Who's Who Book Three

So you’ve found yourself in a section of the site where there’ll be spoilers… so if you don’t want to know about some of the characters you’ll meet in Book Three then look away now!

In ‘The Power of Three’ we got to meet the members of Team Veritas. In ‘Orphan of the Flames’ we met a new team member - Sheldon Wentworth. We don’t get any new team members in ‘The Knights of Neustria’ but we do get to know an important character rather better as he comes to stay with the team more permanently in Book Three. His money and connections have already been important so let me tell you a little more about him here.

Fabyan

Brodie skidded to a halt at the entrance to the mansion and peered to check she was really seeing things right.…

Some sort of carriage was shrouded by the thick morning mist. Brodie shielded her eyes and squinted. There were no horses. It was being pulled by a team of zebras. The carriage stopped and a tall man, in a long leather coat and sharp red leather boots, lowered the reins and bounded down from the driver’s seat. A golden tooth glinted in his smile.
‘Fabyan,’ beamed Mr Bray, stepping forward to shake his hand. ‘So great to see you again. I thought you were caught up with issues stateside.’
‘I was.’ There was a hint of sadness in his tone. ‘But I figured you needed me.’
Without Fabyan’s help the work at Station X would have ground to a halt long ago. Brodie’s grandfather had contacted him a few months earlier when the government tried to ban the team from Bletchley. Clever use of the law and a serious amount of cash from the American billionaire meant Mr Fabyan was now the main owner of the Bletchley Park estate, and the team had been using his money to survive. But billionaires are busy people and he’d made only the briefest of visits before returning to Illinois. ‘If I could have a hand in with a few of my things that’d be awesome,’ said Fabyan. ‘Some of the stuff I’ve brought is old and valuable, so a little bit of care would be greatly appreciated.’

(Extract from Secret Breakers Book Three ‘The Knights of Neustria.’) Show the full extract

The team owe their survival at Station X to Fabyan and I was very excited to be able to include him in more detail in the series from Book Three onwards.

As well as having lots of money, Fabyan has lots of odd belongings, including a team of zebras who pull his carriage! (I didn’t make up that detail. I based it on a real character called Fabyan who you can read more about below.) Fabyan collects things - unusual things - ostrich eggs, strange clay discs with markings on, and an Egyptian Mummy to name just a few! Some of the unusual items he owns will become very important to the team as they continue to search for answers.

Interesting Truth:

Fabyan’s home back in Illinois has a large windmill on the estate. Remember that! It might be important later in the series!

Further Reading

You’ll already know that some of the most interesting characters in the ‘Secret Breakers’ series are real historical characters. ‘The Knights of Neustria’ draws on the true life stories of some amazing historical characters and so I shall tell you about some of them here.

Colonel George Fabyan

George Fabyan was born in Boston, USA in 1867. He died in 1936. He was a millionaire and when I began to research ‘Secret Breakers’, I discovered his incredible story. He was a man who had lots of interests and hobbies - collecting things and driving a carriage pulled by zebras were two things he particularly enjoyed! Can you see where I got my ideas for Fabyan in the ‘Secret Breakers’ series from now? I imagine that ‘my’ Fabyan is a descendent of Colonel Fabyan!

The real Fabyan lived with his wife on an impressive estate called Riverbanks and here they built a Laboratory to research all sorts of things. One thing they were especially interested in was Cryptology and so they employed William and Elizebeth Friedman to work for them on cracking codes. The Friedmans spent some time looking at the ‘Shakespeare question’…which is explained below…but they also carried out important code breaking work during the Second World War.

Colonel George Fabyan
Fabyan’s windmill at the Riverbanks estate.
Fabyan rode in a carriage pulled by zebras, just like this one.

William Shakespeare

It may surprise you to know that we are not one hundred percent sure that Shakespeare was Shakespeare! I know that sounds odd, but there are people who believe that the plays we know as the Shakespeare plays were written by someone else! I explore this idea a little in ‘The Knights of Neustria’ but there has been debate about it for years. Most of the history books though, will tell you the following details about the man who many people think was the greatest writer who ever lived. He was baptised on 26 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616. He was born in Stratford upon Avon, England, and buried here too. There is a very impressive memorial to him in Westminster Abbey, London (a detail that true Secret Breakers would do well to remember!). He wrote about 38 plays (Brodie’s favourite is ‘The Tempest’), 154 sonnets and lots of other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright…not bad for someone who died nearly 400 years ago!

Clue & Codes

Many readers believe that clues and codes can be found throughout many of the things that Shakespeare wrote. This idea helped me think about mysteries to explore in ‘The Knights of Neustria’. So, if you haven’t checked it out already, head over to the Secrets to Break page and find out more about Shakespeare’s codes!

William Shakespeare

Dr Orville Ward Owen

Dr Owen was American. He was born in 1845 and died in 1924. He believed Shakespeare wasn’t the real writer of the famous plays and poems. He invented something called a Cipher Wheel to try and prove this. You can find out more about this on the Secrets to Break page. Owen was convinced that there was something important hidden at Chepstow Castle and so he dredged huge sections of the River Wye looking for hidden manuscripts. (Do you remember that when we were talking about Elgar from Book Two, I warned you the River Wye might be important later!) Sadly, Dr Owen didn’t find anything in the river, although he really did make contact with a chimney sweep who offered to give him secret information! Dr Owen died having never received that information and having never found treasure. In fact, he was penniless and had been bedridden for years when he eventually died…having lost his health and his money in his search for truth. It was a sad end for such a determined treasure seeker.

Dr Orville Ward Owen

Sir Francis Bacon

Bacon was born on 22nd January 1561 in London, the son of Sir Nicholas and Ann Bacon. He was a philosopher, scientist and author. Lots of people, including Colonel George Fabyan and Dr Orville Ward Owen, believed he was the real writer of Shakespeare’s work. When carrying out scientific work he was careful to plan his methods carefully and so many people say he also developed the ‘scientific method of study’. This is a bit ironic when you hear about how he died! (More of that in a mo!)

Bacon wrote a vast amount of work…which makes critics say he couldn’t also have had time to write everything by Shakespeare too! One of his most famous works is something called New Atlantis which is a story about an ideal land called Bensalem, which means ‘Sons of Peace’. As Brodie points out to the others in Team Veritas, Bacon never totally finished writing this story.

Bacon was also interested in codes and so he developed a way of hiding a secret message inside a piece of writing just by making some of the letters look a bit different. This way of hiding a message is called Steganography and Bacon’s version is often called Bacon’s Bilateral Cipher. You can find out more on the Secrets to Break page.

Now to the embarrassing way that Bacon died! He was carrying out an experiment to see if stuffing a dead chicken with snow and ice would keep its meat fresh for eating. (You have to understand that this was before freezers and fridges had been invented.) During the experiment, Bacon apparently caught pneumonia and so went onto a friend’s house, called Arundel Hall in Highgate, and died there. You’ll know from reading ‘The Knights of Neustria’ that not everyone believed this story! I use the actual wording of Bacon’s ‘deathbed letter’ in my story and it makes sense to me that if he was going to escape rather than die, he would have left a secret message ready to be found by anyone who looked carefully!

Statue of Sir Francis Bacon at Gray’s Inn, London
Cover for Bacon’s New Atlantis

Hopefully you will be interested to see the connections between some of these code makers and code breakers I’ve told you about here. I found an interesting short video which should help explain how connected all these characters were. You can watch it here on the Secrets to Break page.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Coleridge was an English poet born in 1772. He wrote several works about Shakespeare and invented the phrase ‘suspension of disbelief’. Suspending disbelief is what all readers do when they forget for a while that the people they are reading about in stories are made up. Readers of good books believe the characters are real!

Coleridge wrote lots of famous poems and Kubla Khan and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner are two of the most well-known. He was often anxious and depressed throughout his life and perhaps if he had lived in modern times he would have been diagnosed as being bipolar.

I think it would be a good idea to remember Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Secret Breakers might find that his work…and the work of those who studied what he wrote, might be important in making even more connections to MS 408. As a bit of a teaser for Book Four, you might want to see if you can find out what university Coleridge studied at!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
You can see a draft of one of Coleridge’s poems here
A statue of the Ancient Mariner

Sir Bedivere and the Knights of Neustria

I have always loved the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table! In ‘The Power of Three’ Team Veritas make lots of connections to the stories of Arthur and particularly his incredible sword, Excalibur. I was so excited to be able to explore this connection more as the series of ‘Secret Breakers’ developed!

When King Arthur was injured in his final battle at Camlann, he turned to his most trusted Knight, Bedivere, to help him. He asked Bedivere to return his mighty sword to the Lake. Bedivere wanted to serve his King…but he wasn’t really that keen to chuck the mighty Excalibur away! So he lied to the King…twice in fact…saying that the sword has been returned to the lake. Arthur knew Bedivere wasn’t telling the truth but eventually, at the third request, Bedivere does what his king asks. (Notice the ‘power of three’ there!) A hand rises from the water of the lake to catch Excalibur. It is when Bedivere tells King Arthur about seeing this incredible sight that the King believes his loyal friend has finally returned the sword. For his services to the dying King, Bedivere is made a Duke of Neustria. This was the area of Northern France in times long ago.

Bedivere was an incredibly brave warrior and he lost a hand in battle. He had a son and daughter and I imagine that he passed on all the information that the dying King Arthur shared with him to his descendants and other Knights of Neustria.

The marks of the Knights of Neustria include a phoenix, a griffin and a branch. Hopefully these symbols will be useful to us as we begin to find out more about MS 408.

Griffin, Branch and Phoenix: Marks of the Knights of Neustria
Bedivere returns Excalibur to the lake

Hans of Aachen

Now when we were thinking about the characters in Book Two, I explained I couldn’t give you that much information about Hans of Aachen yet. Do you remember that he was the ‘Orphan of the Flames’? Do you think he was also a Knight of Neustria? I wonder if you can predict who else might have been a Knight along with Hans?

Map showing location of Neustria in the past
See more details here