The Last Lantern

Chapter 9 - Missing

@copyright Jean G Hontz 2009


When Molly didn't turn up for breakfast, Rupert was sent to see Miss Throckmorton to ask where the child was. When she informed Rupert she had no idea where Molly was, Rupert's next stop was the kitchen. Cook related that Molly had been dressed for a ride so he hurried out to the stables, becoming concerned for the first time.

Little Todd explained to Rupert that Molly had ridden toward King's Cross when last he'd seen her. He offered to go after her, although his take on things was that she'd simply been out enjoying her ride too much to pay attention to the time, and that she had cherry tart on her cheeks so she couldn't have been hungry anyway. Even so, Little Todd saddled his big mare and took off to look for Molly.

Rupert returned to the side parlor where Lord Rosslyn and his guests were having breakfast. He shook his head at Lord Rosslyn and withdrew.

Brother Vaal, noting the exchange, held his tongue. Sir Reginald took the opportunity to rail about children who are allowed too much freedom.  Lord Rosslyn just sat with tight lips and endured. He ate nothing and just sipped at his tea.

Phillip, recognizing the tension in his grandfather, took the first opportunity to slip away.  He asked Rupert about Molly and he told him Molly had taken her horse out for a ride. Phillip, thinking he'd help look, grabbed his sword and his cloak and then hurried to the stables to saddle his own horse and join the search.

Phillip, unlike Little Todd, had no idea who Molly's friends might be so he just tried to imagine himself in Molly's place and figured she'd be interested in watching the coaches along the King's Road.  She hated the isolation here, so that made sense to him. He rode to the the main crossroads and pondered the marker that sat where King's Cross ended and the Far Reaches began.

He, like Molly, knew not to go beyond the marker, at least not alone. The Far Reaches weren't considered 'safe.'  The King's justice was supposed to reach all the way to the high mountains that officially marked the border between the two kingdoms but in reality there wasn't much in the way of King's Guards this far north. Brigands lived in the mountains, as did the rebels and who knew who else.

Phillip bit his lip, checked the blade on his hip, and spurred his gray forward. His father would be angry to know he'd gone beyond the marker alone, but who would tell him? He certainly wouldn't admit it.

His gray had taken only a few steps onward when something shiny caught his attention. It lay in the snow at the side of the road.  The snow had been trampled a bit here, and there were obvious hoof marks, although no boot prints he could see. He dismounted and then had to search to find the shiny object that had caught his attention. It was hard to spot with the sun hitting the snow differently now that he was crouching down to look. But he persisted and finally, after what had seemed like hours of staring at the brilliant snow and squinting, he saw it. He reached down and picked it up.

Little Todd rode the circuit around the town. He checked at the inn, no they hadn't seen Lady Molly.  He'd looked sternly at young Nigel Bell. He was fairly certain the boy wouldn't lie. At least not with regard to Molly when she might be in trouble, and possibly in a lot worse trouble than just from an angry but doting grandfather  From the inn he went to the baker's, and then to the sage's cottage. Molly liked the old boy he knew. Finally, out of desperation, he checked in with the healing sisters.  But no one had seen Lady Molly since before the storm.  Now he began to be truly concerned.

Little Todd even pondered seeing the Mother's Priest, but then discarded that thought. He'd go back to Lord Rosslyn.  The old master would be better at facing her. She might not be as scary as the Bastard's Priest, but she was bad enough.

Little Todd arrived back at the Rosslyn stables, left the mare in the care of his stable boy and son, Littlest Todd, and hurried up to the manor.  Within moments Rupert had fetched Lord Rosslyn out to see him.

Both Sir Reginald and Brother Vaal followed Lord Rosslyn out to the front stoop where Little Todd waited.

Little Todd was explaining where he'd looked and what little he'd learned when Phillip rode up.  Phillip slipped off his horse and bowed to Lord Rosslyn. "I found this," he said handing it to the old lord.

Lord Rosslyn took the chain and stared at the charm that hung from it. After a short time he made a fist grasping it tightly.  He stood there still and silent, his eyes on the mountains to the north.

Nearly a minute later,  Lord Rosslyn said quietly, "Brother Vaal, Phillip. Please join me in my study." The old man turned on his heel and strode off. 

When Sir Reginald made a move to follow his uncle, Rupert said, "I wouldn't, sir."

Reginald cursed and stormed off down the hallway toward the side parlor. Phillip, looking pale, asked the Priest, "Will she be all right?"

Brother Vaal looked at the young man for a second, put an arm round his shoulders, seemed to weigh his options and then said, "With the help of the Bastard, I trust we can see that it will be so."


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