LITTLE BIRD AND THE HAWK

Chapter 4 - Travelling

The following morning Juliana woke in Tristan’s arms; the feeling of a man’s weighty arm over her, smelling that male smell…..she began to panic. Struggling, she tried to sit up and get away.

Tristan’s voice suddenly soothing her, calmly assuring her that she was safe aided her in regaining her bearings. His speech still thick with sleep, he managed to hush her fear. She went from fighting him, to clinging to him.

“It is all well Juliana – you have naught to fear, we will never let aught happen to you. I would not let aught happen to you.” The quiet authority in his voice assured he was telling the truth, not merely spouting words to lull her.

Picking up her tablet, her one now constant companion; she wrote -

I am sorry.

- She pushed it toward his face so he could see.

“You have naught to apologise for; did you know you spoke yester night?”

Nay, I do not remember. What did I say?

Tristan told her; she paled to the point where he thought she would faint. “what ails you?”

She did not write.

“What ails you?”

Naught - naught ails me.

- Then -

Did they hear me?

“Aye.”

What did they say?

“They want to know who it is, so they can kill him.”

They cannot - he is powerful in Rome.

He is of the church - but he is an evil man. He is the worst of all demons.

“I see. Can you tell me yet what happened, can you tell us who did this evil to you?” She paused for the longest time; then -

If I tell you about my night terror - why I have it - will it aid me?

Will I then speak again?

“Aye, it will help – but I cannot say about your speech. You need to face your fears.”

They are not fears but realities for me.

“You still have to face them.”

I will tell; but to you all as I could not, would not, keep retelling.

- She closed her eyes against the memories that threatened to overwhelm her.

Tristan led her out of the wagon. “Juliana wishes to explain about the nightmare to us all.”

They gathered round; she hovered so close to Tristan, you could barely see light between them. She wrote slowly and so painfully, each word seeming to be dragged from the bottom of her soul.

Each patting down done laboriously, before the next line of words were picked out in the wax; as if to try and stave off the inevitable telling.

He killed my babies; his babies - all four, in front of me.

He laughed as he did that vile thing - he laughed as he beat and raped me.

He made me write it down.

A journal, with ink and parchment, for his amusement and - gratification.

He was angry when I could not scream any longer.

Then he let the soldiers take me.

They beat and raped me.

- She paused, then -

I would welcome death now.

She refused to look up as she returned to the wagon; if she had, she would have seen the normally battle hardened, indifferent knights struggling to control rage, disbelief and even tears.

Bors, his own offspring forefront in his mind; was having the most trouble to comprehend the enormity of what she’d told them “We want to know who it is! We want revenge! Revenge for you and your babes!” He cried, incensed.

She stopped and turned -

You cannot, he is powerful in Rome.

He is of the church - you will not be allowed to hurt him.

The penalties for all of you would be severe.

I cannot allow that - you are good men.

You are so close to your freedom.

“We care not!” cried Bors. The others murmured their agreement.

I care - I care because you are good men and have been so very kind to me.

It has been long since anyone was kind to me.

I will survive because of all of you. One day he will see me and fear.

That will be revenge enough.

- She went back into the wagon.

“I do not care what that poor lass says; we should hunt him down and spread his guts across the hills, cut his dick off and make him eat it, cut his tongue out and shove it up his arse, make him…..!!!!” Bors was incandescent with rage as he thought up all sorts of vile tortures for the man who did this evil.

“She has not told us who it is.” Tristan pointed out “And I believe there is much more to what has happened to her than this.”

“How can you be so bloody calm, Tristan?!” shouted the other knight in exasperation.

“Because we know not who it is, and I wish to save my energy until I do.” Though his face and voice were impassive, the others noted the murderous glint in his eye.

The other knights quieted Bors. Arthur stood in shock, “how could any do such monstrous things?”

Lancelot walked over “It is good to know it is not only a roman, but a roman christian that carries out such atrocities with so much glee; is it not Arthur?!” he glared.

“I am not to blame, brother. I suggest you do as Tristan says and keep your rage for the one who deserves it” he sighed.

“You are not to blame, nay; I agree on that. But I wish an explanation as to why someone from the so enlightened Rome you wax lyrical about; from this new religion that is supposedly so wonderfully peaceful would carry out these atrocities?” He asked coldly.

“I cannot; it goes against both Rome and the holy church.” Arthur held up his hands in submission “pax, brother, pax. I cannot explain such actions; I cannot even understand such actions and, in truth, I do not wish to.”

Lancelot could hear the hurt in his friend and commander’s voice and sighed “I am sorry Arthur; sorry that such barbarity can be carried out with no reason to it. I cannot accept the..….depravity that has been done here.” He rubbed his hand over his eyes in frustration as he strode away. The others followed him.

“Do not brood on it Arthur, all will be well.” Tristan spoke.

You do no hate me?”

“Nay, none of us do - he is angry, as we all are. But you did not do these things. Even Juliana does not lay blame at your door. It is only what you stand for, and the fact you are a man, that scares her so.”

“Why is she not afraid of you?”

“I cannot explain it" Tristan shrugged. "though the little bird and hawk names worked yester night.”

Arthur sighed “Will she fare well enough alone with us? We must move out today, to tarry here longer risks discovery by the Woads at least. I need you to scout ahead.”

“She will cope. I will suggest she ride in the wagon, she can get out when we stop to rest and for the night; that way she can get to know the knights slowly.”

“Many thanks Tristan; as always, you give good counsel.”

The scout nodded and left.

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

He explained to Juliana what would be happening. She nodded; clearly unhappy at being without the only one she truly trusted yet again, but accepting it.

It bothered him that she was so accepting; he knew her tribe, it was like his own. They were warriors, fighters – they would not quietly accept anything they did not want.

Yet whatever he said she quietly went along with; even to meeting the knights the day before. He knew what that must have cost her; but because he said he trusted them, she did her best to do the same.

He looked at her; the shirt was sticking to her where the blood had seeped through, but could see the wounds had sealed again and her eyes were slightly less puffy.

The black/brown irises were becoming more visible again, and her whole face seemed to be slightly less swollen than the day before. The bruises were still purple, but he knew from his own experiences they would fade with time.

She was beginning to heal, on the outside at least. The scars she bore on her skin a mere hint at the ones she bore on her heart and soul. What had she said? “My heart is a dead thing”; if what he suspected was true, he could believe it. After all, was not his own?

The nightmare had shocked him; Saxons killed babies as well, but then they wiped out whole areas: men, women and children. They were not killed in front of each other like that for some perverse entertainment.

It was hard to believe that any roman would carry out such butchery – particularly to children they had fathered. But with them now seeming to withdraw from Briton, which is what he suspected was happening, they probably felt they could carry out any perversion with little fear of reprisal.

Well, the soldiers may have escaped, but the one who had abused her worst of all would not. He vowed he and his brother knights would have their revenge on her part. They would not, could not, allow this to go unpunished; the penalty for them be what it may.

She looked at him questioningly, realising he had been staring -

I sicken you.

My injuries.

Nay, I was just thinking of something I will need to do; as to that, we have all had worse.” He spoke of matter of factly; and, against her better judgement, she believed him.

He noticed her flinch as she went to move “Why are you sitting so straight still? You hold your side, are you injured there?”

It is naught.

“It must be aught for you to sit so, why did not Dagonet see to it?”

I would not let him.

He would see.

“See what?”

What else they did to me.

“Let me see to you; I will not judge.”

She hesitated.

“Little bird, your hawk would never do aught to harm you.”

It is not harming me I worry for.

Your - friendship is important.

I would not like it if you hated me.

Tristan gripped her chin gently, making her look at him “I would not hate nor judge you Juliana – none of us would; mark me on that. Now let me see.”

She sighed and obediently un-tucked her shirt, wincing as she did; he could not see properly and asked that she remove the shirt. Her fingers trembled as she did so, but still obediently obliged, it was then he saw the reason her reluctance - the bite marks. They were healing but, as he had suspected, they would scar.

They still caused him shock, though his face was as inscrutable as ever. He looked at the large bruise on her side, pretending not see the red marks over her chest as she held the shirt in front of her breasts. She was grateful.

“How did Dagonet miss this?”

I did not let him see.

“He is usually very thorough, and I was with you.”

I lay on that side. The bruising was not so bad then, and I kept the cloth around my front - because of -

She lowered her eyes, to where the red welts with teeth marks were.

“I see.”

I want to die Tristan. Truly, you should have let me.

I want you to live. We all do.”

Why?

What use is my life to anyone?

I am nothing - a no one. Not even worthy to breathe the air around me.

He gripped her shoulders “I do not care what you have been told; you are someone, you are Juliana of the Iazyges tribe. That is enough; your tribe’s motto is as mine ’Born in a saddle, sword in hand – ready to battle for family and land.’

You are a fighter Juliana, and you will fight again; to survive, to live. We will aid you.”

She looked past his mask like face, his calm voice and into his passionate eyes.

Aye, if you wish it.

“I do. You will too - soon.” He felt her side gently once more, hearing her hiss slightly but she never moved.

“You have a fractured rib and additionally a broken one. You are used to pain?”

I see. I thought as much. It is not the first time.

Aye, I am - more than even Hades can hold.

“Put your shirt on. I will return at sunset.”

She dipped her head.

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

He sought Arthur and Dagonet out and told them of what he had learnt.

“It would explain why she carries herself so stiffly.” Said Dagonet.

“Dear God, is there nothing that has not been done to her?” asked Arthur in despair.

Tristan regarded his commander and friend levelly “Nay.”

He walked away. Dagonet watched him go ”The two you need to worry about Arthur, are he and Lancelot. They feel this wrong strongly, and the others will follow them.” He paused, then added quietly “I will.” Arthur nodded, rubbing a weary hand over his face.

He looked up and saw Juliana from the wagon – she saw him looking at her, her face froze in fear. He could see her breathing deeply and plucking at the curtain of the wagon, trying to control her panic, before trying to smile. She gestured to him, he walked forward very slowly.

He could see what it was costing her to remain where she was. It pained him much to see how frightened she was of him.

“What can I do you for you, Juliana?”

Little Bird is better.

Again another attempt at a smile.

“Alright, Little Bird; I will tell the others.”

It is a new start for me.

My family called me Jules.

“I will tell them that also.”

I - wish to speak with you.

Outside.

She stepped out of the wagon, he gave her space.

I wish to ride. Have you a horse to spare?

“Aye, we could free up one of the pack horses without much trouble. But do you think it is wise with your ribs?”

Tristan told you.

“Aye, he is concerned.”

I see.

I was born in a saddle. It is the way of my people.

I will cope.

- A pause -

Pain is naught to me.

It hurt him to read that, but he realised the truth of it. “If it is what you wish, I will see to it; but why?”

The quicker they see me recover the better.

They want revenge. I am mute, not deaf and I hear them.

I do not wish it - if he dies, let it be at my hand and mine alone.

They will suffer if they hurt him and so will you - that would not be fair.

“You are very brave…”

Her face contorted into a sneer -

If I were brave I would be dead.

A defiled slave since the age of ten summers – my tribe would disown me.

I should have died at my own hand long past - if not at my captors.

Her words radiated anger. “You are angry now. That is good; one reason to survive is anger, Ju….little Bird. Remember that.”

She nodded.

Dagonet was dubious “Tristan will not be pleased.”

“She should do as she wishes, Dag” replied Arthur “For once she should be allowed to do as she wishes."

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

They saddled her a horse, and she rode; in great pain and unbearably uncomfortable, but she rode. She earned their respect that day.

She watched the trees roll by, felt the crisp wind in the air. Winter was coming, so was the snow. She could feel the crisp chill of its cold following them; soon the soft flakes would also.

She schooled her mind, as she had long ago, to drift away; from here and now, from the memories, but most of all the pain.

Lancelot was the one to break her silent reverie “We will need to get you a new tablet when we return, little bird” he spoke quietly as he rode up to her. Looking at the wax tablet; with its markings pressed down again and again from constant use, it was looking remarkably the worse for wear now.

She tried not to start, but could not help it. “Pax, Little Bird I am unsure how not to distress you.”

She dipped her head.

He told you.

“What?”

My name.

“Aye. He said you would prefer that or Jules.”

Aye, he is correct.

- A pause, then -

You should not blame him.

“Who?”

Arthur.

It is not his fault.

“Do you not blame him?”

Nay.

But he scares me - who he is, what he stands for.

Still, I do not blame him.

“I cannot understand his love for a Rome that does this, or a God that allows it!” Lancelot hissed in sudden anger.

Nay, but he is loyal; that is good surely?

You cannot blame any God for the evil that men do.

“You are wise.” He smiled, calming.

Nay I am not, but I have had much time to think.

- She tapped his arm. -

“What?”

I want to learn to fight again.

I will not go to seek revenge; but I wish to be ready if our paths were to cross again.

We will protect you, fear not.”

NAY.

It is my right to correct the wrong that was done me, to avenge the death of my children.

I wish to fight myself.

“Aye, true enough.”

- She tapped his arm again -

“What?”

Where are we going?

Lancelot had dreaded this, he closed is eyes “Home.” He said, stalling.

Where is that?

He sighed “The fort - at the Wall.”

She began to shake.


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