Perplexed, puzzled, confused and bewildered, Vivienne followed Bryantt out of the castle jail. She did not understand what would have caused the priest to have lost his mind. He had seemed a good man and she had been glad to see him arrive at the abbey. She confided in him and unburdened herself, voicing fears and asking his advice when discussing her upcoming nuptials. At the end, he had seemed to be a tad upset and she could not understand why. She wondered if that had marked the beginning of his descent into madness. It was such a pity.
Vivienne also did not understand why Bryantt was so very vexed. She had seen the man handle business in the town with great tact and finesse, dealing with difficult people and situations with good humour. It was one of the things she admired about him.
As she stepped into the courtyard she heard Father Barnard screaming, “Thieves! Adulterers!” from his cell. She did not know what was at the root of all this trouble, but somehow she just knew in her bones that Karissa, the brothel Madame, was to blame.
There the wench was, in the centre of the square, and Bryantt was fussing over her. She asked her questions, frustrated, sensing that she was the only one who did not know what was going on. “Why did the priest kidnap her? Why did he attack you? How did you find them?” Bryantt deftly evaded and side stepped the questions, not giving any real answers. Everyone else just looked at her, mute. On some faces she thought she saw pity.
Bryantt told her to take Karissa to her quarters. Vivienne’s jaw dropped open. Why would she take a whore, worse than that, the brothel Madame to her chambers in the Royal tower of the castle? Had he lost his mind too? Had everyone lost their minds?
She shook her head to clear it. She would deal with this later. For now, she would do as Bryantt asked and find some place for the hussy to recover. Karissa looked at her with hatred in her eyes. “I want to go home,” she said.
Vivienne replied, “No more nonsense now. Dismount and let the boy take your horse to the stable. You will come with me. Do I have to call a guard?”
Karissa ignored the Countess and said to Bryantt, “I am not going to HER room.”
Vivienne told her, “Then go to the spare room in the Warden’s suite then.”
Gus helped Karissa down from her horse. “”You need aid girl take it. Tomorrow you can go home.”
Karissa drew herself up to her full height and glared at the Countess. “Fine. Whatever. Take me by force if you must.”
Vivienne shrugged and motioned for two of the castle guard to come. Each of them took one of her arms. “Take her to the spare room in the Warden’s suite.” She followed them there and told Baylee that she could fetch her some food and drink. She looked at Karissa and said, “We also have spare beds in the jail cells, be grateful you are not there.” She thought that a woman such as she should be grateful for a bed anywhere. With that, she spun on her heel and left.
He looked at her and the weariness of the world seemed to settle on him and weigh him down. “Yes, and I am tired.”
“Come, I believe there is some stew on the fire in the kitchen.” she led him to the kitchen and guided him to sit at the table. She ladled out some stew into a wooden trencher and set it before him. She cut him a chunk of fresh bread that the baker had just delivered, and poured wine into a goblet. She moved behind him, gently massaging his shoulders as he ate.
He relaxed and spoke. “I was attacked. I was hurt. I had a fever that lasted three days. Yet people listen to a mad priest.” He sighed deeply, and Vivienne’s heart melted and ached for him.
She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “I cared. I nursed you and took care of you.” She sat on the bench beside him, placed her fingertips gently beneath his chin and turned his head toward her. “I would listen to you my love, and forgive you anything.” She gently kissed him.
Vivienne frowned, “No, you cannot do that.”
“I might, my love. I might.” Bryantt said.
Vivienne took his hand in both of hers and looked at him earnestly. “We are the crown and the law. We must follow due process if we are to rule this land. We must be seen to be fair and just, or the people will not follow us.”
Bryantt sighed again. He looked so tired as he said, “I will, my love, I will. I still want to kill him, but I will sleep on it. Perhaps things will look better in the morning.”
That night as Vivienne lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, thoughts and questions raced through her mind. The questions were unanswered, but Vivienne was sure of one thing. It must be Karissa’s fault somehow.