The Pistoleer: HellBurner by Skye Smith - Read Online
The Pistoleer
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Summary

In 1638 two English friends, Daniel Vanderus and Robert Blake, sailed home from the war-torn Dutch Republic. The two had met while riding as pistoleers in the Dutch Militia. The flying squads of pistoleers were skirmishers who targetted the Empire's officers.
As their ship rowed up the River Great Ouse towards Ely, a girl's call for help linked their futures to Oliver, the tithe collector of Ely. Together they made history.

Skye Smith is my pen name. The Pistoleer is a series of historical adventure novels set in Britain in the 1640's. I was encouraged to write them by fans of my Hoodsman series.
HellBurner is the first of the novels and sets the characters and scene for the entire series, so you should read it before reading any of the others. The sequence of the books follows the timeline of the Republic of Great Britain. The chapter headings identify the dates and places.

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ISBN: 9781927699126
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THE PISTOLEER

HellBurner

(Book One of the Series)

By Skye Smith

Copyright (C) 2013-2014 Skye Smith

All rights reserved including all rights of authorship.

Cover Illustration is The Burning of Royal James at Solebay

By Willem van de Velde II (1633-1707)

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Revision 0 . . . . . ISBN: 978-1-927699-12-6

Cover Flap

In 1638 two English friends, Daniel Vanderus and Robert Blake, sailed home from the war-torn Dutch Republic. The two had met while riding as pistoleers in the Dutch Militia. The flying squads of pistoleers were skirmishers who targetted the Empire's officers.

As their ship rowed up the River Great Ouse towards Ely, a girl's call for help linked their futures to Oliver, the tithe collector of Ely. Together they made history.

* * * * *

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THE PISTOLEER - HellBurner by Skye Smith Copyright 2013-14

About The Author

Skye Smith is my pen name. The Pistoleer is a series of historical adventure novels set in Britain in the 1640's. I was encouraged to write them by fans of my Hoodsman series.

HellBurner is the first of the novels and sets the characters and scene for the entire series, so you should read it before reading any of the others. The sequence of the books follows the timeline of the Republic of Great Britain. The chapter headings identify the dates and places.

* * * * *

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THE PISTOLEER - HellBurner by Skye Smith Copyright 2013-14

Prologue

This adventure is as historically accurate as I could make it, however I have not included my endless references because the main character, Daniel, is fictional. I have kept the descriptions and actions of the non-fictional characters as close to historical accounts as possible.

As a rule of thumb, if the character is a parliamentarian, or has a title, or has a military rank of captain or above, then they and their families are non-fictional. If the character is a member of the Wellenhay clan or goes unnamed, then they are fictional.

All dates have been converted to our modern calendar to save the reader the confusion of January being the tenth month of the old year rather than the first month of the new year.

Note that at the end of this book there is an Appendix which is organized like an FAQ. There you will find answers to dozens of questions such as:

- Where can I find out more about the historical characters and events?

- What was a Pistoleer?

- What was a Hellburner?

- What were the different pistols of the era?

However, the next nine short paragraphs will set the scene of this era for you.

* * * * *

Britain spent most of the 1630s at peace, but that does not mean that life was good for most Brits. They were struggling with increasing unemployment and higher prices for food and shelter because the coming 'Little Ice Age' was lengthening the winters. Since the aristocracy had a near monopoly on farm land, the gulf between the opulence of the aristocracy and the desperation of the poor was ever-widening. The educated middle class were horrified by the descent of the workers into depravity, but they were powerless.

They were powerless because King Charles Stuart was determined to be the absolute ruler of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and England. He rarely called parliament into session, for that just gave a forum for the educated middle class to question the corruption and incompetence of his regime. Charles was always squeezed for money to keep up his lavish palaces but without calling parliament he could not enact any new taxes. Instead he twisted the existing laws, even outdated laws, to wring out more income. He tended to do this at the expense of on the merchant middle class of the cities rather than of the aristocratic landlords.

One source of income was from twisting ancient laws in order to privatize and then sell off the common land that was traditionally shared by rural cottagers. The King's Deputy, Lord Strafford, was doing this to create a plantation-economy in Ireland, and other favourite Lords were doing this in the wetlands and fenlands of England. These were very bad times for cottagers and farming clans, so there was an ever increasing number of small local rebellions against such privatizations.

Under the Stuart Regime, Britain had become a peaceful, self-involved, and corrupt backwater that was being left far behind in the European race to create worldwide empires. The British Empire consisted of the four kingdoms plus a few failing colonies in the Americas. English was rarely spoken outside of England ... it was not even spoken in Scotland outside the main cities.

In contrast the Dutch Republics were booming, despite having suffered through seventy years of war with the Hapsburg Empires. The Netherlands had become the first modern nation state, complete with global trade, international banking, multinational corporations, stock markets, and stock market crashes. Dutch was fast becoming the international language of commerce. The young and vibrant of Britain were leaving for the opportunities offered in the Netherlands in trades, commerce, and the army.

The Dutch and the Swedes were allied to the German Protestants who were fighting the Catholic Hapsburg Empires, while Britain was neutral. Previous Stuart forays into international politics had been so disastrous that Charles had signed peace treaties with Britain's historic enemies in the south of Europe, and had distanced himself from Britain’s historic allies around the North Sea. Thus Britain was at peace, while the Thirty Years' War was killing off a fifth of the population of Europe, including half of all German men.

Charles shattered this peace on a whim when he demanded that the Scots use his prayer book. Since Henry VIII, the Church of England had looked, sounded, and behaved like a Catholic church, but with the king as its head rather than the pope. In Scotland, however, the Church had been further reformed by Knox Presbyterians, for whom King Jesus was the head of the church, while the king was a parishioner. This did not sit well with 'absolute ruler' Charles, so in 1638 he set about un-reforming the Church of Scotland to make it more like the Church of England.

The Scottish Presbyterians were outraged, for to them this was a giant step backwards towards Catholicism. Some Scottish clerics and lawyers drafted 'The Covenant' as a petition to tell Charles that their Church was already perfect in the eyes of Jesus and therefore he must not mess with it. Since the petition was signed by over half of the Scots (known afterwards as the Covenanters), Scotland refused Charles' un-reforms, including his choice of bishops and his prayer book.

This anti-Episcopalian snub hit Charles in his absolute ego, so he called up the militias of his kingdoms and sent an army to invade Scotland and punish the Covenanters. At a time when the Hapsburg Emperors and the Imperial Catholic church were slaughtering entire cities on the continent, the amateur armies of Britain fought over the choice of prayer books. Such was the extent of the incompetence of the Stuart regime and of the inbred aristocracy who supported it.

* * * * *

This is the first of a series of historical adventure novels set in the era of the British Civil Wars. In this first novel two battles are described. The first is the Standoff at the Tweed in May 1639 during the First Bishop's War. In this war, King Charles Stuart marched 20,000 men to the Scottish border where they were met by the Covenanter army of the Scottish Parliament. Unfortunately for Charles, a Swedish Field Marshal called Alexander Leslie had rushed back to Scotland from fighting the Thirty Years' War and had brought his veteran Scottish mercenaries with him. Though it is now seen as the first of the dozen wars that make up the British Civil War, at the time it was mocked by the rest of Europe.

Meanwhile, Europe was nervously watching the weapons race between the Dutch Confederate Navy and the Spanish Armada. The second battle in this novel is the Battle of the Downs in October 1639, where Dutch Admiral Maarten Tromp destroyed the combined Spanish and Portuguese Armada. Since it was fought within range of Southern England's gun forts and under the eyes of England's navy, Charles' neutrality was criticized by both sides of the battle, but more importantly, by his own subjects.

The collapse of the Empire's navy drastically changed the trading maps of the world, for it allowed Dutch merchants to take over much of Portugal's rich spice trade with the Indies. The defeat of this armada was far more important to the world than Queen Elizabeth's defeat of the previous one.

Enough history ... flip to Chapter One and enjoy.

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THE PISTOLEER - HellBurner by Skye Smith Copyright 2013-14

Table of Contents

Title Page

Cover Flap

About the Author

Prologue

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Pistol shots near Ely in November 1638

Chapter 2 - A visit to Cambridge in November 1638

Chapter 3 - A room at the George in Cambridge in November 1638

Chapter 4 - Footpads on the road to Oxford in November 1638

Chapter 5 - News from Scotland in Oxford in November 1638

Chapter 6 - The road to Bridgwater, Somerset in November 1638

Chapter 7 - Saving Alice in Bridgwater in November 1638

Chapter 8 - Taking Alice to London in December 1638

Chapter 9 - The treasurer of Scotland in London in March 1639

Chapter 10 - The search for muskets in Rotterdam in March 1639

Chapter 11 - Running guns to Edinburgh in May 1639

Chapter 12 - To Duns near the Scottish Border in May 1639

Chapter 13 - The sorry state of Scottish Whiskey in May 1639

Chapter 14 - The retreat from Kelso in June 1639

Chapter 15 - Explaining Scotland to Cromwell in Ely, September 1639

Chapter 16 - Trouble near Ramsgate in September 1639

Chapter 17 - The Dutch fleet at Calais in October 1639

Chapter 18 - The Battle of the Downs at Deal in October 1639

Chapter 19 - With Cromwell and Blake in London, April 1640

Chapter 20 - With Alice at the Royal Exchange, London, May 1640

Chapter 21 - With the mob at Lollards Tower, Lambeth, May 1640

Chapter 22 - Appendix - FAQ

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THE PISTOLEER - HellBurner by Skye Smith Copyright 2013-14

Chapter 1 - Pistol shots near Ely in November 1638

Edward watched the girl hop and stretch to reach and pick another apple. An apple from a half-wild tree in a long-abandoned orchard far from any farm or village. It was a delight to watch her homespun shift stretch thin and tight against her budding body. The two men who shared his hiding place behind the bush were moaning in their own appreciation. Each time she added to the weight of apples in the pouch she had made by hiking the front of her shift high, she needed to hike it up further. The weight of each new apple dragged the top a little further down her breast.

She is comely to the extreme. Who is she? Edward asked his men in a whisper.

Village girl, eeler's brat, whispered Tom, one of the diggers. The lad that Edward had brought along only to carry the pack. An uneducated lout like most of the labourers hired on to dig out the drainage trenches.

That is her punt, whispered Cornelius in his Dutch accent while he pointed to the small flat-bottomed boat. He was a Dutch engineer who had first come to England to open up some abandoned mines, but now he worked on Edward's drainage projects. I saw her ven she landed it. She is all alone.

Tom nudged Cornelius. Shhh, she's reaching up again. Ahhh. He could hear his gov'n'r, the honorable Edward Heath, moan in lust. This was much better than working. The girl was well worth watching, and why shouldn't they be watching? Stolen fruit is the sweetest, and just like she was stealing the apples, they could steal an eyeful. Besides, something would give them away soon enough and then she would hide herself or run away, and it would be over.

Cornelius was feeling a bit guilty watching the girl. They were here to walk this land and choose an end course for the drainage canal they were about to dig. He should be sighting the elevations so he could return to their house in Cambridge and finish the chart. The best course for the ditch would be ...

Shhh, not now. Not while she is still picking, Tom sighed. The girl was a vision of beauty, like an angel dancing. He felt his gov'n'r Edward rise and step out from behind the bush, so he also rose and followed him towards the ancient orchard.

You there. Those are my apples you are stealing, Edward called softly to the girl. The girl pulled in her reach and turned to face his voice. Her shift was now held so high in order to hold the apples that her legs were visible up to the thigh. He walked slowly and carefully toward her, all the while hoping she would not dart away to her punt.

She didn't. She was too busy lowering the front of her shift to cover more of her legs. This is abbey land, she replied. This orchard is no longer worked, so anyone can pick the apples if they've a need.

The abbey land is across the river, he told her pointing over the Great Ouse River to the other bank. This is my land, and so this is my orchard, and so those are my apples, which makes you a thief.

The girl thought he was jesting, but flushed at the word 'thief'. I've never thieved anything in my life. How dare you accuse me of it, especially in front of witnesses? she asked defensively while pointing in the direction of the other two men.

Girl, I charge you with the theft, caught hand-haebbend and since you are still on my land, and since I am a sworn magistrate, then I can judge you and have you punished where we stand.

Can he do that? Tom whispered to Cornelius.

Shhh, was the reply. Pay attention in case you are called on to bear vitness.

Punished! the girl called back, now getting worried and looking towards her punt which was held alongside the river bank by the pole stuck fast in the mud. The lord was now moving sideways to place himself between her and her punt. If she ran for it, he would catch her before she could reach it, and even if she made it into the punt, he would catch her before she could push it away from the bank. Punished for what? For picking unwanted apples? If you want these apples, then you can pay me for the labour of picking them.

Edward leaped the last two steps to her side and gripped her wrist. She pulled back from him and her bunched shift dropped and the carefully picked apples cradled there all fell to the ground to join the bruised and wormy windfalls. He didn't give a damn about the apples, he wanted this girl. So should I cut off your hand for the theft, or just a few fingers?

Cut off my ... she pulled away from him, fighting his grip. When that didn't work she stepped into him and tried to nut him with her knee. He was quick and his other hand slipped underneath her rising knee to unbalanced her and suddenly she was falling to the ground. With her one free hand she tried to break her fall, but she still landed hard. The fall knocked the breath out of her, and he knelt down next to her and held her down so that all she could do was to try to squirm away from him.

He let her squirm, thwarting her with his weight until she was exhausted. Just watching her lithe body squirm had aroused him. She must have realized it, for she gave up squirming and instead lay still. When she opened her mouth to scream, he pressed his hand cruelly down onto it to muffle her voice. Shut up and lie still. If you don't fight me I won't punish you. You may keep your hand, keep your fingers, and keep the apples. All I want is to see you without your shift and to run my hands over your skin.

I do not vant any part of this, Cornelius announced and moved as if he were going to help the girl up, but Tom pulled him back and told him not to interfere.

After he has had her, it will be our turn, you know, to keep us quiet as witnesses, Tom said, but he had spoken too loudly The girl heard him and stared daggers at him and then spat some strangely foreign words at Edward.

Did you hear that? Edward looked towards Cornelius. A witch's curse in a demon's tongue. You are witness. If she doesn't fuck me willingly, I will have her tried as a witch.

That was no demon's tongue, Cornelius Vermuyden pointed out. Ever since King Charles had commissioned him as a drainage engineer, he had been living amongst Englishmen who were quite ignorant of the wider world outside their island. She spoke in the mother tongue of your English language, Frisian. And it wasn't a witch's curse, though it was a curse.

What did she say? asked Edward as he pinned her shoulder under the weight of a knee so he would have both hands free to fondle her.

May you meet Grutte Pier on your vay to hell, Cornelius replied.

Who? Does she mean Hugo Grotius, the Dutch theorist on law? Edward had studied law at Cambridge. After all, his father, Sir Robert Heath, had been at various times the King's Solicitor General, the Attourney General, the Chief Justice, and now he controlled the all powerful Star Chamber. How would a Fens cottager girl know of Grotius? She probably can't even read, never mind read his treatises on Natural Law and International Law.

Cornelius rolled his eyes and took a breath before he said, Not Grotius. Grutte. The old leader of the Frisian Rebels. The leader of the first rebellion against the Burgundians that began the push for the Netherlands to become a republic. Grutte was over seven feet tall and swung massive broad swords, one in each hand. His call to arms was 'Rather death than a slavery'. She has cursed you to reach hell without your head. He looked down at the girl and asked her in halting Frisian, What village are you from, girl?

Wellenhay, on the sea side of Ely, she replied in perfect English, while pushing Edward's roving hand away from her nipples.

At the reply Cornelius groaned and looked away while he muttered some choice curses of his own in Dutch. Of course. It had to be Wellenhay. Of all villages, Wellenhay. Get off her, Edward. Let her up.

No, rip her shift off! Tom called out while rubbing at the bulge in his pants, Hurry up and do her so I can have my turn.

You are both insane, Cornelius called out. You don't rape a Frisian clanswoman, not and live to brag about it. Especially not a woman of the Wellenhay clan. They are old-time Frisians. Sea-faring Frisians. My trenching crews have been warned over and over to stay well clear of them. You've both been around the Fens long enough to know that with Frisian clanswomen you must gain their permission, else leave them alone.

This isn't rape, Edward hissed back. This is simply exchanging a favour for a favour. Girl, if I do you the favour of forgiving your theft, what will you favour me with?

So that's your game, is it? she replied. Well, it wasn't theft was it? If this isn't abbey land, then it's a common. I was going to make proper use of common apples, so it was not theft, so no favour is owed. She was thinking hard. There had to be a way out of this without her getting hurt or ravaged. Besides, I'm underage, so you must first get my parents' permission.

Well, my lovely, he smiled at the second answer for it meant that she was seriously considering it. Now she just needed a little push. If we cannot come to some arrangement here and now, then I will take you to Cambridge and lock you in the pillory and then ask the men of the alehouses to teach you some manners. Some alehouse wench manners.

Now she was fearful. In a pillory she couldn't defend herself. Men, any passing men, could do terrible things to her. One kiss. Your forgiveness is worth one kiss. But then I must be free to go.

You heard her. I asked her permission and she gave it freely. He pulled down the neck of her homespun, and it stretched until a nipple popped out and he kissed it, and sucked it, and licked it. She fought him, and pulled at his hair and pulled his head away. He hissed, You weren't clear about what I was allowed to kiss. So saying, he grabbed both of her wrists and pinned her to the ground. I took it to mean one kiss everywhere on your body, and so it shall be.

His face was close to hers now, and she could see every wrinkle and every pore. He was old, well over thirty and probably married with children her age. She would be fourteen on her next saint's day. His teeth were rotten and his breath foul, and this foulness was getting closer to her own face, her nose and her mouth. He cocked his leg over her and now his full weight pressed her to the grass. As he kissed her chin she felt one of his hands reach under her shift and begin spreading her thighs apart. No, no, no! she kept yelling into his ear, but he was ignoring her.

To shut her up he covered her mouth with his and pushed his tongue deep into her mouth, and then there was a pain so intense that it froze his brain. He pulled his face back from hers and her face was being covered by red dye. No, not dye. It was bright red blood, his blood. He flicked his tongue. The end of it was painful and tasted of blood and salt. The bitch had bitten his tongue, and bitten it hard. Oh, the pain! He rolled off her and put both hands to his mouth. He could barely see her through the tears of pain in his eyes.

As soon as she was free of his weight, she rolled away, gained her knees, then her feet, and then ran for her punt.

Gwab hew! I ull kiw hew! he yelled, mumbled, spat through the blood in his mouth. The other men did not move. They just stared at him. He repeated the command, and just in time Tom took four fast steps and tackled the girl just as she was pulling her punting pole free of the mud.

For the second time in a few minutes, she was fighting off a man. Yet another man who didn't want to hold her so much as to take liberties with her. Just like the other man, this one grabbed at her breasts. Why do men always go for the breasts? She kicked him as hard as she could in the shins, but of course, she was barefoot because her boots were still in the punt. Still, the kick was satisfying and did cause the man to cry out in pain and double over to rub his leg.

She stepped into the punt ready to push off from the bank, but Tom recovered enough to jump up and shove her from the rear. She fell forward and sprawled on the flat-bottomed boat. The eel-fishing spear was next to her hand where she landed, so she grabbed it as she turned and swung the barbed point back and forth to keep the man away from her. That was when she heard a crack of thunder from behind her on the river.

Everybody calm down and stand away from each other! came a gruff order from a man in a punt. It was still mid-river, but skimming quickly towards the bank.

The three men on the bank looked at the man on this new punt and recognized him as Ely Abbey's tithe collector. They also took note that he had but one pistol which had now been spent with the warning shot. Tom backed away from the girl and joined his two gov'n'rs. This was an official of the abbey, and trusted by the bishop. This was not a man to be ignored.

Owiver, Edward called out after moving the hankie away from his mouth. It hurt to use his tongue, and the hankie was stained red with his blood. Still he must explain, no matter the pain. Dis isth my lhand and you haf no buthneth here. The effect of his injured tongue on his speech was maddening. It made him sound like the town simpleton.

What I saw was three grown men attempting to rape a minor. That is the business of every moral man, Oliver called back as the punt grounded on the muddy bank and he stepped ashore. What is wrong with your voice, Edward? Are you drunk? He pointed to the other two men. You men step well away from the girl. Then he pointed to the girl. You lass, push your punt a yard from the shore so you are safe from them, but stay close enough to talk and to listen.

Edward tested his tongue and found that if he kept it stiff it did not pain him so. This meant that letters that required the curling of the tongue were impossible to say, such as the letter L. This is my lyand, Owiver. You have no thay here. I could have you arrested for firing your pistow at a man on his own land.

It was a warning shot to save your man from being skewered by a fishing lance. Nothing more. If I had been aiming at you, you wouldn't be standing. He turned to the girl, Lass, I know you as a local but your name has slipped my mind.

Teesa, the girl replied. She was balancing in the floating punt while trying to straighten her stretched and muddy homespun, and her disheveled long blonde tresses.

Teesa, what happened here? Did they hurt you? Did they, umm... you know?

They tried, Teesa replied. I am bruised, and my shift is torn, and they took liberties with my breasts. She didn't like Oliver, the new titheman. He was always grumpy and in a foul mood, a typical Puritan Bible thumper, full of don'ts and mustn'ts. How could he not remember her name when she so often kept the company of his own daughter, Bridget? It is the lord who is injured. He stuck his tongue in my mouth, so I bit it.

Ah, so then he is not drunk? Oliver turned towards Edward. Did he give you any money first?

No, nothing, he gave me nothing, Tess replied, the fear was leaving her voice and so her tones were softer. He threatened to cut off my hand if I did not ... uh ... favour him.

Edward, you fool! Oliver turned back to the men and for the first time noticed the blood stains on Edward's clothes. You could be charged under the law for this. He stepped back a pace and held his hands away from his sides, because Edward had just drawn a modern-looking pistol from his belt and was aiming it at him.

Oh you would wuv that, wouldn't you, Owiver? You would finawy get back at me for having the Privy Council ruin you. Well, I could shoot you right now in self-defense. I have witnesses that you shot at me, while I stood defending my own property from a thief. The girl is a thief. I caught her steawing appwes. You are her acompwiss. The courts know that you hate me. They will judge it my right to defend myself.

Oliver slowly backed away to increase the range. Edward's pistol was a gentleman's weapon, short of barrel and therefore short of accuracy. It was the only pistol the man carried, so once it was fired this danger would end. He wondered if he could trick Edward into wasting his shot. Perhaps if he threw his own spent pistol at the man, and at the same time dived sideways.

This is not your land yet, Edward. Not until it is enclosed by your drainage ditches. Even then only the third that the king does not want will be yours, Oliver told him, stalling while he backed away from the leveled pistol . You should have chosen a cottager girl to molest, not a clanswoman. The men of her clan aren't just ignorant cottagers, you know. They are seamen and traders, very capable, very dangerous. When they come for you it won't be to play football.

Tom snickered at the mention of football. The Isle of Axholme where he had worked for Cornelius last year had become too dangerous for the drainage crews, what with the mobs and riots against the enclosures. That was why the crews had been moved South. Here there were still mobs to fear, but they were mobs of footballers.

The truth be told, the footballers here were actually more of a hindrance than the angry mobs of Axholme. Once a lattice of ditches was almost complete, the two closest villages would challenge each other to a football match. Everyone from both villages would show up with shovels and rakes to level the playing field before the match. The football pitch was on the common, and the villages still had the right to use it until the ditches were complete. To level the playing field they would shovel and rake the dikes back into the ditches. By the time the match was won, there was nothing left of weeks of hard digging by the drainage crews. Tom snickered again. Effing footballers.

Owiver, you have more to worwy about than what vilwage she comes from and who her cwansmen are, Edward said slowly and painfully. You shouwd worwy about who will take care of your own family when you are dead. He straightened his arm and sighted the pistol at Oliver's heart.

Oliver stared at the pistol in disbelief, and watched for the movement of the trigger finger that would signal him to drop to the ground. Behind him from down river there was a noise. A wooden noise, a hollow noise, but he could not risk turning to see. Whatever was causing the noise had the two drainers dropping to the ground and more importantly, had grabbed Edward's full attention.

There was the unmistakable crack of a firearm and Oliver dropped to the ground as he had planned to do. As soon as he hit the ground, he rolled while trying to keep an eye on Edward. It was very strange but it was as if Edward was throwing his pistol away. As the pistol hit the ground, Edward grabbed at his empty right hand with his left and howled in pain. The shot had come from downriver. Someone new was shooting at them.

Oliver kept rolling until he reached a small bush which offered the merest of cover. While he was rolling, a quick glance showed him a small ship gliding silently towards him through the river mist - or was it musket smoke? It slowed as it neared the two punts. There was an ever-increasing noise from the ship as oars were shipped and orders given.

Two men were standing on the bow of the ship, one tall and fair, the other short and dark, but both wielded pistols in each hand, and by the steadiness of those hands there was no mistaking that they well knew how to use them. The tall man called out, You with the fine clothes! Lie on the ground like the others. Do it now, else we will shoot your legs to stop you from running away.

You can't speak to me wike that, Edward complained but decided not to argue the point and so he dropped first to his knees and then lay on the ground. I am Edward Heath, lword of these lyands.

As soon as the bow of the small ship ground into the muddy bank, the two men with pistols leaped ashore and walked towards the four men laying on the ground. The tall one looked over at the girl, who was still standing in the punt just off shore. He called to her, Teesa my dear, you are much too young to have gentlemen dueling over you. Are you all right?

Oh Daniel, I was so afraid, Teesa said as she poled her punt back to shore and took a graceful leap across the mud to the grassy part of the bank.

Daniel looked back along his ship and the line of crew still shipping their oars and called out, Peter, come and care for your cousin. A blonde head popped up amidships and turned until the lad spotted Teesa, and then in a flash he was ashore and running to her side. Seeing them together it was difficult to decide who was the most comely, the lad or the lass.

Cornelius pulled at Tom's sleeve and motioned him towards the bushes behind them,