“Good evening, gentlemen! I see that I have missed most of the meal, but I will attempt to make up for my tardiness—what? Simon!” Stephen’s words caught, and his mind buzzed with unasked questions and thoughts as he walked into the room and saw Simon staring up at him from the table. Not removing his gaze from his twin’s face, he spoke to the others, “I see that you have found my brother. I trust that Leigha is now with her husband, and all is well with her.”
Charles noted the ice in Stephen’s voice and was puzzled by the glimpse of what he saw pass across Stephen’s face when the man first saw his brother.
“Hatred? I thought that it was Simon that hated and Stephen that bore that weight,” he thought to himself as he watched the encounter of the two men. “This is interesting indeed.”
“Leigha is not with Robert,” Simon spoke softly as he came around the table to stand before his twin. Leveling his eyes on Stephen’s, he held out his hand and asked, “How are you, my brother?”
“She is not?” Stephen asked, ignoring Simon’s question and outstretched hand as he turned from him to take a seat at the table beside Lord Dagon to talk to him. “I’m afraid that I don’t understand. You have found Simon, so where is Leigha?”
“She was taken by pirates, jist as Robert has seen!” Jesep exclaimed from across the table, drawing Stephen’s attention. “They stole her away whin Simon’s back was turned!”
“Pirates, you say?” Stephen asked, looking accusingly over at Simon returning to his seat. With a derisive snort, he then turned to ask Lord Dagon, “Are you so certain that that is what happened?”
“We are certain,” Charles answered, watching Stephen closely. Hiding his growing anger at the man, he continued, “We believe that they are taking Leigha to Constantinople to sell her at the slave market there. I hope that you don’t mind that I’ve instructed the captain to sail with the tide. We should be leaving port soon.”
“By all means! The slave market you say? This is terrible!” Stephen exclaimed, allowing his jaw to drop in feigned horror at the thought. Turning now to meet Simon’s quiet gaze for the first time, he asked, “Tell me, brother, will they sell your bastard as well when it is born?”
Lord Dagon’s anger was mounting as his mind began to understand Stephen and Simon Montieth’s relationship. He was appalled by the harshness of Stephen’s cruel words to his brother and puzzled by Simon’s level gaze and cool temperament towards Stephen’s derogatory remarks. Charles was seeing the slipping of Stephen’s pleasant mask and discovering the sharp contrast in the personalities of the twins from that which he had been led to believe before Simon’s arrival this day. Even Jesep and Gordon noticed the difference and were amazed that Stephen showed not a trace of the warmth and sorrow he had spoken of before towards his twin. The three men sat in apprehension of what might happen next as Simon replied slowly to Stephen’s taunting words.
“I have fathered no child. Leigha carries Robert’s babe,” he answered, then paused, dropping his eyes for a moment to take a deep breath. All could see the clenching of his jaws before he lifted his steely gaze back to his brother’s and spoke, his voice low and betraying the depth of the emotion that he was feeling. “I pray to God that we find her and save them both so that there will be no answer to your callous inquiry.”
Simon’s face was expressionless, his eyes cold as he studied Stephen. His heart cried that his brother was so unchanged even after his association with the caliber of people about him such as Lord Dagon. The weight of stone that dragged at him, the stopper of pain that he had firmly planted against Stephen’s personality years ago, slipped momentarily from its placement, leaving him numb and raw at the hatred for him that he saw in Stephen’s eyes. Realizing this, he quickly set it back in its place to stem all feeling, leaving a cold emptiness in the hole where there had once been love for his brother. Not wishing any further conversation with Stephen, Simon stood up to leave.
“If you will excuse me,” he addressed the group in general, “I’m not very hungry, and I think that I should go tend to Silvering to be certain that he is secure before we leave.” No objections were raised though he was a bit puzzled by the piercing gaze that Lord Dagon settled first on Stephen and then on him. “Well, good night then.”
“Simon, perhaps you will come to my cabin later so that we may have that talk that I mentioned,” Charles spoke as Simon turned to go. “That is if you’re not too tired from the efforts of this day.”
“I will, Lord Dagon, if you so wish.” Simon stopped and turned to look at the man, unable to read his eyes or expression. Nodding his head towards him and then to the others, he said, “Gordon, Jesep, good night. Stephen, I will see you in the morning.”
“Not if I can help it!” Stephen thought to himself as he cast an artificial smile at his brother and nodded, silently fuming to himself. “Why didn’t that fool, Robert, kill you? No matter, you will be dead before we return to England, I swear!”
Simon turned to leave and then glanced back over his shoulder at Stephen as if reading his thoughts. Shaking his head, he left the room.
The remaining men sat around the table for a while, catching Stephen up on the events of the day and making plans about the journey ahead of them. Charles sat back and silently reappraised his opinion of Stephen Montieth. Doubt nagged at the corner of his mind, and he pushed it aside, feeling that he was just being edgy due to the strain of the day. Excusing himself, he retired early, hoping that Simon would stop by to speak with him. There were too many questions needing answers. The words must come from Simon so that Charles could sort out the truth of the identities of the twins. The discrepancies were too great to ignore. There was more at stake here than anyone knew.
Virginia Lee – Dagon’s Blood – Kindle Edition