Week 7, Picnic Meetings
We were still dining at the Duke's. Rhodri suggested to Llewella, his step-mother, that it would be a good idea to recruit this new Rhodri (R3) to our side if at all possible. Anyway, one need only look at him to see he's a member of the family. Llewella agreed. Rhodri therefore sauntered over to R3 and invited him to dine sometime soon, ignoring a rude remark by Rhydon. The banquet broke up soon after that and people started back to their various inns and residences.
Cantrel followed Rhydon & party, but a pair of Rhydon's men noticed and followed him in turn. They jumped him but did not press their advantage fast enough. In the ensuing scrum, Bronwyn showed up and stabbed one in the back with her spear, while Cantrel KO'd the other. The young lovers then proceeded to Rhydon's inn, via rooftops.
Cantrel was able to identify Rhydon's room as the one where all the candles went on simultaneously. He set out to climb to the inn's roof and found Bronwyn holding onto the other end of the grappling rope. (Her climbing is getting better.) They listened for many hours but hear nothing useful. They did, however, notice a blond man down in the dark streets, who almost noticed them (or did and said nothing). When all the lights were out, they returned to the rest of the group and reported.
The next day (28 May), Rhodri went to visit R3, taking along Tom, Llewella, Vivienne, and Cantrel. Unfortunately, R3 wasn't there, so we left an invitation for dinner.
While we were out, Penny and Margaret were visited by Lord Jared, the royal investigator. He was still there when the party returned. He was interested to hear of the conversation at last night's banquet, and seemed to know much of it already.
Cantrel and Tom went pub-crawling again and found the town buzzing with last night's events. Harold seemed mildly popular, as the candidates went. Cantrel ran into Lord Jared again and, after buying him a beer, asked him bluntly what we could do to improve our case. Blunt answer: build up a solid, conservative hunk of popularity, use the foster sisters and Llewella's testimony, and the signet rings to bolster the claim. Nothing surprising.
Cantrel then drops by Harold's lodgings and arranges a picnic lunch tomorrow to discuss things. Meanwhile, at the inn, Rhodri arranged by post to have dinner tomorrow with R3. Then Jared showed up again. He was now checking up on the backgrounds of the two Rhodris, having already interviewed Aldous and Harold. Our Rhodri obliged with the tale of his childhood. Unfortunately, all the neighbors have moved away or died, as did the foster family. (All of which sounds like the feeble lie it is.) Jared announces that he must now leave to confirm the various stories. He'll be gone for at least two weeks.
29 May. At the picnic lunch, Harold mentioned that he has Lord Ian's backing. This does nothing to endear either of them to us. Harold thinks his case is sound even if Rhodri is who he says he is, because (Harold says) Martin the Younger died before his father, though only by hours. This makes Harold the heir to Martin the elder, regardless of any surviving younger sons. However, this sequence does not match what we have been told, and if things were so iron-clad we doubt that Jared would still be running all over Gwenedd, unless it is to sort out superfluous Rhodris. Ian's backing makes it difficult for Harold to relinquish the claim, even if he wanted to. AND Harold doesn't want to, AND he thinks his case is good, AND he doubts Rhodri's identity. This despite Llewella's testimony.
On the way back from this unsatisfactory meal, we passed a blond rider on the road and Vivienne recalled seeing him back at our inn.
That evening, we had dinner with R3, at his inn. As we arrived, Rhydon was leaving. He elaborately got out our way and bowed David in with an, "After you, Master Hunter." Now, Rhydon was never introduced to David, so it is likely that he knows David's name as a consequence of the unexpected nap David took in an alley two days ago. Once more, we hope that not too much was revealed.
R3 is as blandly confident as Harold was. He shows that his ring is indeed a Greystoke signet and proclaims himself to be Rhodri Greystoke. (He probably is, as much as anyone is.) It seems the nurse broke down last night and told him Everything. "Did she tell you who this man here is?" Tom asked, gesturing at our Rhodri. R3 just grinned. The two Rhodris then had a short, silent telepathic debate, playing peek-a-boo over their mind shields. R3 told Rhodri/Wu, "I KNOW that Nurse was telling me the truth last night." And Rhodri/Wu replied, "And I KNOW your nurse doesn't know what's going on here." And both know the other told the truth. However, Wu was unable (and so tried to appear unwilling) to affirm telepathically that he was Rhodri Greystoke, so we more or less lost that round. We certainly didn't make R3 think it was advantageous to join us, though he didn't seem happy to keep Rhydon as an ally, either.
Our basic problem, of course, is that we really ARE frauds.
We returned to our inn and found that blond having dinner in the public room. The innkeeper identified him as a Mr. Cochran. Bronwyn informed us that two of Rhydon's men are watching us.
We retired upstairs and the out-worlders considered a telepathic strip-tease between Rhodris and, if R3 seems a descent enough fellow, telling him The Truth. Just about then, a servant boy came with a message: "You have powerful enemies who are about to attack. A Friend." This is from the blond, who appears to be having more fun. We split.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.