"The Queen has been through here."
Rory looked at his companion. "Bo, how do ye know?" He expected to hear that the big detective had used some arcane means of deduction through observation of their chosen path.
"The good-looking one told me."
Rory stared at him a minute. "What did she say?"
Bo shrugged. "That's about all."
The Irishman's look was doubtful. "Sure an' she just walked up to you and cried out, 'The Queen of Christenlande slept here!'?"
Bo grinned. "Well, she did cry out..."
Rory's face defined growing understanding and he laughed aloud and clapped Bo on the back. "Looks like the Simpleton act didnae cramp ye'r style man. Though I wonder at the wisdom of bein' after takin' the chance."
Bo replied, "Hey, man, it was the lady's idea. She wanted to see what I had to offer, and she took delivery. I hardly had to do a thing but smile and gurgle 'Pretty lady'. She thought I meant the Queen, so she confirmed that she had seen her."
Rory leveled a considering gaze on Bo. "Faith, an' I should not be surprised. I t works for the O'Neill every time. He just opens those big blue eyes an' looks stupid, and boom, there it is."
"Your pal Shannon. He's a great guy. But he's kind of a clown." Bo looked for Rory's reaction.
Rory smiled, a hint of affection on his face. "Och, that. It be an act. Shan be deeper than the North Sea. That very sea he drowned in."
Bo groaned. "ANOTHER resurrection story?"
Rory said, "Aye, an' not nearly so believable as mine." He grinned as he mimed a rope being put around his neck. He tilted his head at an unnatural angle and stuck his tongue out.
"You'll fill me in on that one too?" Rory nodded.
"But I be wantin' ye to know that Shan is more than a merry fellow to pass the time and a few tankards of ale around with. He is a poet. Ask him to play some o' his serious songs for ye some time. I wager ye'll cry like a baby."
Bo nodded . "I wouldn't doubt it. So why's he act like such a jackass?"
"Hard to say. Mayhap someday there will be people who can look into a man or woman's heart and know what be after makin' it tick. I be not that insightful. That be why I stick to legends and myths for me songs. No one cares what angst a dragon. Hath in his soul."
Rory pulled his wistful Eastwood look again. "All I can say is that the man loves... and I be meanin' LOVES. Everything. The whole world and everythin' in it. But he seems so ... well... alone."
Bo thought about this and resolved to make sure he had the opportunity to learn more about the O'Neill.
He was startled back to the present by Rory's matter of fact comment. "He once slept with his own sister, Kathleen." And Bo recognized the look Rory gave him as the one that says, "That be for another time." Rory winked.
Reluctantly, Bo changed the subject. "I think I'm getting acclimatized to this place. It seems like things are sharper, more consistent." He looked at Rory, curious. "What's the hardest part about being a fictional character? Is it knowing your every move is someone else's idea? "
Rory chuckled. "Actually, nay. I don't think many of us think about that much. What makes it hard on me is the fluid time frames. I mean, I thought Shannon was going to drown later some time, but I be findin' meself talkin' to him and you as if it had already happened. And just look here, w have been on this road for a couple weeks at least. But does it feel like that?"
"Not at all," Bo said. It feels like at most a few days. Is it always like this?"
Rory nodded. "Pretty much."
"How do you handle it?"
"Go with the flow... go with the flow.." Rory turned his face back to the horizon and interjected, "Hold on a minute. Be that a dock?"
Bo looked where Rory was pointing. There was a sort of crude dock. There were no boats around, but he thought he could see a hut not far from the land end of the dock.
Bo and Rory spurred their horses on, then remembered they did not have horses and just walked on quickly.
There was indeed a hut. And fortunately someone in it. It was the man who maintained the rickety dock, not well of course, but he managed all the traffic through this spot. Since that traffic was scant he was able to fill Rory and Bo in on all the doings, in fact they spent over two hours hearing about all the "wee boats" and "great dragon ships" and the smugglers and pirates and you name it that he had seen through the little crossroads he called home. l
Since Rory had used the same story about the monastery near Lawrencium, the man finally came around to the topic at hand. "Oh aye, she been here, that lady. Pretty thing she is. All golden haired and sweet. I heard her tell them old servants to take a hike and that she were takin' a boat to France."
Rory and Bo both almost fell off the bench they shared, Rory looking even taller as his end of it had gone up when Bo sat on the other. Rory knocked over his mug of mead. They had both been lulled into a stupor by the man's endless singsong.
"What?!" Rory shot at the man. "Was there a boat? Did she take it?"
The man launched into a story about the boat and its rather disreputable crew, the cargo it had brought that time and the cargo it had taken away. He talked about first seeing it years ago when his good wife was still alive. Rory and Bo exchanged looks and Bo stood. He fell out of character, hard. "DID SHE SAIL ON THAT GOD-DAMNED SHIP?" he shouted.
The man looked up at the towering friar. "That be not a fit way for a man o' God to be talkin'" Bo thought for a moment he had blown it. But the man went on. "Nay, she did not. She ne'er e'en spoke to me nor the captain nor nobody. She just got back up there on her high horse and rode away, actin' like she were too good for us." He stopped a moment and went on. "Course, her bein' the Queen o' Christenlande and all, she was too good for us."
Rory pressed on, "Where did she go. Did you see which direction she took?"
"Oh aye. That way." The man pointed directly at the northbound fork of the crossroads.
As Bo and Rory walked on north, Rory smirked at his companion. "I be wagerin' ye are glad ye didnae have to screw that one, now, t get the information."
Bo turned and slapped him upside the head. Rory burst into a torrent of guffaws.
Next: something else
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com