Echoes From The Past – Episode 46


The sight that met Friar Petrus’s eyes when he reached the Bannock burn was one of unimaginable horror. Although the battle was all but over, the shouts of victory and yells of fear still rang round the field, carried in the perfect summer air. Cries of the wounded and the screams of dying horses appalled the strongest heart.

Scores of people tried to help, offered words of comfort, tried to bandage wounds, while others scavenged for anything of value that could be ripped from the dead. Petrus had thought to offer aid, but he soon saw that he could do very little in the face of such colossal damage. On the other hand, if he could save anyone at all, it would be better than nothing.

He worked for hours, along with the other helpers, who were mainly women, and some from the religious communities. They lifted and bandaged and put the injured into carts. Some were destined for Cambuskenneth, where the monks would do what they could. To the ones beyond help Friar Petrus gave the last rites, touched their foreheads with a cross, closed their eyes and blessed them. It was difficult to tell who fought for which king, and eventually it hardly mattered.

It was the sheerest chance that Petrus spotted Thomas Forester. He thought of it as a miracle, though he said it only to himself. He had thought Thomas was still in Stirling Castle, but this was undoubtedly him. Many times he had seen him in the Black Cockerel, and seen also the feelings between him and Hector’s daughter, Mirin. It was not his place to comment – he knew full well that people thought him a strange and silent man – but not much escaped his notice.

Thomas lay on his back, his eyes closed, his body straight but for his right leg which twisted at an odd angle. Others lay piled around him, but no-one lay on top of Thomas.

Petrus knelt beside him, lifted his eyelids, and felt where his blood beat at his neck. He expected stone cold stiffness, but there was a thread of movement, the merest flicker, to tell him that Thomas still lived.

Petrus swiftly checked his body, finding evidence of a blow to the temple and what looked like a broken leg. Then he saw the chink in his armour in the middle of his chest, just enough for a spear to get through, though there was no sign of the weapon. Whoever had stabbed Thomas must have withdrawn his spear and taken it with him to wreak further havoc on someone else.

Gently Petrus levered the chain mail off Thomas’s chest, expecting his blood to come coursing out of the wound, but there was no mark on his body, no sign of red. What he did find, pinned to Thomas’s thick cotton shirt, was a large silver brooch, whose ancient design was warped by a severe dent.

Petrus knew nothing of the brooch’s provenance, but by wearing it next to his heart, Thomas had concealed its Scottishness. Now, however, the fact that it was Scottish might well protect him from the vengeance of the victors, just as it had protected him from their spear.

****

The field abounded with the dead and dying, but there were also loose horses and ponies, those who had lost their masters and those who had lost their way. Petrus leapt to his feet as one of the ponies cantered past, and caught him by his bridle. The pony let himself be led, picking his way round the obstacles, till
he stood beside where Thomas lay. Once divested of his armour, Thomas weighed a lot less, but Petrus still had to ask a passing scavenger to help him to lift the body.

“Why should I?” the man said, meanness in every movement.

Petrus turned on him the full power of his burning black gaze.

“Because I will curse you if you do not,” he said.

lucycrichton

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 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!