When the soldiers had brought dinner down to Sir Percy and his entourage of guards, he had feigned unconsciousness. Once the soft snores of the guards rebounded from the walls of the cavern, he stood up and shrugged off his ropes. Pulling one of the men towards himself, he neatly filched the brass ring of keys, and let himself out of his cell.
“Easiest escape I ever made,” Blakeney remarked, tossing the keys up and catching them. “I only regret missing out on the action. Ah, well. Next time!” Whistling, he sauntered down the corridor.
One of the next chambers, he felt sure, held the little St. Cyr boy, a
victim he did not intend to leave at the mercy of the Frenchies.
Despite his high spirits, Percy felt a seed of desperation to reach the
child, a desperation which grew as he searched room after room, to find
only empty cells.
At long last, the sound of voices drifted down a passage towards him. The first was grave, with overtones of great relief. The second, light and melodic. He knew them both.
Percy lost no time following them to a well-lit room. His heart rose at the sight which greeted him. His wife knelt in the opened cell, effusively embracing a small boy as if she would break in two, were she forced to turn him loose just now. His closest friend, Sir Andrew Ffoulkes, pretended embarrassedly not to notice Lady Blakeney’s display of emotion, instead finishing the work of tying up two guards.
Sir Percy took in the whole scene—including the unconscious guards and the large purple marks which were beginning to swell on their foreheads—and turned to his lieutenant. “What exactly happened here?”
Ffoulkes only chuckled. “My friend, your wife is quite the distracting seductress.”
“Good God, man, you didn’t let either of them lay their filthy hands on her?!”
“What do you take me for, Percy? Of course I did not! I dare say, however,” and he resumed chuckling again, “that they will have lovely goose eggs to remember her by.”
Percy smiled, and turned to the lady herself. She embraced the little boy still, but had turned the full force of her deep, shining eyes upon her husband. In that moment, their eyes met, and the joy of a chance encounter deepened to the rich exhilaration of a reunion. In that moment, fatigue and separation caught up with both, bringing their emotions crashing to the surface.
“I’ll be back soon, cheri,” Marguerite told the child, loosening her hold on him.
Sir Percy gave her no chance to move, however, for before she so much as stood, he was beside her; his arms encircled her. “Margot!” he murmured into her hair, breathing in the sweet, clean scent which always clung to her.
“My love!” she returned. “I was so worried for you! When I knew what that woman had done, I was frantic to find you.”
“Shh!” He hushed her gently with his thumb upon her lips, wanting to save the portrait, to drink in her luminous blue eyes as if parched. “I can’t be separated from you anymore; I refuse to be!” And with this, he replaced his thumb with his mouth.
Sir Andrew looked away, blushing all shades of scarlet. Edouard only
grinned like a cat.
“Come, mine own,” Percy said gently, after a long moment. “We’ll need to get upstairs and meet the others.”
“Those soldiers! They outnumber us by so many… Percy, tell me you have a plan.”
“La, dear heart! If I am correct, which all portents indicate that I am, the plan has already been carried through.” He stood, and offered her a hand to help her to her feet. “It may cost you some financially, though, if I understood the boys correctly.” She gazed at him quizzically, and he supplied, “Never say the words ‘I will bet’ around those fellows.”
Laughing, Marguerite pulled herself up—or attempted to, at any rate. Her protesting knees buckled, and she found herself nearly to the ground before Percy caught her and held her.
“My dear,” he asked in urgent concern, “Whatever is the matter? Are you unwell?”
She tried to think back. What was the matter? Oh, yes. “I am not unwell,” she told him. “Merely hungry. I missed a few meals, I believe.”
“Sink me! You do not mean to tell me that you have not eaten since—”
“—since our picnic, if I remember correctly,” she supplied thoughtfully.
He shot her a highly disapproving glare, which softened immediately at
clear signs of fatigue. “We will find you something suitable on our
way to the rendezvous, then. Do you think you can make it that long?
Yes? All good, then. Lean well on me, if you need to do so.”
(She did not need to, but she did so, anyway.) “Ffoulkes, you take
the lantern and the child, and lead the way.”
So saying, Sir Percy slipped an arm about his wife’s waist, and they walked very closely together up the passage which would lead them to their friends.
“He’s coming around!” announced de Pizan.
“Hmm,” Sir Percy surveyed his prisoner speculatively. “It seems Monsieur
Chambertin is a picky eater, what? Ah, well. I would have pined
had I missed the chance to greet him once more.”
Chauvelin was indeed stirring, shaking off the effects of the few bites of stew he’d eaten. He lifted his head and surveyed his surroundings. Those sacré anglais had bound him just inside the colossal front gate, which now stood open in preparation for the mass exodus. Angèle de St. Cyr was a silent figure at his side, not bound, but closely watched. Assorted refugees and nuns bustled about the place, preparing wagons, or shoving a last, nearly-forgotten belonging into a trunk. Directly before him stood Sir Percy Blakeney, Lady Blakeney on his arm.
“Shovelin!” Percy called, leaning down in front of him. “My dear Shovelin! You should be feeling quite well by now. Jamaican Poppy, despite its efficacy, is a very gentle drug. I’m only glad I was able to fill my men in on the circumstances of this jaunt after I found the souvenir you left me.” He held up the tri-colored token from the cavern floor between thumb and forefinger. “Dusty little thing, ain’t it?”
Chauvelin stared at him in uncontrolled rage. “But how did you find us? Those caverns are a maze!”
“True,” Blakeney acknowledged. “Fortunately, your men tromp about quite heavily. You really should have them take dancing lessons! Their tracks proved more than adequate to lead me to the Minotaur.”
“I have another contingent of troops on the way,” Chauvelin told him angrily. “You will not escape!”
“Perhaps not. Then again, we will have a good head start on your people. Now, thank me, Monsieur. I’ve tied you in the perfect place to call out to your men when they arrive! Of course, you will look rather silly, all tied up… I could drug you again, if you like! It might improve your image.” He surveyed his captive. “Sink me, if we aren’t bound to keep meeting like this!” Blakeney laughed delightedly at his own pun. Turning to his wife, he began, “Margot, shall we—”
“Company, halt!” rang a clear voice from the woods surrounding the abbey. Percy whirled, just in time to see several mounted French soldiers ride out of the woods, weapons leveled. Marguerite gave a small cry of alarm, and he gripped her hand reassuringly, his attention still focused on the men.
“Arrest these people!” cried the captain.
On to Chapter 9
"You are my home."