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Derek and Alex slept until nearly noon and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, walking into town to stretch their legs and ended up visiting the bookstore where Finrod was working. He gave them a bright smile as they entered the shop.
“You are finally awake,” he stated.
“Just barely,” Alex replied with a grin. “I suppose you didn’t bother to go to bed but came right here after breakfast?”
“Well, I took a quick shower first and that woke me up. That and loads of coffee,” Finrod said with a laugh. Then he gave them a furtive look, putting his finger to his lips in a conspiratorial manner. “Don’t tell anyone,” he said in a fake whisper, “but I’ve been weaving dreams while working.”
“Sleeping with your eyes open can be very useful for fooling the boss,” Nick said as he came in from the back room carrying a box of books, apparently having overheard the conversation. “Here you go, Quinn, you can sleepwalk your way over to the mysteries and start stacking.”
“Ooh, busted!” Alex said with a laugh and Derek joined him. Nick grinned and gave them a wink while Finrod tried not to blush as he grabbed the box and headed to where the mysteries were shelved. Alex and Derek followed after giving their greetings to Nick.
Finrod was kneeling in front of a display that was labeled ‘New Mysteries’ as he opened the box. He looked up as the two Men approached and rolled his eyes, causing them to snicker. “Dude’s learned all your tricks, has he?” Derek asked.
“Apparently,” Finrod said, giving them a resigned shrug, then grinned. “I will have to come up with new ones.”
“I heard that,” Nick called out from the front counter where he was working.
“As I meant you to,” Finrod called back and Nick gave them a disbelieving snort but did not otherwise comment.
“Here, Derek, hold the box and I’ll pull the books out while Finrod shelves them,” Alex suggested. “It’ll go faster.” Derek did as he was bid and for the next couple of minutes the three occupied themselves with putting the new books up. After working in silence for a bit, though, Alex asked, “So, what do you think of Gwyn’s story so far?”
Finrod looked at him. “It is very interesting to hear about how they have lived and what they have done in their short lives.”
“Short?” Derek asked in disbelief. “I don’t call nine hundred odd years short.”
Finrod shrugged. “You may not, but for me, nine hundred years is only six yéni and I was older than that when I left Valinor and founded my own kingdom of Nargothrond. Gwyn and Gareth are still quite, quite young by our standards. Even my niece, Nielluin, is several thousands of years older.”
“Can’t really get my head wrapped around that concept,” Alex said as he handed Finrod a couple more books to shelve. “I mean, intellectually, I know it has to be true, but I look at you or the other Elves and none of you look as if you’re old enough to vote and, I don’t know, it’s just weird.”
“The eyes are the give-away, though,” Derek said. “I look into your eyes, Quinn, and they’re old, older than Time, it seems to me, and I have to look away, which is rather embarrassing.”
Finrod gave them a sympathetic look. “I am sorry about that. When we Noldor first came to these shores, our Sindarin kin used to call us Lechinn, ‘Flame-eyed Ones’ because of the brightness of our eyes, for we were newly gone from Valinor and the Light of the Two Trees still shone in them. Even today, these many ages past, their memory is still deep within us, almost at the cellular level, I would say, at least for those of us who have an actual memory of them.”
“Cellular level,” Alex said with a grin. “You been boning up on your sciences?”
“There are lots of books waiting to make my acquaintance,” Finrod said with a smile. “And, of course, we have our own sciences. We have not been so idle that we have not done our own exploring of the universe, just not in the same direction as you Mortals have.”
“So getting back to Gwyn and Gareth,” Alex said as he took the last books out of the box and handed them to Finrod, “it’s just so incredible to me to think that they fought in the Crusades. That they actually knew people like Saladin and Richard the Lionheart and who knows whatall? And for them it’s no big deal.”
“And that knife,” Derek interjected as the three made their way back to the front of the store. “Do you really think it has a Silmaril embedded in it?”
Finrod shook his head. “Unlikely, but until I see it for myself, I cannot really say. To the best of my knowledge, the Silmarils had no other property than to give off light.”
“It sounds like it almost knew that the brothers were in danger though,” Alex insisted.
“You said your cousin Ingwion has a ring that warms of danger,” Derek added. “How does that work?”
“Honestly? I have no idea. The Valar have powers that we poor mirroanwi have no clue about. They exhibit only the smallest amount of that power.”
“And according to that Raguel guy, even that’s limited in comparison to his own powers,” Derek pointed out.
“Yes, which leads me to believe that one should never piss off an archangel who has come straight from the Timeless Halls,” Finrod said with a wry grin and both Mortals laughed.
“Which archangel is that?” Nick asked as he accepted the empty box.
“All of them,” Alex answered for Finrod and Nick nodded in agreement, not bothering to pursue the subject further.
“Thank you for your help,” Finrod said. “I will see you tonight?”
“You bet,” Derek said, speaking for both himself and Alex. “We’re looking forward to hearing more of their story. I bet Loren is wishing they would just come to the point and tell him where the stupid knife is now so he can go find it and do with it whatever he’s supposed to do with it.”
“How do you figure that?” Alex asked.
“Well, it’s obvious,” Derek replied. “He’s the one that’s been dreaming about it, not Finrod or anyone else. So apparently he’s supposed to do something with it. What that is, who knows? Maybe someday we’ll all find out.”
“Yeah, I guess,” Alex said with a shrug. “Well, I think we should be on our way again. See you later, Nick, Quinn.”
“Bye, guys,” Nick said. “It’s been good seeing you again.”
“I will see you for dinner,” Finrod said in farewell and the two Mortals nodded and made their way outside deciding they would return to Edhellond and help with putting together dinner.
Dinner was done, the dishes put in the dishwasher and the pots and pans were drying on the drainboard. A couple of large thermoses of coffee and one of hot water for tea were brought out to the clearing and placed on a table set up to one side, along with a couple of pitchers of lemonade and plates of molasses and chocolate chip cookies. A bonfire blazed in spite of the fact that the sun would not set until after midnight and then only for a few hours. A couple of camp chairs were brought along for Gwyn and Gareth to sit in, though they were originally content to sit on a log like everyone else.
“But this way you’ll be more comfortable while telling your tale,” Glorfindel pointed out, so they sat in the chairs.
“I feel as if I’m holding court or something,” Gareth muttered to his brother, though they all heard him.
Others chuckled and then they quieted down to hear Gwyn speak. “So, when last we left our intrepid heroes…”
People started laughing, one or two making rude remarks. “Hey, cut it with the soap opera and just get on with it,” Derek said and when everyone had calmed down, Gwyn nodded. “Yeah, okay. So, we wasted no time hanging about Llanfihangel, but were gone as soon as we had the horses saddled and we never looked back. We rode swiftly and reached Knighton just before the curfew bell was rung. Spent the night and then we were on our way again the next morning, making our way to Bishop’s Castle, about thirteen miles north of Knighton. Shrewsbury lay another twenty-odd miles further on. We came to Bishop’s Castle on a Saturday, so we stayed through Sunday, attending services along with everyone else and generally observing the Sabbath. I think we spent most of the day discussing the knife and what powers it might possess, for we could see that there was more to it than was obvious from just looking at it.”
“Did it ever react to danger again?” Glorfindel asked.
Gwyn and Gareth both nodded. “Once, and I will tell you about it at the proper time. At any rate, we continued to Shrewsbury, riding through the Long Forest, which no longer exists, crossing the old Roman Road that was still visible even then and reaching the city in good time. For those who are unfamiliar with Shrewsbury, it is surrounded on three sides by the Severn River with the north side open, though a wall surrounds it. Several roads led into Shrewsbury, roads which still exist today. One is the road from Bishop’s Castle and then further east is the road from Ludlow and Church Stratton, which also lay to the south, while a third will take you eastward to Birmingham. They all meet at what is called the Abbey Foregate with the Severn separating the abbey from the city. The abbey itself lies to the south of the Foregate.”
“How did you expect to find your parents, though?” Alex asked. “I mean they had no means of telling you they were living above the tailor’s shop on such-and-such a street or anything. Were you planning to ride through the city shouting their names in hopes they would hear?”
“No, we didn’t go shouting in the streets,” Gwyn said with a laugh. “That would have been both foolish and dangerous. No, we entered the city and went to the castle where the high sheriff resided, presenting ourselves to him, explaining who we were and enquiring as to whether he knew of our parents, though we stated only that we were kinsmen, for to the Mortals our parents would appear not much older than we.”
He paused to take a sip of lemonade and Gareth spoke. “You must realize that Shrewsbury was not overly large, not by today’s standards, but it was large enough. It had once been the capital of the Welsh kingdom of Powys, and indeed, lies only about eight miles or so from the Welsh border. It was, in fact, on the Marches and even back then the relationship between the English and the Welsh were not always cordial. Even as late as fourteen hundred, the Welsh under Prince Owein Glyndwr, or Glendower as the English called him, rose up in revolt though it was unsuccessful.”
“Given the times,” Gwyn interjected, “it was incumbent on all newcomers to the city to register themselves with the High Sheriff. If our parents meant to remain in Shrewsbury for any length of time, they would have gone to the castle to do so. We knew this. Obviously, the Man himself did not know of our parents, but he had clerks who searched the rolls and found their names. They were living in the shadow of St. Alkmond’s Church on Fish Street, which lies between Butcher’s Row and the High Street.”
“They were not living above a tailor’s shop but above a fishmonger’s,” Gareth added with a grin at Alex.
“It must have smelled to high heaven,” Alex countered.
“But it masked other, less desirable odors which were part and parcel of medieval towns,” Gareth said. “The present age is very antiseptic compared to earlier ones.”
“I bet they were surprised to see you when you finally showed up at their door,” Derek offered.
“Ah, well, as to that,” Gwyn said, looking a bit embarrassed. “We had a slight problem.”
“Oh?” Glorfindel said. “Do tell.”
Both brothers sighed almost as one and glanced at one another. Gareth nodded slightly and Gwyn shrugged resignedly and turned back to their audience. “Those of you who lived through those times will understand that we did not follow a direct route from Acre to London and beyond. The ship that we took from Sidon was a merchant ship with an ultimate destination of Cyprus but it made stops in between to some of the other, smaller islands along the way. Then we had to wait in Cyprus for about a week before we could find another ship going west, eventually coming to Brindisi, so of course, from there we had to make our way through the Italies and into France, avoiding all Templar consistories until we finally reached Calais and then crossed over to England.”
The original Wiseman Elves all nodded in understanding. “Yes, it’s not like today when you can be on the other side of the world in a day,” Alphwen stated.
“Exactly,” Gwyn said, “but at the same time, there were ways to travel swiftly and more directly, especially if you were a member of a military order such as the Templars. In spite of the disaster of the loss of Acre and all the confusion that brought to the Christians, Gaudin, who became Grand Master with the death of de Severy, still had time to issue a warrant for our arrest as deserters and possible thieves.”
“Whoa!” Alex exclaimed. “So you were on the Wanted posters of the day? How cool is that?”
Both brothers scowled at the Mortal grinning at them unrepentantly. “It was not cool, not even close.”
“Well, obviously nothing bad happened, or nothing permanently bad happened or you wouldn’t be here to tell us,” Derek added.
“So what did happen?” Finrod asked.
Gwyn’s expression turned reflective. “It was the oddest thing….”
Gwyn and Gareth sat calmly on the bench in the High Sheriff’s office waiting to learn where their parents were living. They had been given cups of wine while they were waiting but otherwise left to themselves. The Sheriff, one William de Titteley, sat at his desk, perusing documents of one kind or another. Gwyn saw a man of middle height, with Norman features, though de Titteley’s Norman forefathers were two hundred years gone and he suspected that the Man had some Saxon blood running through him, possibly even Welsh if his family had been living in the Marches since the Conquest. He was older than most, perhaps in his fifties, his hair more gray than brown, but still hale of body and it was obvious to the Elf that the Man was or had been a soldier.
His ruminations were interrupted by de Titteley’s chief under-sheriff entering carrying two sheets of paper and silently handing them to his superior. The Man glanced up at him in surprise but accepted the papers readily enough and perused them quickly. He glanced back at his deputy and some silent communication passed between them, for the under-sheriff nodded and exited the room without glancing at the brothers. De Titteley cleared his throat.
“It appears that your kinsman, Tristan ap Hywel, does indeed reside in the city,” he said.
“Then if you would be kind enough to tell us where we might find our cousin, we will be on our way,” Gwyn said politely, rising.
De Titteley held up his hand. “There is another small matter before I can let you go,” he said.
Gwyn frowned and he felt Gareth stiffening beside him. No doubt, his brother was calculating the odds of them leaving the castle alive if they were forced to fight their way out. He mentally shook his head and gave his attention to the High Sheriff. “And what small matter would that be, sir?”
The Man held up one of the sheets of paper the under-sheriff had given him. “This is a king’s warrant for the arrest of two young men who apparently deserted from the Templars stealing something of theirs.”
Gwyn felt the blood drain from his face and his stomach churned. Vaguely he heard the stomping of feet outside the sheriff’s office and wondered if the under-sheriff had ordered guards to take them. “And what has that to do with us?” he asked indifferently, as if the matter was of no importance to him. Gareth remained sitting in complete stillness, a stillness that Gwyn knew was the precursor to mayhem.
De Titteley did not answer immediately but looked down at the document in his hand as he began reading from it aloud. “Two young men… brothers… possibly Welsh… deserted from the Templars at Sidon… stolen treasure….”
“Yet does it name us specifically?” Gwyn insisted, hoping that no names were on the warrant, though the descriptions were close enough that the Man might be able to hold them until he was able to obtain more exact information.”
“Hmm… no, no names,” de Titteley answered, “but there’s a fair description that matches you two and—”
“And that description could apply to half the young men of the city, de Titteley.”
William de Titteley scrambled to his feet in shock, and Gwyn turned to see another Man, more richly dressed than any he had seen of late, his cotte a dark blue velvet trimmed with gold braid and he wore a cloak lined with gray squirrel fur. On his head he wore a cap of maintenance declaring his rank. He was young, in his mid-twenties, and taller than average for the Mortals of the day, his features clearly noble, his expression arrogant, though there was humor in the depths of his gaze. This was no mere merchant-prince, not the way the Sheriff was acting.
“Lord Arundel,” de Titteley stammered. “How are you here? Why have I not been given any warning of your coming?”
The newcomer smiled indulgently. “Oh, I don’t know. Surprise visit, perhaps? Now come, what is all this to-do? I doubt these two are the ones the Templars are searching for so assiduously.”
“And how do you know of it, My Lord?” de Titteley asked, barely politely, for Gwyn could see the Man was seething, though he kept himself under control in the presence of one who was apparently above him.
“Oh, tosh,” the Man said with a disdainful sniff. “You may be High Sheriff, William, but I hold my estates from my cousin Edward directly. I received a copy of the warrant as a matter of course and as I was visiting my estates in Oswestry, I thought to stop here and consult with you. Now, I grant you that these two look rather suspicious and untrustworthy, admittedly being Welshmen, but that is neither here nor there, I deem. As for being deserters, what of it? Why should any of us care if the Templars lose two of their sergeants? They lost an entire kingdom! I do not think they will remain a world power before which the rest of us must tremble for very long. Now, enough, man. Let these two be on their way. In fact, I shall take them off your hands immediately.”
All the while de Titteley just stood there goggling at the Earl of Arundel as if he were observing a never-seen-before creature of the wilds and began stammering a protest, but Arundel just tut-tutted and took the warrant and the other scrap of paper out of the sheriff’s hands. He crumpled up the warrant and threw it to the ground even as he glanced at the other piece of paper. “Ah, they reside across from St. Alkmund’s on Fish Street. That’s not far. Come. I will escort you out of the castle and see you on your way.”
With that, he gestured to the two Elves who rose dumbly and meekly followed the Man out. There were indeed several guardsmen standing just outside the office, but with a word of dismissal from Arundel, they scattered. The Man continued to lead them out of the castle until they stood at the top of the street that led downward into the main part of the city.
“Continue down until you reach Pride Hill,” the lord said, pointing southward, “and turn onto Butcher’s Row. You’ll be able to see St. Alkmund’s. Just follow the street around until you come to Fish Street. Do either of you read?”
“Yes,” Gwyn managed to say, still wondering what had happened, not sure how to take their good fortune of avoiding the noose which certainly would have been their fate had the Mortals decided they were indeed the deserters the Templars were looking for.
“Good,” Arundel said with a smile, handing him the scrap of paper that held the information on their parents. Gwyn glanced at it and saw that they resided above the apothecary shop on Fish Street. “Now, I suggest you be on your way, lads.”
“My lord, how can we ever thank you?” Gwyn asked politely.
“Ah, no need, no need, but if I were you, I would lie low and perhaps it would be wise for you and your… um… kin to leave as soon as you are able. West might be a good direction. Yes, definitely west.”
Gwyn and Gareth just nodded and gave the Man their obeisance before heading down the street. Gwyn happened to turn around before they had gone a dozen steps to find the Man was gone, which he did not think was possible for they had come some distance from the entrance to the castle before Arundel had given them the address. He should still have been visible as he returned to the castle, but there was no one except the guards at the gate.
“Come along, Gwyn,” Gareth said impatiently.
Gwyn grimaced, hating the mystery, but did as his brother bid and together they continued down the street, wending their way until they reached Fish Street. The apothecary, they saw, stood indeed in the shadow of the church. A sign outside showed the traditional symbol of a mortar and pestle. Underneath was painted ‘Tristan ap Hywel, proprietor’.
“So Da decided to open an apothecary this time round,” Gareth said quietly as the two stood outside the shop. Gwyn just nodded and gave his brother a wry look which Gareth echoed. Gwyn took a deep breath and opened the door and they entered.
There was no one in the shop front but a bell ringing as the door opened obviously was meant to alert the proprietor of customers and in seconds curtains dividing the front of the shop from the back parted and the brothers were rewarded with the sight of their father, whom they had not seen in over a hundred years.
1. St. Alkmond’s Church was built about 1100 years ago and was dedicated to an 8th century Northumbrian prince who was murdered while seeking sanctuary with the king of Mercia after Alkmond’s bid for the Northhumbrian throne failed.
2. William de Titteley was High Sheriff of Shropshire, where Shrewsbury lies, and Straffordshire from 1289 to 1295.
3. Richard FitzAlan (1267-1302) was the1st or 8th Earl of Arundel (the earldom was recreated in 1289). The FitzAlan’s were also lords of Oswestry, north of Shrewsbury. William FitzAlan (c. 1105 – 1160) was High Sheriff of Shropshire and castellan of Shrewsbury until he sided with the Empress Matilda against Stephen who took Shrewsbury in 1138. He was deprived of lands and titles and lived in exile for the next fifteen years, being restored to his titles by Henry II, Stephen’s successor. A descendant later married into the d’Aubigny family who held the earldom of Arundel in Sussex.
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