The Yellow Rose Tavern was a huge three and a half storey wattle and daub house that had only been standing for three years, just down the street from Fates’ Hospital for the Sick and the Silver Dragon. Its upper storeys overhung the first floor nearly to the middle of the alleys on all sides. Minuet and Bethan rented a long room at the top under the roof in front, which opened onto a balcony far above the street between two great crucks under the gable, and which also peeped out from a tiny window under a thick blanket of thatch in the roof itself. They always ate breakfast and supper downstairs, but they usually ate their dinner at the Silver Dragon, since it was next to the hospital.
“So what was the reason Sergeant Bernard brought us down here to the inn?” said Bethan as she addressed her collards with bread and knife. “I didn’t quite catch what he was saying.”
“He didn’t say much,” said Minuet. “I guess that there was some sort of uproar at the Silver Dragon right after we left, yesterday. He thought we’d be safer down here.”
“Well, where’d he go?”
“He said he’d be right outside if we needed him,” said Minuet as she looked out across the tables under the low rows of timbers in the ceiling. “Is this all they’re bringing out for us to eat?”
“Probably. There do be pieces of ham in it. It’s just the taverner and his wife. Both cooks fled the plague, this morning.”
“I wondered why she was the one waiting on us,” said Minuet as she pressed a wad of collards onto her bread. “In here, you’d hardly think there was a plague. Everybody’s just eating peacefully.”
“They do be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the taverner’s wife is more talkative when things are normal. She hardly spoke. I’d allow that she’s a little afraid of every soul who walks in here. It’s a wonder they haven’t shooed us out and flown the coop.”
Across the room, the front door slammed shut. “There’s the witch!” shouted the woman who stepped inside, silencing everyone at the tables. Minuet dropped her bread onto her plate and turned about on her chair in alarm.
“Martha please!” said the man coming in on her heels. “You’ve had too much to drink. Please think! She’s been wonderful to the kids…”
“You doubt me, Sammy boy?” she cried, wheeling ’round and planting her feet. “I saw what I saw…”
“We all saw the pardoner and the flax haired wench…” he said as he grabbed her wrist.
Martha immediately yanked out of his grasp. “Then you’re blind as well as thick!” she shouted, nearly stumbling as she forced her way between the tables. “Had ye seen past your nose, you’d ‘ave seen it was that wizard in league with the very Elf devils who caused the plague in the first place. It was none other than Wizard Razzmorten himself
and his witch daughter, Ugleeuh!” She staggered back a step with a glance about at her
audience of wide-eyed diners. “No wonder he came to town as a pardoner. He knew
they’d be run out if people recognized him.” Suddenly she took a tramp toward Minuet.
“In fact, maybe it’s time something was done about that entire family. Everyone knows
they practice the dark arts.”
Minuet shot to her feet. “Shame on you!” she shouted. “If it weren’t for my father, the queen herself would be dead this minute! Scores of people have caught the plague and are alive right now because of him…!”
“Yea!” she barked, peppering Minuet’s face with flecks of spit. “Like all the pointy eared foreigners who caused it!”
“Foreigners! How can you say such a thing! They were here a thousand years ago, before there ever was a Niarg…”
“A threat to us the whole time , Missy!” cried Martha, smiling with her hateful piggy eyes as an angry drone stirred through the diners.
“A threat?” cried Minuet, turning to the crowd. “How many of you are alive today because you were healed by the Elves? How many of you would have died in childbirth
had it not been for them? How is it wrong to keep them alive alongside us?”
Bethan could see that the grumbling diners were not making kind replies. She saw her moment at once and quietly slipped out to summon Sergeant Bernard.
“And as for you, Martha Benton,” said Minuet, “how come you call me a witch when only yesterday you said I was like unto an angel?”
“I didn’t know the truth!” she shouted for all to hear. “You held me under an enchantment and used your dark magicks on my dear children. For all we know, you’ve left us changlings under your spell!”
“That’s a lie, Martha! I used no magicks! Your children are still your children. And they’re going to live a long life, too, thanks to my father’s drops which I’ve been giving them every four hours!”
“Yea? And we’d never have let you get away with that, had we only known!”
Minuet was stunned, standing there alone. “I’ve no time for this,” she stammered, turning to leave as diners began pushing back their chairs throughout the room. “We’ve got drops to give and bedpans to haul. Come on, Bethan…”
“So where’s your hired woman, witch?” shouted Martha, blocking Minuet’s escape as the entire dining room crowded around. “Could it be that we’re onto the truth and she didn’t want to hang alongside you for your sorceries?”
“If I were a witch,” cried Minuet, standing her ground before the huge woman, “why have I not struck you down with a curse by now?”
Martha dropped her jaw at this and grabbed herself by the throat to sit down on the floor with a heavy plump and topple onto her side like a sack of corn. The crowd stepped back with wide-eyed gasps.
“Good show Martha!” cried Minuet. “But the only thing wrong with you is your vicious demeanor!”
“You killed my wife!” shouted Sam, falling to his knees beside her as shouts of “Rope! Rope!” erupted from the crowd.
“She’s no more dead than I am!” cried Minuet.
“How do we know you’re alive?” shouted Sam.
“Yea!” hollered someone. “Hang her and burn her!”
“Rope! Rope! Rope!” chanted the crowd, as two huge men grabbed her and threw her against the wall to pummel her face and break her wrist, causing her to black out and fall to the floor, where they began kicking her at once.
“Stop!” bellowed Sergeant Bernard as he flung open the door, sword drawn.
Bethan came in right on his heels, elbowing her way through the crowd in a fury. “My baby girl!” she shrieked as she grabbed one of the kicking men by the hair on the back of his head, yanking him off balance onto the floor.
“Why you old sow!” cried the other man as he wheeled and kicked Bethan in the thigh, knocking her onto the floor.
“My baby!” she cried as she flew to her feet to rip open his belly with her dirk
The man on the floor rose to his knees, drawing his sword in time for Bernard to take off his head with a whistling swing of his saber.
By now the room had fallen to a hush as Minuet and Bethan’s other four bodyguards entered with swords drawn, followed by a dozen other royal guardsmen. Bethan knelt over Minuet, sobbing and smoothing her hair from her face.
“Seize that man trying to hide the rope!” shouted Bernard.
There was a brief scuffle as murmurs began stirring.
“Silence!” roared Bernard, punctuating the quiet which followed with the sound of his heels on the boards of the floor as he paced. “I am placing under arrest every one of you on this side of the room, from the man with the rope, clean to the wall, except for
Mistress Dewin and Bethan…”
“Why not the witch?” said Sam as he knelt by Martha. “If she’s not killed my wife, she at least has a spell on her.”
Bernard motioned to one of the guardsmen with a nod and whispered something in his ear. “We will hold you in the castle jail until you appear before the King’s Bench,” he said, continuing his speech as the guardsman slipped outside.
“What about the witch?” cried Sam as the guardsman returned with a hunting crop and handed it to Bernard.
Bernard made no reply as he took the crop and walked calmly over to Martha, smacking her rump with a furious whistling crack, causing her to jerk away with a yodeling shriek, tumbling up onto her knees wide eyed as she dearly held her behind. “I’m right glad to see that you’ll be awake for your hearing, dear,” he said as he handed the hunting crop back to the guardsman.
Ch. 11, Good Sister, Bad Sister
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Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps