Echoes From The Past – Episode 47

The man had often been told of the torments of the damned, and this time he believed them. He helped Friar Petrus lift Thomas and seat him on the pony’s back, leaning over the mane. With a leather strap to keep Thomas in position, Petrus urged the pony forward.

They made for the rear of the battlefield, where the carts were being loaded. That was when it occurred to him that it might not be the wisest thing to take Thomas back to Stirling. If he, Petrus, had recognised him, so might many others. His life would not be worth one of Hector’s meat pies if he was spotted as an English soldier, wounded fighting the Scots. Not even the brooch would save him then. Petrus would have to take him somewhere else.

He thought of Cambuskenneth Abbey, but the risks there were high as well. The place that next came to his mind was the castle of Dunskillen. He had once seen Dunskillen, and had heard that King Robert had visited the laird. Surely there would be no-one in such a place who would recognise an unarmed anonymous soldier wearing a Celtic brooch. He would take him there. But first, he would send a message.

Although Mirin kept it quiet, Petrus knew that she could read. He did not necessarily approve, but there was no doubting that literacy was a useful accomplishment. It would be foolish not to avail himself of it.

Taking the scrip he wore around his waist under his stole, Petrus extracted a fragment of parchment, and the piece of charcoal that accompanied it. Then, leaning on Thomas’s back, he wrote simply, Thomas injured. Will take him to Dunskillen. Petrus. All he had to do then was find someone returning to Stirling, and ask him to give the scrip to Mirin, daughter of Hector, at the Black Cockerel.

He found a harassed woman with blood down the front of her dress, who was climbing into a cart with six injured men in it, on its way back towards the town. She tucked the scrip into her waist band and said she would do her best. Petrus blessed her, and set off in the opposite direction, hoping against hope that Thomas would survive the long journey.

In fact, Thomas’s state of insensibility must have saved him a great deal of pain and made Petrus’s job of leading the pony much simpler. It was a slow journey, and the light was fading by the time the castle hove into view. The long Scottish evening had favoured them – at this time of year the sun barely dipped below the horizon – but the light was dim by the time they were within two miles of the castle.They were not alone on their journey. People came and went in all directions, intent on their own concerns, suspicious and anxious. Only one man spoke to Petrus, nodding to the inert body on the pony.

“Scottish, is he?”

Petrus hated to tell a downright lie, but his conscience allowed him to nod.

“Better not take him to Dunskillen, then. The laird has declared for Edward and the English. You’ll get no welcome there.” The man hurried on his way, leaving Petrus in a welter of indecision. However, it was too late to go anywhere else. He plodded on towards Dunskillen, and instead of knocking on the front door and begging for assistance, he made instead for the outbuildings, finding a shabby wooden hut with nothing in it but a forgotten bundle of straw.

There he made Thomas as comfortable as he could, applying a makeshift splint to his leg. Then, praying that the boy’s youth and general good health would see him through the night, Petrus lay down beside him and tried to sleep.

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!