Marcus the second was not happy with his life. Being heir to one of the most feared men in all of Scotland, most would think he should be happy. Overjoyed even, but not Marcus. He felt disgusted with his father and longed to be anyone but him.
Ever a man of the people the young prince would often journey out into one of the many towns on the Island, disguised in a full suit of armour as a simple knight. That was how he found out what his father had done to the farmers of Hascosay. How he had slaughtered hundreds of innocent men, women and children. Just because they couldn’t keep up with his father’s unreasonable demands.
Marcus the bloody is what the citizens called his father and Marcus the second was no fool. He knew that his father had lost the respect of the common folk when news of what he did travelled, and when a kind loses the respect of his subjects it doesn’t take long before he ends up dead.
Marcus the second was always the black sheep of his family. His brother Duncan the sixth aspired to be just as cruel as his father. His father doted upon his brother despite him not being his heir. Duncan’s birth had led to Marcus’s mother’s death. When Marcus the bloody found out his laughed, exclaiming how his son was already a killer of the stupid. Marcus the second had never been able to forgive his father. The man should have loved his wife, he should have been devastated by her death. Marcus was even prepared to fight his father should he take her death out upon his brother.
Jane, Marcus’s mother was always kind to him. Once, when he was found being taught how to cook by a few of the kitchen servants by his father he was beaten. His father exclaimed how cooking was a women’s job and he should be ashamed. He later found out that the kitchen staff were all killed for tainting the king’s son. Marcus ran to his mother that night, weeping from his father’s cruelty. His mother held him in her arms until he fell asleep from exhaustion. Her dress damp from his tears.
Marcus had always wondered how someone as angelic as his mother ended up with someone as despicable as his father. Ever since the kitchen incident he never had a good relationship with his father. His father would talk about how Duncan was his true son. Not some fool who would rather cook than fight.
Truth be told Marcus had thought about leaving his father for many years. But today was the day, Marcus was going to be leaving Shetland today, after Hascosay he couldn’t stand to even look his father in his eye and while their relationship may have grown poisons over the years he couldn’t stand the thought of watching as the mainland armies tore apart his father.
No, Marcus had to leave and he knew just how he was going to do it. Being a man of the people had its benefits. While his father and brother didn’t sully themselves with the common folk Marcus was smarter than that. He saw that it was the common folk who knew everything on the island. The local baker holds more power in secrets than the entire kings guard combined. Even the king knows but a fraction of what the local bartender does.
That’s why Marcus knew he could escape. He heard the rumours on the island, he knows where he could go to get away from his father. The blood falcons were his best bet, while he could use the fishermen to get him to the mainland, but then what With his father’s notoriety there would be no way he could keep his name and survive. The blood falcons are the only people who could get him to the mainland with a new identity.
The blood falcons were assassins. Marcus had heard talk about how they had killed the old tailor, the rumour was that the new tailor and his daughter were members of the blood falcon. They killed the old tailor and said it was of natural causes in his old age. Marcus was admittedly terrified of asking favours of a pair of assassins and even more scared of what they would make him do to get even with them after they helped him. But he knew they could help him and he knew they would. What criminal wouldn’t want a former prince in their debt? While Marcus didn’t have the political connections of his father having the prince’s influence behind the falcons will no doubt be a big boost to their organisation. Marcus knew that by getting their aid he was essentially giving the unofficial control of Shetland Island, but since he wanted to never return what did he care?
So Marcus snuck out of the castle as he usually did each morning, his father had stopped asking anything of him after his mother had died. Duncan was his only son as far as Marcus the bloody was concerned. Marcus retrieved his suit of armour from the hunter’s cabin at the end of the castles gardens where he usually kept it. He couldn’t let his father’s men see him in the armour or they would be able to find him.
After he had outfitted himself in the steel plate armour he made his usual rounds of the town. First to the butchers shop to greet the old man and his wife and pick up his dagger from behind the till. What better place to hide a high quality knife than a butchers? From there, he went to the tavern to pick up his bow and quiver full of arrows. Since he started storing his armour in the castle hunter’s cabin he had learnt a fair amount of hunting skills and he took a liking to archery.
Then he made his journey to the bakers shop. Armed with all he hoped he would need on the mainland. His weapons, the money he stole from his home and his armour which doubled as his disguise. He really hoped that the rumours were true about the butchers secretly being assassins. If he ever saw Shetland again it would be too soon.
The butcher looked like you would expect, white walls and floors to show the cleanliness of the meat and a display of pigs on hooked around the back of the counter where the ‘butchers daughter’ stood smiling at any customers who may enter. In the back of the shop more carcasses where left on meat hooks, being tended too by the ‘butcher’ himself. Marcus made his way over to the women behind the counter when she greeted him, making sure not to give away his identity yet.
“Mornin’ mister. How can we help you today” said the women in a common peasant accent.
“Good morning my lady.” Said Marcus as he leaned forward on the counter. Continuing the conversation in a whisper “I was wondering if you could de me a favour”
The women leaned forward when he spoke. Her long brunette hair cascading down her back as she stared into the eye holes of the metal helmet. “You going to be taking that helmet off?”
“Depends on whether or not you can do me this favour” replied Marcus, the two now speaking in whisper.
“What kind of favour you looking for mister.” Said the women seductively. Clearly getting the wrong message, she was pretty sure but Marcus didn’t agree with the way his brother would sleep with every women he found purely on looks.
“Say a man needed help disappearing. I’ve heard you may be the person to go for help”
“Ah” said the women simply as she walked around the counter and oved towards the door. Locking it before she continued “Hey Franklin!” yelled the women “We have a guy who wants to become a ghost”
“And who may this man be? Who wishes to disappear” said the butcher as he came through into the same room as Marcus and the women. While she may have a peasant accent the man clearly had a foreign accent. Marcus could place it, either French or Spanish.
“Mister says he wants to know if well help before he shows us his pretty face” said the women
“Dammit Tilly how many times have I told you. We can’t accept a job without first knowing the identity of the mark.” Said the main with a sigh
“Please kind sir” said Marcus interrupting the two “I simply need to be able to settle on the mainland and I’ll need a new identity to do that”
“You’ll need a new identity?” asked the man “A noble then”
“Indeed I am a noble. I know it will be hard for me to leave but I can’t stay here, you simply must help me”
“Alright mister calm down” said Tilly “What do you say Frank? We got anything else to do?”
“What can you pay us boy?” asked Frank as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“I have enough silver to pay for my passage and you’ll have my favour.” Replied Marcus as he placed a pouch of silver on the counter top. “I believe when you know who I am you’ll learn how valuable my favour is”
“Confident of that are you?” asked the man as he felt the pouch of silver. “Alright fine, well get you off the island. Well take you to Dundee. The kingdom their seems nice for stragglers”
“And the new identity” asked Marcus. Happy that they would at least take him to the mainland
“That depends on who you are” interrupted Tilly
“A new identity is hard to make boy. I need to know just how valuable your favour will be to us”
“Fine then” said Marcus as he removed his helmet. Almost chuckling at the shocked expressions both the butcher and his daughter had on their faces when they realised who he was.
“Oh bollocks” said the man “This is why we should stop agreeing to this before we know the guy were gonna be smuggling”
“Why… Why would you want to leave?” asked Tilly, suspicious over this being a potential trap. While everyone on the island knew that Marcus the second was nothing like his father she never thought he would actually want to leave the island permanently.
“I assume you’ve heard of what my father did on Hascosay” said Marcus. Satisfied when he received a nod from Tilly “My father is a monster, who has just become bold enough to earn the wraith of the mainland. How long do you think it will be until Marcus the bloody is slain?”
“So you want to save your own hide before it’s in danger?” asked Franklin
“I despise my father. Marcus the bloody is a maniacal brute, yet he is still my father and I couldn’t watch him die in a fool war he has made inevitable. War is inevitable my friend, I want no part of it. If you think me a coward for that then enjoy your short life on this god forsaken rock”
Marcus was shocked when he heard Franklin’s deep throaty laughter. “Clever lad. I like you, and you’re right. Having your favour may just mean we survive this inevitable war you predict”
“So does that mean you’ll help me?” asked Marcus hopefully
“Sure thing mister” said Tilly playfully “You wanna be a merchant or a low level noble in this new life of yours?”
“Neither” said Marcus “I’m done with nobility. I want to be a hunter on the mainland”
“Really are a man of the people.” Said Franklin as he pocketed the pouch of silver after counting the money “What makes you so different to your family I wonder”
“I stopped caring a long time ago my friend.” Replied Marcus earning a smile from Franklin and a chuckle from Tilly.
“It will take a few days for us to get contact to the mainland fellas to set you up a house” said Franklin as he produced a falcon’s feather from underneath the counter and handed it to the prince “So in three days’ time place this feather outside of your bedroom door and you’ll awaken on the ship”
“A few days?” questioned Marcus as he gently took hold of the feather, not wanting to crush it in the greaves of his armour “I was hoping for something more urgent”
“Everyone does mister” said Tilly, a surprising amount of sympathy in her voice “just think about your new life”
“A few days mate, a week at most and you’ll be in some hunters hut outside of Dundee” Said Frank as he walked casually into the backroom of the shop once again.
“Don’t forget the second half of the deal mister” said Tilly as she unlocked the shops door and resumed her position behind the counter. The spitting image of the scene he walked in on earlier. “You’re in our debt now, and we won’t be afraid to be dreadfully dramatic about how you’ll repay it”
Marcus shared a smile with her as she told him a tale of how they forced a backer to allow Tilly to play with his dog for a whole month as payment for them smuggling him drugs for his baking, wanting to make his stock all the more addictive.
Marcus was happy when he began to walk back to the palace. Once again under his full suit of armour, while he was hoping to leave the island today he knew that Tilly and Franklin were his best hope for a new life. They also seemed much kinder than he would have thought when they came from an organisation like the blood falcons.
‘One week’ thought Marcus over and over again as he went about storing his equipment in their usual hiding spots. One week until my new life begins, Marcus was giddy with excitement as he returned home for the night.