“STOPPPPP!!!” bellowed a familiar voice from outside the calash. Hempsty pulled on the reins and brought Sentinel to a gentle stop.
“I doorn’t believe it!” sighed Gemevere. “‘Er again! Could yer not’ve picked a more busier route ferth’ trip to Nottinham?”
Hempsty glanced over to his cousin and rolled his eyes. “Verily, this is the only road to Nottingham, my cousin. You’ve obviously chosen a busy day on which to commence thine mission.”
“I’d hairt tut th’ be usin’ this roard every dare. What does this Katherine woman want from us now?”
“Well, my cousin, we’d best dismount and find out.” Hempsty raised his voice slightly, “After all, pray thee don’t forget, Lady Reverence is accompanying us from a distance.”
They both climbed out of their carriage and found Katherine Ferriers standing just in front of Sentinel, and an oddly dressed man patting the horse’s nose.
“What would you like from us now, Katherine?” Hempsty asked, glancing oddly towards the second stranger they’d met that morning.
“Obviously nothing, since you’ve already taken me gun from me.” Katherine spat. “This man needs a ride into Nottingham and I thought you and Lady Lah De Dah ‘ere may be kind enough to offer.”
“Verily you must know that our carriage only has space for two persons, my fair lady. How would you think a third would be able to accompany us?”
“Well, for starters, there’s more room in there for four folk at a push,” Katherine nodded toward the redwood polished vehicle, before patting Sentinel’s neck. “And then there’s always the ‘orse. One could always ride side-saddle.” She looked over at Gemevere.
“If you think arm…”
“Of course not.” Katherine interrupted before Gemevere had chance to finish her sentence. “Just saying. An’ if there’s room fer four, then I’m coming along too.”
“Now just a minute.” Hempsty was enraged. “We have one horse and a long journey ahead of us. How on Earth can you expect him to pull all four of us plus the calash all that distance? We have to decline your request with absolute certainty.”
“So you would refuse your king?” Katherine smirked.
“My king?” Hempsty looked at the oddly dressed man again. “This man is not my king!” he scoffed.
“This is King…” Katherine was interrupted this time, by the new stranger.
“My name is Æthelstan, the first king of the Unified England. This fair maiden told me you were heading to Nottingham, where I too must attend court with the High Sheriff there. My entourage was taken by a gang of vagabonds in an eerie wood back along the road somewhat. I have no idea where they may be now, but I must get to Nottingham as soon as possible. The future of England depends upon it.”
“But you aren’t the king, Æthelstan. King Arthur is the king. You must be from another kingdom.” Hempsty tried to prove he knew what he was talking about.
“I was King of Mercia for a while, but then become King of All England after the unification.”
“England ‘ant bin unified.” Gemevere needed to say something, suddenly noticing a sudden gust of very cold wind which made her lose her thread of thought. “Looks like a storm’s comin’ in.”
Sentinel suddenly reared onto his hind legs, at almost the same time as the cold blast. Hempsty settled the horse once again, and looked at Æthelstan. “We have no knowledge of a King Æthelstan, Æthelstan. If we were to offer you carriage, verily you must prove thine identity to us.”
“I can prove it!” Katherine spoke up once again. “I ‘ave some coins you see. The king’s face is on ’em.”
“Very well, let me see.” Hempsty sighed. “Sometimes the likeness on some of these coins leaves a lot to be desired, but alas, it may be the only proof we have.”
Katherine reached into her purse and obtained a single silver coin. She checked it before handing it over to Hempsty. “I want it back, mind.” she said, momentarily pulling the coin away. Noticing Hempsty’s unimpressed glare, she handed it to him somewhat sheepishly.
Hempsty inspected the coin in great detail. “Would thy be so kind as to turn to the left?” he asked as he held the coin up beside Æthelstan’s face, who did as he was asked. “Quite remarkable. The likeness is simply astounding. Here, cousin, take a look.” Gemevere took the coin from Hempsty and compared the likeness herself. Katherine kept her eyes firmly upon the coin.
“This in’t real.” Gemevere declared. Both Katherine and Æthelstan looked at her with differing expressions, Katherine’s appearing somewhat desperate. “Th’date on ’em is 928. We’re in 489 so there’s naw wear this is real.”
Katherine grabbed a few more coins from her purse and checked them as well. “Oh yea…” her voice trailed off. “489 you say? An’ coins from 928? This is 1642. You all must be ‘avin’ a laugh.”
“I can assure you, fair maiden, we are in the year 489.” Hempsty was just as confused as everyone else.
A loud clap of thunder jolted everyone, which was quickly followed by the heaviest of rain.
“Quickly! Into the calash!” Hempsty ordered, and all four did as instructed. Æthelstan, Hempsty and Gemevere sat on the seat, and Katherine found herself sitting on the floor at the front of the carriage facing the other three. “I will carry you to the next town, where you can find an alternative way for the remainder of your journey. I have no mind to play such games of the mind such as these.” He passed the coin back to Katherine, and pulled on the reins to let Sentinel know to move along.
Sentinel struggled to get started with the extra weight, but eventually got going. A raven settled on the roof of the carriage as the horse slowly moved forward.
This is the fourth part in the Reverence storyline. The previous three parts can be found in my Storylines menu.