"But dubhín, I do not know where that lady is." Shannon continued cautiously.
"Thou shalt find her." Juliana was confident.
"And when I find her, what means would ye have me use to kill her?" Shannon stared at the girl, who seemed to be as gay as a lark.
She looked up at him through dark lashes. "We shall discuss that later. We need somewhere safe we can plan. A servant could walk in here any moment."
Shannon thought to himself, "Aye, and could have a moment ago as well." To her he said, "I know just the place. He told her of the secret passageways. The intrigue of it clearly delighted her.
"Ah, I wish I shouldst have known of these ere this!" she said, wistfully.
He told her how to gain access to one he knew of and they set a time to meet and make their secret plans. She kissed him long and deeply and sent him on his way.
At the appointed hour Juliana made her way to a secluded spot hear the door to a tower stairway. She found the alcove Shannon had described and found the way in, finding herself in a pitch dark passageway. The Irishman had told her to carry no light as it might be seen through chinks in the wall and arouse suspicion. She was to feel her way, he said, and she did, finding cobwebs and soft wet clumps on the walls as she went. Shannon had smiled inwardly imagining just this thing.
He had told her to follow the wall to the left and around a corner. She was to take care there since she might fall if she did not feel with her foot carefully to find the top of a short stairway. She found it. She walked down the few steps, afraid of the small rustling and scurrying noises she heard around her on the floor and on the walls. At the bottom of the steps she had to let loose the wall and step across to another. As she did, reaching and feeling for what seemed like an eon, someone somewhere shouted with laughter. She almost screamed. She felt dizzy and as though she was about to fall into a pit. Then her fingers touched the cold damp of the far wall. That was where she was to wait for the O'Neill.
Juliana stood and shivered in the damp and dark. She touched and touched again the small dagger she had brought in case Shannon was duplicitous. Many times she thought she heard footsteps but no one came. Perhaps Shannon had thought better of his offer. Then she heard soft and close to her ear, "Well met, easy woman." He took her arm and planted a kiss where he thought her face was and hit the side of her head instead.
"Didst anyone see thee, assassin," she asked.
"No one who would tell the Sassenachs.." He found her mouth then and kissed her. She let it linger for only a short time.
"Then ye will do as I ask?" She leaned against him.
"Sure, and will ye give me what I want when I return from carryin' out the deed?"
Juliana sighed and pressed harder against him. She kissed him longer then. "Aye," she sighed.
Shannon smiled grimly in the darkness. He threw an unseen glance over his shoulder. Of course, he could see nothing and no one. He crossed is fingers and hoped they were there. "By what means do ye wish me to kill the Queen?" He quickly added, "To kill Josephine."
Something was out of place, Juliana thought. Why had he made a point of saying her name? Perhaps it was just the familiarity he liked to use to show his disrespect for the Saxons who ruled. She leaned forward and pressed something into his hand. It was a tiny bottle. It was warm from her grasp. "It is a poison. Find her and give it her. Then she will die as if she hath died of a miscarriage."
A door behind Shannon was thrown open. light hit Juliana's eyes and blinded her. When she could see at all, the three men who stood before her were in silhouette. She knew the figure closest was Shannon's. She could well guess the identities of the two behind him. The taller shadow barked, "Guards, take her!"
Men rushed into the passageway and joined the King and Lorin where they had listened undetected by Juliana as she outlined her wish. They came to her and seized her arms. She fought them, angry and spitting, then crying out and begging the next moment. A guard found and held up the dagger for the King to see. As the men dragged her past the King she saw a loathing in his eyes more terrible than any horror she had ever seen. She kept her eyes on him as they dragged her out of the passageway and through a room.
Lawrence looked at Shannon, whose own countenance was grim. He nodded with no hint of satisfaction and he and Lorin turned and left the Irishman in the secret passageway.
Shannon stood a moment, still clutching the bottle in his hand. He followed the men out and caught up with them. He gave Lorin the bottle, still warm from Juliana's hand, and said, "Ye must have this as evidence. What I need is a drink." He left the pair and went to find solace with whatever fermented drink he could obtain.
TO BE CONTINUED
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