Robin approached the cottage with relief. He had been in England for over a week and had no luck making contact with any of his old allies here. It appeared as if Bathory had made preparations in case Robin tried to pull his allies together quickly, those outside of the family were the easiest to pick off, as neither the Treaty or the Highfather’s authority would cover them.
He strolled up the front walk and could sense a level of contentment radiating from the small cozy building; past it he could see the majestic oak tree that dominated the garden behind the home. As long as the tree still stood nothing could be out of place here and proceeded around the side of the cottage to locate the sole occupant.
Elwin was sitting in the shade of the towering tree reading aloud from an original version of Beowolf.
“Doesn’t he get tired of you read him that?” Robin yelled out as a greeting to the old man.
Elwin looked up and after a moment his lined face brightened with realization.
“Prince Robin, It is good to see you after all this time.” Elwin said. He struggled to climb from the chair against the weight of his hundred plus year frame.
“Please stay seated old friend.” Robin said.
“My Lord, it is my honor to stand and offer my hand as welcome to our garden.” Elwin replied. He limped forward towards his long-lost friend. “I am thrilled to see you after all this time. We hope you will be able to sit with us for a while, we have missed your company.”
“I do not have long, I came to seek the advice of some of my closest confidants.” Robin said. “I am trying to gain the support of the Bard, and I am not sure how to best motivate him to work to my advantage.”
Elwin sighed. “It has been a long time since we dealt with that crotchety old man, isn’t it my friend.”
With a slow and agonizing groan the tree seemed to twist around as if it were turning to face them.
“He is a tough nut to crack, my lord robin.” The face in the tree slowly gasped. “Many who face death do not have as long a perspective as he does on the workings of the world.”
“I understand that Mossbeard.” Robin said. “I just don’t understand how I will demonstrate to him that I mean no harm to the humans that he wishes to protect.”
Mossbeard signed with the sound of sandpaper. “You can not lie to him my lord.” Mossbeard explained. “If you have no concern for the humans tell him that, but also explain why what you propose would be better for them than the alternative. With that you will gain his respect and possibly his assistance.”
“Your council is very much appreciated my old friend, you have always been wise beyond your years.” Robin stated.
“Do not fool me, my lord.” Mossbeard rasped. “We both know that I was impetuous once.”
“Yes, Jack you were, but we all survived.” Robin replied.
Mossbeard remembered that night so many years before.
“Jack, Jack.” Elwin whispered.
The huge lumbering boy crept up beside his old friend peering around the corner of the street they could see the front of the tavern in the dim gas lights.
“Did they go inside?” Jack asked.
“Yes, all three of them.” Elwin responded. “I could spot them right away. I saw him on his last tour in London.”
“What do you think they are doing here?” Jack asked.
“From what Robin said they are meeting the Physician to see the pictures.” Elwin responded. “That’s why we need to get the sixth one before they see it.”
“Well let’s go then.” Jack said and marched into the night headed straight for the front door of the tavern.
“Oh, hell.” Elwin mumbled to himself and followed his rash young friend.
Inside the tavern was only moderately crowded. There was still enough space between the tables that they could grab one next to the group they were following.
The two held their heads together as if having a private conversation, but focused as best they could on what was being said at the next table.
“Erik, I don’t understand why you have dragged us all the way London to meet with this daft Irishman.” The tall one said.
“Don’t start on that ethnic crap again Howard.” Chimed in the youngest. “Regardless of his lineage, he is a man of science, how he has gotten himself sucked in by all of this Spiritual hogwash is what bothers me.”
“Don’t you start up on this too Walter?” Erik responded finally. “I have told you already he is a very old friend, and I will show him the courtesy of coming to listen to what he has to say.”
Both men fell silent as Erik brought the subject to a close. The three of them nursed their drinks in quiet waiting for the arrival of their company.
Suddenly an older man burst into the tavern. His bushy mustache disheveled in his excitement.
“Erik, there you are, I have them.” He shouted. “I have the proof.”
“Calm yourself Arthur.” Erik replied. “You told me that in your telegram. What exactly is it that you have.”
Arthur sat at the table with out even giving notice Howard and Walter.
“I have pictures that concretely prove the existence of fairies.” Arthur said. “They were taken in Cottingley a few years back, but I just now was able to get my hands on them.”
Elwin and Jack cast a glace between the two of them, they knew that they would need to get their hands on those photographs or destroy them, but Arthur was keeping them too close to himself to be able to get at them.
Jack rose from the table holding his half full drink in his hand and began to stumble as if he had drunk too much. He suddenly lurched sideways and bumped into Arthur spilling his drink all over the front of Arthur’s shirt.
“Excuse me.” Jack slurred bracing his hands on the sides of Arthur’s chair to get himself back upright.
Elwin rushed over and took Jack’s arm as if he needed to steady him as they walked away.
“That was foolish, now you have drawn attention to us.” Elwin chided.
“Yes, but I think we have done what we need to do.” Jack replied. “Remember that dust that Robin gave us, and told us to sprinkle on the photos once we got them. I dumped it all in his briefcase.”
“Are you daft, what if the photographs are not in the briefcase?” Elwin replied.
“Let’s hope they are.” Said Jack.
The two of them moved to a table several away from the group they had been watching to try to avoid any suspicion.
“You have to see them” Arthur insisted, reaching into his briefcase.
Jack smiled at Elwin for a moment before turning back to look at the men.
“You will see unequivocal proof.” Arthur said handing the packet of photographs to Erik.
Erik flipped through the photographs one at a time. He wore a look of shock on his face.
“What is this Humbug?” Erik exclaimed.
“What do you mean?” Responded Arthur.
“You drag me all the way here for your concrete proof, and you hand me a stack of photographs of girls playing with paper dolls.” Erik said.
“What?” Arthur asked grabbing the photographs. “But, no this is not what they showed.”
“Arthur,” Erik said standing to leave. “I have tolerated you and Col. Bard’s obsession with spirits and fairies for far to long. Our friendship has been pushed too much. Please do not contact me again. Howard, Walter it is time for us to go.”
The other two rose from their seat and escorted Erik as he walked out of the tavern.
“If I could just find the bastards one weakness.” Robin said.
“That’s easy, why didn’t you ask?” Elwin replied. “It is the queen of spiders. She hangs on him like a puppy, but she is only out for herself. There were rumors during the War that she would go out and take care of things for her own benefit while he was distracted with the War effort. If I were you I would use that against him.”
“Thank you for the advice my friends,” Robin said. “It will all be helpful”
“I wish we could be more useful than advice now.” Elwin said. “But our time for diving into the fray is long since over.”
“Don’t worry yourself.” Robin explained. “I will return once things have been resolved to spend a proper visit with you.”