Chapter 1, Part 5 .........................Rescued
| "I killed two men today." William said proudly.
"And?" inquired Bartholomew.
"And I liked it."
William was excitedly telling Bartholomew all about the battle at the Monks Clearing. He had successfully returned to the Drummond with his mother but there was no word on the where-a-bouts of his father. The three awaited the return of William's Uncle.
Bartholomew let out a long sigh. He always hated what battle did to the minds and souls of young men. William was no different, Bartholomew had hoped he might be. But he had a warriors heart and he excelled at that terrible purpose beyond what his years and experience should allow. It was very disconcerting to see William's dark side.
"What did you like most; The killing part or the staying alive part?"
"The staying alive... mostly. But it is good to know I am brave and can kill a man if I must. I fought side by side with Uncle James, a great wizard, and I did my part. I did not fail him."
"It is not wrong to feel this way, young men often do after their first combat, that is the way of things. I wish it were not so, there are better ways to prove one's courage than war and its carnage. Take care, many a good man with the best of intentions has lost himself in the blood lust and found himself doing the most terrible things."
"I didn't do murder... did I?"
"Oh no-- no you did not."
"You were defending yourself in a desperate situation and Sir James is empowered by the King to enforce the law. Furthermore, when a man is charging you with a sword in his hand... well, I would consider that an inappropriate occasion to consider the legal technicalities of the situation."
Bartholomew put a hand on William's cheek. "You will never be the same... But do not fail to remember the value of mercy. Mercy even for those who deserve none, this is the straight road to true power and glory. Here is the distinction between those who rule and are ruled by fear and those who rely on the cool calculation of wisdom to bring them freedom. Everything depends on this understanding for it provides us the faith that the peace will be worthy of all the killing.
"I give you this blessing in the hope you may navigate the unknown places which lies ahead. Do not become lost in the eddies of uncertainty, rather, be one of those who not only knows what is right and what is wrong but who gives a damn about the difference."
Bartholomew noted a few drops of blood on the floor and then examined Williams gambeson, it was wet with blood. "Seems you did not get away without a scratch or two."
James' secretary cleared off a table and had William sit there while he pulled at the buttons of his padded armor. "Lady May could you come here and assist me."
May rose from her chair and gently pushed Bartholomew out of the way and put her hands on her sons shoulders. She looked into his eyes and held his gaze. "I am proud of you," she said.
Not in May's lifetime had she heard a conversation which disturbed her so. It is not often that women will hear men speak openly of these matters. She was proud of her son. It was a fierce sort of pride and it surprised William's mother. James' part in all this worried her and It occurred to her that William didn't really know his Uncle James at all.
"You must be careful," said William's mother. "Your Uncle is always plotting to get people involved in problems that are none of their business. I think It's not right. People leaving their homes and families to follow that wizard on some mysterious quest of his. I do not care if he is a King's knight or my husband's brother, he should be leaving people alone, he ought to know better."
Surprised, both William and Bartholomew looked at May. She seemed worried to distraction.
"My son wounded in battle and my husband missing... I am quite certain it is all that mans fault."
"May, I can assure you that James's can be trusted in all things."
"Quiet," William hissed, "Someone is coming up the stairs."
, Heavy, uneven footfalls sounded from the spiral staircase. William stood and put one of his pistols in his hand, he looked ready for anything. A hooded figure appeared.
The big Wizard stepped up into the light and onto the landing; a limp body in his arms.
James said,"he fainted dead away at the bottom of the stairs. He's breathing," he carried the unconscious man in his arms as a child weighing nothing.
May had not seen the Wizard in twelve years but she recognized his voice and the face at once. There was a way about him; he projected both strength and authority.
"James, over here!" Bartholomew cleared away a low table which was revealed to be a bed built into a bookcase. A ship's bed. "Gently now, we don't know what is broken and what is not. May, come over here, please"
"James, who is this boy?" May asked. May turned his head gently to see his face and gasped. "It's the Crown Prince, Harold!"
William turned surprised and looked as if he might collapse.
"Crown Prince Harold! Son of Clarence the Glorious? Heir to all the Highlands?" exclaimed William.
James replied, an edge of steely resolve in his voice,"Yes, he is the Prince and his safety is our duty. We must protect him at any cost. May, see if he will talk to you."
"Harold?" She put a hand on his cheek bringing her face close to his, "Harold... 'Harry?', can you hear me dear? It's Lady May, Sir Jonn's wife." May had met the Prince and had gotten to know the enchanting young man when the King visited Inari-Anar two years earlier. William's father insisted his son stay home on that trip and kept his reasons to himself.
Harry roused. A broad gleaming smile appeared and his eyes came alive. "My lady, it is good to see your face again... Sir William, Lady May is your mother?.
"Yes, Sire, I encountered no trouble on my return trip, as you can see, my mother is fine," William bowed formally to the prince.
"Prince Harold, what are you doing here?" May asked.
"Kidnapped," he said and fainted once again.
"Let us allow him to rest for a bit," said Bartholomew as he buckled on a short rapier and loaded a pistol which he placed on his desk.
"Where is Jonn?" asked James.
May replied, "He is not here. I hoped you would know where he is."
"Unfortunately I do not."
James began pulling exquisite armor off a wooden stand. He called William over and started strapping the armor on him; battle armor, padded cloth covered with long chain mail, and a cuirass with a back plate. James spoke to William gravely, "I am going to look for you father and I will need your help."
"Have you had shield training?"
"Yes, Sir," Said William
"Excellent, take this shield. Alright, good. Pull your sword and stand there a few moments, feel the weight." The wizard inspected William, walking around him in circles and striking the armor with his staff.
The Grand Wizard James remarked. "We are ready".
"We're in trouble and there's no doubt about it." May said, "But I'm sure we're safe here and Jonn will know what to do when he arrives... I do hope he's alright."
James spoke up quickly, "He is safe, May, I know he is. Don't worry, if harm befell him I would know. William and I will find him."
Without thinking, May ran up and gave James a hug. "What would we do without you?" She was startled to hear herself say such words. She felt small and vulnerable next to the large Wizard with his big hands, staff, sword, and pistols. She never liked her husband's brother. He was a trouble maker and a wizard, but now he made her feel safe."
May stood before William in his armor, she took the time to look him up and down. He looked like something out of a mother's dark dreams.The boy resembled his father, confident and powerful. She never quite realized that she was surrounded by such magnificent men..
James said, "I am sorry May, we must leave you for a time, I hope to return before daybreak on the morrow with your husband. Do not worry, you are in good hands here. A company of soldiers are on their way to protect this house, Farewell," then the Wizard whispered something in William's ear and they disappeared down the stairs before anyone could say anything.
"Did I see some rum in this impossible room?" May said to no one.
"May, we should not allow the Prince to sleep over long before we tend to his wounds, some may need mending," said Bartholomew.
"Oh, yes, of course", She forced herself to rise from her chair and announced that there was work to be done, She had a commanding tone to her voice as most mothers have when needed.
Harry, hearing May's voice, woke out of a light sleep and he managed to stand up and stumble forward. Bartholomew, ever at his side, caught him before he fell. Prince Harold was battered and lame though he tried to hide it. His kidnappers had beaten and starved him on their long journey from the Highlands.
"Harry, do you know who did this to you?" May asked the Prince.
"I do not know," said the Prince. "These men spoke as pirates and mercenaries do. They never said who they were exactly nor what they had in mind. I assumed they wanted a ransom. We came all this way on foot through the forests and mountains. They knew the way."
"Black Blanchet's men, I suspect." said Bartholomew, "He employs mercenaries who can accomplish a mission of this sort and he is not very scrupulous about who his employers are, provided he gets paid."
"I was kidnapped while riding alone in my father's forest about a month ago I think." said Prince Harold. "The King had advised me not to ride alone these days but I ignored him, of course. I do like riding alone at dawn."
"I was extremely lucky to find Sir James and Sir William waiting for me in exactly the right place and at precisely the right time. I wonder how they did it?"