M4 Margueritte: Trouble All Around, part 3 of 3

That evening, she confessed to Roland.  “I have to go, but I don’t want to leave.  I just got you back.”

“Owien must be about twenty by now.  That is almost grown up, and Elsbeth is what, seventeen?” Roland asked.  “I married you when you were seventeen.  I thought you were very grown up.”

“Owien is nineteen and Elsbeth is eighteen, and I can only imagine the disaster if I left things in their hands, no offence to Owien,” she responded.

“Now, come on.  Elsbeth is a sensible young woman and probably well grown by now.”

Margueritte could not imagine it but said no more about it.  She felt worried about her father, and what her mother would do when he had gone.  She felt glad Jennifer stayed nearby.  Tomberlain told her they built a cottage beside the church, and some others had come since then and were building their own cottages there, in a place that was safe for Christians.  Margueritte thought that one day there would be a nice little town, and it already had a poor section where the serfs had their huts, just down the hill from the barn.  Sometimes she hated the age she lived in.  She rolled over to rest on Roland’s chest.  Then again, she thought, some things were very nice.  Brittany got fussy so she had to get up, and she thought, or not so nice in any age.

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Roland gathered a hundred horsemen from the Breton side of the world to accompany Margueritte home.  Boniface would be going with them as far as Paris.  Sigisurd decided to stay on the Saxon border.  She said it felt a land like the place where she grew up, but Margueritte figured Sigisurd and Geoffry would not be single for long.  Horegard and Rosamund had already more or less given their blessing, and even Ingrid seemed to like Sigisurd, and talked to her more than she talked to Margueritte.  Aduan liked everyone, so there was no trouble there, so overall, Margueritte kissed the girl good-bye and sighed as she got up in the wagon that she christened the S. S. Black-n-Blue. 

Relii went with her for the first two days.  Count Adelard was going home, and Herlindis had the good sense to ride on horseback.  Relii bounced with Margueritte for those days, but when they reached the Abbey, Margueritte got left alone with her children.

Marigold came to visit every day they were along the Meuse River, and Tulip came twice.  After they left the River, Tulip took over the visits and stayed with her, at least during the day, every day, until they reached Paris.  

They stopped in Paris for a time.  Margueritte saw that Boniface got well taken care of, and she also got treated well, going back to the same house Charles owned on the left bank of the Seine, the house with the servants.  Rotrude, Charles wife, was not there, but the servants did not question her being there.

Margueritte took the time to visit several local blacksmiths and three saddleries while she was in town.  It was not easy to do with the children along, but she found a young woman to help.  Her name was Giselle, and her family came from Vascon, and came to Paris a generation ago by way of Orleans.  The children seemed to like her, so Margueritte hired her to be an au-pair, though no one knew what that was.  Then Margueritte found out what it would take to make a better saddle, one with stirrups, and how much it would cost to make real lances, a shield to balance the other side, and gauntlets to hold them.  She had samples made of each, found a horse that could carry all that weight, and made Captain Wulfram ride the horse and get used to the equipment.

“My arms will fall off by the time we reach Little Britain,” Wulfram said.

“So you know better how you need to train the rest of the men,” she answered, and she crawled into the wagon.  

For the next three days, Wulfram complained that he could see no military value in what she asked him and his men to do.  “We have horsemen who can ride around an enemy flank and strike where least expected.  All this equipment would make that impossible.  They would hear us clinking and clanking from a mile away.”

“But your horsemen dismount to fight on foot.  With this, you can fight from horseback.”

“That’s crazy.  You can’t fight a man from the back of a horse.  A man can move and turn.  A horse can’t keep up.”

“You will see, when the time comes,” Margueritte insisted.

When they arrived at Margueritte’s manor home, the spring came in full bloom, and Captain Wulfram had only one thing to say.  “Well, at least my sword doesn’t feel as heavy as it used to.”

“You will see,” Margueritte insisted, and she pointed Wulfram and his hundred horse back down the road they just came up.  “Down the hill where the grassland flattens out.  Try and keep your camp to the right side of the road.  We will need the long field for practice.”

“Sorry Margueritte.  Now that we have delivered you, we need to get back to Charles in Saxony.”

“No,” Margueritte interrupted the man.  “I stood right there.  Charles clearly said you were to stay with me until I dismissed you.  Well, you are not dismissed.  Even under the watchful eye of Charles and Roland, I have been kidnapped twice and held for hostage, and I would have been kidnapped a third time by the Saxons if I hadn’t found a way out of that dilemma.  No, captain.  You are not dismissed.  You camp right here.”  She turned away from the captain and spoke to the teamsters who were holding the wagon.  “Lambert and Folmar, just stay here and relax for a bit.  I’ll let you know where to take things in a minute.”

Margueritte’s mother, Brianna came running, Jennifer beside her, and Margueritte smiled to see them, but noticed how old Mother had gotten in the last four years.  Her hair had turned completely gray, and her skin developed some real wrinkles in her face and hands, and crow’s feet around the eyes.  Her eyes overall looked saggy and worn, like she had not slept well in months, but they still had a familiar sparkle when she held Brittany.  The sparkle said mother, or maybe grandmother.

Jennifer’s eldest, her girl named LeFee was five and said to be sweet.  Her boy, Cotton, two and a half, about Martin’s age, had been reported to be a hand full.  Margueritte talked about her own.  “Sigisurd used to call Martin the wrecker.  I hope the house is childproofed.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Jennifer said.  “But everything is put up where Cotton can’t reach it.”

“I don’t know.  Martin is a climber,” Margueritte began, but she got interrupted by a flying streak of light.

“Lady!  Lady!  Lady!”  Goldenrod grabbed Margueritte by the face and kissed her cheek over and over. Margueritte had to grab the fairy by the fairy weave that covered the girl’s butt to pull her off.

“Good to be home, but it helps to breathe,” Margueritte said.  Mother and Jennifer laughed.  Giselle’s eyes got big, but she said nothing.

The next interruption was by Puppy who came up barking and lolling his tongue, a tongue he used to lick Margueritte’s face when she got down to pet him.  “Puppy, you remember me.”  Margueritte felt happy.

“He does,” Goldenrod said.  “And so do I, and me and Puppy take good care of the sheep, we do.”

“I am sure you do.”

“Just like you taught us.  Isn’t that right, Puppy?”  Puppy barked.  Then a grown-up couple came from the barn, and Margueritte had to take a breath.

“Owien with a beard,” she said softly, and Jennifer nodded.  Mother couldn’t seem to take her eyes away from Brittany who cooed in her arms and playing with Mother’s face.  “Owien, son of Bedwin, good to see you, if that is really you beneath all that hair.”

“Good to have you home,” Owien said.

“And who is this well grown woman beside you?” Margueritte asked.

“Elsbeth,” Owien started to answer, but Elsbeth took his hand and stuck her tongue out at her sister, which made Margueritte laugh.

“I see she has matured well,” Margueritte said, and held out her arms.  Elsbeth ran into them for a big hug.  Then she backed up and had something to say.

“About time you got here.”

“It is very hard to get anything done when my workers run off.”  Another woman stood in the barn door, and Grimly stood beside her.

“Me and Catspaw and Pipes are workers,” Grimly said.

“On a blue moon,” the woman responded, with blunt familiarity to the gnome and came out to see the visitors, even as LeFee came out of the house dragging a three-year-old girl by the hand.

Elsbeth spoke.  “That’s Margo, Tomberlain’s wife, and the girls are LeFee and Larin.”

“LeFee is mine,” Jennifer said.

“I remember,” Margueritte said.  “But Tomberlain told me nothing.”  

“They married the year after you left with Roland.  She is Sir Giles’ granddaughter,” Elsbeth explained.  “They met when he went to Paris as Roland’s squire.”

“You must be Margueritte,” Margo said, as she walked up to join the group, Grimly in her trail.  “Tomberlain told me all about you.  I half expected you to fly in on a broom.”

“No.  The broom flying was my work,” Grimly said in a voice that implied it was terribly hard work.

“No, I made the broom fly,” Goldenrod objected from Jennifer’s shoulder where she had taken a seat.  She took that moment to flit to Elsbeth’s shoulder where she clearly felt most comfortable.  

Margo and Margueritte kissed cheeks like sisters, but not much more because Margo was in her sixth month and beginning to round out.

“Got any names picked out?” Margueritte asked.

“Not yet,” Margo said, but she looked like she had a few possibilities in mind.

“Me neither,” Margueritte patted her stomach.  She felt fairly sure she was pregnant, but maybe it was too soon.  Brittany was not quite past five months old.

“Me neither,” Jennifer said with a grin and pat to her own stomach. 

“Me neither,” Goldenrod said.  She thought she knew what they were talking about but did not want to be left out of the discussion.

“I want one,” Elsbeth whined to Owien, who looked like he thought he knew what they were taking about.

 “Now, let me introduce everyone.  This appendage to my dress in Martin.”  Martin, who had been staring, turned his face into his mother’s leg.  “The one holding Mother’s nose is Brittany.  And this one is Giselle, their au pair.  She is from Paris.”

“Oh?” Margo responded.  “News from home.”

These fine gentlemen are Lambert and Folmar, and they are going to unload our things in the house and take the wagon to the barn.  Grimly, show these men where to store the wagon so it is out of the way, and get the mules settled.  I am depending on you.  Meanwhile, why don’t the rest of us go up to the house?”

“Yes,” Mother spoke at last.  “You want to see your father.”

“And tell stories.  We have a lot to catch up on.”

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MONDAY

Margueritte returns home to The Breton March and finds trouble following her. Until Monday, Happy Reading

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M4 Margueritte: The Saxon March, part 1 of 3

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By the time everything got settled in Paris, and Margueritte understood what Gerraint said about the women in Paris only having one brain which they took turns using, the autumn weather hinted of winter.  Roland wanted to leave Margueritte in a comfortable home over the winter, but she insisted on going with him.  If he left without her, she would follow him as soon as the baby got born.  It became their first real argument, but in the end, they had no say in the matter.

Charles would head for Frisia before the winter set in.  He planned to trim Radbod’s mustache, permanently.  He also wanted to be in a position to confront the Saxons as soon as the spring came, because they were raiding into Frankish territory and that had to be stopped.  The Saxons had to be told the in-fighting among the Franks was over, so they raided at their own risk.  And Margueritte would deliver in a couple of weeks at most.  She could not go anywhere, and she could not delay the men.

Charles and Roland rode off and Margueritte’s delivery went without complications.  Sigisurd kept Martin who would be two years old in a mere three weeks.  Margueritte called that recovery time, but the truth was she got little time to recover.  As soon as she was on her feet, one noble after another came to call.  Word had gone out that she had Charles’ ear, and every man and woman in Paris had some beef or gripe or cause to support.  The worst were the bishops and priests, and even the archbishop paid his respects.  It became tiring, not the least because she had to remain pleasant and positive, not promise anything, yet not send them away dissatisfied.

Roland really did understand.  He left a company of men under a Captain Ragobert from his home province on the Saxon March and suggested if Paris got impossible, she should go visit his family and he would find her there in the spring.  Margueritte waited three whole weeks.  Martin turned two and they had a private celebration.  The very next day she packed, and against doctor’s orders, she set out in December for the other side of Austrasia.

Once again, Margueritte had to ride in the wagon, but this time they kept to the roads.  They were mostly old Roman roads, and not that badly kept, so the black and blues were not too bad.  Ragobert was not much of a conversationalist, but he seemed a competent military officer, and this time she had plenty of private time that the soldiers from Aquitaine never allowed.  With that time, she called Tulip, Queen of the Fairies in what was Frisia, and sometimes she called Marigold, Maywood’s wife and Queen of the fairies in east Austrasia and Saxony, around the Rhine, between the Meuse and Wesser Rivers.

On the thirteenth of December, they arrived in Verdun and took rooms at a local inn on the Meuse River.  Margueritte’s baby girl, Brittany turned one month old and already owned her brother Martin’s heart.  Between the children and the fairies, Sigisurd never seemed so happy, and so sad.  She turned eighteen and wanted a good husband and children of her own.  She did not say as much, but Margueritte and Tulip were not fooled.

Baby Brittany caught a little cold in Verdun, but the sun came out the next day and the snow rapidly melted.  “But we shall have a white Christmas,” Margueritte announced, and then she had to explain.

From Verdun, they took a flatboat and traveled for days down the Meuse, always headed north toward the Frisian and Saxon border, with the soldiers riding parallel to their course on the eastern bank.  They finally came to a little village called Aldeneik where they departed and took once again to the wagon.  They did not go far.  They found an inn, though it proved more of a tavern with a couple of rooms at best.

Captain Ragobert went in first.  He had the purse and proposed a warm and comfortable night or two before they moved two or three days across country to the Rhine.  “It’s a one-day trip to old Horegard’s place,” he said, “but your wagon does not exactly move fast where the roads are bad.”

“Great,” Margueritte practiced her sarcasm.  “We will arrive looking like you and your men have been beating us up.”  Ragobert knew enough by then to know she was joking, and he nodded when he went in, but his face seemed frozen in serious thoughts.

“Not so much as a smile,” Sigisurd whispered.

“I bet he doesn’t cry, either.” Margueritte whispered in return.

There were two nuns and a novice inside the tavern, speaking with the tavern keeper.  Nuns were not an unusual sight in those days, even in a tavern, but there seemed something familiar about the young one.  When she turned, and looked at the newcomers, Margueritte knew and shouted.

“Relii!”

“Margueritte!” Relii shouted back and they hugged around Brittany who was in Margueritte’s arms.

“What are you doing here?” both asked before Relii hugged Sigisurd and bent down to see Martin.  Sigisurd held Martin’s hand and Martin held his mother’s dress.  He turned his shy face into his mother’s dress when Relii spoke to him and said how big he was getting.

“Martin, you remember Relii don’t you?” Margueritte said, but Relii shook her head as she stood.

“He was very young.  But what are you doing here?” Relii guided them to a table to sit, and Margueritte spoke plainly.

“I am taking the children to visit Roland’s family.  Now that Charles has taken charge over all the Franks, he has turned first on Radbod and the Frisians before he goes after the raiding Saxons.  The plan is for them to be here by spring.  We shall see, knowing how rarely plans go according to plan.  But you?  I thought you were dead.”

“I knew you weren’t.  After I recovered, a man told me at sunrise he saw soldiers outside the inn and two women, and a baby being forcibly loaded into a cart and taken out of town.  I figured out who it was when they did not find your bodies.”  Relii reached out and covered Margueritte’s hand as the two older nuns came over and sat quietly to listen.  “They all died, Mother Mary and Rotunda, and that nice older couple.”

“Did you have any of the soup?” Margueritte asked.  “The poison was in the soup.”

Relii’s eyes got big.  “I knew it wasn’t witchcraft.  I told the people you would never do such a thing.”

“Me?” Margueritte felt shocked at the suggestion.  “I keep telling people, I am not a witch.”

“You can’t always tell a witch from her looks,” Relii said, and looked down at the table and worried her hands.  Margueritte understood that Relii had some power that was not normal.  Now it made sense why Abd al-Makti the sorcerer never came around at the same time Relii stayed in the camp.  She wanted to ask Relii her impression of Abd al-Makti, but with the nuns there, she thought it better to avoid that subject.

“Anyway,” Relii continued.  “Poison makes sense.  I know I was deathly ill for three days, and everyone died, but somehow, I recovered.  It could only have been a miracle, by the grace of God.  I was in the village, in a home when Charles and Roland came.  The villagers told them what they knew, and I know they looked in on me.  I don’t know if Roland recognized me.  You know, I always avoided him seeing me.  But anyway, they burned the inn to the ground and left.  I recovered, truly a miracle, and I felt then and there it was time to go home and follow my destiny.”

“But you?  A nun?  That is about the last thing I would expect.”

Relii turned a bit red and looked at her fellow nuns.  “It is my destiny.  Father built the abbey for his daughters who he said were never going to be defiled by wicked men.  My sister, Herlindis is the Abbess.  My real name is Relindis, but you can call me Relii.  It is what my mother called me when I was really young.  Of course, Herlindis was always Herlindis, full name.  Did I mention she is the Abbess?”

“Yes, you did,” Sigisurd interjected.

“Your father?” Margueritte asked.

“Count Adelard.  All of this land is his.  We are in the second line of the Saxon Mark, as he calls it.  If the Saxons ever break through the Mark, we need to be prepared.”

Margueritte had a moment of insight.  “It must have been hard for you in the camp, trying not to be recognized.”

Relii nodded.  “There were certain men I had to avoid.”

“I was not aware you avoided any men,” Sigisurd said, and Margueritte pinched her to get her to shut up.

“I was grateful for the way you and Sigisurd took care of me when I was with child and helpless, and the times you helped Rotunda with the cooking and Mother Mary with the washing and the errands,” Margueritte said.

“I didn’t do much,” Relii admitted.  “But I saw your example and I learned.”

“Please,” Margueritte looked down at Brittany and uncovered enough so she could nurse.  “I am no saint.”

“But you are, more than you know,” Relii said, and Sigisurd nodded vigorously.  “And you can do things, such blessings as most people cannot imagine.”

Brittany settled in and Margueritte looked up and got serious.  She looked also at the two nuns to be sure they were paying attention.  “I only do things that are perfectly natural for me.  If I walk or talk, or nurse my baby, no one calls these things miracles because they are perfectly natural things.  If I can do something most people cannot, it does not make it a miracle if it is natural for me.  As much as I love him, Roland would not nurse our baby very well.”  She smiled and the others smiled with her.

“But this is the important thing,” Margueritte continued.  “It has nothing to do with what you are able to do.  It has everything to do with what you are authorized to do.  If I can do some things most people cannot, it is only because I have been gifted, you might say.  But of those who have received much, much will be expected.  Like your sister, Herlindis, who has been given the authority to be Abbess.  She must make good and wise decisions and only do what God authorizes her to do.  She must not overreach her authority, even if she is able, because that would be the essence of pride and sin.  So, I try only to do what I am authorized to do, and it is not always easy to determine.  Just because I am able to do something, that does not mean I am authorized in a given circumstance to do it.  Sometimes I fail.  Sometimes I just plain mess up.  But I thank the Lord every day that I am a forgiven sinner, and I get up every morning and pray that today I may be a good and faithful servant and a good steward with all that God has given me.”