Chapter 30, Part 1

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 Tomorrow night's post will be much longer. Thanks for reading!

 

The shouts of aggression became shouts of triumph as the chateau was taken. When the moment of glory had passed, the victors surveyed the carnage. The losses on both sides were staggering. Bodies were everywhere. Some dead, and some dying. Guy and Lucien, bloody but whole, searched anxiously for Owen. He had disappeared from Guy’s sight during the surge across the courtyard. As they looked for him, Guy felt a terror unlike any he had felt before.

How will I tell Cassia? He thought. Dear God, how will I tell her that our son is lost? He shook his head, refusing to accept such a fate until he witnessed it for himself. And as he turned a corner, he heard an agonized voice calling for him.

“Papa, I am here.”

He fought the urge to weep with relief as he saw Owen on the ground, leaning against a wall. An arrow was lodged clean through his shoulder. Guy and Lucien rushed to him, helping him to his feet. Lucien snapped off the exposed part of the arrow shaft, leaving the rest to be removed later. They needed to get him back to camp, where they could deal with his wounds properly. As they helped him along, they were stopped by the sight of Simon, battered and bloodied, being carried away by two soldiers. Guy’s fear came flooding back to him, as he realized that it would not be his wife who would bear the brunt of tragedy, but his beloved daughter. Evelyn loved her husband so passionately. How could she possibly cope with his loss?

As Simon’s body was loaded into a wagon, Guy prayed to God to spare his son-in-law. So many lives had been lost this day. He considered himself blessed that Owen was not a casualty. But was it too much to ask for a second miracle?

*****

The end of an iron poker glowed red as it was removed from the campfire. Basil, Lucien, Guy, and Rene stood over Simon, watching the procedure that was about to take place. Owen sat nearby, his head turned away. He had just endured the procedure himself. After the arrow had been removed from his shoulder, a hot iron had been put to his wound to seal it. His stomach turned at the thought of it being applied to Simon’s injuries.

Simon was alive, but drifting in and out of consciousness. It was imperative that his wounds be sealed, if there was any hope of saving his life. The four men held him down, and it took all of their strength to keep him down as the hot iron did its cruel work. He screamed in agony as it was applied to his side, and then again to his back. He muttered and wept softly as he was put down on the ground. As he slipped back into unconsciousness, Guy looked pointedly at Basil.

“He must be taken back to the Palais de la Cite.”

“Then you will accompany him,” Basil replied. “The army must push north, and I must follow.”

Guy nodded. Basil’s actions were understandable. He could not leave his men, even for the sake of his own son. But the concern he felt was written in his face. Guy put a hand to his shoulder.

“We will see him cared for. You have my word.”

The two men clasped arms. Then, Basil turned to Rene.

“I owe you a great debt. You have proven your worth, and I will see you rewarded for it.”

Rene nodded. “I have merely done my duty, your grace. For the first time in my life, it seems.”

“I hope it will not be the last.”

They clasped arms. The men helped to lift Simon into the cart, and Owen climbed in to sit beside him. Guy, Lucien, and Rene mounted their horses. Then they turned to the southeast, and journeyed towards Paris.

*****

For Evelyn, the roof of the castle was a welcome refuge from the misery of the sick rooms and the general chaos of the war effort. From the battlements, one could see miles of woodlands, hills, and streams. It was a perfect vantage point to watch the sunset, and with Marie at her side, she leaned on the stones and took in the beauty.

There had been little to break the monotony of the daily routine - expect for one unexpected surprise that had come upon them just yesterday. William had returned from his journey to Spain. And to everyone's shock, Isabella had returned with him. She had told them that her reason for coming was to help with the war effort, but they all knew she longed for a reunion with Owen. Evelyn smiled at the thought of how happy her brother would be when he returned. And she, in turn, could hardly wait to be in Simon's arms the moment he came back.

In the distance, they saw a wagon approaching, accompanied by three men on horseback. Behind the wagon, a riderless stallion was tied. The horse was white, and Evelyn gasped. She brought her hand to her mouth, and Marie reached out to steady her.

“My lady, what is it?”

Evelyn broke from her grasp, scrambling down the ladder of the roof opening. She knew the man in black who rode a dark horse. And she knew that white stallion. A stallion without it’s rider. Tears blurred her eyes as she flew down the stairs and dashed through the gallery. Servants stared at her as she sped past them, and in the hall, Cassia called out to her.

“Evelyn, what has happened?”

Evelyn hurried on without answering, and Cassia soon followed her, along with Thea, who had been at her mother’s side. William and Isabella, who had come at the sound of running footsteps, hurried after them. In the courtyard, Evelyn froze. She saw her father, and Lucien, and Rene. Owen was sitting up in the cart, his shoulder bound. But she did not see Simon. Without waiting to ask questions, she rushed to the cart, and yanking back the tarp, she cried out at the site of him, lying lifeless.

“Simon!” she screamed. “Oh, God!”

The men dismounted. Thea ran to Lucien’s arms, and Evelyn turned to her father. Guy came to her, taking her in his embrace. She grasped his arms, looking up at him with wild eyes.

“Is he dead?”

Guy shook his head. “He yet clings to life, but by only by the barest of threads. We must get him inside, quickly.”

Cassia, seeing her son-in-law’s lifeless body, demanded a litter. As Simon was carried into the castle, Evelyn hurried along beside it, along with Marie. Cassia turned her attention to Owen. William was helping him from the cart, as Isabella stood nearby. Seeing his shoulder bound with cloth, and the blood that had seeped through, Cassia gasped with concern. She reached up to touch his face, anxiously kissing his cheek.

“Oh my darling! What happened?”

He groaned in pain, but tried not to worry her. “It was an arrow, Mama. But I will be well. Simon is in greater need.”

“But you are wounded,” she insisted. “You must be in great pain.”

William spoke up. “Mama, we will aid him. Evelyn and Simon are in need of you.”

With a grateful smile, Cassia kissed his cheek, and then Isabella’s. And as they helped Owen inside, Cassia turned to Guy, kissing him in welcome. And she looked at him with concerned eyes.

“Tell me the truth, Guy. Will he live?”

Guy shook his head, looking grave. “I do not know. I just do not know.”

Rene came up behind them, intending to walk past without a word. But Guy stopped him.

“Baron,” he said. Rene turned to look at him, and Guy gave him a respectful nod. “Whatever you require, you shall have. You have only to ask for it.”

Rene sighed, a weary sound. “I ask only for a full belly, and a bed in which to lose myself in sleep.” He turned away, walking into the castle. Guy sent a footman after him, to see to all that Rene required. With Thea and Lucien following behind, Guy and Cassia hurried in, moving quickly to see to Evelyn and Simon.

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