Chapter 34 - The She-Wolf of France
"Feck me !", exclaimed Pisky as he stood inside the computer room on the top floor of the Gatehouse, "What the hell happened here ?"
"I don't know, but I plan to find out !" snapped Tobias as he scanned the broken pieces of computer equipment scattered on the wooden floor. It was
a testament to Loki's cabling ability that the dial-up line was still attached to a shattered external modem, but the accompanying computer lay
forlornly in the centre of the room with its cabling hanging out as if it had been disembowelled. Propped beside the desk, a keyboard was missing most
of its buttons and the mouse was crushed beyond repair. The second computer had received similar treatment although it looked as if Erisian's
half-rebuilt laptop had been overlooked. Beside the door, a dark scuff mark denoted where LC had been forcibly removed from the building, kicking out
in an attempt to escape before being overpowered.
"Who knew that LC was here ?", Tobias asked as the pixy stood and attempted to visualise the events of the last few hours. "Virtually everyone",
Pisky replied, "She was covering the computer while Erisian got a few hours kip. They've been working together since we went to Wayland's"
Tobias sighed. "Damien couldn't tell us much", he said, stating the obvious since the pixy had been with him when the boy was questioned.
"Isabella, Shillington and something about being married to someone who didn't act like a king. Utter bollocks if you ask me."
The door creaked open, admitting a shocked Erisian. Her eyes widened and she placed a hand over her mouth as she took in the sight before her. "Can
you fix this stuff ?", Tobias asked.
"I ... I'm not sure ... its ..." she muttered as her eyes scanned the pieces of broken equipment.
"Loki ?" Tobias looked hopefully at his companion. Loki sucked his teeth in the manner of a cowboy builder or second rate mechanic; "I'll give it
a go", he said, "But I can't guarantee much."
"Pisky can give you a hand", Tobias continued, "while I try to work out where they've taken LC. Then we'll talk strategy. The sooner we get
things sorted, the better."
"It's been almost ten years since I did any
computer engineering", the pixy explained, "So it's going to take a while to cobble anything
together, But I'll do what I can."
Tobias nodded his thanks and left the room, leaving Pisky and Loki to collect what working parts they could find in a vain hope of having enough to
put together at least one functioning computer.
"Shillington", Tobias said, pointing to a small dot on the Road Map he had found in one of the hummers. The vehicle itself, alongside the quadbikes
and battered old Vauxhall Nova belonging to Loki had long been idle due to lack of fuel and it was unlikely they would work any longer even if a
magical source of four star could be discovered. That left the horses as the only means of transportation, plus Shanks' pony of course. Tobias put
down the book and looked around the small group clustered around him. "It's in the wilds of Bedfordshire, near Luton ... about 140 miles away." He
shook his head at the collection of groans that met his ears. "Where's Pisky ?", he asked Erisian who had picked up the book as if to doublecheck
the soldier's calculations. "In the Gatehouse", she replied, "And Loki's in what's left of South Tower trying to fix one of the PC power supply
"OK", Tobias said, having come to a decision. "We need Pisky and Loki here to get the computer room running and a net connection back. I don't
want to be caught napping if the Corporates are planning anything. KayEm needs to stay to look after Coleman. Erisian, you'll be needed here once the
computer's working again." Then he turned towards Fingal. "You know more about Tamsin's state of mind than anyone, Father", he said, "I'm going
to need you to come with me to ..."
Pisky strode through the doorway and dropped into a chair. Pouring himself a generous tankard of 'Best Pixyland', he took a
drink before continuing.
"Ok", the pixy said, taking the mapbook from Erisian and flipping through the pages, "I took the liberty of asking Rhiannon and Damien to join us.
I think I may have an idea where Tamsin and Angover took LC."
"Where ?", asked Pantha, "And more importantly, why ?
"I don't know the why, but I am virtually certain where
", the pixy answered as Rhiannon and her son entered the hall from the courtyard.
Pisky stood, poured a tankard of cider for Rhiannon and handed Damien a can of cola from the dwindling stores before gesturing for them both to sit
beside the roaring fire.
"I know you told us what Tamsin said to you yesterday", the pixy began, "But I need to ask you a few more questions. I think I know where they are
heading and your answers will help me convince everyone else."
Damien nodded, secretly pleased to be included in the discussions.
"Right", Pisky continued, "What did Tamsin tell you about Isabella ?"
Damien thought for a while then spoke up, his voice the only sound in the hall. "She said that Isabella was a Queen and that she was married to a
king but that he didn't really act like a king."
"Oh!", Damien interrupted, "I almost forgot. She said that Isabella hated her husband's friend and that he was a gasman"
"A gasman ?" the pixy asked, a look of bewilderment crossing his face. Then he grinned. "Do you mean a gascon ?"
"Yes, thats it !!!", Damien exclaimed, "A gascon !!! ... how did you know ?"
"All will be revealed", the pixy replied, looking around the room at the perplexed looks of his companions.
"Now", he continued, "Where did Isabella want Tamsin to visit her ?"
Damien took a deep breath. "Shillington", he said importantly. I remember that because Grandad used to call me his little shilling bit. Did you know
that a shilling is an old coin, but we don't have them anymore because Heath betrayed Britain to the Europeans ? That's what Grandad used to say
anyway, before he died."
"I think I'd have liked your Grandad", Pisky replied, having a similar viewpoint. He looked over to Rhiannon and caught the faintest of smiles from
her before turning back to Damien.
"Ok", the pixy continued, "Damien - did you ever do French at school ?"
"A bit", the boy said, "But I hated it."
Pisky grinned. "What's the French word for 'Dog' ?"
"Chien", Damien replied almost instantly, pronouncing it in the correct French manner.
"And how is that spelt ?"
"C-H-I-E-N", came the reply.
Pisky looked around. "It is my opinion that the word Isabella said to Tamsin was not
'Shillington' but 'Chillington'", he said, "The
letters C and H are usually pronounced 'Sh' in French, as in 'Chien'. Isabella is - was - French, hence she would pronounce words with somewhat of
a French accent. Especially if she's who I believe she is"
"And who is that exactly ?" Tobias asked.
"Isabella, wife of Edward II. Known as 'The She-Wolf of France'" Pisky smiled.
"I assume you're going to explain this ?"
The pixy took a drink of 'Best Pixyland' to wet his whistle before continuing. "Damien gave me the info, but it took until this morning for me to
join the dots." he said. "A French Queen called Isabella who was married to a King who didn't act
like one. Who didn't like his friends,
one of whom was a Gascon. There was, as far as I know, no French Queen Isabella, but there was
one. The wife of Edward II.
And this king, the son of Longshanks, was often seen to be working with the peasants in the field, much to the disgust of the Queen and the
KayEm looked up with a disbelieving look on her face. "Are you talking about the Isabella mentioned in 'Braveheart' ?", she asked.
"Ignore 'Braveheart, that was just fiction." the pixy explained, "Isabella was never the sweet, soft hearted woman she was portrayed to be in
Gibson's film. She had her husband murdered horribly and, alongside her lover Roger Mortimer, took control of England during the minority of her son
the future King Edward III. However ... ", the pixy continued,
"Her son wasn't as easily manipulated. Four years after his father's ignominous death, he overthrew Mortimer and had him executed. Isabella was
condemned to 'house arrest' at Castle Rising - for life".
"So where does Chillington fit in ?" Tobias asked.
"Chillington has a legend attached", Pisky continued. "Back in the fifteen hundreds the owner of Chillington was one Sir John Gifford. He, as did
many other noblemen of the time, kept a menagerie in the grounds of his manor. One day a wild panther escaped and was pursued by the household. Sir
John himself came upon it as it was stalking a woman carrying her child through the park. As he drew his crossbow to save the woman his son came up
behind him and offered him encouragement. He shot and killed the panther as it sprang. Just outside Chillington Hall there is a small Gatehouse. In
the grounds of this building is a large wooden cross - Giffords Cross - which marks where this is alleged to have happened."
"So what's that got to do with Isabella. From what you've said you may as well link Pantha
to Chillington - after all, it was a panther in
the story." Pantha shivered.
"Two points", Pisky replied smiling, "Firstly, local folklore of the area says that it wasn't a panther
that Gifford killed, but a
"And the other point ?"
"Remember when I said that as Gifford aimed at the 'panther', his son gave him encouragement ?"
"He said Prenez haleine, tirez forte
"Take breath, pull hard", Fingal translated, causing a gasp to reverberate around the hall.
"Yes", said the pixy, "The words Isabella said at the end of the exorcism. I knew I had heard it somewhere before."
"So where exactly does that leave us ?", Tobias asked.
Pisky took a deep breath. "I don't believe that Gifford killed a panther." he explained, "I think he killed a wolf. The She- Wolf of France.
The hall went quiet as each member of the group considered the pixy's words.
KayEm broke the silence, "But why?
", she asked, "She was under house arrest in some castle wasn't she ? What was she doing in Chillington ?
and Why would Gifford kill her ?"
is the sixty four thousand pixy stix question", Pisky replied. But on the grounds that Chillington is only fifty miles from here,
while Shillington is over a hundred miles further on, I would be inclined to check out the closest one first."
LadyCool was not happy. In fact it was quite safe to say that she was absolutely livid. Her stomach hurt from having been hung over Angover's horse
like a lump of meat, her legs dangling one side, arms the other. Both ankles and wrists were tied and she had been gagged by something that smelled
like a three week old dog turd. She definitely
was not happy.
Since she had been forcibly removed from the computer room by Angover, she had spent hours trying to work out a plan of escape. He hadn't hurt her -
in fact he had looked sad faced as he had clapped his massive hand over her mouth to stop her shouting for help - but he was a closed book to her now,
as was Tamsin.
The girl rode regally on one of the stable horses, her back straight, her eyes fixed far in the distance. She hadn't spoken a word to LC since she
had destroyed the Stokesay computers and imperiously ordered her father to open the gates.
It was late in the evening by now and the horses were faltering. Suddenly they came to a halt as Tamsin lifted one arm and dismounted. Angover
followed suit and hobbled both horses before lifting the aching LadyCool from his mount and sitting her beside a large oak tree. "I think I can take
this off now", he said in his Cornish accent as he untied her gag, casting the object away. LC spluttered. "What was
that disgusting thing
anyway ?" she asked.
"One of Pisky's socks", came the reply, "There's a terrible smell in Dingley Dell, 'cause the pixies are washing their socks
", he said,
repeating the old poem that no one knew the rest of.
"Oh my god !", LC exclaimed in horror, "I need to wash my face !!!"
"I suppose I can untie your hands for a bit", Angover said, "Just to let you eat and wash anyway. As long as you promise not to run away. Tamsin
wouldn't like that."
, thought LadyCool, "Give me a chance and I'm off !"
, but she merely smiled nicely and turned to allow the blacksmith
to untie her bonds.
Once her hands were free, she took a bottle of water from Angover and splashed the cold water over her face in order to remove the stench of Pisky's
socks from her pores. She would deal with the pixy later on, but for now she sat and plotted her escape.
"What's going on, Angover ?", she asked as she watched Tamsin eating daintily while sitting against a nearby tree.
"I don't really know lass", the blacksmith answered, "I just know that Tamsin says that it'll help her." He looked sadly at LadyCool. "I've
already lost my wife, I can't lose my daughter too."
LC leaned back against her own tree and sighed.
"OK, this is what we're going to do", Tobias explained as he poured himself a flagon of Best Pixyland. "I'm going to Chillington with Fingal.
Pisky and Loki are staying here to fix the computer kit. Erisian, as soon as you get net access, I want you to check things out. If it turns out that
the pixy is spouting #, I want you to send someone to tell us and we'll head off straight to Bedfordshire." The soldier grinned at Pisky who flicked
the V's in a friendly manner. "Pantha", Tobias continued in his best 'Star Trek Captain' voice, "You have the conn."
And within the hour the soldier and the priest had left the safety of Stokesay, bound for lands unknown.