Avalon 8.4 Happily Ever After, part 5 of 6

Lockhart, Katie, Alexis, and Lincoln, or as Boston explained to the innkeeper, the two married couples decided to have supper in their rooms.  The innkeeper did not mind and brought some food upstairs.  The rest of the crew sat around one table.  The others sat at their own table, so there was no opportunity over supper for either side to ask any questions.

They just about finished when Budman came in and went straight to the table.  He tried to speak quietly, but Boston heard with her good elf ears, and she reported to her own table.  “Charlemagne is not staying for the wedding.  He is leaving first thing in the morning.”

Decker immediately spoke into his wristwatch and repeated the information.  Engelbroad jumped up and ran out of the inn.  Doctor Theobald ran to the kitchen and hurried the innkeeper out the door.  The young groom had the wagon hitched up and ready to go, the wine barrel in the back.  Hoffen and Budman hesitated.  They looked at the kitchen door before they ran out the front.  Decker followed them, and everyone followed Decker except Boston, who ran to the kitchen.

Doctor Theobald grabbed a kitchen knife and almost cut Boston as she entered the room.  “You are too late,” Doctor Theobald said, and took another swing at the red head.  Boston used some elf speed to get around the table.  Doctor Theobald began to turn toward her when Katie burst into the room.  She had her pistol out and shot the man.  He collapsed by the counter.

Lockhart, Lincoln, and Alexis followed, but paused on sight of the man bleeding from a gunshot wound.

“I didn’t do it,” Boston shouted.

Katie stepped to the man and kicked him.  She had tears in her eyes when she said, “How many times do I have to kill you?”

Doctor Theobald smiled, though he did not have much time to live.  He shook his finger, like he would not say, but then he decided to say something.  “You are too late.  The poison is already on its way.”  He appeared to want to laugh in their faces, but he died instead.

“We have to stop that delivery,” Lockhart said.  They all piled out the kitchen door and ran after the wagon which fortunately made fresh tracks in the muddy ground.

Out by the stables and the barn, Decker, Nanette, and Tony screeched to a halt.  Decker fired at the shadow in the barn, and Nanette reacted by pulling his arm down.

“You’ll hit the horses.”

Elder Stow caught up with his short legs.  “I can tune some discs to the invisible spectrum.”

“No,” Decker said, and handed his rifle to Tony while he drew his handgun.  “My job.”

Tony promptly handed the rifle to Nanette and drew his own handgun.  He would follow Decker into the barn.

Sukki had another thought and raced around the back.  The Barn had a back door.  She rushed, putting her super strength into her limbs, and showing a burst of elf-like speed.  She arrived in time to see Hoffen sneaking out the back.  She hit him and did not hold back.  She did not think about it because her adrenaline pumped through her body.  She immediately wanted to take back her punch, but it was too late.  Hoffen flew twenty feet across the lawn and smashed a shed.  He landed with big spikes of sharp, splintered wood through his middle, but it hardly mattered.  He died from the punch.  Sukki broke the man’s neck and nearly knocked his head off.

At the same time, Decker entered the barn, his military senses flared, searching for an enemy.  Budman burst out of a haystack, sword drawn, but Decker was faster. He shot Budman and Tony shot Budman.  Budman went down and would not get up again.

“Nanette,” Sukki called from the back of the barn.

“Sukki,” Tony called, but Nanette ran past him and out the back.  Sukki was crying.

###

Boston got to the back door of the municipal building the same time as the wagon, though it took some elf speed to do it, so the others were still a few minutes behind.  The Benedictines got ready to unload the great barrel of wine, but Boston whipped out her wand.  “Poison,” she yelled and turned her flames on the wine cask.  The outside of the barrel began to burn, while the insides began to boil.  The monks backed up.  The innkeeper yelled but could do nothing to stop her.  The young man with him, the groom from the stables at the inn, threw a rock at her.  It hit her in the shoulder, and she stopped her flame, but then the barrel burst open, and the wine all spilled on the ground and in the wagon.

“Poison,” Boston repeated as she held her shoulder and wondered if anything was broken.

The boy turned to run off, but one of the Benedictines stood right there and stopped him.  Katie arrived and pulled her knife on the innkeeper.  The man surrendered, looking like a broken man.  “Yellow hair,” the man said.  “My wife had yellow hair before the Franks raped her and left her to die.”  It was not said for sympathy.  Just a passing thought, and he reached out for the young man.  “Gruber,” he said.  “My son.”

When it was all over, the soldiers came.  A young blonde woman with a fairy on her shoulder and flanked by two young women also came, and the young blonde yelled, “Boston.”

Boston grimaced.  “I can’t,” she said, near tears.  “I think my shoulder is broken.”

“Genevieve?” Lincoln asked between gulps of air.  He could have walked that distance easily but running was not part of his exercise routine.

“Yes, Lincoln.” Genevieve said.

Lockhart gave the Benedictines instructions.  “Get some water and wash out the wine from the wagon and the cask, and for God’s sake, don’t taste it.  It is poisoned.”

“Lockhart, good timing for once,” Genevieve said, before she thought.  “What do you mean poisoned?”

“Ricin,” Alexis said as she got Boston to sit in a dry spot so she could examine the shoulder.

Katie took up the telling.  “There are castor beans back at the inn, left deliberately to frame us for the deed. Doctor Theobald is the same Doctor Theopholus that tried to spread the pneumonic plague in Constantinople all those years ago.”

Genevieve shook her head.  “Who was I back then?”

“Oh, Lady,” the fairy said and fluttered out in front of Genevieve’s face.  “We aren’t supposed to tell you if you don’t remember for yourself.”

“That is the law,” one elf maid said.

“Ancient law,” the other elf maid agreed.

“Nicholas,” Lincoln said, having missed all that.  He got out the database and started to flip through some pages before he remembered and blurted out the name.

“Oh yeah,” Genevieve’s face lit up.  “Greek fire.  The Toymaker.  I don’t remember a doctor though.”

“Maybe you never saw him,” Katie said, while Lockhart hit Lincoln in the shoulder, and not too softly.

“It is a wonder, though, that I remember anything at all right now.  I’m getting married tomorrow.  I can’t sleep.  I think there is still some roasted chicken back in the rooms.  You girls need to come with me.  This is Margo and Nelly, and the fee is Edelweiss.  This is Katie, Alexis, and Boston.  Also, Lockhart and Lincoln.”  She paused as a very tall man, two elder men and another monk came out from inside the building.

“Ouch, by the way,” Lincoln said.  “And Engelbroad is still out there, somewhere.”

“Not forgotten,” Lockhart said.

“Where are Sukki and Nanette?” Genevieve asked.

“Back at the inn,” Katie said.  “I’ll bring them along shortly.  Where are you staying?”

“In the church next door.  The priest was kind enough to give me his rooms.  Just enter the church and come all the way to the back on the right behind the sacristy.”  Katie nodded as the tall man on the steps raised his voice.

“Poisoned?”

Genevieve walked to the man, pulled his head more to her level and kissed him on the cheek.  “Thanks for saving me,” she said and let him go.

He raised his head back up and said, “And I only detect a little sarcasm.”

Genevieve smiled and stepped to the old man with the cane.  “Charles and Bernard, and the magistrate if we can find him, you need to go with my friends to where they are staying, and they will explain everything.  Well, they will explain what is happening now.  Maybe you should bring a bunch of soldiers.”  She paused to kiss Otto on the lips, then paused again to taste the kiss.  “Otto dear, you better stay here and keep the company tanked.  After all, the party is for you.  And Waldo, before you disappear, we are going to need a couple more roasted chickens, and make sure you bring some more of those potatoes while you are at it.”

“Right away,” the man said with a slight bow.

“We’ll stay here,” Alexis said, and as she could sometimes do, she saw right through the glamour of humanity and called to the two elf maidens.  “Margo and Nelly.  Help the princess.”

“Yes mum.  Yes Lady,” they said.

M4 Margueritte: Prince of the Franks, part 2 of 3

Margueritte imagined she would be at the inn for a couple of days.  She tried to make it as comfortable for everyone as she could.  The innkeepers were a nice older couple who spent most of their time doting on Martin like a couple of grandparents, and frankly were not good for much else.  Rotunda took over the kitchen.  Mother Mary kept the beds and everything else clean.  Sigisurd kept up with the crawling machine, having assigned herself the position of Nanny.  Even Relii did dishes, and Margueritte thought this was very different from the Storyteller’s day.  Three days at the Holiday Inn in his day and the women would be ordering the staff around, complaining about everything, and gossiping about everything else.  This seemed almost pleasant, and she wanted to get a good book and lay around the pool and would have if they knew what a pool was.

“But pools haven’t been invented yet,” she told Sigisurd, who learned to ignore her when she said things like that.

By the third night, Margueritte became a wreck for worry.  She felt sure she should have heard something by then.  She paced, did not feel hungry, stayed in her room, and refused supper.  Sigisurd shared a scrambled egg with Martin, but otherwise she said she was also not hungry.  Sleep came as a fitful thing, and in the morning, Margueritte felt no better.  Sigisurd had Martin on the little balcony just off the room.  She said Martin slept through the night but got up with the sun.

“Sorry if we woke you.  We just got up, but I tried to get him out here to let you sleep.”

“That’s all right,” Margueritte responded, as she got dressed.  “I don’t think I really slept all night.”  She considered calling for Tulip or Larchmont to see if she could learn about the battle, but she had been good so far, as she thought of it, and maybe she could wait a little longer.  “Let’s see what’s cooking.”

Margueritte picked up Martin and walked down the stairs, but on the last step she handed Martin right back to Sigisurd.

“What is the matter?” Sigisurd asked.  The old couple and Mother Mary were all at the table, probably from the night before, and there were signs of diarrhea and vomiting and bowls of what may have been soup.  Margueritte glanced at the door to the back kitchen but did not want to find Rotunda and maybe Relii back there. 

“Don’t touch anything,” Margueritte ordered and Sigisurd looked like she had no intention of touching anything.  Margueritte crept close and heard Mother Mary moan, but she still did not dare touch the woman.  Mary never opened her eyes, but she had something clenched in her hand, and her hand opened to reveal a bean of some sort.  Margueritte took out a handkerchief and picked it up.  She put it right back down and grabbed Sigisurd and dragged her and the baby to the door.

“What is it?” Sigisurd repeated herself.

“Castor bean,” Margueritte said, having heard that from Doctor Mishka all the way in the twentieth century.  “If Rotunda crushed them to add them in powder form to the soup, thinking they were like a spice.”  Margueritte shook her head.  “Castor oil doesn’t taste good, but the shell is deadly ricin.”

 “Deadly?”  They went outside.

“No known cure.”  Margueritte confirmed, and she let out a few tears for her friends and from fear.  Sigisurd tried not to join her, but Martin picked up on the sentiment and made his weepy face.  Margueritte took Martin and hugged him when they heard horses approaching.  Margueritte wiped her eyes to look but took a step back when she did not recognize the uniform.

“There she is.  How convenient.  Get her in the wagon.  Bring the girl and the baby.  Careful with the baby.  Tie them so they stay put.  There isn’t much time.  Move out.”  And Margueritte, Sigisurd and Martin got dragged off by strange soldiers with curious accents.

Margueritte knew these men were not Muslims, but they were not from Austrasia or Neustria either.  They were certainly not Frisian.  She imagined they might have been Burgundian, but she would have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, she considered the castor beans.  Those beans were not native to France, except maybe the Mediterranean coast, like around Septimania.  Otherwise, they had to be imported from Iberia or Africa.  That thought shouted Abd al-Makti loud and clear, but she admitted the evidence was circumstantial.  Then she had another thought.

“Oh, you’ll be safe here,” she mumbled with only a small touch of sarcasm.  She considered how easily she got captured by Ragenfrid’s men after the first battle outside Cologne.  She ran from the camp and exposed herself, so she figured it was her own fault.  But now, here she sat, a prisoner again, and this time she did nothing to give herself away. What is more, these men seemed to know just who they were looking for, and just where she could be found, though she was supposedly secretly hidden away in a small village inn.  Yet they knew exactly where she was.  

Margueritte considered her predicament.  Chivalry owned Great Britain, thanks to Arthur, and it had slowly begun to take over the mindset of the Franks as it worked its way into Christian Europe through the stories told about Arthur and his Round Table.  Margueritte thought that taking women hostages was not standard procedure, even at this early point in Medieval history.  “Something smells,” she said out loud.

Sigisurd checked Martin’s diaper.

###

Margueritte got forced to ride in the wagon for the first five days, and became black and blue all over, since the two men driving the wagon seemed talented at hitting every rock, hole and bump they could find.  More than once, Margueritte suggested those men should be flogged.  At least they untied her after the first day, so she and Sigisurd could take turns holding Martin.  Finally, she figured she complained loud and long enough to where the captain relented and let her walk.  The truth was, they had left Frankish lands and entered the domain of Odo, Duke of Aquitaine.  Also, they came to an old Roman road that appeared well kept, and the captain figured not knowing where she was, she had no choice but to be good, her being a woman.  Just for that, Margueritte had to fight mightily to keep herself from running off.