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 Category:  General Fiction
  Posted: October 10, 2020      Views: 14
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Catherin Elizabet Belle, also a pseudonym. She is retired. She enjoys living in Florida where there is plenty of sea, sun and sand.

Ms Belle enjoys her research and creating poetry, novels, and short stories.

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Chapter 9 of the book The Search
The Lady's torn clothing found
"Evidence found" by Catherin Elizabet Belle

My men carry out their orders and worked into the night preparing to leave at daybreak. Seth brought my horse as the gray light of dawn whispered the rising of the sun; the trill of birds in the shadowy forest gave a pleasant sound, speaking of no intruders. Before mounting, I walked to the wagon where I expected to find Jonas. To my surprise, he sat astride his roan, a smile on his weathered face to match the gleam of his red hair. "Jonas, you're ready to ride."

"Aye me Lord, at your command."

While I doubt his ability to stay in the saddle as severe as his beating, I know better than to question his manhood or loyalty as one of my best soldiers; and let the matter rest.
Thomas approaches saying, "Sire, we're ready to march."

My horse mounted, I sat easily as I gazed around me and then said, "Thomas, have you seen Gaylor?" Before the words are silent Gaylor approaches. "Gaylor, you will take the army back to Fantasia. Thomas and Jonas will ride with me on an errand of utmost importance."

"Aye, me Lord, we're ready to leave. Will you give the command?"

Nodding, I ride to the head of the column, stand in the stirrups yelling, "Move Out." Turning my horse aside, I acknowledge each Captain and troop as they rode by in review while Jonas and Thomas waited beside me. Seth waits in the shade for my signal to join me. As the last of the troops pass, I nod to Seth who pulls up beside me with the pack animal in tow.

"We will trail the Army before veering to our destination" I spur my horse, moving forward in the dust's wake created by the marching hoard.

Lord Darwin dips his banner in acknowledgement as we move into the distance, then says,
"Gordon, have the Captains report to my quarters." Without saying a word, Gordon turns on his heels to obey the command.

Within the hour, troops assembled. "Gordon, assemble a contingency of twelve men ready to march at noon." Offering mead to those gathered, Darwin continues, "The rest prepare to march to Black Shadow upon my return. If I do not return in a week, leave without me. Is that understood?"

In an indignant voice one captain asks, "Sire, we are to leave without you?" Lord Darwin paces back and forth across the floor before responding, "That is my order. You will obey it."
Stopping near the table, he continues, "Return to your duties."

As the Captains leave Gordon remains standing near the exit as Lord Darwin says, "Willie boy, saddle my horse and a pack animal at once." Waiting until he leaves, Lord Darwin continues, "We will leave in search for Garth and any sign of the Lady Lenore as soon as Willie returns."

Willie soon returned with his master's mount, a packhorse, and his own steed and stood outside the tent waiting for his Lord. As Gordon arrives with Joshua, Lord Darwin steps from headquarters without a word mounts his steed, the armies in full battle dress.

By nightfall they reach the point of Targon, ten miles below the breaking camp, stopping to let the horses drink Willie bends picking up a piece of silk rag. Taking it to Lord Darwin he says, "Sire, did not the Lady Lenore have a dress of yellow silk?"

A shadow slides across his brow, "Where did you find this?" Dismounting!

His posture erect before Darwin Willie says, "Me Lord, it was hanging on a low branch by the water."

"Show me!" He follows Willie to the edge of the river and stops where his page points. Turning to Gordon he continues, "Have the men spread out searching both sides of the river upstream and downstream."

"Sire, we can't see in blackness of night. Across the river are Grosberg lands."
With a glare of hostility, Darwin yells, "We'll camp and begin the search at daybreak." Willie prepares his Lord a meal, but Darwin eats little.

Gordon sees to his men then joins Darwin near the fire Willie has prepared, "My Lord, we bivouac the men for the night." When Darwin nods Gordon remains in silence listening to the river flowing and the night sounds waiting for Darwin to speak. Time drags as the moon moves across the ebony sky where millions of stars glisten.

It is near the witching hour when Darwin speaks, "Gordon, rest now, we search at dawn." He returns to staring into the fiery blaze lost in a maze of his own thoughts.

Gordon rises from the fire and says, "Aye my Lord." Standing there he sees the hollowness of his master's eyes turns and walks away.

Gordon sits away from his men leaning against a tree, his sword beside him once again listens to the sound of water lapping the shore. The sound of the flowing water soothes his weariness as his eyes close in slumber.

At dawn Darwin is on his feet yelling at everyone and everything, he calls, "Willie boy, my horse at once." Turning toward the men he barks orders at the top of his lungs, anger guiding his words.

With his temper flaring, the men do as ordered, half crossing to the other side but staying in the water. Gordon nods his approval, taking the other half moving downstream. As they move through the shallows, Gordon's group has gone a mile downriver when they find a body half in the water and half on the bank. Gordon spurs his horse across the river and leaps to the ground. He turns the body over only to discover Garth's dead eyes staring at him. Lifting his body he lays it across the saddle as he leads the animal to where Lord Darwin is standing says, "My Lord, 'tis Garth, he's dead."

Just as the words escape Gordon's mouth, they hear one soldier calling back whence they came, but the words are unintelligible. He turns his horse in the direction and rides up on one of his warriors calling to him, "Lord Darwin, here! Over here, Sire." Approaching the man on foot, he sees he is holding a piece of clothing which he hands to him. As he touched the silken fabric, he knows before his eyes focus in the dim early morning light it belongs to Lady Lenore. It is a shredded piece of her gown, the yellow color of the scrap found earlier. Further search shows one of her small slippers snagged on a branch in the middle of the river where the water is deep.
Lord Darwin wails both in anger and grief. Willie stands with his Lord waiting for instructions, but he is too forlorn to think.

Gordon orders camp made. When Darwin's tent is ready, he leads him to his tent and tells Willie to stay with him. As the captain leaves Willie prepares a tankard of warm mead for the master saying, "Sire, drink."

In silence Darwin accepts the tankard and stares into the darkness of the tent where only a small flame of a candle flickers.
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