General Fiction posted October 31, 2017


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Charles I is King and changes the lives of three children.

Charlotte/Daughter of the Sword


CHAPTER ONE


Engrossed in feasting her eyes on the wares of a merchant, the young girl did not immediately notice the change in the air about her. Looking up at the merchant, she saw that he was staring towards the entrance to the market square, ignoring the customers at his stall. They were also staring towards the entrance. It wasn't until then she became aware of the sound of hoof beats on the cobbles, hoof beats she recognized as being different from those of the unshod horse-drawn peddler carts filling the market place.

Maintaining her grasp on the hands of her younger brother and sister, ten-year-old Charlotte Kincaid turned in the direction the others were looking and was amazed to see three of the King Charles' horsemen approaching. Nannies, cooks, and other servants quickly moved aside giving the men free passage.

The thrill of seeing the King's men on their superb mounts turned to horror as two of the men dismounted and roughly seized a woman from the crowd and quickly bound her hands with a rope. The woman was their nanny.

"Stop! What are you doing?" Char screamed, nearly dragging Becca and Roland as she pushed through the thickening crowd.

"What's happening?" gasped Becca, trying futilely to keep pace with her sister.

"They've taken Nanny," Charlotte cried.

The buyers had formed a dense barrier around the King's men in order to view the activity taking place, making it nearly impossible for the three children to progress. To succeed, Charlotte would need to release her hold on her younger charges, entrusted to her care, and she wouldn't do that.

Roland was crying loudly as Char yanked him around while trying to find an opening in the crowd, and Becca was asking the same question over and over.

Char was frantic as she manipulated the trio around the bulk of the people and finally managed to reach the entrance just in time to see the King's men turning down a side street, pulling their nanny behind them, tethered to a rope. Char opened her mouth to scream when she was roughly pushed against the entrance to a small shop, and a hand covered her mouth.

"Stay quiet, Charlotte," said a familiar voice.

Furious, she shoved the boy away. " Germaine! What are you doing? Don't you see what's happening?"

"Yes," he replied. "That's why I silenced you. Or, do you want the King's men to return and take you away as well?"

"I don't understand...please stop crying, Roland...why'd they take our nanny away?"

"The King's men have been going around all morning, dragging people from their homes. They are suspected of being spies."

"Spies? Nanny? That's outrageous. Our nanny is no spy!"

Looking beyond the entrance, she saw several other people being led away by additional King's men. Her hand flew to her mouth when she recognized a couple, tied the same as their nanny, being led towards a side street.

"Mama!" she screamed.

Again, her young classmate, Germaine, covered her mouth before she could scream again.

"I'm begging you, Charlotte. Be silent!"

"But, where are they taking them? I've got to go to them!"

"No!" Germain said adamantly. "They are taking them to the town square. If they are found guilty they will be shot."

Becca screamed upon hearing Germaine's words and the boy released his hand from Charlotte's mouth to cover hers.

"I'm serious!" he all but shouted at them. "If they come after you, they'll kill you too."

Becca dropped to her knees, almost pulling Charlotte down with her, sobbing hysterically.

"Come with me," Germaine said. "My mother will know what to do."

Terrified beyond reasoning, she found herself blindly following the boy, barely able to keep up with him as she pulled her unwilling siblings along the cobbled street. After several twists and turns, Germaine stopped in front of a stately looking house. Leading the trio around to the back, and through a weathered door, they climbed a steep stairway to another door leading directly into the kitchen area of the house.

"Cook," he said, speaking to a woman working at a table, a variety of vegetables spread about, "please summon my Mother."

A look of horror crossed his mother's face following Germaine's quick explanation.

"Germaine! What have you done? These children must leave here immediately. If their parents have been taken, the King's men will be looking for them. Their presence puts us at risk at being suspected of being spies as well. Since King Charles declared war, no one is safe."

"But, Mother. We can't just toss them out onto the street. Where will they go?"

"Children," the woman asked, "do you not have relatives that will take you in?"

"Father once mentioned he had a brother, but that he was a ne'er do well," Charlotte replied.

"No matter. It is where you must go. Where does this uncle live?"

"I believe Father mentioned a place called Swindon, but I know not where it is."

"Cook," she said, turning from the children. "Fill three sacks of food for the children. Don't make them too heavy as they have a ways to travel."

Turning to Germaine she continued, speaking hastily as though expecting the King's men to burst through the door at any second.

"Take the children as far as the main road and head them east, out of the city. Swindon is a few days travel in that direction."

Germaine reluctantly did as his mother directed. Reaching the crossroads, he pointed easterly, and unable to bear the look on his friend's face, turned and ran back towards his home.

Terrified, the three children, still hearing the distant shouts of the King's men in the distance, slowly took their first steps along the unfamiliar road.

Roland balked at nearly every step, crying repeatedly, "I want Mama and Papa!"

Still confused, and totally frightened herself, Charlotte tried calming her little brother. Gratefully, Becca had lapsed into an unusual silence as they trudged along the roadway, carefully watching for any riders as Germaine's mother warned. They could be seen by no one if they were to arrive at their uncle's safely.

The hours passed slowly as they trudged along and Roland's complaints changed from pleading for his parents to pleading to stop and rest. "My legs hurt, Char. And, I'm hungry."

Charlotte spied a secluded area shielding them from the road. From the sacks provided by Germaine's mother, they satisfied their hunger with cheese, some meat, and an apple apiece. Almost immediately after eating, Roland fell asleep, giving Charlotte and Becca a chance to discuss their situation.

"Why does the King think our parents are spies?" Becca asked.

"I have no answers, Becca. But, if in truth, our parents were shot, then there is nothing we can do to bring them back. We must somehow keep ourselves from being shot as well. We must find this Uncle Rafe. Hopefully, he will protect us."

"But, we don't even know this Uncle Rafe."

"It doesn't matter. If he is kin, he is obliged to take us in."

"How far distant is this Uncle?"

"I don't know. Germaine's mother simply said to remain upon this roadway until we reach Swindon."

That evening the weather changed from a late autumn cool to early winter cold.

Rain added to their discomfort as they set out the next morning following a meager breakfast of cheese and icy cold water from a nearby stream.

"I'm cold," Roland whined oblivious to the fact that his sisters were equally cold.

"How much further must we go?" Becca asked for the fourth time that morning.

Charlotte stopped answering the redundant questions as she goaded them on, yanking them off the road at the sound of a cart or horse approaching from either direction. They stopped at midday to rest and eat.

"Germaine's mother was most generous in the foods she gave us," Charlotte said, opening her sack and removing three hard-boiled eggs, "but, I fear it will not last more than another day. We must eat less and travel faster."

"I can't travel faster," Roland complained. "My feet hurt, and I'm cold."

"Well, the slower we travel, the longer it will take to get to our uncle's place where we will surely enjoy the warmth of a hearth and perhaps some warm soup," she explained, trying to give them more hope and encouragement than she felt within herself.

In her heart, Charlotte felt she was being overly cruel towards her little brother, and tears coursed down her cheeks while he napped a short while.
***
True to her fears, the very last of their food was depleted the following midday.

"We must fill out stomach's with water from the stream," she told them. "That way, we shouldn't feel the hunger pangs as strongly."

Less than an hour after setting out again, they discovered that they had finally reached the town of Swindon. But it wasn't until the following day, amidst a flurry of snowflakes, that they were pointed in the direction of Rafe Kincaid's meager abode.

WDS 1506




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