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Charles Whitehurst

The Haunted Trail April 6 Morning

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He had nightmares the night before of dead men chasing him.  His sword had hacked them to pieces but they reassembled themselves..

Today he had come to the library to meet with Susan Herbert.  With him was his golden dagger and a pile of correspondence between the Swan and the Lion..  She had told him the day before that she had learned the name of the Swan and he was eager to put more pieces of the puzzle together.  

They had not picked a specific time to meet, but he hoped she might be waiting for him there.  He scanned the room to see if she was present.

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It would take a bit of searching to find her, but Susan was there, sitting close to the door of the archives. A large stack of papers lay on the table in front of her and she was studying one of them, her golden brows furrowed. As Charles approached, she looked up and an engaging smile wiped the serious expression from her pretty features.

 

“I've been wondering when you'd show up,” she said in a teasing tone of voice. Standing up, she placed the page she had been perusing on top of the others. “I've been waiting for hours.” Actually, she had entered the library merely ten minutes ago, but she liked to jest with him.

 

Reaching into one of her petticoat pockets, she pulled out a key and handed it to him before gathering the papers in her arms. “Mr. Potts gave me the key to the archives again. We'll have more privacy there. You'll have to open the door since my hands are full.”

 

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"Hours?"  The Earl took her seriously.  "You are quite the early riser.  I had thought to give you some time to … ready yourself."  Were not women always needing more time to get ready?  "I apologize, I should have proposed a set time."

Taking the key from her, Charles was only too happy to open the door to the archive.  It seemed a bit odd that she did not enter already, but maybe she worried that he would not look for her in there.

Putting the key in the lock, he attempted to open the door and hold it open for Susan to enter.

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“I'm just teasing,” Susan laughed. “I've only been waiting  about ten minutes, but that was enough to get my notes in order.” She was an early riser, though, for she never knew when the Queen would need her. Now that her mistress was nearing her confinement, there was nothing much for her unmarried ladies to do except welcome guests to the presence chamber. The needlework project she was working on with the Duchess of Somerset and Mistress Wellsley had kept her from boredom. Her research had been suspended during recess because she had gone to the country with her family. She had perused her notes a few times but had found no other clues.

 

Charles had correctly guessed the reason she had not waited for him in the archives. She had not known if he would have knocked as she would have locked the door from the inside to keep anybody else out. There were other people in the library. Some of them might have noticed where she had gone. It had been better to await him in the library proper, where they wouldn't accidentally miss each other.

 

She preceded him into the room and placed her notes on the table before taking a seat. After he had sat as well, she pulled the first page from the stack, glanced down at it, and then over at Charles . “I've solved part of the mystery. I know the names of both the Lion and the Swan. There was only one recipient of that kind of dagger with the initials T.H. and his was presented to him after the first forging in 1564. His name was Thomas Hilton and he was a Baron.

 

“I then looked at the records of Queen-Elisabeth's ladies-in-waiting. Though there were several ladies listed with the initials A.E, most of them were either too old or two young to have been the Swan. There were two who were around the right age. One of them had never married so she was out. That left Alasia Emerson. She was born in 1549, which made her fifteen at the time of the first forging.”

 

Susan leaned toward Charles, her eyes wide. “I found out something else too, something I think you will find more interesting than the names of the Lion and the Swan.”

 

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"Thomas Hilton," Charles repeated aloud.  That sounded right.  "What did he do that was so heroic that it justified the award of the dagger I wonder?"  He hoped Susan might have an answer.

"Alasia is an odd name.  Who was her father to have gained such an exalted position?"  Perhaps they were not as important as he had thought originally.

The revelations about the names were soon to be overtaken by some new secret.  The young earl's eyes sparkled at the thought of something intriguing or scandalous.  "Oh?  Do tell.  Do not keep me waiting," he asked excitedly.

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