"The Terrestrial World of the Hereafter"
By Jeannette Holland Austin (Copyright 2018) Find your Ancestors on 8 Genealogy Websites!
IntroductorySomewhere, in the cloudy midst of the outer rim of the physical earth there is a door to another world. It is invisible to the naked eye of ordinary people, but to those who have passed on their mortality, it is an obvious path to somewhere else. Some say that it is a paradise promised to all those who lived the good life, while others claim it is a world whereupon to live out ones dreams. Whatever it is, you shall see how these characters played it, and come to your own conclusions. Doubtless, however, you shall come to a conclusion that there is an after-life, and that it is in the undefined realms of "somewhere".
Charleston, South CarolinaIt was the summer of 1781 and the American colonies had been at war with England for six dreadful years of restraints and hardships, especially to the American soldiers whose enlistment began with three month terms because of the necessity of planting and harvesting crops. Such terms were regenerated whenever the British soldiers seized another port city. This summer the enemy was moving South towards Augusta. They had already taken Charleston and Savannah. Meanwhile, General Washington was en route to meet the french naval commander, Comte de Rochambeau who was marching towards New York. However, upon learning that the French fleet was on the Chesapeake Bay, Washington altered his plan to cause General Clinton to think that he was planning to attack. Instead, he has summoned the French fleet into the harbor to entrap Lord Cornwallis and cause him to do battle in Yorktown. Meanwhile, General Nathaniel Greene was sent to fetch the southern armies in Georgia and the Carolina.
Captain Hugh Mortimer had just signed his re-enlistment papers and was part of the South Carolina regiments recenty arrived from Ninety-Six. His assignment was to drill a weary pack of patriots who'd survived skirmishes of guerilla warfare in the back country. They were the struggling militia companies, byproducts of the British having taken Charleston during the Spring of 1780. They were also those whose blood was drawn under the command of Mad Dog" Colonel Banastre Tarleton when he cut down the rebels while surrendering. Now, re-enlisting as militia, revenge was in the hearts of the South Carolinians appointed to Captain Mortimer. The orders weres to lash guerilla attacks across British linesso as to prevent Augusta from being taken. Earlier, General Clinton had attempted to move his operation into North Carolina, but was driven back at King's Mountain. When the patriots learned that Clinton's backup was delayed, Mortimer's troops and the other South Carolina militiamen crawling across the back country to rendevous with other militia companies at the base of the mountain, commenced digging a trench located only 800 yards from the British defense line, and commenced firing a continuous stream of bullets upon the British. A surge of adrenalin rushed through Mortomer's veins and his heart pounded as he directed the killing and attempted to get a head count of the soldiers as they fell. And, suddenly, in a thick midst of smoking muskets and rifles, he had a glimpse of his sweetheart back home, Lynette as she stood on the front porch of the Clare home on Battery Street wearing a summery afternoon frock of lace and sashes. There was a tear in her eye as her fist clutched an ornately-carved railing and bannister, waving goodbye and calling to him. "Come home, soon, Hugh!" Come home soon, Hugh, he repeated the message to himself. Come home soon to marry and begin our happy life. He was trying to hold the image, when the guns of the enemy were put out of action and the smoke cleared. But her image quickly faced. It was only a war-time dream, he reminded himself; simply one of many experences.
"Captain Mortimer, are you well?" Cpl. Withers asked. "Another one of those dreams, sir?"
"Yes, once again, she begged me to come home!"
"Some weird stories going 'round."
"Well, tomorrow we move north into Virginia to join up with the Continentals. Lord Cornwallis is in Virginia and if we can push him towards Yorktown and blockade the harbor, why, there would be no escape for him!"
Cpl. Withers understood. "Perhaps then you can go home to your sweetheart."
"You know that I do not hanker to the genteel ways no more, corporal. Especially since war is ever on our doorstep."
"I don't know, captain, a fine lady, and genteel people. Why, I crave to have such dreams!"
The next morning the South Carolina Regiment moved north towards Virginia to meet up with the Continental Armies of General Washington and Colonel Lee. On October 11th as they moved towards Yorktown, there was a delay of the arrival of the british army of Sir Henry Clinton. This meant that if the rebels acted quickly, they could push Lord Cornwallis against the harbor. General Washington hurried to dispatch word for the French fleet to enter the harbor and perfect a blockade. Once again, Hugh saddled a weary roan mare, Marcy, and rode towards the harbor. Mortimer's regiment was ordered to dig a trench near unto about 400 yards of the British lines. The intended second trench could not be completed, however, without first capturing British redoubts 9 and 10.
On the night of October 14th, while 400 French soldiers stormed the redoubt, in thirty minutes time Captain Mortimer's men charged redoubt number 10 and took captives. The excitement of it overwhelmed the troops as they observed the falling British soldiers. The weariness of battle suddenly disappeared in the breast of Captain Mortimer with the defeat of the first redoubt. As the new surge of energy entered his body, he realized that the defeat had cleared a path towards the home brigade of the voracious commander, Lord Cornwallis. His arm went alight as he led the charge forward with Cpl. Withers close on his heels. They seemed to ride with the wind as they neared the last redoubt and encountered foot soldiers. Mortimer felt the warm untiring body of Withers catching up to him, and shouted: "Fix bayonet!" Then, "It is nigh time to go home, brother!" Then suddenly a burst of musket fire penetrated the horse flesh of Marcy and delivered his weary crumbling body to the ground in a cloud of dust alongside the other nine South Carolina militiamen who fell that day. The day was spent and the night long. And ere before they knew the outcome of the battle, the brave soldiers were dead!
The DoorHugh awoke outside of a heavy rusty door set in a rock wall of sedimentary elements, doubtless taken from the dusty loaming landscape beneath his feet. He stood facing the door, his uniform freshly powdered with the dust of battle. Instinctively, he examined his body until he found the penetratiing death wound lodged in his lungs. Marcy, laying on the ground snorting the dust, scrambled to her feet. Hugh went to brushing a thick clod of dust from her mane. Then he used his shoulder to shove against the rusted hinges of a thick cedar door until that ancient relic bore sufficient space for he and Marcy to pass. Once on the other side, the rock wall afforded a panoramic view in every direction, seemingly enclosing all of nature. Or, lack of nature, because there was no flora, nor birds. He began to walk towards a forest at a far distance, vaguely cognizant of the clopping hoofs of his steed. Marcy followed him for a long distance before he finally paused to observe something at a far distance. Uncertain of whether it be a town or village, he squinted his eyes and scratched his head, wonderiing what he was doing in such a setting, when his destination was doubtless Charleston. Only a southern boy could yearn for the boggy swamps of the low country with its live-oaks and low-hanging moss and the snowy-white cotton fields of summer. He commenced walking along one of the dirt lanes, wondering if his regiment enjoyed a lasting victory against Lord Cornwallis. His memory recalled the satisfaction of witnessing French vessels as they entered the harbor at Yorktown. Soon the regiments will celebrate, he thought, and although he would not be present to participate with his regiment, he.... he did not recognize his positioning in this new landscape. Where was Charleston? He was suddenly aware that his body was in a feverish sweat, and of a great thirst. How long had it been since he'd had a drink of water? His fingers whisked the sweat from his forehead. He approached some elm trees and found a angling shady path into the forest. Something was written upon a sign post in the ancient gaelic. "Wigmore"
Before him was a panorama of 13th century castles set upon hills in a montage of villages, narrow dirt lanes, rivers and creeks.
He followed an arrow which pointed towards a old wooden bridge and the first moate and bailey castle. The sun was in his eyes and he squinted to see into a great distance the shadow of something coming towards him, as a tunnel-wind It was a rumbling coach drawn by two white Arabian horses 16 hands high donning a steel bit between the teeth and thick leather bridle in the firm hands of an old white-haired man rhymically applying the whip. Awaiting the coach, Hugh observed the sun as it slowly ebbed behind the trees and a host of twinkling stars lit the sky. The old man arriving at his destination, drew to an abrupt stop. He gave Hugh a jug of water to drink, then poured some for the mare.
"My apologies, sir, for I was detained, else I would have been at the door when you passed through. I am Mannon."
"Could you please show me the road to Chareston?" Hugh asked.
"Charleston, South Carolina," Hugh drawled. "That is my home, but I seem to be lost!"
"Sir, may I remind you that you opened the door into the world of the barons!"
"My home is in Charleston, sir!" Hugh insisted.
"Of course. I see that you are a soldier accompanied by your warrior mount, a fine thoroughbred steed," he said admiringly.
"My bride awaits my return from the war. If you will please send me in the proper direction..."
Mannon stroked his chin, pausing to consider his words more carefully. "I apologize for keeping you waiting so long in the hot son, sir, and trust that you will reflect upon your situation more carefully. I am Mannon, the keeper of the after world and have come to escort you to Wigmore Castle. You are here because you and your esteemed steed fell bravely in battle. I am certain that you fought valiantly in that great cause of freedom, captain, and that your sweetheart awaits."
"I promised her that I would return home to Charleston and that we would wed. It was a promise of the heart," Hugh insisted.
"That is the true explanation of why you are here, sir. A promise of the heart is eternal."
"But the defeat of the British General was eminent! My regiment had captured all of the redoubts and were charging the ninth. I was trying to remember if we had succeeded. You see, if we had, then Lord Cornwall could not escape!"
"Yes, captain, your regiment seized that redoubt, and went on to capture the tenth. I commend you for your triumphful battle, and because you are a true warrior who gave your life for freedom, are brought home to the 25 barons who built this village in memory of the first document of freedom, the Magna Carta!"
The news that he would not see Lynette caused Hugh's body to quake, and a sweat of tears to stream down his cheeks. He spontaneously drank a swig of cool water from the jug and closed his eyes. "I need to go home to Charleston, to my Lynette."
"Now, now, captain, you hath your fine steed with you and the knowledge of a battle won. And better yet, captain, you shall eventually have your sweetheart because she is de Clare, one of the grandchildren of Strongbow and Lady Aiota."
Mannon paused to allow Hugh sufficient time to regain his wits before taking him on a journey of hills and valleys and great castles. The valley which lay before them was in the land of Magna Carta, as all of the baron's castles were set in a medieval stage of apple orchards, jousting arenas and serfs. The villagers all seemed content, going about their daily chores of herding goats and sheep, milching cows and churning butter. The sound of lutes and other wind instruments were in the midst of activities. A slew of bailey and mote castles occupying the surrounding hills and were visible from the roof wall of each castle, an exercise which Hugh would find entertaining from Wigmore Castle. His new home was Wigmore, the family seat of Mortimer. As they crossed the bridge the giant draw bridge was raised for the coach to pass into the bailey, Hugh's attention was upon the gatehouse and its large porch until Mannon stopped in the yard and pointed to some horses in the stable.
"These mares are coursers, used for hunting and riding, actually smaller than destriers, which were required for war in the olden days. However, most of the Mortimer stock consists of rounceys as his lordship hath little interest in training chargers for the tournaments."
"Marcy was with me at Ninety-Six and then Yorktown."
"And a fine steed she is," Mannon said. "what did you do before the war?"
"I trained race horses for the gentlemen of Charleston."
"What were your plans afterwards?"
"To get a land grant for my service, upon which to establish a plantation."
Mannon carefully untethered Marcy from his coach and delivered her to the stables while Hugh observed.
"Lord Ranulph awaits us inside the keep."
They ascended a steep stone stairwell set clockwise. Hugh paused momentarily while Mannon explained: "The stairs were designed as a defense against invaders. They provide a greater range of movement to wield the sword with the right hand, whilst the invaders must fight left-handed. Thusly, to keep from tripping, you should familiarize yourself with the placement of the smaller and larger steps."
The solar, intended for the Lord's family, was situated on the top level of the protected side of the castle overlooking the west wall and courtyard. The main sitting room was a well lit parlour with windows and a huge open hearth and fireplace. Opposite, was the dias and its high table used for dining.
The Baron Ranulph Mortimer stood on the roof wall observing his grandson as Mannon encouraged him to depart the coach and ascend the stone stairwell to the roof. He was overcome with sympathy, and warmly embraced the shoulders of his fallen soldier. Ranulph wore the costume of the marcher lord, a red linen shirt and drawers and thin woolen cloak and Welsh sword which hung to his knees. He was the lord baron of an earlier period, thin, agile, ruddy complexed, moustached, and short hair cut close to the eyes and ears. The introduction was an occasion to show respect, one warrior to another. Hugh, overcome by Runulph's powerful military presence, instinctively saluted, while Ranulph observed Hugh's South Carolina Regimental feather cap and motto "Liberty or Death", blue artillery jacket with thick brass buttons and white stockings thick with battle dust. Hugh removed his sword and compared it to the heavy thick blade of the Welsh one. And such was the first meeting of an ancient grandfather with his grandson. It was all so strange, yet familiar, as the two parallel stories were shared.
Ranulph fought bravely in the battles between Normany and England and was a participator in the Rebellion of 1088 against the new King of England, William Rufus. The Norman, English and Welsh Marcher Lords invaded and conquered the lands of Hereford, Gloucester and Worcestershire, and with these estates in disarray, King Rufus took advantage and aligned himself with the barons of upper Normandy through bribery. Throughout the power struggle, Ranulph switched sides and submitted to the Duke of Normandy, thus joining the Norman forces on the lands of the Welsh Marches. Ranulph was later present at the victorious confirmation of the Magna Carta. After passing through the door himself, the barons used their ageless document to frame a new world.
"Whilst my heart was beleagued with anxiety, particularly after the wars in Europe and King John's betrayal of the Magna Carta, I had a mind to create a world without a king."
Millicent, who stood close to Ranulph, observed that Hugh possessed the high brow and square jaw of the marcher lords. "The Mortimers and de Clares had many marriages betwixt them; this is your heritage," she whispered.
For a moment, Hugh gazed at Millicent, pondering her words, wishing to know more. But Ranulph pointed to the countryside, comparing the chimney spires and great stone walls of Wigmore and Clare castles, each arising rose above the valley and commenced explaining the history of Wigmore Castle.
"In its day Wigmore Castle was of great stragetic importance because of its location between England and Wales. It straddled the southeastern edge of a spur with crosswise ditches and drained of its northland marshlands. The ditches served as moats also fortifying the northwestern portion of a mound. This castle is a replica of the original Norman structure, with reinforced timber walls on top of the earthworks, the gatehouse and D-shaped east tower. It was from this vantage that the Mortimers controlled large parts of central Wales and served as the base for numerous excursions into Wales. For this reason the lords of the Welsh March who enjoyed many privileges, including the right to make war, hold courts and receive certain revenues otherwise reserved for the king of England. Lord Ranulph, during his tenure in that world, added more towers to create high-status lodgings with fireplaces and window seats which, in its current age, and accommodated his descendants from the other world. Lord Ranulph I had several titles, viz: In Walkes, the Marcher Lord, in England, Lord of Wigmore in Herefordshire; in Normandy, he was the Seigneur of St. Victor-en-Caux."
"In time, you shall understand and appreciate the preservation of our Magna Carta which protects the barons against King John," he told Hugh, "ere any king, who would usurp our freedom."
Hugh considered the American Bill of Rights and wished that he could repeat the words to Ranulph.
"A bed chamber waits you in the west wing!" He declared happily.
Meanwhile, his first dinner was served. It was a plate of fresh salmon caught from one of Elizabeth de Clare's ponds earlier that morning, eggs from the henhouse and a mess of greens and herbs from the kitchen garden.
Goose CreekThe next morning Ranulph took Hugh to Goose Creek, an obscure wooded acreage adjoining a pond. But first, a visit to the stables where Hugh saddled his Marcy. It was a beautiful spring day. As the two warriors approached the pond, a swell of loud honking was heard over a thick canopy of live oak trees. The wings of the familiar canada goose with the black head and neck, white chinstrap and light tan breast flapped effortlessly across a cloudless sky and intermittently swooping down upon the pond. The spectacular view of the V formation of geese riding wind currents, some females breaking off fro the flock to feed upon grassy fields to build nests and incubate eggs. The boundaries of the pond encompassed a mountain range of wild horses which bordered Wigmore to the North and Clare to the South. The rich black soil which encircled the pond was dominated by woody plants and a sedgy terrain.
"Tis so peaceful," Ranulph mused, as the formation swooped into a curve and dropped its fowl into the damp sedge around the pond and fed off of the scrubby grasses and rush. "Every spring the geese travel thousands of miles from the north, to find their old home on this pond. Likewise, I thought that you could find your head here."
"This stretch of woods brings to mind the outlying country of Charleston, and the geese which eat upon the marshland," Hugh said, feeling relieved that he was in familiar territory. "I caught a glimpse of some wild horses to the west of here. Are they fair game?"
"Yes!" Ranulph said clapping his hands. "Wigmore could be better represented at the tournaments!"
"I can train them for speed."
"Yes! Yes! Chargers!"
Ranulph was so pleased that he gave the Goose Pond tract of land to Hugh.
Eventually, Hugh would construct stables, paddocks and practice tracks for the wild horses which he would capture in the hillsides. By spring he had several steeds trained for the annual lancing tournament at Clare Castle.
Eventually, he would participate in some of the events. Although his skill with the lance was mediocre, the games enabled him to realize the importance of training his mares to be expert chargers. Eventually, knights from all over the realm visited Goose Pond and attended his advice. One of the first barons which introduced himself to Hugh was the egotistical second Earl of Clare Castle, William Marshal, a superbly skilled lancer, one who'd never been punched from his horse. As Lady Elizabeth explained, the families of Clares and Marshals had enjoyed many marriages. Hugh had not the rank nor bearing of the barons, but he possessed a modern training skill with horses which none of them understood. And his steed Marcy had survived local racing events held by the gentlemen of Charleston, three years of the scars of battle, and now she presented herself admirably in a hastilude between two horsemen wielding weapons of joust.
One afternoon the earl visited Goose Creek as Hugh was raking manure from the stalls. He was a handsome knight with dark curly hair and twinkling eyes, dressed more elegantly than any Charleston gentleman, donning his leather knee boots and a cape which draped over the rump of his horse.
"Tell me, Captain Mortimer, how it is that you came to the land of the Magna Charta?" He asked Hugh, while seated high above him in the saddle..
"I do not know, your lordship, except that it occurred when after fell in battle whilst my regiment engaged the last redoubt of Lord Cornwallis."
"An English lord?"
"Aye, the English tyrants! King John himself was a monarch of guile and deception. Did you overtake your English king in battle, or did he procrastinate in England whilst Lord Cornwallis engaged the Americans?"
"Well, the French had blockaded Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown; and the Continentals were charging, sir."
"Ah so, if you were to return, you would expect to find a victory!"
"Yes," Hugh nodded. "I shall think of it as such."
Hugh saddled his silver-gray destrier 16 hands in height and presented the reins to William Marshal. The had been captured in the mountaiins several years earlier and trained as a war horse. The stallion had powerful hindquarters, able to easily coil and spring to stop, spin, turn or sprint forward. The short well-arched back and well-muscled loin earned an expression of all of the knights, "war horse". The earl practised diligently for the better part of an hour. He was impressed with the swift reactions of the mare, and keen sense of awareness. He offered to pay for the mare, but Hugh made it a gift to his new equestrian friend.
The Earl was so pleased with his charger that he invited Hugh to join the barons during hunting season.
He also collected the Baron John Bigod, who had married the Lady Elizabeth de Clare who had enlarged the borders of Clare Castle after the death of her brother, Strongbow and combined with the de Clare estates, created water-gardens, fruit orchards and a bakery which cooked over two thousand loaves of bread per day. For this reason, Lady Elizabeth spent much of her time at Clare Castle, while Baron Bigod preferred the lush furnishings of Pembroke Castle. It was William Marshal's first wife, Isabel, however, the heiress of the lineage of de Clare which rendered William as one of the wealthiest barons of the age, and in this capacity he wielded a strange hold over the other barons.
The HuntAs all of the this party of barons were avid hunters who gloried in displaying their skills with the bow, axe and sword, the hunt usually lasted several days. They rode high into the hills in search of their speciality, the wapiti and its broad-spanned elk antlers. Strongbow entertained guests in the castle during hunting season, especially Marshal, De Lacy and Bigod. Earlier that morning the barons had killed a hefty wappi bull whose antlers measured four feet about his head, but he lay hidden in the brush. When found, his well-branched decidious antlers were removed and the fresh meat of the bull taken and dressed and prepared to tote to Clare Castle. It was late in the afternoon when Ranulph and Hugh retired to Wigmore after having packed the meat of a several does, a smaller prize. The disappointed Hugh bade farewell to the hunters en route to Clare. He'd wanted to the warrior Strongbow in the hunt.
"Tis far better to stand aside for Strongbow to make the sure kill," Ranulph said to Hugh as he observed the height and width of the stag, "for he is the better marksman and his ego would suffer if you made the kill."
"We shall see you at the feast on the morrow," Strongbow called heartily as the party rode off into a darker part of the forest where they would pick up the trail to Clare. It was almost dark when Strongbow and his party carried the elk to the castle. But something was different. The serfs were scurrying about the courtyard carrying large bundles of fabrics and ladies dresses into the east tower of Lady Elizabeth's chambers. Strongbow, noticing Mannon's coach and sensing something was amiss, commenced ordering that the elk meat be dispatched to the kitchen. During the hunt Mannon had delivered Lynette to Clare Castle.
"Something goes forth here," Strongbow suspicioned, as he led the dirtied and bloodied warriors up the outside stairs to the solar where they were met by Mannon.
Mannon stood in front of the fireplace, warming his hands. Beside him, was a girdled lady wearing a bonnet tied with a yellow ribbon and hooped skirts as blue as the sky. Strongbow gasped at the sight of a lady whose dress consumed much of the space at the hearth.
"Mannon, you brought my granddaughter from Charleston!" Strongbow said enthusiastically.
"A granddaughter, your lordship. Lynette Clare."
"Ah," William Marshal mused, not having yet washed the blood from his hands, "the long-suffering Captain Mortimer will alas have his bride!"
Strongbow's wife, Lady Aoida entered the room. "Not so," she answered. "she must first acquaint herself with the ancient families before she weds Captain Mortimer."
"Yes, my lady," William said with a sweeping bow.
"Where is Hugh?" Lynette asked, as she stood in the midst of her new environment.
The Earl, continuing to amuse himself, turned briefly toward Lord Bigod for support, and smiled. "You shall see the captain soon enough."
"Meanwhile, you shall be charmed by barons," Bigod added.
Strongbow, after his triumpful hunt, annoyed by trifling conversation, raised his voice. "First, a toast to the bull wapati!"
"You shall meet your captain Mortimer at the feast tomorrow."
Upon their taking another toast to Lynette, Lady Aoida entered the room. "Come with me, dear lady, as you should prepare for this evening's celebration. But first she took her to the wall to show her a stream of barons on horseback riding the mountain trail due to arrive later that evening. Their steeds all donned colorful caparisons which were embroidered with the coat of arms. The caparisons were part of the barding worn during battle and tournaments.
"Why are they dressed for battle?" Lynette asked.
"Their costume is common for celebrations, my dear, as you must also wear a gown with trumpet sleeves for this occasion. Tomorrow, during the afternoon feast, you may wear a plain gown with coathardie sleeves."
As they spoke, the tables were set for a banquet and a continguent of bards carrying goose bone flutes, cymbals and other woodland instruments entered the room to prepare for the feasts of the next several days. Meanwhile, Lynette was in the west tower being schooled by Lady Elizabeth on the decorum expected of her while being greeted by Lady Aoida and Baron Richard de Clare (Strongbow). Eventually, she would meet all twenty-five barons, but this ceremony was for the family. Later that evening, during dinner, all eyes fell on the new granddaughter; an attractive maiden with an odd hairstyle of pompadours and combs. Lady Elizabeth, seated closeby, coached her
The table arrangement consisted of three levels, according to rank and importance. Lynette was seated next to Strongbow with Aioda to her right, and Lady Elizabeth on her left. Strongbow, who had washed the blood of the elk from his hands and hunting clothes, wore the warrior costume, a leather coat buckled with a brass belt, and mauve-colored skirt, for his official greeting. Across the first table were the barons De Lacy, Bigod and Marshal, all three being related through previous marriages. Another tier of tables contained those of lessor rank. Servings of wild ducks and roe, roasted deer, chickens and other delicacies contained the merriment for several hours. Strongbow chose to linger as he consumed large vassals of wine. All during the feast, the penetrating brown eyes of the second earl, his black curls falling over his brow, stared at her.
"Why does he stare?" Lynette asked Lady Elizabeth.
"The Lord William Marshal, the second earl of Pembroke, is a knight of discerning interests. At the moment, he appears to fancy you."
"Where is his lady?"
"He hath no lady. The earl was twice married, but neither bore him children nor earned the right to come to dwell with us. He is quite alone in his great castle. His primary interest is prevailing upon Lord Strongbow to deliver his father, the first Earl Marshal, to Pembroke. However, this is quite impossible, because the first Earl was loyal to King Henry; even unto his deathbed did he faithfully so serve the king."
"Is that king to be feared?"
"No longer do we fear him. However, the barons choose to remember his deceitful disavowance and rebuke of the Magna Carta."
"Where is the king?"
"The way to the king impassable trench, Dover Castle."
William waited until Strongbow was drunk with wine before engaging Lynette in conversation. "This is our paradise, my lady. Ere only of the barons. No kings."
As the evening wore on, and Strongbow fell into a drunken stupor and snored, flutes, wood wind instruments played a familiar tune, and the earl taught Lynette the steps of a dance. He led her into a circle of knights and ladies. The general progression of the dance was a step to the left with the left foot followed by a step on the right foot closing to the left foot.
Wigmore CastleThe Mortimer clan awoke at daybreak to begin its preparation to attend the scheduled post-hunt celebration at Clare Castle and deliver up its portion of the meat gotten from the hunt, which included deer, wild hogs, geese and ducks.
Hugh was unaware that a celebration had already occurred at Clare Castle the evening before and the earl had entertained his betrothed, he dressed in his leather hunting clothes and proceeded along the trail to Clare Castle. A caravan of Mortimer relatives riding in coaches painted in the bright red colors of the Mortimer crest led the way.
During September, the harvesting of the apples marked the beginning of the hunting season. Ranulph, having felled much game with his handy bow and arrow during the first hunt, was in good spirits and spoke of his plans to attend the jousting festival hosted by the Clare clan later in the year, an event which commanded the presence of all 25 barons coming, when Wigmore would host its half of the barons. As soon as the caravan crossed the moat and bailey, Hugh took the precaution of stabling his gift. It was mid-morning and the sun shone brightly over the castle lawn. Lord Bigod spotted Hugh as he strolled into the courtyard and walked towards Lynette, who was engaged in conversation with the earl. He whispered in the earl's ear. "Her betrothed cometh!" The earl quickly kissed her hand, and disappeared into the crowd.
Hugh, pleased with himself in having tethered the mare, glanced towards the sounds of familiar laughter and stopped dead in his tracks. A hand planted itself upon his shoulder. It was Ranulph.
Hugh's memory of the young girl he'd left behind was one of vibrant beauty when woman ahead possessed a pale, shrinking skin about her dark brown eyes and her lips were pressed with wrinkles.
"Is it really her," Hugh asked.
Hugh approached slowly. She stared at his ruggled battle-scared physique, not clad in the gold-trimmed jacket of the captain's uniform nor the three-cornered hat. Instead, he wore leather hunting garb and knee boots. "Is that you, Hugh?" She asked.
He nodded. "So you finally came home to Clare," he uttered, "as I hath waited an eternity!"
"Yes, it was explained to me why it is so, yet I do not understand."
"This is Lord Ranulph, the Baron of Wigmore."
"So many barons!"
"All twenty-five who signed the Magna Carta, my lady, " Ranulph answered, bowing politely.
Hugh took her arm and gently led her away from the crowd into the courtyard. As they walked, he explained the functional architecture of the castle against its ancient enemies. She seemed displeased.
"What is wrong, my love, for alas we are truly together?"
"You never came home from the war. The others came, one by one, some injured, but they all came home. One day, as I sat on the front porch watching and waiting, Cpl. Withers appeared wearing old ragged clothing and worn-out boots, and told me the story of your company capturing the 9th redoubt and how you fell from your horse."
"Marcy, do you remember how grand she looked that last day before I rode off to war?"
"Yes." "Then come with me. Marcy is with me now," he said taking her hand. When they reached the stables, he brought out an unrecognizable war-worn mare. "She took a bullet in the head and fell beside me," he explained, "and together, we entered the door."
He continued to explain the tenets of the battle at Yorktown, and, after years of fighting in the back-country, his last wish for victory ?that he might return home, and marry. Then, he fetched his saddle bag and withdrew a crumpled faded letter and gave it to her.
She unfolded an old letter crumpled and faded, and read it silently: "In a little while the South Carolina Militia shall charge the last redoubt near unto the camp of Lord Cornwallis. Meanwhile, the french hath engaged a blockade in the harbor. If we should be victorious in this battle and force the Cornwallis forces into the sea, then we shall have won this distardly war, and I shall come home to you, my love. I love you so much,that every breath which I take is for you, that we may be together soon."
She wept. "Had I only known," she said, "and worn this letter in my bosom, then perhaps I would nought have forgotten you."
"You forgot me?"
She nodded. "After Cpl. Withers came to the house and said that you were dead, yet I watched as my friends and neighbors rebuilt all that the Tories had destroyed. Cpl. Withers spent many days with me on the front porch, he in his ragged clothes waiting for a land grant, until one day it came, and he rode off into Georgia. When I finally forgot you, I was a lonely spinster with no one to marry !"
Suddenly Hugh kissed the palm of her hand which was still wet from the lips of the Earl.
"No," she said.
She turned her back and walked away.
He was stunned. A lifetime of dreams, cast adrift, the flame smothered. He found himself back in the stable, alit Marcy, ready to ride. As he departed Clare Castle, his happy plans to wed Lynette were to elude him again. For little did he know but what his friend, Lord William Marshal, was at that moment following Strongbow into the keep where he would prevail upon the revered baron for a special favor. The baron had found waddling among some straw for a stash of hemp and yew to bind together a fresh bow.
"What is it, William?" He asked while carving a notch in the shaft.
"Did you see the charger which the captain brought to honor you?"
"I gave no attention to it, for he was engaged in conversation with his lady."
"No longer. She abandoned his cause whilst he was on his knees repeating his marriage proposal."
Strongbow paused and raising his thick brows, said "What did you have to do with that affair, William?"
"I provided the lady with my courtesies, teaching her to dance last evening, all the while saying nothing unkind of Hugh. He is my friend."
After the shaft was honed, Strongbow's fingers worked quickly to create a batch of bamboo arrows with fletching for wind drag. The Earl observed the Baron's secret touch which caused the arrow to spin similar to a rifle bullet providing stability and accuracy in flight; viz: three vanes of feathers, one red. The Baron, still elated from his downing the wappi bull the day before, smiled to himself. On tomorrow's hunt, he would lead the hunters further into the forest to the other side of the lake where he had spotted a herd of wappi and cows grazing on thick meadow grass. "Do you plan to hunt tomorrow?"
"Yes, but do not expect the captain."
"If Runulph hunts, I am certain that young Hugh will also."
"The captain bemoans his lady. Her actions suggest that she hath broken the vow."
"Impossible! A vow cannot be broken!"
"Then I should challenge the captain for her hand."
"If the vow cannot be broken, then I shall challenge Capt. Mortimer in the traditional style of the knights, to a joust of four runs...the first one to unhorse the other, wins."
Strongbow shook his head. "The captain is but a country soldier whose use of fire powder and sabre got him through a modern war, whilst you possess command of the welsh blade and the strongest knees to alit from the Arabian steed (of sixteen hands)."
"If I had Lynette for a wife, I would agree to quit nagging you, sir, to bring my father the Earl to his rightful place at Pembroke."
"Where is Hugh now?"
"He rode out on his Marcy."
Hugh felt the sting of rebuke as he crossed the moat and entered the road which led to Wigmore. The resulting misery was such that he could not bring himself to again propose marriage. He did not return to the festival nor did he hunt with the barons several days later. Instead, he fell deeply inside the pit of sorrow. Every fall during the apple festival Strongbow sponsored a jousting tournament to lead off the event. As this event approached and Lynette had not entertained Hugh, the second Earl had cause to make the challenge. When Lynette learned of the challenge, she protested, however, was rebuffed by Lady Elizabeth.
The ChallengeAt the onset of the apple harvest, Strongbow ordered the turf brushed and stands erected. News of the duel reverberated throughout all of the villages and at the sight of the barding and striking colors of the caparisons flanking the horses as the barons riding down from the hills, a rushing of patrons crowded the arena.
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two horsemen wielding weapons of joust with blunted tips. The idea was for one knight to bump another from his steed with the lance.
Although Hugh had participated in several clashes, his expertise was lacking, especially when compared to the second Earl. The primary purpose of the game was to replicate a clash of heavy cavalry, with each opponent trying hard to strike the opponent while riding towards him at high speed, if possible breaking the weapon of joust on the opponent's shield or jousting armour, or unhorsing him. The joust became an iconic characteristic of the knight in Romantic medievalism. The participants experience close to three and a quarter times their body weight in G-forces when the weapons of joust collide with their armor. The combat was expected to be non-lethal, and it was not necessary to incapacitate the opponent, who was expected to honourably yield to the dominant fighter. It was this chivalric sport which licensed Lord Marshal the opportunity to duel with Hugh Mortimer for the hand in marriage of Lynette.
For this event, Ouida and Strongbow anticipated a large compliment of guests. Word of the duel had crossed the far reaches of the land of the Magna Carta. Lord Marshal entertained his hunting buddies, barons DeLacy and DeBurgh, who proudly accompanied him onto the dueling field.
To add insult to injury, the Earl, wearing his silver-plated armor, entered the field riding the silver-gray destrier presented him by Mortimer which gave him a commanding presence in the field, carrying three weapons of joust, three battle-axes, three swords and three daggers. His complexion was dark, with a faint tinge of red. His face was round; nearly a circle. His forehead was straight and low, and thick, strong, and curly raven black hair covered his head. As Hugh, dressed in the cloth accruments of a brigadine garment lined with steel plates riveted to the fabric, a collar covering the breast and gorget protecting the neck, he glanced towards the Earl in his grand array. The earl's intensely dark eyes pierced Hugh with the compelling power of the favorite as he paraded his charger before the crowd. The captain knew full well that the odds were against him as he had often observed the earl expertize in previous bouts. Hugh le Bigod stood grinning as Marshal performed a practice session around the field. Bigod, a relative, would always favor the earl, as he was the 4th Earl of Norfolk and the grandson of William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke. Bigod had inherited Framlingham, a castle with no central keep, but instead a curtain wall with thirteen mural towers to defend the centre of the castle. Despite this, the castle was successfully taken by King John after a short siege. After the Second Baron's War and Bigod had assisted Simon de Montford, Framington became a luxurious home surrounded by parklands. Sir Henry de Bohun, another close friend of the Marshals, had taken his honors as the first earl of Hereford who fought alongside King Louis of France during the Battle of Lincoln where he was taken prisoner. As a result, his uncle (William the Lion, King of Scotland) was summoned to do homage to King John. Meanwhile, the other barons created quite a stir as they stood to their feet in the Berfois, clapping a hearty salute to the favorite.
When Hugh took his station and placed the cervellier over his head, Ranulph presented him with the great helm, then a spear. Then the tilt began; but because of the excellent footwork of their steeds, were prevented from stricking one another. They hit the second onset, but it was by darting their spears. A delay was called, and Ranulph joined the spectators under the liege of noble houses, seating himself inside the de Clare Berfois, cheered in estastic relief of the old ways.
Upon the second meet, they struck spears, and Hugh tilted much to the satisfaction of the earl: but Marshal, keeping his spear too low, instead of unhorsing the captain, struck him in the thigh. Runulph, much enraged, leapt to his feet with the other lords and cried "foul", claiming that the earl had tilted dishonorably. Bigod, who sat next to Strongbow, assured him that the cause was owing to the restlessness of the earl's horse, a steed trained by Captain Mortimer. Ranulph, offended by the accusation, stood to his feet and challenged Bigod, but Strongbow forbade it.
"What are you going to do, my lord?" Ouida whispered. "The captain was not properly unhorsed!" Strongbow turned his head to observe Lynette's stunned face.
"Ehre I declare a foul and snatch victory from the second earl?"
"Yes, yes," she begged.
Bigod continued to whisper in his ear, until finally, despite Hugh's injury, Strongbow signalled for the duel to continue. The second earl quickly delivered three thrusts of the sword before Hugh was unhorsed. Ranulph rushed onto the field to assist in carrying his grandson home. He did not hear the noisy cymbals nor the excitement of the crowd annointing the earl's victory as he lifted Hugh upon a stretcher. All that he wanted to do was to carry him home to Wigmore.
Mannon, who had been observing the change of affairs in the destiny of Captain Mortimer, also went unobserved as he rode his coach onto the field. "Will he recover, my lord?"
"How can a man recover himself after all that hath been lost?"
Meanwhile, Lynette, attempted to leave the stands and to join her Hugh, but was physicially held back by Lady Elizabeth.
"You would do well to wed the Earl," Elizabeth said, appreciating the earl's rank, wealth and influence. "Whereas Captain Mortimer could never provide titles nor estates." Then added, rather cruelly. "And, as you said earlier, the captain failed to keep his promise to return to Charleston!"
As she sat weeping and enduring the stern lecture of Lady Elizabeth, Lynette decided to sneak away to Goose Creek at the first opportunity.
A Challenge, LostWeak from the ordeal and a punctured thigh at first, Hugh suffered the ordeal admirably, however, as time went by, was cured. After the healing of his fracture, early one morning he mounted Marcy and rode the lonely path to Goose Creek, a chilling wind blowing onto his neck.
The harvesting season had ended, and he thought of his sadly neglected and unfed mares. Luckily, he discovered that Ranulph had sent a stable boy in his absense. However, there was be a great need to shovel manure from the stalls. Saddened by his recent losses, he was to have no companion, save his mares, so he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Neverthless, the domestic life which he'd craved after the war was at hand, for good trained chargers were in frequent demand by the barons. As the Earl had thrown his fancy blanket over his the back of his new charger and rode proudly into combat, so would the others. As the morning wore on, he could hear the honking of a flock of geese as it disappeared under a low mist floating over the pond. He thrust his shovel into a pile of manure, and walked down to the pond and observed a flock of fluttering geese ascending into the skies for its winter journey. The departure of this last flock of sultry white canada geese marked the date of two months before the first snow in the mountains. His heart was sad, as he realized that he, too, must depart. As he stood watching and listening, he heard the hoofs of a horse thrashing through the forest. It was Lynette whipping one of Strongbow's mares across the neck with a strope as she road. Her desperation was reflected in a loosely-belted saddle which caused her body to wobble, not having properly saddled the mare. She wore a riding cape, familiar to the Charleston style, which protected her head and shoulders from the dry particles of sand flying in the path of the narrow hoofs. As she neared the pond and the place where Hugh stood, the clattering geese arose from the marsh and ascended into the sky above her. She halted and dismounted. Hugh noticed the mare's limp and removed some thorns from her hoofs. He seemed most annoyed as he wiped away the blood. Then, without a word concerning the danger she'd presented to the mare and herself, he led the mare to the stables and resaddled.
"This is the mare which Strongbow rides during the hunt," he said. "You should take care not to ride through any more briars."
Lynette could no longer contain herself, tears flooded her eyes. "I came here to tell you that I do not care to marry the pompous, arrogant Earl! His rudeness exceeds the behavior of the worst sort in Charleston."
"Now, now," he said kindly. "The Earl won fairly."
"Fairly? You, a Charleston lad, and he a knight and warrior?"
"No, not a lad!" he corrected. "I am a captain sacrificed during the war for American Independence. Had we been in South Carolina, I would have engaged the Earl on my terms, with my handy sabre. Nonetheless, we are in the country of the barons and must abide the rules of chivalry."
"Can you help to prevent this marriage?"
"I defended my right to marry you in the tournament, and lost."
"You could challenge him to a duel of the swords."
"No, no, Lynette, according to the rules, that contest is not permitted. And, although he tilted me in the tournament, twas but a sport enjoyed by the barons, and, the Earl remains my friend. In the meanwhile, I shall lead you on a cleared path through the forest," he said cupping his hands to help her mount.
As they rode along the cleared path, he pointed trees which he'd slashed with his sabre a year earlier. He heard her sobbing and when they reached the end of the path and he turned to face her, her eyes were blistery red and the cheeks strained with tears.
"This is the road to Clare," he said.
"Hugh, you are my countryman and the only person who truly understands. Please help me," she begged.
"You are aware that I came to this land of the Magna Charta to find you. And now that you are here and explained how you forgot me, my heart is broken and I am left to wonder if you would have married me, had I tilted the Earl. Nonetheless. should I interfere with protocol, I should have to recken with the ire of the Earl and the other barons. "
"But you are the only person who can help me," she sobbed.
When there was no response to his supposition, he signed deeply. "Return to Clare, and tell no one of this visit," he cautioned. "Eventually, your troubles will all come out in the wash!"
The Ire of the EarlHugh worried that Lynette would tell the Earl of her visit, and like so many Charleston ladies whose honor was offended, enveigle him into a duel of swords.
Meanwhile, the Earl planned to take his future bride on a visit to Pembroke. Lynette had never seen the inside of the castle, and he wished to garner her praise of his precious relics. Also, Lady Elizabeth had spoken of its lavish furnishings in great detail. Once again, she declared, with a Clare countess, family would once again congregate at Pembroke. And that lady had a great excitement towards entertaining the barons throughout the realm in its magnificent solar and (dining) areas. The Earl went early the day following Lynette's tearful visit to Goose Pond. She was in a mood of uncertainty and despair and in the absence of the grooms at the stables, was careless to select the injured charger who would best accommodate her height.
The Earl, on the other hand, proudly rode the silver-gray stallion given to him by Hugh whose height of sixteen hands added to the Earl's own height, and dominance. The stallion took a fast lead across the moat into a thick valley of grass where the Earl released her into a full canter. The charger, still suffering from the thorny cuts above the fetlocks, fell behind. When finally the arrogant Earl realized that she did not seem to be impressed with his equestrian skills and had fallen behind, he reluctantly rode back down into the grassy valley. His first instincts were to scold her for having selected Strongbow's favorite mare, and when he saw that the mare was lame, loudly broadcast his angry impatience upon her.
"The baron's favorite, taken out of the stables and treated thusly! Surely, Charleston ladies can ride! Now I must suffer the embarrassment of having to explain this abuse to the baron! He speaks engagingly of the hunt this weekend. What horse will he ride?"
Upon returning to the castle he learned that the mare would have to be put down. Overcome with embarrassment and shame, the Earl made a crucial decision. He would have to depend upon Hugh Mortimer to provide a proper replacement. Only two days had passed since Lynette had visited Hugh, but the Earl had no knowledge of it as he crossed the moat and took his frustration to Goose Pond. When he the distressed Earl explained how Strongbow's mare was lamed, he said nothing of Lynette's carelessness. More importantly, knowing how the baron loved his favorite charger, he sympathized. The Earl commenced selecting the new brood, testing several mares in the paddock. But was not pleased until he discovered Scriptor, a mare which Hugh was training to replace his Marcy. Scriptor was a two-year-old maiden who ran like the wind and was exceedingly difficult to capture. He'd thrown his lasso towards her countless times, only to lose track of her. He captured her early one morning when a dense fog covered the mountain range and she was caught unawares. Oddly enough, no sooner had he slipped the rein over her head than she nudged him. Afterwards, the taming came natural, as the mare responded to the rhythm of Hugh's firm hand and patience. Her slick reddish-coat and a long brown mane was easily spotted in the herd and admired. The Earl noticed the ease with which she cantered, and a speed which exceeded that of his own silver-gray stallion. As he tested her skills, he was convinced that Strongbow would not lament the loss of the lame mare and forgive the earl with the maiden. And, more importantly, the gift of Scriptor would wipe away the Earl's embarrassment as well as satisfy the self-esteem of the baron. He returned to the stable and began haigling. Hugh was reluctant.
"Marcy is getting on, and I trained the mare to replace her," he said.
"I would not expect you to surrender so prized a possession," the Earl answered, "especially after having lost to me in the tournament. But I am desperate to replace the lame mare with one so fine."
"I bear you no grudge, my lord, howbeit, Scriptor is my favorite."
"Even if I were to give you the opportunity to win back your Lady?"
"Explain yourself, sir."
"My father, the Earl of Pembroke, is a captive of King John at Dover Castle in the hinter land. Should you help him to escape and then bring him to me at Pembroke, then I would not wed the Lady Lynette."
"Where is this place?"
"I know not, captain, except that it is a hitherland of captives taken there by Mannon. It is rumored to be protected by deep gulleys full of wooden spikes and asps, a solid wall of stones, and on the seaside, treacherous white cliffs. But there is one stipulation, and that is that you must bring him hence before the first snow falls upon the mountains. I choose to wed ere the long winter sets in." Hugh agreed.
The Hinter LandHugh knew that he only had a short while to make the trip to Dover so as soon as the Earl left he packed his saddle bags and set out to find Mannon. But first he confessed his intentions to Ranulph who was expected to attend the hunt in a few days.
"Where will you tell his lordship that I am gone?" he asked Runolph.
"I will say that you are on a trip to the mountains in search of wild horses. Should you return with the Earl of Pembroke, then tis a bargain sealed and the Lord Marshal will protect us. However, if you fail to return with the bounty, we shall ne'er speak of it."
Hugh headed southward out of Wigmore. Ranulph had drawn a map of the approximate location of Dover Castle. But as he left the main thoroughfare, the way was blocked by Mannon's coach.
"Mannon, you know my purpose," he said.
"Certainly. Since none of the barons cared to rescue the Earl of Pembroke from Dover, you were bound to be sent."
"This is nought my way," Hugh said dryly, "nonetheless, accept the challenge so as to save Lynette from marrying the Earl!"
"Yes, naturally, and you would take her away, if you could."
"I will do anything to get my Lynette back."
"Very well then," Mannon said as he marked the map. "Tis a far distance, and once you reach the woods, the path is narrow which leads to a steep ravine precipitiously entrenched with vipers. Ere you get that far, you will learn whether you are destined to cross the ravine."
The first day he followed the south road out of the mountains. The sun was at his back as he crossed a mossy river tangled in blooming water lilies. Once across, lay a jungle kingdom of thorny briars and wild animals. He was but upon the fringe of it when the sun suddenly disappeared and a black eerie mist cloaked the sky. He dismounted and grumbling to himself, attempted to build a fire, but the thick mist sucked the air which surrounded him. He removed the blanked from his saddle bag and snuggled between two rocks for warmth. However, he was not to sleep that first night. Perhaps it was his war-time survival instincts or the thirst and hunger which overtook him, because he listened all night to the sounds of creeping things in the jungle. When morning came and the sun scarcely peeped through the trees, weighed down with grief and dispair over the loss of Lynette, he arose in an attitude of desperation. A wildnerness of thick ravines, thistles and briars were set upon snaring his horse, but his soldering skills steered the mare free. He periodically dismounted and cleared a thorny path with his sword. Finally, after days of fighting back the jungle, a flock of black plumaged starlings arose in the sky like dancing clouds, and taking his an arrow from the quiver strapped to his back, shot one down for his breakfast. The morsel of food strengthened him sufficiently for his continuation of the adventure. Each passing day brought more challenges, whether for food or sleep or killing beasts for food, until finally the trail ended at the top of a steep cliff. Hungry and weary, he built a fire. The red soaring flames warmed his body and he fell into a deep slumber. When he awoke, he examined the ravines which fell into deep pits and jagged rock beneath the cliff. There was no apparent passage through the maze.
Nevertheless, the determined Hugh loosened the enabling reins around the neck of his mare secured his boots in the stirrups with a rope. On the other side lay a walled city of millions of people and the castle protected a bristling sea and the white cliffs of Dover. The commanding fortress was the site of King John's struggle against Prince Louis of France when he attempted to take the throne of England for himself. And it was the dominion of the king's after life who relived his war experiences every day in that famous battle. For hours he searched for an opening in the great wall and did not locate an opening until the sky was black. Exhausted and uncertain of his next maneuver, he saw the flames of a pit fire and moved towards it. A blacksmith was tethering a batch of horse shoes for the king's men. Although the night was coming down upon the village, the blacksmith, laboring by the sweat of his brow, noticed that Marcy limped.
"That mare needs shoeing," he called out, but when he saw the three-cornered hat and long coat of brass buttons and shoulder braids, glanced over his shoulders and whispered to a small girl. "Go hide!" He ordered. "Who ere you? A knight or warrior?" He asked as Hugh approached.
"Captain Hugh Mortimer from Charleston," Hugh answered instinctively.
The blacksmith scratched his head. He was wide and muscular, with a thick highland brogue. "I know not of a Charleston. Perhaps ye ere lost and belong to the troops up at the castle preparing for the battle which will be fought on the morn."
"You are at war here?"
"Aye, ever at war. Tis the battle wherein King John is sorely defeated by the french who shall climb the white cliffs to the castle."
Hugh nodded. The barons had rehashed that story many times. "I cannot understand why the french would come again?"
"Tis the way of it. Every evening King John refights his battle of Dover."
"How long ago was that?"
" Hundreds of years. Who can say? If you are not one of the soldiers, then who are you?"
"Captain Hugh Mortimer of Charleston."
"You said that. What war do you speak of?"
"My war was fought for independence of the American colonies. Many years after the signing of the Magna Carta."
The blacksmith seemed to understand and offered Hugh food and drink. Afterwards, Hugh reclined in a pile of straw. The little girl crept out from her hiding place and observed the stranger. Her bright green eyes and long stringy red hair were visible in the shadows of a waning moon. "I am Sebastain," he said. "And this is my daughter. The king transported us here along with the other serfs from his estates."
"Then everyone who served King John is a ... resident of this place?"
"I am searching for the Earl of Pembroke. Lord William Marshal."
"Ah, I know him well," Sebastain said scratching his head again. "Even now, that Earl inspects the troops, readying the artillery for battle. And afterwards, he will console the humiliated king with his caring words. Then, there will be a great mourning of the knights. You best wait until late tomorrow afternoon, whilst they mourn, before crossing the moat to the castle. You may sleep here tonight, in my tack room."
"Thank you, sir, how may I repay your kindness?"
Sebastian bent his knee over the hay where Hugh sat, and whispered: "Do you intend to ferret the earl away from the castle?"
"Yes, and moreso, for I am come to deliver him to his son, the second Earl of Pembroke."
Sebastain clapped his hands excitedly. "We hath long awaited the opportunity to escape this country ourselves! If you take us along, we shall further assist by leading you and the Earl upon a safe path across the ravine. Although my daughter is little in size for her age, she is a skilled equestrian and hath an eye for vipers along the path."
Sebastain was a ruggy-skin Scottish fellow from the Highlands. His bulging muscles and long arms were well suited for hammering ore. He had rosy cheeks and upon his head lay a tam which partially revealed a healthy crop of reddish hair. His knees nobbled from underneath a green and red plaid tartain stained with centuries of dirt from the homeland. His little daughter possessed that same ruddy skin and hair except that she had eyes which flashed green with excitement.
True to the plan, the next afternoon Hugh rode up the hill to Dover Castle, and crossing the mote, observed the presence of down-trodden warriers, hiding in the ferrets and corridors. The battle had played out earlier that morning, with the french coming off the seas and climbing the white cliffs to the castle. Or so they thought. Instead, after crossing the ramparts, they found themselves trapped inside a series of tunnels. Those who made it through to a landing of circular stone stairs found their entry into the castle more perilous as oil was dumped upon their heads. As several soldiers made it into the courtyard, King John stood on a high wall shouting orders at his captains. His cheeks were bloated in frustration as once again, his army encountered its first defeats, were overcome by the french. As the battle replayed and the defeat bore stinging shame onto his soul, the king retired to his chambers.
Meanwhile, Sir William Marshal, the first Earl of Pembroke, crossed the courtyard. Hugh followed him to a tower located on the far side of the courtyard. The Earl's shoulders were sorrowfully bent as though dragging a heavy weight. He took one last glance at the surging sea washing against the white cliffs as the french took prisoners onboard it's vessels and raised the flag of France. Then the cheer, "Ho Ho!" The Earl paused to remind himself, that in the other world, the king had made good his escape on horseback, forsaking the castle. And that soon afterwards the rigors of defeat drew the life from his body. The Earl slowly ascended the stone stairs, stopping periodically to catch his breath. His years of tenure at Dover Castle and its fateful memories of serving the king until the end, even to the deathbed, had taken its toll upon the aged Earl. Hugh followed him inside his bedchamber.
Once inside his chamber, the Earl, seemingly oblivious to anything except his past life, removed his broad Welsh sword and carefully placed it upon a mantle in the corner of the room. Then, turned and confronted Hugh.
"Why do you follow me?" The Earl growled angrily.
"To take you home, your lordship."
"Dover is my home," he grunted.
"I speak of Pembroke Castle."
Lifting his hunched shoulders, the Earl faced Hugh. "Where is my son, then, if I am to go?"
"He waits at Pembroke Castle."
"Nay, I cannot pass from the hinter, for my punishment is set, the fabric sewn."
The Earl sighed deeply, his wrinkled brow reflecting his troubled soul. So absorbed in his misery that until now, he had not noticed Hugh's three-cornered hat and longcoat with braids, and commented. "Who are you, sir?"
"Captain Mortimer of the South Carolina Miitia."
"Militia? Tis the knights who protect Dover!"
"My battleground was in Yorktown, Virginia, sir."
"A long time hence?"
"Is that where you were slain?"
Hugh nodded. "Yes, I fell to the ground with my horse, a warrior charger who'd led me through three years of war. When I awoke, I was outside of a village of strange castles."
"Where is this village?"
"It is in a land referred to by the barons as Magna Carta."
"Ah, yes, that withering document of freedom for which my son so dearly fought. You say the barons. Ere they all in this valley?"
"Yes, my lord, twenty-five."
Suddenly the mood of the old Earl changed and he laughed heartily. "Nay, tis naught a kindness to me, as the sustaining contempt of barons will destroy me. I belong in the hinters."
Hugh persisted in the argument. "There is more to tell your lordship concerning my entanglement in the matter. I waited a long while for my beloved betrothed to come through the door. When she did, your son having gained the consent of Lord Strongbow, challenged me in a tournament for her hand in marriage. Twas no challenge for love, but because his lordship is lonely. Although I was no match for the skilled lance of the Earl, I consented and was tilted. Afterwards, we made a secret oath. He would surrender my Lynette upon the condition that I deliver you to Pembroke before the snow falls upon the mountains. He forswears that he is lonely and prefers your company, my lord, to that of my sweetheart."
"Lonely, you say? Never to be satisfield, my son and heir sits comfortably in the finest castle ever built, with his serfs and maidens, whilst I wield my blade in an eternal rythmnic battle of defeat, all for a surly king. The battle is always lost. Yet we fight on. Surely, my frustrations exceed that of this poor heir!"
"I am also desperate, my lord, to wed my Lynette."
"Why doth he not bring his blade to the hinters and fight for me here?" Hugh could not answer and the voice of elder Earl grew hoarse as he complained further. "Long hath I yearned to escape the hinter land, but where is my place?"
"My lord, I am a only a colonial soldier from a different time, slain in a war against the cause of another English king. My only thought was to return home to Charleston and marry my sweetheart. And the long years that I suffered whilst waiting her to find Clare Castle. And when she did, I found my feeble saber hand armed with the unfamiliar steel blade of the Welsh in a tilting contest the champion of jousting. Should I return to Magna Carta without you, then there is no hope for me."
The Earl removed his sword and carefully examined the ragged knicks on the blade. "This dull and rusty blade is ever in battle!"
"I know a blacksmith who will sharpen it!"
"The Earl stood to his feet and sheathed his sword. "I am weary of defeat. Perhaps there be reason in your proposal."
True to his promise, the blacksmith and his daughter awaited them with two horses fitted for a journey. The late afternoon sun afforded sufficient light to cross the treacherous ditch and reach the other side, because the path was certain. Sebastian took the lead, with his little daughter following close behind. As they rode through the woods, the sultry mood of the earl was dispelled and Sebastian sensed freedom in his nostrils. He removed several arrows from his quiver, and he shot some pigeons for their supper. That evening as they were roasted over an open pit, each person in the party shared his story. The earl first, always commencing with the oath that he gave his king and ending with a barrel of regrets. Then Hugh, who spoke of his adventures on the American frontier, and victory over Lord Cornwallis. But Sebastian wove a gruelling tale of his life as serf under a cruel king. His homeland was in Scotland where clan wars prevailed over territories, and finally, one day, when the soldiers of King John were trolling the highlands for the Scottish king, Sebastian was taken prisoner. Clapped in irons and tortured in prison for the whereabout of the Scottish king, Sebastian begged for his life. He was strong and well-muscled so was later used to plow fields and drive oxen on one of the king's estates. Not until he learned blacksmithing and become the lone smith in the village did his life become more secure. Yet King John's narcissum was well expected and trusting no one, the Scot hid her in the tack room. She also hid in the pit behind the wall, and learned her way across to the other side. Thus, the young child led the way across the gorge, the cause of boredom having conquered its pitfalls.
"How old is that child?" The Earl asked.
"Eight years since her mother died giving birth," Sebastian answered. "She is all that I hath for companionship, my lord."
"What will you do to preserve yourself when we get to the valley?"
"I expect to be welcome wherever I tarry, because of me smithing tools, your lordship."
As they rode through the forest, a gush of rusty-colored leaves drifted across the path, and a chilly winter winds already blowing across the plain, prevailed. The journey was exhausting, and the excitement of escape subsided with the realization that they might not arrive in time.
The WeddingWith the fast-moving wintry wind and no word from Hugh, the second Earl proceeded with his marriage plans. The wedding was to be given in the little chapel in the village, with Sir Bigod attending as best man. Bigod would also assure the couple's safe arrival inside the castle before the first winter storm. Thus, his plans to return to his own castle were delayed. The marriage ceremony was performed in the obliquely European tradition in front of the church doors, before entering for a nuptial mass. Typically, the bride could not choose her husband. It was the permission to duel given by Strongbow's which assured that Lynette would marry the Earl. Strongbow and the Earl agreed upon the dowry immediately after the tilting which included his own Berfois upon the Clare tournament site. As the Earl left the church with his bride, he shivered. The smell of wet snow was in the air and he beheld a thick layer of it blanketed the landscape. As the wedding coach churned its own snowy path from the village and approached the steep uphill trail which led to the castle, the storm lashed its fury in the mountains. Suddenly, a wooden spoke wheel sunk deep in the snow and failed to budge. William sprang from the coach and commenced helping the coachman to pry out the wheel with a log. Lord Bigod, who was following on horseback, rolled up his sleeves and helped. As the wind worked, the wind blew furiously against the sunken coach making the task more difficult. The Earl commenced a spell of shivering and coughing, and when the task was at last accomplished and the coach freed, ice cycles hung from his nose and ears, and his cheeks were blistery red. When the coach crossed the bridge, its wheels groaned and cracked while passing over a layer of fresh ice. Once in the courtyard, the rush was on to deliver the Earl and his bride to the solar where they were met with servants who undressed the shivering Earl and bed him under a stack of blankets.
A small wooden table had been laid with china dishes and placed before a roaring fire. His body shook while coughing and his fingers trembled as he drank a hot honey and herb tonic and he managed to apologize between coughing spells "I am sorry, Lynette. His nose itched while the ice melted down his face from his eyelashes and his eyes seemed swollen in a cavern of ice. Suddenly, she experienced a sudden impathy for the arrogant Earl. He did not seem like the same cockatrice strutting his feathers. Instead, he lay sick in the bed, and pale. Over the next several weeks as the Earl wheezed and coughed, pitying his sickness and worring that he would not survive, she gendered a certain fondness for him. In a peculiar way, she was beginning to love him. After several days of concern, she opened the door for the Baron Bigod to enter the room.
"My lord husband is feverish with the grippe," she said. "I wonder if he should recover."
The baron, having participated in the same grim chore as William, said grimly. "Perhaps now you understand the rush to the chapel. The first winter storms in these parts strike with a vengeance."
The Late ArrivalHugh's rescue party reached the edge of the forest, but not until after the cold icy fingers of a winter's storm poured down upon their backs. Because of the lateness of the hour, they did not make camp and stopped only once to rest the horses. It was late in the afternoon and a thin layer of snow was visible in the mountaintops. Hugh raised his arm in the sleeve of his woollen longcoat and pointed towards aan obliquely narrow road winding a lane up the mountain. "The road to Pembroke!" Hugh declared.
Sebastian, who had bundled his little daughter from the icy rain and coddled her with him in the saddle, feared a drop in temperature and the rain turning to sleet, asked: "Is there time?"
Hugh looked to the wrinkled face of the Earl for answers. The old bones of the Earl shivered and rattled, and his flesh seemed frozen, yet anxious to complete the journey, said "If we can master that hill before it is iced over, then all the better!"
But they all knew that the snow would fall, and it did, and fell hard. There was no way to maneuver the hill. And the way ahead was blocked by Mannon's coach.
"Who is that? The Earl asked.
"Mannon," Hugh said aloud.
Mannon called out: "The wedding occurred in the little village chapel several days hence, and his lordship hath safely delivered his bride to Pembroke Castle!"
"What does that mean?"The Earl asked.
"It means that we are too late," Hugh whispered.
"You will nought deliver me to Pembroke?" "No."
Mannon pointed to inside his coach. "I hath instructions from Lord Ranulph to deliver you to Wigmore Castle tonight and his lordship into the secluded west wing."
"He knows that I am returned?"
Mannon nodded. "Only Lord Ranulph knows."
Hugh looked again to the first Earl, who nodded. "A warm fire, dry clothes and a clean bed would be welcome, Captain."
When they reached Wigmore, a heavy slush was on the ground surrounding the stables. Hugh secured the horses while Mannon waited to escort the chilled warriors up a narrow well of steps at the far end of the court yard. Previously, the west wing had been used to store artillery and cannon and a musky scent of gunpowder lingered. The chambers were at the top of the stairs, overlooking an untamed forest of deer and elk. The familiar markings of narrow passages and arrowslits behind an arrow loop leading into the interior reminded the Earl of the interminable English wars. His chamber, although recently swept, was plainly furnished, except there was a narrow balcony passage across the roof which afforded a view of Pembroke Castle. The rooms for Sebastian and his daughter were mediocre, consisting of one bed and a table with a washing pitcher. As Mannon departed, Lord Runolph entered. His mannerism was solemn, and he spoke in whispers as though there were spies about.
"As I inferred earlier, the second Earl of Pembroke hath no knowledge of your arrival."
"No sooner was the snow upon the ground, than he had her!" Hugh said bitterly.
"The plan failed, captain, and you must accept defeat," Ranulph advised.
"And what about his lordship, Sir William Marshal, the true Earl of Pembroke?" Sebastian asked.
The demeaner of the first Earl went solemn as he glanced around the room. His body was weary after the treacherous journey, and his eyes too tired to focus upon the baron. Although he did not care to confess it, he had nightmares of crossing the pit of snakes, so appropriate to the confinement of King John and his gang of thugs. His robe, a reddish relic with the semblance of the family crest sewn upon his bosom, was in shreds. His physical appearance gave no clues as to his titles, nor former estates. There was little evidence of his ever being an Earl, except for the ownership of a golden ring bearing that Marshal seal which he wore upon his left finger.
Ranulph resumed his opinon. "We must ensure the safety of our trust, and protect his lordship now that he is free. Meanwhile, until he hath time to reflect upon his discomfortiture, his identity in this household will be that of one of the blacksmiths."
Sebastian grunted. "Yes, a blacksmith is an honorable profession."
The Earl dropped his eyes but said nothing of his sorrow nor plans to go high into the mountains, away from the barons.
"Say no more," Ranulph counseled.
The Long WinterFor weeks after the rescue, amid fiercesome winds and a bed of thick white snow crystalizing upon the ground, there opened up a clear view from the tower at the end of the curtain wall. The Earl stood upon the fringe of the allure studying the acclivity of the hill into the mountain, and more particularly, a cut of grayish soil at the summit. Because Sebastian understood moreso than anyone else, he spoke of his plans to the strong muscled Scot, whom he sought as a companion.
"Somewhere there is a place for miserable cast-offs like ourselves," Sebastian mused. "Perhaps the captain will join us. He hath his own particular hell, you know, with the loss of his sweetheart."
King John Escapes from DoverAs the king was still lamenting in self-pity over the loss of his most recent battle with the french, he did not realize that the Earl was gone. Instead, drained of his energy, he rested in his weariment and did not appear among his peers for several days. William was usually his first contact after the amaranthine battle, however, when the Earl could not be found, he ordered a thorough search of the castle and its surrounding terrain. After awhile, some peasants in the village admitted to having seen the Earl galloping away from the village on horseback. The king was furious.
"If the Earl found his escape, there is an exit for myself and my knights!" He declared.
Dover was well entrenched in its cold bleak wintry and sudden wind storms which would make it difficult for passage over an uncharted treacherous gorge. Since there was no snow and the winds insufficiently strong to have have lifted the hoof prints of horses, the king's knights calculated a path which would take them to the other side of the gorge. Although the knights dreaded the onslought of snow once on the other side, the desire to escape was over-powerering and led them northward into the unknown. After all, these were the king's band of knights who had achieved glorious fame in the other world by seizing Wigmore and other Welsh strongholds, bringing to shame Strongbow and the other barons who'd signed the Magna Carta. These same knights, determined to ferry their way through a treacherous snow storm and deliver Pembroke Castle to their king, spent the winter months cutting away at the forest, and forging new trails towards the North country. When they came out on the other side of the forest and saw an auspicious cloudy mist resting over a range of purple mountains buried thick with snow, the king declared: "We shall camp here until the eids of March."
Meanwhile, the king took his comfort beside a roaring camp fire which spit its reddish-orange flames into a brutal wind. At this place he was haunted by his dreams of the spurious french tunneling through the white cliffs of Dover and tunneling their way into the castle. And while he dreamed, his mind drew a scheme of his knights crossing the icy moats of Pembroke Castle while laying across cedar boards and cobbling their way up through the portcullis at the entrance. Once accomplished, the king would ride his white Arabian stallion across the bridge unseen by the guards attached to the crenellations while his knights rolled open the gate. It was all too easy in the dead of winter with the unsuspecting guards assigned to the towers, he surmised. The next step was to take Lord Marshal as prisoner, and to his surprise, also Lord Bigod.
Regretably, the defense of the castle was weak and the king quickly ascended the stone staircase with its walled arrow slits to the solar where he surprised the Earl and Sir Bigod. The second Earl sat comfortably in his hearth before a fire of red and yellow lashing flames. Lord Bigod, bored from his long winter's visit, paced the floor restlessly. The second earl, cured of the gripp, arose from his chair ready to fight.
"My sword will cut you down, should you resist," the king threatened.
"What is it that you want, sir?"
"Control of Pembroke and all its tenants. But first, you must surrender my (aid), Sir William, the Lord Marshal of Pembroke."
The Earl glanced hastilly at Sir Bigod. "My father, the first Earl, was never brought here."
"That is true," Sir Bigod vouched, "This land hath ne'er seen that Lord."
The king curled his lip and spit a wade of yellow saliva on the floor. "You lie! He escaped from Dover. Where else would he go?"
The Earl shook his head, thinking that Hugh must have hidden him in the vicinity. Perhaps at Wigmore."
As though reading his thoughts, the king threatened: "My knights shall search every inch of this distardly land until we find the Lord Marshal, and if we do not find him before the thrust of my army arrives, we will deliver a great war upon all of the castles and estates in the Magna Carta stronghold."
Later in the day, the Earl and Baron were shackled in irons. But not before Sir Bigod, amidst the threats and confused activities, sent a messanger to Ranulph.
The West Tower"King John followed your trail across the ravine and hath taken Pembroke Castle," he told the first Earl, "and knows that you are in the vicinity. He holds Sir William and Sir Bigod as prisoners. Also, the whole of his army is en route from Dover to seize all of Magna Carta."
"If the king finds me, he will have my head!"
"You must stay hidden," Hugh advised.
"Better still. His lordship and the blacksmith should proceed with their plans to go into the mountains before the barons and their knights arrive at Clare Castle to do battle."
"What about the Lady Lynette?" Hugh asked.
Ranulph shrugged. "The treachery of King John knoweth no bounds."
"Then I shall also fight this battle," Hugh resolved. "And catch up with you later."
"The Earl removed his golden (seal) ring and gave it to Ranulph. "I am no longer the Earl of Pembroke," he said solemnly, "nor will I assume any titles or estates which my sons wishes to press upon me. During my sojourn at Wigmore, Sebastian hath taught me the useful occupation of smithing. I know not what lies ahead for me, and I go into the mountains only as William."
William and Sebastian took their departure from Pembroke Castle on the eides of March. As they ascended the mountain, they had a clear view of a vast landscape of greening flora, and, in the distance crested hills of moate-and-bailey castles. As the sun went down, dust blew low in the valleys shadowing the trail of the army of the king's white Arabian horses circling Pembroke Castle and its borders. Then, another trail of dust was seen gathering at Clare castle. The barons and their knights had arrived, among them Ranulph and Captain Hugh Mortimer.
Upon the arrival of the baronial forces to Clare, Strongbow's spies had returned with the layout of the King's army at Pembroke. Throughout the ride, the barons stewed in furious outrage over the return of their long-time enemy, King John. His escape from Dover and attack upon Pembroke posed a serious threat to their precious Magna Carta document and idealized existence. Each had his memories of the treacherous old king's betrayal in the other world and was eager to know who enabled his escape from the hinters. When Strongbow revealed that it was the first Earl of Pembroke, the mood was to capture and prosecute the old traitor before he fell into the hands of the king. Strong took a fierce lead with his bow. A quiver of arrows was tethered to his back, a selection of uniquely long projectile shafts having sharp tips whose high velocity was capable of delivering a thrush of arrows into armies from a far distance.
As Strongbow's army approached during early morning's light, upon King John seeing Strongbow leading the charge, sent his generals to meet him in an open combat just short of the moat and bridge. Strongbow's arrows felled a number of the king's men before the armies engaged with their swords. The clashing of swords scattered birds and rabbits, deer and elk. A vivid memory of past battles enlightened the knights on both sides as they fought for dominion. The king, cared not to commiserate in the eternal battle of Dover, and Strongbow and his barons refused to surrender theimmortal Magna Carta. As for Captain Hugh Mortimer, his skills as a South Carolina cavalryman did not serve him on this battlefield. His sabre melted in the face of the heavy metal of welsh swords, and he withdrew to a poorly manned castle to search for Lady Lynette. He found the door to her chambers bolted, and proceeded to remove a heavy cedar board blocking the passage.
"Lynette? Are you well?" He shouted.
The door opened. Her fashion of pompadour hair styles and hooped skirts were gone. Instead, she wore a long gown with a full skirt and long flaring sleeves. Her hair was concealed by a wimple. When he saw her, he whispered "My lady!"
"I am well, but where is my husband?"
"I shall search the castle," he answered. "I believe that you will be safe here whilst the barons engage the king's army."
Hugh was prevented from some of the king's guards from searching the premises, but allowed him to observe the battle from the courtyard.
The king fought hard to hold his position, but was finally overcome by the barons. Hugh watched in amazement as the field was drenched in red blood, yet no one died. The dog-tired king's army lay subservient on the ground, their weary bodies gashed in places and soaked in sweat while the barons seized their weapons. The king's hands were tied behind his back, poised in defeat and pleading to remove his shiny metal armor. Mannon's team of horses were seen plowing out from the forest dragging the familiar coach. As one who held the keys to the land, a hush silenced the mouths of both armies, and the king watched steadfastedly as Mannon galloped his fine Arabian horses across the field to where he stood. Sitting on the coach box, his back to the glaring sun, stared down upon King John.
"You escaped Dover to fight yet another battle, your majesty?"
"I am king," he growled, "all of this land is mine!"
"You were king once. There is no place in this world a king, save the hinters."
"Tis my heritage to be king!"
"Would you prefer to return to the hinters?"
The king did not answer, rather resolved in his heart to retake the barons. Somewhere, somehow he would rule over them.
Mannon turned to Strongbow. "And what do you plan to do with the king and his knights?"
"I had not considered what to do with this soveign, sir, as my first priority was to prevent him from seizing the Magna Carta estates and castles."
"Should you decide to return him to Dover, he will escape again, as he is acquainted with the trail."
Ranulph came to Strongbow's defense. "Sir, not one baron can decide, rather all of them."
After Mannon departed, Ranulph whispered that the first Earl had gone into the mountains, never to return. Also, that Hugh planned to do the same.
While they chatted, the second Earl and his compatriate, Sir Bigod were found chained in irons and brought into the courtyard. Faces smudged with soot, clothes and weakened from lack of food and water, they fell limp onto the ground. The indescribable cruelties of the king rendered them helpless. Hugh drew a bucket of water from the well and filled two goards.
"Where is my father?" The Earl asked. The demand had the attention of Sir Bigod.
"His lordship is not to be found," Hugh answered quietly.
"The king followed his trail from the hinters!"
"We are still friends, are we not captain? His lordship was enamored with the Lady Lynette and made his challenge. The tournament is our standard. Regrettably, you lost your lady, yetr, she hath fallen in love with the Earl. Tis a true love, I assure you. Nonetheless, if you succeeded in bringing his lordship thus, please share this news."
Hugh considered his emotional turmoil caused by the events of the last several months but remembered moreso Lynette wearing the traditional clothing of the era. "I will tell you this: there is an old man in the mountains who calls himself William and a blacksmith, Sebastian.They are searching for a new home. As am I."
The Earl frowned. "Need this be?"
Hugh pressed the golden ring with the family seal firmly into the Earl's palm. "You found your Magna Carta. Now I must find my Charleston!"
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