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Chapter 3: To Catch a Spy

Started by DerynifanK, October 09, 2023, 09:56:42 AM

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Changes: Chapter 3: To Catch a Spy

Pursuit

Immediately after they had broken their fast the next morning, Kevin and Wash donned their oldest tunics, woolen breeches and heavy boots and headed to the practice yards. They had decided the night before that their best approach to the spy was through his current efforts to build up a business in selling swords and daggers to the knights and squires in Rhemuth. And the best place for the man to approach them was at the training and practice areas where they would be receiving instruction and honing their skills with their weapons.  The day was sunny and clear but cold, a perfect day for the strenuous exercises with sword, dagger, bow and lance.

The practice yards were busy. The two men found a practice area just being vacated and took  possession, drawing their swords and beginning loosening up exercises in preparation for their planned match. Neither of them had brought his best weapon. They wanted to attract the  attention of a man hoping to sell swords or daggers who would assess the quality of the weapons he saw. They had done a visual sweep of the spectator area when they arrived but had not seen the man they sought. They began working through a series of drills with their swords,   practicing feints, lunges and turns. 

After a short period of practice, Wash called a halt. Both men sheathed their swords and stood relaxed, catching their breath and allowing their pulses to slow. Looking about, they noticed some people had drifted closer to observe their activities. A few of the younger knights had drawn near to observe their moves and tactics. Another who was following their moves closely was older,  a tall thin man with dark hair and a crooked scar on his neck. As they again drew their swords and took their stance to begin the practice match, Wash grinned and winked at Kevin. They had attracted their quarry.

After a brisk match with both young men demonstrating some interesting new moves, they ended their session. There was applause from the watchers for their efforts. They sheathed their swords, draped towels over their shoulders and turned toward the path back toward  the great hall.  As they exited the practice yard,  the stranger approached them and bowed. "An impressive exhibition," he said. "I am most interested in swordplay, and new tactics and moves always fascinate me. Allow me to introduce myself,  Stefan Llewellyn at your service," he said as he flourished another bow.

Wash and Kevin bowed in return. "Sir Wasburn Morgan and Sir Kevin McLain at your service," they replied. Kevin studied the man with narrowed eyes. "Are you a man-at-arms then?" he asked.

"No," the man replied. "I am a dealer in weapons, particularly high quality swords and daggers. I have for many years traded in farm implements, but I found the demand to be declining in recent years as the farmers keep their implements longer, only replacing them when they are no longer usable . I am hoping that the market for new improved weapons will be brisker. I have come to Rhemuth hoping to display my wares and acquire new customers."

"Do you make the weapons yourself?" Wash inquired.

"No, I have formed partnerships with two very talented designers and makers of such weapons. I  travel about the kingdom, display the wares, take the orders and deliver them to the forgers. They will make the weapons and accompany me when I deliver them to be sure that they fit the needs of the new owner and are satisfactory. I would be honored to have the opportunity to show my wares to two such formidable swordsmen as yourselves." The man gave a friendly smile.

Wash replied. "We would be interested in seeing the weapons you have to offer. Perhaps we could meet after the noon meal when we would have an opportunity to examine your weapons. The armorer's would be a suitable location for you to display your wares and there is a practice area attached so we could perhaps test your swords if we found them to be suitable for our needs."

"I would be most happy to display my weapons for your inspection and to give you the opportunity to handle them. I will have them ready when you arrive. I am sure you will find them more than suitable." He smiled and bowed to the two men.

Wash and Kevin bowed as they turned to return to the castle. "Until this afternoon then." They walked along the path to the castle.

When they reached the McLain apartments, they quickly stripped off their practice clothes and washed to remove the sweat and dirt from their exercise. As he donned his court clothing, Kevin commented. "What do you think? He seemed eager to display his wares, but any seller of swords and daggers would be anxious to show his weapons to members of the King's Court. He would be hoping to entice knights and squires to order from him. How can we acquire the information we need? We can hardly come right out and ask him if he has other reasons for becoming a seller of arms rather than of farm implements? How can we get him to talk without giving away our own purpose?"

Wash's voice was muffled as he pulled his clean tunic over his head. But once the tunic was in place, he replied. "We need to try to ask some leading questions like where he sold the farm implements, what led him to try selling weapons, are we the first potential customers to whom he has offered his weapons. If not, who else has purchased from him. What led him to Rhemuth to offer his wares at Kelson's court.  Any information we can gain from him should be useful."
 
"We also need to pay attention to the questions he asks and which people he seems particularly interested in. I know the king has some of his squires observing the man but they will not have the opportunity to hear his conversations. That will be our task. The sooner we can learn what information he is seeking and at whose orders, the better."  Kevin grinned. "Kelson will be able to deal with any possible threats." He clapped Wash on the back and they left Kevin's quarters heading to the Great Hall and their noon meal"

As they entered the  Great Hall, Wash halted and surveyed those already seated. He was obviously seeking someone. His survey paused as his eyes picked out several students from the Schola seated together at a table to the right of the Hall. Kevin followed his gaze and found Lady Fiona sitting with Lady Isla. He glanced at Wash and noticed a hardness in his gaze not usually present when he looked at Fiona. The cause was not hard to find as seated between the two ladies was Prince Nivelon, engaging them in what appeared to be lively conversation. The prince was dressed in gaudy finery which reminded Wash again of a peacock.

Wash took a deep breath, gritting his teeth but saying nothing. There were two empty places at a table close by and Wash headed toward it. On reaching the table they bowed to those already seated and settled into the empty seats smiling and greeting the courtiers already at table. Wash claimed the seat which allowed him to look almost directly in front of him at the threesome that included Fiona. What was she up to?

 Pages stepped forward to serve the new arrivals and they were soon eating. Wash continued to watch Fiona, saying little and paying little attention to what he was eating. Kevin, however, allowed his attention to wander as he ate. His gaze was attracted by the man sitting at a table quite near Fiona. It was the spy and he appeared to be interested in the conversation between the Prince and the two ladies. Kevin wondered why he would be interested in their discussion. Ladies would not be greatly interested in the wares he sold although many of them did have daggers intended for self protection. It was unexpected and so, a matter of interest .

Wash continued to observe Fiona and her conversation with the prince. Nivelon appeared to divide his attention evenly between the two ladies, the interchange was lively and there were frequent giggles.  Washburn was not amused.

Fiona had seen Wash and Kevin arrive, and she noticed his intent gaze as he looked around the room. She also noticed his frown as his gaze locked on her and her companions. Although she pretended not to notice, she saw him take the seat at the table directly in front of her and she felt his stare as they ate. He was paying a lot more attention to her than to his table companions or what he was eating.

The party from the Schola finished their meal and rose, to return to their duties there. As they began to make their way out of the hall, Kevin expected the prince to escort them. However, while he stood and bowed to them as they left he remained standing at his place as they walked away. Then he turned and made his way out the main door of the hall. Kevin was interested to note that the spy left the hall in Nivelon's wake.

Wash and Kevin had finished eating and rose to exit the hall. Kevin nudged Wash as they left, "Did you see that our spy was sitting very near Prince Nivelon and appeared very interested in his conversation? He also followed the prince from the hall. I  wonder what his interest is there?"

"Was he now? Somehow I missed him there." Wash glanced aside at Kevin

"Well, your interest was focused elsewhere." Kevin grinned at Wash

Fiona and Isla strolled toward the Schola building chatting as they went.  "Did you see Washburn when he arrived in the hall? First he looked all around the hall as if he were looking for someone. When he saw us, his stared at me with a frown, then he and Sir Kevin took seats almost directly in front of us.  And he kept staring at us, especially me, as if he were angry for the rest of the meal. It was very disconcerting." Fiona sounded quite miffed. "The Prince can be quite amusing and I enjoy his conversation. Washburn has no right to criticize anything I do"

Isla replied, giggling, "It was only when he was looking at his adversary that the deep frown appeared on his face, whenever his gaze fell upon you, his lips could not help but upturn in a smile.  Did you not notice that? He clearly considers Nivelon a rival and resents his attentions to you."

"The Prince was certainly dressed to attract attention. He is such a popinjay.. And he seems to feel the need to impress me with his importance. He keeps mentioning the advanced age of his father and how he expects to be the ruler of Vezaire soon and hopes to extend its influence among the Forcinn states. He wants the land to be known for more than the excellent port wine they produce. I am sure he has more goals than finding a Deryni wife. I just wish I knew what he is up to."  Fiona frowned as they continued their way to the Schola and she thought about Prince Nivelon and his intentions.
 
Washburn and Kevin exited the castle and followed the path to return to the practice yards where they were meeting the dealer to evaluate the weapons he was offering for sale. "I don't think you noticed, since you were absorbed in another person, but Llewellyn was seated at the table just behind the Schola party and seemed to be particularly interested in the conversation between Fiona, Isla and the Prince. I wonder why? Ladies would not be greatly interested in his wares or likely customers. Might he also be interested in Prince Nivelon? I wonder what his interest in the Prince might be."

"A very good question. We'll need to keep that in mind as we observe him." Wash continued on with Kevin striding along side him.

When they reached the armorers Llewellyn was before them, already laying out his display of swords and daggers for their inspection. He watched closely as they studied the array of weapons before them. He first approached Kevin, "My lord, draw your sword and let me study it to see how well it is suited to your needs."

Kevin drew his sword and held it by the hilt, his stance relaxed. The man directed him to perform a series of basic moves while he observed. When he finished, Llewellyn held out his hand for the sword. Kevin offered it to him, hilt first and then watched the man as he studied the blade carefully, looking for any imperfections in the steel. He then balanced the sword on his forearm, testing its weight and balance, flexed it and swung it through a series of basic moves. He then returned the weapon to Kevin. "Not a bad blade but it is light for your use in battle and the balance could be better. I could fit you with a better one more suited to your needs."

He then followed a similar process with Wash's sword. "The weight of the sword is appropriate for you, but the balance also could be improved and the reach is not suited to your size." He offered swords from his display for each of them to handle in order to determine the best weight and balance for their weight and build. They spent some time trying out various weapons under the watchful eye of the dealer. Others were attracted to the activity and also began examining the wares he had laid out. Soon there were several squires and two of Kelson's knights expressing interest in his wares. This limited conversation on topics other than comparing weapons.

Wash and Kevin returned the swords they had been trying and buckled on their own blades again preparing to return to the castle. Llewellyn approached smiling, "Have you decided on a sword you might wish to purchase? If so, we will need to make arrangements for me to take your measurements which I will send to the forgers along with your order. I can assure you that the sword will be of the highest quality."

Wash returned his smile and replied, "Your wares are certainly of good quality,  but I wish to give it further consideration before I make my decision. Perhaps we can meet later this evening at the Tavern where we might be able to discuss the matter further." Kevin nodded his agreement.

Llewellyn agreed to the proposal that they meet later in the evening then turned his attention to the others who were interested in what he had to offer. Wash and Kevin began to make their way back to the castle.

Later that evening:

Wash and Kevin had finished their  evening meal and left the great hall. They returned briefly to their quarters then headed for the Golden Lion Tavern to seek out the arms dealer. On entering the tavern they sighted him sitting at a table near the back nursing a tankard of ale. They threaded their way among the tables to reach him. "May we join you? We can continue our discussion of the weapons you are offering."  Llewellyn nodded his assent, smiling. Wash and Kevin pulled out benches and sat, signaling to a barmaid who hurried over to take their orders.  Their tankards of ale arrived quickly and Wash took a swallow. He then addressed Llewellyn, "Have you had a successful afternoon?"

The arms merchant grinned. "Things have gone reasonably well. I have orders for swords from two of the squires and an order for a sword from one of the knights. And there is quite a lot of interest in what I have to offer. I have hopes that this will be a much more lucrative line of business than selling farm implements. Have you given more thought to ordering weapons for yourselves?"

"We are still considering the possibility of purchasing swords from you. The quality of your offerings is better than many we have seen in the markets. But such a purchase requires the expenditure of a considerable amount of coin, and we want to be certain that they will indeed suit our purposes. Have you marketed your weapons elsewhere and what comments have you received from others who purchased them? Have you shown them at any other courts and how were they received?" Wash took a swig of his ale and studied the other man with a smile.

Llewelyn smiled in return, indicating that he was not disturbed by any hesitation on their parts to make a decision or by their questions. "I have shown my weapons in several markets and to individual lords, but this is the first time I have brought them to a great court such as this. King Kelson has many squires and knights who are of course deeply interested in weaponry. I would be honored to demonstrate them to the king himself and of course to those in charge of training the pages and squires and honing the skills of those who are already knighted and serving King Kelson. Any recommendation from their masters on the training staff would naturally dispose possible purchasers to study my wares more closely with an eye to ordering one or more for themselves.Those who have already purchased and received any of my wares have thus far been satisfied with their purchases They have even recommended me to their fellow men-at-arms."

Llewelyn sipped his ale then continued. "There was one potential purchaser who was very intent in his perusal of the weapons. He asked a great many questions, particularly about their performance in battle and their balance and accuracy as well as how well they hold up over time. He did not appear to be shopping for a sword for himself, but in the possibility of outfitting a number of men with new weapons which would serve them well in combat. Do you know anything about this Prince Nivelon? I have not encountered him before and know little about him."

Kevin answered, "We have encountered him here at court but have not previously met him. He is the son of the present ruler of Vezaire and came to the king's court supposedly seeking a wife, preferably a Deryni wife. He says it was the presence of the Schola and its Deryni students that drew him here. He believed he had a better chance of success in his search there. He has been paying particular attention to  one or two of the senior students, but I have to say he is not quite as persistent as I would have expected of a man truly in search of a wife. We believe he has other intentions he hopes to fulfill while here at Kelson's court.",

Llewellyn grinned as he responded. " He certainly has a high opinion of himself, both as a prince and future ruler and as a soldier. He seems somewhat dissatisfied with the current security arrangements his father has in place for the Duchy, He seems to feel that Vezaire deserves a more prominent position among the Forcinn states. I believe he has ambitions to usurp the position of the Hort D'Orsal as leader of the group. He seems to have been encouraged in his aspirations by a man named Collos, who wields considerable power in the region. I once met the man briefly and he certainly appears to have formidable power and influence."

Wash and Kevin exchanged glances. This was certainly significant news that needed to be shared with both Earl Cameron and with the king. The mention of Collos made Wash particularly uneasy. Was his former captor again determined to try to bring Wash into his Order and was the spy here to seek more information about Wash himself and his current whereabouts as well as his status in Kelson's court? Or was there a prospect of unrest and even assaults on the present alliances among the Forcinn states, perhaps disturbing the balance of power there?  There were several possibilities, none of them reassuring.

Llewelyn continued to sip his ale quietly. "If unrest did arise among the buffer states, what do you think King Kelson would do? Do you think he would intervene to support the Orsal or would he try to intervene through negotiation?"

Wash and Kevin were silent, appearing to consider what might happen if such an event occurred.  "The Orsal and the King are allies and I am sure he would provide any support requested by Prince Letald or Prince Cyric, Letald's son and heir.  I am not sure what action he would take but I know he places much reliance on the Prince's leadership and the stability of that area. Young men are often too eager to change things when they are ill prepared for the consequences of such changes. If Prince Nivelon does have such ideas, let us hope that cooler heads prevail with him." Wash drained his tankard and set it down signaling the barmaid for a refill.

The discussion then moved back to the weapons Llewelyn was offering, their quality, their performance as fighting weapons,  the condition of their pommels, crossguards and handles, their heft and weight, how smoothly they moved through different positions, how  their centers of gravity enable them to act, whether the blades matched the hilts, how they could be expected to perform in battle conditions. The two knights were generally complimentary about the quality and performance of the swords they had tested.

"It is time we return to our quarters." Wash rose and addressed the arms dealer. "We will certainly consider what we have seen and what you have told us and we will let you know our decision about purchase. How long do you expect to remain in Rhemuth?"

"I am not certain. It will depend on the orders I receive and the time required to get the measurements and send them by courier to the designers and forgers. I will not leave without speaking with you. I will hope to receive orders from you for new weapons suited to your needs." Llewellyn also stood and bowed. 

Wash and Kevin also bowed, and the three men made their way to the entrance, bowed and parted ways to return to their quarters.
"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

Laurna

DFK moved her new scene to a new chapter  so I am moving over my responce.

QuoteI believe he has ambitions to usurp the position of the Hort D'Orsal as leader of the group. He seems to have been encouraged in his aspirations by a man named Collos, who wields considerable power in the region.

I am doubly certain that this weapon's merchant did not go causally mentioning Collos by first name to a man like Sir Washburn without devious intentions. Is he baiting Wash? Is he purposely framing Prince Nivelon for some horrid deed that has yet to come to pass? And who does this spy really work for? If he knows about Collos, is he one of his minions, or is he a rival guild? There certainly can not be very many rivals to the Black Order of Death.

I love the interactions of Fiona and Ilsa.  And yes, Wash is a little jealous of the attention Fiona is giving to the prince.  But in his heart he knows his love for her will hold true, and hers for him.  Contrary to his youth, he is learning to be a man of patience.

Good story/chapter DFK.  I am so happy you posted this. and I look forward to more.
More Please!
May your horses have wings and fly!

Bynw

Quote from: Laurna on October 09, 2023, 10:54:31 AMDFK moved her new scene to a new chapter  so I am moving over my responce.

QuoteI believe he has ambitions to usurp the position of the Hort D'Orsal as leader of the group. He seems to have been encouraged in his aspirations by a man named Collos, who wields considerable power in the region.

I am doubly certain that this weapon's merchant did not go causally mentioning Collos by first name to a man like Sir Washburn without devious intentions. Is he baiting Wash? Is he purposely framing Prince Nivelon for some horrid deed that has yet to come to pass? And who does this spy really work for? If he knows about Collos, is he one of his minions, or is he a rival guild? There certainly can not be very many rivals to the Black Order of Death.

I totally agree Collos wouldn't have anything to do with such a move. Something else is at foot here for certain. And Collos never uses that name, especially when dealing with business of the Order.

Oh there is at least 1 rival organization already in Canon. There could be more but no where near the age or level of power as the main two groups. Which of course are on the order of 200+ years old.

Quote from: Laurna on October 09, 2023, 10:54:31 AMGood story/chapter DFK.  I am so happy you posted this. and I look forward to more.
More Please!
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#3
Changes: Chapter 4: Fiona Investigates

It was late afternoon and Fiona was sitting at a table in the students' solar staring out the window before her at the sunny garden. Her elbows were on the table, her chin supported by her cupped hands. She appeared to be deep in thought. She sighed as she considered the paths opening before her, some of which she had not even considered when she entered the Schola. Now her time as a student was coming to an end, and there were choices to be made.

When she had left her uncle's manor to warn the king of treachery being planned against him, she had given no thought to what she would do once that objective had been accomplished. So many things had happened since then, but her primary goal for several years had been to gain admission to the King's Schola and learn about her Deryni powers and how to use them wisely. She had remained fiercely focused on achieving this. She had now reached her goal and was graduating. The main problem now occupying her mind was "what next".

Uncle Mac and Aunt Olivia wanted her to return home to their manor and to reside there until her future was decided. This idea did not suit Fiona at all. She loved them but she was not prepared to sit and wait while others decided her future. She had taken her future into her own hands before, and she was not prepared to surrender control of it now.

There were several possibilities before her. Queen Araxie had broached the possibility of Fiona becoming one of her ladies-in-waiting. Fiona had great respect and affection for the queen who had been most understanding and supportive throughout her stay in Rhemuth, and she was very aware what an honor it was to be a lady-in-waiting to the queen. But she could not feel that this role best suited her talents. She often had difficulty observing the rather strict decorum demanded at court and had been known to get into trouble on this account.

Fiona had done very well in her Schola studies and was highly thought of by her tutors and instructors. She was one of their top students. She also worked well with the younger students, especially those newly admitted. She excelled at setting them at ease and helping them as they began their learning journey. Based on their observations of her teaching and her ability to gain rapport with students, she had been asked to become an instructor in the Schola. They had need of teachers with her abilities. She had given it much thought. She enjoyed teaching and found her contributions to the development of the students very rewarding. But she was not sure this was the direction she should take.

Then there was Lord Washburn. She was aware that many at court had assumed that upon completion of her studies she and Washburn would marry. Indeed, she had expected their betrothal to follow quickly on her graduation. He had received permission from Earl Iain to court her but their meetings had not been as frequent nor had they lasted as long as she had expected. Wash had been much occupied with rebuilding the manor granted him by the king and establishing the healing center there. His letters had focused more and more on his work and seemed to contain less and less of his feelings for her. She had begun to wonder if his feelings for her were fading.  She sighed.
                                                                                                                                                                   
She thought back to the first time she had seen him riding into the stableyard of her uncle's manor, a handsome blond knight on a great black warhorse. She remembered how she had said to herself that maybe dreams did come true after all. They had been through much since then, and she had come to care deeply for him. When they had finally been able to meet alone together to talk, he had assured her that his feelings for her, rather than diminishing, had grown deeper. He had spoken of his regret that he had done such a poor job of telling her of his love for her. He had been on his knee before her beginning what she was sure was a proposal of marriage but they had been interrupted by a page summoning him urgently to attend the king. Now a betrothal had been placed on hold by the king out of concern for a threat caused by the presence of a known spy at court. Until it was known what information he was collecting, why and for whom, he represented a potential danger both to Wash and to her.

Fiona was so deep in thought that she failed to hear a soft knock on the door. When a second knock elicited no response, the door opened and Lady Isla peeked around it, surveying the room.

"Fiona, may I join you? I have been searching for you. I am hoping we can talk." She smiled as Fiona turned her head to see who had entered the room.

"Of course you can join me. I always look forward to our time together." Fiona smiled back at her friend.

Isla took a seat next to Fiona who turned to face her.. "What is it you wish to talk about? Is there a problem?"

"I am concerned about you. I know you have been worried about  Washburn and his intentions toward you. I certainly do not think that he has fallen out of love with you as you feared. I have seen how he looks at you and I think he is besotted with you. I thought we would hear that he was asking for your hand in marriage and that a betrothal ceremony is being planned. But nothing has been announced. Has something happened? What has gone wrong?"

Fiona frowned a little, considering how much she could safely tell her friend. She knew that Kelson did not want news of a spy at court to spread. If repeated, it would fly around court like wildfire. She took Isla's hand in hers and squeezed it gently. "I thank you for being concerned about me. A problem has arisen that has led the king to put a hold on any formal betrothal between myself and Washburn for the time being."

"What problem? Washburn is not in trouble with the King is he? Surely he has not done anything to lead the king to delay your betrothal. It's not involvement with another woman here at court is it? No, it certainly can't be that. When would he have had time to dally with another woman?  What other action could have aroused the King's concern? Did he think that betrothal and marriage would distract Wash, leading to delays in completion of the Healing Center?"

"No, it is nothing like that. As you noted, he has had no opportunity for dalliance and he assures me that his feelings for me are stronger than ever.  It is another matter entirely, but I am not free to talk about it .  What about you and Prince Nivelon? I was not very receptive to his attention. I believe that Sir Washburn's rather strong responses to his attentions to me may have caused him to reconsider. After all, he may have found Wash's reputation as a warrior intimidating and he seems to have abandoned any pursuit of me as a possible future wife.  I have noticed that the Prince has been distributing his favors among several other ladies here at court. Lately he has singled you out, spending more time with you and directing more attention to you. How do you feel about him? Has he found more favor with you as a possible suitor?"

There was a pause then Isla replied. "I'm not sure. He can be very amusing but sometimes, when he is addressing me, I feel that his real attention is elsewhere. At first I thought it was a different lady but now I just don't know.  Sometimes I almost think the hunt for a Deryni wife is a smokescreen not his real purpose or at least not his main purpose for being here.  He can be very arrogant and boastful at times, then he can also be very sweet at other times. I'm not sure which is the real Nivelon. If he is serious about finding a wife, he is not going about it the right way. Ladies do not want to spend time sitting in a garden while their suitor talks about weapons and defense alliances. You would think a gentleman looking for love or romance would know at least a little poetry or some courtly phrases but he does not employ any. I'm not sure what to make of him."

Fiona remained quiet for several minutes, her brow furrowed, then she  spoke. "I am going to tell you something that must remain in strict confidence. You must not repeat it to anyone. But it may be that you can help us solve the problem that has led the king to delay my betrothal."

Isla looked at her friend, her eyes huge, "I won't breathe a word." she said.

Fiona took a deep breath. "The King has discovered that there is a known spy here in his court. No one knows what information he is seeking or whom he serves. One of the possibilities is that he is seeking information about Washburn for the man behind his kidnapping. That man could be  planning another attempt to capture him, and information as to his exact whereabouts and position at court could be useful to this man. There is danger for Wash if this should be true and, if I am known to be betrothed to him, danger for me as well. They could try to use me to get at Wash. It was tried once before, at Arx Fidei at Bishop Arilan's funeral and could easily have succeeded. That is why permission for the betrothal has been denied for now. The only way to resolve this is to discover his true identity and what his purpose is here."

Isla eyed Fiona with concern. "How can we do that?"

Fiona replied. "The man who has been identified as a known spy from the time of the Mearan Rebellion is new to court, a merchant offering high quality weapons such as swords and daggers to the knights, squires and other fighting men here at court. Certainly they would be valuable sources of information for him. But I believe there is another possibility".

"Who?"

"Prince Nivelon."

Isla gasped. "Why would you think it might be him? Why would a crown prince be acting as a spy?"

Fiona wrinkled her brow. "I think he is acting for himself not for another.Think about his behavior. He is supposed to be seeking a wife, but how much time or effort has he really expended in such an effort? He seemed interested in me for a  time but he has now shifted his attention to you and one of the other senior students at the Schola and even that effort is not as focused or intense as I would have expected. And he has spent more time with the weapons merchant than I would have expected of someone with only a casual interest in his wares. I have heard that he placed orders for several swords and urged the merchant to travel to Vezaire to fit the weapons to their prospective owners.  Why would he be arming a number of fighting men in Vezaire?"

Isla frowned. "What do you think his intentions are? "

"I don't know. That is what we need to find out."

"But how?"

"I have seen him sitting with you at meals and walking with you in the garden. Get him talking, especially about himself and his plans. Flatter him. He has a very high opinion of himself and I am sure he would let slip some important information that we could give to the king. Any intelligence that we can provide that will help determine what exactly he is up to would be very helpful." Fiona reached out and squeezed Isla's hand.

Isla was silent for several minutes, then she looked  at Fiona with determination. "I"ll do it." she declared. "I can start right away. I have already agreed to join him in the garden after the evening meal, I will let you know what I learn. I really want to help. " Isla looked at her friend intently then rose and turned toward the door.

Fiona also rose from her seat. "I need to meet Lady Annabell for the noon meal, Will you join us?"

 Lady Isla nodded with a smile and the two young ladies left the solar together with their plan in place to help unmask the spy.




"Thanks be to God there are still, as there always have been and always will be, more good men than evil in this world, and their cause will prevail." Brother Cadfael's Penance

DoctorM


Laurna

Let us hope the young knights are not far away if there is trouble to be had. Speaking of trouble: Poetry? How the heck is Wash suppose to compose poetry for his beloved? LOL,  I can see many, many scribbled on parchments crumpled on the floor of his room.  Why of why had someone whispered in his ear that young ladies like Poetry. ;D

Love it DFK. I would love to know where this goes from here.
May your horses have wings and fly!

revanne

Nice to see Wash and Fiona again. I hope Isla is careful.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
(Psalm 46 v1)