** Warning: This post contains spoilers for episode 8. Ye be warned ***
And so we come to the end of another book in Edward Dallingridge’s quest to recover the woman he loves. I enjoyed writing Nostrum very much. It was a lighter book, with more outright humor than the first, and I laughed a lot while tapping at the keys. I want to thank all of you, once again, for the tremendous support you have given me while writing this volume. Your comments and encouragement keep me going, and encourage me to make each episode better than the last.
Book 3, if there is a book 3, will return a bit to the grittier tone that was set in the first book, although Tristan will make sure (as he always does) that the book does not become too dark.
So, what did Edward accomplish in episode 8? Um, just about everything. He drove off a hundred peasants, tried to kill the alchemist, dabbled in alchemy, escaped from Sir Gerald in the foulest of manners (one of the most enjoyable scenes to write *ever*), slays a dragon, takes a fortified monastery with an army of lepers, and, oh yeah, finds the cure to the demon plague of 1385.
So which of those do we want to discuss? None of them. I want to talk about Belisencia. Who is not Belisencia at all, but Elizabeth of Lancaster. For those of you familiar with medieval history, you know the Lancaster family and it’s role in a little bit of English domestic violence involving the York family. Some call it the War of the Roses. I call it rich literary farmland. And Elizabeth was around when the first volley in the war was fired. I won’t get into too many specifics because I hope to touch on some of that in the next book.
Okay, so, when Edward and Tristan escape from St.Benet’s, they sail off on a boat down the River Bure. Because of the length of the episode, I had to cut a scene at that point. It dealt with Sir Gerald’s propensity for getting shot every time the knights met him. I thought it would be fun to include that scene here. It hasn’t been edited for content or copy, so it’s a bit raw. If you find a mistake, I’ll refund the money you paid for this scene.
“We can’t leave Belisencia,” Tristan says.
“We don’t have a choice,” I say. “We’ll come back for her.”
“Sir Gerald won’t be happy,” he replies. “He’ll get tortureful with her.”
“Not a chance,” I say. “She’s King Richard’s cousin and she’s married to Sir Brian’s brother. Even if Gerald dares to cross Richard, he won’t cross his new ally.” I shrug. “The worst they’ll do is piss on her symbolically.”
“That’s not funny,” he replies.
I laugh. “Did something finally offend Tristan of Rye?”
“Alright,” he says. “It was a little funny.”
I laugh again. It has been many years since I sailed on a ship. The wind whips my robe. I smell the river brine and think about my days serving the earl of Hereford. I sailed with him in a naval campaign against the French, and by God, I loved every moment. Has it truly been fifteen years since that campaign?
Six servants at the oars paddle against the current, pulling the cog forward slowly. Daniel and another servant unfurl the square sail. Figures approach the abbey from the south. Maybe ten of them. Lurching slowly through the swamps. More and more plaguers are being drawn to St. Benet’s.
“So, Gerald will look for us in Norwich while we head to Bure,” Tristan says. “A good misdirection.”
“It’s not a misdirection,” I say. “We’re going to Norwich first.”
Tristan studies me for a long moment. “Gerald knows we’re going there now, Edward. I don’t think you’ve quite mastered the concept of strategy.”
“I’m done running from him,” I say. “It ends today.”
We pass the single tower on the abbey walls just as Sir Gerald, Sir Brian, and six other riders sprint from the gates. They ride as close to the river as they dare. Sir Gerald wears no helmet and even from the river I can see the twisted, pocked skin that covers half his face; A result of the gun explosion. A bald streak high on his forehead marks the spot where a deflected bullet from another canon tore through part of his scalp.
He screams something but with the whipping wind I only catch the word “limbs.” I shrug and wave at him. He stops his horse on the bank ahead of us and glares. Two of his men dismount and wind crossbows, so I step behind the main mast and tell the others to duck low. Tristan does not listen. He draws the single-shot hand cannon from the sack at my shoulder and uses the clay pot to light a firing cord.
“What are you doing?” I say.
“Can you get a little closer?” he asks Daniel.
The ship drifts closer to shore. A bolt buries itself in the side of the hull. The second slams into the mast inches from me. Tristan aims carefully and lights my cannon. The blast makes the stomach-punching sound of a giant block of sandstone dropped to the earth from a castle tower. The servants at the oars duck low as a jet of white smoke billows from the gun. Soldiers on the riverbank scurry, but not before we hear the sound of metal striking metal. A terrible clang that echoes across the river. I look closely. Sir Gerald holds his arm and winces. The gunstone blew the steel bracer off his arm. Tristan cheers.
“What are you screaming about?” I ask. “You didn’t hurt him.”
“I didn’t think I would,” he says. “I just wanted to shoot him. If we lose our traditions, Edward, then we lose our humanity.”
That’s all for now! Thanks very much for your support with the Scourge books. Keep checking back here for news about a possible third book soon. Questions or comments about the episode? Please leave a note for me here and I’ll respond. Cheers!