I stepped over. Gigot was standing nearby, his hand resting on the head of the axe run through his belt. I followed his gaze. Not everybody, it turns out, was gathered around or looking busy. A dozen men stood or sat around under a couple of tarps near the end of the stables, watching us. There wasn’t a friendly expression among them, but they had more than their share of axes, spears, and halberds. I glanced back at Gigot.

“Etien’s?” I asked. Gigot nodded.

“Don’t worry about them right now,” Cyril said. “Help me with this.”

He had his shoulder against a wooden chest tied to the back of the mule, and was undoing the strap that held it in place. I reached up to steady it, and almost dropped it when Cyril eased his shoulder away from the weight.

“Jesus!” I exclaimed. I’d said it in English, but got a pointed glance from both Cyril and Gigot. A word that’s pretty recognizable in both languages, I guess. “What’s in this thing?”

“None of your business,” Cyril answered. He’d finished with the strap and was adjusting his position to take the end of the chest. I did the same. I grunted as the full weight came off the rather relieved mule. It was heavier than the sofa bed I’d helped Jason move last summer, and that had weighed in at well over 100 pounds. “Just act normal. There’s nothing important in here.”

I glanced around. Madeleine and Stephan were still in conversation. Gaspard was off to the side, sort of standing around in his Gaspard-like manner. All the other loading and unpacking was being done by servant or peasant types. And then there was Gigot, hand still on his axe, following us as we took the first couple of steps toward the castle tower. Nothing important indeed.

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Here it is, the complete Chapter 3. As always, comments voraciously consumed.

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