Legend Of Lord Foxglove IV

“Beautiful day, wasn’t it!” Alister said, raising a crystal goblet for a toast. At the head of the huge polished-oak supper table sat greybearded Lord Brimbsbi d’Avix. Ostensibly the toast was to him and his daughters at his sides, Lady Saoirse and her younger sister Caoimhe. With Alister were three other remaining suitors, Shane, Riley and Oisin.

“Yes, and let us profusely thank Lord Brimbsbi d’Avix,” Oisin said, “for hosting this splendid day, which may not come again.” He smiled at Saoirse, the daughter whose hand they pursued.

“… for some of us,” Alister added.

“Now gentlemen,” Saoirse chided, “let’s leave the rivalries of today’s fox hunt back in the woods, shall we?”

“You four are here,” Lord Brimbsbi offered in his deep sea-merchant’s voice, “because you are worthy of our consideration. And nothing is decided.”

He glanced fondly at Saoirse.

“How about tomorrow night’s costume ball?” Caoimhe interjected. “Who has settled on a mask? Lord Foxglove, will you be taking a fox mask or perhaps a hare mask?”

“A viper,” Alister said, “so that I might better blend in.” Shane and Riley both laughed.

“If so,” Oisin said, “I request the mongoose mask.”

“Oh,” Caoimhe cooed, “a tenacious creature from the far shores of our spice route.”

“Please share with us what you know of the mongoose,” Lord Brimbsbi asked Oisin, as if testing him. “After all, it is the moniker of House Llantrey, our rivals along the Southeast routes.”

“I have thoroughly familiarized myself with Brimbsbi’s businesses,” Oisin offered. He glanced at Alister, whom he deemed his strongest rival to gain Saoirse’s hand. This outraged him. Alister was no Foxglove. Oisin’s men at the Portsmouth’s Commerce Chamber confirmed that Alister Foxglove, who would now be age forty, not twenty, had perished at sea some years ago. But he wanted more facts before unmasking the ruse.

Oisin continued. “I would not wish to bore everyone by reciting facts with which they are surely familiar.”

“As long as no one dresses as a bull’s eye, we shall all have a fine time,” Caoimhe interjected. During the hunt, Alister had accidentally shot Meynar Crowsley, another suitor who now lay with the house priest in the chapel hospice with bandages and a broken back. He had fallen from his horse when the arrow hit.

Lord Brimbsbi rose. “The hour is late, and strong wine is surely carrying away our spirits.”

The suitors rose immediately, but none made their way to Saoirse or Caoimhe before they unseated themselves.

“I shan’t make any of you boys jostle and bust each other just to open my seat,” Saoirse said.

Riley snickered at the double entendre.

“We depart and wish you good night,” Lord Brimbsbi said. His eyes betrayed that he too was drunk, and he stumbled briefly as he and his daughters left with all eyes on them. Almost all eyes. Oisin noticed that Alister winked to Caoimhe.

The men sat dumbly and tired until the butler came and offered, “Your rooms are ready for the night.”

The suitors took to their upholstered, canopied rooms. Each room presented a view of the beachfront far beneath the throne-like cliff upon which the manor sat.

Oisin did not ready himself for bed. He paced, gazed at the full moon, and tried to read a book. His brow sprouted beads of warm sweat.

“Something is going on!” he said to his reflection in the mirror. He had a little magic of his own, which was why he had been invited in the first place. The mirror’s flat gaze rippled to reveal Alister treading the shadowy stairwell and entering Lord Brimbsbi’s paneled office. The familiar hand of Caoimhe was wrapped around the door handle.

“Got cha!” Oisin said. He left his room, excited to confront Foxglove. Perhaps his action was rash, but this was his chance.

“What can I get, sir?” the hall boy asked, standing at attention.

“Going for a beach walk. The waves are most soothing.”

“Of course, sir.” The hall boy sat. “Shall I get you a towel?”

“No,” Oisin replied as he took the stairs with as much speedy stealth as he could muster. He wondered what magic Alister might have, besides redirecting arrows to new targets. Caoimhe was only fifteen and certainly not yet a hopeful bride-to-be.He knew the rumors of Brimbsbi magic as well, though so far had seen none of it. No trade house prospered without it.

The mirror in Oisin’s now-empty room maintained its revealing eye. Alister and Caoimhe were embraced in a passionate exchange of kisses.

The door burst open. Oisin strode in. His mouth twisted as his eyes locked on to Alister and Caoimhe.

“These are private chambers,” Alister chided.

Oisin’s face was as red as a flame wyrm and beads of sweat fell like spring rain. He closed the door harshly.

“I won’t speak of this to anyone,” Oisin said, “if you leave the estate now, Alister, back to whatever orphanage or dockhouse who call your true home. Enough of you, already.”

“I have a better idea,” Caoimhe said as she let loose of Alister’s embrace and threw herself to Oisin.

“What?” Oisin said, surprised. A gentleman wouldn’t be aggressive against a woman. “I am not a debaucherer,” he said firmly. “I am genuinely here for your sister Saoirse’s hand.”

Caoimhe wrapped her arms around Oisin and spoke softly into his ear while Alister looked on with amusement. “Perhaps I shall think,” Caoimhe whispered, “that Oisin and the hall boy have become too chummy with each other, if you know what I mean. And my sister would want no part of a… man… like that.”

“You wicked, jealous wench,” Oisin spat out as he pushed her away. Perhaps, he wondered, all the rumors of the family’s wicked ways and scheming were true.

“Why would you embrace this witch?” Oisin asked Alister with incredulousness. “Or are you so desperate to climb into the bed of high society?”

“Because,” Alister replied as he advanced and spoke softly into Oisin’s red face, “I am also a witch.”

Caoimhe locked the door. “When the door is locked in this study,” she explained to Oisin, “No sound passes into or out of the room. Just the way father always likes it.”

Oisin looked around. The windows were high and barred. The fireplace was quiet with no irons in sight. A gold mermaid bookend was perhaps the only viable weapon in the room.

“Don’t bother,” Alister said. “It will be a beautiful night.” Caoimhe began to remove her blouse. “Oisin,” she purred, using her witch’s voice, “remove your tunic. Alister and I are going to have some fun with you.”

“I will do nothing of the sort,” Oisin said. But he could not move his feet and his own hands were already reaching for his tunic buttons as if they obeyed a different master.

“My father is most influential,” Caoimhe said as she joined Oisin and Alister. “Your name would be fit only for the life of a sailor or common tradesman if word got out of your proclivities.”

“My family would disown me,” Oisin said matter-of-factly. “But the priests could confirm my innocence,” he added. He sought to back away but found he could not move.

“There shall be no pure, innocent Oisin after tonight,” Alister said, removing Oisin’s tunic for him.

“With my soul’s dying breath, I curse you,” Oisin said.

“Shush,” Caoimhe suggested. His tongue fell silent.

The lamps died low in the study as Alister sealed his marriage into the Brimbsbi family with a kiss.

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