LITTLE BIRD AND THE HAWK

Chapter 15 - Do Not Leave Me

They all stood dumbfounded as she rushed up to the limp body of Dagonet. She was silent again now; she cradled his head in her lap, bent down and kissed his cheek. In fact so silent was she, that they truly believed they had imagined her shouting at the retreating Saxons.

The others were rising slowly, even Bors was leaving, going to get Dag’s horse to take his body back.

She merely stared at the fallen knight - her heart was breaking; she could actually feel it snapping in two, it was a physical pain just to take a breath.

“Come…..” Tristan tried to get her to stand.

She would not; she would not leave him alone out here on the cold ice - not when he had been her best friend, best everything; he had even helped heal her. She would not forsake him now.

‘Her fault…this was all her fault…...again….again….she could not save someone she loved; again they had perished because she was weak. WEAK! She had persuaded Arthur to take this insane quest….her fault….all her fault….’

Lancelot came over “What is it?”

“She will not leave him.”

“We must make her; this is not right.”

They both reached down to help her up, as they did so they thought they heard something - they stopped.

She leant over and chafed his face; then leant so close to him her forehead was touching his “Dagonet? Dagonet? Can you hear me? I hope you can hear me….I am sorry…I am so sorry, Dagonet…I….I could not save you…..” She whispered, tears streaming down her face, almost incoherent in her grief.

She cuddled up on the freezing ice with him “I am so sick of death Dagonet – please, I am sick of losing those I love; please do not leave me. Do not leave those that love you so….”

Gawain walked to her “Come on Little Bird……” his voice thick with tears at her obvious grief for the man he considered a brother. “He is in a better place now.”

Jules looked up at him, the tears still streaming down her face. “I….I could not save him Gawain….I could not save any of them! My fault…..all my fault….I was weak….I failed him…..failed him….” She rocked over the body, hugging the large knight to her.

“Jules you are crying! You are talking!” He exclaimed causing everyone there to suddenly take note; realise they weren’t hearing things.

She wiped her face with her fingers and saw wet on them; she licked them stunned, it tasted salty…..tears! She was crying….she was crying!

“You can speak!” Gawain cried again.

She looked at him in bewilderment shaking her head, and then tried to make a sound “oh!” She clapped her hands over her mouth. Her voice sounding strange to her ears after so much time.

“He would be happy Jules, aye he would; happy that his greatest wish came true, that you could speak again. He was a warrior and warriors never really leave us; he will always be with you.” But the young knights voice trembled and she did not believe him.

“I would rather be mute for eternity and have my Dagonet back - than speak and lose him” her voice was raspy with lack of use and the grief that shook it; tears continued to stream down her face; “For I have lost far too many!” She was grieving not only for the fallen knight who was so much to her, but also for the others she had loved and then had cruelly snatched away.

She leant over Dagonet once more “I am sorry Dag, I am so sorry…..I have failed you…. as I always fail….” Her tears fell on his face, and his eyelid twitched. She froze for a moment, then prodded his eye and he moved.

She leapt up; laying his head onto the ice “he is not dead! He is not dead!” she shouted almost hysterically.

“What?!” Bors rushed back and fell to his knees, listening over his chest. “She is bloody right; it is weak, but his heart is still beating!”

The knights rushed to help him; only Lancelot and Tristan saw a sobbing Jules rush to her horse ”Bastard, he will pay now; now he will pay…” They both knew where she was going and for whom.

“Where is she going?” asked Arthur.

“Back to the fort, for Germanius” replied Tristan running for his horse, with Lancelot in hot pursuit. “Catch us up….”

“I cannot believe it Dag; you dramatic old bastard, you got her her voice back!” Bors grinned kissing the knight on the top of the head. “Do not you ever scare me like that again, you old dog!” He was rewarded with a weak smile, before the other knight lapsed back into unconsciousness.

Bors turned to Arthur “Where is Birdie?”

“Gone for Germanius - a lot of anger and despair has come to the surface today Bors, now it is time for retribution. Did any truly believe she would not want revenge in the end if one more that she loved was made to suffer?”

Bors never heard the last as he, Gawain and Galahad flew for their horses….

Arthur managed to get Dagonet onto his horse, anxious to get back quickly “you have opened a large bucket of worms this day my friend….”He muttered to the knight hanging limply over his saddle.

He looked at Guinevere; she shook her head “I will stay with you. I saw her face as she stood; she will need no aid from I with the one she seeks, trust me."

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

As they rode Lancelot asked the question that had been bothering him “Do we really want to stop her killing him?”

“Nay, and we will not.”

“We will not?”

“Nay, we will merely stay her until Arthur comes; then it is up to him.”

“How do you plan on doing that?”

“I will think of something.”

“You could always try kissing her….” Lancelot grinned.

Tristan shot him a sideways look “I know you think more of her than a friend, equally the same as with Guinevere.”

“WHAT? I am sorry, I should not shout…….WHAT?!”

“I mean it; it is obvious…to all but Jules.”

Lancelot sighed, realising he had been more transparent than he thought “I would never act on it in either case.”

“I know; but Jules does love you too.”

“Aye, as a brother….”

“Better than nothing, better than you will ever get from the Woad.”

“Aye, and that is why I only love the little bird the same way. I realise now aught else would be pointless.” He smiled sadly.

“Hmm…” Tristan remained unconvinced.

They rode on; hoping they would be able to stall her - but doubting it more and more, both had seen the terrible rage on her face.

+++++++++++

She reached the gates with Tristan and Lancelot coming up fast behind.

She leapt off her horse and rushed into the main room, where the round table was situated. Germanius was lolling in Arthur’s chair, his feet on the table; Alecto and his mother sitting further along looking at him with distaste.

Blind rage consumed her; all rational thought left her as a red mist came down over her eyes, and all she wanted was to see him laying as Cassius had done.

His initial lecherous look, when he saw her enter, faded as he saw her draw her two swords with a malevolent flourish and stalk towards him; clearly irate and crying. Determination in every step…..

Horton hovered behind him, a thin smile playing on his lips. ‘God’s debt would be repaid now it would seem’; he thought to the brother of Marius, ‘and the Lord would be paying back with interest.’

“Hello bishop. Remember me? You certainly look as though you do.

I am the one you helped abuse, who you condoned the torture of, all in the name of your church!

Yet you live, whilst my friend” She tried to swallow her tears, her throat sore from so many words after so long being silent “my good and noble friend lies fighting for his life on the icy lake where I have left him; he may yet die.” Lancelot and Tristan skidded to a halt at the door.

“You sent him to his death, to rescue the brutal brother of my torturer and his pathetic offspring. A weak little boy who will no doubt end as corrupt and perverted as you; but so long as Alecto is the next pope you care naught for the welfare of others.

My friend” she started to cry once more “is close to death - because of you! My parents...”

Sobs racked her body. “My sister…” she fought for control, but tears flowed freely, too many years of being ignored “my little sister….” She twisted her head in agony at the memory “My babies…..all are dead….no burial for them, just burnt on a rubbish heap.” Lancelot and Tristan both flinched; Bors, Galahad and Gawain ran in, disbelief written on their faces at what they had just heard.

But Jules was blind to all save the bishop. “Seven winters I have not spoken except in nightmares; seven winters I have not heard my own voice; I have not grieved nor shed a tear for those I loved, because my grief was ambrosia to him - and I would not give him the satisfaction.

My dear friend, my brother, lays fighting for his life; all my other family dead, the Saxons march on us….and I may yet lose more of those I have come to love more than my own life.

Lancelot, Bors, Galahad and Gawain….even Arthur….a roman…..I love them all with all my heart and especially my Tristan; but I may yet end this life alone.

So tell me bishop, tell me why I should spare you; give me just one good reason” she turned her head in a weaving way as if trying to see him differently, trying to understand the monster before her. “And I will leave you be.

Just one, that is all I want” she was still crying, and the rage within her built further at the pathetic terror on his face. “Why you should live, when they died; why you should have a life they have been denied. Why you are healthy, when one I love dearly lies mortally wounded…

My Dagonet, my noble knight…my friend….my brother….” She was crying hard again.

Alecto moved behind her and she spun out with the other sword; threatening him until he smiled sadly, dipping his head and returned to his seat.

She then moved the two swords back to form a scissors action either side of the bishop’s head, “Just one reason to spare you - surely you can come up with a single one?” she moved the blades so they nicked his skin either side of his neck, causing him to flinch and sweat….."Horton, at my back, tucked beneath my shirt, there are two books - give them to the boy; let him see the holy mother church he will serve, and the proud roman stock he comes from where men butcher babies for fun!” She spat.

Horton calmly did as he was bid “Do not aid her!” cry the bishop “She is a devil, a demon!”

“Nay sire, that is you - for I have read the journal she was forced to keep on you. Every action you carried out against her goes against our most sacred teachings. For you at your end, only satan and his brimstone fires of hell await you.”

Alecto took the volumes and began to read the green one; horror crossing his normally placid face, even as the Bishop began to stammer explanations and apologies.

The swords stayed in place, after just a few minutes he closed the book “I need not read more; if she kills you it is God’s judgement, for you are no man of His holy teachings.”

Jules smiled thinly “It seems all desert you bishop; your day of reckoning is at hand and you face it alone…”

Bors edged up to her “Birdie? He is not worth it; truly he is not.”

She still could not look at him, feeling she had let him down by not protecting Dagonet better. “Will you not look at your old mate, Birdie?”

“I cannot!” she cried out “I cannot Bors; I let you down, I let Dag down! I could not protect your friend, your brother…I am worthless, useless!”

“Do not ever say that!” Lancelot growled “we all love you Jules!”

“Dagonet may yet live. And to me you are all; we care.” Tristan’s calm and soothing voice cut through her grief as he walked very slowly to her.

As she looked at him she saw a movement as the bishop drew a hidden dagger, she spun a blade round and cut off the hand that held it. Jules turned on her heels and left, with Tristan in hot pursuit.

The bishop screamed as blood poured from the stump, no one moved to help; until eventually Gawain sighed and threw him a rag to stem the flow whilst Galahad picked up the box he knew contained their papers.

He turned to Alecto, “I do not suppose you have a problem with me taking this?” He asked him indicating the box.

“Nay, you deserve it…”

“Will there be trouble for her?” Gawain looked at him.

“Nay, once this book is seen, he will be dismissed from the Church; I have much influence there and will see to it. I am not as weak as she thinks and I will try to do right.”

They nodded non-commitally; they believed him about the bishop, but agreed with Jules - once he got there and experienced the power, he would end his days as corrupt as the man now bleeding and screaming like a stuck pig in front of them.

+++++++++

Outside Tristan caught up to Jules, he tried to get her to stop as she muttered to herself “He will kill me now – but I do not care. I have made sure that they will never torture any innocent life again.

I do not care what happens to me. It is at my hand he suffers" she hit her chest with her clenched fist. "So....so he cannot harm any of them. That is all I care about; I care naught for me….only them…only my knights….only my scout…” her voice hitched with tears again.

He made her stop, turning by the shoulders to face him “I care, we all care Jules….I love you.” he swallowed, this was not easy for him; this was not his way, but he had to make her understand - understand how much he loved her “If he kills you then he best kill me too, for I will not live without you.”

She clung to him then, sobbing once more; she went to speak….Galahad came running up “Arthur’s here and he wants to see you Jules.”

She strode back into the meeting room.

“Lancelot has spoken for you, saying it was the bishop’s fault for trying to stab you. Alecto, Fulcinia and Horton have agreed.” Arthur spoke, glad he wasn’t there as he doubted he would want to save the man who caused so much hurt not only to Jules and others, but to himself - his mind thinking of Pelagius.

“He will leave tomorrow with the caravan to Rome; he may not survive the long trip, but whatever happens that is God’s will. Alecto has said he gives his word none of us, least of all you, will be held responsible for what has happened; he will give both the books to the Pope and ensure we are left in peace.”

The boy nodded and stood, taking his mother’s arm, left the room. Horton followed him, all heard Alecto say “you showed spirit, you will serve me now.”

“For a little weasel he sure lands on his feet well” muttered Gawain with a smirk.

“Where is Dagonet? I want to see him.”

“In his room…” before Arthur could say more, she was gone.

She spent the rest of the day with the large knight.

+++++++++

She burst into his room”Dagonet? It is me, Jules - look, I can speak! You did that….the shock of……the shock of….seeing you…..fall….it broke me here” she touched her heart... “and here” she touched her head “and I can speak, Dagonet!”

Suddenly the false brightness was gone; she went to his bedside and knelt down, taking one of his huge rough hands in her tiny ones. “Please Dagonet, you are worlds to me; you cannot leave me.

I cannot lose a big brother I rely on to guide me and listen to me; you are the wisest of all and the most gentle. Please Dagonet, you have to live!”

Bors and Van stood by the door, tears falling. “She loves you daft buggers an awful lot, does she not?” she smiled through the tears.

“Aye that she do” he sighed “she thinks she is to blame….she thinks I blame her.”

“For what?”

“This – Dag. But I do not, how can I blame her? It were not any of us at fault; it was just him losing his bloody mind and deciding to play the bloody hero instead of leaving it to me!” he ground out, hurt in his face despite trying to make light in his tone. “I cannot lose him Van……”

“You will not, she will not let you. She will nag him to stay; they will chuck him out of the next world just to shut her up!” she hugged the old softy stood next to her “she has got a funny voice has she not? I was expecting it to be…..I dunno, different some how….but it is almost sing-song, very…..soft and lilting is it not?”

“Not when she shouts, trust me!” He hugged her “love you.”

“Awww Bors…..I love you too. Go to her……”

He did; and Van watched as he patted her arm, the way she always did with him and then kissed her cheek. She looked surprised; before throwing her arms round his neck and sobbing her sorry’s into his shoulder, as the usually gruff knight comforted and cried with her for the sick friend they both loved so much.

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

Because she stayed with Dagonet so long Jules missed the arrival of the Saxons, and the argument between Lancelot and Arthur.

But she was there when Dagonet’s eye fluttered open “Jules?”

“Dagonet? Dagonet, oh Dagonet!!” She smothered him in kisses…

“Jules?” he said again.

“What?”

“Shut up….I could not even die in peace” he grinned at her “I never realised what a chatterbox you would be….”

She grasped him again, “You did not leave me, you did not leave me!” sobbing and laughing into his shoulder.

“Would a big brother ever leave his little sister all alone?”

“Dagonet, oh Dagonet….you saved my heart....” The large knight managed to move painfully to hug her back.

That was how Arthur found them when he came to check on his friend.


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