Here is the next chapter in the continuing saga of Shepperton, Drachma and the rest. As usual, I would appreciate any feedback you might have!
The man was not amused. What he saw in front of him was nothing but useless drivel.
“But, Master LeGace, I did as ye directed. ’twas not my fault that they dinna’ find the token. For I tell ye, they but left, an’ headed out the way they came in.”
“Well, then, be gone! You are no more use to me now.”
The urchin slinked out of the room quietly and disappeared into the shadows. In the room, LeGace turned his attention to the window, and signaled to the man outside, who then sped off to do his master’s bidding.
What does it matter? Thought LeGace. He is not one whom anyone shall miss. Not even Craycroft, who now has much weightier matters to consider.
Then LeGace went back to eating his meal and drinking his ale. It was fifteen minutes later when the man came back and sat down at the table.
“Have you done it?” LeGace asked. The man nodded. “And did you bring back the monies?”
Leonardo reached into his tunic and brought out the small sack and laid it on the table. LeGace picked it up, took out a couple of copper coins and handed them over to Leonardo, who pocketed them.
“And I assume that you left no trace of your presence…”
“Nay, sire. And his body shall not be found for at least a week.”
“What have you found about our two visitors?”
“From the urchin I discovered that they have gone to the castle. They are staying at the Ale House, at least for the present time. They are from Scotland and are alchemists there. They come as students, to learn at the Academy in the castle.”
“To learn, eh?” LeGace pondered this for a moment. “And what do they plan to do with their knowledge that they gain here?”
“From what the lad said, they plan to take their new-found knowledge back to Scotland, and they plan on beginning their own academy – perhaps to train more physicians.”
“Well, Leonardo, you know that we cannot allow that to happen, and you also know why not.” LeGace looked at Leonardo.
“Most assuredly, Sire.” Leonardo swallowed. “Nor can we let this knowledge get into the hands of the king’s men. And that would include Master Patronis.”
“Aye, precisely. And so, you know where you need to go, and whom to seek out. You may use the aid of Boniface and Servius as you see fit.”
“So be it, Sire. And I shall report back to ye Friday, next.”
“Aye. And you know the place?” Leonardo nodded in acknowledgment. “Then I shall see you there. Now, be gone, and make certain that you have left no traces.”
As Leonardo left the small inn, he looked around to make certain that there were no eyes darting in the late evening shadows. Then he looked up the street, and went up, keeping in the shadows himself. When he got halfway to the turn, he stole a glance down the road to the left, and he could see down to the water, and off to the right the small shed which was now blazing. He kept telling himself that it was just something he had to do, as part of his term of service to the prefect. But the more he tried to tell himself that the life of that urchin didn’t matter, the more it nagged at what was left of his conscience. And so, he just walked on toward his destination, and left the village behind.
Bob and Hermes were shown into the tent, which served as Count Gregorio’s command center. There were two guards at the doorway into the tent. As Bob ducked his head to get inside, he noticed one of the guards smirked in a most disdainful way. He tried to ignore it, but it just got under his skin. Inside, he found the old count seated comfortably on some cushions, and now out of his armored breastplate. Hermes looked around uncomfortably, taking in the rather opulent furnishings.
In a corner of the tent sat Kevin. He appeared calm, but very aware of his surroundings, and his own present state. He nodded acknowledgment as Bob and Hermes came in.
“Why you not tell – just what is it troubles you?” asked the old man, surprisingly affable, in his own environment.
“Sir, I must ask you, have you drunk of this water?” Bob handed the now empty water jug to Gregorio. “And if so, for how long, and how many of your men have also drunk of this water?”
“This water…” the old man looked startled. “Why ask you if I have had this water? We have no wine with us, so we have had this water.”
“Well, Sir, that water is poisoned. And I say that on good authority…” Bob heard the sound of the whippoorwill. He was startled by the sound but tried not to show it.
“Poisoned?” The old man’s face contorted into a grimace. “How know you that it is…poisoned?”
“By the sickly sweet smell. And I know where you got that water – it came from a certain creek, one called the Creek of the Dead.”
Gregorio sniffed at the water jug, and he noted the slight off-sweet odor. “It does smell… as you say, slightly sweet. But none who have taken this water have been ill.”
“It’s probably too early – I wouldn’t expect to see the symptoms this early.”
“Sim…tums. What means this word?”
The guard burst in quite suddenly. His look was one of urgency. He spoke to Gregorio in a language unknown to Bob, but his meaning was quite understandable, as he pointed to the outside and continued to babble on. Then two more guards came running in, and Bob and Hermes were whisked off with the count. They were quickly put on horses, and the small band hurried away from their encampment, down the mountain. There were the three guards, along with Count Gregorio, Kevin, Bob and Hermes, hurrying down the mountainside.
Watching from his place in the forest, the commotion was noticed by a small gray-haired man. When he saw the small band head down the forest trail, he got back on his small black horse, and headed the way they went. He looked back over his shoulder and realized that he would in no way want to be part of the mayhem, which Drachma’s men had just inflicted on the unsuspecting men guarding their captives.
I suppose that I shall have to tell Master Guarneri about all of this when I get back down. He thought about what he had just witnessed. But first I need to see where this band be going. I suspect that they’ll be going to the ship.
Samuel followed the small, fleeing band at a safe distance. He saw that they took the most direct route down the side of the mountain. He thought to himself as he followed, Now, of the mighty band o’ warriors, ye have left only a handful, and Drachma’s men have captured or killed the rest.
“Is…is it safe to talk now?” Lisa whispered to Melchior.
“Aye, m’lass, I do believe it is.” He answered. “But I wouldna’ say too much. Just, if you but need anything, then tell me, and I shall try to explain it to the men.”
Just where they were, he could not tell, but that they were on some sort of boat seemed obvious. They had been brought the whole way blindfolded. Now by the time and the smells, he had guessed they had gone through the channel back toward Shepperton, and probably to the northeast side of the island. He could definitely smell the eel fisheries, not too far away.
When the men had taken off their blindfolds the two were again in semidarkness, below deck on a seagoing vessel. They had each been given a small loaf of bread and told where there was water. It was in a large vat, and did smell, but as thirsty as they were, they both drank gratefully. And for the longest while, neither one said anything, until Lisa spoke.
“It…it’s just I miss me mum so much.”
“Oh, Lassie…What might I say t’ye?” Melchior’s voice cracked as he spoke. Thoughts of his own Jeanne and young Falma shot through his mind. “Perhaps it would be better if… if we didna’ think on such matters.”
“Then, may I but hold ye, fer a time?”
“But of course, Lassie, of course ye may.”
So, Lisa held on to Melchior, as she would hold her own rag doll, quietly, desperately. Melchior could sense her vulnerability. And that made his own circumstance that much more precarious. Not knowing was making him even more uncomfortable. He had no way to communicate at all with anyone beyond his captors, and he knew that was an option too fraught with peril. And so, he gently held on to the frail waif, until sleep engulfed her.
“Oh, Tom! It’s you, indeed,” said Marilyn with relief and surprise. “How long have you been here?”
Tom was surveying the scene before him and noted with some satisfaction that the bloodshed had been minimal, and that the men, who had been taken prisoner, had been rounded up, and were being brought back to him. At the head of the group came Fausto and Justinian, with the others acting as escorts.
“Long enough to see that Drachma’s men have, indeed, done their work admirably.”
“But Bob… he’s not among the men, is he?”
“Nay, m’lady. And when Fausto and Justinian return, I shall send you off, with Fausto, in search for him. But remember what I told you, of not speaking with Master Robert directly.”
“Yes, I remember, but could you explain just what happened, and what led up to all this? I’d really like to know just how Bob got tangled up in this mess out here in the forest. What he’s doing and all, and why he became a prisoner, and whose prisoner he became.”
“You do ask much, m’lady. And I think it meet that I should explain things to not only you, but also to Justinian, Stefano and Fausto, before you go off in search of Master Robert. But, because I do believe that some haste is warranted, I shall have to tell you some, but not all of what I have come to know of our current situation. Do you think that fair?”
Marilyn studied young Tom and could detect nothing insincere in him. “All right, I’ll buy that. But you’re going to have to tell us what we’re going to need to know. Your world has its own peculiar rules and expectations, doesn’t it? And here I am, a woman of the twentieth century trying to navigate in your fifteenth century environment.”
“That would be only fair, my good woman. Indeed, here come Fausto and Justinian. Come let us greet them, and then we may discuss what you ask, as well as what you seek.”