Here is the next chapter in the sequel. If you're interested, you may see all that I've written so far of the fourth book, tentatively called Heir of Drachma (so far, until someone comes up with a better title), on Authonomy.com.
The inside of Barncuddy’s Ale House stood as a reminder of the best of Shepperton. As Bob, Melchior, Eustace, Hermes and Tom arrived, the portly owner was his usual busy, sweating self, trying to calm the rabble, and providing drinks and bread for the patrons of his establishment. His face lit up with recognition as the group entered, and he welcomed the visitors.
“Me good masters, do come in. What’ll it be tonight?”
“Well, my friend,” said Bob, “if you please, we’d like a table, somewhat private, if possible. Perhaps upstairs, where we can sit and talk.”
“But of course, gentlemen,” he said, then turning back toward the kitchen, he called out, “Ho, Diane! I’ve got some gentlemen fer ye.”
Diane came from the back of the kitchen, looking vexed, with flour and kitchen grease staining her apron. She was drying her hands on the apron, and looked up, to see the smiling faces of the men. She immediately blushed.
“Oh, my. Ye did’na say who it was. Me good Master Robert, and Melchior, too… and in the company of these young ruffians.” She winked at Eustace as she said this. “Well, then, me good men, it would appear that ye be needin’ a table. And one, if I am not mistaken, upstairs, out o’ this rabble, eh?”
“You know me well, Diane,” said Bob. “Yes, that’s precisely what we need.”
“Well, if ye but follow me then, I’ll show ye to a table upstairs. And, I assume that ye’ll be wantin’ some pitchers of ale.”
“Of course, but we’ll be wanting your company, too.”
Diane’s brow darkened at this. “So, Master Robert, it would appear to be more than just talkin’ for its own sake, eh?”
“Eustace, your mother is a most perceptive sort, isn’t she?” Eustace smiled shyly. “True, Diane… so true.”
She showed them up to a room on the second floor, where years before, she had also served some of them, and which had been the beginning of dramatic changes for her, as well as Eustace. The memory of that encounter hit her afresh.
“Now, we’re not talkin’ of ships and broaches, and long lost loves, are we? For ye know that I’m not going not enter into that again…”
Bob caught her drift, and reassured her.
“No, Diane, we’re not. And you’ll notice that Kerlin’s not here with us tonight, and neither is your husband.”
“Well, then take some seats, gentlemen. I shall be back wi’ yer ale.”
As the group sat down, Hermes commented on the fact that Diane, now a lady of some renown, and mother of his buddy, Eustace, was back to serving at Barncuddy’s, in her former occupation. And this was after she had another child.
“Oh, fie on ye!” chimed in Eustace. “She has never considered that she was a special lady. And it was this serving at the Ale House which has brought her the greatest pleasure, if ye must know. That, and the entreaties of Barncuddy and Willie to Cayman, that she be allowed to return. It seems that patrons of the Ale House was missin’ her, and her rolls, too.”
“Might I say, Eustace,” put in Bob, “that your mother has brought some calm to Barncuddy’s, at least if you were to ask Willie and the Brewster himself. And even today, I could sense it, as we came in here. But how is it at home with your new brother? You may ask why that would be important, and I’ll tell you in a minute.”
“Well, Master Robert, me younger brother, Manny, he’s already a handful. And he stays at the castle while me mum works. It’s Frieda that takes care of him there.”
“Oh, yes, of that I’m aware,” replied Bob. “Now, as to his importance, might I just say that, as Diane’s eldest, and also as heir to Derrymoor’s estate, your mother might have some reservations about you accompanying me.”
Tom, who had been silent until now, spoke up. “It would seem, my friends, that none of you know what dangers might be present, and where this future should lead you… Ah, Diane, you come! And as Master Robert said, we do welcome you.”
Diane looked at Tom with uncertainty, as she placed the pitcher of ale, as well as the tankards about the table, and when all were served, she sat down herself, at the chair Bob had pulled out for her.
“Anyway, Diane, it would seem that your motherly advice would be again needed. For, you see, I am apparently in some danger here upon the Isle…”
“Oh, m’lord! Thee… in danger… how is that possible? What might it be, fer I know none other than Antoine LeGace who could be behind any threats to ye.”
“Indeed, it is this same Mr. LeGace who seems to present the threat. And he is now known to be somewhere on this island. But just what manner of threat is not known. But it would seem real to me, as well as to Tom and Craycroft. And it was decided that I should go into hiding, somewhere… perhaps Drachma’s place. And it hasn’t been decided definitely who should go with me, or for how long. And that brings up another thing, which is Judy, and what to do for her. For I certainly do not feel that she is in any condition to travel, who knows where, or for what length of time. So, it’s for these reasons that I wanted you in on the discussion.”
“Aye, I see… And you would like me opinion, but I sense more…”
“Indeed, for you’ve got another hand in the fire, so to speak. For we speak also of your eldest, Eustace. As you know, Eustace has become one of my best pupils. He has succeeded in developing a real sense of the purpose of medicine. And though Hermes is a certainty, Eustace, I’m afraid, needs your approval. For we also speak of his seizures.”
Eustace blushed at this, but said nothing.
“Well, as ye know, m’lord Robert,” Diane continued, “were it not fer thy presence among us, me Eustace would have stayed but an urchin on the streets. And now here he is, nigh unto being a man, and has learned much from thee. It would seem to me that, as much as I would love to put me arms about him, and keep him safe wi’ me here, I know that it has to be his decision, whether to go wi’ ye or to stay. Now, I haven’t any knowledge of the dangers of this quest of which ye speak, but I did learn years ago that danger can find ye whether ye stay at home, or go out into the world. And further, as to his fits, he would truly be under the care of his physician. So, then, what I have to offer is just this – that ye, me son, must make the decision that ye will, and God go with ye.”
A tear escaped her eye as she said this, and she reached over, grasped Eustace’s own flagon, and took a drink of ale. All eyes were still on her as she spoke again.
“Now, as to yer lady, m’lord, I know that Jeanne can care fer her, but that is not what ye had in mind, is it?”
“No, Diane, It is not…”
“Well, if I may be so bold, let me say that I shall keep watch fer ye. It is not fer fear, but from me own sense of strength, which I have by now come to cherish, which I shall extend to yer lady. She shall not suffer, nor shall her unborn child suffer, other than that which the Lord of heaven should send her. Fer believe me when I tell ye that she shall have the best midwife within the castle. And I shall speak wi’ me husband, who shall make it certain that she is guarded with all the castle’s power. Now, is that what ye’ve come to ask me?”
In answer, Bob raised his flagon in a toast.
“Here’s to one of the true rarities of our realm – a lady with both discernment and strength. And into your capable hands I leave the care of my wife and her unborn child.”
Diane felt a lump in her throat, and could feel the winds of time blow through her soul, as her companions raised their own flagons.
Tom next turned the discussion toward who would be accompanying Bob on his most mysterious venture. It was decided among those present that Bob would be joined by Hermes and Eustace, as well as Martin and Stoneheft. Tom and Melchior would stay at the castle, and care for the youth who had been injured, as well as seeing to the care of the school and the clinic in general.
“Well, Lady, it would seem that we’ve kept you here long enough. Now, I would like you to keep this token with you.” Bob reached into his pocket, and pulled out his very worn wallet. He took out of it a small plastic card, and handed it to Diane. “Now, this is a token from my old times, and you know what it is, don’t you, Hermes?”
“Aye, that I do, for it is your portrait, painted with light. It is what you called your license for driving, is it not?”
“That’s right, it’s my driver’s license. And it is my identification.”
They all looked at the little card, and to a person were amazed at its artistry. It seemed a most astonishing bit. This little piece of unknown material, on which there was the portrait of Master Gilsen, with all the smallest writing, and the strange numbers.
“And what’ll ye have me do with this most magical charm?” asked Diane.
“Just keep it safe with you,” said Bob. “You never know how these little things can become so important.”
“Aye, Master Robert, as ye well know.” Then she slid the driver’s license into a mysterious fold in her top, close to her heart.
Before breaking up, Melchior spoke to the group about what he had discovered in his little laboratory. As he was explaining the intricacies of his broth, and what it showed, down on the main floor of Barncuddy’s Inn a man of indeterminate age quietly slipped out into the night. He had seen enough to know that there would be a group leaving the castle on the morrow, and that he would be ready to follow.
Considerably later that evening, Bob returned to his home, to find Judy still awake, and pacing about. It wasn’t difficult for Bob to read her body language, and it was evident that she had been weeping. He felt suddenly very fragile, and like a child, returning home after curfew, he began to think quickly of what to tell the woman of the house.
“Don’t bother, Bob – I know where you’ve been, and I know who you’ve been with,” Judy said, with an accusatory tone in her voice, as if she could sense his turmoil. “Just sit down here, and level with me.”
She turned away as Bob tried to hug her, and stood aloof by the window.
“No,” she said, “not now. First tell me all about your night, and spare nothing. You may pretend that I don’t have an opinion, but you’d be so wrong.”
“As you know, I went to Barncuddy’s with Tom, Eustace, Hermes and Melchior. We went there to discuss what to do about you and me. It would appear that I am now something of a marked man, if I read things right. And it would appear that Craycroft himself thinks this way. And, believe me when I tell you this, you were on my mind the whole time. And if I could safely have you accompany me, you know very well that I would.”
“And just why do you think I couldn’t go with you?”
“Well, you’re over eight months pregnant, and the trip to Drachma’s forest home is through some rugged terrain… And I just don’t want you getting hurt.”
“And…,” She could sense that he was holding back.
“Oh, all right, I’ll tell you.” Bob hesitated, then he said, “You remember the story of how Tom came into the world? Well, that particular story has me scared. How he was born of Maggie, who died delivering him. It was something that Angelica said – that, for all its forest security, Drachma’s home was not the place to bring someone new into the world. Even though she wouldn’t elaborate, I could tell she felt strongly about it.”
“Hmm. It seems that you’ve been thinking about this quite a bit, huh? Well, let me tell you, Robert Gilsen, that I, too, have given this some thought. And let me tell you what I’ve decided. We’re here in this time and place, having been brought together by Drachma himself. And, yes, it would be much more comfortable to have our child here in this castle, but remember – what we vowed, before God and Father Henri, and all our new friends, that neither sickness, nor health would come between us. That this was for life.”
Bob couldn’t help himself. He smiled as he got back up. And, shaking his head, told her, “well, m’lady, it would appear that you’ve lost none of your persuasive powers. You know, I’ve never really been able to argue with you. You’ve always been able to win, and still can, I’m afraid.”
This made Judy smile, but also made her tremble inside. She looked straight at her husband, and with tears in her eyes, said, “Robert, you know that it’s love that brought us here, and love that created this child within me. And it’s like the preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes says, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up. Again, if two lie together, they are warm; but how can one be warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
This time Judy returned his hug. Bob was amazed again at his wife, who had quoted Ecclesiastes from memory, and who seemed to have the skills of the best lawyers he had ever had the misfortune to encounter. Of what else was she capable?
“Well, my love, then I guess it is settled.”
“Somehow, I knew you’d listen to reason.” Judy smiled, and kissed him.
“Just one more thing… I’ve got to steal Diane away from Barncuddy again. It seems that the best midwife in the castle would need to come along.” Bob did not mention that he had given her his license.
“But Bob, how about her young one? Have you thought about that?”
“No. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Well, I suggest that you do, for it would weigh heavily on her, I know.”
Then Bob changed the subject.
“Let me tell you about what Melchior has discovered,” He caught Judy a bit off guard, as they were getting ready for bed. “It looks as though, after all these years, and all our failed attempts, he has finally come up with what may become an effective antibiotic.”
“Oh, really? Tell me more.”
As they were bustling about in their bedchamber, and before sleep took them, Bob explained how Melchior had discovered something within the red seaweed, which most considered a nuisance, something so utterly surprising, as to rival the work of Alexander Fleming, many centuries later. And it was because of this discovery, as well as overseeing the clinic, which made it necessary for Melchior to stay, as well as Tom.
As they cuddled in bed, Judy could feel the excitement, apprehension and something else in Bob’s manner. It seemed to her that his breathing gave off a hint of something ethereal – something from the other world, which they had left years before.
“You know, Bob,” said Judy, “ there’s just a certain something that you’re giving off. It’s a sort of a far off thing. I don’t know what it is, but it seems that it’s very powerful. But you listen to me - I know now that you’ll also be cared for, Love.”
And so they drifted off, with the day ahead certain to bring unexpected changes and challenges.