Echoes From The Past – Episode 49


It was late evening when the woman in the blood-stained dress appeared at the door of the Black Cockerel. Hector answered, expecting more weary and desperate travellers looking for somewhere to lay their heads. Many people from the country had fled to the towns, out of the path of soldiers who were either escaping from the enemy or running them to earth. But this woman looked different. She seemed to be in command of herself and in the situation around her.

“Are you Hector?”

“I am that.” Hector showed his surprise.

“And have you a daughter?” she continued.

“Who wants to know?” The influx of unsettled and frightening people had made him wary.

“My name doesn’t matter,” the woman said, holding out the scrip that Friar Petrus had given her. It was a little worse for wear, but it was made of stout leather and was intended for continuous use.

“A friar gave me this for her. An odd-looking man, with dark, burning eyes. He said there was a message in it for someone called Mirin.”

Hector took the scrip in bemusement, just as Mirin herself appeared at his elbow. She looked pale and weary. She was almost as surprised as Hector, but her intuition told her that this was something important.

“Thank you, mistress,” she said, taking the scrip from her father’s hand. “I am Mirin. Can we offer you food? Something to drink?”

The woman shook her head.

“I thank you, no. I have a home and a daughter of my own to see to. Her husband is among the wounded.”

“Then God’s blessing on you all.”

The woman nodded, and disappeared into the summer dusk.

Mirin turned away from her father, intent on finding somewhere quiet to read her message, but there was little hope of that. It was such a rare occurrence that Hector’s curiosity was roused. He was not the kind of man to insist on knowing his family’s business, but now and then he did assert himself as head of the household. He drew her into the kitchen, away from those who had taken refuge on the alehouse floor and were trying to settle down there.

In the kitchen, he frowned at his daughter.

“You can read it well enough?” he asked. “Shall I waken your brother?”

She shook her head.

“I can read, Faither.”

She opened the little leather case and extracted the fragment of parchment. Her eyes widened at the brief message, and if she could have gone paler, she would have done.

“Holy Mother,” she said under her breath.

“What does it say, daughter? Who writes to you?”

Mirin hesitated, and then realised that further secrecy was fruitless. She looked up at her father, and back at the message.

“It’s from Friar Petrus.”

Hector was dumbstruck. As far as he knew, Friar Petrus was in and around the town, no doubt helping the casualties of the battle while scaring them witless with his brooding and unsmiling expression.

“Where’s Petrus that he’s sending you messages? Why does he not just come in and speak to you?”

“Because he’s not here. It looks as if – he seems to be – at the battlefield. He must have found Thomas.”

Hector frowned.

“Thomas? The English soldier from the castle?”

Mirin nodded.

“He’s not at the castle now, Faither. He was sent with his master to speak to the English King, and he stayed to fight.”

Hector leaned against the table, trying to deal with a deluge of surprising information.

“How do you know this, girl?”

“The English soldier Humphrey told me. Humphrey and Guy came down from the castle and told me that Thomas was gone to the English army.”

“At the Bannock burn?”

She nodded, and bowed her head over the parchment.

 

 

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!