Chapter Eleven

Father Godfrey returned that night to Sarbury, carrying a basket on his back-- a basket full of roses. After making a quick stop at his small cottage, he headed hurriedly for Robin and Sarah's manor. He decided that time was of the essence and quickly turned down a path that was rarely used. As he was nearing Highgate Manor (aka Castle Westlynn; its two names will be explained later), he noticed someone running out to meet him. To his surprise, it was Elise, who had never shown much interest in him.

"Father Godfrey! Father Godfrey!" she cried. Her long, dark hair flew out behind her like a raven's feathers. "Father, have you seen Owen?"

"Owen?" Godfrey felt his heart lurch. The young shepherd boy was like a son to him. He was also known to be accident prone. "What's wrong?"

Elise ran to him, then matched her pace to his, talking excitedly, her eyes wild. "He was with Lord Brewster, and they were attacked, and now Owen's gone!"

The priest frowned. "Doesn't Brewster know what happened to him?"

"He said he lost sight of him, that it was a terrible fight," Elise finished breathlessly.

"I would think someone like Lord Brewster would have enough sense to keep an eye on someone like Owen," Godfrey muttered angrily.

"That's what I thought, too," Elise said quietly.

Father Godfrey glanced at her quickly. He had never thought her to be very perceptive, especially when compared to her sister Sarah. "Elise… is there something you are thinking that you are not telling me? A suspicion perhaps?"

The manor house loomed large in the distance, a shadow in the sky to block the stars.

"I don't think--I don't think that I am the only one with this particular suspicion," the girl said, her voice low, her eyes downcast. "I just think that I am the one whose opinion in this matter should be taken the most seriously."

"Is that so? Why?"

"I--I have unwisely made it a habit of mine to befriend… well… people who are not all that respectable." She sighed as if annoyed with herself, which she probably was. "Well, some of my 'friends' are very unsavory, wicked even. So I, of all people, should be able to tell if someone isn't respectable. And I may not be as bright as Sarah, but… I do notice things. Especially about men." She blushed. "Father, could we count this as a confession as well?"

Godfrey smiled softly. "As long as it was spoken to God as well, and not just to a simple man such as myself, I believe it should count."

"Oh, I've already told God all about it. And I said I was sorry. And I certainly won't be found in the company of those… people… again."

"Excellent. It counts, then." His smile faded. "And it looks as if some good may come from the evil that was once in your life. Tell me, Elise… what is your suspicion?"

(LINE)

Lady Livia stood quietly before Sarah, Miles, Robin, and Brewster, yet her presence was commanding. She stood with her head held high, her broad shoulders straight.

"So you deny that you killed William, the blacksmith's cousin?" Brewster asked her.

"I do deny it. How could I have killed him? I was at my brother's house the night of the murder. He and his wife had invited me to stay. They will tell you that I was there." She spoke with confidence, but Sarah thought that her eyes looked over-bright, perhaps with fear or anxiety.

"Didn't Elise say that she saw a man run into the woods after William was shot?" Robin spoke up.

Sarah nodded, brightening. "Yes. I do remember that." Thank God for you, Robin.

"Well, Elise isn't here--" Brewster started.

"She should be soon," Sarah said coolly. She was beginning to be fed up with Lord Daniel Brewster. "She went to meet Godfrey and ask about Owen, who has mysteriously disappeared--along with the arrow, as you know." She fixed him with an overly polite smile.

Brewster nodded, not meeting her eyes. "Yes, yes. You're right."

"So until then, we should examine other evidence," Robin concluded, eyeing his sister and the other lord nervously. The two of them seemed rather awkward around each other.

Miles spoke up. "What about the robbery? Remember how Harold the apothecary was robbed?"

"I'd forgotten that," Robin said thoughtfully.

"How could I have done that?" Livia asked. "I do believe I was at my father's estate when that unfortunate incident occurred."

"Again, I am sure you have witnesses?" Sarah asked.

Livia flashed her a grateful smile. "Of course. My parents."

"But do we know that the murder, the attempted murders, the robbery, and the vandalisms are all connected?" Brewster asked, rubbing his square jaw.

"It seems to me like it is too much of a coincidence for them not to be," Miles said. "There are the dark green cloaks, the roses--that phrase specifically. 'The Sarbury Rose.'" He leaned back in his chair, wincing slightly. "We saw those people in the woods. There is some kind of occult group in this town. I believe that they are behind everything. They need to be brought to justice--especially their leader." He frowned. "If only I hadn't been forced to kill Victor. We may have been able to learn from him the identity of this man, this sorcerer, or whatever he is."

"I wonder what they want." Robin stood and crossed his arms in a very Sarah-like gesture. "Why are they doing all this?"

"Maybe if we find out what they want, we can find out specifically who they are," Sarah agreed.

Suddenly, Father Godfrey and Elise walked into the room. Godfrey was calm and composed, as usual. And as usual, Elise was all worked up about something, her dark eyes flashing, her body a mass of barely controlled emotion.

"Owen…?" Sarah asked quietly.

Godfrey shook his head. "I'm sorry. I neither saw nor heard anything of Owen." He held up the basket of roses. "But I did find these."

Sarah was immediately at his side. She reached into the basket and gently drew out a rose. "Yes," she said softly. "This is exactly like the one that I have." She glanced down at the other roses. "All of them are. So dark red that they are almost purple. Beautiful."

"John, the gardener from Barcombe Down, as I thought was selling these in Scar. I remembered that I had seen them once in London, at a trade show. And then in Scar. It was God's providence that the show is still in Scar." Godfrey reached to rub one of the petals gently between his fingers. "I asked him to whom he had been selling his roses lately. And he told me that there was a big blonde man, a foreigner, who had been buying baskets full."

"Victor," Miles said quietly, standing slowly.

Sarah went to her fiancé and took his arm, worried at his pale face. "Yes," she agreed. "It has to be Victor."

"Buying them for the man he worked for--the one who wasn't me," said Miles.

"This occult leader." Robin uncrossed his arms, glancing at Livia. "I think it's fair to say that Lady Livia is not the one we are looking for."

"There were witnesses who saw her with a bow, and she did speak to Victor quite often," Brewster spoke up.

"I can explain that," Livia said. She tossed her dark blonde hair over her strong shoulders. "I was… enamored of Victor when he first came with Miles. I found him fascinating. He claimed that he was a fledgling musician and that he needed patronage. I was so admiring of him that I was willing to give it. In exchange for a few sheets of songs, I gave him a small payment."

"Victor? A musician?" Miles laughed. "The man could barely hum!"

"Well, that is cleared up," Sarah said. "What about the witnesses?" She turned to Brewster. "Where are they?"

"As I have before stated, they wish to remain unnamed," the young lord replied, half bowing to the lady.

"But we have a witness who is actually here who claims that she saw a man run from the scene of the murder. Not a woman." Miles gestured toward Elise.

Elise nodded. "I know it was a man. No woman looks like that."

"Lady Livia is tall and strongly built," Brewster protested.

"Not that broad." Elise shook her head. "This man was quite stocky."

"Lady Livia, you may leave." Miles nodded courteously to her, then turned to Robin. "Robin, will you escort her home?"

Robin nodded, looking quite satisfied with himself. "Of course, my lord. My pleasure." He turned to Livia and offered her his arm.

"That reminds me. I need to be heading back to your castle, Lord Sarbury." Brewster stood and stretched. "I'm glad things are all cleared up. Lady Sarah, Lady Elise." He nodded to both. And from both sisters received a cool smile. A bit confused, he left the castle.

"Miles, I don't like that man being at your castle without you there," Sarah whispered to him. "But you aren't well enough to leave our manor yet."

"I know. It makes me nervous. There's something about him that I don't trust." The Lord of Sarbury looked around at his friends. "I believe that this mistrust of Lord Brewster is mutual."

Everyone nodded.

"I don't like him," Elise said. "I really don't."

"Owen was with him when he disappeared," Sarah added, nodding at her sister's comment. "And he acted without your permission in arresting Lady Livia."

"Where in the world are these witnesses he keeps talking about?" Miles wondered aloud. His gray eyes narrowed. "I think we should be very careful around Lord Brewster."

"Sarah!"

Sarah turned to the doorway. There stood Bonnie, wearing her nightdress and a red robe. "What is it, Bonnie?" she asked.

"I can't sleep," the younger girl said softly, her eyes large and worried. "I can't stop thinking about Owen. I'm so worried about him, Sarah."

"I think we should all pray for Owen right now," Father Godfrey spoke up.

(LINE)

Owen the shepherd woke up to total darkness. The first thing he noticed was the overpowering smell of hay. The second thing he noticed was that his hands were tied behind his back. He shivered. Wherever he was, it was cold.

For a moment, the young man considered calling for help, then decided against it. Obviously, he was a prisoner of some sort. Calling out would do no good if his captors were near. A split second later, he discovered that he had been wise to act against his impulse.

There was a sudden light, a lantern, swinging toward him, illuminating the face and form of a man.

"Aha. It looks as if our prisoner has awakened." The man smiled. "Don't be afraid, Owen of Scar. I won't harm you. You will be of use to us yet."

"Us?" Owen asked, frowning up at the man.

The lantern bearer only laughed.

(LINE)

Sarah slipped quietly into Miles' dark room. She tiptoed to the side of his bed and reached down to gently lay her hands on his lips. She sighed with relief to feel warm, steady breath on her fingers. "Thank-you, Lord," she whispered. She bent to kiss Miles softly on the lips, then fled silently from the room.