Did this not get posted when it was supposed to? Sorry about that.
By Barbara Weitbrecht
A faint call, hardly more than a hoarse whisper, led Bo to the thicket where his companion lay. There was a hell of a lot of blood. Bo pulled back the soaked cassock and shook his head. "Bastard might as well have killed you and been done with it. This is going to be tough."
"Where were you, me friend?" Rory asked, setting his teeth against pain. "I called you when the spalpeen set upon me."
"And I heard you, brother. But I was deep in the woods dealing with a little G.I. upset caused by last night's soup, which I swear had been reheated twice too often. I arrived just in time to see Sir Stabs-A-Lot chase you into the undergrowth. I take it that was Elerde?"
"The same. And Josephine is with him." Rory moaned again, not entirely because of the wound.
"Fuck. Well, now we know. But first thing we do is tend to this wound." Bo examined it as closely as he could through the blood. "He's cut the muscle. This needs stitches. Hell, this needs an emergency room and a good trauma team."
"It's not as bad as that," Rory assured him. "Elerde wisheth me to limp back to Lawrencium and tell the king that his queen hath fled. Sure and he could have killed me, easy, had he wished it."
Bo looked grim. "You'll never limp anywhere if we can't get this bleeding stopped." He paused, considering his words. "In my time, it's said that if you're in a battlefield situation and you have to dress a wound without proper supplies, the cleanest thing you can wash it with is good fresh piss."
"'Tis true in this time as well," Rory said, half smiling.
"Good. I didn't want you to think I was getting kinky on you or anything."
* * *
An hour later, the two companions emerged from the wood and surveyed the scene below. It was near sunset, and the water glowed blue and yellow beyond the spindly legs of the pier. Josephine stood on the road, chatting with the garrulous caretaker, who held the heads of two fine horses. Five men in ragged breeches and loose shirts, their hair extravagantly braided, lounged on the pier in attitudes of unconcern. Their ship, a craft hardly bigger than a fishing smack, bobbed in the water beyond. And, at the end of the pier, Sir Elerde was deep in negotiation with a man whose superior shirt and braids marked him as the captain.
Rory leaned on his staff and hissed. "Pirates! He thinks to transport such a lady to France on a pirate boat! I'll kill the blackguard!" He started to hobble toward the pier, using his staff as a crutch. Bo stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
"Hold it, brother," he whispered. "Let's see if I have this straight." He pointed toward the pier. "One knight in armor, with sword and other weaponry. Six pirates, with knives and cutlasses. Against, let's see... two men without any armor at all, armed with quarterstaffs and utility knives, one already gravely wounded. And you want to wade in and do battle. What am I missing?"
"Granted, 'tis not really fair to the pirates. But Elerde hath pissed me off. At the very least, I would talk with the lady and assure meself she's not being dragged off by force."
Bo nodded. "Okay, bro. You talk to the lady. Steal the horses if she wants to leave with you. I'll hold off the pirates and the knight as long as I can. But I've got a seriously bad feeling about this."
Rory was already hobbling down the slope to the road. Bo hurried past him and shouted to get the pirates' attention. He raised his staff and swung it into the midsection of the first lounger, who had not yet realized that they were under attack. The man toppled, moaning and clutching his stomach. One down, bunch more to go.
Elerde and the pirate captain were now aware of the situation. "McGuinness!" the Breton knight roared. "How many times do I have to kill thee before thou stayest dead!" He rushed past Bo without a glance, heading directly toward Rory and Josephine. That suited Bo fine. He had enough to handle with five angry pirates.
A cutlass descended toward him, and Bo raised the staff two-handed to block it. The blade shattered the blackthorn, leaving Bo holding a pair of splinter-ended sticks. He threw them one after the other at the approaching pirate, leaving that man with a bloody forehead.
There was shouting behind him, not all of it male. Evidently the Queen objected to having her favorite minstrel murdered. Good for her, Bo thought. Glad to see she has a bit of gumption after all this romantic vapouring. His attention was re-focused as the bloody-faced pirate came at him with a raised cutlass. Bo reached into his robe and pulled out his weapon. "Freeze! I have a gun!" he shouted.
Usually that was enough to make the bad guys pause. Here, nobody seemed to notice. Well, duh. Guns weren't going to be invented for a couple few centuries. Bo decided not to do the math. He braced his weapon in both hands and fired. The pirate dropped.
Now the others paused. They had heard the report and seen the muzzle flash, and one of their companions had fallen. That was enough to convince them that Bo had some kind of seriously bad mojo in his fists. They looked at each other, waiting to see who would challenge him next. Bo took a step back, intending to join Rory and Elerde and even the odds a bit.
Mistake. Big mistake. His retreat was seen as fear, and the pirates were on him again. A cutlass flashed toward his side. Bo blocked the blade with the only thing he had handy, which was the gun. The blade caught it, and the gun spun wide and landed, with a sickening splash, in the North Sea shallows.
"Fuck!" Bo yelled, gripping his shocked hand. The pirate was coming again. Bo called up all his old memories of street brawls. A cutlass was just a bigger sort of switchblade. Turning sideways, he stepped beside the lunging sword-arm and rammed his fist into the pirate's solar plexus. A searing pain in his left arm told him that he hadn't dodged quite well enough. The pirate crumpled, gasping. Bo pulled the dagger from his foe's belt and turned, crouched in a fighter's stance.
He faced three cutlasses and a broadsword. "Thou art a dead man," said Elerde easily. He drew back his arm to strike.
"Not so fast," the pirate captain interrupted.
Everyone, including Bo, stared at him in surprise.
"This man has just killed one o' my best mates and injured two others. I can't sail without a full crew, and I certainly can't fight if we meet with trouble. And, cravin' yer pardon, yer excellence, ye don't seem ter be a seaman. So I'm for drafting this muscular gent to be a-mannin' of the ship."
Elerde smiled cruelly, sighting down the length of his blade. "So, sirrah, what will it be? Die like a man of honour, or join this band of scurvy cut-throats? Your choice."
Bo gazed thoughtfully past the ring of weapons to the road, where Rory was sitting up holding his head while the lady knelt beside him. News, at least, would get back to Lawrencium even if the lady was headed toward Brittany.
"I always thought pirates were rather romantic," he said, tossing aside the dagger. "Yo ho."
Next: Broken hearts and Promises
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com