whoever it is may be in trouble.”

“Shouldn’t Elder Stow come?” Katie asked.

“Maybe, if we need to repair something.  But we need to see who it is first.  Alice has an idea, but I am not committing.”

“You are arguing with yourself?” Sukki asked and sounded surprised.

“What?” Helen said.  “You never argue with yourself?”

Sukki looked at the ground and nodded.  “I do.”

“Now hold on, missy,” Frypan said.  “I was left to watch you to make sure you did not escape and all that kind of thing.  I won’t be seeing you run off, or maybe getting hurt and me not being there.”

Helen clicked her tongue.  She was thirteen.  “I’ll be well protected, and we won’t be far.  I’ll take Milch with me.  He will keep me prisoner.”

“I’ll make sure to protect her and see that she doesn’t get hurt,” Milch said.

“Lady?” Frypan turned to Maid Marian, but she could only shrug like Milch.  One of the ladies spoke up.

“I’ll go and make sure she comes back in one piece.”

“Why us two?”  Katie asked.

“Yeah, why can’t we go?” Boston asked.

“Because…” Helen said and looked and sounded exasperated.  “This is Men in Black business.  You agreed to work for me, did you not?”  Katie nodded, slowly.  “So, baring the director, I need the assistant director.  Besides, I may need your elect senses to watch for danger and maybe to return fire.”

“What about Decker?” Katie asked.

“Nah,” Helen said.  “He is busy thinking about getting married to Nanette, and Lincoln and Alexis don’t need the complication right now, and Boston is too stubborn, and Sukki too scaredy-cat, and Tony still too new at all this, well, relatively speaking.  Besides, I don’t want a whole Scooby gang so whoever it is feels threatened.”

“No.  Miss Helen.  I forbid you to go,” Frypan said.

“You know I will go anyway,” Helen said.

Frypan nodded.  “But at least I have witnesses that I forbid it.  Now be careful.”

“But…” Boston wanted to object to something.

“No,” Helen said sternly, and Boston felt it in her gut.  “I order you to stay here.  Fat lot of good that will do.  Come on, Milch.  Let’s go find Lockhart.”  She reached for Milch’s hand, which made him smile, and she dragged the boy behind her just like she dragged Marian earlier.  After they walked around the corner, Boston spoke again.

“You are stubborn too.”

“Are you thinking of following her?” Sukki asked.  Alexis could not block Sukki’s mouth fast enough, so instead she dropped her face in her hand and shook her head.

“Well, I was thinking about it, but now that you said it, I kind of have to,” Boston said.  Marian caught it and laughed.  Frypan looked like he did not quite follow what just happened.

###

They found Lockhart in the barn talking with Lincoln and Little John.  Will Scarlet was in the corner, rubbing down his horse, or one of the horses.  “Robert,” Katie called him, and he came while she spoke to Lincoln.  “Alexis is by the cooking fires with Frypan checking out what is for supper.”

Lincoln nodded.  “I’ll catch her up,” he said.

“Supper sounds good,” Little John said, and they walked off.

Helen came in and got Will to help Milch saddle three horses.  “No, Will,” she said.  “You don’t need to come with us.  We are just going for a short ride.  Why don’t you find Boston and compare hair colors?”

“Too late,” Will said.  “I already tried that, and she turned me down, flat, elf that she is.”

“But I’ll have Lady Milpryd with me to keep me safe, and Milch will make sure I don’t run off.”

“I am sure he will keep you from running off as hard as he can,” Will said.  “But meanwhile, though I have known you but a week, I know your name is trouble.  If there is any trouble, you will find it and be in the middle of it.  Besides, if you got hurt it would break Maid Marian’s heart and Robin might kill me for that.”

“Ready?”  Katie asked, and everyone got up on their horses.

Helen saw the gang coming down the north road, and said, “Hurry.”  She saw Robin, and Decker and Nanette who were easy enough to see in the setting sunlight.  She saw someone else, and it took a moment to shout it out.  “Friar Tuck! Now my life is complete.  I wondered who was missing.  Just a feeling I had.”

“Hush now,” Katie said to try and get Helen to settle down.

“Good luck with that,” Lady Milpryd said.