The morning began with a feeling of apprehension. The dawn sky was red. The old sailor’s saying came to mind. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor take warning.” It was a bad omen for Bryantt’s journey to France. He would not tell her what mission the Queen had given him. She only knew that he was taking Baylee, the brothel mistress, with him. It must be some strange business indeed. No matter how she tried, she could not wheedle his secret out of him.
When she cracked open her boiled egg at the breakfast table, there was blood in the yoke. She frowned, another bad omen. She pushed the egg aside and nibbled at her toast. She was not very hungry.
She dragged her feet as she accompanied Bryantt to the docks, trying to delay his departure. Baylee was watching from onboard the ship. Karissa was also there. The wind was strong and there were whitecaps on the water.
Karissa caught her eye and she saw the same apprehension in her eyes. At that moment, all her resentment and jealousy melted away as she realized that they were united by one, very important thing–their love for Bryantt. He was a rascal, but he had stolen both their hearts with his warmth, humour, and deep seated kindness. When Bryantt kissed her, she grasped him and held him, whispering in his ear, “Don’t go.”
“I must,” he said. He smiled and playfully bopped her nose. She brushed back a tear as he turned to Karissa and kissed her. She moved closer to Karissa as Bryantt boarded the ship.
She felt tears run down her cheeks. She looked at Karissa, and saw tears streaming down her face. She took Karissa’s hand and drew her near, watching as the ship sailed out onto the rough waters.
She saw Baylee waving from the ship, and she could not help but smile. She could not help but like the wench, no matter what her occupation. She had secretly enjoyed watching her torment poor Father Barnard, and was afraid for her when she tried to torment the very dangerous Father Matthew. The town would be a more dour and humourless place without her.
Roxeter was a strange place. It was far from the high courts of Stirling, London and Versailles. She reigned over a court in a small town full of characters, scoundrels, saints and sinners. Only here could such strange relationships exist between a Countess, a man of questionable birth, a tavern mistress and brothel madame.
She crossed herself, saying a desperate prayer that God might send them back to her safe and sound, and walked sadly back to the castle.