Echoes From The Past – Episode 24

Mirin almost dropped the letter in her surprise and horror. She had never been far outside Stirling before, and she had only a vague idea of where the border between the two kingdoms of England and Scotland actually was, but it could not be far, surely. And there was only one direction the English forces would take. They would come straight to Stirling, where the Scottish King and the Scottish army were now encamped.

Mirin was aghast at the prospect of warring troops surging through the town where she lived. At the same time, this might well be the only chance the Scots would get to recover their castle and remove the English intruders once and for all. She tried not to think of Thomas as one of them, but there was no pretending that all would be well between them. He would be as loyal to his king as she hoped she was to hers. Any possible friendship between herself and Thomas Forester seemed doomed. Smudging a tear from her cheek with her sleeve, Mirin decided on immediate action, and set off for the Provost’s residence.

It took a little time and some persuasion to get past the men on the Provost’s door. They had more important things to do than listen to a lassie going on about secret messages. The Provost had already had as many messages as he could handle, and what would a mere girl know that would make much of a difference to anything?

Just for a moment, Mirin was tempted by sheer exasperation to tell them they were meddling with someone already accused this day of witchcraft, but then thought the better of it.

“Is the Provost at home?” she asked with some force.

“He is that.”

“Then tell him I’ve a message from the castle. He’ll want to hear it, and he won’t think much of you for stopping me. Tell him!”

After several minutes, Mirin finally found herself being hustled into a large chamber where the Provost sat surrounded by bits of paper on top of his wooden desk. It looked as though he was planning some sort of campaign, which she supposed the defence of the town must require. There were all sorts of contingencies to take into account, after all.

The Provost was a small, wiry man, with dark eyes slightly too near each other. He gave the impression of energy and decisiveness, which Mirin had to hope was not just superficial. He looked up at Mirin as she came in clutching the scrip.

“Yes? What’s your name, girl?” he barked at her.

“Mirin, daughter of Hector.”

“The Black Cockerel?”

“The same, sir.”

The Provost straightened his not very impressive shoulders.

“Were you not in court this morn? Were you not the maid accused of witchcraft?”

Mirin’s heart skipped a beat, but she kept her voice steady.

“Accused, sir. Not convicted. The sheriff decided that I was innocent. I am no more of a witch than you are, sir.” She held out the leather pouch, distracting his attention. “I found this scrip. It fell off an English soldier’s horse on its way up to the castle. The man did not notice it was gone, and I just happened upon it. It might be nothing, but it might be important. I thought you would be the person to decide, Provost.”

The man opened the scrip and perused the letter. He chewed his lip as he read the message, and then his gaze shot up again to Mirin.

“Have you read this, girl?” he asked with a frown.

Mirin didn’t hesitate.

“What would a girl like me know about reading? I brought it to the town’s most important citizen.”

“Right.” He returned to the letter. “I’ll have to think about this.”

His gaze roamed over the bits of paper.

“More guards,” he said, more to himself than to anyone else. “We need more guards on the gates. No-one is to go in or out.”

He looked up again, as though he had forgotten her.

“Are you still here? Go and tell your father that the English are coming. If you’ve got any family outside the town gates, get them in or send them far away. It’ll take the English a few days to get here, but waste no time.”

Thoughts of Murdo raced into her mind. Where would he be safest?

“Can I do anything else, Provost?” Mirin asked.

“Go and mind your property.”

“I will, sir,” she said, and fled the Provost’s residence.

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!