Later that evening when she relayed his thoughts on Sam to Martha, the older woman broke down, confessing her fears for her adoptive son: the soul tarnishing effect of killing for any cause, the girl’s adhesion to him, his desire to provide recompense, to punish evil at almost any cost to himself, the limits of any individual’s capacity to carry so much before breaking. What could she say to that? But Iltud was in St Josephs; it fell to her.
“Martha, just as I’m increasingly sure I’m here for a reason, so Sam must be as well even if we don’t understand it or like the ways he travels. His arrival here was providential; you must see the good he has done, saving that girl’s life, perhaps inspiring her to love again. These things aren’t small miracles, they’re of huge value. If it should be providence’s will that they be together, how can we be unhappy?”
“I know, I’m being foolish, but he is my unlooked-for son… He was lost and was found for us, the thought that he should be lost again…”
“Martha, just as I trust Abbot Winwaloe to find Andy, perhaps you should trust him likewise with Sam. That he should bother himself so much with such things when he has the Byzantines and Armenians here, everything else on his mind, well, I’m not sure I would in his position.”
“I know… I know you’re right, but what is he doing there, on his own?”
But Sam wasn’t on his own. He was with someone else, close enough, but not so close that that someone knew he was being followed, to the station, up the line, out of the station and then a ten-minute walk through the streets to what was clearly his home, which Sam walked past, round the block, and back again, taking secretive photos, pacing the distances, timing various sections, noting the vacant spaces where one could loiter unobserved. Then back to his hostess to report, and a late supper. He had never seen her so animated as when she told him what she had in mind, pleaded for his help, explained why. After that, he didn’t hesitate for a moment.
Abbot Winwaloe finished the final blessing in the sleeping Duke’s bedchamber and turned for the door. He was accompanied as usual by the Chamberlain, but this time, as a special mark of favour, by the Exarch and the Armenian Archimandrite, both keen to see if the stories held any truth. They looked on in surprise at an apparently active man entering old age, sleeping deeply, both offered blessings in their own native tongues, and then preceded their two companions out, to be conducted to their rooms by the Chamberlain.
The Abbot knew that the guard had been increased for the duration of the embassy: two were patrolling the battlements above, two on the landing and stairs, including one of the younger Seigneurs, and two more were patrolling outside, around the walls of the fort itself; all fully armed.
He sighed, whispering a private prayer that the guards would not be needed, for those in the outside still, for Samson, their ally’s recovery, as he made his way back to his cell. To have seen her caught in such a moment in the Basilica was a faith renewing gift, helping surmount his latent doubts about what they were doing. Yes, if anyone bore the moral pollution it was chiefly himself. But she had seen a glimpse, no, not seen, felt. His few remaining doubts about her had been dispelled, she would do. Who knows how far she might go in their… His… service one day? Further than she could envisage he suspected; she was not ambitious, just focused on reuniting what fate had sundered, as she should be.
Yes, the Exarch, Alexios Palaiologos, of the imperial family itself, wasn’t what he had expected. In private he was engaging, not formal, so unlike previous envoys, willing to debate openly, speculatively, ask advice. He had wanted to come to see for himself he said, to visit some of their other developing bases of operation, accompany the embassy to the Vatican. He had energy, a man in his early forties perhaps, real vision, charisma, but also the humility of true faith. He had revealed more of his people’s hand in a couple of days than all the other envoys of recent years; they had been sending volunteers to live in the Hellenic communities of the USA, Greece and Cyprus for some years now, intermarrying with locals, recruiting more, even bringing some home. Their presence in America was growing steadily, by dollar value it was approaching billions, mainly in legitimate businesses now, over one hundred and fifty souls there, some even in the US military and a couple in junior positions in their intelligence services.
It was their intention to do the same in Australia, Canada, South Africa, maybe others, but he had explained that the Greek émigré communities could only carry them so far. The Armenians in time could help take them further, maybe in France too where so many had settled after the genocide, but that would be a decade or more, and the darkness was spreading too quickly. He was urging them to accelerate their recruitment efforts in Logres, to send volunteers to America, the old dominions, where so many were awaking to the threat. The Anglophone world was pivotal, why were they so slow in spreading their presence in Logres? They had taken the challenge, explained their small numbers, their ally’s caution; they could not do everything they wanted, but they would reflect.
He was in his cell now, making ready to sleep. Big pictures, vision, were all very well, vital in such matters indeed, but must be balanced against the value of individual souls, their lives. He would have to confer with the others in the morning before the next session, weighing up the greater good. He sighed again; how far he was travelling from those early days as a novice. Have mercy on me.
FRIDAY, SECOND WEEK AFTER EASTER
She was starting to feel like a commuter again, on the first train down to St Josephs, this time alone; her mind wandering back to the events of the day before, ludicrously over-dressed once more.
At least the weather was dry today.
How was Andy? Since the others had returned she had heard nothing of the latest events in the outside world; the last news had been appalling, he must be in it up to his neck, probably in real danger. Today was the heavy lifting day she had been told, most of the important business would be covered, with Saturday for tidying up loose ends, Sunday for ceremonial and goodbyes, and then departures on Monday.
And so she sat there, mute, listening as the subjects were discussed in turn. She was stunned by the discussion about America, the developing presence there, the already successful procuring of arms, more shipments on the way along with more trade goods, the volunteers needed from this place to serve there. No, it can’t be; the Exarch called it Lyonnesse? It’s the Pocket, or what was it Iltud said was the archaic name? Lethostow? Must have misheard. Lyonnesse was the mythical land that sank beneath the waves in the Dark Ages, between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. And then on… Australia, Canada and so forth.
The High Steward was answering, face flushed, they would consider preparing a small team for America, would ask for volunteers; would their friends be able to get things set up for them? Their resources were small, increasingly committed to the fight in Logres. They were urging him to accelerate recruitment, train up more teams for the outside, but they needed to buy more bases, a farm near London, a base near the centre, one in the north as well, perhaps Wales too, such things were very expensive. No matter, the Exarch replied, funds would be made available to buy one such each year; the other details should be of no concern: they now had people in the US immigration service.
They broke for lunch and she finally cornered the Abbot.
“Father, I thought I heard the Exarch call this place Lyonnesse, that can’t be, surely?”
He smiled at her in that way of his; she recognised it well now.
“I’m surprised you have not asked before with your fondness for questions. That is the Norman French name for our original native name of Lethostow; nowadays people just call it the Pocket, reflecting His favour to us. The English adopted the French name, which was a faint memory of an old land suddenly lost long ago. Neighbours telling stories that it must have sunk under the sea in a single night, presuming it was to the west of Cornwall. That is all, no great mystery.”
“But the old legends Father, Tristan and Iseult, are they true as well?”
“Some, in part; the lives of Tristan and Iseult are well attested, they lived before Lethostow was taken away, one day I can show you their grave if you wish, it’s by the Basilica. But these things are not for today; this afternoon is about the embassy to the Vatican. They may ask you some questions, be prepared.”
But they didn’t, it was almost an anti-climax. The discussion about the Vatican was focused on their understanding of the inner workings of the Papacy, those who would prove receptive and the ones they needed to win over, given their influence over policy, how and when to make the initial approach, later this year and, following that, when the embassy should happen. April, it was agreed, following the Byzantine embassy here after Easter. How much to disclose? Not too much until we can trust them, this is just an introduction, nothing more.
On the way out, one of the Brothers intercepted her.
© 1642again 2018