M3 Margueritte: Guests, part 3 of 3

Once in bed, Marguerite stayed awake half the night, convinced that Roland must think her the most backward, provincial child on the earth.  She had no idea how the ladies of Paris were.  What did they wear?  What carried their conversation?  Their behavior?  Were courtly manners the same as her table manners, or was she hopeless?  How did they wear their hair and their faces?  Poor Margueritte felt miserably filled with unanswerable questions.

She overslept in the morning.  The sun topped the horizon when Elsbeth woke her.  She had to dress quickly for the ride to Lady Lavinia’s and her Wednesday Latin.  Charles and Roland would be going with them, of course, and that caused her to pause at her little mirror to be sure her face and lips were at least as good as she could make them.  By the time she got downstairs, she only had time for a quick bowl of yesterday’s bread crumbled into milk, as was the common breakfast among the Breton.  Then she went straight to the barn where Elsbeth already sat up on her horse.

Margueritte breathed when she saw her own mare saddled.  Meanwhile, Sir Roland checked the straps on his horse and Charles’, as well as the one Bartholomew sent in the hope that Father Stephano could be convinced to return to Paris.  She also saw the mixed Arabian they would be taking.  A present, Margueritte gathered.

“Sir Roland.”  She got his attention.

“Margueritte.”  He looked up and brightened from his work.  “And just Roland, please.”  Marguerite turned to her own horse, embarrassed once more because she had forgotten.  “And where is that Goldenrod of yours this morning?”  Roland asked.

“Flitting hither and yon,” Margueritte said.  “That is what she always says.”

“She doesn’t hang around much.”  Elsbeth spoke up.  “And never comes in the house, she sets Father to sneezing so bad.  He has the allergies, you know.”

“A condition I am glad not to share,” Roland said.

“But where is Sir Charles?” Margueritte asked in return.

“My Lord is in the chapel with your parents, your brother, Father Aden, and that most remarkably beautiful creature.  Jennifer, I believe.”

“That isn’t her real name.”  Elsbeth spoke up.  “It’s Little White Flower.”

“What an unusual name.”  Roland said, and with a thought he pointed to Margueritte.  “One of hers?”  Elsbeth nodded.  “I suspected,” Roland concluded.

“She came from the other side of the world,” Elsbeth said.

“As far as Cathay?”  Roland asked offhandedly.

“America,” Elsbeth said.  “That’s what Marguerite calls it.  She says the world is round, like a ball, and all the land from here to Cathay does not even fill a quarter of the ball.  She says most of the earth is covered by oceans, but far over the Atlantique there is another world unknown to us which she calls America, not Amorica, mind you.”

“I see you found your tongue today,” Margueritte said to her sister.

“Yes.”  Elsbeth said.  “Here it is.”  She stuck it out and Roland laughed as Owien came outside and mounted his much-improved horse.

“Have you met Owien, Elsbeth’s boyfriend?”  Margueritte asked, in a moment of cattiness.

“He is not,” Elsbeth shouted and spurred her horse some ways out into the triangle.

“I am not,” Owien protested as well, but his eyes followed Elsbeth all the way.

Roland really grinned then.  “Sisters,” he said.  “How I have missed my sisters.”

Not long after that, Charles, Bartholomew and Lady Brianna came from the chapel.  The two Franks who escorted them in those days, having already arrived and taken to their mounts, waited with Elsbeth and Owien out front.  Margueritte mounted and joined her sister.  Tomberlain and Roland followed.  Lady Brianna gave her usual advice about being careful on the road and to keep their eyes open for the dragon.  Then Charles paused to shake Lord Bartholomew’s hand and he, and a servant to bring the spare horse and the mixed Arabian completed the party, and they were off.

It took two hours, a gentle ride to the home of Constantus, and they normally planned to arrive by ten; but with this crew and their slightly later start, ten–thirty was the best to be hoped for.

The two guards lead the way followed by Roland and Charles.  As most of the way was only suited to two abreast, Margueritte rode beside her brother.  Owien and Elsbeth straggled along in the rear, followed only by the man with the horses in train.  Owien felt honored to be given the rear-guard position, as he called it.  Elsbeth rode most of the way doing her best to ignore the boy.

The only time Roland dropped back, Tomberlain pushed in and Margueritte found herself riding beside Sir Charles.  They passed pleasantries at first before Charles surprised her.

“Roland is quite taken with you, you know,” he said.

She could not help taking one quick look back before answering.  “And I with him,” she admitted, and then covered her tracks.  “What young girl would not be taken with such a brave and handsome knight?”

Charles said nothing, so Margueritte went on.  She talked about her Latin, being fluent in both the Frank and Breton languages, and even a little Greek that she learned from father Aden.  She spoke of spinning, weaving, sewing and pointed out the tapestry that covered the wall right by the front door of the Manor House, if he saw it.  That was hers.  She told him she played the harp and could hold a tune well enough.  Then she paused and thought she might be bragging a little like a man, and perhaps that was unbecoming.

“You’ll forgive me,” Charles said.  “I am not really conversant with the conversation of women and maidenly virtues but do go on.”

“Oh, no, Sir,” she said.  “In fact, I just remembered a rather serious question I wished to ask you.”  She changed the subject.  “It seems to me if the Saracens found an easy raid and grew rich in Aquitaine, they may test the waters again, do you think?”

He looked at her and cocked one brow.  “I think that very thing,” he said.

“And is there no help we can send to the people there to shore up their defenses?” she asked.

“My Father won’t have it,” Charles answered straight.  “Duke Odo of Aquitaine will have to see to his own.”

“But why, if we have been such good friends with the people there?”  Margueritte asked, not meaning to press, but to give the man a chance to talk on more familiar ground.

He looked at her again and nearly tipped his hat before he spoke.  “Our king is so enamored with Christian piety he spends most of his days locked away in his apartments.  He has lost touch with the real world and has left the running of the kingdom in the hands of my father, Pepin, who is himself getting old and stuck in his thinking.  This is not a good thing, because some have filled in the gaps, as it were, and most of those others cannot see past their noses or their purses, and they see no reason to help anyone but themselves.”

“Ragenfrid,” Margueritte nodded.

“Among others,” Charles affirmed.

Then Roland pushed up again, and Margueritte felt forced to fall back beside her brother, and there they rode until they reached the house.

The home of Constantus, built in the Roman style with a great fountain in the central courtyard, had rooms all around, upstairs and down.  This, of itself, did not appear unusual since the Romans had ruled over the land for some five hundred years.  What was odd in the household was the fact that Constantus insisted that nothing be spoken there except Latin.  In fact, the letter he wrote to the Pope in Rome concerning questions about certain finer theological points, so impressed the Pope in its’ perfect grammar, construct and style, the Pope felt moved to send Father Stephano all the way to Brittany.  Now, Charles and Roland waited in the courtyard while Father Stephano got fetched.  The girls, Tomberlain and Owien retired to their room to wait Lady Lavinia and the beginning of their lessons before the noonday meal.  Among other quirks, Constantus had never quite taken to doors, and so many of the rooms off the walkway were closed only by a curtain.  Margueritte could not help overhearing the conversation in the courtyard, though she did not have to listen.

“I am not sure I approve or disapprove of your sentiments.”  Charles said to Roland.  “She is certainly bright, and will no doubt make a fine woman and a fine wife when she is older.  But you must remember she is still quite young.”

“She will grow,” Roland said.

“Yes, but she is also a farm girl, a county maiden, and not a true member of the genteel court.”

“And I am a farm boy, lest you forget.  I grew up on the Saxon Mark,” Roland countered.

“Yes, but she is cute now, however she will age fast in the country.  Soon enough she will look haggard and quite likely fat.”

“Not so,” Roland countered again.  “I have seen her mother do not forget, and she is a very striking woman for her age.”

“Yes,” Charles said.  “I will grant you that one.  But still, you must be sure.  This is not the kind of girl you toy with.  For her it will be marriage or nothing.”

“I have had enough of toys,” Roland said, and they wandered to another quarter of the court and their conversation got lost.  Margueritte hid her face in her hands.  The boys stayed quiet enough, and kindly showed no great expression on their faces, but she was not about to look at Elsbeth.

In a short while, Lady Lavinia came to fetch them, to take them to an upstairs room.  Father Stephano had also arrived with Constantus and the pleasantries and introductions seemed about over when Margueritte arrived at the staircase where she lingered behind.

“You were at the queen’s birthday celebration when the cake was set out, were you not?”  Charles asked the priest.

“I was indeed,” the priest said.  “And I did see the chamberlain sprinkle the dead flies on the cake.  He told me he did it because of some offence the queen had done to him, and I will swear to this before the king.”

“Lover’s quarrel,” Roland quipped, and Charles tapped Roland’s arm to shut his mouth.

“I appreciate your help,” Charles said.

Father Stephano looked to his host.  “The king kept me all but prisoner in Paris for six months before he allowed me to finish my journey, and though I have not been here but a few days, I will set the record straight and pray for a safe return to this haven.”

“And I will pray for you,” Constantus said.

Margueritte moved then, by she knew not what.  She took the clean handkerchief out from the sleeve where she kept it and stepped toward the men who naturally paused in their talk for the lady.  “Sir Roland,” she said.  “I have enjoyed our conversation.  Please take this to remember me.”  She handed him the handkerchief.  “Perhaps you may wish to return it to me someday, as you please.”  She curtsied quickly and mouthed the word, “Gentlemen.”  Then she turned and hurried up the stairs to where the others waited before Roland could respond.

In the upstairs room, she nearly fainted for thinking of what she had done.  To her surprise, Elsbeth took her arm and smiled broadly for her sake.  She really was a good sister.

************************

MONDAY

Margueritte has sweet dreams, and is surprised to find that dreams can come true when Roland returns for a visit, Next time.  Happy Reading.

*

M3 Margueritte: Guests, part 1 of 3

Lady Brianna came home, greeted her guests cordially and hoped they had their fill of war stories before she arrived.  Soon enough, they were seated around the supper table, Maven and Marta serving.  Lord Bartholomew sat at the head of the table with Lady Brianna, Margueritte and Elsbeth to his left.  Charles, Roland and Tomberlain were to his right, and Tomberlain would hardly leave poor Roland alone.  By necessity, Margueritte paid some attention to the more adult conversation her father and mother had with Charles.  He explained the queen’s birthday trouble and the false accusation of Ragenfrid, though it was hardly necessary.  Sir Barth had already decided that Charles was in the right and Ragenfrid must be a “Turd.”  Naturally, Brianna scolded him for the word.

“Well, I’m glad I’m not in Paris,” Bartholomew said.  “I hate politics.  I wouldn’t last ten seconds the way those vultures circle around.”

“It is hard at times,” Charles admitted.  “But I try to remember our nation and the people.  I believe if men like us don’t step up and lead, then men like Ragenfrid will take over.”

“Leading.  That’s what I keep trying to get through my son’s thick head.  You have to be decisive and patient.  You have to decide which way to go and start right out.  But then you have to be patient enough to let the others catch up to where you are.  Isn’t that right, Tom?”

“Yes, Father.”  Tomberlain had long ago learned to keep one ear out for his name on his father’s lips and “Yes Father” was invariably the right answer.  Still, it made no difference in his monopoly of Roland, and Margueritte finally got mad enough to kick him under the table.  He did not even feel it!

“Pardon, m’lord, m’lady.”  Marta hated to interrupt.  “But with supper served I should take clean linens to the guest room?”  She usually addressed the lord of the manor in questions.

“Yes, Marta,” Lady Brianna affirmed.  “Please do so.”

“And so, my dear.”  Lord Bartholomew let his guest eat for a minute.  “How was your day?”

The lady shook her head.  “I do not like this cold or flu that has come on some of the people.”

“What are the symptoms?”  Charles asked.

“The usual,” Lady Brianna answered.  “Runny nose, cough, congestion.”

“And?”  Bartholomew knew there was more.

Brianna turned a little red.  “Loose stools.”

Lord Bartholomew started to laugh.  “Runny turds,” he joked.  Everyone smiled, a little, except Brianna who turned red but did not scold her husband this time.  He apologized all the same.  “I’m sorry, dear,” he said and laid his hand on hers.  “Gentlemen, I will tell you this woman is the best woman and wife a man could ever have.”

“Hush.”  Brianna turned a little red again, but this time the smiles around were genuine.  Everyone felt warmed by the sentiment and Margueritte rubbed her mother’s arm in support.  Finally, Charles spoke.

“This is quite a feast you have made.  Your cook is very good.”

“Excellent.”  Roland spoke his mind as Tomberlain paused briefly to stuff his face.

“A dwarf.”  Bartholomew admitted and pointed at Margueritte while Charles nodded that he understood.  “And worth ten times her weight in gold, only because she weighs so little,” he said.  He made a joke again.  “But to be honest, times have been good of late.”  He got vocal now that he entered familiar territory.  He could not help talking farm talk.  “We lost our eight sheep some years back now and I had to spring for six to start again.  Now we have twenty, and the cattle have increased as well.”

“All of the animals.”  Brianna interjected.

“We have more milk than we can use, and the fields have been prosperous, too.”  He pointed again at Margueritte.

“Bartholomew.”  Lady Brianna squeezed his hand.

“Now, he has seen them,” Bartholomew explained.  “I don’t mind giving credit as due.”  He turned back to Charles.  “I got some Arabians some time back and I have been breeding them with my chargers to see what they might produce.  So far, I must say I am impressed with the results, eh?”

On the word Arabians, Charles gave Roland a sideways glance.  “And how did you come by these?”

“The Moor.”  Bartholomew answered, and then said a bit more.  “The Saracens sent an ambassador to Amorica some years ago.  I wrote to Paris about it, perhaps you saw the correspondence?”

“No,” Charles admitted.

“But I bet Ragenfrid has,” Roland added.

“What happened?”  Charles ignored Roland’s comment.

“Well, he lasted about four years, exactly, before King Urbon threw him out of the country.  He was an arrogant, er, man.  Why?”

Charles hid nothing.  “The Moors invaded Iberia last year, and all the squabbling Visigoth kingdoms there will not be able to withstand them.  Earlier this year, the Saracens, as you called them, sailed into Narbonne and made a quick incursion into Aquitaine, all the way to Toulouse.  Many were killed and much loot got taken.  Pepin concluded that the people of Aquitaine can look after themselves, but I suspect the Arabs may be testing the waters, if you know what I mean.”

“Eh?”  Bartholomew thought hard.

“M’lord Charles always likes to think about ten steps ahead,” Roland added.

Bartholomew continued to think for a moment before he answered.  “Ten steps ahead is a good thing for a military man.  Baron Bernard on the south March in Atlantica always said Lord Ahlmored seemed more likely a spy than an ambassador.”

Charles nodded, but said nothing more about it.

Margueritte took that moment to rise.  With Marta upstairs, she would help with the dishes.  She picked up her own and then bent forward a little to touch Sir Roland’s plate.  She did not mind at that point what he looked at and was rather hoping he would look.  “Unless you would like some more?” she said.

Look, he did.  Then he pushed back his chair a little and sighed.  “No thank you.  If I ate one more bite, I could never ride that invisible horse of mine.”

Margueritte smiled and thought he had a wonderful sense of humor.  She took his plate and turned to see Elsbeth holding her plate up to also be taken.  “Not a chance,” she said. “You help, too.”

“Grrr,” came Elsbeth’s response.

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: Visitors from the Real World, part 1 of 3

By the year of our Lord, 712, the dragon had exacted a toll on the region.  Vergen got attacked, and another village to the north and one west as well.  Briesten on the sea got reduced to cinders as the dragon seemed to have a real taste for fish.  Of course, No one could tell how much hunting in the wild and fishing on its’ own the dragon did, but when Margueritte added it all up in her mind, she began to wonder what was going on.  Dragons usually ate a lot, but then they normally slept, sometimes for years, even decades before they stirred again with hunger.  This all suggested there might be more than one beast at Caern Long.

Caern Long was the place where the most recent kings and queens of Amorica were buried.  They were generally known by name, and their treasures, up to that point, were essentially undisturbed.  Caern Briis, on the other hand, dated from around the time of Caesar.  The graves there held those who ruled during Roman days. There were many stories about the treasures they contained.  Some were good stories with happy endings, but many were frightening, and well suited to warn the young about the sins of greed and theft.

Caern Long was located in the north on a ridge that looked out over the sea.  In that place, likely attracted by the treasures, the dragon took up residence and burrowed into the long caves and warren of tombs.  King Urbon had already prepared his burial place there, but now it seemed unlikely the aging king could actually be buried there unless something got done.

Nothing, however, got done.

The people tried to blame the gypsies, but the gypsies themselves took the brunt of one vicious attack and promptly packed up and moved further west on the Breton peninsula.  Then, the issue of missing children once again came to the surface.  Margueritte assured her mother that her little ones were not responsible, and the gypsies also appeared to be missing three children of their own—not that it stopped the mouths of those who were inclined to prejudice.  Still most, if they did not blame the little ones, they blamed the dragon for that too, and noted that young maidens seemed a special favorite of the beast.

After Beltain in the Lord’s year 712, when Margueritte had just turned fifteen and Elsbeth was still eleven, Margueritte found herself working about the barn while Elsbeth went out collecting eggs from the chickens.  Margueritte heard two horses coming up the road from the Paris side, and they sounded like they were being ridden hard.

“What is it?” Elsbeth asked and ran in with her apron full of eggs.  Margueritte wondered how many were now cracked.  She also wondered what to do since Lady Brianna went off visiting in some of the serf houses, and Lord Bartholomew went off to the fields with Tomberlain.

“Hide.”  Margueritte decided as she heard the horses slow.  She ran behind the hay and Elsbeth, after a moment’s thought, let the eggs fall and clambered up into the loft.  The horses stopped in the Triangle.

“There doesn’t appear to be anyone home,” a man said.

“Quick.  Into the barn,” the other man said.  The door stood wide open and both horses trotted in.  One dismounted and bounded to the doors in almost a single motion.  The other looked around before dismounting, and Margueritte understood they were looking for a place to hide.  She rose-up.

“Leave the door open,” she said, to gain their attention.  “It will be less obvious you are here if the door is wide open.”  The short one, who almost had to look up ever so slightly at Margueritte’s five foot five-inch height, had an air of authority about him nonetheless that required her attention.

“The girl’s right.”  He waved to his friend.  “It will look conspicuous to see the barn shut up at an early hour.”  The man at the door opened them again without a word.  “But what to do about the horses?”  The short man spoke to himself and had gotten over the girl’s presence already.

“Grimly.”  Elsbeth said as she began to climb down the ladder.  The man by the door came and helped her off the last few rungs.

“Oh, no.  Elsbeth.  What are you thinking?” Margueritte asked.

“Grimly can do it,” she said.  “Remember how he made Tomberlain’s steed invisible for a prank?”  Margueritte laughed.  The tail was still there, but out of stubbornness, it looked for several hours as if Tomberlain rode around on thin air.

“Oh, but do you think?” Margueritte said.

“Oh yes,” Elsbeth said.  “These seem good and right men.  They will not tell a soul.”

Margueritte did not feel so sure.  Curiosity appeared all over the face of the short one. Margueritte was not sure what entered the face of the young one, but he did seem very nice, and clearly these were noblemen and no common thieves or robbers.  “All right,” she said.  “Now no jumping or yelling.”  She told the men.  “Grimly!” she called.

“Right up here,” the gnome said from the loft.  “I was having a good nap before miss bigfoot stepped on me.”  He came to the lip but bypassed the ladder, preferring to float slowly to the ground.  The short one grabbed the young man’s arm, tight, but otherwise neither made a move.

“These two horses.  You need to make them invisible.”  Margueritte did not waste any time.

“Well, I don’t know.”  Grimly began.

“Immediately.  No arguing,” Margueritte commanded.  Grimly jumped.

“Yes, m’lady,” he said.  He led the horses into a dark corner, and war horses though they were, they trusted the gnome completely, as most animals did.  Immediately, as Margueritte said, he began to circle the beasts and chant something that sounded like “Flicky, sticky, quicky, tricky.  Mucky, ducky,” and so on.

“But what about them?”  Elsbeth asked.

“Yes, what about us?”  The young man asked.  He showed his perfect glistening teeth in his smile and extracted his arm from the short man’s clutches at the same time.

“The cellar?”  Elsbeth suggested.

“Wouldn’t do,” Margueritte said.  “I think Hammerhead is napping.”

“Oh.”  Elsbeth made a big, knowing sound.  It was not a good thing to wake an ogre when he was napping.

There were many horses in the distance coming on.