LITTLE BIRD AND THE HAWK

Chapter 14 - Payback (Pt.2)

They started making their way back towards the Fort, but it was slow going due to all the people now travelling with them.

The knights were convinced they would not outrun the Saxons. Lancelot was all for leaving them behind; especially Lucan and the girl called Guinevere.

Arthur refused, and the dark knight was angry. Jules rode up to him and patted his arm; he glared before realising it was her, and then grinned ruefully “Come to lecture me, little bird?”

She nodded -

You should think of me.

“I do, all the time….” He grinned mischievously.

She batted his arm, and he pretended to fall sideways in great pain -

I mean, what if you had left me behind - back when Tristan found me?

He sighed “You are right of course, as always - do you ever get tired of always being so right?”

She grinned -

Nay…never!

“Well it is not ladylike to gloat so.”

I have never said I was a lady, Lancelot.

“You know for a mute, you certainly have an answer for all!” he chuckled.

She leant over and kissed his cheek. Dagonet looked on, watching; his eyes soften as she did so -

You are a good man Lancelot – always remember that.

He nodded “Go back to your man, you wanton woman; stop flirting with me!” She threw back her head and laughed her silent laugh, before riding back to Tristan.

“I will have to scout soon. You will fare well here?”

She nodded -

Or I could come with you?

“Nay, I want you to be safe - humour me?”

She nodded, smiling -

I have much atoning to do.

“Nay, you can do that tonight.” he said, his face passive but his voice heavy with innuendo.

She laughed again, before leaning across and kissing him lightly. He spurred his horse forward and she rode on herself to talk once more with the other knights.

She patted Bors arm; “what?” he grumbled.

How are you?

“Fine.”

Really?

You surely do not sound it.

He laughed “No wonder Van likes you; you are like a dog with a bloody bone!”

She grinned and leant across and hugged him “awww, Birdie! You are my mate, are you not?”

She nodded vehemently, grinning.

“What is the matter; you not missing your man already, are you?”

She blushed; “You have got it bad!” he laughed.

She blushed even more. Galahad rode up “well, I think it is sweet…” She smiled gratefully at him.

Lancelot rode past on his way to Arthur, and Bors heard him mutter “I just wish it was me.”

Bors gave the knight a startled look, but quickly masked it as Lancelot looked back; though his eyes strayed to Jules and not Bors “what?”

“Naught.”

What?

Fare you well, Lancelot? - Bors read it out.

“Aye, I fare well Jules.”

So what is eating at you then?

I might be mute, but I am not blind. - She grinned; to show there was no malice in her words only worry for a friend.

“Nay, I can see that!” he returned the grin. “In fact with those bloody tablet, I would question the mute these days!”

She is not faring well!” Laughed Galahad “she is missing the scout!” Jules batted his arm “Oww! You vixen!”

“Oh, well he better be back soon then!” smiled Lancelot as he rode forward.

She saw Arthur having a conversation with the Woad girl called Guinevere; they both looked annoyed. She smiled and tapped Dagonet’s arm pointing “Aye, I see – you think they like each other?”

She nodded grinning, then she saw an annoyed looking Lancelot staring at the two of them, she nudged Dag again “Hmm…could be!” he laughed, “Trust Lance to do that twice in a row, like a girl who likes someone else more!” he murmured.

Jules gave him an expectant look “I could not say who Birdie; knightly honour and all that!” the large knight smiled and started chatting to Gawain, whilst Jules snorted in derision.

She then saw Lancelot talking to Guinevere as Tristan rode back with news; they went a little further and passed a burnt village, dead bodies were everywhere; all knew it had been the work of the Saxons.

They found a place for the night; Arthur asked Tristan to scout a little way ahead, he had enough time to come for a kiss from Jules.

“I will return in a few hours.” With that he rode off, his hawk flying high into the sky.

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

They pitched camp for the night. Once again Jules saw Lancelot watching and then talking to Guinevere. She walked over to him, as the Woad wandered away -

You like her.

- She waved her tablet under his nose.

“Hmm? She is a fair maid” he shrugged. “But I think she has her eye on Arthur.”

She acts a bit - superior for a Woad, does she not?

Lancelot roared with laughter, grabbing her hand and pulling her down beside him “You always cheer me up Jules; which considering you cannot speak is no mean feat!”

Oh you- you are just easily pleased!

- She punched his arm.

“My lady I fear I am mortally wounded!” He joked and then saw her regarding him sadly. “What is it? What is wrong?” he sobered instantly.

You would have loved my sister, my Tabiti.

She was much like you; always trying to be the strong one.

“You miss her?”

Every day.

But I have all of you now.

She sighed.

“What?”

I hope we do not all drift when this over.

I would hate to lose my family.

“Is that what you think of us, as your family?”

Aye. Always and forever.

“Then that will do.” He muttered; drawing her close. They stared out at the night, the mute woman and the dark knight with his arm draped over her shoulders - before starting to joke around again….

Bors watched them sharing jokes and laughing; Jules scribbling away on her tablet and Lancelot chuckling at her.

Dagonet had told him what Jules had said and he watched the other man with her. His heart went out to the sad knight; Jules was right, he did have a good heart.

+++++++++

Tristan returned an hour later, by this time Jules had been chatting to all the knights; she made it look to the mercenaries that they were talking about nothing. But she was warning them to be on their guard; like Dagonet, she knew the mercenaries and Marius were up to something.

She told Tristan, he soothed her as they lay under the tarp, raised in a similar fashion to Dag’s. “We can handle them whatever happens; and if we cannot, I am sure you will after what I saw today.” He smirked.

He wrapped them in the pelts to keep warm, and hugged her to him. She turned and buried herself in his arms just as she did those first days; one hand on his face and one clutching his shirt.

They lay talking for a while…..

“Are you well?”

You know, I feel better than I have in a long while.

“Good.”

Burning the books helped.

“But you did not burn them all?”

Nay.

I wanted to keep the ones referring to those who are still alive…for now.

“For now? Are you referring to the books or the men?”

Both. - She nipped his nose.

“Ah, I see; will you require assistance in dispatching either?”

I doubt it - but it was nice of you to offer.

“Have I told you yet how much I love you?” he whispered against her mouth.

She nodded, dropping her tablet as they kissed deeply – before settling into his arms and falling asleep.

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

Tristan left in the early hours to go scouting again; he was concerned about the Saxons getting too close.

Jules was roused by shouting and saw Dagonet fending off some of the mercenaries, with Marius holding Lucan with a knife to his throat.

She was to one side and she realised he could not see her so she strung her bow to take out the mercenaries, and then saw Guinevere stringing hers too.

Marius’ wife, who seemed a good woman, tried to make him let loose the boy but he threw her to one side.

As Guinevere’s arrow struck Marius in the chest killing him, so she dropped two of the mercenaries. Lucan ran straight to Dag, who shoved him under the wagon.

As the other mercenaries still went to advance she killed another. As he and Arthur arrived, Lancelot grinned at her then turned to Guinevere “Your hand seems to be better?”

The Woad gave him a dirty look before firing another arrow into the dirt in front of the mercenaries.

Bors came riding in yelling “Arturious!! Do we have a problem?!”

The other knights started to surround them, Bors’ horse barged two of the mercenaries a few times as Arthur gives them an ultimatum “You have a choice; you help, or you die.”

They threw down their weapons and Jols collected them.

Tristan rode up and Jules beamed at him.

“How many did you kill?” Bors asked.
”Four.”

“Not a bad start to the day!” He laughed.

Jules saw Tristan drop a crossbow at Arthur’s feet “Armour piercing. They are close; we have no time.”

”You ride ahead.”

Tristan nodded at Arthur before locking eyes with Jules; he dipped his head briefly and she smiled, then he swung his horse round and was gone.

Fulcinia approached Jules “He loves you very much, as you do him - you are very lucky.” She smiled sadly.

Jules patted her arm and went to walk away, but the other woman held her there “I am sorry I could not help you - before.” Their eyes locked and Jules hugged her; shaking her head, smiling.

“She is a good woman, to be so forgiving from what you have told me she suffered” Alecto said to his mother; Fulcinia could only nod, her eyes full, as she watched the younger woman walk away.

Jules wandered to Guinevere she took out her tablet -

Thank you, you saved me the bother of killing Marius.

He got a much quicker death than if I had dealt with him.

“You are welcome. However, it seems the case if his crimes against you struck you dumb, mayhap I should have left him to you?” the Woad smiled “you are surely the mute they all adore so much? I have heard them discussing you.”

Aye, my name is Jules.

“That is an unusual name.”

Not really, it is short for another name I do not like any longer.

It is unusual for a Woad to read, is it not? - Jules smiled and looked enquiringly at the younger woman.

“Point to you.” smiled Guinevere “My father felt it would be beneficial to read and write; many of my tribe can.”

It is just as well or we would not be having this ‘conversation’! - Jules smiled.

Both women laughed.

“Ladies, unless you wish to show us your fighting skills with the Saxons, I suggest we leave now?” Lancelot leaned down in his saddle.

Jules opened and closed her hand in a mouth action rolling her eyes; Guinevere looked confused “she is accusing me of being a nag!” laughed Lancelot before riding away.

“Ride in the wagon with me? It would be nice to talk.”

Jules shook her head -

I always ride with the knights; they are my family now.

But I can ride alongside if you wish?

“Aye, you can tell me about them all.”

So the rest of the journey was spent laughing about the various idiosyncrasies of her unusual family.

That is until she saw Arthur stop and look stricken, she nodded to Guinevere and rode to him. Tugging his sleeve -

What is it? What has happened, do you ail?

“I fare well enough; it is only that I have just learnt the Rome I was going back to no longer exists, and the man I thought family is dead.” His voice was bleak.

Jules leaned across and hugged him. He patted her arm “All is well, Little Bird – we all have our losses to bear in this life; you know that better than any.”

He was moved by the compassion in her eyes; was this the same woman who was so terrified of him when they first found her that she would try to run away? He smiled at her “much has changed since we first found you, has it not?”

She nodded smiling -

You have all done so much for me, Arthur.

I will never be able to repay your kindness.

But I am content.

I have a new family; one my own blood would be proud of. That includes you.

He swallowed hard “You are an incredible person Jules.”

She slapped his arm -

I am me.

Only that – warts and all.

She smiled and leaned across and kissed his cheek, before spurring her horse forward to ride with a disgruntled looking Lancelot.

“She is nice, is she not?” Asked Guinevere.

“She is, considering all she has been through.” And he began to recount her story, anything to keep his mind from Alecto’s words.

+++++++++++++
Jules threw some snow she snatched off a tree at Lancelot and got him square in the back of the head, causing the other knights to crow with laughter.
“You know, you can go off some people!” he grinned as she drew level; before tossing some at her and hitting her in the face.
She pretended to reel and fall off her horse; Gawain only just catching her.
“Jules?! Are you alright? I did not mean it!” Lancelot grabbed her arm pulling her into a sitting position.
She poked her tongue out at him ”You….evil little demon, you! You scared me half to death, not only because I thought I had hurt you, but at the thought of what Tristan would do!” Still, it had made him laugh.
She pushed her tablet at him -
Made you laugh though!
“Aye you did – you always do. For all of us Jules, you make the sun come out for all of us!” He smiled.
She quickly rode on to see the little boy. She looked at Dagonet questioningly “he will be alright; I think his fever is almost gone.”
She smiled at him and the little boy smiled back. After she had gone he said “She seems a nice lady.”
“She is; she lost all her family, including a little boy who would have been about your age now.”
“She cannot talk?”
“Not yet, but we hope one day she will. It is only she is too sad right now.”
“I see…well, I like her.”
“As do we all” Dag smiled.
++++++++++++
A while later they arrive at a large frozen lake, Tristan had rejoined them and he and Jules were riding together in a companionable silence as always.
Arthur had to admit this did not look good. Tristan rode up. His leader sighed; “is there any other way?” he asked, though he already knew the answer.
“Nay, we have to cross the ice.” The scout replied.
“Get them all out of the carriages. Tell them to spread out.”
Even so they could see the ice cracking under their feet.
Arthur sighed. Turning “Knights....”
"Well I am tired of running. And these Saxons are so close behind, my arse is hurting.” Bors quipped.
Tristan squeezed Jules hand “Never liked looking over my shoulder anyway.
"Dagonet smirked “Here. Now.”
"It will be a pleasure to put an end to this racket.” Gawain grinned indicating the sound of drums.
"We will finally get a look at the bastards.” Galahad smiled.
Lancelot shook his head, knowing this was not a good place to face the Saxons off; but went along with the others.
Arthur put Ganis in charge of the wagons; Guinevere got down with her bow and Jules gathered her weapons too.
“You are not staying” Tristan walked over “go with the others.”
I will not!

I will stay and fight!

Who in Hades is going to protect us if you lot die?

And if you die I would rather be dead anyway.

He sighed and nodded “so be it. But if aught happens to you I will soon follow.”

As I with you; so we are even.

Twenty minutes later the Saxons arrived. They all stood on the ice eyeing each other.

“I believe they are waiting for an invitation. Bors, Tristan, Jules!”

The three let loose their arrows, felling some of the Saxons; incensed their enemy started marching.

“Aim for the wings make them cluster!” shouted Arthur; all arrows flew and true to the plan the Saxons began to huddle together. The ice was cracking badly under the stress.

They continued firing but the Jules saw the ice would not crack completely.

“Fall back and prepare for combat!” cried Arthur; all knew they would not survive. They looked at each other saying final goodbyes, before bracing themselves for the onslaught.

Out of the corner of her eye, Jules saw Dagonet rush forward screaming fiercely with his axe in his hand.

They tried to cover him, but he was hit; he still kept hacking at the ice until finally it broke - he collapsed.

Arthur rushed forward with Bors, both trying to help the motionless knight as they dragged him from the icy water and shield him at the same time “Stay with me Dag, stay with me…” Bors was almost crying; as the Saxons began retreating.

A scream rent the air as someone tore across the ice firing arrows wildly into the retreating throng “DAGONET….NAY, NOT DAGONET….YOU BASTARDS! YOU SAXON BASTARDS!

All the knights turned…..it was Jules……..….


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