I – THE MATTER OF TANCREDUS
On the morning of September 25, Thomas fitz Roy stood before his fellow magi and took charge of their quarterly meeting.
THOMAS: ‘Fellow magi, I’m pressed for time this morning so I hope you will not take offence if I chair the meeting with an eye to getting it over with quickly.’
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (nods of general assent).
THOMAS: ‘Very good then. Now, first off, you’ll recall the troubled priest of the village of Bogue, Brother Tancredus, who has been living these past six months in our magical woodland?
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (more nods and an ‘aye’).
THOMAS: ‘Well, it seems we have perhaps neglected him a little too much, and what I have to relate is a somewhat disturbing. He sent me a note a few weeks and asked me to come and visit him, which I did. I’m afraid he has taken it upon himself to cut out his tongue so he can never speak evil again. He did this on his own and the result is a butchery, to say the least, but it has healed and he seems well enough, physically. I must admit it is impossible for me to judge his mental state, but his writing was lucid enough.’
RADERIC AND MEDIGAS: (vaguely disapproving sounding murmurs).
THOMAS: ‘It was not his tongue which caused him to write to me, however. It was a need for companionship. It seems he has grown tired of living in the woods by himself, never seeing another soul nor reading a book. He would like to be useful again, and to serve, as it were. He has asked if he might work in the scriptorium for us. We don’t have a scriptorium, of course, but nevertheless I’m sure we could make a room for him. It would help perhaps to free up some of our time, not to mention that of Brother Erlend Svensson as well, who is very valuable to us in other respects. I feel this would be both a benefit to him and a boon to the covenant as well. What say you both?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ah… what are the whereabouts of Brother Tancredus’ tongue?’
THOMAS: (taken aback for a moment) ‘Ah, oh… I believe he burnt it. At least, he said he did. Dare I ask…?’
MEDIGAS: (ignoring the question) ‘Shame. Anyway, I for one, would welcome the scribal help. I have much copying to do and little time. I should like to get this copy of our medical text completed.’
RADERIC: ‘You mean the one that we promised to the tinker, Raibert Caird.’
THOMAS: ’That’s exactly what I had in mind. I shall send Brother Erlend out to fetch him and bring him home.’
II – SILKBEARD AND ST ODHRAN
MEDIGAS: ’That’s settled, then. Now, I would like to speak about the enchanted items I am making for the three of us. You will recall that I’m planning a trio of items which will help us to stay connected, though we be miles apart. I’ve made some progress on them, but need some harder material in addition to the base metals. I feel that a couple of gemstones of some kind would be ideal. They need to be small enough to be fit into Raderic’s earing, Thomas’s signet ring, and the rims of my lenses.
RADERIC: ‘Well, Medigas, if it is gems that you’re after I might have just the thing. The other night while Brother Erlend was in his cups in the grog hall to told the tale of an old Dublin Norse king who perished and was buried on our shores. If you’re not averse to a little tomb-robbing it seems likely that treasures might be found within his burial mound.
MEDIGAS: ‘Would it, perhaps, be possible to speak with the dead to gain permission? A norse king of Dublin might not rest easily on a foreign shore.’
RADERIC: The king’s name was Sygtryggr. Sygtryggr Silkeskeg. I believe he is the same as person as ‘Sitric Silkbeard’, a norseman of some legend who lived about a hundred years ago. Erlend heard the story from one of his old Ceili De brethren, a monk named Finglo Clayge from the Isle of Mann. Erlend’s tale went on for some time in a rambling way, about wars in Ireland and raids on Wales, and the deaths of most of Sygtryggr’s sons. The most interesting part was about the death of Sygtryggr, himself however. Old Finglo claimed to know the tale of the king’s last days spent in exile, which is not recorded in any book. He related the story of several glorious years of raids on the churches and monasteries of Galloway before finally falling at the hands of angry locals near Sunnoness in Farines. His burial mound is said to still be there, and probably contains his boat and personal treasures. Finglo and another novice, Brother Madoc, heard this from their old abbot, Oleif Tyrkyrrsson.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, I think we should look into this. Is there anything preventing us from organizing an excursion this week?
RADERIC: ’Not per se, but I should tell you that we have all been invited to the village of Dalri to a festival on October 27th to celebrate the feast fay of St Odhran of Iona and to mark the opening of the new church there. This is the church that will replace the one at Bogue, which remains a tainted place after your adventures there, Thomas. (see st lasar 1).
MEDIGAS: ’Hmm. How many should attend this festival from Ken Muir, do you think?’
RADERIC: ‘It seems they are expecting a large delegation.
MEDIGAS: ’Would two thirds of our population be enough? We should leave enough people behind to protect Ken Muir. We must not appear to be reluctant to go – nor too eager.’
THOMAS: ‘That sounds fair. I agree that we have to attend.’
RADERIC: ‘I wonder what they’ll do with that old church at Bogue.’
MEDIGAS: ‘I have no idea, but perhaps it would be best to keep this from Brother Tancredus. There seems no need to test his mental stability at the moment. Perhaps Erlend could invite Tancredus up to the bailey only after the feast day of St. Odhran. It will give us time to rig up a scriptorium of sorts anyway.’
RADERIC: ‘And we’ll need to obtain some parchment, too.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Speaking of needs, I feel we need some more capable grogs. Those that we have are hearty in a pinch, but are either unreliable or slow thinkers. We need a few more that can function as solid errand people.’
THOMAS: I will speak to William of Furness about finding some more capable people. Shall we move on to the next item?’
III – MONYGOF AND THE MACETHES
MEDIGAS: Very well. I have some news to share, too. I’ve been hearing vague rumours of disappearances in the Galloway Hills, and someone from Monygof even claimed to have been chased by tree roots, of all things – only escaping after crossing over a burn. This smacks of magic, for sure. You will recall that Monygof is also where Raibert Caird said that someone was looking for that book on alchemy.
RADERIC: ‘Tree roots? There were whispers at my old covenant of something like that – about a sinister servant constructed of branches and the roots of trees. Could it perhaps be the same? I had thought such a thing was little more than an apprentice’s rumour – often hinted at but never actually achieved. I understand that a modicum of mandrake might be required, along with a fresh corpse…’
THOMAS: ‘Mandrake!? Hey, wait a minute! Didn’t you give your former mentor some of my meagre supply?! The cheek of it! And Monygof is practically on our doorstep!’
RADERIC: ‘Who, Bodach mac Beitha? He would never do such a thing…’
MEDIGAS: ‘Mandrake can be used for many things. Let us not jump to conclusions.’
THOMAS: ’I’m not happy about this. People will be pointing fingers at us!’
RADERIC: ‘Perhaps you are right. I can only apologize for that, Thomas. It seems it was a hasty decision on my part to offer some of your mandrake to the old mage. It seemed at the time that it might be wise to buy his loyalty. Still, I would caution that we should speak to him again before accusing him.
MEDIGAS: ’Yes, there are likely more hedge wizards than just him in those hills – not to mention bandits, raiders, and whatever else.
THOMAS: Speaking of raiders, some of the grogs claim the MacEthes of Merton are planing a large cattle raid, likely against one of the large drives that comes down from the highlands to Appleby or Carlisle.
RADERIC: ’That would mean raiding into Strathnith or Annandale, then? Such a raid might raise tensions between the Scottish nobles and our Galloway lords!
THOMAS: ’My man William of Furness assures me that no MacEthe was ever smart enough to pull off such a raid, though. I’m sure it’s all just so much bafflegab amongst the grogs, but this is what occupies their puny minds. However, if we do hear more of raids, we might want to keep a closer eye on our sheep. The wolves were bad enough.’
MEDIGAS: ’I’ve heard that the MacEthes are bad apples. Should we not do something to prevent this raid?’
THOMAS: ’As I said, it is unlikely to come to fruition – though if we happen to come across some MacEthes with a herd of stolen cattle we should certainly confiscate it and teach them a lesson.
IV – THE ITALIAN
Just then there was a commotion on the stair leading up to the council chamber in the tower, followed by some shouting. Young Angus burst into the room, breathless, followed by an abashed Corwynn, who was supposed to be turning people away during the meeting.
CORWYNN: ‘My lords! I’m sorry but I didn’t mean to!’
Next a swarthy man wearing the deep red robes of a wizard strode into the chamber. He leaned on his staff and and peered through bushy black eyebrows at the three magi who sat in surprise at the table.
MAGE: (speaking in a dominant voice with an Italian accent) ‘Good morning, sodales of Ken Muir! My name is Albrechtus Luteus of house Flambeau. I’m sorry for not sending word ahead, but it seems your country is under-served by redcaps and I have spent the last several hours lost in your woods.’
MEDIGAS: (trying not to seem surprised) ‘From whence do you hail, sodale?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I am from Italia – perhaps you have heard of it.’
MEDIGAS: (Speaking in Italian) ‘Welcome, then Sodale, to our humble covenant. You have travelled far.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Indeed – I come from Tenebri Sanctum and have travelled to this, I will say it, inhospitable land, seeking to make a name for myself. You have many of these ’hedge wizards’ here in this country, no?’
MEDIGAS: ‘This is a raw place – like the wilderness beyond the beyond. There is much of value to be found here, but the finding and refining of it takes time.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘It is raw, I’ll grant you that. Even the woods turn against you. I got lost few times trying to find your abode, and eventually I had to cast a spell to counter the magic of the forest. Only then could I find my way to your hall.’
RADERIC: ‘Cast a spell?’
ALBRECHTUS: (ignoring the interruption) ‘Before I comma here, I landed by boat at Whitherne and spent some time with Gille Brigte mac Fergusa. You know this man? He is an ass! Not very hospitable to us good magi of the order. He claims no knowledge of a ’hedge wizards’ – that there are none, despite all the rumours I’ve heard in the south. He told me ‘go and see this Peter, Pietro, who makes the boats’. So I go and see him, but he said ‘If Gille Brigte sent you, I no talka to you! And he sent me away.’
RADERIC: ‘You spent time with Gillebrigte? He has no love for members of the order.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Its true. Same for his son, Mael Coluim mac Gillebrigte. A real bastaga, that one.’
RADERIC: ‘You saw Malcolm mac Gillebrigte, too? Was this at Cruddgledom Castle? For I have heard rumours that he has taken up the cloth and has been studying at either Viride Stagnum or Dundrennan abbey. This struck me as strange for such a coarse man.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I would say there is no holy bone in Malcolm’s body! It is said, during my stay, that he hunted a peasant for sport. He likes to go out and burn their barns. I like a good burning, but it has to be someone deserving, you know.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Albrechtus, how did you find your way here?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘Gillebrigte, he mentioned your place to me after I see Peter. He said ’Peter is hedge wizard’, but Peter is a good wizard of the order. He showed me his sigil before he told me to go away. So now I come here. You know you are the only covenant here in Galloway?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Yes, that’s why we came here.’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘So, you will help me find ’hedge wizards’?
MEDIGAS: ‘Why are you seeking a hedge wizard?’
ALBRECHTUS: (scowling darkly) ‘Why?! You aska why?! They outlaw! I killa them! I BURRRN them!!’
RADERIC: (speaking plainly in an effort to dampen the emotions in the room) ‘Well, you are likely to be disappointed. Some years ago here in Galloway we had a little incident and all the hedge wizards were burned. Even some of the good wizards were. Gillebrigte was telling you the truth in this case – there are no hedge wizards left. And he would know – he was largely responsible.’
ALBRECHTUS: (dumbfounded) ‘What? No hedge wizards in Galloway?’
RADERIC: ’I’m afraid not. You’ll have to take your search elsewhere.’
THOMAS: ‘What about this Beatha…’
MEDIGAS: (speaking over Thomas) ‘As you pointed out, the covenants are few and far between in this land. Where will you go next?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘I will go north, I think. But first I go to the Covenant of Blask Esk where I have a contact. It lies to the east of here.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Very well, You must stay the night, and in the morning we will give you anything you need for your journey.
ALBRECHTUS: ’I thank you for your hospitality. I will require a brazier in my room, if you please.’
MEDIGAS: ’I’m afraid we don’t have any braziers. We’re relatively new, you see, and supplies are hard to come by…’
RADERIC: ‘But perhaps a room by the smithy?’
ALBRECHTUS: ‘My fellow magi, you are most generous.’
THOMAS: ‘Angus, please take our guest to William and ask him to find a suitable room. Corwynn, wait outside the door and see that we’re not interrupted again.
After Albrechtus was ushered out, Thomas turned to Raderic.
THOMAS: ‘What about this Bodach mac Beatha character? You know, the hedge wizard that you gave my mandrake to and who might have made a mannikin?! What about him? Huh?’
RADERIC: ‘Let us not speak of him as a hedge wizard. He was not always such.’
MEDIGAS: ‘And we may still have need of him – at the very least to question him. Flambeau are known to burn first and ask questions later.’
THOMAS: ‘He did seem a little unstable. We should keep an eye on him. He could be dangerous. And what is this Tenebri Sanctum covenant – ’shrine of darkness’? That doesn’t sound good. I hope he doesn’t burn any grogs.’
V – A BASTARD OF A COUSIN
MEDIGAS: ‘Getting on with our meeting, I have heard that King Henry of England has declared both Waterford and Dublin to be royal cities under his protection.’
RADERIC: ‘Why should he do this?’
THOMAS: ‘And more to the point, why should we care? Ireland is not our concern.’
MEDIGAS: ‘The answer to the first question is that Henry is trying to reign in Richard de Clare, whom they call Strongbow, and the other renegades that are rampaging all over Ireland. He has done so at the behest of the clergy and Irish nobles. As for how this affects us, well, all of our shipping comes through the Irish Sea – right past Waterford and Dublin. These events could easily impact on the wool trade, which is our livelihood, and if we wish to continue shipping to Italy and Flanders we should be aware of such developments.
THOMAS: ’All the more reason to develop those mining interests you have spoken of.’
Now some new footseps were heard coming from the stairs. A voice called out from below: ‘Hellooo?’
MEDIGAS: (shouting to Corwynn outside the door) ‘Corwynn, would you see who that is, please. We’re not to be interrupted.’
Voices could be heard outside the door and then Corwynn called out.
CORWYNN: (calling through the door) ’It’s someone named Hugh, looking for Thomas Fitz Roy, magisters.’
THOMAS: (getting up and crossing to the door) ‘Oh, bother. Let me see what this is about.’
Outside, at the top of the step, was a rather raggedy man who smelled of over ripe cheese. He had wide, desperate, eyes and a noble demeanour, and yet there was something strangely awkward about him. Thomas instantly decided he didn’t like the look of him.
RAGGEDY MAN: (tripping over his words) ’I’m looking for Thomas fi….’
THOMAS: ‘I am Thomas. What do you want?’
RAGGEDY MAN: ‘Thomas, it is me, cousin Hugh… er… that is if a bastard can have cousins. I understand that you have agreed to help me.’
THOMAS: (firmly) ’I’m sorry, er, Hugh, but I don’t know where you would have gotten that understanding. I don’t believe….’
HUGH: ‘From a good friend of mine – Gilbert fitz Gospatrick of Workington. I’m Sir Hugh de Morville of Westmorland!’
THOMAS: ‘I know of Gilbert fitz Gospatrick, though I haven’t met him. How is it you’re my cousin?’
HUGH: ‘My father, Hugh, was the older brother of Simon fitz Hugh and Richard fitz Hugh de Morville. And you, as I understand, are the bastard son Roy who was the bastard son of… anyway, that makes us second cousins – if a bastard can have cousins.’
THOMAS: ‘All right, but what is it you think I can do for you?’
HUGH: ‘Well, you see, I’ve come up here seeking shelter. I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of a kerfuffle back home in England, you see, and I find I need a place to lie low – a little ‘me’ time as it were’. And actually I’ve been here for quite some time already, but I got lost in the woods for a while and I spent some weeks living in a hut with a crazy old man who had no tongue and then strangely today of all days everything became clear and I managed to find my way into the castle and… here I am! And I’ve been told that you would be expecting me by my good friend Gilbert – I’m not too late, am I?’
THOMAS: ‘That may be, but I’ve never actually met Gilbert nor have I shared words with him so…’
HUGH: ‘But you’re my cousin…’
THOMAS: ‘Well, if a bastard can be a cousin. Say, you’re not the Hugh de Morville who ran into all that trouble over the Archbishop of Canterbury?’
HUGH: ‘Oh, that damned farty old man! He dogs me at every step, curse him! I’m being set up here, damn it. The king told me to do it! He said “What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?” He fairly asked me to kill him, so I bloody well did, and where’s it bloody gotten me? To a muddy little castle in a muddy little kingdom beside a muddy little sea – that’s where!”
THOMAS: ‘Well, what do you want from me? A place to hide? Do you realize that this could get me into serious trouble. We’ve heard the Pope himself is looking for you!’
HUGH: ‘Well… phht. Nobody can even find this place!
THOMAS: ’Very well. Look. I’m in the middle of something at the moment. I’ll have someone find you bath and a place to stay for the night (Angus! Get up here!) My fellows and I will discuss your predicament and we’ll speak to you again later. You can’t stay here indefinitely but perhaps it will be safe for a short time until we can find a better place for you to hide. Angus!
Angus came running up, looking haggard and just a little burnt.
THOMAS: ‘Angus, at last. I fear you’re not quite up to your usual vigour today. Please take our new guest, er, Clement Black (yes, that’s good), here to see William and tell William to find a room for him, preferably not too close the the Italian. Very good.
Thomas returned to the council chamber, closing the door once more behind him.
THOMAS: ‘We seem to be finding no shortage of trouble today. It seems my cousin Hugh de Morville of Wesmorland, of clergy-murdering fame, has decided to show up on our doorstep so as to ’lie low’ for a time. I told him he could stay for a bit, but we’ll need to discuss in earnest what to do with him long term.
RADERIC: ‘We should turn him in.’
THOMAS: ‘Oh, I’m not so sure about that. He’s family. And anyway it seems that King Henry asked him to do it. I’m sure it’s all a misunderstanding.’
RADERIC: ‘But think of the implications should it come to light that he is staying here with us. Why, at our last council meeting did we not discuss that King Henric himself was looking for him? And did Henric not send a sizable delegation to Rome in an effort to prevent the Pope from placing England under interdiction? So I’m sure we can expect that the king’s men will be arriving in Galloway soon enough to look for him. They’ll likely head straight to your uncle who shares the same name.’
THOMAS: ‘True, but they won’t likely come here. My uncle Hugh doesn’t exactly bandy my name about. Still, I curse that Italian for removing the confusion spell from the forest, however temporary. Perhaps I should simply make Hugh someone else’s problem – send him to my uncle.’
RADERIC: ‘Well, we do know some caves that might be a good place to hide him.’
THOMAS: ’That’s brilliant! We could send him to Rath mac Suibhne! I think that’s a plan. And speaking of which, I’ve heard that St Laurence’s well in Fairgarve has dried up – the locals are blaming it on witchcraft. What a well drying up has to do with witchcraft is beyond me…
VI – MESSENGER AND MERCHANT
Thomas was interrupted by yet another call from below. Corwynn poked his head into the room briefly.
CORWYNN: ’Don’t worry, my lords! I’ll take care of this!’
And then he disappeared, tromping down the steps. He returned a few moments later.
CORWYNN: ‘Um. My lords, I’m sorry to interrupt, but the representative from Uchtred is here. Should I show him up?’
MEDIGAS: ‘I think we’re nearly finished, so why not.’
A tidy young man with a neatly trimmed beard was ushered into the room. He wore rather plain clothes but of obvious quality. He bowed to the three magi.
JOHN: ‘I bring greetings from Uchtred mac Fergusa, magisters. My name is . Uchted has sent me here as his representative. ’
MEDIGAS: ’Welcome to Ken Muir, John. I am Medigas of Florence. This here is Thomas fitz Roy and this is Raderic mac Gillolaine’
JOHN: ‘I an honoured to make you acquaintance, my lords.’
MEDIGAS: ‘We are no lords. Magister will do fine.’
JOHN: ‘Very well, magister. Lord Uchtred bids that I be your messenger, should you need to send to Castle Fergus for anything. He has mentioned that you will be sending one of your own, a reciprocate, to Castle Fergus should he need to send a message to you.’
THOMAS: ‘Yes, we were just discussing that very thing, as a matter of fact.
MEDIGAS: ’What sort of person do you think would be welcomed by Uchtred?
JOHN: ’Well, I would suggest someone who is both reliable and discrete – perhaps a squire with the wit to know, when asked by the Queen what her husband did on the day, what to say and what not.’
RADERIC: ‘I cannot help but notice that Corwyn lurks closely outside the door to our chamber. The boy would certainly be a fine candidate and, given his fascination with knighthood, would probably jump at the chance.
MEDIGAS: ’Well, we certainly can’t send Ugo.’
THOMAS: ‘Corwynn would be delighted, but he’s very useful to us here, and given that he can;t seem to keep people from the door of our council chamber today I’m having my doubts. Guillaume would also be a good candidate. He’s a little rough around the edges but he’s no stranger to a court and can be discreet.’
RADERIC: ‘I think the boy Corwynn should be rewarded for is (otherwise) good service. We should send him.
MEDIGAS: ’We should have the two of them rotate, but let us send Corwynn first.’
THOMAS: ‘Very well, it is agreed.’
There came yet again the sound of someone pounding up the stairs. There were a few moments of muffled discussion outside the door when Corwynn again poked his head in.
CORWYNN: ’It’s Fergus mac Donchadh. He said there’s a merchant here to see you by the name of Raibert Caird. He is carrying a large book.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Oh, yes, we were to make an exchange of books. Though I’m afraid we have not yet prepared the medical text I was going to provide. Well, send him in, anyway, and we call all judge the value of this bestiary.’
Fergus ran back downstairs. Raderic took this moment to look out of the window and could see the tinker on the ground below. He heaved a great book off the back of his donkey and and followed Fergus into the tower. Moments later he was in the room with the magi.
RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Greeting everyone. My lord Medigas. It is good that your young lad, Corwynn, here is present, for he can vouch to the terms of our agreement – that I should supply you with a copy of a bestiary from Aberdeen, while in exchange you will give me an alchemical text, or in its place a medical text. Well, I have here the Bestiary in question, though it has taken me longer to obtain it than I first thought.
MEDIGAS: ’Please bring it here and I will review it.’
RAIBERT: (manoeuvring the book into position before Medigas, who stood up to read from it) Yes, I’m sure as you will see that it has many fine letters inked within in a mature yet respectful hand. Sadly no illustrations, though there is this half-finished one of an ant near the beginning. I’d also like to point out these blank pages strategically placed so that you may add your own entries later…’
MEDIGAS: ‘It does appear to be a decent besitary. It has a descent entry on wolves and these a section on aves. However, there are several blank pages at the end and, on the last written page, there is a large ink blob and a smear, almost as if the book was removed from under the quill. It is mostly finished, but not quite.
THOMAS: ’Oh, I don’t know – no illustrations and not completely finished…do we really want it?’
RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Oh, sirs, though it is not a perfect specimen I’m assured it is the best copy of a bestiary in Galloway!’
THOMAS: ‘Oh, no. I’m sure there are many finer copies. Why, I’ve heard Uchtred alone has three of them.’
RAIBERT CAIRD: ‘Er, well, the best available copy of a bestiary in Galloway, then. If it please your masters, may I remind you that you were going to give me a text in exchange. May I see it?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Ah, yes, the medical text. As it happens, I have been working on it and it is now in about the same state of completion as this text – so perhaps in the end we have a fair trade, afterall.
RAIBERT CAIRD: ’If you will assure me that the text is largely complete I will agree to the exchange. I do not think my buyer is in need of illustrations.’
MEDIGAS: ’Very well, if you are hungry Corwynn here will show you to the laigh hall where to may take a repast. While you eat, I will send someone to fetch the medical text. You may leave the Bestiary here.
At this, Corwynn ushered the merchant out.
VII – PLANS
Raderic, who had stood by the window throughout this exchange, looked out again to see the peddler emerge. He went first to his donkey to make a few adjustments to the packs, then was about to be led away by Corwynn. But now Raderic could see two men on horseback ride into the bailey. One of them had a large knight’s shield partly covered on the back of his horse.
RADERIC: ‘I see two knights on horseback below. The merchant is speaking to them as if he knows them. Who might they be, I wonder?’
THOMAS: ‘More visitors? Indeed it is hard to make decisions today. May I propose that for the next meeting we go out to Tancredus’s hut?’
MEDIGAS: ‘Well, let us make some decisions here before we must deal with these two new visitors.’
THOMAS: ‘Very well. As these two new visitors may very well be in the service of King Henry, the matter of Sir Hugh de Morville is foremost in my mind. I like the idea of giving him some provisions and sending him back to Culwen where he can hole up in the cave.’
MEDIGAS: ‘But the moment we send him into sanctuary somewhere are we not then complicit? Besides, there is no guarantee that the entrance to the cave will be open.’
THOMAS: ‘No, I do not think we will be complicit; it will simply be a matter of turning him away. I owe the man no loyalty, cousin or no. We do not owe fealty to King Henry, but our liege-lord Uchtred may very well be upset to find we are taking sides.’
MEDIGAS: ‘We have not only the English King to consider, but the Church. The pope, himself, is seeking justice. Can we afford to antagonize them?
THOMAS: ’Church politics may not be so simple. Remember that Galloway falls under the see of York, not of Canterbury. Besides, nobody needs know he was ever here. As far as anyone knows he is simply ’Clement Black’. Only Tancredus might know who he is and he won’t be telling anyone, will he?
MEDIGAS: ‘And what of the two knights below?’
THOMAS: ‘Well, we don’t even know who they are at the moment, but if they are looking for Sir Hugh, I’m sure they will move on when we assure them that he isn’t here. Let us wait until we find out what they want and we’ll send Hugh away first thing in the morning. Now, what about the crazy Italian?’
MEDIGAS: ‘He is the one who has caused all this by nullifying the confusing aspect of our forest, for which we owe him no favours. Since he will be going east, perhaps we should send Hugh away with Albrechtus. Then we may tell the knights that Hugh has left in the company of a heretic and let the two parties deal with each other!
THOMAS: ’Ohh, that is both nasty and ingenious! Apparently you people from Florence play for keeps. We can tell the knights today that Sir Hugh left with a practitioner of the dark arts, and that they went north together. They will surely leave right away to try and catch up. Then, in the morning we can send Sir Hugh and Albrechtus away.’
MEDIGAS: ‘Better yet, we should send everyone to the MacEthes of Merton, just in case they are planning something. We will tell Sir Hugh that the knights have been here looking for him, so he cannot stay, but that you have a suitable escort. We will tell Albrechtus that the MacEthes may be harbouring a hedge wizard.’
RADERIC: ‘Ahem! I’m not sure this is the most sober of plans, but it’s a start, I suppose. Clearly, dealing with our many visitors is the most pressing matter. After we have dealt with them, we will go and look for this tomb of Sitric Silkbeard to see what might be found therein. We must be back by the end of October in order to attend this feast day at Dalri. And I am most disturbed by the thought that Bodach mac Beatha might be dabbling in dark arts, so I should like to speak to him as soon as possible. If he is dabbling in things he should not, it might put us into good stead with the Order of Hermes to turn him in. And furthermore, I resent that he might be giving hedge wizards a bad name by dabbling where he should not.’
THOMAS: ‘Indeed – it is people like Bodach who are responsible for creating people like Albrechtus. Believe me, I would be more than happy to rid myself of all of these people who have dropped their problems on our doorstep.’
MEDIGAS: ‘If you go to see Bodach, I will go with you. He is likely to be powerful, and possibly beyond our ability to deal with him. We should take William and a few grogs.’
THOMAS: ‘You two go. I will stay here and try to get rid of all these people.’
RADERIC: ‘I could take the opportunity to visit my family in my village as well. And we might also look further into the location of this tomb if we are going in that direction.’
THOMAS: ‘Agreed then. And adjourned. I will got and take care of our various guests while you two prepare to go west into the countryside.’