A sequel to The Black Douglas Trilogy
The Black Douglas is dead. With Scotland’s greatest knight no more, the throne is up for grabs as enemies try to devour the kingdom.
An orphaned youth returning from exile, Archibald, the Black Douglas’s bastard son, fights for a land being torn apart from within and without. If Archibald is to survive, he must learn to sleep with a claymore in his hand and one eye open because even his closest friend might betray him…
My friend did live though he was months healing, and my beating hurt for only a day or two. He told me that winter was not the season for fighting, so he would not miss much. I spent my days keeping him company, being instructed by Sir John with sword and lance or the priest in reading and writing, and in the company of the men who were happy to regale me with stories of attacks on the English from caves where they hid in the great forest.
Life in the keep still got boring at times. So I welcomed it one chilly spring morning while I was giving his hauberk one more polish when he stopped in the door of the armory. “Come with me, Archie.”
I followed him into the lower bailey, happy to be called away from a boring task. It was a bright, crisp morning, and swallows were twittering between the thatched roofs. He strode toward the smithy, its smoke rising straight up. A skein of geese flew overhead, wending their way north. The clang of hammer strikes came from inside, along with the blacksmith’s shouting to his son to work the bellows. John and Andrew, Sir William’s bastard half-brother who had just returned from aiding the Stewart, stood chatting in front of the building.
When we entered, John and Andrew following us, the blacksmith leaned over his anvil, hammer-ing a heated horseshoe he was forming. His face was broad beneath graying hair, and strong, muscular forearms stuck out of his tunic. He wore a leather apron and leather gloves.
“Right with you, my lord.” He gave the horseshoe another couple of blows, stuck it hissing into a tub of water, and turned, beaming. “I found just the right one for the lad.”
“Let us see it, then.”
This was getting better and better. The smith put down his tools and strode to a table at the side of the smithy. The links of a hauberk clinked when he held it. “It was the smallest you took from that attack on the supply train at yuletide. It needed a few repairs, but those are done.”
Sir William stroked his chin. “Hold it up to him. It looks a bit large.”
I was bouncing, my heart racing, and the smith growled at me to stay still as he held it up to my chest.
“Aye, but he is growing, so that is nae bad thing. He should wear the thickest haubergeon we can find under it until he has grown a bit.” He tilted his head and frowned. “I will make the aventail on his helm long enough to cover any gap around the neck.”
Not able to contain it anymore, I burst out, “It’s to be mine? Truly?”
“My squire must have armor.” A corner of Sir William’s thin mouth twitched.
John slapped me on the back. “I told Liddesdale you are ready. So dinnae let me down.”
“A squire . . .” I had been sure he would make me his squire, but it really happening was like a dream. The smithy appeared to spin for a moment as though I’d had too much ale. I turned to Sir William and burst out, “I will . . . I will serve you well. Always . . . I will be your man.”
Sir William opened his mouth, but what he was about to say was cut off when one of the tower guards beat the iron bar that served as a warning bell and shouted, “In view! Riders in view!”
Sir William turned on his heel and stepped out the open front of the smithy. He called up, “How many?”
“Six riders. Not flying a banner.”
He strode across the bailey and up the steps to the parapet walk. Then he laughed and called down, “Open the sally port.”
I clutched the hauberk in my arms and went out to see that, indeed, only the small door into the bailey was opened, not the big gate. One of the guards on the ground was ushering in the cleric Bullock and his men-at-arms. A ginger-haired, craggy-faced knight strode beside Bullock. Sir William was bounding down the parapet stairs, shouting, “Welcome.” Two grooms were hurry-ing to take their mounts. “Simon Fraser! A welcome sight, my friend.”
“Liddesdale.” Bullock’s wide face was split with a grin. “I have a plan for taking Edinburgh.”
“Edinburgh cannae be taken,” Andrew said gloomily. “Not after the way King Edward strength-ened it.”
“Anything can be taken,” Bullock said. “It is a matter of finding the right way.”
Fraser added, “But we need to move quickly before they are resupplied. Later Bullock’s ruse might not work as well.”
“How many men do they have? Do you ken?” Sir William asked.
“My contact says a hundred or so total, about half men-at-arms and half archers. Also, some watch, half a score or so.”
Thank you, J R Tomlin The Coffee Pot Book Club
About the Author
J. R. Tomlin is the author of nineteen historical novels.
She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh while growing up. Her historical novels are set for the most part in Scot-land. Her love of that nation is traced from the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read to her when she was small, to hillwalking through the Cairn-gorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writ-ing was influenced by Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Nigel Tranter, and Sir Walter Scott.
When JR isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, playing with her Westie, and killing monsters in computer games. In addition to spending time in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, Eu-rope, and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/J.R.-Tomlin/e/B002J4ME1S
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0968X5V3Y
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0968X5V3Y
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B0968X5V3Y
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0968X5V3Y
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1606972264