Echoes From The Past – Episode 21

Every head in the sheriff court turned to the main door, where sounds of a disturbance disrupted the proceedings. A man purporting to be a messenger broke through the guards at the door and called to the sheriff.

“I have to speak to the sheriff. I have to speak to everyone.”

The sheriff’s brows had by now taken on a life of their own as they met in a ferocious glare.

“Who dares interfere with my court?”

“I do, Maister Sheriff.” The speaker was young and well built, and very enthusiastic. “I bring news. The Scottish Army is assembling, no distance from here! They say King Robert is there as well. The King! Here in Stirling! My, there’s going to be a grand battle when they take on the castle.”

The sheriff’s astonishment rendered him momentarily speechless. The crowd in the courtroom forgot entirely about Mirin and the charge of witchcraft in their excitement. The noise rose to a hubbub, and people started to get up from their benches. Eventually, unable to get quiet in his own court by a mere bang of the clerk’s gavel, the sheriff roared.

“Silence! Silence in this court! Have you no mind of the authority of the law?”

The noise subsided, though people were still restive. He turned to the messenger.

“Who sent you?”

“The Provost, maister.” The man was chock-full of excitement. “I came to the Provost as soon as I heard the news, and he sent me here. He sent others to go round the houses and the shops. Everyone has to be told. Get yourselves and your families into your houses, and prepare yourselves. There could be a battle or a siege, or anything. The Army’s coming to get the English out of our castle!”

The sheriff looked down at the accused, who was wide-eyed with surprise.

“Mirin, daughter of Hector. You are excused due to lack of evidence. Away home with you.”

Mirin thanked him at speed, swept up her skirts and made for the door she had come in by. No-one stopped her. In fact, everyone else seemed to be doing exactly the same thing.

Outside the court, she met up with her father, who gave her a bear hug and told her she had given a very good account of herself in the court.

“Your mother would have been proud of you. Not that you should ever have been there in the first place, and if I ever find out –”

“Never mind, Faither. I’m out now. Let’s get back home.”

Hector nodded.

“Folk will be looking for a good dinner now, whatever the sheriff thinks,” he said. “The Army won’t be here today. We’ll need to feed those who do come, and work out how we’re going to get in some supplies. Armies of any colour are always hungry.”

Several customers were already in the Cockerel, though it was some time short of midday. People patted Mirin on the back, saying she was fit for any lawyer or indeed any accuser. Just the mention of the word had Mirin looking around for someone who fitted the bill. But she was met with nothing but friendly faces. There was no sign of anyone who wished her any ill. There was no sign either of Friar Petrus the Dominican.

It was as she put a plate of bread and mutton in front of Pate Joiner that Mirin thought to ask about Thomas Forester.

“Did anyone see what happened to him? Did he return to the castle?”

Pate looked at her sourly.

“How would I know, and why should I care? He’s just another Englishman. King Robert will soon have him out of there along with all the others.”

“Of course. But you were here, Pate. Did you see what happened with the sheriff’s men?”

“The man wasn’t taken if that’s what you mean.”

Pate looked at Mirin’s expression, and could see she was relieved. Whether he liked it or not, he could tell that the lass’s heart was set on the Englishman.

“He may not have heard about the Army coming,” she said, half to herself. She did not voice the thought that Thomas might also not have heard that she had been released, and might in fact be trying to organise some sort of legal representation for her. To do that, he would have to come back into the town, and that would make him vulnerable.

“Eat your dinner, Pate,” she said, and bustled out of the room.

Mirin took a quick look round, and made her way swiftly to the stair. Over the public room was the family’s living quarters, where there was enough space for Hector and Mirin to have a room each. Even Murdo had his own corner. Mirin knew how fortunate she was to have such privacy, and relished the little room with her bed, chair, and her very own kist where she kept spare clothes and her few valuables.

Kneeling beside the kist, she lifted the lid, took up her winter gown and two white shifts, and reached down for her most treasured piece of jewellery. Sitting back on her heels, she held up her grandmother’s brooch, a heavy piece of silver with an ancient design that she was told came from the Old People. She had no idea what the pattern meant, but she knew the brooch was a talisman; a charm against fate. She held it to her heart, thinking of the grandmother she had barely known.

“Tell me I am doing the right thing,” she whispered. “Tell me this will protect him.”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!