LITTLE BIRD AND THE HAWK

Chapter 13 - Payback (Pt.1)

('Thoughts')

Warnings: Swearing and violence

++++++++++++++

It was before dawn when she awoke the next morning. She stretched and felt an arm tighten possessively around her. Tristan raised his head sleepily “Where do you think you are going?”

She shook her head grinning and snuggled up to him, sighing contentedly.

“That is better.”

He watched her looking out the window “what do you think about?”

She shrugged, and then her face clouded.

“You want to kill him badly?”

She nodded, before reaching round him for the tablet and stylus -

Mayhap, when he is dead, I will speak again.

I long to tell you how much I love you Tristan.

How much you mean to me -.

It is now, just now, that I miss my voice the most.

He pulled her closer to him, “I see it in your eyes; the way you loved me last night, the honour you gave me to trust me to love you.”

There is no honour in loving me.

I am used goods.

He raised himself over her “do not ever say that again. You are not; and there is much honour in loving you. I would shout it from the rooftops.” He went to rise from the bed; she could sense the anger in him.

She pulled him back, eyes full of emotion -

That is not your way, and I love you the more for it.

Yours is a quiet love Tristan.

No grand gestures - no loud declarations.

Just constant and unwavering - that to me is all.

He kissed her deeply “I love my little bird, and would do all for her.” As they started to make love again, she squashed the fear that she could lose him because he loved her so much - she could lose them all.

+++++++++++

It was a while later when they made their way to the stables arm in arm; they both knew there would be no point pretending otherwise as by now word had got round.

Van came running and swept Jules into a hug “I am so glad you are safe Birdie! But more, I am glad you two finally came to your senses - me and Bors were all for banging your bloody heads together! Tristan saying you should be with Lancelot, and Lancelot saying you should be with Tristan!!”

She laughed; Jules turned to the two knights in surprise -

Why?

Each of you - why?

They shifted uncomfortably, Lancelot glaring at Bors “Pax brother, I never said I could keep a secret!” He grinned, holding his hands up in surrender.

“I thought Tris would be better as you are both quiet and get on well, and you really seem to need him and, well, he seems to need you as much. You do, you know you do!” He retorted as Tristan gave him a look.

“I though you needed someone passionate and who could love you better than I….” Tristan tailed off.

Lancelot you were right.

But if I had not had Tristan, I think I could have loved you. You are good man with a good heart.

She tapped his chest, making the usually debonair knight blush.

She turned to Tristan -

As for you; how could you say anyone could love me better than you?

No one could - never.

One day - one day I will shout that from the rooftops.

She flung her arms round his neck, the tablet and stylus clattering to the floor as she kissed him deeply.

“I see all is forgiven” said Arthur entering the stable, she grinned. He walked over to Jules and muttered “have you shown them to Tristan?” She shook her head.

“Mayhap you should?” She nodded. Galahad handed her the tablet as she bent to retrieve it ignoring Arthur as he had in the ring.

She could suddenly feel the tension in the air. Drawing Arthur to one side -

I do not think it would be sensible at this juncture, but I will soon.

“Agreed.” She went to walk away, but he gently grasped her elbow. Bending to her ear he whispered, his sorrow and guilt in his voice "Jules; I am......"

She patted his arm and then hugged him tightly; he wrapped his arms as tightly around her - lifting her off the ground for a moment.

Tristan was not jealous - to him it looked like a younger sister comforting an older, saddened brother.

But the question was why did she feel the need to comfort him? It couldn't just be over the problem with going beyond the wall before getting their papers.

Tristan pulled her back as she released Arthur and hastily patted down the wax on her tablet “what was that all about?”

I was telling him how I would not hurt you again by running off. The hug was because he forgave me.

“I do not believe you. He looked ill this morning Bors has just said the same, and Jols said you were with him last night; what has happened, what did you tell him?”

I told him naught.

Tristan stared and she sighed -

I found the journals and brought them back.

I wanted him to understand what his Rome - and his religion - is capable of.

“Did he read them?”

Aye.

“Can we….can I?”

Aye, I am bringing them with me – but not now Tristan.

If you read them now your fate would be sealed.

She turned to see Dagonet reading one – his face was ashen and his jaw was clenching.

She rushed over; snatching it out of his hand she forced it into the saddlebag.

“Honest Jules it fell out, I picked it up and I did not realise……..what it was” he swallowed “has anyone else seen them?”

Only Arthur.

“Not Tris or Lancelot?”

She shook her head.

“Good, do not let them until this is all over; I dread to think what they will do. But I will tell you this, those bastards will feel my axe too when the time comes!” he hissed; gripping her upper arm. "I'd call them animals, but animals do not behave so....so depraved!"

Vanora, who had been reading past Dag’s elbow, just hugged the girl “kill him, Birdie, just kill him…” was all she muttered.

She went to Bors, “Get her to show you them books in her saddle bag….” She muttered.

“What? Why? Do you honestly think we will have time to read, wench?” He grinned; the sobered at the look on her face “what?”

“Just do it Bors.”

“What was that about?” asked Gawain.

“Van says she has got some books in her saddlebag we really have to read.”

“What are they about?”

“Van never said - but judging by my girl’s face, naught good.”

The two women left them as the bishop entered, Dagonet shouldering past him…..

0-0-0-0-0

She followed them at a discreet distance through the day, she laughed silently at the way the bishop’s aid kept glancing nervously around.

Eventually they set camp for the night; Horton scuttled into his makeshift tent as soon as he could.

“Cowardly cleric!” laughed Gawain.

They heard a twig crack; all looked round bracing themselves for a fight, only to be confronted with a grinning Jules.

“You should shout….” Chuckled Galahad.

She cuffed his head with a smile; before making her way straight to Tristan, hugging him tight and caressing his cheek.

“I wish Van greeted me like that!” sighed Bors with a grin.

“I wish any bloody woman greeted me like that!” Laughed Gawain; Lancelot just looked wistful.

“You well, Lance?” Dag asked.

“Aye I am well Dag. Just what she said, in the stables, about loving me if she had not met Tristan…..” He sighed.

“Aye - well, we all wish we were Tristan” grinned the large knight.

“It is just - I really believe she sees us. Not knights, or warriors – just us, as her friends. I do not know why, but I feel like a human around her - not just some killing machine.”

“Well, so long as we stick together once this is all over, I cannot see why we cannot all carry on like that.”

Lancelot nodded. Just then he noticed her drop her saddlebags and some books fell out; there were twelve in total he quickly calculated and picked one up.

Bors, remembering Van’s words, did the same and before long each knight had one, including Tristan.

Before Jules could stop them they were reading them; and after a very short pause she was being bombarded with angry questions.

“What in the name of Hades……?!” Cried Bors looking at the childish handwriting in his “How old were you here?”

“Who the hell is Tabiti?” asked Gawain angrily “because they certainly enjoyed torturing her.”

“I do not bloody believe this!” growled Lancelot “How could they do this?”

“I think we should just deal with this Cassius as soon as we get there!” grunted Dag, becoming angrier as horrified realisation sank in just how perverted and debauched Jules’ treatment had been.

“I do not believe I have spent fifteen years in service to a country that could do this!” Galahad said swallowing his angry tears.

Tristan sat white faced and impassive as he read his; however, the rage building in him was patently visible.

Arthur sat mute, having read them all already; but he too well remembered being physically sick after she had left him.

She could not answer all their questions at once, she gestured to Dag to come help her -

Please I will try - try to answer your questions.

This was not what I meant to have happened.

I was going to let you see them on the homeward journey.

“Who was Tabiti?” asked Gawain.

My sister.

I think I told you of her, she was raped to death at fifteen.

“When did the abuse start?” Lancelot glared.

She hesitated,clearly unwilling to stoke their anger further. “You had best tell us what we want to know little bird, you will not be left alone until you do" advised Dag.

She sighed and, very reluctantly, began to tell them what they wanted to know -

I was ten when the beatings and such started.

But I was twelve when I was first put in the pit.

Only allowed out to amuse him and any guests.

There I stayed until I was sent with the soldiers.

“Why?” Galahad was still shocked.

I do not know. - she shrugged -

He said I was a pretty little thing.

He said I would provide much amusement.

“You were a year younger than my No.8.” Bors said quietly.

Tristan stood and walked over to Arthur “You read these?”

“Aye, yester night” his commander sighed, knowing what was coming next.

“Yet still you sent us here; knowing….knowing who it was we were ‘rescuing’; and that bastard we have left back there is as much a part of this as the ones we are going to”. His voice was icy calm.

“Jules wants you to have your freedom. Is that such a bad thing, Tristan?”

“Aye, when it means the man that buggered her, raped her, butchered her and then gave her to a legion of roman soldiers to do what they wanted with; as well as slaughtering all she loved before her……Aye, Arthur it is. No freedom should be bought for such a price.” He flung his book so it hit the other man in the chest; his voice still calm but rage burning in his eyes.

They heard a clapping sound; she was standing on a tree stump clapping her hands to get their attention. She looked angry; really angry. Dagonet read her tablet, though she was writing so quickly and then patting out that he had trouble keeping up.

Who in the name of Hades do you think you all are?

I get to decide what to do with my life.

I want you to be free….

I do not want you to be like me…..to spend anymore of your lives as slaves!

That is what you are…slaves.

I do not want that for you.

I was just ten summers when I became a slave.

I was twenty-eight of them when Tristan found me and gave me back my life.

Eighteen summers I spent as a slave, three more than you.

If you do not do this thing they want, how long before they release you?

Tristan said he cared not about what happened to me before.

You have all said the same - so what should it matter now?

I wanted only for you to understand why I am like this -she gesticulated to her mouth -

But I do not need you to avenge me.

- She paused, took a deep breath, and then pressed on -

Arthur did not want to accept this mission after he read the books.

But I want you to have your freedom and so I persuaded him.

I said I would deal with the one who was ultimately responsible; and I will.

Rome cares not for him. As to the others, I will decide.

Let me decide what is best for me.

Let me now govern myself.

But embrace your freedom……please.

They watched as she stood there breathing heavily. Tristan walked back over to her; putting his hands on her waist he lifted her down and into his arms.

“You have a big heart, Jules – glad I am that it belongs to me”.

She kissed him. The other knights crowded round all talking to her at once - but Arthur could see she only had eyes for Tristan.

He smiled; she was so different to that first night he had met her.

Just then Horton emerged from the wagon “I do not believe my bishop would be involved in the debauchery you speak of!” he cried imperiously.

The others moved towards him, but Arthur signalled them to stand down as Jules walked over to him; picking up a book with a green cover and put it carefully into his hands. She signalled Dag -

You have been in the bishop’s service for long?

-He nodded.-

Then please read this before you judge me.

You genuinely believe in God, I see that.

So please read the book and keep an open mind.

He ducked back inside the wagon with the book.

She walked and sat down next to Tristan -

You trust me to fight my own corner now?

“Aye.”

You understand why I did what I did now?

“Aye, but I still do not agree with it.”

She hugged him, and yawned theatrically -

I am tired…..

A smile ghosted his lips “Well, I suggest we retire for the night…”

They went into the makeshift tent and dropped the flap.

He took her in his arms “I love you; have I told you that?”

She nodded and smiled; before running her fingers through his hair and then down his cheeks, he pushed his mouth into her palm.

She caught his face and held his gaze willing him to see how much she loved him.

He kissed her; they quickly deepened the kiss before sinking onto the pelts beneath them.

She clung to him; pushing the fears out of her mind. She knew that Marius and Cassius were evil men and she worried for him; and the others. But soon his caressing hands and sensual mouth drove all thoughts from her mind except him and being with him in that moment.

++++++++++++

The next morning Horton approached her “I….I…would like to apologise on behalf of my church.” He said hesitantly, handing her back the book.

Do not fret so, you are not to blame.

You look as if you have not slept all night.

“I have not; I have been praying about this and what to do. How can I continue to serve such an evil man, and believe he is sent by the Pope to serve God?”

We must all do what we may to stay alive; it is better for you not to rock the boat.

But I would be pleased if you do not mention this to anyone outside of those here.

“Of course…….but if I can ever be of service……” He inclined his head and went to walk away. She smiled at him and he wandered off wondering why a woman with such strength could not believe in the God who gave it to her.

“Prat!” muttered Lancelot in her ear, causing her to jump -

You are getting as good at Tristan at creeping up on me!

And he is not a prat; he is a good man – just weak.

“Alright….he is a weak prat!” The dark haired knight grinned evilly.

She slapped his arm and kissed his cheek, thrusting her tablet under his nose -

And you are a demon!

“To all but you, my little bird!” he laughed.

+++++++++++

They were soon on the road again and finally reached the house at noon; Tristan had gone scouting ahead. Jules had ridden to the hillside and watched.

What they found there beggared belief. In some ways it was worse than what they had encountered at Cassius’ house.

She saw Arthur striding around and realised he was finally losing his temper; she had never seen him do so before, and realised things in the village there must be bad.

Then she saw him go to an old man strung up; there was much gesticulating and then his voice floated up “I tell you now. Marius is not of God. And you - all of you - were free from your first breath”.

He cut the old man loose with Excalibur, his sword. She grinned ‘You are a good man Arthur, good….and right. That bastard is no man of God….any God’.

She heard him telling them of the army of Saxons coming and how they must flee either with them or by themselves, but flee they must.

She then saw Tristan ride up, her heart surged just at the sight of him. She saw him speaking to Arthur….

She then saw Arthur looking at the monks bricking up a wall which looked much like a door. He stalked towards it, the mercenaries moved to stop him – he pointed Excalibur at them; she watched proudly as all the other knights, Tristan included, rode to intimidate them with their swords drawn. She smiled as the mercenaries backed off.

She heard Arthur call for Dagonet, ignoring an angry Marius and watched her friend hack down the wall ’Good for you Dag, you show them!’

After a few minutes inside they came out carrying what looked dead bodies. She heard Arthur shouting for water and saw one of the serfs bringing it over; Jules realised that the bodies were still alive. She started to ride down; she could make out one of them as a child. She saw Cassius lunge at Arthur, this is what she had been waiting for, until now he had merely hovered in the background.

She let loose her bow, her arrow struck him in the groin, then another, and one more struck him in the thigh. As she reached them she saw all the knights’ wincing as Cassius lay screaming like a woman on the ground.

Lancelot beamed “We could have taken care of him, you know. But I assume this is the wrong that needed righting…..”

“YOU!” screamed Cassius “I will have you put to death…..you bitch!”

She walked over to him, shaking her head. Tristan rode forward as did the others.

“Is he the one?” He asked.

She nodded, staring at the man who had haunted her nightmares and tormented her mind.

Cassius looked at the couple in front of him and then the other knights “Oh, I see how it is! You pleasure them in ways you would never pleasure me….you little.....!!” he finished only on an agonised scream as Jules leant down and calmly pulled her arrows out of his groin, twisting them as she did so.

“Ah well, he will not be fathering any more bastards!” winced Bors, with a grin, watching their Birdie finally getting her justice.

“Is payment of debts not painful?” chuckled Lancelot.

Cassius made the mistake of threatening the knights “I will have them all put to death and make you watch, you demon spawn. Just as I did with all your family; remember my bitch – even your squawling babies fresh from the womb?!” He grinned evilly, even as he clutched his groin in agony.

She stood and watched him for a moment; all the knights could see the fury building in her…

“What, nothing to say?” Marius this time. "You always had plenty to say when I came to visit. Oh, that was until we had your father gutted….”

She looked at him and smiled darkly, keeping her eyes locked with Marius she swooped with her swords; plunging both straight into Cassius’ stomach she slipped them in opposite directions. She turned them and then, pulling them sideways, she removed most of his intestines with the twisted swords through the opening. This was all done in a blink of an eye.

“Now that had to hurt!” grinned Gawain.

Marius screamed…..as his brother lay dying; she brought one of her swords down and took his head, before pushing the other through his heart.

“Well, I think we can safely say he is definitely dead.” Said Galahad looking on in wonder “she is marvellous, is she not?!”

They noticed she was mouthing words over the now dismembered corpse.

“What is she saying?” asked Bors.

“She is asking that her ancestors be appeased for any past weaknesses on her part; by the killing of the one that defiled her, her family and many innocents.” said Tristan quietly.

“How do you know? I mean, can you read her lips?”

“A bit, but it is also a ritual killing my tribe would carry out.”

She walked over to the boy and the cleric, wiping her dripping swords on the grass. She took her tablet with sticky, bloodied fingers and wrote -

I am sorry you had to see that.

She gave it to Horton… “It is no matter, after what you have suffered.” He inclined his head “I will pray for your forgiveness, God will understand.”

“She needs not your God’s forgiveness! She has suffered enough by those who represent your God.” Lancelot growled at him.

She wiped her hands on her trousers before patting Horton’s arm and smiling in understanding. Then she went to Lancelot; pulled his arm forward so leaned low in his saddle, and hugged him tight. She looked deep into his eyes and kissed his cheek... “You are welcome” he grinned.

“What was that about?” asked Galahad.

“She was thanking me for sticking up for her; but I also get the feeling I was being relieved of duty!” Lancelot smiled.

She nodded at Dag, he looked at Horton as he tended the boy. “His arm is broken.”

He looked at Dagonet “His family?” The knight shook his head.

She knelt down and hugged the little boy; she looked expectantly at Dag “his name is Lucan; I would say he is about seven summers only.” She hugged him all the tighter.

Tristan rode over and touched her arm, she looked up and smiled sadly – he raised an enquiring eyebrow -

My last baby, a boy, would have been the same age now.

Dagonet read it out, with a voice thick with emotion – both for the boy and the woman before him.

Tristan closed his eyes and nodded. The other knights looked away as tears suddenly swam in their eyes.

She was vaguely aware of an altercation between Marius and Arthur. But she saw Marius hit his wife and then Arthur punch him out and put Excalibur to his throat.

As his mercenaries stepped forward she felled three with her bow.

Lancelot smiled “I like the new improved Jules….she is feisty!”

She turned to him and smiled. She heard Marius threatening Arthur and walked over swinging her blades as Lancelot had taught her. With her blades swinging above his stomach and Excalibur at his throat Marius backed down.

She went to the fire that was burning in the village, she took her saddlebag and tipped all the books into the fire save two, a red one and the green one she had given to Horton, and then walked away beaming; another host of demons fading into the smoke.

Tristan smiled, she was recovering……


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