C’mon y’all! Keep that line flowin’, and lights a’glowin! Yeah right! Feel like we gettin’ close! I hope somebody know where we is, ’cause I’m lost, me!
Tyves 16th, 1513 – River Sulis, Lothianshire, Albion
The big iron gate squealed as Anna-Marie pushed against it, sending up a tortured sounding shriek. And of course with the dusk had come a summer storm, which was building up fog like some giant blowing smoke rings. She bit her lip and tried to orient herself. She didn’t come here very often. She didn’t have any reason to.
She knew–at least in daylight–how to get to where Cookie and Ayla were, Darry had brought her a couple of times. And once, just once, Elias had brought her to see his mama. Anna-Marie shivered as a cool breeze made it’s way up her back, or maybe it was the way that same breeze stirred the fog.
There was a lantern at every crossroads. And there was a statue of some sort, with lanterns by Elias’ mama, so, hopefully she wouldn’t lose her way. Oh, why couldn’t she have just told Mama or Papa where she thought Elias was and let them go try and find him. Because this was her fault and it was too like what Romeo’d do to just drop fixing it into someone else’s lap.
She sucked in a deep breath, her head twisting around. She wasn’t scared–or at least until an owl hooted, somewhere out there in the dark, and she jumped. Maybe a little scared. And grass rattled behind her and she was lost.
“Yer alright, sweetie.” A voice seemed to say from somewhere out there in the mist. But she didn’t see anything. “Just head up th’ rise there an ye’ll see the lanterns.” It was a strange voice, sorta like someone whispering in her ear, sorta like someone speaking in her head.
It couldn’t be anything too bad. This was a churchyard and the Lord Wright wouldn’t let anything bad happen to anyone in a churchyard. So, maybe–well, if the lady was right, there’d be light ahead and she could see, and if she wasn’t then Anna-Marie could just turn right around and walk back down the rise and find the path again.
Easy, right? Again there was a feeling of something out there in the mist, like an arm settling around her shoulder, a smell like warm baking bread and cinnamon and–floor wax? But she still couldn’t see anything. But she squared her shoulders and marched up the rise that voice had wanted her to climb and yes, right there, ahead was some sort of statue. A big crescent moon with lanterns hanging off it under a big old weeping willow tree. And just off in the mist she could see the statue of St. Vivian.
Anna-Marie thought she knew where she was now and the feeling, the smell started to float away into the mist, with one last ghostly sensation of someone smoothing her hair back. “Thank you.” She whispered to whatever it had been with her.
She walked a little closer to the moon-statue-thing. “Who’s there?” A suspicious voice called out, sharp and much more sim than what had been with her in the dark and the mist. And it was a familiar one.
“Elias?” She asked, peering around the moon statue.
“What do y’want?” He sounded near as sullen as Romeo. To make this right. She thought. Because nobody should be out here in the mist. Not when they could be home with their family snug in their house.
“I wanted to ‘pologize.” She told him, though he didn’t move.
“How’d you know I’d be here.” He asked, staring up at the sky.
“Cause your mama’s here?” Anna-Marie bit her lip. “I wanted my mama and papa tonight too an’ Romeo was a lot meaner to you.”
“My papa doesn’t care.” Elias said.
“Elias Butcher, don’t be a stupid-head. I knewed you were missin’ cause your papa came to our house looking for you, an’ your step-mama too.” Anna-Marie planted her hands on her hips and glared at him.
“My papa came to your house?” Elias said, his voice cracking a little. “I don’t believe you!” He added a moment later, loud, it seemed to bounce off the mist and the trees. Anna-Marie took a deep breath, getting ready to shout him down. Maybe she was dumb and this was her fault, but Elias was being dumb too.
“Anna-Marie!” Her mama called from somewhere in the mist behind us.
“Elias, oh, Wright you scared me.” Elias’ papa said, pounding up out of the fog, Mrs. Butcher hard on his heels. “What were you thinking?” If he still thought that his papa didn’t care about him, Anna-Marie would give him such a piece of her mind.
“‘M sorry, papa.” He said, face crumpling. “I didn’t mean to make you worry. Y’shouldn’t haveta worry ’bout me.”
“‘Course I’m gonna worry about ye, Elias.” Mr. Butcher knelt next to Elias who buried his face in his hands. Maybe this was what Romeo didn’t understand, maybe the Lord Wright had made it so people could cry for a reason. Because sometimes you were hurt and the hurt needed to get out somehow. “Ye’re my son.”
“But you have Kian now.” Elias whimpered.
“That doesn’t change what I have with ye, Elias. You will always be my son, even when I’m old and totterin’ around on a cane and ye are too.” Mr. Butcher pulled Elias against him as the sky started to cry too. “Ye’re stuck with me worrin’ ’bout you.”
“Papa,” He shook his head and started to try and pull away from his papa, but Elias’ papa was smarter than that, or maybe he’d just figured out he’d forgotten one too many hugs because he just pulled Elias closer.
“Why would you run off, Elias?” Mr. Butcher asked as Elias sniffled and sobbed into his hands.
“Cause Romeo said you don’t love me no more cause you’ve got the twins.” Elias sobbed out and that seemed all he could sob out because he became incoherent after that. Anna-Marie swallowed hard.
“Romeo? Romeo Rose from next door? Why would he tell you that?” Mr. Butcher asked.
“Cause I told his papa that he’d been teasing Elias an’ callin’ him a crybaby.” Anna-Marie said, dinner and guilt swirling together and trying to climb up her throat from her tummy. “An’ Guardsman Rose told Romeo he had to do double chores til Hybel cause he’d been being a bully an’ so Romeo come out and told us that of course we’d tattle cause you don’t love Elias no more with Kian and Violet ’round.”
“And he didn’t say anything to you?” Mr. Butcher asked.
“He didn’t get the chance, Anna-Marie punched him in the face ‘fore he could.” Elias muttered to his hands. Elias’ papa stared hard at Anna-Marie for a moment, before stroking Elias’ hair.
“Well, Romeo is wrong, Elias. I love ye so much and I wouldn’t never fergive m’self if anything happened to ye. Never.” Mr. Butcher said. “An’ I suppose I deserve ye thinkin’ ye couldn’t tell me ’bout Romeo.” He shook his head “But why didn’t ye tell Star. I thought–,” He trailed off looking at his wife.
“She isn’t my mama.” Elias reminded him.
“Well, no, she’s not. But.” Mr. Butcher sighed.
“An’ if I start thinkin’ about her like a mama, won’t I forget my mama?” Elias asked.
“Oh, Elias. No, ye won’t forget yer mama. She’s in here.” He put his hand over Elias’ heart. “An’ she’ll always be there. She’s there in ye an’ in Marina an’ she’ll be there whenever you need her. But sometimes…” He trailed off again.
“Sometimes you need a friend, eh?” Mrs. Butcher said, speaking for the first time. “An’ if you need a friend, you can come to me anytime, okay?” Elias nodded. Mrs. Butcher leaned down and gave him a quick hug. “Now, at the risk of sounding like a mama, it’s raining and this mist is getting mistier by the moment an’ we should all get home before we’re soaked to the bone.”
Mr. Butcher put an arm around Elias’ shoulder and lead him off into the gloom, Mrs. Butcher close by the other side. “Papa Bear is right.” Anna-Marie’s mama said. “We can’t fault your heart. But sometimes, me lass, I wonder ’bout your brains.” She ruffled Anna-Marie’s hair before they too walked off into the mist.
Tyves 18th, 1513
“Colby!” Eve gave him an enthusiastic, just shy of bone crushing hug. “I was beginning to think you were a figment of my imagination. Reggie says you come by, but it’s always when I’m at lessons.”
“Sorry, Eve. When you’re at lessons is when I can get away.” Colby told his baby sister.
“You could bring the kids with you. I can play with them while you talk with Reggie.” Eve told him with a light poke in the torso. While Eve was a ball of energy, a comet of laughter and warmth that could light up any room, attention pretty much always settled on the man on the other side of the desk.
Even just sitting casually, white shirt stretched taut over broad cafe au lait shoulders, energy seemed to pulse and swirl around him. There really was no question as to how Reggie could hold an empire the size he did, five minutes in his company would tell you that even if Miguel, Captain of the idiots as well as the Guard of River Sulis always wondered it.
Colby could have told him, of course, but he chose to not remind people that he and Reggie were related. Miguel would either question Colby’s loyalty–or he’d come up with some moronic plan for how to use Colby against his brother.
“So what does bring you here?” Eve flounced into one of the ornate chairs on this side of the desk.
“Well… I need advice.” Colby admitted to his hands. And he might be a man grown with four children, but he still came to his elder brother when he needed it.
“Divorce your wife and set your eldest son up as a cabin boy under a captain with a hard reputation, I know a few, if you’d like some recommendations.” Reggie said with a smirk.
“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Colby snorted sarcastically.
“Well, I think it’s good advice.” Reggie sending a wink to Eve.
“Romi would never forgive me if I sent Romeo away.” Colby said.
“He’d come back–hopefully with some sort of better perspective and a work ethic. And maybe not be such a little brat.” Reggie told him, thoughtfully. “But what did you need advice on?”
“Well, Romeo–actually. The Osmonts little girl, Anna?” Colby frowned that didn’t sound quite right.
“Anna-Marie.” He should have known that Reggie would know. He probably knew the name of every chicken in River Sulis, let alone ever child.
“Aye. Anna-Marie dragged the Butcher boy over to my house on Saturday. Romeo’s apparently been bullying the kid something fierce. And don’t say you told me so. I know you did.”
“When do I ever say I told you so?” Reggie asked with a quirked eyebrow. Okay, well, he didn’t say he told you so, even when he had. With Colby he didn’t have to. Colby was so used to hearing it from his wife that even if no one else said it, he still knew it.
“I made him apologize to the boy and gave him extra chores for a couple months in hopes that that might straighten him out–just a little.” Colby sighed. “But right after I gave him the punishment, he went outside and picked another fight with Elias.” Reggie shook his head. “But he might have bit off more than he could chew, because he did come back in the house with a bloody nose.”
“Elias Butcher gave Romeo a bloody nose?” Eve asked, sounding startled. How would–oh, yeah, Marina, Elias’s older sister was old enough to run in the same crowd that Eve did. She probably knew the kid enough to know that it was highly unlikely. Colby couldn’t claim to know either kid well, he didn’t have any children Marina’s age and quite obviously Elias wasn’t one of Romeo’s regular cronies.
“No. I’m pretty sure the bloody nose probably came from Anna-Marie.” Reggie said with a wry chuckle. “The Osmont girl is a spit-fire if nothing else.”
“Oh.” Eve said with a nod.
“So obviously taking the trash out every night isn’t going to solve the problem.” Colby sighed. “But hell if I know what to do with him that might make him see the error of his ways.”
“You could send him over here.” Reggie told him.
“Even if Romi wouldn’t flip, I’m not sure that Romeo would see that as a punishment.” Colby told him. Thinking back to all the times he had heard Romeo lording it over other children that his uncle was Reginald Rose.
“He’d probably get it soon enough if I have him helping old Ed spread manure in the flowerbeds and he gets stuck polishing the marble.” Reggie said.
“I dunno, Reg. Romeo seems to think that he’s gonna grow up to be just like you some day. Not me, slaving away at the city guard with nothing to show for it.”
“Because your wife doesn’t understand the concept of a budget.” It was Eve who said that, but still Colby winced.
“Still, he thinks being–what you are is–flashy.” Colby said with a sigh.
“He’ll never be what I am, unless he changes his personality entirely. And quite honestly I wouldn’t hire him, even as a grunt, with any personality I see him growing. But you’re right that we need to do something because I can think of a few people who would love to put one in your eye and mine by hiring him on.” Reggie folded his hands before standing up and heading over to pour himself some wine.
“I know what we do.” Eve said with a grin. “We do like Reggie suggested and have him come over to sweep floors and polish the marble and spread the manure and what not. And then we don’t bother hiding all the disreputable characters that Reggie has to deal with on a day to day basis from him like usual.”
“It’s partially our fault that he thinks it’s so glamorous to be–whatever Reggie is.” Eve sighed. “We have tried our best to hide the bad parts from the kids, you just still try and hide the worst parts from me when you can.” Colby and Reggie shared a shrug. “But if he sees some of the absolutely creepy guys who waltz in and out of this office, maybe he’ll see it’s not all sunshine and roses.”
“Maybe.” Colby said dubiously. “Romi won’t like it though.”
“Well, tell her if she’d discipline your kid then you wouldn’t have to send him to me.” Reggie told Colby flatly. Colby sighed. “It’s part of being a parent–or at least acting in a parental capacity.”
“Speaking of things parents have to do that aren’t fun, Reggie, you still haven’t told me if I can go to Lady Elizabet’s birthday party with Darin yet.”
“Aye.” Reggie and Eve nodded. “Darin seems to have gotten some sort of in with the baron’s son.” Reggie shrugged.
“Aye, I figured as much when Darin got caught on a pub crawl with Lord Joshua. But–still–Darin?”
“What’s wrong with Darin?” Eve asked planting her hands on her hips.
“Well, you’ve gotta admit, Eve, this family hasn’t had the best of luck, romantically speaking, with that family. And Darin is Sara-Beth’s brother through and through.” Colby sighed.
“It’s an invitation to a fancy dress party not a marriage proposal.” Eve tossed her head.
“I don’t know why you’re waiting for me to say yes, even if I said no, you’d just poke me til I said yes, so aye, you can go with Darin to the party.”
“Goody. Tell Romeo to be over after school tomorrow.” Eve said skipping toward the painting that hid a door between Reggie’s office and the private family portion of the house.
“That girl.” Colby sighed.
“Meh, she keeps me on my toes.” Reggie said. “And she’s a good kid.” Colby nodded and wished, just for a moment, whatever magic Reggie possessed, that it would be enough to make his son into what anyone would call a good kid.