Echoes From The Past – Episode 53

The Laird of Dunskillen had timed his departure judiciously, for it was only minutes later, while Pate Joiner and Mirin still sat in the cart among the trees, that a party of foot soldiers appeared, bedraggled and weary. They were led by one man, a little taller than the rest.

“Wait, men. We can take the place with no trouble, but we don’t want to kill any more than we have to. Let’s see what the laird has to say for himself.”

In no time, the household woke, and the laird’s disappearance became apparent. His wife, Lady Marjorie, was both furious and terrified. It took Captain Hepburn some time to let her know she had nothing to fear from him or his men.

“My men are exhausted. They just want food and shelter. If the laird has gone, then we’re safe here, and so are you. The English soldiers are running for their lives. They won’t stop here, or anywhere else.”

Hearing the voices outside the castle door, Friar Petrus appeared from the hut where he and Thomas had sheltered, and approached the captain. Mirin made to leap down from the cart, but Pate’s rough hand grasped her arm.

“Not yet. We don’t know who to trust. Wait another minute, lass.”

Friar Petrus adjusted his robes and tried to look his most impressive. Hepburn watched him approach, and hesitated.

“A man of God,” he said dryly. “What can he be doing here?”

Friar Petrus held up his hand, as though indicating that he came in peace. Only those closest to him saw the dark, intense gaze, but it sobered them just the same.

“I have a soldier in need of help,” he said. “He’s injured, and he needs food and water. I’ve given him all I had.”

“What kind of soldier?” Hepburn asked. Petrus saw several of his men tighten their grip on their spears.

Going by Hepburn’s accent, Petrus realised he was indeed among Scots, and that there would be no need to hide the brooch. It could definitely stay on Thomas’s chest.

“He bides in Stirling,” he said, prevaricating just a little. “I know him, and I know his sweetheart. I found him on the battlefield and brought him here. But I heard the laird declared for the English.”

Hepburn nodded.

“Aye, he did that, and that same laird seems to have disappeared. Gone to join Edward, I shouldn’t wonder. I wish him joy of that. He could have had Robert if he hadn’t been so craven. Bring the man in.”

So while Hepburn’s men trailed through the castle in search of food and bedding, the captain and one other came with Petrus to the hut. Still Pate and Mirin waited among the trees, till at last the four men emerged. Thomas appeared to be conscious, though gasping with the pain in his leg as the others carried him across the rough ground and into the house.

Pate looked at his passenger, and decided to let her go. There was no way he could keep her from Thomas, and he had fulfilled his obligation to Hector. It was a strange thing, but he had lost his appetite for the spoils of the battlefield. He would return to Stirling.

Mirin turned to him briefly.

“Thank you, Pate,” she said, and leapt lightly from the cart, still clutching the friar’s scrip. He watched her as she flew over the ground, and heard her voice as she caught up with Petrus and greeted Thomas. Then he turned his pony, and set off for home.

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!