Work in Progress: The Lady and the Sword, Week Five

The Lady and the Sword
Swords of Charlemagne, Book 2

Five weeks in, just about a quarter of a book done. I’m pretty pleased with how things are going. This week was a better word week, even though during a routine repair, our local power company managed to fix the junction box that supplies our house so well that we lost power for seven hours instead of the two to four hours that we were told to expect.

Skilled technicians, my arse.

That being said, I made up for it the next day, and I’m now ahead of where I should be… just in time for Spring Break. Tune in next week to see if I make my words!

Let’s have an excerpt. It’s getting harder to find excerpts for this book that won’t be spoilers for book one. I think this one will work, and I like indignant!Mystere.


Margaret fell in next to Douglas and followed Mystere up the stone steps and into the church. There was a definite sense of the familiar; Margaret had been to Chartres with her father, and they’d spent weeks here studying the legends of the Virgin’s chemise, a relic that was supposedly given to Charlemagne by the Empress Irene, and then given to the church by Charlemagne. That part of the story was a complete fabrication, her father had told her — the relic had actually been given to the church by Charles’ grandson, long after Charlemagne’s death. Privately, he’d told Margaret that he thought half the allure of that particular relic was the titillation factor — the story told that it had been the Virgin’s undergarment, and therefore had been in contact with her bare skin. Regardless, the belief in it had turned Chartres into a major pilgrimage site. She paused just inside, letting her eyes adjust to the dim light of the candles. She heard Mystere and Douglas coming toward her, and out of habit, she turned to the right toward the southern aisle.

“Margaret, where are you going?” Mystere asked. She turned back.

“Were we not going toward the altar?” she asked.

Mystere looked puzzled. “We are, but why are you going that way?”

Margaret blinked. “Because I was taught not to walk on the labyrinth,” she answered. “You weren’t?”

For the first time in either of her memories, Mystere looked blank. “I’m not certain what you mean, darling.”

She walked back to the men, and called a globe of light to her hand, setting it afloat over their heads. Then she pointed to the pattern on the floor. “The labyrinth. Yael, have you never walked the labyrinth?”

Mystere walked forward, up to the edge of the scalloping that encircled the massive pattern laid into the floor. “I never have. I don’t remember even seeing it the last time I was here. But I didn’t come in the usual way, so I might not have.” He knelt, touched the stones. “This is something like the devil’s thumb in Aachen, isn’t it?”

“I’m not sure,” Margaret answered, walking over to stand with him. “Pilgrims walk the pattern, and use it for prayer and meditation. I’m told it’s a substitute for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but Father said there was another reason behind it. That it mimics the mythic path to the underworld. Spiritual rebirth, he called it.”

Mystere looked up. “Pagan nonsense? In Chartres?”

Margaret laughed. “How many church rituals now were pagan nonsense when we were first on this earth, Turp?” she countered. He smiled and stood up, brushing his hands on his coat.

“Douglas, what do you think?” he asked, turning. He stopped and frowned. “Doogie?”

Margaret turned and looked, realizing for the first time that Douglas had vanished. “Douglas?”

“Up here,” Douglas called from somewhere near the front of the cathedral. “Come and see.”

Margaret looked at Mystere, who shrugged. Then he looked down. “Don’t walk on it?”

“Father said walk around it unless you were walking with a purpose.”

“Then we’ll walk around.” He took Margaret’s arm, and they went down the northern aisle toward the apse. Ahead, Margaret could see another globe of light, and Douglas. He was looking up at one of the stained glass windows. She frowned, then realized what he was looking at.

“You found the Charlemagne window!”

“The what?” Mystere gasped. Margaret just looked at him.

“You’ve been here, you said!”

“Yes, but—” He shook his head. “Never mind. It’s complicated. What is this window?”

“It’s beautiful,” Margaret answered. “And it tells the stories…” she stopped. Stopped talking, and stopped walking. Mystere stopped and turned to face her. “This is going to be very odd,” she said softly. “The last time I looked at this was before I knew.”

“Now you can show me,” Mystere said, his voice gentle. “Am I in the window, too?”

Margaret took his arm and started walking again, thinking. “I…no, I don’t believe so. No.”

Mystere sniffed. “I’m insulted. I was by his side for most of his life, you’d think I’d rate a few bits of colored glass.”

Margaret giggled. “You’d have to complain to the furriers, then. But they’re all six hundred years dead now, so it really won’t matter to them.”


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