Apologies for the late arrival of this chapter to anyone still reading! This was due to RL, Being Human starting again, and a character who went off for a sulk...In this chapter a little diversion is dealt with, a new recruit, of sorts, is found, and someone's going on a little trip...oh and the bit about snow was written before the naming of Mr Snow in S4...
"Who is Jenny?"
Daylight had a way of clearing the mind beautifully. Wyndam sat on the edge of the bed, staring into the looking glass. Why did some vampires keep mirrors? It couldn't be vanity; they were useless from the moment you were turned. Once a male vampire became used to the absence of a reflection, they usually found ways of getting around it. You became very adept at shaving after the first few bloody attempts, if you didn't want to keep slitting your own throat, and female vampires, well, frankly, that was one of the eternal mysteries he really couldn't be bothered with. Some said they replaced mirrors with water and burnished copper bowls, others swore by plain glass and candlelight. In the larger cities, where anonymity could be more cheaply bought, some enterprising vampires had started up as barbers, looking after the very particular needs of their clientele. Most were tacked on to vampire-run taverns, a small room through the back, an eye on the ready money his kind always needed. And a very useful way of keeping an eye on everyone too...
He looked closely at the flaking gold-leaf around the mirror, then back into the empty glass. It was one of the strangest things about becoming a vampire, that lack of reflection. He'd known some recruits who never got over the simple shock of seeing nothing staring back at you, the emptiness set in a frame. After so many years, you started to forget what you looked like. Wyndam often wondered if that was one of the darkness' little gifts to its children, to ease what little remnants of a soul that might be left in there, to hide any traces of evil...It had been so strange to see himself in Jenny's blood, he looked so much younger than he felt, he didn't look like the cold, aloof Old One he was meant to be. Surely all those deaths, so much blood and so many souls, had left their mark on his face?
He felt Ella's hand on his back, and tensed immediately. There'd been no spark there...a pleasant time, but nothing more. He'd refused adamantly to let her feed from him, and turned away everytime she tried to entice him to take her blood in return. It was too intimate; she was a diversion, nothing more. The first thing he had done on waking was to check his skin for bite marks. She wasn't old enough, or cute enough, to know how to close wounds, but she was cunning. Thankfully, he'd found no wounds. He turned to look at her. She was propped against the silk pillows, contemplating him sleepily with those hazel eyes.
"You've dressed already, Wyndam." He noticed she had dropped the Mr.
"Yes, Ella." He gazed at her in the morning sun. Her long red hair lay loose over her shoulders, her painted face that had looked so welcoming and so vital the night before, now looked smudged and a little hard. He stroked her shoulder, then her arm, then he turned back to the looking glass.
"You have my forgiveness. I wouldn't advise you to go south for a while, though. Let London calm down." He was just about to leave when she said;
"Who is Jenny?"
It was said innocently enough, but it sliced through him. He froze. Ella teased, not knowing the danger.
"Is she the one you've got your eye on, Wyndam?"
She couldn't see his face, the way it tightened.
"Come on, you can tell me..." Her tone was so playful, as though she was teasing an old friend. She leaned into him, snaking an arm round him, speaking softly into his ear;
"You said her name in your sleep...who is she?" She couldn't see the cold look of determination that crossed his face, or the darkening eyes...
"I won't tell..." she teased mercilessly, her eyes gleaming with intrigue, not realising that he wasn't answering her. Or how still he had become.
"Oh, Ella..." He caught hold of her arm, stroking it so gently. "No, you won't..."
He threw her back on the bed, only then did she realise the danger. Her own eyes flashed black, and the natural vampire instinct to survive kicked in, but in vain. She never even saw the stake coming, her lips formed just one word; "Why?" before she crumbled to dust.
"For her, that's why." He said it aloud, the first acknowledgement. Bella Ella...she never could hold her tongue. That had been a mistake, alright, he thought. How much had he said in his sleep? He looked at the dust now lying on the bed, no emotions came to him. A bright young vampire had lain there only seconds before. He had been right to end her, he couldn't take the risk.
He would have to wait for Simon to return, there could be no loose ends. He had been a promising vampire too, just the right mixture of brain and hunger, might well have lasted...He pulled the bedcovers over the dust, and walked back down the stairs. He sat waiting for Simon in the dark front room. An hour had gone past when he heard a key in the lock.
"Ella, where are you? It's alright, Mr Reade says..." Wyndam could hear a snuffling, sobbing sound, and a frightened heartbeat.
"Oh be quiet! It'll be over soon enough. If your mother had wanted you, she wouldn't have handed you over...I've a little present for you, Ella, my sweet...where are you?"
He could hear Simon walking about the house; the floorboards were creaking above his head.
"I know you said you could get Wyndam on side no bother, but I thought I'd..."
The door opened. Simon dropped the bundle he was carrying; a small child rolled out of the bag.
"Mr Wyndam..." Simon stuttered his name. Wyndam kept his eyes on the terrified child, who stayed rooted to the spot.
"London really isn't happy, Simon..." he was sitting so calmly. Simon moved forward, raising his hands.
"I'm sorry, sir. I didn't know you were...we made a mistake...I...Ella's still quite young, she didn't know the man had been marked out...where is Ella, sir?" He was turning nervously round, wondering where on earth the woman could have got to. She was normally back waiting for him, even if she'd been out hunting...
Wyndam didn't answer him; instead he spoke to the boy.
"Child, there is a room at the top of the stairs. Go there, and wait until I come for you."
The little boy nodded, his eyes wide, all sobbing stopped, then he ran for the stairs. Only then did Wyndam turn his attention to Simon, who now had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as to why the house was empty.
"Where is Ella...Mr Wyndam?" The Old One's face was expressionless.
"Ended." Simon let out a horrified groan.
"Her tongue, Simon, and her inability to keep from killing the wrong people. London demanded it, I merely..."
"Since when does Edgar Wyndam do what London says?" The anger was growing in the younger vampire, his hand was itching to go for his sword. "You Old Ones...you always think you are right...you are untouchable..."
"Careful, Simon," warned Wyndam, his eyes narrowing.
"You had no right!" insisted Simon.
"I had every right," said Wyndam arrogantly, "she told me all about it. You went after a Duke's son, Simon; they are missed if they disappear. He was to be turned, not killed outright. You've cost us a fortune, the one that was lost, and the one it's taken to cover it up, and more than that, the pair of you risked our exposure, so yes, I had that right..."
Simon's face changed, the shock of loss was there now.
"But you...she said..."
"What, because I bedded her twenty years ago, I'd be a soft touch? She wasn't that good in bed, Simon..."
The younger vampire lunged at Wyndam, drawing his sword, but Wyndam was quicker, his own blade had sliced up at Simon's throat, he managed to stand for a few seconds, before the blood loss dropped him like a stone. Wyndam kicked Simon's sword away, then threw his own sword down. The younger vampire stared up at him, a gurgling sound was all he could make, the blow had been deep, but not deep enough to sever his head. Wyndam looked down, his face glacial, his black eyes shining.
"I was at Hastings...I was part of the Crusades...all those crosses...and I...did you really think you could beat me in a fair fight? You disappoint me Simon; I thought you were made of better stuff."
He knelt down, opening the ties on Simon's shirt. Simon knew what was coming, his eyes were flickering with fear, his own end was near…
"I will make it quick, Simon. I could have locked you away somewhere, let you exist like this, for daring to attack an Old One...but I am not really in the mood. Whatever we become, wherever we go, when we leave this blood-soaked life, you will soon know...I almost envy you that..."
He pulled the stake from his pocket, the same stake he'd used to kill Ella.
"You'll be with her soon, Simon."
He plunged the stake down hard into Simon's chest. As his face crumbled, the fear gave way to a look of release. Wyndam stood, his eyes focused on the ceiling. The only witness left. He gathered up the pile of clothes that was all that remained of Simon, and threw them in a heap of laundry in the scullery, then he slowly climbed the stairs.
Stephen Underwood sat in his fine, comfortable chair, in his fine book-lined office, the profits of serving an Old One, comfort and riches. The downside, losing your soul, bit by bit, as you carried out their instructions, looking the other way when it suited, and waiting for the day to come when you were no longer useful to them...
A bundle landed on his desk. He could see a pair of green eyes poking through a mop of brown hair. He looked up to see Wyndam looking down at him, a bemused smile on his face.
"A new start, for the family firm, Underwood. I'm sure you can find him something to do. He'll need feeding up first, though." He threw a bag of money down beside the boy; Bella Ella's winnings would be used wisely.
"What...what will I do with him?" Underwood blustered, but the venal man reached out his hand for the money all the same, thought Wyndam.
"I've just accepted him into my service. I thought he deserved a second chance. Look after him Underwood. Where I found him...your youngest could have met the same intended fate..." The human looked down at that, how many had Wyndam...He knew the vampire's eyes were narrowing...hold your tongue. He glanced at the boy instead.
"What is your name, child?" The boy looked unsure.
"His name is Benjamin," said Wyndam.
"No last name, Benjamin?"
"Not where he came from, Underwood." Wyndam had a pretty good idea just where the boy had come from, too. He would be having 'words' with a certain madam in York, one who had a nice sideline in 'disappearing' her women's children. You threw the little ones back, that was the rule. Only on very rare occasions…was that rule broken…Underwood was still perplexed, staring as though the child was a rare specimen, which he was in a way, his master rarely showed mercy. His face was amusing Wyndam no end.
"Treat him as if he were your own child, Underwood. I will be very…unhappy…if anything were to happen to him." He nodded at the boy, his hands behind his back. "Goodbye, Benjamin." With that, he left Underwood and the boy alone. Benjamin turned round to look at Underwood.
"Who was that?" Underwood looked to the child, still trying to work out what had just happened.
"That was Edgar Wyndam, Benjamin. And he is the strangest…man…you will ever meet…" In this life or the next, he thought to himself…
Jenny had spent the day with the Burnett's. Mrs Burnett seemed weaker to her, no amount of smiles could hide the pain Jenny could feel in the older woman. Isobel was loping around after the woman, making her mother smile; a born nurse in the making. Mr Burnett took her aside.
"She's worse, isn't she?" Jenny smiled sadly.
"I can't do anything for her. The pain…I can increase the amount of the tincture, but…" Burnett looked away, out of the window.
"Will she make it to Christmas? She has cousins coming. We don't have children; they're the closest to…" She looked deeply at the older woman, she was trying to pull an image of her future out, it didn't always work but…she couldn't see anything for the woman…then she could see something…snow…there was blood on the snow…she felt so woozy…then everything went black…
She came to with Isobel and Burnett looking down at her, and a dog licking her hand.
"Mum you just went…whoosh!" cried Isobel. "Did you crack your head?" Jenny was still light-headed.
"Oh my brains will fall out if I did, sweetheart." Burnett helped her up, and moved her gently over to a chair.
"Have you eaten anything today, Miss? You're no good to anyone, if you're not well yourself."
She took a cup of ale from him, catching sight of her wrist when her sleeve fell back. The wound was still there, the two punctures, small, but still noticeable. She hoped Burnett hadn't seen them. Why hadn't the bite marks, his bite marks healed?
"You are staying for some food? Isobel's already made her mind up…" Burnett shrugged his head at Isobel, who was playing with the dog by the fire. She was getting paler by the day, he thought. The Reverend had spoken to him about the young couple; wouldn't it be better for them to have a fresh start somewhere else? Move them on, then there would be less gossip about the woman and her child. So far the young wife wasn't for budging, they were local, and why should they move…As far as Burnett was concerned, Jenny had done nothing wrong, but the whispers were having an effect on her, a small place like this…
Jenny and Isobel finally started to walk back to the cottage. The light was fading now.
"The noise when you hit the floor, Mum…" Jenny just smiled, she was so tired.
"And Mr Wyndam said I was to look after you, too…" Jenny stopped short.
"When did he say that?" Isobel clamped her mouth shut, hoping that her mother wouldn't spot it. She took a deep breath.
"When you were poorly…after he was poorly…he said I was to look after you…he would keep you safe, but I was to look after you too…when he wasn't here…" She didn't look up at her mother, she didn't need to know what she'd seen…she would only worry herself…
"What else did he say, Isobel?" Jenny said it quietly, hoping her daughter wouldn't see how nervous she was.
"He said you were very special." Isobel skipped as she said it, as though it were a wonderful secret.
"Of course I am, Isobel, I'm your mother." Jenny dropped down to hug her daughter. "Come on it's getting late." She could see a shape in the trees, he's still having me watched, she thought. It looked like the vampire Harper had called Jacob, what was his full name, Jacob Carter, that was his name. He didn't acknowledge her; instead he pulled back into the trees. If Isobel saw him, she didn't mention it. That was the strangest part of it all; Isobel seemed to be taking everything in her stride, as though everything was perfectly normal.
The door of the cottage was knocked at ten the next morning. Jenny opened the door to find Harper standing there, a bound pile of books in one hand, a letter in the other. They are getting bolder, she thought; they are here in broad daylight. She could see Jacob Carter standing in front of the trees now; he was leaning lazily against the rowan tree. Harper looked concerned.
"Jacob said you weren't well yesterday, Miss?" Her eyes flashed over Carter, who looked away quickly.
"And how would he know that?" She had fainted in the Burnett's house, not on the way back. Harper shifted his feet. He really didn't want to tell her that vampires could pick out the sick or the vulnerable, and Jacob was sure that the woman wasn't well.
"We have to keep an eye on you…he said you weren't…" he trailed off, as Jenny opened the letter, reading its contents hastily. Her face turned frosty. Harper glanced at her eyes, fire was spitting in them.
"You can tell Mr Wyndam, I do not appreciate being followed so closely, I need to breathe, I need to…I will do as he requests, for now, but you can tell him I am not happy." Harper smiled uncertainly. Jenny looked at him; some of her anger left her. It wasn't his fault. He was only doing as he'd been instructed.
"What is he up to, Mr Harper?" She asked him seriously. Harper shrugged.
"I don't know, Miss. I've never known him to...He wants you to stay here," he looked cautiously at Carter, who was trying, and failing miserably, to look as though he wasn't listening in.
"We aren't to talk about you...I know it's difficult, but I think you have to just trust him..." he dropped his voice, "If he wanted to harm you...he would have done so by now...he...tends to kill and move on..." Jacob let out a very loud cough. Harper straightened. "I don't know what he wants with you, Miss, just don't cross him. He can be very fair when he wants to be, but..." He turned away. Carter's face said it all.
"You've said too much James." Harper waved him away.
"I'm doing what he wants, Jacob."
Jenny went back inside. Isobel was tugging at the logs by the fire. She came over to the table, as Jenny laid the pile of books down. She scuffed her daughter's head, Isobel just laughed.
"What's that?" Isobel was peering at the books, opening pages in a few of them. "Ooh that's horrible..." Jenny caught her hand, the books he'd sent her were more medical texts, the one Isobel was so engrossed in, had detailed drawings of dissections. A little too clearly detailed for Isobel.
"That's what you look like inside, Isobel." Jenny said it patiently, and pulled the book away from her. Isobel screwed up her face.
"Ugh!" Jenny smiled, but a thought had crossed her mind. Wyndam hadn't told Harper, or the others, about her abilities. She tried to remember if he'd discussed them in front of the other vampires, or even in front of Isobel, and she was positive that he hadn't. She wasn't sure if it was significant or not, but he had to have a reason for it. He appeared to be keeping her abilities, and her existence, a secret. Maybe he was protecting them after all...
They spent the next few days quietly in the cottage, Jenny resting a bit more than she usually did, and Isobel fussing round her like a mother hen. Jenny used the time to pour over the new books Wyndam had sent her, and trying to work out what he wanted from her. He was looking for something; he'd been testing her abilities with those objects, and digging into her memories. She had seen that flash of something distant when he'd let her into his own memories, he'd been surprised that she could do that, the vampire nature had asserted itself, she knew that they had both been lucky to survive that night. She was learning to judge his moods, to know when to push, and when to draw back. Her wrist itched again. Jenny had never known a wound like it. She and Isobel had finished their breakfast one morning, when they heard the sound of horses outside. No one had been near the place in days, apart from her watchers, who were still keeping their distance. Jenny opened the door to find Wyndam standing on the doorstep, a wry grin on his face.
"I was told you were unwell. It would appear I was misinformed." He looked behind him. Harper was standing by the garden gate with three horses. "You're a little pale, perhaps, but we'll soon sort that." Isobel was beside her mother in an instant.
"Hello Isobel. Have you been looking after your mother, as I asked you to?"
"Yes, sir. I made her put her feet up." Oh Isobel, you are too trusting, thought Jenny. Then she remembered her thoughts weren't quite her own...There was the dark smile on his face.
"Good, but I'm thinking you could both do with a little fresh air, a change of scenery..."
Jenny's fingers tightened on Isobel's shoulders. Wyndam noticed it, then turned his gaze on Jenny's face.
"I'm hoping your mother will help me with something, a little test..." Here it comes, thought Jenny, raising her chin. Wyndam just smiled. He raised his hands slightly, no harm intended. She wasn't going to make it easy for him. In all honesty, why should she, he had very nearly killed her the last time they'd met.
"You're not even slightly interested, Jenny?" The questioning look was there.
"With what, Wyndam?" She was scanning his features, he had more colour in his face than the last time. He's fed, she thought, not really wanting to know who had...
"A little trip, more a little ride. Somewhere not far from here. There and back in an hour, two at the most. The air will do you good, the pair of you...what do you say?"
Jenny could see Harper's face, it showed none of the concern of the other day, he was smiling warmly. Wyndam broke into a grin.
"Come on, a little ride, you've been complaining that you feel a little...restricted..." He was tempting her, she knew. He'd caught her interest, what was he up to now?.
"You'll both get back in one piece, I promise you." The sly smile was there. "Not a drop spilt..." he whispered, his blue eyes gleaming.
"Or taken?" She countered, keeping her eyes on his. He chuckled.
"I promise." She looked for any hint of deceit.
"No tricks, Wyndam?" His smile vanished. His face turned serious.
"You have my word. No tricks. I will bring you both back myself." He bowed his head, one hand over his heart.
"I need...to..." she tried to stall him.
"Come on...it's not like you're doing anything...a little ride...blow the cobwebs away..." he was eager for her to say yes, that was clear.
"If it makes you happy, put a Bible in Isobel's hands. It won't work on me; it'll be a bit unfair on Harper though..." His lips hadn't moved. She let out a short breath. He smiled. Alright, she thought, if that's the way he wanted to play it. She didn't speak; she directed her thoughts at him.
"Why should I trust you?" He smiled in return.
"You are still breathing, Jenny. I keep my word. I won't harm you or Isobel." He looked back at Harper, then he spoke aloud.
"I want to take you somewhere, to show you something. I want your honest opinion, no ulterior motive..." her eyes flashed at that, "just your opinion, given your particular abilities..." he said the last few words only in his mind. Her eyes never left his. He was the first to look away, down at Isobel, who was eyeing the horses.
"Inside, Isobel. Now." Her daughter protested, but Jenny pushed her back inside, pulling the door over behind her. Wyndam was still smiling, if anything the smile was wider.
"I understand that you will not want to leave Isobel here alone, she will be perfectly safe, the ride isn't far, and I know that you would rather she was with you, than with anyone else..."
Oh and then you have the two of us exactly where you want us...she thought. He sighed, shaking his head.
"I thought we'd got past this. Why must you always make things difficult for yourself? Jenny, if I wanted to grab you both, do you really think you could stop me?" He said it matter-of-fact, there was no threat there. He continued, dropping his voice.
"I trusted you with my memories, and now I'm asking for your trust, and your help. I will not bite..." he leant forward, his most open smile.
"Yes..." said Jenny. Wyndam blinked; surprised it had only taken a little gentle persuasion.
"No hesitation? What...no I have something more pressing to do...like darning stockings?" She smiled in spite of herself.
"Do you want us to come or don't you? Isobel, come here." She opened the door to find Isobel already wearing her little cloak.
"A moment, Wyndam." Jenny pushed her daughter back into the cottage and closed the door firmly behind them.
"What have I told you Isobel, about curiosity?" Isobel looked down guiltily at her boots.
"It did something to a cat, Mum...but we don't have a cat..." Jenny let out an exasperated groan.
"Oh child..." She slipped her hand under Isobel's cloak. She could feel the little cross around her daughter's neck. "You keep that on, Isobel, I'm serious..." She dashed to the book shelves, picking out the Bible that she'd tested Underwood with, and found a drawstring bag to put it in.
If I'm wrong, she thought, I'm signing our death warrant. He wants something from me...I need to find out what...
She took a few deep breaths to calm her nerves, then she grabbed a wrap of cheese and some bread, and put them in the bag, along with the Bible, and a small knife, and handed the bag to Isobel.
"Make yourself useful, you can carry that, Isobel." She pulled her own cloak on, taking Isobel's hand, and kneeling down.
"If I'm making a mistake sweetheart, I'm sorry." Her other hand was shaking as she stroked her daughter's face. Isobel glanced at her mother, a wide grin on her face.
"It's only Mr Wyndam, Mother. It'll be like the meal things you told me about, after hunts..."
Yes Isobel, she thought, but one where we could end up being the meal...
She opened the door to find Wyndam standing down at the garden gate. You were that sure I'd agree, you arrogant...He called back to her;
"No time like the present. The sooner we go, the sooner we get back. Harper, hold that horse steady."
They had reached the gate, to find Harper leading up the most beautiful dapple grey horse. Jenny didn't need to look at her daughter's face; she could feel her eyes go wide.
"Isobel, close your mouth. The horse doesn't want to look at your teeth; it's got enough of its own." She sighed, then looked down at her daughter. "I worry about you, child, a flashy horse and you just melt." Wyndam leant down to Isobel and whispered;
"Your grandmother was the same, that's how she met your grandfather...or so rumour has it..."
He got a flash of Jenny's temper for a second; the look she gave him was bone dry. Isobel's natural inquisitiveness picked it up.
"You knew my grandmother, Mr Wyndam?"
"Not really, Isobel. I saw her once..." Jenny's eyes sharpened, she doesn't know any of it, don't do this Wyndam. Twist me, but not her...His expression softened.
"After you, Madam." He gave Jenny a leg up on to the grey horse, then he lifted Isobel up, telling her to hold on. A dark look passed his eyes; he saw what was in Isobel's hands. She'd slipped the Bible out of the bag to take a look at it.
"Not taking any chances eh, Jenny?"
"It is a Sunday, Wyndam." He raised his eyebrows.
"I was told you were in church last Sunday. Did you find what you were looking for?" Jenny kept silent at that. Didn't think so thought Wyndam, a slight smirk on his face. He reined in his own horse.
"Now are we all happy?" Harper let out a hiss under his breath; he'd caught sight of the gold cross on the cover of the Bible. A little too close for comfort. He managed to turn away just in time, before Isobel could see his full reaction.
"What's wrong with Mr Harper?" inquired Isobel. Wyndam said simply;
"Something disagreed with him." He eyed Harper carefully, then he turned to Jenny.
"I think it would be better inside the bag. You might lose it Isobel. It looks like a family Bible, they are best kept safe." Jenny was looking at him knowingly, question answered. She felt a touch guilty at causing Harper pain, though.
"In fact, Harper, you're really not looking well," said Wyndam, "I think you should go back. I want an answer from Underwood about that matter anyway..."
Harper seemed reluctant to leave, Wyndam's eyes narrowed just slightly.
"Sir..."nodded Harper, and he turned his horse about.
"Now, where were we? This way." Wyndam urged his horse into a trot, and turned eastwards, away from the village, leaving Jenny little choice but to follow.
"Just keep your arms around me, Isobel, it's a long way to fall." Wyndam slowed his horse, and turned.
"Hasn't your mother taught you to ride yet, Isobel? I heard she managed my horse very well."
Oh that was a dig at her poor excuse for an escape, and the enforced return home. Jenny knew exactly what was going through Isobel's mind now, a pony, probably a grey one.
"Don't even think about it Isobel." She told her daughter with a sigh. Wyndam smiled, as he waited for them to catch up.
"No Isobel, I wouldn't want your mother to feel jealous. She'd need to get a horse too," he leaned over his horse's neck, "and I wouldn't want to put temptation in her way. I've a feeling she'd head south and never look back." The blue eyes were shining again.
"Not much chance of that happening is there Wyndam?" she said waspishly.
"Not a hope," replied Wyndam, "I'd bring you back the very next day."
They continued on towards Whalley, then they skirted Pendle Hill. Jenny felt a shiver, and stopped her horse to look up at the summit. She missed the hills back home, this was the only place that came close, near Whitekirk anyway.
"What's the view like, from the top?" asked Jenny. Wyndam continued on, without stopping.
"You can see the Forest of Bowland, then the Irish Sea, from the summit. No time today. It's pointless anyway, there are rainclouds coming in from the west."
"But we could just..." she persisted. He turned his horse.
"No, we couldn't. Tops of hills, mountains, heights, I blame the Crus..." he stopped himself, one wary eye on Isobel. "Holy Land, a tower, a very painful drop, don't ask..." Jenny smiled a very understanding smile.
"Oh I'm amusing you now? See, not such a bad little trip, was it?" Wyndam pointed to a thick copse of trees. "It's just down there."
He led the way down the ridge, his horse was sure-footed. He jumped off at the bottom of the slope, and waited for Jenny and Isobel to join him. He lifted Isobel down gently, catching the drawstring bag in his hand. He looked up at Jenny with a calculating gleam in his eye. Now do you believe me, his manner was saying. He handed the bag to Isobel with a flourish, then he helped Jenny down.
"Isobel, keep an eye on the horses will you?" Isobel grabbed the reins of both horses.
"Now wait a minute," said Jenny. Wyndam shrugged.
"She'll be fine. What can happen to her? She finds a pet rabbit, or two. Come on. It'll only take a minute or two." He took her hand and gently pulled her towards the trees, only stopping at the edge of the copse. He let go of her hand, and sat down on a large lump of rock.
"Tell me what you see, and feel."
"You're not serious?" Jenny was looking at him in disbelief.
"Perfectly serious. Try to shut everything out, then tell me what you see, and feel."
She stared at him for a long while, before turning to walk a few feet along the edge of the trees. She gazed back at Isobel, who seemed happy enough sitting down on a log, feeding the horses clumps of grass.
"Your full attention, please. She's fine." Jenny shot him a look, but he didn't take her on. She turned her eyes to the trees, which were still holding the odd leaf, that was unusual. It was nearly the end of November now. She breathed in deeply, then let her breath out.
"Trees." Wyndam didn't interrupt her, or try to prompt her; he just sat quietly, watching her closely. She examined the ground around her; there were scorch marks in the grass. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to feel anything unusual, or odd, but nothing came to her. She was slightly disappointed. She turned towards Wyndam.
"There's nothing here. I don't know what you're looking for, but there's nothing here beyond nature." Wyndam's face was giving nothing away.
"I see." He stood up, wiping his hands. "Next place."
"What?" Jenny had assumed they would be going straight back to Whitekirk.
"It's not far from here. The air will do you good." He led the way back up to the horses, with Jenny trying to keep up with him.
"What are you doing, Wyndam?" He finally stopped by the horses. A look of pained innocence appeared on his face.
"It's just a little test, Jenny. The next one really isn't that far." He helped her and Isobel back up on to their horse, and mounted his own black horse. "It's just over by Clitheroe, so it's on the way home anyway." They turned back, eventually stopping beneath the stone keep on the limestone cliff. It was the same routine as before. Tell me what you see and feel...
"Soldiers..." she said brusquely. Wyndam rolled his eyes.
"In a Norman keep? How extraordinary...anything else?" She glared at him, then she turned to look up at the cliff. She felt light-headed, so weak all of a sudden, she felt Wyndam put his hand out to steady her. She could hear whispers, then a woman's scream. It faded as quickly as it had appeared. An echo, nothing more. She told him what she'd heard and felt. A spirit had been here, but was long gone.
"Who was it?" Wyndam said nothing, he looked away, shrugging.
"You're the seer." Jenny was indignant at that.
"You brought me here. It doesn't work like that, something happened here...before the keep was built..." A look of surprise crossed Wyndam's face, briefly. She stood her ground.
"Not guilty, I'm afraid," he said tersely, "that's the Normans for you. Wiped us out then expected us to be thankful. I'm guessing the lady protested, they took umbrage, and..." he motioned with his hands, a push, then a drop.
"A long memory, Wyndam?" She said it gently, not expecting an answer.
"Too long, sometimes," he said softly.
"You're right, of course. I don't know who she was, but the first lot of Norman builders had a lot of trouble when they tried to build the keep. I've a feeling an old practice was used. A little like the one where your Scottish priests buried people alive to strengthen the building..."
"Who were the Normans, Mr Wyndam?" Isobel's little voice piped up from over by the horses. Wyndam sighed.
"Very good at invading, building castles, and killing Saxons. Haven't you taught her any history?"
"It's not her history, Wyndam," Jenny chided, "We had our own problems, one king after another, our own little Norman invasion, and before that, the Vikings..." Wyndam's head tilted at that. A strange blank look passed over his features. Jenny glimpsed it, but decided not to press any further.
"I know about Bannockburn...1314...Robert the Bruce..." sing-songed Isobel.
"He got lucky, Isobel." Jenny was about to protest, when she caught Wyndam's smile. He was teasing her again. He chuckled to himself. He whispered to Jenny;
"I was there. The English forces lost, because their king was an idiot." Jenny cooled her temper.
"Not on the winning side there, Wyndam?" A more rueful smile appeared.
"No. Not always." He looked up at the slate grey sky. "Time to go. All in all, a successful first trip. You've proven me right, that always pleases me...and you got to have some fresh air...shall we go?"
"Proven you right, how?" said Jenny, curious. Wyndam gazed intently at her.
"That I was right to let you live," he said quietly.