Chapter 9

Written by: Ant Gavin Smits

Matthew tossed some dull coins onto the dusty table. “Come. We must go quickly.”

He strode purposefully to the adjacent yard, where a carriage and fresh horses waited. Mary followed gamely, struggling to match his pace. Breathlessly, she gathered her lilac skirts and clambered in after him. Matthew swiftly pulled the door closed and the carriage immediately jerked into motion as the coachman urged his eager team forward.

“We are going to the castle at the end of the loch. My men are there. If Hendrik took Phoebe to his encampment on the banks of Fort Augustus, he will doubtless take her from there to his ship, and God knows what will become of Richard.”

Mary sobbed.“What have I done?” Helping the princess escape was one thing, but it was all for nothing if Hendrik now had her in his arms.  

 “Hush. You did not know,” comforted Matthew. “My brother will never blame you. At least the princess has slipped her wicked parents. Hendrik is twice Phoebe’s age. If we surprise him, I wager he will retreat. He is a small man; a coward and a bully.”

The small, stuffy carriage swayed constantly. No one, it seemed, maintained the deeply-rutted trail. Finally, they alighted in the chilly, wind-swept Highlands. Mary shivered, despite having Matthew's cape around her shoulders.

“I have an idea. It should fool the man,” said Matthew, “though it involves risk.”

“Anything,” cried Mary. “I will do anything to help that poor girl.”

“If Hendrik thinks that his captive is not the real princess, and believes you are, he will send men to capture you. Then I can exchange you for Phoebe and Richard.”

Mary shivered again. “But he will take me to his ship. Then what?”

Matthew smiled. “My men are prepared, They will stop him on the shore. Fear not, I will fight for you, Mary.”

 

                                            ***

 

Matthew mounted his skittish horse.“Let us ride fast and free Richard. Once armed, he will doubtless fight harder for Phoebe than the rest of us.

A chorus of “Ayee!” echoed off the weathered Urquhart Castle walls as thirty horses clattered through the gate. The focused, well-prepared force reached woods overlooking Hendrik’s crude camp after three hours. 

Mary watched as two fellows pulled Ian forward from the rear and Mathew spoke earnestly in her ear.

“We found him drunk. He will carry a lie to Hendrik, telling him the true princess has arrived with men to rescue Richard, and his captive is a simple servant girl working for pennies.”

Later, rested and with final plans laid, Matthew pulled the hood over Mary’s head. 

''It is time for you to go. Do not worry unnecessarily. Hendrik won’t harm you or even treat you impolitely if he even thinks the lie is possible. And if he is unsure, what will he do? He won't know which of you is the real princess."

Matthew gestured at the grim soldiers around them. “I expect these men will easily ambush him. Go now.” 

Comments

Terrific chapter Anthony...great pace and momentum.