By the time Mercy awoke on Monday, most of the day’s business had already been accomplished Adelphia. Exhaustion had caused her to sleep into the early afternoon. She swung her bare feet to the stone floor and noticed a big mug of water on her bed table. It was cold and clean. She wandered over to the oaken window bench and gazed out upon the city.
Their chambers were high on the eastern wall of the castle overlooking the city of Adelphia. Mercy could see rooftops and winding streets. At the edge of her field of vision, she could make out the city walls and farm fields beyond. The Cathedral with its flying buttresses and spires seemed to waive back to her.
“More water?” said Labesh, who had been laying out clothing for them.
“Yes, please,” Mercy replied looking up into Labesh’s clear blue eyes. She could see lines of care etched in the face of the middle-aged woman, but some of that care had recently been replaced with joy. “Is Martha all right?”
Labesh motioned Mercy to the other side of the bed where Martha lay. A basin of warm water and a flask of balm were on the bedside table and Martha’s cut shoulder was exposed but rubbed with the balm. Martha was snoring contentedly.
“Who would’ve guessed so much would’ve happened since the 3 of us went to the dressing chambers on Saturday evening when you had just arrived,” said Labesh . “We shall have to get better acquainted. Are you hungry?”
Come to think of it, Mercy found herself ravenous. The pea soup in the adjacent chamber was full of nutrition. She told Labesh more about her life on earth, relating family members and some of the more prominent events of her life. It wasn’t long before Martha awoke bleary-eyed and went through a similar sequence of cold water and pea soup.
The rest of the day was spent with Labesh. She took them for walks in the palace corridors and read them stories of the history of Adelphia and surrounding kingdoms. Soon the shadows of evening gave way to torchlight within the palace. Their beds were calling, but not before Labesh gave them hot baths and dressed Martha’s cut shoulder which was healing nicely.
By the time they had finished their morning routines on Tuesday, they were ready to do something. Labesh sent word that the children were feeling much better. Within the hour, as the ladies were just finishing tea, Duman stood outside their chambers asking for an audience. He had brought Scrapper along with him.
“Scrapper!” said Martha, hugging the dog. They were all happy to see the dog — Martha most of all.
“Can you ladies possibly be spared from all this Palace finery to go visit an old friend?” asked Duman.
“I don’t know…, seems like the last time we followed you we got into a ton of trouble!” Mercy laughed. “Where are we going?”
“I was going to take you to see the city and meet some inhabitants,” Duman said with a slight bow. “But we will need to go down to the guard house and see about how safe it is to proceed.”
Duman led them by corridors which were used by the Palace staff. After many twists and turns, they came to a set of spiral stairs which led to an alcove inside the Palace gate. He made gestures to the guards stationed at various points along the way.
Mercy noticed many things about the guards. She could see that they used hand signals so that no words had to be spoken. The guards silently rotated positions at irregular intervals. They were clothed with very practical, close-fitting armor and overcoats of brown, green and gray.
“Any news this morning?” asked Mercy as they walked.
“Miriam and Listener are recovering, but their wounds, especially Listener’s are somewhat severe. Plans for a pilgrimage are moving forward. I understand that we will try to leave during the night Tuesday next week — seven days from now. The idea will be to take the Patternstone to the six other cathedrals over the next few months. It won’t be easy. But, never mind that for now. Follow me. I have a good plans for today! ”
When they reached the drawbridge, Duman once again signaled the guards. He spoke in low voices to them.
“The guards have noticed a couple of unfriendly pairs of eyes who may be watching your movements. I apologize for this, but we are going to have go back into the palace. We will dress up as kitchen servants going to obtain food in the markets. We have some young apprentices back in the kitchen who are approximately your size and weight.
“Where are the kitchens,” asked Malachi, thinking of a second breakfast.
“You will find out soon enough,” Duman said with a hint of amusement in his voice. Mercy looked at him with her eyebrows raised and grinned. She liked Duman, but had not really got to know him that well yet. He reminded her of her older brother Mark.
The children began to realize that though many people in Adelphia were unassuming and glad for the discovery of the Patternstone, they were still in a real struggle. The struggle was for the establishment of patterns of worship and festivity. But Chaozz had spies.
“In order to begin the pilgrimage unnoticed, we must try diferent ways of disguising you. We want to get you on your way out of Adelphia unseen. One thing that happens on Tuesdays is that vegetables and meats are bought and sold from the surrounding farmers. We have to find a farmer to work with, and I think I know just the one…” Duman trailed off.
Inside the large gate before the drawbridge, there was an alcove with what looked like an iron grate in the floor for drainage. Two guards removed the grate to show a set of stairs descending into darkness. Duman signaled the companions to follow him down. He lit a small torch and reminded them to stay close to him.
“Is this one of the passages the King uses?” asked Malachi.
“Yes, the Royal family and the inner guard. Now quietly,” whispered Duman.
The companions had to go in single file. Scrapper sniffed about 10 paces ahead. After a few turns they felt warm air coming toward their faces. It smelled like onions. “It’ll be rabbit stew today,” Duman said in a quiet voice. He signaled a halt. “Malachi,” he said, “ just out of curiosity, I would have a look at your sword. It will let us know whether there are any enemies in the Palace which derive their magical powers from Chaozz.”
Duman took a clay pot which was at the side of the passage along with other useful items such as swords and axes and carefully put it over the torch flame. “Now draw,” he said.
Malachi did so. There was no light at all coming from the sword.
“The Adelphia stone has done its job well,” Duman mused. He pulled the clay pot from his torch. “I may ask you this question many times, Malachi,” he said. “In fact, tonight, you and I will carefully walk around the city with your sword. Are you up for that?”
“With you? I love doing things with you.” Malachi responded with obvious affection in his eyes.
“We are going into the kitchen,” continued Duman. As they began to ascend toward the heat, a man dressed in a leather apron and leather gloves waved and made a hand signal to Duman.
“This is Barnabas, the oven keeper,” said Duman.
“How do you do?” He reached out a warm hand to the children. It was about five times the size of Malachi’s.
“I want to keep this as close as is possible, Barnabas,” Said Duman. “I’d like these children to do the produce run. Is that possible?”
“Er, sure,” said Barnabas. “So long as you take my own youngsters to help make the picks.”
“He’ll be there.”
“Good. 15 minutes?”
“That’ll be about right, sir.” Said Barnabas. “Molly!” He called. A girl with bright red pigtails came in wiping her hands. “I want these three children to dressed as produce snappers.”
“Yes, father,” said the girl. “They’ll want the woolen cloaks today as the wind’s coming from the sea.”
“Perfect.” Said Duman. “The more covered they are, the better.”
“I’m sure you won’t mind a little bit of extra labor today, will you, Molly?”
“Oh, no Sir!” She said with a big smile toward the companions.
“Bring your brother here and we need to swear everyone to secrecy.”
Behind the Palace kitchen, there was a pantry room. During times of siege and winter, it needed to have room for great store. The main room was more than 100 ft.² In addition, there was a ramp leading down 20 feet into the ground for root cellar storage. The root cellar was carefully crafted so as to be above the water level of the Palace moat.
Barnabas led everyone down to the root cellar. Here Duman explained the mission to Barnabas, Molly and her brother Peter. He swore them to secrecy. The companions were given the livery of kitchen servants.
“Take the two pony wagon,” said Barnabas to Peter who looked to be about 14 years old. “We’ll need to get plenty of produce to make it look like we need five hands.”
Soon the companions found themselves riding in the back of a large empty wagon across the drawbridge and down into the city of Adelphia. They did not use the main street as they had used in procession from the Cathedral, but rather what seem to be more of a service road. The wide road had gentle switchbacks wending its way to Cathedral square. Along the way, they noticed several blacksmith shops, tanners, carpenters and stonemasons. Wagons were coming and going laden with various farming supplies.
Scrapper trotted out alongside the ponies, obviously enjoying himself. He would detour occasionally to smell something along side of the road. Occasionally, he would run ahead to investigate some people. Scrapper wore Palace livery– doggy style. It identified him and the people seemed to know that he was coming along with the produce wagon today as he did occasionally.
On this morning, Cathedral square was by no means empty. It was full of produce vendors bringing in their wares from the country surrounding. Duman did not hesitate, but guided the cart deliberately to a produce stand marked “Brownbeard and Daughters”.
Duman strode and exchanged hearty handshakes with Brownbeard. His girth exceeded that of most men and his sword belt was large. The two men laughed chortled over the latest things that they had seen or read about. The man had many daughters who were very busy arranging the produce: squash, butter beans, rhubarb and kale to name a few. At the center, a barrel of ale which Brownbeard would proudly proffer to his regular customers.
There was some talk in the town that Brownbeard had recently had his first son. Speculations were made as to whether there would be a company name change forthcoming. Brownbeard’s philosophy was simple: give them brown ale and let them choose the produce.
Peter and Molly went with Malachi, Mercy and Martha to teach them how to pick out produce.
“See how this broccoli’s green and firm?” Said Molly. “You want to put the heads in the basket like this–“ (she demonstrated how to layer it with damp cheesecloth for the ride back to the palace).
“Here is some more cheesecloth, miss,” said a voice. “We keep it in ice water whenever we can. There’s still plenty of ice on Mount Carmel this time of year. Papa sends Anni to climb up there and get it.”
“Thank you!” Said Molly. “That’ll keep the broccoli fresher than fresh!” She gave deep courtesy to the girl at the stand. “Missed you last week, Millie.”
“We had to bring the goats all the way up to the mountain pastures,” said the young lady. She had dark hair and dark eyes with a countenance that was fiercely good. It was as if she was bound and determined to serve others with zeal. “It’s amazing how you can see the stars from up there! And who is your friend?”
Following suit, Mercy gave courtesy as well. Only when she did so, were her eyes level with Millie’s. “My name is Mercy Jones, and I am in training to work for the Palace kitchen,” replied Mercy, remembering to stay in character.
“Hmmm…, Your accent seems different,” said Millie. “Lots of strange goings-on this week…” She winked at Mercy. “But I’m glad to see the gargoyles back on their gutter spouts! “She said, changing the subject and pointing to Zlig, Zlag and Zlog sunning themselves near the archway above.
When Mercy followed Millie’s finger, she noticed the them. However, she also noticed something that wasn’t right. On the other side of the archway, the three corresponding gargoyles were missing: Blig, Blag and Blog. Mercy was tempted to call attention to them, but remembered the need for diplomacy and secrecy. She made a mental note to tell Duman as soon as she could.
“How do you get the lid to stay on?” Mercy asked, hoping to change the topic. “It looks hard.”
“Its not,” said Molly. “You just do it like this.” She demonstrated how to top off the stalks of broccoli and latch the lid. “How are the leeks and onions?” asked Molly.
“It’s been a little dry,” said Millie. “We planted a second square of onions this year in a low spot. It was a good idea even though they’d get wiped out in a heavy rain, but if it’s dry, we still have onions!”
Mercy noticed a man dressed like most of the townspeople with worn linen shirt and brown knickers going through the produce very near to them. She was not sure how much of their conversation he had overheard, but she wondered if he was trying to overhear. To test this theory, she asked Molly if there was another type of produce that she could work on. Careful to have her back to the stranger, she winked at Molly as she said this.
Molly understood. She took Mercy 20 yards away to begin going through the potatoes, asking Millie to finish the leeks. Sure enough, the man quickly shifted to sweet potatoes which were again quite near to them.
“Keep doing potatoes and fake your response to what I say next,” said Mercy below a whisper.
“You know, it’s really amazing the way things happen around the Patternstone!” said Mercy in a louder more casual voice. “Why, I heard the King was going to make a special box for it.”
“Really?” Said Molly. “What kind of box?”
As Mercy responded, (“I think he’s going to use mahogany”) she definitely noticed the man’s attentiveness. He was good at what he did. He managed to keep putting sweet potatoes in his basket, but his body language gave him away. He was listening. Mercy looked over and noticed that Duman was still laughing with Brownbeard, but that he was looking toward the girls. Mercy adjusted her body position away from the man who was spying and tried to catch Duman’s attention with her hand, all the while continuing to work on potatoes. Duman looked at her keenly and nodded. She had succeeded.
Brownbeard and to Duman strolled over to the man.
“Can I help you to find some of the best?” Asked Brownbeard. “Where might you be from?”
The man was obviously uncomfortable. Mercy and Molly quickly moved back over toward the leeks and onions where Millie was finishing up. Duman and Brownbeard were standing either side of the man who was obviously frustrated at not being able to hear the girls conversation.
The girls loaded produce for another 15 minutes. Malachi joined them, having polished off one of the largest apples he had been able to procure. The girls looked over and noticed that the spy had paid for his produce and was leaving. As soon as the man had trundled off around the corner, Duman came over to the girls. Mercy quickly explained to Duman how the man had been listening to their conversation.
“I’ll have to track him,” said Duman. “That’s Brego over there,” he said, pointing to a guard in Palace livery. “The guards will be on the alert. Just keep packing produce.”
Quickly, he patted his leg three times and Scrapper ran over looking up at Duman expectantly. Off they trotted around the corner by which the man had left.
“Now I know that something is up,” said Millie, smiling at Mercy.
“Oh Millie,” said Mercy with a sigh. “I’m beginning to realize that secrecy is pretty important in all this stuff. I’d love to tell you all about it, but I need to talk with the others first. Can you keep what you have seen and heard to yourself for now?”
“Yes… but you gotta know I’m real curious.”
Brownbeard, Peter and Martha had strolled over after packing the turnips and squash. “My instructions were to send you back to the Palace with the guards,” said Brownbeard. “Where there is one person up to no good, there may very well be more. Let’s be as relaxed as possible and finish loading the wagon. Peter, you know how to drive it?”
For the next half hour or so they packed produce quickly and efficiently. Millie and Molly showed Martha and Mercy how to load the baskets with the hardier vegetables on the bottom and the delicate ones on the top –and never above the top.
As they were working, Millie spoke quietly to Mercy. “Here,” she said, “take this. I made it.” She handed Mercy a beautifully crocheted scarf. The quality of the stitching was very even and practiced. “My dad says you will be going on pilgrimage with the Patternstone.” She had lowered her voice even more. “I want to go with you. I want to see the Aragite weavers. “
“Oh, I hope so!” Said Mercy, pausing to give Millie a hug. “I know that there will be a counsel to decide who goes. Would your dad let you come to the Council?”
“All I can do is ask.”
“Yes,” said Mercy, “have you ever been to Phesus?”
“No, I have grown up farming and bringing produce to the Palace here at Adelphia all my life. But you hear people talk. Phesus has the biggest harbor in highpattern. It sits at the east end of the Lediterranean Sea. They have an outdoor theater, temples to false gods, and that the biggest library in highpattern.”
“Can you read?” Asked Mercy. (She had noticed that the people in highpattern were still using scrolls and it didn’t seem like everyone could read).
“Every time we bring produce up to the Palace, or over to the Cathedral, I always ask Ezra or Amos to teach me. They send me home with scraps of scroll. I teach my sisters. Ezra gives me histories about dragons and great battles and princesses…. “
At this point Millie was cut short by Peter. “Wagon’s full,” he said. “Everyone in.”
“I want Peter and Molly leading the ponies,” said Brownbeard. “Part of the Palace guard has arrived, but they will follow at a distance. You three need to get in here.” He showed them a place between boxes of produce. “If Peter and Molly holler to you, be ready to jump out the back. But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. The more normal we can keep things, the better.”
Malachi stepped forward and gave Brownbeard a hug. “You think Duman will be okay?” He asked.
“Oh, yes I should say so. Keep your chin up, laddie. Now in you go.”
“Are you coming up to the Palace soon Millie?” asked Mercy from the rear of the wagon.
“We bring produce for the festival on Friday.” Millie replied waving.
As the wagon progressed through the streets up to the Palace, it could be seen that the royal escort was very watchful. The comrades bounced along with the many vegetables.
“This stuff smells really good,” said Martha. She had ended up with her face right near a bunch of basil. The four donkeys were obviously working hard to make it up the winding road.
“I think Millie knows where we’re going for the next Cathedral,” said Mercy lying on a pile of potatoes. “She’s read all about it. If we get to choose some of our companions, let’s see if she wants to come.”
“What did she say?” Asked Martha.
“She said that Phesus was a seaport town with a big library and outdoor theaters.”
The companions felt a sense of relief as the wagon safely re-entered the Palace storerooms. They helped Molly unload and worked in the kitchen for the rest of the day. Molly showed them how to slice and dice the vegetables in preparation for the cooks.
“I’m still worried about Duman,” said Malachi.
“The palace guards know what they’re doing,” said Molly. “They’ll find him. And if anything’s afoot, we’ll know about it soon enough.”
When Twombly came to request the children make themselves ready for dinner, Martha asked, “May we invite Molly to dine with us?”
“Certainly,” said Twombly. “All the palace staff has days off to rest. I’m sure we can arrange this.”
“I’ll put on my best dress.” Said Molly joyfully. “See you soon.”