Knights Bore Arms - Book Four
Because Arlette often clothed herself as a man and bore arms, Jake declared he could not love her. After discovering her wearing nun's robes, he thought only of the curvaceous body beneath them. When Ambrose imprisoned Arlette, intent on sacrificing her to obtain Holy blood, Jake had to save her.
Jacob Leofric glanced at his brother, riding beside him on the narrow, muddy track. “Linnet will be pleased when she hears the news. We should reach Saltstone Castle by nightfall.”
Moray nodded but kept his eyes on the way ahead. “Aye, my wife will get her castle thanks to the king's generosity.”
“Bledfell Castle sits on an excellent vantage point, methinks,” Jake pointed out, “and 'tis but a half day ride from Saltstone, so she shall not be far from her family.”
“Aye, but Bledfell is in need of much repair. The west tower is crumbling, the moat needs dredging, and a long section of the curtain wall has fallen down.”
Jake grimaced. “Still, the place is ours now. Although 'tis an unusual thing, better for us to share lordship of a castle than have no castle at all.”
“'Tis a large castle and will do us well. I think we knew the king would grant us Bledfell,” Moray mused, “after all, we have accrued much wealth from our victories in the tourneys. We can afford to put the castle to rights and establish it, once again, as a strong fortification.”
Jake's squire, Dominic, trotted his mount up beside them. “The Leofrics entered thirty tourneys last year. Sir Jacob, you won eight and Sir Moray you gained seven victories. Sir Jael, however, gained the most coin and armour. He was the champion in five-and-ten tournaments.”
Jake swore and Moray joined him.
“I am sorry, sires, I know you are both anxious and concerned about your brother. I should be anxious too if I had a brother who had been missing for three months. I know that the Lady Oriana is beside herself with worry and sobs the day through. Some say 'tis only the children who keep her sane.”
“Do not tell us that which we already know,” Jake growled.
“Dom, 'tis best to keep your mouth shut,” Moray's squire said.
“Aye, Dominic, do as Raul says and keep your mouth shut,” Jake snapped. “We have searched everywhere for our brother.”
“'Tis a search we shall never give up,” Moray added. “We will find Jael.”
Raul suddenly pointed ahead. “My Lords, there is yet another slaughtered beast.”
Dominic cantered his horse up to the dead animal. “Ye Gods, 'tis another wolf and it has been butchered in the same way as the previous one we found.”
Jake rode alongside his squire. “The heart has been cut out and the pelt taken.”
“And the teeth pulled,” Moray added, his nose wrinkling up from the foetid smell. “This one was killed some days ago, but the first was fresh.”
“Aye, fresh like the falcons we found slaughtered this morning. Ye Gods, why would someone want to cut out the eyes from a falcon?”
Dominic shook his head. “Only a madman would do such a thing.” He heaved a long sigh. “There are many terrible things happening, methinks. When last I visited my father and sister at Flinterby, I heard that four nuns had been murdered in the woodland surrounding the Monastery of Rothington. One was a cousin of ours. My father and sister were sorely grieved.”
“We are not far from the monastery now.” Moray glanced at Jake. He noted that his brother's scowl had deepened.
“My sister, Arlette, declared were she a man she would take it upon herself to discover who the murderer was,” Dominic declared.
Jake snorted. “Aye, she would. Likely she will anyway, knowing her. Once she puts on a pair of breeches and straps on a sword, that woman thinks she is a man.”
“She fared well against you at the quintain and in the lists, as I recall,” Moray muttered. “That was when she pretended to be a knight by the name of Sir Armand.”
“Stupid woman,” Jake grunted.
“My Lord, might I point out that my sister and I, with our bows, did kill the Welshman and save our father. You arrived too late to be of assistance.”
“Like it or not, he's right, Jake,” Moray agreed.
“For the love of God, Arlette is a woman. She should wear female attire and put ribbons in her hair. A woman as beautiful as she should not parade around as a man!” Jake exploded.
Moray gaped at Jake. “So, you do have feelings for the woman.”
“I do not,” Jake shot back.
“I think you do,” Dominic agreed, “even though you told her you could never woo her because she was not feminine enough.”
“That's enough, lad,” Jake roared, reaching out to clip his squire around the head.
Dominic winced. “I am sorry. I shall speak no more. Besides, 'tis no matter that you do not want her. When I was last at Flinterby, I understood she was about to consent to wed a wealthy lord from the North.”
Jake gave Dominic a hard look. “She is to wed?”
“That is what my father said. 'Twas the situation two months ago and I doubt it has changed.”
“Well, all I can say is, I hope he is a strong man who can keep that woman under his thumb and not allow her...”
“Take cover!” Moray suddenly yelled, pointing up to the hill which they were just passing. “Arrows raining down!”
Jake glanced up and saw the arrows hailing towards them. He dug in his heels and his mount sprang forward and galloped off down the track.
“God's teeth, I've been hit!” Dominic hissed, as his horse thundered off after the rest.
“Keep in your saddle, Dom!” Jake yelled, putting his head down to protect his unhelmed head from the low tree branches. An arrow hissed past his left cheek, too close for comfort.
“How many did you see, My Lord?” Raul shouted out.
“Mayhap six bowmen,” Moray replied, shouting above the pounding of the horse's hooves.
“Mayhap they are outlaws,” Raul suggested.
“Or perhaps they have a quarrel with us,” Jake shouted. “Our horses and surcoats clearly display the Leofric coat-of-arms.”
“We can easily take on six men,” Moray decided, “but unfortunately they have the vantage point.”
“I say we take cover in that dense copse, ahead, and wait for the bowmen to come to us. Fleeing does not sit well with me.”
“Aye, we should do that,” Moray agreed.
Jake sawed on his reins, but with hindsight that was the wrong thing to do. The moment he slowed, an arrow thudded into the flesh of his right thigh. “God Almighty!” he roared as pain exploded in his leg, all the way to his groin.
“Bastards!” Moray cried, spotting the arrow sticking from Jake's leg.
Jake felt his vision blur and he sucked in a deep breath. Instantly it cleared and then, to his relief, he saw perhaps a dozen Templar knights and squires come galloping towards them. They needed to ask not what had occurred and swarmed up the hillside, protected by their heavy armour and helmets. “Thank God,” he gasped, observing that the attackers were now in retreat on their horses. “Moray, Raul, you should go and assist. Go and kill those blasted bowmen.”
“What about you and Dominic?” Moray asked.
“We can sit a horse, still. The Monastery of Rothington is close by and I imagine that is where the Templars came from. We shall ride there.”
“Aye, do that,” Moray agreed. “By God, let us go and aid those knights, squire,” he shouted to Raul.
“Aye, Milord, let us do that.”