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The Brigands of Normandy

Novel By: Russ Hammond
Historical fiction



Brothers feud and find themselves in trouble, each destined to lead different lives. View table of contents...


Chapters:

1

Submitted:Aug 28, 2012    Reads: 17    Comments: 1    Likes: 1   


"Hopeless fool!" Corin exclaimed as he bolted down the cobblestone streets of Lower Lorraine, arms full of fresh bread and behind him, an incensed baker alerted the City Guard. Feet, fail me not, Corin thought, making a beeline towards the hideout.

Of course, Corin knew better than to lead the guards straight to their sanctuary. Running past several market stalls and brushing past countless vendors of the market district, Corin made a number of sharp turns down the narrow alleyways of the slums. Evading the Guard, Corin entered a run-down tavern, long since abandoned.

The Crown and Cross was once a well-frequented alehouse, warm and bright and welcoming. Now all that remained were the rats and warped floorboards and a leaky roof that was in desperate need of repair. Aside from the mildew, the place smelled of all the patrons who'd once filled the space as well as acrid tang of fermented ale. Corin crossed the creaky floor and descended down into the cellar.

"At last, the savior has arrived," greeted a sarcastic Emile. Corin never really cared for his twin brother, Emile, but he tolerated him as best he could. It was difficult staying mad at someone who looked just like you.

"I figured you'd be dead in a dungeon by now," Emile smirked. "It took ages for you to get here, did you get lost?"

"Oh shut it Emile, I got the bread didn't I?" Corin replied. "Besides if I came straight back, the guards would have followed me here and then where would we be, hmm?"

"Corin is right, Emile, you should hold your tongue and leave the boy alone," said Benoit, the eldest.

"Boy?!? Why I'm as tall as you are and you're only two years my senior," complained Corin.

"Can we please quit bickering? You sound like a bunch of grumpy, old hags!" retorted Damian, the youngest.

"Agreed. Enough for now and eat before this bread turns stale," laughed Benoit.

"Fine," Emile muttered.

"Of course," Corin said, breaking the bread and passing it down.

Sitting at the head of the table, Benoit watched his brothers exchanging banter over their simple meal. It reminded him of those meals shared with his family when they were younger. Back home, Father used to sit at the end of the table, the same place where he was sitting now. Mother would bring out the roast and Father would carve it. Benoit remembered the smiles, the light-hearted conversations.

But that was a long time ago.

The Norsemen hadn't left much behind after their raid. Benoit cursed himself for not saving his parents from the flames. But what could he have done? He was only an adolescent then, not much older than a boy at the time. He surely would have died there that day had he stayed behind to defend the farm.

As orphans, he and his brothers sought shelter in nearby Lorraine, the finest city in all of Normandy. Benoit figured he could forge a better life for them all, but ultimately he and his brothers resorted to petty theft. Living on fringes of society, it was only a matter of time before they were caught and tossed in some dungeon, where the world would pass them by.

"Brother, are you well today?" asked Damian, drawing Benoit from his reverie. "Your brow seems more and more furrowed. What is vexing you so?"

"All's well, worry not," Benoit sighed.

"I did not intend to," Emile bit out.

"Why must you be like that, Emile?!?" snapped Corin.

"Please. Shall we to bed?" Benoit stated getting up from the table, "Save the hostility 'til the morrow."

"Fine, but I'm not sleeping in the same room as that one," Corin answered, gesturing towards Emile.

"There are plenty of rooms upstairs for you, your highness," Emile mocked.

Emile and Corin continued with their gibes all the way up the stairs, until their exchanges were muffled by the cellar door closing behind them.

"As you say, worry not, brother. Tomorrow brings brighter tidings," Damian consoled.

"If only," Benoit muttered under his breath.

"Come again?" said Damian, straining to hear.

"Oh nothing, get some rest," said Benoit with the smile, tousling his brother's hair and ushering the little rascal up the stairs.

"Well then, good night and try not to trouble yourself so much," said Damian, opening the cellar door onto the shouting match that had escalated between Corin and Emile.

"Good night, little brother," Benoit said, as the door shut behind Damian.

The muffled commotion upstairs fell to the quiet of a summer breeze coming through an open cellar window. It provided some relief from the stale cellar air. Benoit sighed in contentment and lingered for a moment in the cellar, waiting for the commotion to die down upstairs before heading up to bed himself.

The sun rose swiftly as another dawn approached. As was typical amongst the brothers, Benoit was first awake and decided to go for a walk before breakfast. He stuffed his coarse cotton shirt into his trousers and drew his cloak about him. Pulling up his hood, Benoit crossed the creaking floorboards of the tavern, much to the alarm of the resident rats that skittered about as Benoit closed the tavern's oaken door with a resounding thud.

With the thud of the door, Emile jolted awake. Shrugging off the grogginess of the morning and slipping into his trousers, Emile crept along the upper tier of rooms, noting that Benoit had left for his morning walk. So predictable, Emile thought.

Emile found Damian's room empty, only to find the youngest brother huddled closely to his twin. Emile shook his head, that boy was so dependent on Corin. No doubt Damian had another one of his nightmares and came running to Corin's bed for safety. Emile couldn't understand why Corin put up with him.

Damian had always been the baby of the family. He was only an infant when their farm was raided by the Norsemen. It was something the older siblings never really spoke about in front of Damian or to each other for that matter. Corin had carried baby Damian to safety. Maybe that's why they shared such a special connection.

Emile shook his head, Special connection my ass! Walking downstairs to one of the ale casks and grabbing two tankards from bar, Emile poured a generous amount of ale into each tankard. There was a reason why the tavern owners had left this stuff behind; it was pungent as ever and had not aged well. Returning upstairs, Emile doused the two slumbering chuckleheads in it. A perfect way to start the morning, Emile thought.

Corin didn't think so, and when he realized what he had been drenched in, he chased Emile straight out into the alleyway. Damian groaned and followed the two of them outside.

"Look at you two, you're all wet," Emile said, spinning around to confront his brothers and beaming from ear to ear.

"I am going to kill you, Emile," Corin growled.

"Yeah, hold him down, Corin, and I'll kick the stuffing out of him," Damian chimed.

"Right, like you could ever do anything to hurt me, pipsqueak," Emile retorted with a laugh.

Damian gave Emile a swift kick to the groin. Emile dropped instantly to the ground, writhing in pain.

Corin laughed hysterically, "Not much of a pipsqueak now is he?"

"Yeah, you ass!" Damian blurted out, giving Emile another kick for good measure.

"Okay little brother, I think he's had enough. Let's leave him to think about what he's done," Corin said, pulling Damian away.

Emile just rocked back and forth on the ground. What a splendid way to start the morning, Emile thought, smirking through the pain. Deep down I knew the little puke had it in him.

Meanwhile, Benoit was exploring the slums of Lower Lorraine, hoping to find something for breakfast. He had made his way to the market district, before deciding to continue on to Upper Lorraine. The city was easy enough to navigate if one knew how. The winding alleyways of Lower Lorraine opened up to the market district, which wasn't as crowded in the early morning as it was in the afternoon. The smell of baked goods wafted through the square, but Benoit knew better than to rob the baker twice in one week. The butcher was not far from the baker, but armed with a cleaver, he was a formidable opponent. Besides, this early in the day there probably weren't any scraps for Benoit to run off with. The fruit and vegetable stands, scattered all along the square hadn't gotten their deliveries of fresh produce yet, so there wasn't any reason for Benoit to dwell in the marketplace. Thus, he meandered up the hill to Upper Lorraine. The City Guard heavily patrolled the area, paying particular attention to Benoit this morning as he passed the guardhouse.

"And what brings you this way, peasant?" a guard asked Benoit, getting in his way.

"Merely going to the monastery," Benoit replied.

"Better not catch you causing any trouble; the Guard will not tolerate it. Understand?"

"Of course."

"On your way then, boy."

Benoit gave a sigh of relief when the guard let him pass. The line about visiting the monastery was his go to whenever he needed to explain himself to the Guard. The monastery served as the religious center of Lorraine and was one of the few places in Upper Lorraine that the public had access to, aside from the gardens. Modeled after the Roman forum, the gardens were a place for intellectual exchange. Recently, however, the gardens had been taken over by the nobility as pleasure grounds. So Benoit thought it best to say he was visiting the monastery.

And visit the monastery he did, only after raiding the kitchen of one of the smaller estates that had left their grounds unlocked and unguarded. Entering the monastery chapel, cloak full of meats and cheeses, Benoit laid down his bundle and sat in one of the back pews, finding this a quiet place to lay low for a while.

"Hello, my child," said a voice from behind Benoit.

"Mon Dieu! Brother, startled me," said Benoit. "I thought I was alone."

"One is never alone when one has God."

Benoit chuckled at the Brother's remark. After a pause, Benoit turned to leave, taking his bundle of goods with him, "Well, I should be on my way."

"Go with God, my child. The monastery will be here when you return."

Return? Whatever could he mean by that? Benoit wondered as he made his way back to the slums of Lower Lorraine.

After bathing and putting on one of his best fitting tunics, Corin grabbed some left over bread and the cheese that Benoit had brought back, announcing that he had an errand to complete before the day was through.

"My, aren't we all dressed up today," Emile teased, "What's the occasion? Calling again on that sweetheart we know so little of?"

"No I have an apprenticeship that I need to inquire about. I need to make an impression." Corin answered back.

"Good for you," Benoit said, roasting a slice of pork over the fire. "It warms my heart to know that at least some of us are taking initiative with our lives." Benoit shot a glance at Emile.

"Yes, well tell your sweetheart I said hello," Emile shouted after Corin, who was already out the door.

They rode in the carriage together. She was as beautiful as ever, resplendent in regal attire. Her raven hair cascaded pleasantly over her sloping, delicate shoulders and down to the small of her back. Corin looked on, utterly bemused and bewitched by the Duke's daughter. She was bathed rose pedal sweet as usual and he found it absolutely intoxicating.

She spoke first, "It's good to see you again, my love."

"As it is to see you, M'Lady."

"Come, come, my dearest Corin, you mustn't be so formal. To be sure, you were quite forward during our late night dalliance in the gardens," she giggled.

"But what if the coachman overhears our conversation?"

"Please, am I not Lady Gwendolyn? Daughter of the esteemed Duke of Normandy? My servants would sooner see me happy than betray my confidence," Gwen replied.

"Of course, M'Lady."

"Please Corin, I should think you know me more intimately than that," Gwen said as she leaned in for a kiss.

"Anything for you, love," Corin said and obliged, giving himself over to her. Pulling down the shades of the carriage, Gwen enveloped her beloved ruffian in a passionate embrace.

Emile paced the length of the tavern. He was fed up with this petty thievery. For too long he'd put up with his siblings' complacence. Emile wanted so much more out of life and he was going to get it one way or another. He had even devised a plan which involved ransacking the Duke's estate. Of course, Emile would have to get his brothers on his side before he proceeded any further.

"Corin, can I have a word?" Emile asked, taking Corin aside one afternoon.

"Is this another one of your pranks, Emile? Because if it's anything like your last one --" Corin said.

"A man cannot converse with his brother without nefarious intentions?"

"With you, Emile, there's always something underhand."

Emile ignored him. "What were you doing last night?"

"Why should you care what I do with my time?"

"I just wondered why you've been so secretive lately."

"Secretive? Hardly."

"Oh? So you running off at odd hours is not the least bit suspicious?"

"What are you implying, Emile?"

"I'm implying that you have a sweetheart that you don't want us finding out about."

"Nonsense."

"Perfect sense. And I'll even hazard to guess that she comes from Upper Lorraine."

"You'd be wrong."

Wrong? Well judging by how you're blushing…"

"Blushing? Hardly."

"Blushing? Hardly. Secretive? Hardly. Having an affair with the Duke's daughter? Definitely."

Corin's face immediately grew pale. "You mustn't tell a soul, Emile."

"There. I have you."

"I'm serious Emile, you mustn't tell anyone."

"Of course, Corin, I'd never tell. That is, if you agree to go along with something I've been planning."

"See? Underhand. With you it's always underhand."

"Now I'm curious. How does a pauper like you intend to wed a woman like her?"

Corin paused a moment. "Well we're in love, surely the Duke will see that and -"

Emile laughed out loud. "Come now, Corin, you cannot possibly believe that. Gwendolyn is a lady and will expect to be treated as such."

"Well I-"

"Aww you haven't considered that have you?"

"I shall become a squire then."

"To become a squire, you'll need money."

"We're thieves aren't we? I'll steal the gold I need. Buy some armor, a horse."

"Just what I wanted to hear! Now allow me to entertain the idea of robbing a nobleman's estate…"

"What nobleman?"

"The Duke, of course."

"Nonsense. I'd never steal from my beloved's father."

"Well then you can all rot because there's no nobleman for miles with the Duke's kind of riches."

"I'd never betray the woman I love by stealing from her family."

"And if she would permit it?"

"What do you mean?"

"What if Lady Gwendolyn allowed you to steal from her father?"

"Why would she ever agree to that?"

"Well, as you say, you two are in love and if she loves you as much as you say she'll want to see herself married to you."

"Yes and?"

"And she knows the realities of her position as a lady, how starkly contrasted you are in comparison, and how you need a small bit of wealth to get you started."

Corin thought about it for a moment. "Fine. I'll talk with her tonight and get back to you on the morrow."

"All I could ever hope for, brother," Emile said as he left Corin to think further on this issue. "Remember brother, follow your heart!"

Emile wasn't entirely sure Corin was sold on the idea. It would be up to Emile to set things right with Lady Gwen. So that evening, when Corin had arranged to meet with his lady, Emile convinced Corin to drink a tankard of the ale. "For courage," Emile said.

"Alright. Just one," Corin replied, gulping down the potent brew.

The brew was a special concoction that Emile had made for that night. It was mixed with the most intoxicating liquor Emile could swipe from the storehouse behind a tavern in the market district. The bottle had several Xs scrawled on it, so Emile knew it packed a punch. And before he knew it, Corin was out cold.

Donning Corin finest tunic, Emile was the spitting image of his twin. Taking off for Upper Lorraine, Emile headed to the gardens where Corin, in a drunken stupor, confessed he would meet with Gwendolyn. Emile found her standing in a secluded spot of the gardens.

"Hello M'Lady," Emile said, posing as his brother.

Lady Gwendolyn's face lit up at the sight of him. "Hello my love." She fell into his arms, but when they kissed, Gwen pulled back.

"Who are you?"

"Why, my Lady, I'm your beloved Corin."

"No you're not. You're an impostor. Tell me who you are, or I am calling the guards."

Emile loosened the buttons on his tunic. "Fine. This damned tunic was becoming a pain anyway. I'm Corin's twin brother, Emile. He has fallen ill this evening and wanted me to come in his stead."

"Why are you wearing his clothes? Why did you kiss me?"

"I figured if you thought I was Corin, our meeting would go along more smoothly."

"Ha! You may be identical, but you kiss nothing like Corin."

Corin's the better kisser, great, Emile thought then said, "Regardless, I have a proposition for you, M'Lady."

"Come, let's have it then, since you've gone through all this trouble."

"As you know, Corin's madly in love with you and would do anything to have your hand in marriage."

"Marriage? He said that he would marry me?"

"Yes, but I told him it would never happen because you are a lady and he is a lowly peasant."

"Our love would find a way."

"Yes, he said something similar." Emile rolled his eyes and continued, "Anyway Corin's convinced that the only way he can win your hand in marriage is through stealing enough of your father's fortune to afford a position as squire in your court."

"How would stealing from my father, the Duke, help his standing in Lorraine?"

"With some coin he could buy a horse, armor, a sword -"

"My father has all those things. I could provide them for him without Corin having to steal it."

"But you see M'Lady it is a matter of pride for Corin not to ask for charity."

"So Corin would rather steal than injure his pride by asking me for help?"

"It is also a matter of agency, M'Lady. Were Corin to do this on his own, then he would have the satisfaction of doing it himself rather than relying on someone else."

"Very well. I'm not sure I approve of how Corin wishes to go about it, but if it means we can be together, so be it. What is needed of me at the moment?"

"We'll need the Duke as far away from the estate as he can be."

"That should not be a problem. He is planning to visit the neighboring kingdoms in about a fortnight from now."

"Thank you my lady, you have been a great help. I will relay this information to Corin and let him know that his beloved wishes him the best in this endeavor." Emile gave her a peck on the cheek before she could refuse, and, having taken his consolation prize, he stole away into the night.

With Corin and Gwen pacified, Emile moved on to convincing Damian before they brought their plan to Benoit.

"What does Corin think about all this?" Damian asked.

"I figured you would ask something like that," Emile replied and, turning to his brother, said, "Corin could you please explain to Damian why we're doing this?"

"So we can have a better life, Damian. So I can marry the woman of my dreams and we can get out of Lower Lorraine for good."

"I don't know…stealing from the Duke isn't right."

"Damian, please. Do you not want to see your brothers happy?" Emile asked, knowing full well how he'd respond.

Damian thought for a moment. "Very well, for Corin's sake."

"Excellent!" Corin and Emile exclaimed in unison.

"No. It's simply out of the question," Benoit declared in response to his brothers' appeal.

"Be fair minded, brother. Corin needs some coin to move on in life. Do you not want a better future for young Damian here?" Emile implored, tousling the youngster's hair.

"Yes, Corin has expressed his desire to become a squire. This is the only way he'll ever become one," Damian said, shaking off Emile's hand from his head.

"Please brother, these noblemen make more coin than anyone else in Lorraine. Surely they would not miss some of their treasures," Corin reasoned.

"This is all too easy," Emile thought to himself.

Benoit was beginning to crack. "Can you promise me that this crime will go unpunished? No one gets hurt, everyone gets out clean?"

"Of course, Benoit. I care for this family as much as you do," Emile replied.

"Then do so if you must. I will come along only to observe and make sure none of you fall into the hands of the Guard, nothing more."

"As you wish, brother," Emile grinned.

Soon the day of the heist was upon them. The Duke had taken Gwendolyn on a tour of the neighboring kingdoms, just as she had said he would. The guards were under strict orders to mind the estate, but with their master out, they were neglectful of their duties. The servants were given the day off and were milling about the city, far removed from the great house. This was the moment Emile had been waiting for.

With everything prepared, the brothers slipped past the guardhouse into Upper Lorraine. It was only a short walk through the gardens to the Duke's estate. Damian, being the youngest, clambered through one of the windows, letting Emile and Corin in from the inside. Benoit stood watch outside while the other three brothers absconded with everything they could get their hands on.

"These candlesticks will do nicely," Emile said, placing the pewter candlestick in his already overfilled pouch.

"Emile, I thought we were not to take everything in the house, just as much as we needed." Corin pleaded.

"Do you not think the nobility has more than enough? They can replace everything we take from here."

"Are you sure?" Damian asked.

"Yes, now pack up everything and let us hurry. I know not when the Duke returns," Emile said, rushed.

Just then, Benoit came rushing in with a host of guards close behind. Benoit slammed the door shut, keeping the guards at bay as best he could.

"The Duke has returned early. For the love of God run!" Benoit shouted at them.

But it was too late, the guards broke in from another entrance and the brothers were immediately surrounded.

***

Benoit looked through the grates of the Duke's dungeon. Having been imprisoned here for many winters, it was almost time for his release. He wondered where his brothers were now. With a kind appeal to the Duke's mercy by his daughter, his brothers each had been let go according to the severity of their crime. Or at least that was what the Duke had stated, provided that Benoit, the eldest, served the remainder of their sentence.

Benoit harbored much resentment against Emile for his rashness. Had Emile not been so covetous, grabbing every last candlestick in the house, maybe they would have gotten away with it. Still, Benoit would have done twice the time if it meant his younger siblings were free to live their lives. Late at night in his cell, Benoit worried for them, even Emile. Often, he prayed. Benoit was never a religious man during his life on the streets, but now in prison, he'd taken solace in his faith. It gave him hope. Maybe one day he would return to the monastery after all.

Emile's sentence was the shortest, and so he continued with his cunning wiles. As soon as he got out, he pilfered a guard's purse and ran out to the local tavern. There he purchased a large tankard of ale and a hearty roast to celebrate his release. He paid no mind to his forsaken brothers, the nagging remorse drowned out by a swig of ale.

The guard eventually got wise to his purse being cut and set out to find the thief who'd stolen it. Immediately he was drawn to the nearby tavern, only to find his coins sitting by some sorry drunk who wasn't capable of such thievery. Emile reveled in the guard's frustration and slipped out the back. He stopped immediately by a gang of shady figures in the alleyway.

"It seems we have ourselves a regular cutpurse, boys," the tallest one said.

Emile puffed out his chest, ready to scrap with these thugs.

"Calm down, big guy, we're not here to fight you," answered the short one.

"Yes, actually we'd like for you to join us," said the one of medium build, he extended his hand, "You see we're thieves ourselves."

It wasn't long before Emile was the head of the thieves guild, operating out of a refurbished Cross and Crown.

Damian, being so young, wasn't given a prison sentence. Instead, upon Lady Gwendolyn's insistence, he was sent to live with a foster family out in the surrounding countryside. Since his foster parents were not able to conceive, Damian was treated like he was one of their own. Damian had grown into a strapping young man under their care.

"Son, one day this farm will be all yours," said Damian's foster father one evening at dinner.

"Of course, Father. I intend to care for it just as you always have."

"Your father and I aren't as young as we used to be," said Damian's foster mother as she brought in the roast she had prepared for that evening.

"I know, Mother. But you still look as lovely as ever."

"That's kind of you to say, Love."

"Anyway, my boy, it's time you settled down and started a family," his father said. "The farmer across the way has a daughter who has grown into a lovely young woman and our combined plots of land would one day yield a bountiful harvest if you would take her as your wife."

"Has it all been arranged then? Am I to marry this woman?"

"Love, it is up to you."

"Son, like your mother says, do whatever you think is best."

Damian did marry the farmer's daughter and she bore him many children. With their large tracts of land, Damian and his family were some of the wealthiest farmers in the countryside, providing much needed produce to the market district and the estates of Upper Lorraine.

Corin served his time as a stable boy in the Duke's estate. Gwendolyn was glad to have him nearby as she was with child. When the Duke found how that his daughter had been fooling around with the stable boy who'd once attempted to steal from him, he nearly had Corin executed.

"Please, Father, if you love me you won't have him executed."

"What am I to do with him then?"

"Let me marry him."

"I will not see you married to a stable boy."

"Make him a squire then."

"What?!? A thief made stable boy made squire? That's ludicrous."

"Is it father? One day he may become a knight, possibly serve you well in the City Guard. Then perhaps he'd be a fitting father to the heir of your estate."

"I will not have a bastard ruling my kingdom."

"He wouldn't be a bastard if I were married."

"Fine. This lad can serve as squire and you'll have my permission to marry him."

"Thank you, Father."

Corin was a quick study as squire and it wasn't long before he became a Captain of the Guard and Lady Gwendolyn's husband.

On the eve of the young couple's nuptials, Corin saw to it that Benoit was released from his imprisonment. Benoit was surprised to see his brother with the jailer.

"Corin? Is that you? Oh god, please tell me they aren't taking you in again."

"No Benoit, we're getting you out."

"God be praised."

"When did you get so religious?"

"Several years in a prison will do that to a person."

Corin embraced Benoit with a laugh, "Oh it's so good to know you're alive."

"Barely. Thankfully I was never alone."

"How do you mean?"

"God was with me."

"I see. Well He must have been for you to have survived this long in a cell." Corin paused to see what a sorry state his brother was in. "Jailer, see to it that this is man shaved, fed, clothed, and bathed. He is to join us at the wedding banquet tomorrow."

"Yes Sir Corin," the Jailer replied.

"You're getting married?"

"Yes."

"And you're a knight?"

"Captain of the Guard, actually."

"God in heaven, I knew you'd make something of yourself. And your brothers what's happened to them?"

"I have no idea," Corin lied, not wanting to worry his brother.

In fact, seeing one's likeness on wanted posters was distressing, especially for the Captain of the Guard. But there wasn't the time to worry about that now. Corin was to marry his Lady in the morning.

"Do you take this man as your lawfully wedded husband to have and to hold as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Lady Gwendolyn replied, in her long, cascading white gown.

"Do you take this woman as your lawfully wedded wife to provide and protect as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Corin answered, clad in a finely embroidered doublet.

"Then by the power vested in me by the Lord almighty and witnessed by those present here today, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now kiss the bride."

A loud cheer echoed through the halls of the monastery as Sir Corin kissed Lady Gwendolyn, at long last his beloved wife. As the happy couple and the congregation went out to the gardens, Benoit recognized a familiar face in the aged priest.

"Brother?"

"Father, now," the priest answered smiling.

"Yes, Father, forgive me, but do you remember a young man who once stumbled in here early one morning."

"Ah yes, my child. It has been awhile since you've set foot in this chapel. But something told me you'd return one day."

"If it's alright with you, Father, I would like to join your order."

"All are welcome, my child."

Meanwhile, as Corin and Gwen were walking towards the gardens, Corin was stopped by a farmer and his wife who were excited to see him.

"Oh Corin it is you!"

"Damian?" Corin stood dumbfounded while Damian embraced him warmly.

"Yes, I have a farm with my wife just outside of Lorraine," Damian said, gesturing to a comely looking lass who stood a pace from the brothers.

"Damian, Benoit is just inside. He will be glad to see you are doing well." Corin said grinning widely, before gesturing to Lady Gwen. "And this of course, is Lady Gwendolyn."

"M'Lady," Damian and his wife responded with a bow and a curtsey.

"Please, you are family, no need of such formality," Gwen said, embracing them both.

Benoit emerged from the monastery to see his two brothers reunited. He was about join them, when he caught a glimpse of a shadowy figure off in the distance. His face was partially cloaked, but Benoit knew who it belonged to, bearing a close resemblance to the groom. Benoit gave him a nod and he nodded back, lingering for a while before turning away. For a fleeting moment, the brothers were together again by the gardens of Upper Lorraine.





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