Episode 2: Bridge

Sir Henry sat politely at the table, looking only a little uncomfortable. His eyes darted occasionally between the lace-trimmed tablecloth, my other guests, and the "Thou shalt not..." embroidered text on the wall.

"What a marvelous tea service," Mair said. "Wherever did you find it?"

"Oh, do you like it?" I couldn't help smiling. "Mrs. Morgan down in the village fired them just for me."

"And these cucumber sandwiches are beautiful," Bronwen said, taking her eyes from Sir Henry for only a moment. God bless her, she can be such a flirt.

"I hope you don't mind, Sir Henry, I used your sword to slice and butter the bara brith." He looked pale again. "I washed it and put it in the drying rack beside the sink. Now, you mustn't dash off and leave without it."

"Oh, no, you mustn't dash off at all," Bronwen said, shamelessly putting her claws over his hand. "We were just waiting for Bened so we could begin our weekly bridge game."

I snapped my claws. "Sir George must have caught up with Bened before he left Pendine. That would explain why he is so late."

"You're right!" Bronwen giggled. "Oh, Sir Henry, you must be my partner instead. Please say you will."

I exchanged places with Bronwen, and Henry finally conceded to her relentless wheedling. He took off his helm and gauntlets, and proceeded to shuffle. Despite the large deck, Henry had little difficulty. He held the stacks with his elbows and feathered the cards with each hand. Mair cut and Henry dealt.

"Tell us of the Glamorgan castles, please, Sir Henry?" Bronwen begged. "We've heard all about them, but we haven't been so far south yet."

Henry told us tales of Glamorgan and we sat in rapt fascination. He really is a wonderful storyteller once he loosens up. He told us of carnival, and of court, but only when Mair pried did he confirm some of the scandalous rumors we had heard.

"Did she really go on holiday with the Duke, Sir Henry?" Mair asked.

"I saw them get in the carriage together myself. And do please call me Henry."

"But isn't the Duke old enough to be her father?" Bronwen giggled.

Henry blushed and sloughed a high spade. "Well, you didn't hear any of this from me," he added.

# # #

When the game was over, Henry collected his gear and headed back to Glamorgan. He even kissed the back of Bronwen's claws on his way out. Mair and I kept our laughter to ourselves.

"He forgot to slay you!" Mair reminded me.

"Oh botheration. I do hope he doesn't get all the way back to Glamorgan before he recalls. Well, I suppose he will just have to come back then," I said, collecting up the dishes.

"Now what would 'slaying' be, I wonder?" Bronwen asked, her voice somewhat dreamy.

Mair shrugged and I shook my head. "I haven't the faintest idea. I assumed it was some sort of Glamorganian ceremony. It's the first time I've heard of it."

"So sorry I'm late!" Bened called as he entered my cavern.

"Bened!" Mair roared and squeezed him tight. "We were afraid you would not make it."

"I'm dreadfully sorry," he said. "I was just getting ready to leave when a nice young man from Glamorgan popped by."

"That must have been Sir George," I said. "His friend, Sir Henry, was just here. Let me put the kettle back on."

"Oh did I miss him?" Bened said, looking around for our former guest. "He did mention something about the other knights being on a quest as well."

"Henry said something about slaying Gwen," Bronwen tittered. "Have you ever heard of such a thing?"

Bened scratched the bright green scales behind his ear as he thought. "I can't say that I have."

"So what is Sir George like?" Mair asked.

"He's a wonderful chess player," Bened said, booming a laugh. "I could tell he was playing down to my level and still he cleaned the table with me."

"One lump or two?" I asked Bened when he looked up.

"One, please. Oh! What a lovely tea service," he added. "Wherever did you find it?"