117. In Castle Inter Lucus
Esteemed General Ridere,
I hope this letter finds you well. Captain Acwel Penda has come to Inter Lucus, bringing your greetings. Thank you for sending him. I convey my greetings to you by means of Godric Measy, who bears this letter.
Unfortunately, Captain Penda met up with three scoundrels who intended to wrest Inter Lucus from my control. Instead of arresting them immediately as conspirators against a castle lord, Captain Penda aided and abetted their conspiracy by giving them bottles of liquid fire. Captain Penda has confessed his crimes to me and to Lady Mariel of Pulchra Mane, via Videns-Loquitur. Queen Mariel will no doubt send confirmation of all I say, though her message coming by sea may not reach you as quickly as this letter.
Captain Penda says that he joined the conspiracy against Inter Lucus only because he believed I had deserted my castle. He claims to have acted in good faith as regards his service to you and Queen Mariel and with no enmity toward me. As unlikely as it would seem, I believe he is telling the truth. Despite the blunders committed by Captain Penda, I desire that his embassy succeed. I desire that you and I communicate often.
Queen Mariel says that Captain Penda has been a loyal and brave soldier. Though Penda admits that his life is forfeit because he brought liquid fire into Inter Lucus without permission, I believe it would be a waste to execute such a man. Therefore, I beg that you not punish Penda or his men severely. I am sending him and his men (Stepan Dell, Wylie Durwin, Ned Wyne, and Bron Kenton) back to you. I am also sending the three outlaws who instigated this affair: Rothulf Saeric, Able Darcy, and Ewert Green. I have charged Captain Penda with delivering the conspirators as prisoners to you. Except for hearing loss, all these men are unharmed.
I beg that you acknowledge receipt of this letter by affixing your signature to it and returning it to me. Godric Measy has volunteered to serve as letter carrier between us. Captain Penda has suggested that two of his men could be appointed as guards for Measy, especially since they have made the journey to Inter Lucus already and know the way.
Captain Penda and his men know that if they do not deliver Godric Measy and the letter he carries to you, you will learn all these things nonetheless—from Queen Mariel. In that case they believe your response would be swift and merciless. Therefore I write with confidence that you will soon read my words.
With Sincere Respect,
Castle Inter Lucus
Marty read the letter aloud to Acwel Penda and Godric Measy while seated at a private desk in his bedroom. The soldier’s hearing loss had lessened overnight, but it was still severe. Penda watched Marty’s lips as he read.
“Your graciousness has spared my life, Lord Martin.” Penda’s arms were clasped behind his back, as if he felt invisible bonds. “The letter expresses the truth of the matter: When the Queen’s message arrives, if we have not reached Hyacintho Flumen, the general will wait only a short while before sending men to find us. I will speak with Stepan, Wylie, Ned and Bron. We will deliver the prisoners and the postman safely to General Ridere. You have my word.”
Godric folded the letter neatly and tucked it into a pocket inside his tunic. “I like the sound of that: ‘the postman.’ Much better than ‘dock laborer and sometime fisherman.’”
Marty met Godric’s grin with a scowl. “It’s an important job, Godric. The world is strange, isn’t it? I can talk with Queen Mariel any time I desire, and she can contact me. But neither of us can reach General Ridere except by letters that take days, many days in bad weather, to reach him. Mariel has ships for her letters. I need a postman.
“People find their true callings in surprising ways sometimes. You came to Inter Lucus on a lark, to see your friend Isen. And now you will carry letters that, God willing, will help bring peace. For all our sakes, I wish you success.”
“I can talk to Mariel any time I desire.” Marty considered the implications of his own words. In the heat of the moment, Marty had been utterly sure that his mental command would direct Videns-Loquitur to contact Mariel of Pulchra Mane. But now he wondered whether his confidence was well founded. Is that all there is to it? Name the contact, and the phone rings?
The community of Inter Lucus returned to its normal afternoon routine once Godric Measy, the three prisoners, and the Herminians departed. Some of the children busied themselves copying portions of the New Testament onto castle made paper. Caelin and a couple others were experimenting with new paper in the west wing. As always, two sheriffs stood guard at Inter Lucus’s doors, while the other two helped Eadmar and Teothic dig through the ruins of Prayer House. Marty used the time to experiment with Videns-Loquitur.
Mariel says she talks to other lords, but none of them has shown up on my screen. Who’s out there? I need Directory Assistance. The only castles I know are Inter Lucus, Mariel’s Pulchra Mane, and Hyacintho Flumen, the one the Herminians have surrounded. No, that’s not right. Teothic mentioned other castles and lords. What were they?
A name came to mind and Marty laid his left hand on the lord’s knob. “Lord Postel of Aurea Prati,” he whispered. The green aura encircled his hand, and a window appeared in the interface. Again the window showed a dim hall, a black and white still life. “Lord Postel of Aurea Prati.” Nothing. Mariel said something about me failing to answer her summons. Maybe Lord Postel doesn’t want to talk. Maybe he’s out of the room. Maybe… Geez, there must be a hundred possibilities.
A woman walked abruptly into the picture, as if she had been hiding just beyond the edge of the frame. She put two hands on the knob, and soft blue light surrounded them. She wore a sky blue kirtle, slightly darker in hue than the light from her knob. She had a squarish face, lined everywhere with wrinkles, and soft brown eyes. Her brown hair was stringy and long, tied in a ponytail behind her head. “By the gods!” She turned to speak to someone out of the picture. “It’s not Mariel. Come see.”
An elderly man in a black tunic and a cream colored sash joined the woman. His gray-white hair was as long as hers, and tied similarly. Marty estimated: Both seventy, or older.
“Fair afternoon,” said the woman. “I am Jean Postel, lady of Aurea Prati.”
Marty inclined his head. “Pleased to meet you. Martin Cedarborne, of Inter Lucus.”
The man looked puzzled. “Rubbish! Don’t lie to my lady! Who are you really?”
“Artus!” The lady shook her head. “Don’t be rude.” She smiled at Marty.
The man touched his wife’s shoulder. “Dearest Jean, the man is lying. I’ve been there. Inter Lucus was falling apart fifty years ago. By now it’s no more than a ruin.”
“In that case, I’m even more pleased to meet you,” Marty said. “Inter Lucus was indeed a ruin last summer when I came. It has greatly healed itself since then. Since you’ve been here, perhaps you can answer some of my questions.”
The old man made an unbelieving face. “I don’t…”
“Artus!” The lady interrupted gently. “Look at his hand.”
Artus Postel observed Marty’s easy bond with his Inter Lucus and then glanced at his wife’s hands on the lord’s knob. He bowed his head.
“We are well met, Lord Martin.” Jean Postel smiled. “You will have to tell me how a great lord restored a ruined castle.”
Copyright © 2014 by Philip D. Smith.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.