At the very edge of the Saint John Hall property line to the south of the house, Brycen had claimed a bit of land as his own for exercise purposes. There was a fine line of trees with unevenly spaced branches from which James had hung a series of small rings, varying in size. He had also lay down cloths on the ground to mark random spots and a long line of poles held upright by bags of sand.
As the day began to cool towards evening, Brycen had sent word to St. John that he was going out for a bit of schooling on Gosphalen. Word was sent down to the stable to have the gelding bridled but left without a saddle. Brycen changed from his fine coat to a worn pair of breeches and an old shirt, his one concession to his usually fastidious nature being his cravat was neatly tied at his neck and an old waist coat nipped in his lean frame.
Tying his sword belt around his waist as he walked out to the stable, he gave the head lad notice of where he would be, in case Gosphalen came back without him, always a distinct possibility with Gosphalen and then leapt nimbly up on his ever restive perch. The gelding skittered backwards and bounced up in the air, a move that did little to shake his rider loose and for some reason, the gray seemed to be of a mood to behave for the moment.
It was positively unheard of.
Using the ride out to his little arena as a chance to warm Gosphalen up, James felt his mind already starting to wander, even as he entered to the neatly landscaped area. Gathering up the reins, Brycen dropped his legs deep around the gray’s girth and began to give the horse very subtle cues that amazingly brought the normally intractable gray’s head down close to his chest as his hindquarters came up under him and he picked up a textbook perfect piaffe.
In London, the job Brycen had come in to attend to had gone nearly disastrously wrong. He had been caught, just as he scooted out of the study of a high born French nobleman, chased down to the river docks and forced into a knife fight that had left at least one man floating in the Themes. At least he had not been recognized, which was a small enough grace and he had been able to confirm what the Ministry had suspected of the nobleman, that he was intercepting artifacts from Egypt on their way to the British Museum.
However, despite the relative success of the mission, he had still found himself taken to task by the rather unforgiving head of the Ministry.
The Duchess of Birkshire was an unlikely head of the Ministry, which was probably why she was so good at it. A position inherited when her husband of 20 years –and 30 years her senior- had passed, she had made it her own and was highly respected by the male agents she oversaw. Shrewd, a chess master in her own right with connections to Court that ran deep and long in her history, she was a woman before her time.
She was also not used to being defied or disappointed and she abhorred emotional…distractions in her agents.
“You’ve not told him the Ministry is pleased at his notice of return.” The Duchess spoke in a well bred, low voice as she walked along beside Brycen, her cane landing lightly on the stone tiles of the park walkway as she did not truly lean on the walking stick.
“There hasn’t been time.” James nearly groaned at his answer.
“Pig Wash.” She said bluntly. “You have not made the time. St. John should have come with you to London this weekend and assisted in this mission. Perhaps it would not have become a near bollixed affair.”
Brycen felt himself redden a bit under the criticism. He knew she was not pleased with him but he would hardly call the mission bollixed. Still, he knew better than to argue the point.
“Yes, Your Grace.” He responded softly, as there really wasn’t any argument he could legitimately offer.
The Duchess cast a hard, grey eyed glance towards her young companion and set the line of her mouth. She hated it when they didn’t fight, it meant she had to do something kind hearted, like show them open understanding.
“I know it has been ten years since you worked with a partner, since you worked with St. John. But he has requested to come back to active status and the Ministry has accepted his request. It is not for you to continue to confuse the situation.”
“I don’t mean to do that.” Brycen almost snapped.
Birkshire hid a smile. Much better.
“Whether you mean it or not it’s what you’re doing with your feet dragging. Bring him up to speed on the situation. You’re going to have to, in order to explain that knife scratch you have along your ribs.”
“Bah, that’s nothing. I get worse falling off Gos.”
“That is NOT my point.” She snapped, angling her cane to bring it down hard on Brycen’s instep. “Kindly stop being a dolt.”
Wincing as the weighted cane smacked with unerring accuracy against the delicate point of his instep, Brycen limped a step, squashing the urge to pause and rub at his foot.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“Tell St. John I want a report from him by the end of the week, with his thoughts on the situation. If I do not get that report, I might have to come out to Teasdale to discuss the matter with him myself and I do dislike traveling in the summer, it makes me cross, Brycen.”
James might have actually blanched at the very thought of Birkshire coming to Teasdale and he mentally began to prep himself to brief St. John.
“I’ll discuss it with him, immediately, Your Grace.”
It was now Tuesday evening and he had yet to even bring the matter up with St. John. Sighing heavily, James drew the sword at his hip and cantered Gosphalen down to the start of the row of trees.
“Bother.” He muttered to himself before dropping the reins and sending the gray hurtling down the line of rings, sword gracefully arching outwards to spear each small hoop.