Chapter Eight Rough Waters.
It was late afternoon when Sir Alexander, with the novices in tow, reached the Bishops manse. The bishop had been ill for a long while, his mind slowly leaving him, leaving behind a confused wreck.
The bishops body was in the garden laying in the mud.
“When we arrive at the scene of a death we don’t assume anything, we try to keep an open mind to the cause. We investigate the area for clues.” Alexander told them.
De Anjou went to walk forward toward the body when Tomas called to him.
“De Anjou stop. Ferret join me please?”
“Of course my friend.” Aziz replied unconcerned at Tomas’s use of his pet name.
Normally Alexander would be exasperated at their actions but today he was intrigued as to see what Tomas had spotted.
Tomas and Aziz carefully circled around the body pointing things out to one another without a word being said.
Soon they were in front of the Knight once more.
“Well gentlemen what have you discovered?” Alexander asked with a smile on his face.
“The bishop didn’t die here my Lord.” Aziz told him.
Tomas pointed to a foot print in the mud.
“Watch my Lord.” Tomas stepped carefully beside the imprint before returning without turning round, to the others.
“Oh that’s good.” De Anjou snorted. “The ground is muddy, it would show a footprint.”
“I must admit I’m not sure what you are trying to show me?” Alexander conceded.
“It’s the depth of the foot print. Whoever made it was carrying the Bishop.” Tomas told him.
Alexander carefully copied what Tomas had done then squatted down to examine the imprints. Even his mailed foot print was shallower than the suspect print.
He stood up and laid hands on the two young men’s shoulders.
“Well done the pair of you. Did you learn anything else in your study of the scene?”
“Yes my Lord. The person that put the Bishop there left in the opposite direction. See the footprints are much lighter here. The marks were not made by a boot of a serf or tradesman. There is no sign of wear in the imprints or nails.” Aziz explained. “The body is laying awkwardly as if just dumped here.”
“Not a natural fall then?”
“I think not my Lord.”
Alexander asked for silence before making his own circuit of the body.
When he returned to the youngsters he nodded his approval.
“You have done well. Samantha and Viktor you both have medical knowledge join me please? We are going to examine the body.”
The three of them gingerly approached the body and knelt beside it.
The lips were blue and the face was flushed with a single rivulet of blood out of a nostril.
“His heart has given out on him.” Samantha told them. “But then why move him?”
“Because where he died may have been embarrassing?” Viktor said.
“You could be right but it could also be that he was helped on his way.” Alexander stroked his chin deep in thought. “I think we can gather nothing new from examining the body further.”
“My Lord he seems to have something gripped in his hand.” Carefully Viktor prized open the hand to reveal a scrap of cloth.
Alexander examined it carefully and once satisfied signalled to the two monks silently waiting to one side.
“You may prepare the Bishop for his final journey. But inform me of anything that is unusual understood?”
“Yes my Lord.”
He took the youngsters a short way off.
“It seems that our Bishop has died somewhere else and possibly by someone’s hand.” He looked up from his musings. “Return to the abbey and apologise to Brother Patrik on my behalf for taking you away from holy services. Well don’t stand there with your mouths open like a landed fish. Go.”
That evening three events of importance took place though any outsider would find it difficult to say why.
Elizabeth was sitting on the porch step watching Brother Simon tend the garden. She had come to care for the young downs boy and loved watching him work.
“Brother Simon would you like a drink?” She called.
“Yes please.” He replied before carefully lowering his tools to the ground and crossing to her side.
“The roses are coming on a treat under your care.” She said with a smile passing him a pewter cup of watered wine. “Look at the state of your hands they are scratched all over. You have got to take more care not to get scratched by the thorns”
“Yes my Lady.” He replied with a smile.
He screwed up his face in concentration a moment.
“Are you going to marry Father Pierre?”
“I am not sure Simon. Do you like him?” She said patting his hand.
“No, he is evil.” The boy looked at her sadly. “I’ll put the tools away and go to the Abbey.”
“Why do you think he is evil?” Elizabeth asked a little taken aback.
“He hides his true face.” The lad said simply. “I’ll put the tools away and go to the Abbey. The Abbott will be cross if I’m late. Thank you for the drink.”
A few moments later Elizabeth heard the priest’s voice from the gate.
“Sorry I am late my love but have you heard the news?”
“What news is that Pierre?” She asked searching his face to see what Simon could see.
“The Bishop has died Elizabeth. To be honest it was a mercy, he had suffered so much.” Pierre looked at Elizabeth for a moment. “Something wrong darling?”
“Just a slight headache it will soon go.” She lied.
“Do you want me to tend to it?”
“No it’s fine, I’m just being silly over whether we will able to get the first crop in.”
“I’m sure the Vernon’s and the Abbey will help when the time comes.” He said laying an arm around her shoulder. “I will be very busy dealing with the Bishops out standing work and meeting with the synod.”
“They have been saying in the market that it is you who will be chosen to replace him.”
“Yes, well the letter of succession will certainly hold some sway but I still have to convince the local clergy and Laity of my provenance. But yes my darling I am hoping to become bishop if they see fit. Soon I hope you will leave all this behind and live at the manse with me.
Now I must go, my love to Tomas and Sophia when you see them next.”
Elizabeth for the first time watched him leave with a feeling of unease.
“Why did you want us to meet in the chancery Holy Father?” Alexander asked as he and Patrik followed the Abbott down the corridors.
“Because I have something to show you that will still your heart.” The Abbott replied darkly. “Have you any doubts over the girl, speak now or forever bury it in your bosom? What are your thoughts about her?”
Both the two men following were stunned a moment by the ferocity of the question but to their credit they both recovered quickly enough.
“I believe she believes that she hears the words of our Saint and after watching her when we encountered the Gnolls I can quiet believe she does.” Alexander said as he relived the moment. “It wasn’t my idea to spring a trap on them, the ambush was all hers.”
“I have seen how quick her mind is in adjusting to new idea’s and have felt her healing skills at first hand. And I can’t explain in any other way how she knows the scriptures in the Common tongue. Yes I think she hears the Saint.” Patrik said.. “Why do you ask my Abbott.”
“I too have had an opportunity to examine her at close quarters. She is able to translate Roma into Hellas and Common without knowledge of the languages themselves. She says the Saint helps her to do it. ” The Abbott grimaced and rubbed his stomach to ease the discomfort. “I have seen and felt her speak to our Saint and it frightens me. Ah here we are. Will you open the door for me my Lord Alexander.”
Alexander pushed open the door to discover the room full of instruments of torture.
“What are they doing here?” Alexander bellowed in fury. “They are an abomination in this holy place.”
“They are here to be blessed believe it or not and there is nothing I can do about.” The Abbott look at the other two with cold anger of his own. “I received a missive from the Papal Nuncio in Umbria to the affect that I must give all the aid I can to the Inquisitor.”
“Who is the Inquisitor as if I don’t know already?” Patrik asked fearing the answer.
“Father, soon to be Bishop, Pierre.”
“What if I challenge him on some pretext or other.” Alexander said.
“Now you are being foolish my Lord. Already there is a growing swell against her. They are saying she has bewitched us and what you are proposing will prove it in their eyes.”
“So we do nothing my Lord?”
“No my dear Knight but we must push where our efforts will be of most use. Is she to preach in the village market this Saints day?”
“Yes Holy Father why do you ask?” Patrik asked.
“Because she will process down from the Abby with all the clergy and laity following and conduct the Holy Mass. We will give praise for her and anoint her as Gods chosen one.” The Abbott’s walking stick struck out at the thumb screws and other paraphernalia with surprising force scattering them to the four winds. “I will not let her suffer so, she will become a nun and stay safely here if needs be.”
Sitting in her cell the object of their conversation was rocking herself backward and forward tears running down her face.
“Please my Lady let me rest, oh please let me rest. I can hear you my Lady but you are so many voices and so loud.” She took her knife once more and cut herself but this time the relief was not as deep.
She rocked and moaned for awhile then suddenly she went silent.
“I will do your will my Lady. Thank you my Lady.” With that she settled down and fell asleep the cuts on her arms healing over to leave white scars while she slept.
In a small room in the De Anjou estate Bernadette gave a smile of satisfaction. Next door she could hear the raised voices of the two De Anjou’s in heated argument.
The door crashed open and the elder of the two men entered fuming.
“Trouble my Lord?” Bernadette asked slyly. “Will your son not cooperate?”
“The boy is refusing to marry Sophia. He wants to marry a traders daughter. Well I soon put a stop to that. He will obey my will be assured of that creature.”
“That is good my Lord as your sweep to power is nigh. On this coming Saints day there will disruption which you will have to quell, naturally, and take your future daughter in law into protective custody.”
“What of those from the Abbey?”
“Really my Lord must I do everything?” With that she faded from view with an evil laugh.
De Anjou felt a growing feeling of macabre joy as he considered calling the coven to increase his power and organise a disruption of his own.