Here is the next chapter of my (so far) unreleased book in the Drachma series, This one takes back to our protagonist, with his loyal aides, and sets up for what is to come.
Craycroft sipped his cider, and he looked toward the distance. His eyes burned fiercely, but his face was otherwise placid.
“What is it, m’lord?” Asked Kerlin. “Your countenance suggests that you have had a new thought on the matter.”
“That I do, Kerlin. Do you know where young Tom is right now?”
“Nay, m’lord. I know not.”
“Well, by his latest dispatch, he is seeking out persons from Master Robert’s century. And I do not know what special talents these persons may possess. Neither do I know in what capacity he plans to use them. Do you sense my dilemma?”
“It would seem to me that you are unsure of whether to tell the congress of this…”
“Precisely! Normally, I would not hesitate to tell the congress anything, yet in this circumstance, with all that is happening, and with these threats to our peace, it would seem better to me if it remained between us for the present.”
“Very well. Now you say that you know not whom Tom plans to use from this other time. But tell me, do you have any inkling at all? Would they be warriors, or another healer?”
“Nay, Kerlin. Neither a warrior nor healer, but what I did hear mention from Tom is the possibility that Master Robert’s wife from that time is one…”
“His wife? Ah, me. I could see only disaster arising from that.”
A subtle hint of a smile appeared ever so briefly on Craycroft’s face.
“Well, that is but one possibility – but assuredly, I know not.”
“I was just wondering in what capacity could young Tom even think that Master Robert’s wife would be of use. There are dangers that she would be facing of which she would not even be aware. And she cannot fight…”
“Nay, you are correct. Tell me, what do you know of Fausto?”
“Fausto, m’lord? He is one of three brothers of the Forest Guard. He is a giant, and a truly one of the very best fighters of the Guard. Now his brothers, Stefano and Justinian are truly wise in the ways of the forest. But why ask you of them?”
In answer, Craycroft took a small piece of paper, which was curled up on the table, and handed it to Kerlin. Kerlin knew that the paper represented communication, presumably from Tom. He read the small note.
The Lady Marilyn is now among us.
Fausto of the Guard shall be her
companion and guide. More to tell shortly.
Also we may be receiving another, Charles Stephens -
“Kerlin, does he not sound more and more like his grandfather? I have noticed of late that his gaze seems far off, and it is as if he hears voices from a realm closed off to us.”
Kerlin looked at Craycroft silently for a moment before speaking. “Aye. That I have noticed as well. And that note, from the pigeons I would presume, is very telling in what it says, but even more in what it implies.”
“Agreed. I do hope that young Tom shall be here soon, but it was I who sent him out to seek Drachma’s counsel. And so, it should not be too much of a surprise that he is sifting through the winds of time. My only hope is that he does understand the extreme nature of our present discontent and danger.
“Well, here comes a page, now. Tell me, lad, are they gathered?”
“Aye, m’lord, they are here.”
“Come, Kerlin. Let us face even our friends with this most odious news.”
“Of course, m’lord. And I shan’t say a word of Tom’s efforts.”
Craycroft nodded. Then the two of them, with the young page leading the way, left the drawing room, and walked on down the massive corridor to the meeting hall.
From the look on their faces, it was obvious that the persons in the room knew that something evil was afoot. Seated around the table were Councilor Rust, Captain Proust, Jeanne and Cayman.
“M’lord, Craycroft,” began Cayman, “I know that you have called this meeting in haste. And, to these present that would imply that you have foul news for us. But let me tell you, if I might, that whatever news you might have for us, I also bring news of a slightly more hopeful nature.” Cayman handed him a small piece of paper.
After studying it, he asked, “I assume that you did just receive this?”
“Oh, aye, m’lord. Nigh unto five minutes ago.”
“Why, thank you, Cayman. And you are right, the news I have for all of you is not good at all.” Craycroft pulled from his case the letter which he passed around the table. They took turns reading the note and handing it to the next person. When it got to Jeanne, she immediately handed it back to Craycroft. All their eyes were turned to her, and anxiously waited for her to say something. She was silent for a moment, and then from her lips came a torrent of words very unlike the lady they knew.
“If any in this room do believe that I shall remain passive in this time of turmoil, then I shall prove them so wrong! This vile snake has caused me to be away from my dear friend, the lady Judy, at a time when she needs me the most. And then to have my own dear Clarice injured! And now my own husband taken away from me in such terrible fashion – this is too much evil for me to stand quietly by. And now this letter, what it asks, we simply cannot abide.”
“But Lady,” said Councilor Rust, “we must at the very least, discuss just how we might attack this scoundrel’s ploy. I do remember him well, as does Master Kerlin. He is not one who cares a whit for others, except that they serve his own purposes. And I fear that Melchior does know this as well.”
“That he does, m’lady,” added Kerlin. “Now, I would suggest that we all hear what Lord Craycroft knows, and what he has done so far.”
“You are well aware of the evil depths of which Master LeGace is capable. And, in particular, you know of his most recent treachery, which is spelled out in this note.” He reached down and picked up the paper, which he plucked up, and crumpled in his hand. “And let me tell you of what I have done thus far. When I heard that Melchior had been abducted, I did send a party in search of him and the lass. This was, of course before receiving this note. The party was sent to Dunnigan’s Isle, toward which his boat was seen leaving. I did send a party of fifty men, and thus far I have heard nothing from them. But, as they do have pigeons, I believe that I shall be hearing if anything does come of their search.
“Also, you may not know, but I did send word of our plight to our benefactor, the earl of Derrymoor. And now I have here in my possession a communication indicating his imminent arrival. He should arrive this evening, and we shall provide horses and accommodations for him. And I shall assign Kerlin and Cayman the duties of arranging his welcome.”
“Does he say, m’lord, how many there shall be coming ashore?” Kerlin asked.
Craycroft hand the note to Kerlin. “Aye, that he does. He comes with fifty men.”
“It is terrible that Diane and Eustace are away, eh Cayman?” Jeanne couldn’t help noting. “I do recall that Lord Derrymoor does know of this fiend whom we seek.”
“Aye, that he does.” Craycroft continued. “In fact, his knowledge of this particular fiend surpasses even that of Melchior. So, what I am telling you is that even though our situation does appear dire, this guest is one whose knowledge and proven fortitude should provide most useful at this time.
“What say you, Captain Proust? I would assume that we do have the horses to spare within our stables?”
“Aye, m’lord, and any armaments which they might need as well. We have been carefully stocking our supplies for this sort of eventuality. And we shall have room for all the men in our barracks.”
“That is good. And Rust, might I ask of you to speak with the council about these matters? I shall try to be available, but who is to know if I am able to be in attendance.”
“Certainly, m’lord. I shall convene the council yet today. And I shall explain what I may of this situation. Might I have that note, to share with the councilors?”
Craycroft took the note, now a crumpled ball, and handed it to Rust, saying nothing. Rust straightened out the note, read it again, and then spat out the words, “If you think that the Council will oblige, then you are most sorely deluded. We have no intention…”
The was a knock on the door, and it was announced that Mortimer, Aaron and two strangers were there, seeking Master Craycroft’s attention.
“Well, then,” replied Craycroft, “If it is Aaron, then I do believe we should let him in. He may well have something important for us to know.”
The two youths were let in and following them at a respectful distance came Clifton and Enoch.
Craycroft welcomed the boys and the two men, and then asked the youths to introduce their companions, and to tell why they had brought them here.
“Why, m’lord, this be Clifton, and also Enoch. They be stayin’ at Barncuddy’s Ale House. Though they be strangers to our castle, they do bring some news that ye might have interest in.”
“So be it, my young page. Now, my name is Craycroft, and it is I who rule this isle, with the blessing of the king of England, and the earl of Derrymoor. And about this table we have some of Shepperton’s finest. And who might ye be, and why might ye be here?”
Before they could answer, Rust commented, “Now you said your name be Enoch. And it seems that I know your name and face. Might we have been students together at some time in the past? Perhaps at Cambridge - so many years ago?”
“Oh, aye. Ye be Master Rust, no?”
The two men then told of their quest, as well as their own backgrounds, to which Rust and Craycroft listened intently. But then they explained their brief stay in Killiburn, and how they listened in on the plotting of the two men, and their doings with the ship’s captain.
“Now, could this captain have been an Italian?” questioned Kerlin.
“Oh, aye, there be no doubt in my mind,” answered Clifton, “for I know that ship was either Portuguese or Italian, and the captain’s accent was clearly Italian.”
“Did you get his name?” Craycroft asked. “Could it have been Gregorio?”
“Nay, that I didna’ obtain. But what I can tell ye is that one of the two men did converse with him in another tongue, which could well have been Italian.”
“Well, it fits. I am certain that one of the men was certainly Guarneri, and who his companion would be - that is most assuredly Patronis. But that still leaves us no answer as to the whereabouts of our enemy, LeGace.”
“True, m’lord.” Kerlin added. “But it does provide us information about Gregorio. Now, if you could but provide us with some knowledge of where Count Gregorio was going…”
“If it please this august body, I would say that this ship’s captain, Count Gregorio, was going, not toward this castle, but into the forest, and the mountain, at the insistence of this other, whom you called Guarneri.”
“That is most interesting,” noted Craycroft, “and particularly since Master Robert and his entourage are now somewhere in that same vicinity. It is enough that I would wonder about Guarneri’s knowledge, and his plans.”
After a moment of silence, during which all were thinking their own disparate thoughts, Craycroft stood up, and he addressed the assemblage.
“My friends, in this hour of most special urgency, it would seem to me only fitting that these two men would appear on our doorstep, and bring us news both timely and pertinent, and that we should reward their most observant efforts. In that regard, I should ask Aaron and Mortimer to talk to Master Barncuddy, and to make certain that he knows that their tab for food and lodging is to go to our bursar for as long as it takes to find more suitable quarters. And please also show them our institute of learning and extend to them my personal invitation to attend any classes that they wish – once Master Robert and Master Melchior are returned among us. And be certain that they are made most welcome at our table this evening.”
Enoch and Clifton were so stunned by this show of generosity that each was rendered speechless. But they did bow their heads in recognition as they were led out the door by the two pages.
“As for the rest of you, Rust, you know what to do with the Council.” Rust silently acknowledged, as he stood up to leave, the note in his hand. “Cayman and Proust, I am quite certain that you shall make everything ready for Derrymoor’s arrival. And you shall bring him hence, no matter the time.”
“Aye, m’lord, and I shall be watching for any more messages,” said Cayman, as he stood with Captain Proust to leave.
“But now, Jeanne, I would ask that you accompany Kerlin and me to my quarters. There is much that we need to discuss.”
Her countenance had changed during the course of the previous meeting. What replaced the absent and forlorn look was replaced by one of rigid steel. “Very well,” she answered, “let us do more than discuss these matters.