The Last Lantern

Chapter11 - To Find a Lady

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009


"So, what did you learn?" Phillip asked Brother Vaal.  They were riding away from the Last Lantern.  The sky was darkening, the air smelled of snow.

"I know who abducted her," Brother Vaal replied. "I am not certain if I should be glad or afraid for her."

Phillip swallowed. He hadn't really thought Molly was in serious danger until he heard those words.  He stole a glance over at the Bastard's brother. He sat a horse like a warrior, even when he was lost in thought, Phillip could see the habit in him. His own master of arms was drilling such things into him.  How to sit, how to make certain your sword hand was always free. Even the horse was trained, Phillip could tell. The slightest movement by the priest was reflected in the horse. A bond between them.  Forged, or so his master at arms would say, in the fires of combat.

"I need to go with you," Phillip finally said as they neared the gates that marked the entry to Rosslyn Manor proper.

The Priest's horse came to a stop and the Priest turned in his saddle to regard Phillip fully. The priest's eyes raked him from head to toe, a judging look. Phillip colored under that scrutiny.

"Your father will not allow it," Brother Vaal replied. "And it would be dangerous. Even if I'm right about who holds her, and why... We might well attract the attention of ... well, everyone.  No doubt all sides know of this abduction by now."

"How?  No one but those of us at the manor know of it," Phillip pointed out.

"Oh yes?  And what of all the people Little Todd spoke to when we were searching for her?"

"Oh."  Phillip had forgotten about them. "But they are Molly's friends."

"Aye. And will say, innocently enough, to others, in the hearing of those who are not Molly's friends, that she is missing and that they hope she will be all right."

"Even so," Phillip replied.

"Even so..." the Priest repeated.  "Your father will refuse you. He has no love for Bastards.  But he has a good deal of love for you."

Phillip snorted. "I'm his youngest son. Love or no love, I will have to make my own way in the world. He brought me here only because I'm closest in age to Molly. I was to make her like me. Trust me."

"And does she?" the Priest asked.

Phillip shook his head. "No."

The priest grinned. "Good. At least you understand the world."

The priest's horse took off, hurrying toward the house. Phillip had to kick his to get him moving that fast.

Neither Phllip nor his father were allowed in the study when the Bastard's Brother met with Lord Rosslyn.

Sir Reginald was too dignified and offended to hang around the closed hallway door. Phillip wasn't either. He got a book from the library and sat as near to the door as he could manage. Rupert gave him horrified looks but did not chase him away.

Now and again Phillip could hear raised voices. Well, one really. Lord Rosslyn's. The priest did not shout in return. The meeting seemed to last for hours. In truth, as Phillip studied the grandfather clock across the hall from him, it had been less than an hour when the doors to Lord Rosslyn's study opened.

The priest strode through the doors, his face and mein intent and his focus inward. He hesitated though when Phillip jumped to his feet. The man looked down at the boy. He raised an eyebrow. "I leave in half an hour."  That was all he said as he swept past, taking the main staircase, three steps at a time.

Lord Rosslyn then exited the study, just in time to look daggers at the hurrying priest's back.

"My Lord," Phillip said. "Can I.."

"No, you cannot," Rosslyn hissed as he slammed the doors shut between himself and Phillip.

Phillip stood there a moment. Why would the priest tell him when he was leaving? Was it, as Phillip finally dared to hope, an invitation? A subtle one?  One that he could deny if accosted by either Rosslyn or Sir Reginald?

There was only one way to find out.  Phillip bolted for the stairs and up to his room.  He stuffed his things into his saddle bags, taking only the things he'd need, leaving the fancy clothing, taking the warm things, his dagger and sword, and a few other things he kept with him.

He stepped out of his room set to hurry toward the stables, when he stopped. He turned on his heel and went up another set of stairs to where he knew Molly's room was.

Thankfully Miss Throckmorton wasn't about. He let himself in and closed the door behind him silently.  He looked around, wondering if there was something of Molly's he should take for her.

He went to her jewelry box and opened it. He didn't know who now had the locket he'd found, but inside her box were not only a few things he'd seen her wear, but it also contained a treasure box. Things she'd  loved. Phillip bit his lip and slipped the small box into his pocket. If the priest refused to let him go with him northward, he'd return it unopened.

He turned, slipped out of Molly's room silently, then ran down the stairs and out to the stables.

The priest was there already. Little Todd was stroking the Priest's huge black warhorse as Vaal secured his saddle bags. The priest turned as Phllip ran into the barn.  Phillip skidded to a halt. The priest's eyes, as well as Little Todd's, were on the bags Phillip held.

"I'm going with you," Phillip announced.

Little Todd went pale. "Your father will blame me if I let you," he finally said.

Phillip could easily imagine exactly that. Even so he said, "My decision. You have no right to stop me. You don't even work for my father."

Phillip hurried to his horse and began saddling him. Little Todd after a moment spent staring at the priest as if he expected Vaal to tell Phillip that he could not go with him, hurried over to help.

"If you don't keep up I'll leave you, no matter how dangerous the place might be," Vaal said as he swung up into his saddle.

"I'm coming with you, no matter," Phillip replied. "I'll keep up."

"And will that horse?" Vaal asked. Phillip swore there was a trace of humor in the priest's voice.

"He'll manage."

"All right then, let's be off. There's no time to lose."


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