In the summer of 1462, a veteran knight, fearful that his wife would succumb to the feverous disease that had afflicted her for weeks, prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, begging her to intercede and ask God to restore his wife to good health. In return, he swore that he would carry out a pilgrimage to the Lady Chapel in Glastonbury Abbey. When his wife soon recovered, honor compelled him to fulfill his holy vow.
1. THE WHITE HART INN
SIR HENRIE WALSHYNGHAM looked out at the high summer sun. A gentle northern breeze pushed a thin canopy of woolen clouds across the pale blue sky. The view was worthy of an artist’s canvas, but Henrie was too annoyed to give it more than a cursory glance. “The day’s bloody well half-spent already,” he grumbled in a low voice. His eyes fell to the narrow lane below. It was empty except for an old skinner plodding alongside his ox cart; flies buzzed hungrily over its cargo of fresh hides. The knight recoiled from the stench and pulled shut the window. “Son, are you sure you told Dickon to saddle the horses? I see no sign of him.”
“Of course I did,” Stephain replied with a thin smirk. He twisted in his chair until one leg was dangling over the armrest before taking a long draw from his glass.
“And what did the physician say of Rauf?” the knight asked as he quickly buckled the row of leather straps down the front of his gestrone; the jacket’s green velvet exterior concealed a layer of steel maille. “Is he well enough to ride?”
Stephain shook his head. “They could only find him a barber. I thought he was going to bleed the poor man dry, but he assured me it was only an ague.” He paused to nod his head. “Rauf will be right by morning.”
“Ballocks!” the knight cursed through clenched teeth. “We don’t have the time to wait for him. We should have been on the road first thing this morning.” Henrie’s annoyance was turning into anger. “The lad’s been more trouble than he’s worth,” the knight added as he picked up his pleated waistcoat and held it up expectantly to his son.
“I’m coming,” Stephain groaned as he slowly swung his legs around to stand, pausing to place his cup down on a side table before shuffling across the room.
Henrie knew better than to show the least bit of annoyance at his son’s lethargy as it would only encourage the lad to persist even more. He loved his son but was well aware of his penchant for laziness. “How much did the barber charge?” Henrie stuck his arms into the sleeves as Stephain pulled the coat onto his father’s shoulders.
“Twelve shillings 3 pence.”
“By the saints! I should’ve stuck him myself and saved the coin.” Henrie buckled a sword around his waist and adjusted the folds in the front of his coat. “Remind me again why I haven’t sent you to the university to study medicine? You should know it costs a fortune to feed you these days.”
“Someone has to dress you, Father.”
“Ah, so that’s it? You’re hoping to be promoted from well-wisher to varlet? I can tell you that Dickon is by far the better bargain. You’d best start showing me something more.” Henrie motioned toward the green fabric neatly folded atop a side table. “Why don’t you fetch me my hood?”
Stephain sauntered over to the table but instead picked up his glass. He swirled the dark liquid around for a moment before taking another long sip. It was only after his father exhaled loudly that Stephain returned the cup to the table and snatched up the hood. He balled it in his hands as he slowly walked back to his father.
“Son, has anyone ever told you that you’re about as worthless as teats on a boar?”
“Only you,” his son replied smugly. “Every day.”
“Well, someone has to tell you the truth.” Henrie took the hood from his son and smoothed it out against his chest. He carefully rolled its front edge tightly back several inches and placed atop his head like a turban.
“Why do you insist on forming your own chaperon every day?” his son asked with a shake of his head. Stephain stepped directly in front of his father, arching an eyebrow as though carefully considering a portrait. The lad was almost a full hand taller than his father.
“Because that’s the way I like it, Stephain,” Henrie stated flatly, refusing to meet his son’s gaze. He cocked his head to the left as he folded the hood’s lower mantle into a stair-step pattern that he carefully draped over his temple. He ran his fingers through the folds to ensure they were even. “As I’ve told you countless times, appearance is everything. God help me, one day I hope it will finally get through that thick skull of yours.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier to fold it before you put it on?”
“I’ve been doing it the same way since long before you learned to prattle on like a woman.” Henrie paused and gave a sideways glance at his son. Although Henrie took great joy in antagonizing his son, he was proud of the man that Stephain was growing into.
“I know a tailor in Presston who could make you a new one from silk brocade,” the boy chuckled. “It would be far more fashionable.” Henrie tucked the end of the long liripipe into the front of his sword belt.
“Sir Henrie?” a muffled voice interrupted through the door.
“See what he wants now,” Henrie instructed. Stephain strolled over to the door and jerked it open. A round face immediately craned into the room.
“Your dinner’s getting cold, Sir Henrie,” the man said with a wide grin revealing a broken line of yellow teeth. “I’ve set a table for you and your men.” He glanced down at the knight’s hip and swallowed hard. “Also, with respect, sire, I couldn’t help but notice some of your men are wearing swords. I’m required to ask you to leave your swords in your rooms while in the city.”
“Thank you, master Perkyn, I'm well aware of city ordinances. It is time for us to take our leave. We will be departing within the hour. Would you be so kind as to bag everything up for us?”
“Surely you don’t still intend on leaving today?” the innkeeper replied as he stepped into the room. He wiped a pair of meaty palms on his ale-stained apron. “Wouldn’t it be better to depart first thing in the morning?”
“No,” Henrie said with a shake of the head. “I made an oath. I must be in Glastonbury by the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. I can’t afford to lose any more time.”
“But, Sir Henrie, you likely won’t reach Whicchurch until well after nightfall, and the roads around here are not safe after dark.” When the knight did not react to the warning, Perkyn drew a finger across his throat before sticking his tongue out one side of his mouth. “Travelers have reported seeing Welsh reavers lurking about.”
“Thank you for your concern, master Perkyn,” Henrie chuckled. “I can assure you that I'm not an easy man to kill. More than a few tried and failed at Blore, and they were far more determined than a band of tinkers. Besides, there are several market towns along the road. We should be able to find lodging if we don’t make it all the way to Shropshire.”
“But, sir,” Perkyn continued to protest. He looked back and forth between the knight and his son for a moment before casting his eyes to the floor with an odd smile. “Very well, I will prepare the food for your journey, Sir Henrie.” With a quick nod, the innkeeper turned and left the room.
“Do you believe him?” Stephain blurted out as soon as the door had shut. His usual smirk had been replaced by a wrinkled brow. “You told mother the roads would be safe all the way to Glastonbury.”
“If I'd told her the truth she would've never let you come along,” Henrie stated wryly.
“What?” Stephain gasped, his eyes wide with surprise.
“You should see the look on your face,” Henrie said with a hearty laugh. He immediately regretted the jest; he had gone too far. His son reddened with embarrassment that immediately turned to anger. “I’m sorry, Stephain. I couldn’t help myself.” He put a hand to his son’s shoulder that was quickly shrugged off.
“Would it really be so bad if we waited until the morning?”
“Son, the roads are safe enough. Yes, it's true that some men are desperate enough to risk the hangman’s noose by robbing merchants and pilgrims. But, they want silver, not steel.” Henrie set a hand on the hilt of his sword. “Besides, that’s why we always bring the lads with us.”
Stephain nodded in agreement, more to reassure himself than to affirm his father’s words.
“Now get your kit on while I go to make sure everyone is packed and ready to travel. When you come down, be sure to settle our account with the innkeeper.” Henrie once again placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “We’ll be fine, Stephain. I promise. It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous from time to time, but when it happens, you have to bottle it up tight. One day you'll be a leader. You must never let your men see any fear in your eyes.”
Henrie gave his son one last squeeze on his shoulder before heading to the door. He regretted how he had handled the situation. If only the innkeeper would have kept his mouth shut.
In the hall Henrie encountered an archer dressed in green livery waiting with crossed arms. “What is it, Morgan?” the knight sighed as he made for the stairs. The yeoman fell in immediately behind him.
“Sire, Rauf needs a few more days to rest.”
“Stephain said it wasn't that serious.”
“With respect, your son is afraid of disappointing you. Rauf is as sick as as a dog.”
Sir Henrie paused and turned to address Morgan. He studied the archer’s face for a moment. It looked softer than usual; Henrie could see his concern. “Very well,” he replied, gesturing the man back up the stairs. “Lead the way.”
Morgan trudged up to the landing where he turned right and slung open the first door. “Rauf,” he called down at a body curled up on the nearest of three straw-filled mattresses. “Sir Henrie is here.”
Rauf groaned as he rolled over and pushed himself up onto an elbow. Beads of sweat glistened on his ashen brow. The smell of vomit stained the air.
“Don’t get up, lad,” Henrie said with a thin smile before covering his mouth to guard against foul vapors. “Rest easy, and we’ll have you home in no time.”
Rauf managed a shallow nod before flopping back onto the mattress.
Henrie pulled the door shut and turned to face Morgan.
“See?” One corner of the man’s mouth curled momentarily into a triumphant grin that quickly fell into a somber frown when Henrie did not smile back. “I can stay back with him, if you like. We can wait here until you return in a few days.”
“And let you drink the place dry? No, I’ll make arrangements with the innkeeper for Rauf to stay as long as he needs. Gil will remain with him until he can ride.” Henrie sighed before turning back to the stairs. “Now, make sure the rest of you are outside and ready to go in half an hour, or I’ll leave the lot of you here.”
Henrie was frustrated as he descended the stairs. He had already lost half a day’s travel waiting on Rauf, and now the lad couldn’t come any way. The longer the delay lasted, the more irritable he became.
The knight strode into the great hall where he noticed Perkyn talking to a cloaked figure standing next to him at a tall wooden counter.
“That’s your problem, not mine,” Perkyn said. His voice was low, but it reverberated across the wide room. “I've done my part. Now pay me what you owe me.”
“Mind yer tongue, Perkyn,” the wayfarer replied, his top lip curling into a sneer. “You’ve come too far to start having second thoughts. There’s no going back.” He slapped a handful of coins onto the counter and slid them towards the innkeeper.
“This isn’t enough anymore,” Perkyn protested despite greedily raking them into his palm and dropping them into his apron pocket. He did not notice that the wayfarer’s gaze had suddenly turned to the approaching knight. “I’m taking too big of a risk.” The man then pointed a finger in Henrie’s direction causing Perkyn to whirl around. The innkeeper looked back and forth between the wayfarer and the knight for a moment, his mouth open as if to speak but finding no words on his tongue.
“It turns out that one of my men is too ill to continue on,” Henrie broke the awkward silence.
“So you’ll be spending the night after all?” he asked, slipping a hand inside his apron pocket to wriggle his fingers through the coins inside. The innkeeper looked back to the wayfarer. The man had dark eyes set under thick black eyebrows. A long scar ran from the bridge of his nose down to the edge of his jawline.
“No, I still plan to leave at once, but two of the lads will need room and board for a couple more nights.” The knight counted out several pence that he handed to the innkeeper. “This should be enough to cover his expenses. If not, I will pay the rest when I return next week.”
“Of course. Of course.” Perkyn’s hand trembled slightly as he accepted the coins. He could not help but once again look back and forth between Henrie and the wayfarer.
“Do you have business with me?” Henrie asked, looking up and down the stranger. There was a slight bulge in the side of the man’s gray cloak. The knight guessed it to be a hanger sword.
The wayfarer did not respond, but his eyes fell to the golden pommel of the knight’s sword.
“Never you mind him, Sir Henrie.” Perkyn interjected. “This here’s—uh—Rabbie. He— er—does odd jobs for me from time to time.” He weakly pushed against the stranger. “And, he was just leaving.”
“I’ll be seeing you, Perkyn,” Rabbie said with a forced grin, never taking his eyes off the knight. He had greasy hair that hung in clumps from the hood of his cloak. With a nod, the man turned and walked slowly to the door.
“Who was that man?” Henrie asked once the wayfarer had exited.
The innkeeper shook his head forcefully before wiping his brow with a cuff. “He’s—uh —just a frequent guest that owed me a bit of coin.”
“From the look of it, he didn’t appear to be the kind of man who could pay back such a debt. Frankly, I’m surprised you would've trusted him to do so.”
“He can be rather convincing.” Perkyn’s eyes darted between the knight and the door. “And I never ask where the coin comes from. Nature of the business, you know, sire?”
“If you say so.” Henrie studied the innkeeper’s face and the fake smile painted across it. He knew the man was lying; he simply couldn’t figure out to what end. Just pay the man, be done with him, and be on your way.
Perkyn licked his lips as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “I still need get your food bundled up,” he finally blurted, taking a couple of measured steps to the side. "My man should already have your horses saddled and waiting out front. I’ll be out with the food directly.”
Henrie snatched his reins from a leather-faced groom, tossed them over the head of Abbot, his dappled gray stallion, and then pulled himself up into the saddle. Shifting his weight from one stirrup to the other, he double-checked the tightness of the girth. Satisfied, he wheeled his mount around to survey the line of other men on horseback.
“Ballocks,” he grumbled under his breath. The corners of his mouth drew back into a frown. He normally preferred to travel with more men. Nothing to be done about it now. The roads will be fine.
Stephain had positioned himself at the head of the column. He was mounted atop one of Henrie’s best chargers who tossed its head impatiently and stamped a hoof against the ground. Though Stephain sat tall in the saddle, he was nervously rubbing the silver crucifix of his rosary between a thumb and forefinger.
Behind him were James and Lynard. James was short and wiry; his oversized waistcoat made him look as though he had shriveled in the sun. Lynard had a doughy face and wide, round eyes that gave him the appearance of an altar boy caught with a mouthful of the holy bread. They both carried bows and had bags of arrows tied to their saddles.
Dickon, the young varlet, came next. He was a year or two younger than Stephain but had the same teenage bravado. He kept one hand on the pommel of his dagger. Next to him was Morgan. As the only other man to have actually swung a sword in anger, the yeoman’s presences gave Henrie a measure of comfort.
“Are you wearing your maille?” the knight asked his son as he reined his horse alongside him. He reached out to pat a hand against his son’s back.
“Yes, Father,” Stephain replied, his voice rising in exasperation. He quickly pressed his calf into his horse’s side, forcing the stallion to create distance between him and his father. Stephain looked back to see if the others had been watching.
“Stephain,” Henrie began, intending to press the issue, but he relented. Seeing his son's reddened cheeks made him pull back his hand. He wanted to apologize, but pride got in the way. Instead, he reached into a worn leather bag strapped to his saddle and pulled out a skull cap. There were several deep scratches in its polished steel surface. Old habits die hard, he thought to himself as he carefully slid it under the brim of his chaperone and wriggled it into place. It's probably time to have one made for Stephain.
“Let’s go, boy,” Stephain said as he spurred his horse into a trot. Abbot gave a short nicker before bolting off after him.
“By the Virgin,” the old knight swore as he put a hand atop his headgear to keep it in place. “Come on, lads,” he called back over his shoulder with a chuckle. “Best hurry if we want to reach Whicchurch before nightfall.” Within a few moments, they had slipped through Bridge Gate, passed the water mill on Dee Bridge, and were back on the road to Glastonbury.
2. THE ROAD TO WHICCHURCH
“Is this Aldford?” Stephain asked as he curbed his horse alongside his father. The high pitch of his voice exposed his concern as his hand rubbed the crucifix of his rosary. “What happened here?”
Henrie stood in his saddle and craned his neck in a slow circle. To either side of the road were a series of abandoned hovels half-concealed by the tall grass. Their once-thatched roofs had all either collapsed or fallen away leaving only skeletons of wooden beams and crumbled walls; a few even had full-grown trees standing in their midst. “Another nameless hamlet likely abandoned after the great mortality,” the knight finally replied, his eyes canted down, scanning the roadside under the high afternoon sun.
“Plague?” Stephain blurted out.
“Shush. Use your eyes instead of your mouth.” Henrie’s hand crossed over to grip the hilt of his sword as he whistled softly at Morgan. Locking eyes with one another, the knight made an exaggerated sniffing motion with his nose.
“What is it?” Stephain asked in a low voice. “Are we in danger? Should we turn back to Chester?”
Henrie turned back and leveled his gaze at his son who immediately fell silent. The boy’s eyes were wide with alarm. “Walk on,” the knight said in a soothing voice causing his horse to start moving forward.
Morgan slowly scanned the buildings on the left side of the road as he slid a hand back and pulled an arrow from his bag. He held it up momentarily for the others to see before nocking it onto his bowstring and holding it in place with his index finger. James and Lynard quickly started fumbling with their own arrow bags.
“What’s happening, father?” Stephain’s voice was low but shrill. Henrie shook his head in reply, his eyes squinting at the shadows.
Morgan eased his horse forward, holding the reins loosely between the fingers of his bow hand. As he scanned the line of ruined buildings, he plucked several more arrows from his bag and tucked them into his belt.
Henrie led the column slowly through the abandoned village. His eyes darted side to side along the road, occasionally glancing back at the other horsemen. Dickon had wedged himself between James and Lynard; both men had arrows nocked. Morgan had let his horse trail behind to keep an eye to the rear.
“I could smell smoke,” Henrie finally offered after they had gone a couple hundred paces beyond the ruins. He let his hand slip from his sword. “It was either some distance away or had died out hours ago. I also noticed that there were paths through the grass. Without dismounting, there was no way of knowing if they belonged to wild swine or outlaws.”
“Outlaws?” Stephain exclaimed. “You said the roads were safe. You said that no one would try to rob us.”
“I said they were safe enough. Outlaws have left behind their former lives to avoid the hangman’s noose. They're cowards. The last thing they want to do is pick a fight with a knight and his retinue.”
“What retinue? We don’t even have all the men we left with. Why are we even doing this?”
“Stephain,” Henrie said calmly. “To be honest, I was afraid your mother wasn't going to recover, so I put my hand on the Holy Scriptures and swore an oath to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” The knight shrugged. “Perhaps it was foolish, but I gave my word, and that's something I don't take lightly.”
Stephain rode silently for a moment in contemplation. “So we’re safe now?” he finally asked. His eyes carefully searched his father’s face for reassurance.
“Everything’s fine, Stephain.” Henrie nodded to his son then to the men behind him. They stuck their arrows in their belts before switching their bows to their free hands. “They said it was only 7 miles to Aldford. We’ll walk the horses a bit further then hasten the rest of the way.”
“I don’t understand why we didn’t just spend another night in Chester.”
“It’s still two full days to Glastonbury, and another six days back. I don’t want to be away from the manor for an entire fortnight.”
Henrie heard the swish of grass to his left an instant before Abbot startled, tossing his head back and taking several rapid steps to the right, almost colliding with Stephain. The knight’s hand instantly reached for the hilt of his sword as he struggled to gain control of his mount.
Before he could draw his blade, a hooded figure emerged from the tall grass, his bow half-drawn. An instant, later another figure stepped forward and leveled a heavy spear inches away from Abbot’s neck preventing the knight from spurring him forward.
“Easy lads,” the knight said as calmly as he could manage. “They only want a bit of silver.” Henrie quickly surveyed the opposition. The bowman to his left was still at the ready. The spearman had shifted his weapon to his off-hand and grabbed Henrie’s reins. A third outlaw brandishing a sword moved to stand next to Stephain. Others swished onto the road somewhere behind.
“Sir Henrie, is it?” the figure next to Stephain growled. It was the voice of the wayfarer.
The knight nodded slowly. Henrie felt as though he had been punched in the stomach. He realized he should have trusted his earlier suspicions. “And I remember you from the White Hart. You were supposedly there to pay a debt to the innkeeper.”
The man grinned smugly. “We have something of an ongoing arrangement.”
“By arrangement, you mean that you pay him to alert you when wealthy travelers pass through?” Henrie met his son's gaze with all of the calm he could muster.
“Yeah, something like that. Except you weren't supposed to see us together.”
These are desperate men, Henrie suddenly realized. They'll kill us all if we surrender our weapons. Keep calm. Wait for your opening.
“You mentioned silver?”
“It’s in the bag behind my saddle,” Henrie lied. He had entrusted most of their coin to Stephain, which he now regretted. The knight held his hands open but kept them close to his waist. He slowed his breathing and kept his muscles tensed.
“Ran, keep hold of his horse,” Rabbie said as he moved past Stephain’s mount. The spearman nodded as he tightened his grip on the rein.
Amateurs. He should have grabbed the top of my head stall.
“I got him,” the archer replied coldly. His bow was for poaching small game, not a war bow like Morgan’s.
Rabbie rested his sword blade on his shoulder as he approached the knight then reached out with his free hand to lift the flap on the bag.
It’s now or never. Henrie suddenly spurred Abbot and jerked his reins, causing him to wheel around, first knocking Rabbie to the ground with his haunches and then sending the spearman stumbling backwards. “Go, Stephain!” the knight shouted as he reached under his arm and drew his sword in a rising arc, intending to quickly cut down the archer.
The archer was quick; he stepped to the left and pulled the nocked arrow back to his ear.
Henrie opened his mouth to shout a curse as he twisted in the saddle and sliced down, knowing the blade would likely not reach its target having to cut across his horse’s neck but having no better option. Time seemed to slow as the archer opened his fingers. White goose feathers lunged streaked forward an instant before his sword cleaved through both stave and hand. Before he could even blink, a loud clash of steel rang out as Henrie’s head was thrown backwards. The screams behind him were barely audible over the sudden ringing in his ears.
It took a moment for Henrie to regain his composure. He remembered he was wearing his cervelliere; the helmet had saved his life once more. As the brigand archer recoiled from his wound, the knight raised his sword to the ready and looked for another target. The spearman was on his feet and moving forward.
Suddenly, Abbot bellowed and screamed and shuddered to one side. The knight had to clench his knees to stay in the saddle. Glancing down, he saw Rabbie struggling to rise, a bloody sword in his hand. Henrie had not choice but to yank Abbot’s head to one side to keep him from bolting, hoping his panicked hooves would trample the swordsman on the ground.
“No!” Stephain yelped. Henrie looked up to see a pair of hands dragging his son from his saddle. Before the knight could react, a sharp pain hit him squarely in the side, pushing him back onto the cantle of his saddle. He looked down and saw the spearman had lunged forward in an attempt to skewer him, but the maille had held catching the man off guard. Henrie quickly cut down with his sword, hewing through the haft with a loud crack, but Abbot continued to spin, moving him out of range for a second cut.
“Unhand him or I’ll kill you all!” Henrie twisted again in the saddle to look for his son. He managed to steal a backwards glance. Morgan was on the ground atop a brigand despite having a pair of arrows protruding from his back. Lynard was swinging his bow stave wildly about as if it were a two-handed sword.
A shadow moved off to Henrie’s right. He craned his neck to see a burly archer in a yellow coat step forward, out of sword range. The yew stave creaked as it was drawn back until the nock of the arrow was just above his sinister smile.
“Stephain,” was the only word that came to mind. Henrie could not help but close his eyes as the brigand let loose his arrow. White-hot light immediately seared his vision as if he had looked directly into the sun. The pain was excruciating.
Then he fell backwards into the dark void of unconsciousness.
3. THE EMPTY GRAVE
Henrie was jarred awake by the cacophony of ravens, the flutter of countless angry wings filling the air as he tried to lift his head. His face throbbed with a pain greater than any he had ever felt in his life.
The knight tried to blink away the darkness, but his left eye refused to open. As he raised a hand to his cheek, his fingers bumped against a wooden shaft, causing him to wail with a sudden surge of pain that nearly sent him into another state of delirium. He almost choked as he coughed and spat up either blood or bile.
With a loud groan, Henrie rolled onto his back and struggled to regain control of his ragged breathing. After a few moments, he gingerly felt along his jawline up towards his eye. His face was severely swollen and disfigured underneath a thick layer of dirt and dried blood.
The arrow seemed to be lodged deep inside his cheek somewhere close to his nose, but the swelling made it difficult to know for sure. Somehow the shaft had been broken off a couple inches above the wound. Henrie knew for certain that he would quickly bleed out if he tried to remove it. His only chance was to find a surgeon.
How am I even alive? He tried to smile but could not.
The throaty barking of ravens once again descended all around the knight as the birds returned to their perches. Their flapping wings rustled in the dark branches above him, silhouetted across a waxing moon.
Henrie shuddered from the cold. He instinctively curled his arms for warmth and realized his clothes had been stripped away, leaving him in only a linen shirt and a pair of hose. He felt cold, wet earth beneath him. He carefully propped himself up on an elbow and allowed his eye to adjust to the moonlight. His lower legs were half-submerged in the brackish water of a fen bordered by trees and tall grass. He had been left to die alone.
“Shtebbn,” he suddenly called to his son, but his mouth refused to form Stephain’s name. Henrie rolled over to his hands and knees and tried to stand. He felt woozy but knew he had to find Stephain. He steadied himself against the trunk of a willow.
Stumbling forward, he continued to try and call out, but the words were incoherent. A few paces ahead a bare foot protruded from the black water. It was short and narrow like that of a teenager. The knight felt a wave of panic wash over him. He fell to his knees and crawled forward into the bog. He ignored the rancid odor that was more foul than a cesspit.
“Oh! My shun!” Tears ran down from his eyes and stung the wound to his cheek. Henrie ran his hands along the body until he could grab it by the shirt and drag it up out of the water. There was a long, jagged cut across the base of the throat. He cradled its head as he wiped the grime from its face.
Dickon. Henrie was both elated and sickened. He laid the boy gently down onto the ground and waded back into the marsh. He groped with his hands in the murky water as he slowly stepped forward, the thick mud squishing between his toes.
It did not take long to locate Morgan. His torso was pierced by at least three arrows. He, too, had a long jagged cut across his neck. James’s corpse was only a few feet further away. His hands had been bound. The same telltale slice across the throat revealed how James had met his demise. He let the corpse sink back under the dark waters as he turned and retraced his steps.
Henrie criss-crossed the water’s edge several more times. His son’s body was not there. Neither was Lynard’s. He assumed they must have survived the initial fight. Thank God! His chest shuddered with a mix of joy and misery.
The knight crouched low and followed the drag marks through the marsh and grass until he found the road. The moon was high above and bathed the landscape in a soft bluish light. Across the road lay the body of Abbot. There was a short trail of thick blood leading from the pile of intestines that marked where he had fallen. It looked as though the brigands had tried to drag him off the road but eventually gave up.
Henrie followed their trail. Even if he had not spent a lifetime hunting boar and stag, it would not have been very hard. The moonlight revealed discarded items every few yards. First came pouches emptied of anything of value. Then came the clothing deemed unserviceable. He picked up Dickon’s cap, likely too small for any of the brigands. Lastly, he found Lynard’s livery coat; it was soaked in blood.
So they had already killed him. Henrie realized that meant he had somehow missed finding his corpse. And Stephain? Perhaps he had walked past his son’s body in the darkness. Stephain. Henrie could visualize his son’s cheeks still rosy from the cups of sweet wine at the White Hart.
“No,” he spat, refusing to abandon hope. He kept to the trail. The horse hooves cut deep into the soft ground. The knight took a knee and tried to study the tracks, hoping he could discern some sign that Stephain was traveling with them.
They’re no fools, he reassured himself. The son of a knight is a valuable commodity that could be ransomed. Except they’re outlaws, Henrie. How could they imagine delivering a message without getting caught? Then thought of his wife receiving word that her son was being held captive and her husband was dead in a ditch made him give up on rationalizing their plans. My dear, sweet Isabell! The news would send her to an early grave. He had to find his son before they realized the futility of their endeavor.
The tracks veered from the roadside and started across a meadow of waist-high grass that gave way to rolling hills. The column of men and horses had left a wide path that was not difficult to follow. Henrie paused to catch his breath, resting his hands on his knees. A gentle breeze gave the grass the appearance of a roiling sea under the light of the moon. The faint glow of a fire twinkled from a large stand of trees a couple hundred yards away.
Alford can’t be more than a couple of miles south of here. Henrie had not seen a hedge or fence, so he doubted he was in one of the town’s fields left fallow for grazing. His mind raced; his thoughts seemed to tumble over one another without purpose. How can there be outlaws so close to a town? Where is the undersheriff? He wanted to just lie down and go to sleep.
The sounds of boisterous laughter echoed down from the tree line, reminding the knight of his purpose. He rose and started up the hill, keeping low and veering off to the right so as not to walk directly into their midst.
“Give me some of that wine, Dom,” a voice suddenly bellowed, causing Henrie to drop to the ground, his heart pounding hard against his chest.
“Sod off, Dugald,” came a quick retort. “While you were busy looting purses, I helped myself to the baggage.” Several men laughed and joined in the revelry.
“Make him pay for it!”
“Yeah, make him pay!”
Henrie slowly rose to a low crouch and eased closer to the dark tree line. He aimed for a point about 75 paces from the bonfire. He was still too far away to see any of the brigands. Several more times a loud outburst would send him sprawling to the ground.
“I need a new sword, Rabbie. Let me have yours.”
“In your dreams, Allan,” came the reply. Henrie once again recognized the voice from the inn. Anger caused the knight to ball his hands into fists. “What’s wrong with the sword you already have?”
“It’s shite. You claimed the fancy one from sir what’s-his-name, and then you let Dom have the other good one. Besides, you don’t need two. Let me have your old one.”
Henrie stayed low and moved swiftly, only pausing once he reached the safety of the wood line.
Ballocks! He could barely make out the ground under the canopy of the forest. He put his hands out and slowly started forward, feeling his way along. With every step, it became increasingly harder to see looking toward the bright fire. He considered waiting until the brigands wore themselves out and finally turned in for the night.
I have to know if he’s still alive. The knight crept forward. Suddenly, a dead branch crackled under foot; the sound echoed through the trees like a handgonne. Henrie froze. His heart raced as he glanced side to side, looking for a place to run and hide.
“Dugald, shot that tottering fool square in the face,” a man bellowed. “In the face.” The woods thundered with drunken laughter.
Henrie slowly laid down onto all fours and crept forward, sliding hands and knees along the ground to avoid snapping any more twigs or branches. He kept his eyes canted down to reduce the glare of the fire, moving from trunk to trunk until he was as close as he dared approach. Several large logs had been arranged into a circle around the bonfire. Dark silhouettes were seated atop them.
“I’m going to miss this place, boys,” the leader grimly stated, jabbing a thumb in the direction of two makeshift huts built amidst the trees behind him. “She’s been a good home to us.” He held up his cup in a toast and took a long drink.
“Whataya mean, Rabbie?” asked a skinny lad wearing a faded red waistcoat. He looked to be no older than Dickon.
“Time to move on, Glenn. We can’t stay here any longer.”
“Why the hell not?” another man countered. “I’ve grown to like it here.”
“Are you really that daft, Craig?” the leader growled, rising to his feet and pointing down the hill. “After the bloody mess you boys made down on the road, we’ll have the sheriff’s men after us for sure. And that weasel Perkyn will give us up in a heartbeat. I for one have no intention of having my neck stretched on the gallows. I’m cutting out of here at first light.”
Rabbie sauntered over to a portly villein dressed in a pale blue cloak that was far too small for him; the leader reached down and grabbed the bottle at the man’s feet.
“Hey! What’s your problem? That’s mine.”
“Now it’s mine, Dom. You have to pay a stupid tax.” He switched the bottle to his left hand and placed his right atop the sword on his hip. “What was that? Did you say something?” He glared at the man who remained silent. “I didn’t think so.” He returned to his log and poured himself another drink.
Henrie counted six men around the fire but saw no sign of Stephain. Maybe they’re holding him in one of the huts. Each had roofs of thatched grass and blankets hung across the doorways and windows. The knight knew better than to move any closer. He had no choice but to wait until they passed out.
“Is Gregor going to make it?”
“He’ll be fine,” the leader replied.
“He lost his bloody hand.”
“It was only a few fingers.”
“He’ll never hold a bow again.”
“Yeah,” the man smirked. “You’re right about that.”
Henrie tried to lay his head down to rest, but it only made the throbbing pain more intense. He desperately wanted something to rinse the crusted blood from his mouth. He finally wriggled up against a trunk and tried to be as still as possible. After what seemed like hours, the fire slowly dwindled down to embers as the brigands one by one went to sleep.
4. THE REVENANT
The sound of a twig snapping startled Henrie awake. How long was I out? He dared not move. He heard a faint moan off to his left followed by the sound of water trickling onto the ground. Slowly turning his head, Henrie could make out the silhouette of a man pissing against a tree.
“Ballocks!” the man grumbled as he shook one side of his cloak before adjusting his hose and stumbling back to the nearest log and plopping down. He picked up a spear and jabbed it at the embers, stirring them around with the blade. The brigand reached behind him to grab a log from a pile and tossed it on top of the flickering flames.
Henrie slowly rose to a low crouch and slunk forward. He eased each foot down with a gentle twisting motion to avoid making any noise, ignoring the sting of rocks and nettles on his bare feet. The brigand’s head bobbed with sleepiness as Henrie eased his hand down to pick up a spare log. Squaring off behind his opponent, the knight raised the log high over one shoulder like a heavy wooden mace before bringing it down on the base of the man’s neck with every ounce of hate and contempt he could muster.
The impact crackled like thunder. Henrie gritted his teeth and raised the club again, ready to deliver a second blow, but the brigand crashed forward, sending the spear clattering across the ground. Henrie sprang over the log where his opponent had been seated and began searching his body under the cloak. He ran his hands around the belt line until he felt what he was looking for.
A dagger. He tugged it free and held it close to the fire to get a better look at it. The blade was cheaply made, but it was long and sharp.
“Craig?” a voice called from inside the nearest hut.
“Craig?” The second call was followed by sounds of movement.
Henrie scampered back into the shadows as the blanket was pulled back and a figure emerged from the hut. The brigand looked right and left before slowly easing himself back inside. A moment later he emerged with a sword in his hand.
Fie! Henrie glanced down at his dagger. He turned it around and assumed an underhand grip before pulling it back to his hip.
“Craig?” The brigand had assumed a low voice. He moved slowly towards the camp fire, continuing to scan the woods around him. Suddenly, he lowered the tip of his blade and stood straight up. “Wake up, you bloody idiot!” He strode forward. “Rabbie’ll cut your cods off if he catches you sleeping.” The swordsman kicked his companion hard in the ribs.
Henrie sidled around a tree and rushed forward. Slipping his free hand over the brigand’s mouth, Henrie plunged the dagger into the small of his back, piercing his diaphragm.
“Nnnngh!” the villein groaned in agony but could not cry out. He dropped his sword and tried to reach for the source of the pain, but Henrie wrenched the hilt of the dagger in a circular pattern as he pulled him backwards. As the brigand’s knees buckled, Henrie yanked the blade free and plunged it under his victim’s armpit, this time searching for heart or lungs. Thick blood pulsed over his hand making the dagger hard to grip.
Easing the body to the ground, Henrie pulled the dagger free and stood triumphantly over his victim. He recognized the man’s face. It’s the spearman. The brigand’s eyes bulged with momentary terror before life faded from them. Henrie’s mouth twisted into a sideways smile as he realized the villein had recognized him as well.
“Brrn in Ell,” Henrie said in a garbled voice. Satisfied with his victory, the knight wiped the dagger clean using his victim’s clothes and tucked it into his waistband. He then dragged the corpse to the edge of the grove where he propped it against at tree. Returning to the campfire, Henrie hefted the unconscious guard who he placed next to the body of his dead companion, using his belt to bind his arms around the trunk.
After several moments, the guard moaned with pain. Henrie watched in the moonlight as the man’s eyelids fluttered. The brigand wrinkled his brow in confusion as he struggled to regain consciousness. Slowly, he opened his eyes and focused on the grotesque face leering back at him.
Henrie placed his hand firmly over the villein’s mouth to muffle the scream that followed. The man struggled against his binds, so Henrie laid the dagger across his throat.
“Wherz m’sun,” the knight tried to articulate, but the brigand only shook his head, trembling with fear. Henrie pressed the dagger harder against his neck and removed his hand. “Muh sonne.”
“What are you?!” The villein’s eyes were filled with horror.
Henrie leaned closer. “Muh. Son.”
The man’s mouth fell open, and his eyes welled up with tears. Henrie knew he finally understood. “We—.” He swallowed hard. “They dumped him in the bog with all the others.” He began to sob. “You have to believe me. I didn’t want to. I had no choice but to go along. They would’ve killed me if I hadn’t.” His tears ended as quickly as they had begun one he realized there was someone seated next to him. He turned to behold corpse of his companion.
Henrie shoved his hand over the killer’s mouth to muffle the scream once more. With a nod, the brigand motioned he wanted to speak. When the knight removed his hand, his captive curled up his lip in an angry sneer.
“How are you even here? We killed you. We killed you all.”
Henrie sliced his blade across the brigand’s throat. Black blood sprayed across the knight’s face and hands, glistening in the moonlight. Henrie could only stare malevolently as the brigand gurgled and coughed. He sat for several moments in silence; there were no sounds apart from those of his breath and the dripping of blood onto the fallen leaves.
“No,” Henrie whimpered, looking down at his hands. “No. No. No.” His chest convulsed with deep, painful, choking sobs. He fell back and collapsed on the ground. The tears burned like fire as they ran down his disfigured face.
In that moment he wanted nothing more than to curl up and die, but death refused to come. He was left without hope. He was left without mercy.
All that remained was agony.
And hate. Vengeful hate.
Henrie pulled the bloody cloak from around the brigand’s neck. Standing, he wrapped it around his shoulders and returned to the fire. He searched the ground for the discarded sword. He recognized it as the one that belonged to Morgan. It was a single-handed blade of good quality.
Henrie tossed a several logs onto the embers of the fire. He picked up the spear and used it to stoke the fire until it was blazing bright. Satisfied, he stuck it into the ground and continued to add more logs until the flames were leaping as high as a man. Then he turned his back to the huts, lowered his head, and waited until sounds of movement once again came from behind him, the sword concealed in the folds of his borrowed cloak.
“What the bloody hell?” A cloth door was flung open. “Have you lost your bloody mind, Craig?” The footsteps on dead leaves grew louder. “Are you deaf?” The sounds were approaching more quickly. “I’m going to put my foot up your arse if you don’t—.”
Henrie spun around and silenced him with a rising, lateral cut up through his jaw. The strike was immediately fatal. The brigand could only sputter a final gasp as his momentum carried him forward; the knight deftly took a traversing step off-line, pivoted on the balls of his feet, and used his off-hand to shove his adversary into the fire.
Flames leapt high overhead. The knight turned his attention to the huts. There were multiple voices murmuring inside—Henrie guessed three or four. The makeshift curtains on each building flapped momentarily.
“Who’s out there?”
“It’s that bloody lord you shot. He’s returned from the dead.”
“Shut your bloody mouth. He’s dead and gone.”
“No, he’s out there. I saw him with my own eyes.”
“I’m telling you. You drank too much of his wine.”
“I swear it’s him. He looks just how we left him—face half-gone. Bloody disgusting!”
Henrie knew there was no chance that he could charge in and prevail against them, yet he also doubted he could that take them all at once if they rushed out both doors. Divide and conquer. He reached down and picked up the end of a burning log that he tossed atop the nearest hut. It took a while for the tightly-bound bundles of grass to ignite, but once it began to smolder, Henrie grabbed the spear and hurried into the woods beyond the huts.
“Marry!” he exclaimed with shock at the sight of several sets of eyes twinkling in the darkness. He had found the horses. They were tossing their heads in panic as the fire began to grow. Henrie wanted to cut them free, but raised voices behind him turned his attention back to the huts.
“Bugger me! He set the bloody roof on fire.”
“Where’d he go? I can’t see anyone.”
“I don’t know. He was right there a moment ago.”
“It’s now or never, boys. Let’s take him in a rush.” Four men filed out of the huts and gathered around the fire.
“Is that Allan? He threw him in the bloody fire!”
“Spread out,” the leader order. Slowly the brigands took a few collective paces into the darkness, their heads darting right and left in search of their assailant. Rabbie was in the middle and had his arms stretched out in front of him, a long sword in one hand and a steel buckler close by in the other. The other three men, each armed with a short sword, remained no more than a few feet away from one another.
“I said spread out.”
“But the fire's too bright,” the fat brigand whined. “We can’t see nothing.” Taking several more steps, Rabbie kept the blade and shield projected out in front of himself as if they were holy artifacts warding off evil. His companions refused to leave the circle of light.
My sword. Even from a distance, Henrie could see the golden pommel in the leader’s hand. The knight had hoped to lure them out into the woods where he would have tried to take them on individually; instead, they all just stood there. Henrie placed his back against a tree and swapped hands with his sword and spear. After a couple quick glances, he chose the easiest target. Using the burning hut for cover, he rushed forward and hurled the spear at the fat brigand whose pale blue cloak almost glowed in the light of the fire. The missile cut a low arc through the night sky, but Henrie had misjudged the distance. The spearpoint struck much lower than he had hoped, leaving only a deep gash in the brigand’s thigh. With a loud scream, the man collapsed to the ground.
“Augh! The bastard got me. It came from over there!”
The knight quickly withdrew and concealed himself in the shadow of another tree, careful to angle the sword behind him like a steel tail.
“Where is he?” the leader demanded.
“He’s out there somewhere,” the injured man screamed, waving a finger in a wide arc as he half-crawled back towards the fire. “I don’t know where, but he’s got to be close.”
Now. Henrie stepped out from the tree and began pacing forward, angling toward the far hut to obscure his approach. Suddenly, an arrow whistled through the air from out of the shadows ahead and thudded into a trunk a few feet behind the knight.
Run, the voice of reason urged him, but he knew the archer would eventually pick him off if he hesitated. Hate consumed him. He was determined to have satisfaction.
The brigand reached down and quickly plucked an arrow from the ground; he had at least half a dozen stuck into the earth in front of him. Seeing the knight charging forward, he fumbled with the arrow, trying to get it nocked in the dark.
Henrie wove between the trees, moving as fast as he could. The archer drew his bowstring back to his ear and immediately let it fly. Henrie instinctively ducked and lunged to the right, and the arrow barely missed his forehead.
Again, the brigand grabbed an arrow, frantically nocked it, and pulled it back to his ear. Henrie darted around a tree, trying to close the last fifteen or twenty yards. He did his best to blade his body as he saw the archer’s fingers open while still maintaining his forward momentum. The arrow slammed into his left shoulder like a mattock, causing him to veer to the side and stumble from the sudden excruciating pain. He tried his best to catch his balance, but nothing could stop him from falling. The arrow snapped as he flopped to the ground.
“I got you, you bastard!” the archer declared triumphantly from only a few feet away. “You guys come here. I got him. I got him.”
Knowing he only had a moment, Henrie forced himself to rise. Somehow, he had managed to hold onto his sword. The archer stared at the knight with mouth agape. As Henrie started forward, the brigand’s hand dropped to his waist intending to draw his own sword; his eyes flared when he realized that he had left it inside the hut. Henrie raised his sword high in the air for a powerful stroke, and the archer reacted by blocking with his bow stave. The knight’s overhead blow cut through wood and bone until it was lodged in the brigand’s skull. The man collapsed onto his knees and crumpled to one side. It took a bit of effort for the knight to wriggle his blade free.
Henrie leaned against a tree and looked down at his wound. The arrow had passed all the way through his upper breast, and its bodkin tip was protruding several inches out the back of his shoulder blade. The pain was excruciating but would not be immediately fatal. As footsteps approached, the knight curled his arm and braced it tight against his chest, readying himself for the next fight.
The brigand leader was the first to round the corner followed closely by two others. The one to the left was young and clutched his sword with awkward inexperience; the one to the right had a bandaged hand and was obviously wielding his weapon in his off-hand.
“By the Virgin,” the younger brigand whimpered as he made the sign of the cross. Even in the shadows, the knight could see that their faces were contorted by sheer terror. It gave him another surge of hatred. He stalked forward, eyes leveled on the leader.
“It’s not our fault,” Rabbie pleaded. “The innkeeper put us up to it.”
Henrie ignored his lies. He was only a dozen paces away now. The other two began slowly to back up.
“It wasn’t personal.”
Henrie swung the blade around in a wide arc, aiming for Rabbie’s temple. The brigand frantically blocked the cut with his shield, sending the knight’s blade skittering off to the side, and quickly followed up with a thrust of his own sword. Henrie took a step back and reversed his cut in order to parry his opponent’s attack.
Henrie’s chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath. His wounds made it harder to react, but the adrenaline coursing through his veins was enough to keep him in the fight. Sparks from the burning hut had ignited the roof of the other one, and it was becoming fully engulfed. The horses grew increasingly panicked, rearing against their halters until the rope snapped and they raced off into the forest.
“Glenn,” the leader said with a sneer, motioning to one side with his sword point, “move around to his left. “Gregor, ease around to his right. He can’t take us all on.” The two men looked to one another and then their opponent.
Henrie seized on their reluctance to engage. He feigned an overhead blow to Rabbie’s left causing him to raise his buckler for protection. At the last moment, the knight changed the angle and the blade slipped underneath the edge of the shield, cutting deep into the brigand’s forearm. He recoiled in sudden pain, dropping the buckler to the ground and taking several steps back until he was as close to the burning hut as he dare get.
“Mercy,” cried Gregor.
“Whut mercy d’jew shew mah sun?” Henrie turned to face him, letting the tip of his sword drop and trail behind him as he slowly advanced, chest heaving with every step.
“Mercy,” he again pleaded, glancing behind him as if considering where to run. The brigand’s eyes narrowed as he saw his opening; he lunged forward and cut at the knight with a high overhead blow, confident he could strike before the knight could block it.
Henrie almost smiled. He immediately stepped forward and cut straight up, taking his opponent’s blade on his and deflecting the strike harmlessly off to one side; in almost the same motion, he let the momentum carry his sword in a tight circle to slice into the side of Gregor’s neck. With a diagonal step offline, he drew the blade across the brigand’s throat and continued past him. Pivoting on the balls of his feet, the knight spun around to watch Gregor collapse to the ground clutching his throat as his life blood poured out.
Henrie reveled at the shocked expressions on the two remaining opponents. He once again locked eyes with Rabbie and strode directly towards him. The knight halted just out of range.
“Mah sword.” He motioned to the blade in the brigand’s hand.
Rabbie stared at him blankly for several moments, unsure what to do. “You’ll spare me if I give you back your sword?”.
Rabbie’s eyes darted between Henrie, Glenn, and the direction the horses had gone, contemplating his chances. Finally, with a nod, he turned the blade over and presented the hilt to the knight. Henrie stuck the tip of his current blade into the ground and quickly grasped the hilt of his own sword. He rotated it in his hand admiring its shiny gold pommel. It felt so natural in his hand.
“Now you’ll let us go?” Rabbie was still clutching the end of the sword as if waiting to finalize the bargain. Henrie stared into the brigand’s eyes a moment before the shoved the hilt forward; the blade passed all the way through. Rabbie coughed and sputtered as he looked down and watched his bright blood stain the polished steel.
Henrie lifted the hilt, causing the brigand to rise up onto his toes, then shoved forward, using his shoulder to force Rabbie back against the burning wall of the hut before jerking the blade free. The brigand roared with pain as his clothes immediately ignited; he lumbered forward at least a dozen steps before collapsing into a fiery heap.
Only the young brigand remained.
“Please, sire,” Glenn dropped his sword and prayed to the knight with folded hands. “Have mercy. I may not deserve it, but please have mercy on me.”
“Pick’t up.” Henrie motioned to the sword at Glenn’s feet.
“Please, sire, I’m only fifteen.”
“So’uz mah sonne.” The knight raised his sword to strike the brigand down, but the lad only shielded himself with his arms. Henrie halted the blow a few inches from Glenn’s head and held it there until the lad finally lowered his arms.
Stephain. The knight imagined his own son standing there before him, same eyes brimming with tears of guilt. Glenn gingerly backed away several measure steps before turning and sprinting towards the road.
“Come on, Dom,” the boy shouted a moment later from somewhere beyond the bonfire.
No. Henrie hurried around the burning huts and past the fire ring. It did not take long to find them. Dom was using the spear like a crutch as he hobbled his way out of the woods, and Glenn was urging him on.
“Oh no,” the boy muttered when he saw the knight step out into the moon light. He looked at his companion for a brief moment before turning and running for the road.
“Bugger me,” the fat brigand squeaked as he limped around in a circle to face Henrie. He lifted his sword and pointed it feebly at the knight; he was ghostly pale from blood loss. As the knight strode forward, Dom lowered his sword and began pleading to a litany of saints for deliverance.
Henrie hesitated. Perhaps he was finally succumbing to his own wounds. Or, perhaps the mercy he showed Glenn had quenched the hatred that burned in his breast. He lowered his blade and prepared to let the sniveling brigand go.
Then he recognized the sword in his hand. It belonged to Stephain. Without another word, Henrie took off the man’s head in a single blow. Tears once again streamed down his cheeks; the pain was refreshing. He looked up at the sky. The moon had retreated, and the faintest orange glow could be seen in the east. Henrie wavered there for some time. He felt so weak and tired.
In the distance, Henrie could see a small cluster of torches and lanterns where he imagined the road should be. Unsure of what else to do, Henrie stumbled down the hill, falling several times, but he somehow willed himself to get up each time and keep going. His face felt as though someone were twisting a dagger into his brain. His shoulder throbbed with every step. The front of his shirt was soaked in blood. He kept his arm curled tightly across his chest in an effort to stabilize it however he could.
The crowd drew near. The farmers, up at first light to head to the fields, must have seen the fires on the hill. Several were still carrying their implements. Henrie hoped they would be able to tend to his wounds.
“He’s after the boy!” one shouted.
“No,” the knight groaned as he staggered forward
“It’s a monster!” another exclaimed, pointing at Henrie with a horrified look on his face.
“Ahm not uhmanster,” the knight protested weakly.
“Send him back to his grave.” The lead farmer rushed forward and thrust his pitchfork into Henrie’s abdomen before jumping back. The knight immediately doubled over; he reached out a hand to plead for mercy, but another man ran up and hacked him down with a pruning bill. Henrie fell back into the tall grass unable to move. The indigo sky began to slowly darken as the townsmen circled around and stared down at him.
“Should we summon the coroner?”
“No. He's a revenant. I’ve heard all the stories. We have to cut out his heart and burn his body. They say it's the only way to keep him from ever rising again.”
About the Creator
I'm a weekend novelist & backyard daredevil. A lifelong medieval history buff, I enjoy the knightly pursuits of jousting, hunting & sword fighting.