The Jester Excerpt

At several turns, Billy had to stop and listen for his prey. He didn’t know whom he was following, or even why he was following. He only knew that if someone was up this early creeping around Castle Orgulous there had to be a good reason, and he wanted to know what it was.

Finally Billy came to an entryway that led into a spacious garden. He could make out a large still pool bordered by flowers, which were raised in the black cobweb shadows under several ranks of trees. He went to step through the portal but felt prickles on the back of his neck and stayed his foot.

Movement down a path on the opposite end of the pond caught Billy’s attention. At that moment, he heard footsteps approaching from behind. There was nowhere to go except into the garden. Fear of being discovered forced him to descend the steps. Quietly he slipped down a path that led into the trees. He climbed a tree until he reached a place that was well hidden but afforded a good view of the egress. Within moments a cloaked man appeared in the archway and entered the garden. Billy held his breath as the man passed directly under him. When the man was well down the path, Billy dropped from the tree. The foreboding feeling was completely forgotten under an adrenal blanket.

A secret meeting! Maybe I’ll just see who it is, and then sneak away.

Billy crept along the path just out of sight of the mysterious cloaked man. As they moved around the pond, Billy noticed that walls of the donjon enclosed the entire garden. The only way in or out was the way he had come. Billy’s heart beat faster yet.

At the end of the pond, the man halted abruptly. Billy quickly slipped behind a shrub and lay down on the ground.

“My Lady!”

Billy recognized Sir Hugh’s voice. What’s he sneaking around for? And with whom?

“Hugh.”

That’s Lady Myrredith!

Hugh continued. “How are you?”

“Well.”

Billy could not see his patron, but he could sense that she was not being entirely truthful.

“What are you doing here?” Hugh asked.

“I knew … I knew that you would be here. I was informed that you start each morning here—that is, whenever you are in Orgulous.”

Billy inched closer until he could see her. She sat on a short marble bench facing the pond. Behind her stood a large square stone, partially entwined by a hardy thorn tree.

“You are well informed,” Hugh said from behind her. “Do you know why?”

“It’s a beautiful spot in the morning?” Lady Myrredith rose from the bench.

“Yes, it is, but there is another reason.”

Lady Myrredith paced around Hugh and placed her hand on the large square stone. “They should do something about these thorns.”

“They have, but they just kept coming back stronger than before.”

“The queen. Is she the reason you come here?”

“Aye. I made a vow to her.”

“A vow?”

“Aye.”

“But she’s been dead for many years.”

“And so has my father!”

Lady Myrredith studied the King’s Champion. “What are you saying, Hugh? Is there some connection?”

“Mother told me that my father took a sacred oath to obey and protect the queen. I think he died keeping that oath. In fact, I think they died at the hands of the same killer.”

“What?” Lady Myrredith stiffened. “Killer? I don’t understand.”

“Killer or killers.”

“She was murdered?

“Yes. Not many know.”

Billy could hardly believe what he was hearing. The queen had died before his memory began, and in the many years since, he had never heard of anyone who suspected foul play in the queen’s death. How could such a thing be kept a secret? His stomach churned.

“I heard rumors,” Lady Myrredith said, “but I never … And what’s your part in it?”

“I must find the man responsible, and kill him.”

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