An Eventful Christmas at Trevelver Castle

Started by Chris in Prague, December 28, 2023, 08:50:31 AM

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Chris in Prague

"Sylvie, you mentioned that the chapel is dedicated to Saint Petroc. What can you tell me about him?" Susan asked her friend.

"Saint Petroc, also known as Petrock, was a British prince and Christian saint. He was born in South Wales around 468 and primarily ministered to the Britons of Devon and Cornwall."

"Local then. What else do you know about him, Sylvie?"

"Well, he's associated with a monastery at Padstow, which is named after him, Petroc's Place. He also established a Christian community at Bodmin on the instructions of an angel. Padstow was Saint Petroc's earliest major cult centre, but Bodmin became the major centre for his veneration when his relics were moved there in the later ninth century."

"That's fascinating, Sylvie. What about his character?"

"Petroc was renowned for his goodness to men and animals; one of the reasons our family chose Saint Petroc as our chapel's patron saint. There's a story," Sylvia laughed lightly, "that he tamed a wolf to act as his watchdog."

"My goodness, that's impressive. He sounds like a brave man, Sylvie. The Fifth Century was a very turbulent time."

"Indeed, Susan. Saint Petroc's also known for converting Constantine, the prince of the district, to Christianity. He saved a deer that Constantine was hunting. Exhausted and in pain, Constantine agreed to give up his warlike ways, hunting and fighting, and become a Christian."

"When is his feast day?"

"We celebrate Saint Petroc on June 4th. He's often referred to as 'the captain of Cornish saints' because he did more than any other single saint to bring about the conversion of the people of Cornwall to Christianity."

Chris in Prague

"Sylvie, you mentioned that the chapel is dedicated to Saint Petroc. What can you tell me about him?" Susan asked her friend as they sipped their refreshing glasses of 'Castle Spring' sparkling mineral water.

"Well, Susan. Saint Petroc, also known as Petrock, was a British prince and Christian saint. He was born in South Wales around 468 AD and primarily ministered to the Britons of Devon and Cornwall."

"Local then. What else do you know about him, Sylvie?"

"Well, he's associated with a monastery at Padstow, which is named after him, Petroc's Place. He also established a Christian community at Bodmin on the instructions of an angel. Padstow was Saint Petroc's earliest major cult centre, but Bodmin became the major centre for his veneration when his relics were moved there in the later ninth century."

"That's fascinating, Sylvie. What about his character?"

"Petroc was renowned for his goodness to men and animals, one of the reasons our family chose Saint Petroc as our chapel's patron saint." Sylvia laughed lightly, "There's a story that he tamed a wolf to act as his watchdog."

"My goodness, that's impressive. He sounds like a brave man, Sylvie. The Fifth Century was a very turbulent time."

"Indeed, Susan. Saint Petroc is also known for converting Constantine, the prince of the district, to Christianity. He saved a deer that Constantine was hunting. Exhausted and in pain, Constantine agreed to give up his warlike ways, hunting and fighting, and become a Christian."

"When is his feast day?"

"We celebrate Saint Petroc on June 4th. He's often referred to as 'the captain of Cornish saints' because he did more than any other single saint to bring about the conversion of the people of Cornwall to Christianity. Another reason he appealed to my ancestors' husbands and sons, I guess."

Chris in Prague

#17
Sylvia, turning back to her gathered friends, resumed her narrative.

"As you enter the sacred space of our chapel at Trevelver Castle, a timeless masterpiece will captivate your gaze. A magnificent painting of Saint Petroc, our revered patron saint, stands ready for your appreciation. Encased in a frame of pure gold, its simplicity and elegance serve to accentuate the painting rather than detract from it. The frame's understated design harmonizes with the painting, amplifying its beauty rather than vying for attention."

"This masterpiece, created by an anonymous Byzantine artist in the Sixth century, captures the essence of Saint Petroc with a depth and sophistication characteristic of the period. The saint is depicted in a frontal pose, his serene gaze meeting yours, radiating a sense of calm and spiritual depth. His features, stylised yet expressive, capture his wisdom and compassion.

"Saint Petroc is dressed in the garb of a Byzantine cleric, his robe richly decorated with intricate patterns and symbols. The colours are vibrant and luminous, with gold accents highlighting his divine status. His hands are raised in a gesture of blessing, a common motif in Byzantine iconography.

"The background of the painting is a rich, deep blue, symbolising the heavenly realm. It is adorned with golden stars, adding to the sense of the sacred. The scene is framed by a simple gold border, enhancing the painting's visual impact.

"Despite its age, the painting is remarkably well-preserved, its colours vibrant, and its details sharp. It serves as a testament to the skill and artistry of its creator and to the enduring appeal of Byzantine art.

"With its spiritual depth and artistic sophistication, this painting has been a prized possession of Trevelver Castle, a symbol of faith and a source of inspiration for all who beheld it. As you stand before it, it's easy to imagine how it would have been admired and revered, its beauty illuminating the chapel of Trevelver Castle for centuries. I invite you to take a moment to appreciate this masterpiece, and may it inspire you as it has inspired many before you.

Byzantine painting of Saint Petroc in Trevelver Castle Chapel


Chris in Prague

#18
"The acoustics in this chapel are truly remarkable", continued Sylvia. "The high ceilings and stone walls allow sound to travel freely, creating a rich, full sound that fills the entire space. Whether it's the beautiful melodies of a choir, the quiet whispers of a prayer, or the words of a sermon, every sound is clear and amplified, carrying the sounds to every corner. These wonderful acoustics aren't just an architectural feature; they're a key part of the chapel's unique atmosphere."

Chris in Prague

#19
Sylvia continued addressing her gathered friends.

"My friends, let me share something about my father, Lord Trevelver, the Lord of our castle, by marriage to my mother, the Trevelver heiress. He's a man of deep yet simple spirituality. He doesn't confine himself to the strictures of any religious denomination. He values the essence of faith but isn't one for extended church services or tedious sermons.

"After my parents' engagement, in his search for a spiritual guide who shared his values, my father found the perfect match in Father Kenver, a former military chaplain. Their paths first crossed during my father's post-World War Two service in North Germany. After leaving the army, Father Kenver joined the revived ancient Celtic Church, known for its simple and practical approach to Christianity.

"Father Kenver is renowned for his ability to deliver short but impactful sermons, distilling the essence of the Gospel into concise, memorable messages. This fits my father's preference for conciseness and substance over length and longwindedness in religious speeches.

"However, my mother, Lady Trevelver, had one stipulation. She insisted that Father Kenver shed his military tone in his preaching. She believes the chapel should be a place of peace and tranquillity, and an army officer's stern, commanding tone has no place in such a setting."

"Now, girls, we should get our hats, gloves, scarves, winter coats, and warm-lined boots from the cloakroom because there is no heating in the chapel!"

Saint Petroc's Chapel, Trevelver Castle, entrance in the snow.


Chris in Prague

#20
In the chilly chapel, the 'Chelsea Girls' are elegantly layered over their ball gowns. Sofia de la Vega, more accustomed to a Mediterranean climate, is particularly well-prepared. She's wearing a stylish fur hat with ear flaps, fine leather gloves that extend up to her elbows, and a scarf of rich cashmere. Over her gown, she's donned a winter coat tailored from luxurious fur, and her feet are snug in warm-lined boots crafted from sturdy leather, reaching up to her knees. Despite the cold, Sofia remains the epitome of winter elegance.

Her friends, although more accustomed to cold winters, are also well prepared. They are wearing stylish berets or cloche hats made from warm wool or felt, with some opting for fur hats. Their hands are kept warm by gloves made of fine leather or soft wool, and they've draped scarves of rich cashmere or soft wool around their necks. Over their gowns, they're wearing winter coats tailored from heavy wool, and their feet are snug in warm-lined boots crafted from sturdy leather. Despite the cold, they, too, remain the epitome of winter elegance.

The 'Chelsea Girls' found the Christmas Eve service at Trevelver Castle's chapel to be a delightful blend of tradition and festivity. As they entered the chapel, the soft glow of candlelight reflecting on the ancient stone walls greeted them. The scent of pine from the beautifully adorned Christmas tree filled the air, creating a festive atmosphere and adding to the anticipation of the assembled crowd.

The service of traditional carols and readings started at 9:00 p.m. sharp. As they climbed the steps into the chapel, they were welcomed by the gentle radiance of candlelight reflected on the time-worn stone walls. The scent of pine from the ornately adorned Christmas tree filled the air, and the crowd's anticipation was infectious.

The service began with the powerful notes of "O Holy Night", setting a respectful tone for the evening. This was followed by the soothing melody of "Silent Night", which always brought peace and tranquillity.

Father Kenver then took to the pulpit for the first Gospel reading, his deep voice echoing through the chapel as he shared the Christmas story. His words conveyed hope, joy, and love, reminding them of the true spirit of Christmas.

As the echoes of "Silent Night" faded, the Gustav Holst version of "In the Bleak Mid-Winter" filled the chapel, its poignant melody resonating with the wintry night outside. The congregation then joined in a robust rendition of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", their voices ringing out in joyful celebration.

The service continued with "O Come All Ye Faithful", a call to rejoice in the birth of Jesus. This was followed by the hauntingly beautiful "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", a song that always stirred deep emotions.

Sylvia Trevelver then took her turn at the pulpit for the second Gospel reading, her voice clear and steady as she read from the sacred text. The congregation listened in rapt attention, the words of the Gospel adding depth to the festive atmosphere.

"Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem" was next, its gentle melody painting a vivid picture of the birthplace of Jesus. The lullaby-like strains of "Away In A Manger" then filled the chapel, a reminder of the humble beginnings of the Christmas story.

The mood became more festive with "Ding! Dong! Merrily On High", its joyful notes echoing through the chapel. This was followed by the triumphant "Joy To The World", a song that always lifted spirits and filled hearts with happiness.

As the service neared its end, Sylvia's parents took turns at the pulpit for the third and fourth Gospel readings. Their voices filled the chapel, the words of the Gospel serving as a reminder of the divine love that Christmas represents.

The congregation sang "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", a carol that brought comfort and goodwill. "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" followed, its serene melody perfect for a peaceful Christmas Eve.
The traditional carols continued with a lively rendition of "Deck The Halls", its merry notes a fitting finale to the evening. The last carol of the night was "We Three Kings", its majestic melody a reminder of the journey of the Magi.

As the final chords of "We Three Kings" subsided, Sofia de la Vega gracefully assumed her position at the centre of the stage. With her Spanish guitar in hand, she introduced "El cant dels ocells", a traditional Catalan Christmas song and lullaby. She explained that this 'Song of the Birds' celebrates nature's joy upon hearing of Jesus Christ's birth in a Bethlehem stable.

The gentle strumming of Sofia's guitar provided a beautiful contrast to the vigorous organ notes that had filled the chapel moments before. The melody of "El cant dels ocells" echoed within the chapel, its beautiful composition floating through the air and touching the hearts of all present.

As Sofia's performance elegantly drew the service to a close at 11:15, the melody of the carol continued to echo in the chapel, inspiring peaceful contemplation among the 'Chelsea Girls' and the congregation. As midnight approached, marking the beginning of Christmas Day, they departed from the chapel, carrying with them the resonating memory of the carols and Gospel readings. The warmth and joy of the Christmas Eve service at Trevelver Castle's chapel left a lasting memory in their hearts.

Chris in Prague

#21
As the clock at Trevelver Castle chimed quarter past 11, signalling the approach of Christmas Day, the final notes of the Christmas Eve service faded in St. Petroc's chapel. Father Kenver, a man of steadfast faith and warmth, gently closed his treasured Bible. The congregation, their hearts filled with the spirit of Christmas, rose from the ancient wooden pews, their voices blending in a soft murmur of fellowship. Father Kenver, offering a nod and a warm smile to each congregant, walked down the aisle. He picked up one of the red and gold lit lanterns, its light dancing off the small table beside the chapel's arched door, and swung it open to unveil a crisp, starlit night. The congregation, after pausing to gaze at the beautiful Byzantine painting of Saint Petroc, strategically placed on the wall opposite the entrance to avoid direct sunlight, follows Father Kenver outside.

Held high on a long pole, the father's lantern cast a warm, inviting glow that cut through the chilly, snowy night. The congregation, their hearts warmed by the Christmas Eve service, stepped out from the chapel, their breath forming white clouds in the cold air. The crunch of their boots on the crisp snow, along with their cheerful chatter, echoed through the tranquil night, contrasting starkly with the silence that draped over Trevelver Castle's courtyard.

Led by Father Kenver and bathed in the soft glow of the lanterns they carried; the congregation began a heartfelt rendition of 'Silent Night'. As their voices rose, the melody soared up into the star-studded sky, a testament to their shared faith and joy. The joyful procession from the chapel through the snow-covered courtyard under the starlit sky, was more than just a move from one place to another. It was a cherished tradition of the Trevelver household, a magical part of the Castle's Christmas celebration. This unforgettable experience created lasting memories in all who participated.

The 'Chelsea Girls' forever held dear the memory of Father Kenver presiding over the service. His calm and gentle presence left an indelible impression. As he recounted the Christmas story, his voice resonated throughout the chapel, communicating comfort and joy to all those present. His thoughtful and empathetic sermons served as a thought-provoking reminder of the true essence of Christmas.

The service was a harmonious blend of Father Kenver's heartfelt sermon, Sylvia's melodious organ music, and Sofia's captivating guitar performance. Sylvia Trevelver's skilful organ playing infused the timeless hymns with new vitality, wrapping the congregation in a warm embrace on the chilly night. This unforgettable combination created a Christmas Eve service that was deeply affecting. It was far more than a simple celebration of community, faith, and the festive spirit. It was an experience that left a lasting imprint on all attendees, especially the 'Chelsea Girls', even the habitually cynical Monique Gournay.

In the chapel, Lord and Lady Trevelver lingered, as was their custom. They knelt in peaceful solitude before the modest altar, offering a private prayer of gratitude. Their hands, entwined, symbolised their shared faith and love, a bond strengthened by the sacred rituals of Christmas. Their prayer complete, they rose, their footsteps echoing softly in the chapel. After a final silent pause at the altar and the painting of Saint Petroc, they carefully extinguished the candles, leaving the chapel dark and quiet. Then, Lady Trevelver taking the last lit lantern of red and gold from the table beside the door, Lord Trevelver took the massive iron key from his coat pocket and carefully locked the chapel's arched wooden door behind them.

Beneath the vast, star-studded sky, the couple, gloved hand in gloved hand, carefully tread through the deep, crisp snow. The crunch of the snow under their feet, a sound as integral to Christmas as the carols they have just sung, punctuates the silence around them. They follow the trail of footprints across the courtyard, leading to the Great Hall, leaving the chapel behind, standing in silent vigil until the Christmas Day service. Their path, illuminated by the soft glow of their lantern, casts long shadows and turns the snow into a shimmering carpet of diamonds. Ahead, the air is alive with the sound of singing followed by laughter and cheerful chatter.

Despite the cold, a feeling of inner warmth radiates among the congregation, fuelled by the shared anticipation of the centuries-old Christmas Day party to come. As they near the rear entrance of the Great Hall, an inviting glow spills from its tall, arched windows, beckoning them to the warmth and cheer inside. The aroma of festive food wafts out, mingling with the crisp winter air, tantalising their senses.

Chris in Prague

#22
Earlier that afternoon, Trevelver Castle's Head Butler, Huw Jenkins, and his wife, Gwendolyn, the Castle's Housekeeper, were sitting in his pantry to finalise the arrangements for that evening's grand ball. But first, it was time to enjoy their regular afternoon tea break in the pantry.

"Gwen, would you like a cup of tea? I've just brewed a pot of 'Earl Grey' tea, and we have some 'Digestive' biscuits."

"Thank you, Huw. 'Earl Grey' has always been my favourite tea, and 'Digestive' biscuits have just the right amount of sweetness. This will certainly keep our energy up for the start of the grand ball tonight", she smiled. "It will be a long night."

"And morning! But that's the Trevelver Christmas tradition, my dear. So, let's review, for one last time, all the arrangements for tonight's grand ball. Susan Foreman has worked her magic again. She's installed a highly advanced microcomputer at the heart of the audiovisual system. It's tiny but incredibly powerful."

"My goodness, Huw. What does it do?"

"It controls all aspects of the audio and visual effects during the musicians' performances. It can adjust the sound and lighting in real-time, responding to the music's nuances and the performers' movements. It can control the volume, balance the sound, manage the lighting effects, and even operate the holographic projection system. All this is performed automatically, ensuring a flawless audiovisual experience for the audience."

"That sounds impressive!"

"Indeed, it is. What's truly remarkable is that this microcomputer eliminates the need for a human operator. The system can run autonomously once the parameters are set, allowing the musicians to focus solely on their performance. This level of automation is far beyond the capabilities of any of your technology in 1962."

"I see. So, can we assume that the Great Hall is all set for Enka Lou-Lou's performance?"

"Yes, my love. The Great Hall has been transformed into a place where history, artistry, and futuristic technology will combine to create a truly unforgettable experience. Our guests will be full of anticipation as they await the start of the performance."

"And what about the Minstrels' Gallery in the Great Hall, Huw?

"The Minstrels' Gallery has been equipped with the same advanced audio-visual technology so that the musicians can perform the surprise opening of the evening for the audience below."

"That sounds exciting, Huw!"

"Yes, Gwen. The gallery has the same state-of-the-art sound system as the main stage, ensuring that the music carries perfectly throughout the hall. Microphones and speakers have been discreetly positioned to blend with the historical aesthetics of the gallery. The lighting system in the gallery is designed to highlight the musicians without overwhelming the audience's view. Spotlights can be directed towards the performers, while softer ambient lights maintain the overall atmosphere of the gallery."

"And how will the sound and lighting be controlled during the performance, Huw?"

"A compact secondary control panel, also supplied by Susan, is installed in the gallery. This allows the sound and lighting levels to be automatically adjusted during the performance. With this setup, the musicians in the Minstrels' Gallery can captivate the audience from above, adding an element of surprise and excitement to the evening's festivities."

"It sounds like a truly unique and memorable experience for the guests, Huw."

"Absolutely, Gwen. The Great Hall looks wonderful, steeped in history, and decked out in holiday splendour, ready to welcome the joyous celebrations of Christmas. It's a unique blend of old-world charm, festive ambience, and Susan's amazing technology, making it the perfect venue for an outstanding Christmas celebration, blending the past, present, and future. I can't wait to see the guests' reactions."

"Me, too, Huw! It promises to be a very special evening with Enka Lou-Lou playing. Although I remember the last time when Enka Lou-Lou, Sofi, and Susan sang the 'Song of the Earth' supported by the other 'Chelsea Girls' as the chorus, and Angela very nearly died!"

"Gwen, my dear, yes, let's hope nothing similar happens this evening! Now, I've made sure that the Great Hall is the perfect festive setting, including checking that all the tables are arranged along one side of the hall, ready for various hot and cold dishes. I've heard that Chef Pennec has outdone himself with the food. Before our employers ask me, can you tell me more about the dishes?"

Chris in Prague

#23
"Thank you, Huw. Yes, Chef and I have finalised the menu for the Christmas Ball; we'll have a wide selection of dishes to cater to all tastes."

"Excellent, my dear. So, what have Chef Pennec and you decided on?"

"Well, Huw, we're going to start with some traditional Christmas roasts. Slices of freshly cooked roast beef, chicken, turkey, and ham will be the centrepieces, with cranberry sauce available."

"Ah, the classics." Huw grinned. "What else?"

"Slices cut from a joint of gammon, various luncheon meats, sausage rolls, and pork pies are all party favourites. We're also going to serve Cornish pasties from the 'North Cornwall Pasty Co.', of course, plus liver sausage, a selection of pates, frankfurters, and ox tongue. Walter John, the renowned Cornish sausage maker based in Blackwater, near Truro, is supplying a selection of his finest sausages, which can also serve as appetizers."

"Then, in addition to a selection of non-meat options, we will have a delightful array of seafood options, including freshly caught clams and mussels. The Penmayne smoked salmon and succulent lobsters are sure to add a touch of luxury to the Christmas meal. For those who prefer a different taste, we will also be offering crab. Chef's Cornish monkfish fillets, filled with sage and onion stuffing, make a simple yet tasty dish that is a perfect showstopper for the feast. Two other delicious options sure to please are his classic Cornish hake, served in a 'Castle Best Bitter' batter, and his floured and fried whole lemon sole, both served with chips, peas, and homemade tartare sauce."

"That all sounds very delicious, Gwen. And for the sides?"

"We are serving scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, buttered carrots, peas, and parsnips, and, of course, it being Christmas, sprouts, Huw. They'll be part of the extensive buffet. And, of course, we'll have piccalilli and a selection of tangy pickles."

"And bread?"

"Yes, of course, Huw. We'll serve fine crusty Cornish soft white bread with creamy Cornish dairy butter, but a first for this year's Christmas Ball will be a special sandwich bar where guests can request a freshly made sandwich with any of the sliced meats, cheeses, etc., for their filling. That should be very popular, a conversation starter and avoid any wasted sandwiches. There will be a rota of young girls, making them under Chef Pennec's supervision. He will be roaming the Hall checking that everything is up to his demanding standards!"

"Chef will also be providing some Breton specialities, which should especially please, Eli."

"Excellent, Gwen. Which ones?"

"Galette de Bretagne, thin crêpes made from buckwheat flour and filled with various ingredients such as eggs, ham, mushrooms, and bacon; and Far Breton, a custard flan cake similar to clafoutis, consisting of milk, eggs, flour, prunes, and raisins."

"Sounds delicious. And what else will there be for the sweet-toothed Gwen?"

"Desserts, cakes, biscuits, and cheeses, of course! Apart from Chef's Far Breton, we'll be serving rich fruit trifles, mince pies, and fruitcakes, light, airy sponge cakes, saffron buns, a selection of sweet and savoury biscuits, cheese plates, including Cornish Yarg, baskets of clementines, mandarins, and tangerines, as well as baskets of brazil nuts and walnuts and, of course, Christmas pudding with brandy butter and double cream. 'Cornish Fancies', founded by Lucy Kennally, is supplying all the traditional cakes and pastries."

"Excellent, Lucy is a wonder! Sounds like a splendid menu, Gwen. I'm sure the guests will love it."

"Yes, we think so. Now, tell me about the drinks, Huw. I saw that there are two bars set up at opposite ends of the hall."

"Indeed, we have two bars set up. The first boasts a wide array of alcoholic beverages. We offer fine wines supplied by Giles Roskrow, including Riccardo's 'Rossese di Dolceacqua', aged whiskies from St. Agnes and Tullibardine distilleries, and a selection of ales and stouts from the Castle Brewery, including in addition to 'Castle Brewery Bitter', 'Old Strong Winter Ale' (ABV 5.5%), 'Christmas Ale' (ABV 7%), and the popular bottle-conditioned 'Imperial Stout' (ABV 8%). We also have fine ales from the Headland Brewery and Kronenbourg lager on tap. For cider lovers, we have several barrels of 'Sam's Cider' and Harry Rule of the Cornish Cider Farm at Penhallow has generously supplied a barrel of extra strong 'Cornish Golden Delicious'.

Our second bar is dedicated to non-alcoholic beverages, offering fresh juices, sparkling soft drinks, 'Castle Spring' still and sparkling mineral water, and a selection of the finest coffees and teas.

To top it all off, we have exotic cocktails crafted by skilled bartenders from London, ready to create any drink our guests desire."

"That sounds wonderful, Huw. I noticed that you've ensured ample space for guests to move comfortably."

"Indeed, Gwendolyn. Round tables with seating are placed along the hall's inner walls, providing cosy spots for guests to sit, eat, and engage in conversation. A large open area has been left clear for those who wish to dance. The polished wooden floor gleams under the soft light of the chandeliers, inviting guests to sway to the music and lose themselves in the rhythm," he grins.

It is Gwendolyn's turn to smile mischievously. "And the passages and stairways linking the Great Hall with the rest of Trevelver Castle have been thoughtfully arranged. They create intimate... spaces for guests, don't they?" she laughs.

"Absolutely, my dear", her husband winks. "As the party progresses, these areas, lit by the soft glow of candles, will become cosy hideaways from the main festivities. Draped with rich red and gold fabrics, small tables have been placed at intervals along the broad, shadowy arched passages. A single tall candle in a red and gold lantern lights each table, its flickering light casting dancing shadows on the walls. Comfortable chairs, upholstered in plush fabrics, are arranged around these tables, inviting our guests to sit and enjoy a quiet conversation.

"And the stairways have been hung with candle-lit lanterns, haven't they?

"Yes, their light reflects off the polished wood and stone, creating a warm, inviting glow. We've not forgotten the stairs leading to the first-floor corridor, which, as we know, offers a stunning view of the Great Hall below. The corridor to and from the Minstrels Gallery is also set up for intimate ... moments", he grins. "Here, couples can enjoy the music from a distance, the sound softened by the height and distance. On the first and second floors, tables and chairs have been strategically placed near the tall, arched stone-framed windows, offering a breathtaking view of the castle grounds blanketed in snow."

"My goodness, Huw. It sounds perfect. Everything's ready to host a truly memorable Christmas celebration."

"Indeed, Gwen. Although I say it myself, the historic Great Hall, adorned in festive finery, is a sight to behold. Everything is ready for it to host a magnificent celebration where our guests can feast, drink, chat, and dance, all while basking in the warmth of the holiday season."

"Yes, Huw, the hall's festive decorations certainly create an enchanting and inviting atmosphere."

"Yes, my dear, as our guests revel in the joy of the Christmas celebration, the hall will be echoing with laughter, clinking glasses, and lively music. This perfect blend of history and holiday cheer will be the perfect reflection of the castle's rich past and the festive spirit of the present."

Chris in Prague

#24
After shedding their winter attire in the cloakroom, Lord and Lady Trevelver, warmed from the chill, quickly made their way to the Great Hall. There they greeted everyone present, expressing their gratitude to Huw Jenkins, his wife Gwendolyn, Chef Pennec, and the rest of the staff for their tireless efforts and wished them a Very Merry Christmas.

"Ah, Lord and Lady Trevelver, just in time", Huw Jenkins said with a smile, approaching them with a silver tray in his hands. "I thought you might appreciate something to warm you up on this cold Christmas Eve."

He presented a glass to Lord Trevelver. "For you, sir, a "Tullibardine" Aged Malt Whisky, neat, with a single piece of clear ice from Highland spring water. Its rich, warm, and smoky flavour is the perfect companion for a cold evening."

Lord Trevelver accepted the glass with a nod of approval. "Excellent choice, Jenkins. Just what I needed."

Turning to Lady Trevelver, Huw offered a glass of mulled wine. "And for you, my lady, a traditional Christmas drink. Made with red wine, assorted spices, and a touch of citrus, served warm."

"The sweet and spicy aroma will bring a flush to your cheeks and a sparkle to your eyes," stated her husband, his eyes twinkling.

Lady Trevelver's eyes lit up as she took the mulled wine glass by its handle, admiring the beautiful, deep garnet colour of the wine.
"Oh, how delightful, Jenkins. It smells divine."

As the couple took the first sip of their warming drinks, the crackling Yule Log in the massive carved stone fireplace cast dancing shadows on the walls of the Great Hall.

After receiving their drinks from Huw Jenkins, Lord and Lady Trevelver scanned the Great Hall. They spotted a secluded corner, away from the merriment and chatter of the gathering, hidden behind the splendid Christmas tree. An unoccupied small, intimate table for two stood there, flanked by a pair of high-backed chairs illuminated by the flickering light from the great fireplace.

With a nod to each other, they made their way over, greeting guests as they passed them by, their steps echoing softly on the stone floor. As they settled into the chairs, the sounds of the party became a distant hum.

The topic of their conversation was a delicate one. Riccardo Bianchi and Sophie Andres, both honoured guests at their Christmas gathering, had recently returned from a daring mission to Anatolia. They had managed to smuggle out a Silphion plant, a rare and valuable herb known for its healing properties. It was this miraculous plant that had played a crucial role in curing Sylvia, the Trevelvers' only daughter.

As they sipped their drinks, Lord and Lady Trevelver began to discuss the two guests' complicated relationship. "Riccardo was quick to respond to our invitation", Lord Charles chuckled, swirling his Scotch Whisky. "Probably looking to sell some more of his 'Rossese di Dolceacqua', I noted several bottles behind the bar as I inspected it with Huw this afternoon. He really is a very resourceful fellow!"

Lady Trevelver nodded, her fingers gently cradling her glass of mulled wine. "And yet, we have heard nothing from Sophie. It is most unlike her to remain silent. She knows how grateful we are to her and our relations with her employer."

Their voices were low and serious, the weight of their words hanging in the air. The fate of Riccardo and Sophie and the potential consequences of their daring mission were topics of grave concern.

Lord Charles paused, setting his half-empty glass down on the table. "There's more to the matter, my dear", he said, his voice dropping to a whisper. "Admiral Tregowan informed me of a new development."

Lady Trevelver leaned in; her interest piqued. "Indeed? What is it?"

"His man in Istanbul has informed him that the newly appointed Gendarmerie Commander of Aksaray", he began, "is a man filled with zealous determination eager for promotion, and he's still searching for a certain husband-and-wife pair of Italian botanists."

"The ones who were exploring the rugged foothills around Mount Hasan?" Lady Trevelver asked, her brow furrowing in concern.

"Exactly." Lord Charles nodded with his lips pursed. "The Commander knows that they suddenly left for Istanbul, carrying a mysterious bundle. He believes it might be the Silphion plant long thought to be extinct."

A silence fell over them as they absorbed the implications of this news.

Lord Charles leaned back in his chair; his gaze distant as he recalled his conversation with Admiral Tregowan. "The Admiral has a man in Istanbul", he began, "a very reliable source who has been keeping an ear close to the ground."

"The Admiral told me that the Turkish Nationalist government is taking a very dim view of the unauthorised removal of something as rare and valuable as the Silphion plant. They consider it a matter of national pride and heritage, and are eager to identify the culprits", Lord Charles continued gravely.

"The government is particularly sensitive about the issue, given the plant's rarity and the tremendous potential medicinal benefits it holds. They view its unauthorised removal as a theft of their natural resources, a violation of their sovereignty, which, as you know, they take very seriously indeed."

Lady Trevelver listened attentively, her face reflecting the seriousness of the situation. The unauthorised removal of the Silphion plant had clearly stirred a hornet's nest, and the repercussions could be significant, with the actions of Riccardo and Sophie potentially drawing the ire of the Turkish Nationalist government.

Lady Trevelver turned to her husband, her eyes reflecting the flickering light of the Yule Log. "Do you think the Turkish government agents could be looking for Riccardo and Sophie abroad?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

Lord Charles stroked his chin thoughtfully; his gaze focused on the dancing flames in the fireplace. "Their true identities were unknown, and they were very well disguised", he mused. "It's doubtful, but in such matters, nothing can be stated with any great degree of certainty."

He took another sip of his malt whisky, the smoky flavour lingering on his tongue. "The Gendarmerie Commander certainly had his own contacts in Istanbul before he was despatched to Anatolia", he continued. "The complexities of those in power over there... well, the adjective Byzantine still applies!"

With a wry grin, he raised his glass in a mock toast before finishing his malt whisky, the rich, warm liquid a stark contrast to the chilling implications of their conversation. This Christmas Eve was proving to be anything but ordinary.

As the fire in the massive hearth crackled, casting a warm glow around the Great Hall, Lord and Lady Trevelver turned to the turbulent relationship between Riccardo Bianchi and Sophie Andres. Her voice soft in the lively room, Lady Penelope initiated the conversation. "Riccardo and Sophie, their relationship has always been quite... complicated, hasn't it?"

Lord Charles, his gaze thoughtful, nodded in agreement. "Indeed, my dear. Their tempestuous relationship is no secret to you and me, thanks to Admiral Tregowan."

As Lady Trevelver traced the rim of her now-empty glass, she sighed. "Could their disagreements be the reason Sophie hasn't accepted our invitation? Could she be reconsidering spending Christmas here at Trevelver Castle?"

Lord Charles shrugged, his expression grim. "It's possible. Their relationship has certainly weathered more than a storm or two! But in matters of the heart, certainty is often elusive."

As they discussed the intricacies of Riccardo and Sophie's relationship, the lively chatter of the other guests filled the Great Hall. The contrast between the seriousness of their conversation and the festive atmosphere was stark.

The animated conversation of the other guests, while masking the content of their own, also made it difficult for them to hear each other. With a shared glance, they moved their chairs closer. Amidst the laughter and conversation, the soft scrape of wood against stone went unnoticed.

Now seated closer, their private conversation continued amidst the public merriment. Their quiet words continued to dissect the complex relationship between Riccardo Bianchi and Sophie Andres.

Lady Trevelver continued; her voice filled with concern. "I had arranged for Sophie to take a holiday somewhere quiet and peaceful. I had hoped that she would be able to work through what her relationship with Riccardo meant for her, especially considering her dedication to her life as one of the Admiral's most successful secret agents.

She sighed, a hint of disappointment in her voice. "Alas, from what my friend Janey in Poppyshire told me, that does not seem to be the case. Janey was unable to have one of those intimate heart-to-hearts so valued by us ladies," she laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "While Sophie did very much enjoy her stay, she did not discuss her dilemma with Janey in any detail, so all that Janey was able to tell her was, very wisely, to follow her heart."

The conversation then shifted to Sir George Widgeon. "Sir George told me how extremely relieved and grateful he was that his champion thoroughbred, Hardknott, was returned to his stables at Middleham and treated so well, thanks to Bertie and Sophie's efforts whilst Sophie was over there, supposedly resting!" Lord Charles added with a grin.

Lady Penelope nodded, a smile playing on her lips. "Yes, I heard that Sophie thoroughly enjoyed that little episode. In gratitude, Sir George despatched a 'Terry's of York' goods van containing an extensive selection of quality confectionary for everyone in Poppyshire and Sillyshire, who had assisted with the matter."

Her husband paused. "So, my dear, in short, Sophie was confirmed in her enjoyment of daring dos but was unable to resolve the nature of her relationship with Riccardo?"

"Yes, that's it in a nutshell, my dear", stated Lady Penelope. "Time for another round, I think; our glasses seem empty!"

"Indeed, my dear, the matter remains unresolved, and another round of drinks is a splendid idea before we must mingle with our guests." He sighed. "However, we have been so busy with the Ball arrangements that, alas, there is still some unfinished business that I must mention."

"What's that, Charles?"

He paused once more, his gaze again thoughtful. "After Sophie's return, she questioned Susan about the repeated intrusions into Poppyshire and Sillyshire by various villains while she needed Susan's assistance to travel there via the TARDIS. It suggests something more sinister is at play."

He continued, "This, coupled with the sudden appearance of wolves from Willoughby Chase, has raised concerns in the highest places. Thankfully, here, our excellent groundkeepers and splendid boarhounds have the situation well under control."

Lord Charles finished his thought with a serious tone, "The Admiral informed me that the Prime Minister has taken note of these events, the wolves, in particular, concerning him greatly. The public and Fleet Street have been demanding answers. He has, therefore, dispatched his Chief Scientific Advisor to investigate and rectify the situation."

"You mean the Doctor, Charles."

Her husband nodded. "It is, the Admiral was informed, a matter of distortions in the space-time continuum weakening the barriers between alternative dimensions."

"But enough of that, Penny." He smiled. "It's Christmas Eve, and we have a whole night of peaceful enjoyment stretching ahead of us."

As if on cue, Huw Jenkins, the ever-attentive Head Butler, approached them with his silver tray. On it were two fresh drinks, a testament to his impeccable service.

"Forgive me, my lord, my lady", Huw said respectfully. "I had some difficulty discerning you in this far corner."

Lord Charles chuckled, raising his fresh glass in a toast. "No need for apologies, Jenkins. Your timing, as always, is unerring."

As Lord and Lady Trevelver enjoyed their fresh drinks, their conversation, filled with concern and speculation, continued. The complexities of human relationships, Lady Penelope had long ago found, could be almost as intriguing as the most top-secret mission.

Chris in Prague

#25
When Huw, the ever-attentive butler of Trevelver, observed a Ford Cortina arriving at Trevelver Castle, and a man in a knee-length camelhair overcoat stepping out, he promptly identified the passenger as Riccardo Bianchi. Huw was already informed that Riccardo had previously arrived in Cant Cove and had spent the night at 'The Station Hotel,' well-known for its comfortable lodging and excellent food and drink.

Upon Riccardo's arrival, Huw cordially ushered him to Lord and Lady Trevelver, who greeted him warmly. Meanwhile, Huw discreetly signalled for a third chair to be brought over. A bracing and invigorating brandy was swiftly prepared for the newly arrived guest. As Riccardo joined his hosts, he began to explain his late arrival to his two attentive listeners.

The youthful vineyard owner and former companion to Sophie during the triumphant Silphion mission spoke calmly but with considerable feeling. "I come to West Porthsea on train ferry. It cold day, and snow fall heavy. Everything look white, and air smell fresh, salty, and cold."

He stopped, his gaze far away as he remembered. "Train ferry stop, and I step onto harbour then platform. Snow crunch under my shoes and I pull my coat tight around me. Station platform almost empty, because weather make most people stay home."

He continued, "I lucky. There was one train running that day from West Porthsea Quay going to Cant Cove. I get on train, find seat by window. Inside train warm, good after cold outside."

Riccardo's voice softens as he describes his journey. "As train move, I watch snow-covered land go by. Trees heavy with snow, branches bend under weight. Fields untouched, all white. It beautiful, but lonely."

"Finally, after very long time, train stop at Cant Cove station. I get off train, my trip from West Porthsea done. Even with problems, I make it."

As Riccardo finishes his story, his hosts are full of respect for his strong will and ability to keep going when things are difficult.

"I come to Cant Cove early", he continued, and I stay the night at 'The Station Hotel'. It good place, give me time to think."

He stopped, lost in thought. "I spend night thinking. Not knowing if Sophie at castle... it make things... hard for me. Our relationship always complicated, and it make things more difficult." His voice became softer as he continued, "When morning come, I still not decide. I walk around Cant Cove, your invitation safe in my coat. Thinking of seeing Sophie again make me feel many things – hope, worry, and a little bit of longing, no," he sighed, "a lot of longing! Is... she ... here?"

His hosts gravely shook their heads, smiled sympathetically, and signalled for their guest to continue.

Riccardo took a deep breath. "Oh, okay. Finally, when afternoon start to get late, I make decision. I go to castle. I arrive just when celebration start. I get out of hotel barman's car, he drive me here because I give good tip", he smiled a little. "I look up at big entrance of castle and take deep breath. One of staff take me to cloakroom, take my hat, coat, scarf, and gloves and bring me to your Head Butler and ... now I am here!" he spread his arms before dropping them to his sides with a sigh.

After Riccardo finished, Lord Charles addressed him with kindness in his voice. "Riccardo, it appears you've had quite a lengthy and challenging journey. It must have been a special train to bring you directly from West Porthsea Quay to Cant Cove. I believe it was the one specially arranged for our other guests from the Continent. Typically, you'd have to make at least one, if not two, train changes. Your hesitation is entirely understandable, given the circumstances. Enjoy your drink; you've earned it, my good fellow!"

Lady Penelope chimed in, her eyes reflecting profound understanding. "We are eternally grateful for your role in saving our daughter's life, and we sincerely appreciate your presence here. Your journey and attendance will undoubtedly add a heightened degree of interest to our Christmas Eve gathering, I must say!"

"Absolutely!" her husband promptly responded. "How about I escort you to the sandwich bar and have one of the delightful ladies prepare the sandwich of your choice, Riccardo? We have freshly roasted slices of roast beef, chicken, turkey, and ham."

With his generous measure of fine French cognac swiftly consumed and sudden hunger setting in, Riccardo readily agreed.

Chris in Prague

As Lady Trevelver watches her husband take Riccardo Bianchi off to the sandwich bar, she reflects on his speech, particularly his feelings for Sophie. She is impressed by his ability to communicate despite his limited proficiency in English. She is also struck by how open he is about his feelings to people he hardly knows, in a very un-English way. However, what she finds most touching is that Riccardo, who is normally a very confident and persuasive young man, is clearly very affected by his former partner.

Chris in Prague

#27
Earlier, while working with the other 'Chelsea Girls' to prepare the Great Hall for the grand Christmas Eve Ball, Jenny recalled how Angela had explained to her the traditions behind the community known as the 'Chelsea Girls' that she was about to join in the shared Chelsea house.

"So, Jenny, you're curious about the 'Karadow', the little community you're about to join here in London?"

 "Yes, I am. But, first, Angela, why do you refer to yourselves as the 'Karadow' instead of 'the Chelsea Girls'?"

"Penny, 'Karadow' is a Cornish term translated as 'the beloved.' We adopt this name because it encapsulates the love we share among ourselves, for those in our inner circle, and for those less fortunate. It signifies the profound bond and the values we collectively uphold. While others might refer to us as 'the Chelsea Girls', within our circle, we embrace the name 'Karadow'."

"I see. Thank you, Angela."

"Let me share with you the ancient traditions that shape the 'Karadow'."

Angela paused, her gaze thoughtful. "Sylvie has shared with us," she began, "how the traditions of the 'Karadow' are deeply rooted in a time when all-female communities were pillars of society, even in a male-dominated world. We continue the spiritual practices passed down from the female Trevelvers' ancestors, who trace their lineage in an unbroken, matrilineal line back to the ancient Queen Priestesses of Atlantis. When the sea swallowed their homeland in a cataclysmic event, these Queen Priestesses found refuge in Belerion, which means 'The Shining Land,' and is known to us as Cornwall.

"The women of 'Karadow' embrace diverse roles, with members serving as entertainers, artists, and creators engaged in producing literature, poetry, and philosophy. Nevertheless, our collective responsibility is to cultivate harmonious and mutually supportive relationships among ourselves as women and between men and women. This skill has been passed down through generations."

"Education", she added, "holds a paramount place among the 'Karadow'. We invest time in learning and intellectual pursuits, engaging in studies covering literature and philosophy, echoing the practices of women in some ancient societies.

"Fertility and family are central themes within the 'Karadow'. We actively engage in rituals and ceremonies, offering prayers for the prosperity and growth of our community. These practices, while not bound to any specific religion, are deeply rooted in the spirituality of our founding culture."

"The structure of the 'Karadow' is exclusively matriarchal. While Lady Penelope Trevelver quietly holds the position of our community's ultimate leader, it is her daughter, Sylvia Trevelver, who, as the most esteemed among us, assumes the role of our day-to-day leader. Sylvia makes significant decisions for our community, providing guidance with wisdom and compassion."

"Lastly", Angela stated, "the 'Karadow' has always deeply respected nature and the environment. Our customs reflect this reverence, including rituals that celebrate changing seasons or harvests. This way of life—living together as a small community of young, unmarried women who care for and support each other while actively participating in society—is one of the unbroken traditions passed down from ancient days."

"Angela," Jenny asked, "At what age were young women sent to join the 'Karadow'?"

"Well, Jenny", her friend responded, "In ancient societies, the age at which girls were considered women varied. For example, in Roman law, the age of marriage for females was twelve years. Similarly, women began marrying around twelve in Roman Egypt, and almost all had married by their late twenties. However, in Medieval England, the age of majority was initially fifteen but was later raised to twenty-one. So, the age at which girls joined communities like ours would have varied based on these cultural and historical contexts.

Jenny took a moment to absorb her friend's words before responding softly, "I see, Angela. I'm only seventeen, and sometimes, I feel like I'm still figuring out who I am. But I'm ready to be part of this community and carry forward these traditions. I think my mother would have wanted that for me."

Angela replied gently, "Jenny, I understand your feelings. It's natural to feel a bit overwhelmed at your age. But let me assure you, you're not alone. We've all been seventeen. The minimum age to join the 'Karadow' has been sixteen for hundreds of years. This tradition ensures that young women like you have had some time to understand themselves and the world around them before they join. You're at the perfect age to become part of our community, and we're here to support you every step of the way."

Jenny turned her gaze to Angela, her eyes brimming with curiosity. "Angela", she began, "I've been wondering why you chose me. And why did Eli and Susan recommend me to Sylvia as a prospective member of the 'Karadow'? I'm honoured, of course, but I'd love to understand your reasons."

Angela responded with a warm smile, "You were chosen because of your unique qualities. You possess a kind heart, a curious mind, and a spirit that resonates with the values of our community. Eli and Susan recognized these qualities in you, just as I did. We believe you will bring a fresh perspective and positive energy to our group. Most importantly, we see in you the potential to carry forward the legacy of the 'Karadow'. That's why you were recommended to Sylvia as a prospective member."

"Thank you."

"Jenny, London can be overwhelming, especially for someone alone at such a young age."

"Yes, it's a lot to get used to."

Angela continued with a smile, "Eli, Susan, Sylvie, and I, we've all faced the challenges of getting used to living in this big city, Jenny."

"I appreciate that, Angela."

"We see so much potential in you, Jenny. But you're also vulnerable due to your age and lack of experience. We feel a responsibility to help you."

"That means a lot to me, Angela."

"We want to take you 'under our wing', provide you with the care and protection you need, and help you navigate the complexities of life in London. We believe that within the nurturing environment of the 'Karadow', you can grow, learn, and thrive."

"I'm very grateful for your support."

"It's not just an act of kindness, Jenny. It's a continuation of the legacy of our community, a legacy of women supporting and empowering each other."

"I see."

Chris in Prague

"Angela, I ... appreciate your warm words, but could we change the subject? I'm curious about the Queen Priestesses. Could you tell me more about them?"

As Jenny tactfully redirects the conversation, her sigh of relief is almost palpable. Angela's compliments, while deeply appreciated, also make her feel uneasy. She cannot help wondering why such a sophisticated, confident, charismatic older woman would take such a personal interest in someone like her. Setting aside these thoughts for now, she is far more comfortable focusing on their shared interests – immersing herself in the city's vibrant cultural scene and, particularly now, learning about the unique community she's been invited to join. This change in topic allows her to navigate their friendship with greater ease.

"Of course, Jenny. I'd be happy to share what I know."

"Well, Jenny, the term 'Queen Priestesses' refers to powerful female figures in ancient societies who held religious and royal authority. For instance, in the ancient Near East, including the Hittite civilisation, women, including queens, served as priestesses. Similarly, in ancient Athens, the Basilinna or Basilissa, both titles meaning 'Queen,' was a ceremonial position held by the wife of the archon Basileus. This role dates to when kings ruled Athens, and their wives thus acted as priestesses."

Angela continued, "Similarly, the Queen Priestesses of Atlantis held similar roles. They were not only the spiritual guides of their society, leading religious ceremonies and rituals, but also held positions of power and authority. They were respected and revered, much like their counterparts in other ancient societies. When Atlantis disappeared beneath the sea, these Queen Priestesses and their traditions and practices found a new home in what is now known as Cornwall. Their legacy continues today with the 'Karadow' as we carry these ancient traditions forward."

With a warm smile, Angela added, "And now, Jenny, you are about to be welcomed into this special community. As one of the 'Karadow', you are about to become part of a tradition that spans centuries, carrying the wisdom and strength of the Queen Priestesses."

Chris in Prague

#29
Sophie Andres felt a tumult of emotions when she opened the envelope containing the Trevelver's engraved invitation forwarded to her by the Admiral. The prospect of spending Christmas and New Year at Trevelver Castle was certainly an appealing one, given that the alternative was spending the holiday alone in a dreary safe house in the suburbs. However, the knowledge that Riccardo Bianchi was certain to have also been invited complicated her decision more than she was willing to admit to herself.

Sophie felt unusually anxious about her on-off relationship with Riccardo. She wondered whether their passionate past, both before and during their time in Turkey, would affect their interactions at the castle and whether the old passions would resurface. Despite having bonded during their covert mission to smuggle an extremely rare Silphion plant out of Anatolia to Istanbul and its subsequent delivery to Kew Gardens, Sophie felt very uneasy about meeting Riccardo again. The successful delivery of the Silphion plant, once thought to be extinct and only recently rediscovered in Turkey, was due to their daring and resourcefulness. Although they had both been very proud of this achievement, there had been no agreement about what their relationship would be afterwards. Adding to her confused emotions was the immense gratitude the Trevelvers held for them both, as Silphion had played a crucial role in saving the life of their only daughter.

In the end, Sophie decided to accept the invitation, ready to face whatever the holiday season at Trevelver Castle would bring. After all, she and Riccardo had faced challenges before and had come out stronger. This invitation, she told herself, was just another adventure and a low-risk one at that. As she posted her reply, using one of her aliases known to the Trevelvers, Sophie worried whether she had left her reply too late and her note would get lost or delayed in the pre-Christmas post.

Leaving London then became a more appealing prospect after the Admiral called her in to warn her about a photo—fortunately, under an alias—featuring her alongside Hardknott, a racehorse, and a publican, Mr. Graham Hill, in a tabloid newspaper article recounting their heroic rescue of Sir George Widgeon's champion thoroughbred who was now safely back in his stable at Middleham. As if that were not enough, the landlord of the "Grenadier" pub in Belgravia, who had served with the Admiral in the 'Baker Street Irregulars' – as the wartime Special Operations Executive (SOE), was known after the location of its London headquarters – had reported overhearing a soldier named Trooper Souper, from Hyde Park Barracks, showing the same newspaper photograph to his friend. The improbably named trooper had confidently claimed to recognise Sophie and shared this revelation with his companion. However, Sophie remained clueless about the identity of either man.

"Don't worry, Sophie. I am currently making the necessary inquiries, and as far as I know, there is no Turkish connection. Now, take the 1:25 a.m. overnight from Waterloo to Cant Cove on December 23rd. You can collect the First-Class travel warrant from Dorothea on your way out. Enjoy Christmas and New Year at Trevelver Castle. They are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to extend their utmost hospitality and gratitude for everything you've done for their daughter. You are excused from active duty for the duration. Dismissed!"

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