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M. S. Cone

Book 1.
The Druid year 2041
A.D. June 3rd, 1489.
The Gaelic Chapters.

The first time I met Tristan McLeod in Soctland. Thomas’ diary.


Chapter aon.
Writer’s notes: Homeward Bound.

At the Frontier, a foggy English drizzle gave way to Scottish mist. Not at all the same rain,
only one put a happy wet smile on a Scotsman’s face. Which Tristan McLeod, pausing his mount,
Trouble, had on his youthful face while tying back his shoulder length dishwater blond hair. But then
even the inclement weather seemed to welcome him home, displaying a misty Scottish rainbow, its
luminous colors, red, yellow, orange, blue neon bright. The English? All they received from the Gods:
He stroked Trouble’s right flank, who at the soft touch paused grazing and rotated a smoky,
irritated glance his way. Trouble was so predictable, he giggled, his gaze sweeping the light-hearted
giggle around him, noticing the grass, first its dampness then a heavy mist snaking around Trouble’s
hooves. The mist puffed, imitating a fistful ball of wool before scattering, as if frightened at his
inspection. His youthful personality found this hilarious, and he set loose a high laugh; no not a laugh,
there are many different kinds of laughs, too many to count here, but a few are: laughing in sorrow, a
quick snort laugh, a polite laugh, a derisive laugh at somebody else’s expense. Yes many, far too many.
The most common laugh is a momentary stay laugh, there now, now gone, life around it moving along.
Tristan’s laugh at that moment was something infectious, so high in pitch it belonged more to a woman
marveling over a present from a male admirer: say a new necklace, and the laugh itself funny, the laugh
itself catching in mid-hilarity an old man wearing a white robe standing statue-like between trees, a
serious statue watching, no, studying him, the face time’s art, grizzled and lined, hair cloud-white and
full, white robe stainless clean.
Funny, or maybe not, but he had not noticed him before. In greeting. “Morning old man.”
“Turn you into a toad,” the old man muttered, or more like a low almost nonverbal sound from
his throat, as if any talking annoyed him, and instantly, as if ‘presence’ were distasteful to him,
disappeared between sparse trees; or, as Tristan saw it, vanished before his eyes right into thin air.
A magician’s trick, enchanting for children and the elderly...mere folly to him. Shaking his
head, amusedly thinking: A toad? By the Gods!.
Over the past few days, he had ridden Trouble hard, which troubled Trouble; all out speed, one
thing, endless hours another. So Trouble thought. A little feed, a few hours rest, maybe a little pussy.
Ah, heaven! He was a Thoroughbred after all, not a glue-going-to-be.
But they knew each other well, and Tristan urged Trouble’s grumbling forward in a soothing
whisper, “A few more miles Trouble, McKinney’s Inn, rest for a bit.”
Trouble: Be what you said miles ago. Then all at once just took off, racing the wind itself, the
wind in front, now behind them, loosing, the ground behind vanishing in an instant. The sparse forest
soon gone, the rushing land ahead weaving out lush flatland, rolling hills. Trouble now riding swift,
yes, sure, but soft, easy, relaxed, he too home now after three years living amongst the English. He
would spend the summer relaxing, charming the mares. Put on a little weight. Call it: the love summer.
Carry daisies in his teeth. The mares were his!
Tristan’s thoughts slipped away, Trouble’s easy way charming him into a soft, easy mindset...the
one where all trouble: just that.
Half an hour later Trouble popped atop a hill and streamed into a clearing incrementally
slowing, winding-cooling down, remembering the corral ahead, stopping a few feet shy, letting Tristan
know he could walk to the Inn a few yards away. A boy mindless of the pitchfork in his hands stared at
Trouble’s lean racing form.
Tristan dismounted, allowing the reins to hang, allowing Trouble free will and headed for the
Inn’s door, which was suddenly impeded by three men exiting. They were foreigners, and pegged them
as either Spanish or Italian as they wore the typical clothing for that region: garish. Well Scotland be a
friendly country, he-thought, and offered up, “Excuse me.”
A sound behind distracted him. An idle glance. A man his height, 6’1, weight, like him, on the
thin side at 170, an archer as evidenced by the English longbow and riding a heavy English horse, the
kind King Edwards preferred for his men. He wore gray wool shirt and trousers. Dark hair cropped
Well Scotland be a friendly country, even for the English...mostly, he mused, and turned,
bumping smack into the man in the middle of the three exiting men, quickly adjusted and backpeddled a
few feet, all the while flashing an engaging friendly smile, “Sorry.” Waving an unfurling flag, ‘go
ahead,’ hand.
“Boy is rude,” the man in the middle laughed derisively.
The archer had stepped forward a few feet, now paused and raised both hands to his shoulders,
gesturing: not my business. Now easing back, toe to heel ease, slow and deliberate, a ‘let us make no
mistakes here’ motion, raised hands inching backwards, left hand now almost touching the quill of
arrows slung over his shoulders.
Tristan noticing the hand movement, registering it mentally, wondering?
“Smart,” the man in the middle warned the archer.
“Boy?” Tristan intoned. “Fine, whatever.” Brushing the man’s rudeness aside, home paramount
in his thoughts.
“Being smart boy?”
McKinney out now. Watching. Wanting to say something. Too dimwitted because his mother
had, when a baby, dropped him on his head, rattling things inside not meant for rattles. Just watching.
Watching Tristan. Somewhere in his dimwitted brain a faint echo: Tristan’s uncle not gonna like this.
Tristan, “Whatever,” taking a forward heel to toe step, heading for a spot to squeeze between
The two men flanking the one in the middle laughed, as if fun had arrived, and went to draw
their swords, a half playful feint meant to frighten, perhaps no: but life often hung on ‘perhaps’. The
air whistled, as if the wind were ejaculating a soft tune, and the two men on both sides of the middle
man went down as if one. All gone dead. The ‘perhaps’ traveling along, leaving ‘wondering’ in its
place. Were they going for their swords or playing? But the lone man failed to pause at wondering. He
was incensed! Veins on his face bulging, bottom lip quivering, spittle flying, “DO YOU KNOW WHO
I AM, BOY!” Spitting the word ‘boy’ out, as if a bug.
This was one angry man. The anger went for his sword. Leaving the ‘wondering’ of his intent
out of the affair.
Fast. Real fast. Like a blink only faster, smoother, cleaner. So much so the man’s sword never
cleared its sheath. Running him through now, now leaning in close, so close, the whites of his eyes
close. Tristan’s sword held the man upright, voice a whisper, “No. And I do not care. You are in
Scotland now!”
Sword sliding back, the man falling, a small thud, Tristan inspecting the archer closer now,
passing on a thank you head tip. To McKinney, “Have your boy feed and water Trouble, that English
glue also. Make sure he brushes the road dirt from beneath the saddles.”
“Aye, Tristan McLeod of the clan McLeod,” McKinney continued as if seeing a ghost, “heard
told moved to England, I did?”
“Was. Back. Who are they?”
“Italians. Heard them talking, I did. One is Pope Innocent’s brother, he his.”
“Christian huh. Well after you feed Trouble get them into the ground. They were in such a
A slow, confused nod and off to instruct the stable boy who required instruction as much as he
needed a second nose. McKinney’s wife faced Tristan. Remembering when she was sixteen. “Tristan.”
“Look fetching Maureen.”
Knowing she did. Full body. Full body made for fucking. Full all day. Wear a man out.
Rubbing his crotch now, flirting, “I be all that.”
McKinney watching. Not jealousy, just watching, a curious by-stander watch.
“And married.”
“Seems that failed to stop you a few years ago?”
“Times change. Soup and bread. Both hot.” Walking away now, leaving her planning a few
minutes with the stable boy. He headed for the archer. The archer stood there. Waiting. See what this
man had to say. After introductions of course. Politeness did matter. A short, ‘Thomas.’ Tristan back at
him. The hard part over. Small talk always followed, Thomas knew.
Tristan, “English?”
Thomas, “After a fashion.”
Whatever that meant. “Soup? Bread?”
Why not. See where that went. An ever so slight barely noticeable nod; surprised Tristan
noticed it. Most did not.
“Heading home, Clan McLeod. Care to ride along? After a Fashion Englishman.”
Again why not. A few days. See where that led. After all, he was just traveling. And proffered
up the same slight nod.
Again Tristan noticed it. “Can you pay for the horse’s feed and soup.” Not a question.
A wry face, hoping he had enough coin. But no nod.
I followed Tristan, thinking at the same time: Welcome to Scotland. Should hang a sign at the
border. Here be Warriors. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter da’ dh’a

The spotty rain had given way to a burnt orange sun. Over the next few hours the landscape
changed, where grass interspersed by trees every now and again reigned, now fields stretched ever so
gently upward, as if waving at the flat-lands behind them; this was not sudden, but, as Thomas noticed,
a gradual departure as if England itself: a vanished land, the real Scotland emerging, revealing its
beauty a mile at a time, saying: see I am Scotland, beautiful, so unlike England. Thomas noticed
something else also. Had for about two hours. Tristan never ceased talking. Not for a moment.
Driving Thomas crazy. At last suddenly Tristan halted, both Trouble and mouth, brow furled at
Thomas, who paused, wondering. “It seems to me I been doing all the talking.”
“Noticed,” Thomas murmured.
“Well what?” Right back at him.
“You dislike talking?”
Nobody had ever asked him that one. So he seriously pondered on it for about a half a minute.
“No, yes, maybe. But I can not talk and listen at the same time.”
“So you been listening?”
“I be doing that,” Thomas grinned for the first time and playfully urged his mount onward.
After a fashion, now this. All a bit much for Tristan’s rather ‘I am so glad to be home’
celebratory mood, and urged Trouble forward, quickly catching up to Thomas. “What did you mean by:
After a fashion?”
He shrugged. “Sort of self explanatory.”
“Maybe to you.”
“Means I was born in France and raised in England.”
“And that is self explanatory?”
Exasperated, “How by the gods can that be self explanatory?”
“I fail to see how god or the gods enter into this.”
“It is an expression.”
“Yes.” Knowing full well he was not getting off so easily, he chuckled inwardly. And once again
urged his horse forward. See what Tristan made of that.
Again Trouble easily caught up. Thomas waited expectantly. But Tristan surprised him and
remained quiet, riding along, enjoying the sun’s warmth, the slight summer breeze. After a few miles
he proved Thomas right. “Fine. I can be quiet. So we will just ride along and enjoy the day.”
“Be what I am doing.”
La, da, da, Thomas thought, counting the minutes into a half hour, maybe a few minutes longer,
toss in a couple seconds, almost smiling as the silence caught up to Tristan. “So what brings you to
Thomas spent several long minutes before responding, enjoying the silence as much as shaping
an answer. At length, he explained. “Lord Wordsworth paid my way through school in exchange for
enlisting in his son’s place in the King’s service. I was a Frenchman fighting for the English. I had two
choices, be English and not be beheaded by King Edwards’ people. Or cross the lines and fight the
English or be beheaded by King Philip’s people. After mustering out, decided to travel, see something
more than war. So far no luck.”
“So that explains the longbow.”
Another considering moment, before whispering, “No, no, no, no,” an almost cry for silence on
the matter.
Tristan laughed his high pitched laugh.
Thomas thought: so high pitch a laugh qualified as a woman’s laugh, which was so opposite
Tristan’s long lean frame and shoulder length dishwater hair, which called out for a normal sounding
laugh. But the laugh infectious, as already noted, snared Thomas, and he caught himself smiling despite
an attempt at suppression.
“You simply taught yourself how to shoot a longbow like I saw you do?”
No hesitation, “Mmm hmm.”
“You are good.”
“Probably saved my life.”
He had another ‘Mmmm’ ready, but exchanged it for a slight snort. “Huh, the way you handled
that sword,” shaking his head, “did not need any help. Fact is, had I known beforehand I would have
stood aside.”
“Providence,” Tristan shuffled out, “The uncountable variable. You never know. Maybe I slip.”
Thomas squinted ahead, which added a seriousness to his face, murmured, “Mmm.” And kicked
into a gallop. “How far is Glasgow?”
“A few more hours,” Tristan, again easily catching up. “Race?”
A ‘Now that is funny’ sideways glance at Trouble, “I try not to engage in sports I cannot win.”
Understanding, Tristan knowing exactly what he meant.
Chapter tri.

It took a little over two hours, the sunny sky changing, now a blanket of sooty ash clouds
blowing in from the sea shading the last of the day’s light. Tristan shivered inside. Quickly shrugged it
off. They slowed at the King’s palace, and paced walked the horses past the Castle. “King Stewart’s”
Tristan commented.
Thomas remained silent and followed Tristan’s lead through the streets, taking mild curiosity in
the surroundings. The town, much like any other, excrement filling its gutters from the daily dumping
of chamber pots, the odor stinging the eyes. Given the hour, late afternoon, people sparsely milled
about in the streets. The buildings wood, an occasional stone structure.
Tristan reined Trouble to a stop outside a wooden building, a wooden sign hung: McNealy’s
Inn. Wood-beetle holes creating little light swords...a knife of the day’s last light slicing the M. They
both dismounted. As Tristan turned, he almost bowled over a young woman. Smallish in size, maybe
5’1”. 100 pounds. He backpeddled, holding his hands out in the same fashion he had done at
McKinney’s. An automatic, “Sorry,” failing to notice who he had bumped into.
Thomas thinking: What! Tristan make a habit of this?
“Your whole life Tristan McLeod,” Porch Minge, voice scratchy, also anger, hate, you name it
and her voice held it. She accrued interest on it. By the gods, Tristan thought, now what! And glanced at
the woman, instantly startled into speechlessness. A ‘by the gods are messing with me’ startled
countenance. First thought: What was she doing in Glasgow? Second thought cleaved by the
continuation of her high shrill voice. “You should watch where you are going. You are not God.” As if
frozen, Tristan still held his apologetic hands out, but she continued talking over them, her eyes cold,
dark, spiteful, “Stay away from me Tristan. You understand!” And marched as if in formation past him,
bumping his shoulder roughly enough to back him up a few inches.
“An admirer,” Thomas, grinning, enjoying it, yes, but also feeling a bit bad for him.
“Obviously,” Tristan, dryly, as if tossing the word on the dirt and went through the door, vision
quickly adjusting to the dark, taking in everyone and everything. Three people were seated at one table
and McNealy stood, hands palm down on the bar, as if the bar itself held him upright.
“Tristan McLeod. Aye, I be seeing the Highland Crown Prince himself in the flesh. Be talk you
were dead,” he teased, “Some Englishman’s son at that fancy school you went best you, he did.”
Tristan. “The day any Englishman best me McNealy, is the day Scotland burns.” A little heat in
his voice, not much.
“Aye, you be carrying the same mouth, only tis words English, they are.”
“Time will eat away the English trashy accent,” Tristan commented, “What is ready to eat? And
have your lad water and feed Trouble and the English nag next to him. Be quick about it. I want to be
on my way and home before full dark sets in.”
“Fresh slaughtered. Two plates. Tea for me.”
“Tea.” Thomas holding up a finger.
As McNealy moved off, Tristan chose a table far from the door and sat facing it. Thomas moved
a chair so he also faced the door. He hitched his bow high on his shoulder. Tristan knew the other men
but they were busy in conversation and let them be.
Tristan, “Porch Minge. We were betrothed before I went away to school,” offered.
“And absence failed to make the heartfelt love grow fonder.”
“Love. You must be Christian?”
“Father a priest. How we wound up in England. Vatican sent him to convert the heathens.”
“Did it work?”
“Hell. Fire. Brimstone. All that stuff. And throw in redemption. Peasants love it.” Voice deep,
emotion deep, enough so Tristan picked up on it. Filed it away, as was his wont, gauging men,
remembering. Never know when it might be useful in a sword fight.
“Mmm. I am a Druid. Love is not a word we use. Honor instead.”
“Thought Scotland was Christian?”
Tristan absently, “About 98 percent. At least when I departed for school. Still a few Druids
“Well that girl honored you all right. Righteous honor.”
“She is Jewish. Father is a doctor on McLeod Island.” Pausing to stifle a yawn, “Ahhh. Good
man. Good people.”
Tristan expected more from Thomas, a comment about the Jews at least, but he fell silent once
again. Tristan found himself already growing accustomed, though still a very tiny sprout, to Thomas’s
silent moments. He recognized the bar wench and gestured a wave, which was a hello wrapped up in a
request for his tea. She disappeared into the kitchen and quickly reappeared, carrying their tea. He had
fucked her when they were both twelve. Did not take very long, about a second as he recalled. All legs
and arms wondering where things fit. Figuring it out. He saw she was heavy with child and pointed at
her stomach.
“Gotmyselfmarried, (just ejaculated out all at once). bout year now. McJames.”
Tristan. “Good man there.”
With the lightness of beaming at that which grew steadily insider her, she moved across the
room, Tristan enjoying watching her leave, the nice round stomach. Something about a gravida woman,
he thought, makes them glow.
Silence passed for conversation. Also when the food arrived they ate in silence, both at ease with
each other for just meeting. Eating light, Thomas sighed, and pushed the plate aside and sipped the tea.
“Fucked her ten times in one night,” Tristan idly remembering out loud. He also ate light. No not
light, but picking, as was his way.
“The bar wench?”
“No. Porch. Empty handyman cottage on the island. We used to go there, best time of my life.
Except that night. You may have noticed she has a high scratchy voice. The only way I could shut her
up was to fuck her. Every time I would finish she would go: (Imitating a high pitch shrill voice).
‘TRISTAN I CAN NOT SLEEP!’ So I would fuck her again. At first light she finally fell asleep. I
blankly crashed my eyes through the ceiling and at the sky and thought: It is true. There are Gods.”
Thomas hung his head over the table and laughed out loud, its vibrancy shaking the table.
“Not funny at the time,” Tristan commented. “Thought my cock had wore itself out forever.”
In an instant Thomas traded in his earlier delight for a pondering countenance, truly curious if a
man could fuck his cock to death; he found the thought a rather disturbing take on the old adage: no
good deed goes unpunished, and shelved it for further examination.
All this while Tristan sipping his tea, waited for a comment. At last he cocked his head at
Thomas, “Do you give almost everything long serious thought. Life is not that complicated.”
And Thomas pondered this, or pretended to, and gave in and decided to explain. “I spent a lot of
time hiding from my father, alone in the woods. I learned silence…both a weapon and soothing. The
time also allowed for endless hours of practice on the longbow. Also, I volunteer this freely, I never
answer for another man. Man has a question about another I tell him to ask him. Second hand
information is almost worthless and always exaggerated upon.”
Tristan exclaimed, “So many words at once. WOW!”
Laughter expected at the jest, disappointed, silence. Easy. Peace. No anger. No problem.
Minutes later they headed for McLeod Island.
But I was wrong about hanging around for a few days. We would be together forever, and
never more than a hundred years yards from one another. We also did not know we would become two
of the most feared men in the world. But we were young and there was much unknown to us, much yet
to learn. We also did not know that my nods and gestures, ever so slight as to appear to the casual
observer no more than raising a hand in surrender, or a nervous finger twitch, or a sharp breath in-
take, or a blink, would serve as a code between us, a form of communication. As a result, people would
mistakenly assume that Tristan made most decisions for the both of us; they were wrong, but this did
free me up to survey a situation while Tristan did the second best thing he excelled at: talking: The
code, as it were, served us well throughout our life. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter ceithir

A gray sky followed them across the shallow river leading from the mainland to McLeod Island.
The island was actually two smaller islands divided by a watery inlet to create one large land mass. The
air was wet, sea water wet, and to Tristan, as always, a bone dampness invaded him, causing him to
shiver every now and again. As Trouble splashed onto solid earth, he sprang forward remembering
from long ago the way home and wanting to be there, wanting to be brushed, fed, pampered...after all he
had earned it.
Another fifteen minutes and Tristan pulled up next to a horse pen and dismounted. Ten men,
perhaps twelve, could even be thirteen, milled about, some leading horses, others feeding horses by
hand, still others training horses…Thomas knew this by the way the men led the horses about. But the
count, difficult when men moved crossing each other in their paths.
A shout split the air. ”Tristan!” It was hooted in the same manner as if Tristan had been away a
few hours instead of a few years.
Tristan back at the voice. “McLean!”
The two men embraced. Although Asti McLean was two years older than Tristan, he stood a
good Five inches shorter, and stout, hair red, bandy legs, all in all a typical Scot. He was a McLeod on
his mother’s side, his da, a McLean. The McLean’s had their own clan; Asti as the youngest brother in
six saw nothing there but hand-downs, chose the McLeod’s, liking them and knowing Tristan was the
only boy. They became brothers.
“You look good,” McLean said, stepping back and glancing at Thomas, who was still atop his
horse, checking out the English longbow. “English?
“After a fashion.”
“Well if you riding with Tristan you must be the only decent Englishman because he hates the
English. So welcome to the clan McLeod.”
Tristan pointed toward a black Thoroughbred in the pen. The horse had a white star on its
forehead. ”My uncle mixing breed now?”
“Born that way, she be. Just turned two. Ready to be broke in, she is.”
“Happens rarely,” Thomas offered, and they both stared a question his way. “As I said, Lord
Wordsworth paid my tuition. So I also helped out in his stables. He has a few Thoroughbred. Beautiful
animals so I studied up on them. Every x number of foals the black bleeds in a spot. Not often, but
Not to a McLeod,” McLean, ready to proudly proclaim, when Tristan’s uncle, halted all
conversation by stating. “Tristan.” As if stating a fact.
Thomas saw a powerful built man, compact like a bull, but not at all like a bull, so much more
“Sir,” Tristan acknowledged, “I missed the island.”
His uncle fixed on all three at once. “You are not staying long.” Catching Tristan by total
surprise, his uncle talked over his astonished countenance. “That be an English longbow. You English?”
“After a fashion, sir,” Thomas said, not really tiring of the question. A man was identified by the
clothes he wore and accoutrements he carried.
“Lad,” Tristan’s uncle stated, “You be a guest on the island but when I ask a question I expect it
“Fair enough,” Thomas replied and explained.
“Well lad, you be French, at least when you are in Scotland.”
Acceptance comes in many forms. Thomas responded by shrugging, “Sir.”
“Saw you looking at that horse, the starred one. Think you are up to her?”
“Sir, we were just talking about that star on her forehead,” Tristan noted.
“Spoils her as a Thoroughbred.” he replied, “Got no use for a half Thoroughbred.”
Thomas held his hands up and outward, palms open, as if backing away from the conversation.
Tristan remembered the same movement, and automatically mentally marked it as one of Thomas’s
Tristan’s uncle smiled a challenge. “Want a go at her?”
“Thanks, I have a horse, sir.”
“I was not giving her to you lad. Overheard the conversation.”
Those old eyes held a dare. See what the lad was worth. Dismounting, Thomas’s eyes danced his
youth, youth dares a blind recur, so a dare entered, he could not resist. He hitched his bow to the saddle,
and withdrew a piece of cloth from his pocket. “Sir,” he acknowledged and swung over the rails into the
pen. The horse, startled, backed away. He approached slow, sideways, left hand out, low murmur
emitting from him, when inches away stretched his hand softly and touched the horse’s left flank. Here
he began a steady stream of soft French, hand trailing voice at last reaching the ear. He scratched for a
few seconds, continuing his low chatter in French, and stepped directly in front of the horse, who
tracked sideways a few inches. Thomas very gently slapped her nose, a two finger slap, a, I am here
slap, a, we are going to be friends slap, a, but I am here to stay. The entire approach: a poetry of
gentleness. The horse inched forward, unsure, yet intrigued. Thomas folded the cloth long ways and tied
it around her eyes, blinding her. She danced nervously. He patted her nose, still speaking in French. He
broke the French by whispering, “Open the gate.”
“Lad has the touch,” Tristan’s uncle commented as Thomas mounted the horse. The horse, not
liking a man aboard her, bucked for a few minutes. Thomas had grasped the horse’s mane and leading
her, raced through the gate. Tristan’s uncle approved, watching Thomas for a moment before turning to
a lad about eighteen. The lad worked with the horses, and had good horse sense.
“See that. That is also how you treat a woman. You do not hit them, understand?”
“Sir.” the boy responded.
“Go home, bring the wife some flowers from the field. I hear again she is walking about
McLeod Island, face swollen, you be laid up for a long time.” He swung his gaze upon Tristan who as
always, since way young, felt the power there. “Lad be gone for at least an hour. Let us go to the castle.
I have a few things to say.” To McLean, “Take Thomas’s nag, have the stable boy feed her. Trouble
“Yes Sir,” McLean answered and smiled a ‘you be in the soup’ toward Tristan, who flashed a
sideway rueful smile of his own as he followed his uncle.
“I only smacked her once,” the boy protested when they were out of earshot.
“Be one time too many,” McLean threw over his shoulder while walking away.
Chapter co’ig
The castle, perched upon a steep hill, afforded a gracious view of both the sea and the island. An
esplanade circled the castle for defense. Twelve rooms not counting the dungeon and kitchen. Duplicate
twins to the rear towers shaped like upside down mushrooms adorned the upper front façade. To say
that Tristan loathed the castle would be to say that he loved the sun’s warmth. He detested all castles,
cold clammy things, shivering his very innards. Be up to him he would reduce it to act he
would rather die than perform: for this was the Castle McLeod.
The moment he entered his uncle’s study, he smiled broadly. A massive fire roared wildly in the
stone hearth, its heat warming the room, stilling the constant inner shivering…replacing it with a warm
glow. He knew his uncle knew him well and had built the fire to please him. He panned across the
room, wondering if there had been many changes in the past three years. Everything appeared the same.
His uncle had not changed. His uncle was an ancient Greek aficionado and had a bust of Alexander the
Great, also laid open on wood pedestals were works by Aristotle, Plato, Socrates. The book shelves held
many other books from Druidism to science. Those were his uncle’s likes. Those were not his uncle.
Scotland was almost his uncle, and the room showed it. Animal skins everywhere. Ancient twin
McLeod swords said to be the original swords used by the first McLeod lined the wall above the
hearth, and a painting of his father and mother above the swords: a Scottish place of very high honor.
The clan kilt also on the wall. There was absolutely no doubt when his uncle’s time came and went, his
portrait would rest next to his brother. No doubt what-so-ever. To do otherwise would be to strip honor.
But in all truth Scotland was just an adopted land to his Uncle. As his uncle often growled: “We are not
Macleods, we are the McLeod’s.” Above the pictures of his parents, was a rough forged metal bar said
to be over ten thousand years old. This history, and further in the past were his Uncle, and by extension
“The Crown Prince of the Clan McLeod. How you so dislike the title, Tristan,” his uncle joked,
pointed an index finger at a chair, “Sit.”
“Sir,” Tristan complied, but waited for his uncle to seat himself first. Between them a rough
wooden table. An earthen pot and a jug of ale rested on the table. Also a cup and a clay mug.
“Still drinking tea.” Not a question.
“Yes Sir.”
“Employ yourself and pour a cup while I do likewise, of course I shall drink ale....cures the
aches in these old bones. I never asked because it is your affair but even as a young lad when you and
Duncan McGregor, McLean, the other lads recklessly sowed your seed, fought at the drop of a word,
why you never drank. The others did. And as I recall on my own youth, we generally followed who we
ran with. So I am asking now.”
“Sir, I did once. Woke up feeling like sheep shit, could barely lift my sword.” Tristan fleetingly
glanced at the pedestal holding the bust of Alexander the Great.
His uncle traced Tristan’s brief gaze, grunted, satisfied.
“There is this very stupid saying, usually uttered by men who cannot hold their booze. ‘Never
trust a man who does not drink.’ But a Highlander, Tristan, it is in our blood; battle and booze.”
“Yes Sir.”
“But he drank, just so?”
“Yes Sir.”
“A man who conquered the known civilized world. A boy really, just twenty years old. Waged
war for twelve years, taking everything in sight. The greatest warrior in history. Julius Caesar, Khan,
they do not even come close. Took them a lifetime, Alexander twelve years. Did you know that it took
all six Khans two hundred years to amass an empire four times the size of the Roman Empire. Two
hundred years. It took Alexander twelve to amass an empire five times the size of the Roman Empire.
Twelve years.”
“No, Sir, I did not”
“Yes, well he was good, but a mean drunk. Killed several of his generals in the throes of drink.
His lone weakness. You do know that is the reason, or like in all things where many reasons prevail,
one of the reasons you do not drink. Correct?”
”Sir, It is one, yes. That, and as I said, drink clouds the mind and reflexes. Even the morn after.”
“Mmm. So how was England? Aside from overpopulated by the English.”
“Cold, Sir. Otherwise, aside from the food, England.”
“And you managed to find a few hours a day to practice.”
“Sir, always.”
“Hired English swordsmen…a contradiction really.”
Swallowing back, spittle and a laugh. “Yes, Sir.”
“My coin was put to good, not great, use. But I see, your eyes, those blue seas, still retain the
carefree easy going lad who left three years ago. And that laugh, more a song singing life is a comedy.
Your mother’s real. Why your father honored her so.” He paused, “Still there?” he teased.
Suppression surrendered, Tristan laughed out loud, bells echoing in the room, “Sorry. Sir.”
But the infectious laugh even brought a smile to his uncle’s face, cracking the serious composure
for a moment, a real, real small moment.
“Yes Alexander. A mean man. Unlike him, you, you are not mean. You have a good heart
Tristan, and handle a sword better than any man I have seen, maybe better than any man has a right too.
But a minor problem is you want nothing, except for pussy and battle every now and again. Look at
you, you leave for three years, live among the English whom you hate more than I, yet return the same,
unchanged…I see the you who went away in your eyes. But Tristan, in all things, all come to an end.
Not the pussy, for that your charm and Crown Prince title will always bring the lassies running.
Speaking of pussy, how were the English lassies?”
“English. Sir.”
“No pussy for three years?” head tilted, creaking, in mock disbelief.
Engaging his charming smile, “Sir, London is...well there were many French women.”
“Of course. But as I was saying, all things end. And the battle part, now it is war, and there is no
honor in war. Edwards has been fighting the French for almost a hundred years, or I should say the
‘House of Edwards’. King Philip visited about a year ago. He rather enjoys Edwards wasting time and
resources in trying to conquer France...ensures happy nobles. To a point I agree in so far, what, Edwards
tied down in France stops him from invading Scotland; I am speaking of a full all out invasion not those
annoying forays that both England and Scotland engage in from time to time.”
Utilizing both hands, he pushed up from the table and smiled at the portrait of his brother,
“When we were young, we had us some fun. We raided their villages, they raided ours. Take a few
privileged hostages, ransom them, everybody happy. Before Alexander, the Greeks would lay down
their plows and a few hundred would wage a good battle, enjoying themselves before picking up their
plows and working the land. More a party from life’s daily boredom…men require that, to run.
Alexander for the most part ended partying, border raids, and in doing so changed battle to war and
war was greatly more profitable than minor battles. I do not believe he meant to, he was a lad, enjoying
himself...but other men saw the profit. Yes, greatly so...mmmm huh, uh, so. Yes so. But your father had
a vision of a united Scotland, lowland nobles, Highlanders, both one, Scotland. The nobles, profit is
their only motive.” He snorted, “They would sell their souls for a gold coin, not a great loss.”
He sat, refocused on Tristan, “I spoke to hear myself rather than really talking to you so much
as... just as.”
“I am aware of such, Sir.”
“Now I am talking to you so listen. Wallace defeated the English in the last great war between
us. I will just say it. I intend for you to be King. And a king cannot be care-free and easy going.
Alexander once supposedly said: ‘A king must at all times hold the pressure under grace.’ Keeping
grace honest.”
It was impossible he heard right. King. Him. No. He miss-heard. And leaned forward circle
eyed. “Sir?”
“Are you deaf Tristan.” Not a question.
“No, no Sir, no. It is, a, well... Stewart is king.”
“Stewart is a horse’s ass. Which he kisses on a daily basis, the nobles. And half the nobles share
their title in England which divides loyalties. A house divided falls. Edwards knows this, encouraged it,
I imagine. There is an ancient Scottish law, Bge tu. It allows any prince to challenge for the Crown.”
Shoulders hunched at the about to in his mind already committed perpetration, “Sir......” Voice
waning off into a very low whisper.
Talking over Tristan, “Be quiet! You are leaving for Daneland tonight. I have written three
letters of passage and instructions for you. Take Trouble to Quimper, France. You will undoubtedly
encounter Edwards’ of the letters is for Edwards, granting you passage through English
France. From there you will be under Philip’s protection and will sail a French Man of War to Daneland
where you will be met by Bjorn Eger. You will be gone for a while.” His eyes narrowed, & Tristan had
known this look since a child. His uncle would brook no argument. “When you return. Yes when. Are
you aware of the 300 warriors?”
The change of subject, so sudden caused Tristan to blink...regrouping his thoughts. “Sir?”
“The Greeks, Tristan, the Greeks.”
A wave washed over Tristan, a happy wave. He understood what his Uncle meant. “Yes Sir.
They were 300 Spartan warriors who sacrificed themselves to save Greece.”
“They were battle hardened well trained. Or so the myth goes.”
“Myth?, yes Tristan. But remember behind every myth is reality, reality changed throughout
“Yes Sir.”
“Listen, right now Clan McLeod is the strongest clan in the Highlands. McGregor’s is second,
then McDonald, & so on. McGregor and I sealed a blood oath. The rest of the clans followed.”
Old man McGregor! The last person Tristan imagined mouthing such an oath to a McLeod. He
remained silent on the matter. “Yes Sir.”
“The McLeods are training a hundred men. Warriors. All Druids. By the time you return, they
will be a force…an unreckonable force. You always said Alexander’s cavalry were his fiercest fighting
force. I agree. These warriors will all be cavalry. Each riding a Thoroughbred. They are not, I stress
boldly, to be used in any front line war between Scotland & England. Their only mission are the nobles,
Scottish & English & their families; war knocks, they are to kill’em all.”
“Sir, may I ask a question? “
A lone eye half closed. A single question allowed.
“As King, ah, what is my...uh?”
“As King, Tristan, you are to keep war from knocking. Your task is to unite the Lowlands and its
nobles with the Highland clans and create your father’s dream: a united Scotland. A united Scotland,
one England dare never invade.”
A different young man would have thought facetiously, ‘sure, why not’. But Tristan searched
inside himself for the facticity of his uncle’s words; he self confessed to an inner confusion. He replied,
“Yes Sir.” Not aware if the task were possible, only knowing he had been given a command by the clan
leader and honor dictated.
“Good. It is growing late. When you return, I will have everything set. If something happens to
me, McLean will have instructions for you. And Tristan, watch McGregor very carefully. His blood
oath is to me, not you. I live by one rule: If a man tries to kill you and fails never give him a second
opportunity. Kill him. Now go eat. You ride in an hour. Go. Oh, and Tristan, happy 23rd birthday. I
deeply regret, a, well the lack of celebration. Time, it seems time is dictating events, moving them along
rather quickly, yes.” Sighing, “Quickly.”
“I understand, Sir,” Tristan acknowledged, stood.
“Tristan, lad.”
“Yes, sir.”
“One last thing. The Island. The Island is not Scotland. You follow?”
“Absolutely, sir. Without any reservation.”
“Good. Go eat.”
Tristan’s uncle went to the corridor that led to the rear and an exit. The same old man that
Tristan had encountered upon entering Scotland stood there, had been since the beginning. His face best
described as timeless art.
“We are treading where gods fear. I hope I am right. I honor that lad like no other. He carries a
pure heart. The gods destroy those pure of heart”
“You began the journey twenty-three years ago.”
“Younger, more prone to foolishness.”
“Yes,” the old man agreed, “By the way, that young man, Thomas. Tristan could use a
companion, company his own age.”
“Yes. The same occurred to me.”
“Take care,” the old man said and meant it. And vanished, leaving him alone.
Farleigh McLeod, clan leader, sixty-one years of age, feared warrior for over forty years, a man
who truly feared no man, now felt very old and missed his brother ever so much, so much. He sighed to
himself, thinking that the trip would either change Tristan, harden him, or the world would use his clean
laugh leaving only bitterness, and in the end cast him aside. May the gods forgive him.
But the trip would change Tristan in ways his uncle never imagined, and the powers that be
would try to silence him, failing, cringe at his sight, fall silent at his penetrating blue eyes, and in the
end rewrite history, thus erasing him. This is his story. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter sia
Writer’s notes: Journeys begin.
Aside from McLean, the kitchen held several other men who had stopped to welcome Tristan
home, and their chatter echoed against the stone walls. Thomas sipped tea and as the new man, mostly
had listened without contributing much, which suited him. He had even brushed away the occasional
attempt by Tristan to include him. He was about to stand and stretch his legs when Farleigh McLeod
entered. He remained seated. The chatter slid away into silence’s womb. It seemed to Thomas that even
the kitchen held its breath.
“Thomas with no last name, come with me. Tristan it is past time. McLean, walk Tristan out. I
will join you shortly. The rest of you, enjoy your evening, but remember morn arrives quickly.”
Enough said, Thomas thought, and followed Farleigh McLeod to the study . He sat at the same
desk as earlier. There was no invitation for Thomas to sit so he stood wearing an expectant half grin.
“That black starred mare is useless now. Thoroughbreds are one man horses. But I suspect you knew as
“Yes. Sir.”
“Good. Now how do you intend to pay for her?”
“Sir, I suspect you will inform me. Otherwise I would not be standing here. No disrespect
“None taken lad. I like a lad who thinks on his feet. I am given to understand you are just
traveling, only here for a few days. Correct?”
“Sir, yes.”
“Mmm huh, that was a stand up act at McKinney’s Inn. Shows you know how to handle trouble.
But a Scotsman stands by his matter what. You want to travel, fine, I understand. Young once
myself. So accompany Tristan, we call the horse even. But I require a blood oath. Whatever happens,
you and Tristan stand side by side. No English excuses: ‘I barely escaped with my life!’ Well?”
“Yes. Sir. Wherever he is going I will travel along. But, well when we return, I will probably be
on my way. But you have my oath.”
“Fair enough. You have a name for that mare?”
“I was thinking ‘Au revoir’. That is…”
“French for Goodbye. You two should get along. Trouble and Au revoir.”
“Yes. Sir.”
A leather draw string pouch flew at Thomas, who deftly caught it.
“Gold coins. Tristan never carries coin. Though I suspect where you both are heading, well, gold
coins will be of little help.”
Thomas smiled what he considered an understanding smile. Farleigh saw a youth’s
bewilderment. “You might do. Most men would ask why Tristan never carries coin.”
Thomas shrugged.
“Have a nice trip lad. If by chance you use up your wanderlust, when you return you got land
and a home and a clan. Though I suspect you have family somewhere. But that is your business.”
“I will bear such in mind. Sir.”
“Good. It is Tristan’s birthday. I am sorry to see him leave without some sort of celebration. But
it can not be helped. I will see you both off. Always say goodbye. Remember lad, life is,” he halted a
second, remembering back through the years, “moments. Use them. Never regret them!”
How odd! How very ODD! I thought. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter seachd

They departed into what the old-timers called: a sea night dark, a deep blue and rich blackness
interspersed by on and off moonlight. Inland grew the darkness blacker, creating elusive shadows and
images vanishing almost the moment they appeared: a dog, a deer, a man, no just shadows. Tristan
knew the landscape well and avoided hamlets, inns, anything that would impede forward progress.
Since Trouble had rested little in the day, Tristan sliced walking and riding, walking Trouble fifteen
minutes for every hour of riding. Unfamiliar yet with Au revoir’s temperament or endurance, Thomas
followed Tristan’s lead.
The usually talkative Tristan was unusually quiet and the conversation between them sparse,
limited mostly to a comment here and there about the weather. Thomas figured Tristan to be mulling
over his sudden departure after longing to get home, and had learned at a very young age to let quiet be
unless circumstances dictated otherwise. Besides the darkness and the silence suited him, and he half
dozed in the saddle. The ever elusive shadowy images vanished the moment they reached the border, as
if behind, imagination ruled, ahead England ruled.
Here Tristan paused to say goodbye to Scotland. Trouble danced a bit before settling down, not
quite dog tired...a phrase which he failed to understand since all the dogs he saw were either sucking up
for food or sleeping. Race of slackers as far as he was concerned.
Even in the country dark, Tristan noticed wisps of mist swirling around Trouble’s hooves, same
as earlier in the day, and appeared silently perplexed. Thomas forged the silence into a momentary
inquiry. After all, he reasoned, something might be amiss.
“The heavy mist, whatever, I noticed it this morning, strange is all this far inland.”
Thomas shrugged as he was apt to do in place of needless conversation. After a few minutes
they rode off. Just shy of dawn they approached an inn. Both were hungry. Tired. Food and a few hours
sleep suited both. A boy forked hay, and three nail thin, as evidenced by protruding ribs, horses
apathetically stood in a corral. While dismounting, Tristan beckoned the boy. “Feed my mount Trouble
Tristan glanced at Thomas who had also dismounted and murmured tiredly, “Au revoir.”
Never good at French, or languages for that matter, Tristan merely shook his head, “Au revoir.
Remove their saddles and brush the road dirt off them. Do a good job, hear?”
“Good lad,” Tristan encouraged.
Barely lit by the twin oil lamps, the inn’s interior bordered on shadows. Two people sat eating.
An older woman, the cruel peasant life long ago worn her down, stood as if standing were a burden, and
strode over. A dark skinned girl, quite a beauty actually, considering the inn bespoke middle-of-
nowhere, scrubbed the wooden floor.
They were tired and sat as if so: hard.
The older woman, voice deadened, spoke through a tightly closed mouth. “Whaca wnt. only got
gruel. no ale. Ony ta.”
“Why you of course,” Tristan smiled charmingly. Thomas rolled his eyes. “But undoubtedly a
woman of your charm is married. So simple tea. Bread. Have bread?”
“Yah Sir,”
“Good,” Tristan, ramping up the charm, nodded, held both hands out forming her body, “Ah!
lots of bread. Warm. The tea hot as you are, as in steaming. Your husband is a lucky man.”
Now she pepped up and, in doing so, committed the mistake of smiling, revealing a mined-out
tunnel, as if the tooth fairy had thrown an extraction party. In truth the teeth were very painfully yanked
by a traveling so called dentist because she so badly wanted to please her, at the time, new husband who
so complained about teeth hurting his cock. But Tristan had already surmised as much. It was a
Christian thing, done not only to please, but as a means of birth control. “Be a moment, Sir.” And
bounced away, all aglow inside.
“The English,” Tristan commented, “All peasants. I hate them.”
“No you do not,” Thomas ventured, “Hate their ignorance.”
Toothless returned and her intrusion fell them silent. She set two clay cups, chipped and dirty, on
the table, followed by a basket of bread. Thomas poked a finger in his cup. “Hottttttttt!” murmured,
thinking charming a woman had its benefits.
She laid a suggestive hand on Tristan’s shoulder. “Any ting else? Any ting?.”
“Ah yes,” and patted her hand, “But your husband. Alas.”
“Ha salep, lazo sod.”
“Maybe later, time permitting. Ah?”
Sallying for the first time in recent memory, she brushed a hand across her rather bilious ass,
already imagining Tristan’s hard cock. God, she would say a hundred Hail Marys for just one fuck. Two
hundred. And fifty Our Fathers.
“True enough,” Tristan agreed. “I hate all ignorance.”
Thomas, “How about dislike instead of hate. Hate? Too strong a word for her.” Chewing bread.
“What happened to your semi-vow of silence?” Also chewing bread. Spongy, but all in all not
“Spent it during the long night ride.” Thomas stated, while Tristan glanced at the young wash
girl who now stood. He beckoned. “Who are you?” Not a question, not really. More bored
“Maria, Sir,” Although attitude meek in nature, a dim light of defiance still burned in her young
eyes, but not much longer.
Tristan, “Sit down,” ordered.
“Sir I...”
“Sit down!”
As Maria complied, Thomas sipped the tea, broke off a large piece of bread, chewed. “What are
you doing here? You are not English? Spanish be my guess.”
“Yes, Sir, my father sold me to a traveling minstrel show and they traded me for a horse.”
Thomas waved a dismissing hand. “Have some bread.”
Tristan. “My uncle inform you where we are heading?”
Multitasking, Thomas chewed bread and shook his head at the same time.
“You did not trouble to ask?”
Again a shake of the head.
“We are sailing to Daneland. As much as I know about this journey.”
“More than I need to know,” Thomas stated, “By the way happy birthday”
“Yesterday’s day.”
“Sure. I am now 23 years and a day. Feels the same as 22 and 364 days. How old are you?”
A broad smile, Tristan tasting the idea they were the same age, finding it tasty, “What month?”
“And a day.” Flat toneless voice that could have meant anything or everything.
Breaking a loaf of bread in half, Tristan gathered a second to brush away crumbs, “Strange.”
“I thought odd.”
“Odd, strange, add them together you reach coincidences.”
A combination shrug, and a glance at the girl who sat stiff and ramrod straight, as if from the
head down nailed to the chair. She did not appear to him so much frightened as wary of them,
wondering what they wanted. Too fuck her for sure, but more? And what? Or she could even be
imagining they wanted to kill her. Uncertainty, he knew from the war, wore on the mind, inviting much
thought, all bearing ill-will.
“What about her? I mean you must have something in mind.”
Tristan twirled a finger above his head and playfully waved Toothless over. “I am bored.
Playing around. Create situations, see where they lead.”
“Graveyard, as often as not.”
“Not me. I am a Druid. We burn our dead.”
Although Thomas found the remark rather senseless, he was about to forge a reply but
Toothless’ arrival stayed him.
“Yay, sir?” She rested a hand on Tristan’s shoulder again.
“I am finished, but still hungry, only not for food. Tis a shame though. A beautiful woman like
you. Christian woman. Married. God would never forgive me. It is very difficult keeping the faith.
Much more so for men who harbor uncontrollable urges, where-as women, ah they are strong in such
matters and manners.”
Toothless knew disappointment as a thousand page story of her life, and had long grown
accustomed to it. But avarice, the coin of the realm now tempted her. Tough choice. Cock or gold. “Tis
was’h girl. A pagan. One pence. Rom fee.”
Tristan deciphered the sentence. “A pagan! I, makes one shiver. Would God forgive me?” he
finished, patting the woman’s hand for advice on the matter while holding Maria’s dark eyes, swimming
in them, enjoying himself tremendously.
Feeling gold slipping away her dictation improved instantly. “God would. Why all the traveling
priests fuck her. So it must be all right.”
All play now, Tristan danced into Maria’s eyes. “A Pagan though.”
“You can fuck her anywhere, ass, mouth, cunt. You can both fuck her. Just two pence.”
“Two pence. Mmm. What do you think Maria? Are you worth two pence?”
“Whatever you want, sir.” but her tone spoke other. It pleaded: Please leave me be.
“Usually.” Tristan gaffed loud at his own joke, almost a dog bark. “Go wake your husband. I
want to speak to him”
Maybe it was because she was English, or maybe because he was tired, or maybe because he
liked Maria, or maybe he did not even know why himself, but his charm slid away like quick-silver. The
English! By the gods he hated the English, despite what Thomas said. They never listened. Talk talk
talk. But but buts. He shook his head to and fro as if shooing away a fly when in truth was attempting
to shoo away a rushing at him anger. He failed, as evidenced by his flat toneless statement. “Get your
husband now or I will burn this place down around you.”
The sudden change rattled Toothless. “S...” She started a feeble protest but Maria forcefully cut
her off, sensing a scene was playing out, one that might result in her freedom or another vicious beating
from the old bitch. She was willing to gamble and Tristan liked her the better for it. “What part of what
he said did you fail to understand?”
Glaring at Maria, Toothless mentally reveled at the beating she would administer the girl, then
disappeared into a back room and returned a few minutes later followed by a man scratching the
sandman from his eyes.
Tristan. “Who is your Lord?”
Unintelligent half asleep muttered unrealizable words. All men do when half asleep.
“Say again?”
“Lord Bath, sir,” he managed.
“Who owns the horses in the corral?”
Temper awaking him, he hotly squeaked, “That is my business, sir.”
“I will burn this place down around you, understand, you answer like that again. Now I will
repeat once. Who owns the horses.”
Somewhere between courage and idiocy fear sporting four broken legs crawled. Slowly at first.
Fear whispered these were strangers. See one is carrying a longbow. Dangerous strangers. “Two, sir,
belong to those men over there. One is mine.”
“How much for the girl and the horse?”
“Sir, gold?” A lizard tongue licking at the blissful imaginary gold fly, misting his cracked lips.
“3 gold coins.”
“You do not earn a gold coin in three years in this dump.”
Imaginary gold fever now purchased courage, chasing fear inches away. “A thing is worth what
a man asks, Sir.”
To Thomas, “Can I presume my uncle mentioned I never carry coin and entrusted you with
“You can and be so,” and slid a solitary gold coin across the table.
“There is payment. Have the boy saddle the horse.”
Those blue eyes deadened right on the man. Their impact almost a blow. Fear rushed back,
loosening his bowels and he pumped his head, “Sir, straight away.”
“And instruct your wife to bring a paper and a quill and ink.”
“A little extra for the ink, a pence, please Sir.”
Tristan stood. He towered over the man. “Bring it.”
The man scurried away, ordering his wife to fetch the requested items.
Engaging now, flashing all his considerable charm, brushing Maria’s shoulder, tracing palm
almost to the peak of her breast...feeling the heart racing. “Scotland is up the road. I will write a note
and give you coin. Use both in Scotland. They will vouch your safety. Ask for directions to the Clan
McLeod. Once there hand the note to a man, McLean. You can either stay or he will place you aboard a
ship Spain-bound. Any questions?”
Sure she had questions, questions, questions galore. Her dark shoulder length hair shook too and
fro, one second obscuring her face, the next exposing its hopefulness.
“Good.” But his attention had shifted to the two men eating. He approached their table, tying his
hair back while walking, “Excuse me, I am Tristan McLeod from the Clan McLeod. Mind I ask where
you are headed?”
“No,” they both answered, “London.”
“Mind leaving now. It is a long ride. Short days.”
Both half way into spooning food, they paused at Tristan words, both noticed Thomas and the
longbow. Only King Edwards’ men carried the longbow. Thomas slid a gold coin across the table. The
elderly of the two palmed the coin. “Sure.”
Twenty minutes later the men were on their way. Toothless steaming silent hate stood in the
yard facing Tristan. Her husband hid on the bed, actually under a flea infested thread-bare wool blanket,
thinking: Christ, what did I do to deserve those two. Tristan reigning Trouble, settling him, addressed
Toothless. “I sent those men away for a reason. Now you go after Maria and you are all done for. The
choice is yours to make. Go on Maria.”
He waited until she became a mere dot in the distance, reigned Trouble, and headed in the
opposite direction. Riding side by side, Thomas joked, “Since we are not in the business of a few hours
rest are we in the business of saving lost waifs, are we?” A question statement not in search of an
A pause, as if actually contemplating Thomas’s remark. Dawn had broken all over the sky,
spilling bright blues, whites, and streamers of red. Tristan burst out in high pitched contagious laughter,
causing Thomas to do likewise. Tristan at last offered, “Race?”
At the word race, Trouble stole a glance at Au revoir, whose return glance told him if he ever
wanted to fuck her he better not win. Man, he thought, hooves scratching the ground in indecision.
Tristan was his friend. But pussy, man.
Passing an ‘OH YEAH!,’ yell, Thomas kneed Au revoir.
And they were off and running. Awake now. Alert. Laughing. At themselves. At the wind. At
the freedom, the unending freedom.
Trouble worried needlessly, but he worried for many years. Dover and a ship for France was
still yet a good day’s ride and there would be no clear winner, just fits and starts. At least that is how he
saw it.
Ah revoir, well….that is another story.

Christians say ‘hatred’ is the Devil’s own fuel. Christian rumor has it that the ‘Devil’ stacks
hate as if wood, stacks it in a person, lights it, the flame orgasmic. If true, well he did a hell of a job on
Toothless. A HELL OF A JOB! Her hatred burned so bright it lit the sky. An orange fireball some
mistook for the sun. She grabbed the stable boy by the ear and shouted for him to walk to Lord Bath’s
and tell him what happened. “And remember,” she screamed, “Tristan fucking McLeod, from the
fucking Clan McLeod. Fucking barbarian Scots.”
The moment the boy was out of sight, she squatted over dirt and savagely pawed at her cunt as if
it were a demise.
Her hatred had to ride a few years down the road since Lord Bath was in Paris sucking all the
young cocks available, and coin brought them running, each spreading the news: a mad Englishman
loves cock, has gold. He lived heaven for two glorious years before his wife demanded his return. Upon
his return, he found paradise in slaughtering 37 Scotsmen. Life, oh so grand.
The Gods, who had long ago wagered Maria would kill the old hag, and marry her half-wit
husband were a mite peeved. Tristan had interfered. They were angry, yes, but they were flexible and
wagered thus: would Tristan figure out that he, Tristan, had set the slaughter in play, or not, and
further, that playful messing in the Gods’ business never went unpunished; they severely doubted the
latter and the former. Even odds, a planet for a planet.
But such were future events, here now stood the present. Which is to say: the Gods had all the
time. What the Gods failed to realize: Tristan also had all the time because on that day they were bored
and playing dice with the universe as the stake. Tristan, he rode across England. Nothing at stake
searching for that something.
Chapter ochd

It took the day and at the end it became a race to beat the dark (which they lost) to reach Dover,
a sea port on the English channel. Except for the last race into town, they had ridden the day soft and
easy, joking in turns about the English, about each other; the journey they were undertaking did not
enter into their conversations if only because it was an adventure and adventures were things best left to
the imagination and they both harbored very active imaginations. The last few miles, which was a long
downhill road to the sea, wore Trouble out and Tristan knew it. Thomas knew likewise about Au revoir.
They too were also dead tired and since it was too late to cross the channel, gladly hunted lodging. Sea
towns meant ships, ships meant sailors, sailors meant pubs, whores, fights, rat infested lodging, stench.
But enough coin bought better quarters. A private room, a straw mattress and a wool blanket that a good
hard shake shook away the few live lice. The coin also bought fresh meat in the shape of two live
chickens. Their tiredness was such, they ate in relative silence and after retired to their room. A single
candle glowed on a wooden box that served as a night-stand. They shared the bed. Thomas plopped
down boots and all and closed his eyes. Tristan carried a few books and stole a few minutes to read or
re-read actually ‘The Art Of War. He had read the book long ago and had reread it so many times knew
each passage by heart, but then he felt he had known the book the very first time he had read it. Strange,
he had thought at the time, but had chalked it up to youthful fantasy. He only read for a few minutes
before the forty hours without sleep slugged at his brain, and he set the book aside, then using thumb
and forefinger snuffed the candle, and quickly drifted off. He dreamed all night of home, various stages,
the kitchen eating porridge, riding Trouble along the sea. Yes the sea, ever refreshing, even in dreams.
That first night I lay fencing (such my tiredness) sleep until sure Tristan slept soundly, as
evidenced by an even breath, then quietly slid off the bed and out the room and hunched down against
the wall. Half hidden by shadows, I felt myself give way to full relaxation for the first time all day. As
always the shadows comforted me and I half dozed. Still, half asleep, I tuned to every sound, even the
breathing of the mice...or so I believed.
Thomas’ diary.
Morning came swiftly, as it always does to those who were exhausted the previous night. Tristan
found Thomas outside hunched down tuning the string on his bow. Thomas’s actions were a reminder
that he had forgone practice yesterday. After, tea and biscuits, and gathering their mounts, Tristan,
sought out three men who could handle a blade or sword fairly well. He found such a group at the first
pub they visited, a dingy rat-hole where rats scampered freely, hopping over each other in an Olympian
fever to harass the lone cat, who, barely able to walk, lay there, too old to dash at them and not caring:
he had his memories, yes he did, and snapping the necks of many of their brethren warmed his elderly
At the bar three men, rough trade if appearance spoke, and always game to earn a coin or two.
They were amused at Tristan’s proposal. Taking in his youth, of course one uttered the inevitable joke,
causing the other two to snicker. “All at once lad?”
Laugh laugh.
“Of course.” Tristan. Void of emotion. Seeing nothing funny at all. But they were English and
he had learned while in school one must create and suffer short term alliances of their ill manners.
The oldest offered a bit of fatherly advice. “Lad, be careful. There are many men who would
take your coin and run you through.”
Tristan politely thanked him, while Thomas flashed a gold sovereign, a convincer, and they all
went out back gathering at an open field. Tristan, as always when practicing, began slow, limbering up,
using his feet, the heels to toes cadence, moving, always moving, paring, feinting, working up a slight
sweat. That was the first hour and the 3 men were ready to call it a day, but Tristan urged them on. The
second part of his workout’s intent: draw the 3 men into a half moon position, allowing him clear sight
at all three at once. They were just average, and after the second hour, exhausted, quit. The older man
offered the coin back, but Tristan waved it away.
“You are good,” he confessed, thinking: who is this lad?
But Tristan saw it as a dismal workout. A bit discouraged, he paced over to Thomas who had
spent the time working the longbow, accurately, yes, but testing the wind, each arrow’s balance, his
hand to quill to bow movements. All in all quite satisfied.
“Waste of a coin,” Tristan complained as Thomas hitched the bow upon his right shoulder.
“Tristan, I watched for a while. You expect to find a swords-smith in a bar as good or near as
you. Not likely. Take what you get. But you know as much and I just wasted words.”
“Do you count them?”
Running a thoughtful hand through his closely cropped hair, while doing so stealing a second
considering, did he? Maybe so, not a bad idea, say two thousand a day, maybe three, then enough.
Dumb. Circumstances dictated what to say, when to speak, or not. “No.” A slight shoulder tilt, “Just
considered it. Rejected it.”
That infectious Tristan laugh splintered the air, (so much so a passerby caught himself smiling.
And frowned at the intrusive smile on his face. A man should never smile in the morning. The whole
day lay ahead and only God knew what dangers awaited. He sold tin cups to pubs and drunks frightened
him. He wished he could find a better job. That afternoon a drunken sailor stitched him from stem to
stern and his last thought: That laugh!).
Ah, the harm we do in passing, the gods playfully chorused, singing thunder flashing across an
otherwise laid-back sky.

Chapter naoi
Writer’s Notes: A beginning journey without maps.

From that laugh, the day took on mediocrity. First a ship. Which ate up an hour locating one
sailing to Quimper, English France, King Edwards’ headquarters. A few wenches promised them a
‘good time’ for a few pence: Tristan declined with arched ‘?s’ eyebrows. More than a few lads offered
to help load their mounts, but this also was declined, much to the lads amusement who sat in a ducks
row and laughed as they, Thomas and Tristan, spent the better part of an hour leading their mounts
aboard the ship. Another hour before the ship began its slow ponderous exit from the harbor to open
sea. Now they both stood at the rail; behind them the past, ahead the future. The canvas sails whipped a
loud smacking noise under the wind which in turn beat at the sails harshly; an endless battle. The sea,
its expanse seemingly endless, lit that inner glow in all people and Tristan truly loved the sea and its
charm and freed his hair…an act which in his mind, freed himself entirely. The wind took notice and
messed it hither and yonder obscuring his face. He let loose a spontaneous burst: Yeah!
Thomas stared out at the sea, a watery bridge, he thought, between England and France. He
closed his eyes wide open shut, balancing his inner self to the ship sluicing through the sea, the waves
splashing against the hull a rhythmic enjambment. From somewhere a sailor yelled, Fore! Another
answered, Cheerio! Someone walked about inquiring for the Captain’s mate. Suddenly for both, time
continued, here and there passing unnoticed. Only to be noticed again by the sudden scurry around
them. Sailors shouting, passengers rustling, land not so much rushing at them as painting its way toward
At last Tristan rustled. Thomas sensed it and thought: I am tuning to Tristan’s sound. Good, that
was good; and stepped back from the rail.
Another hour off-loading the horses, Trouble troubled, causing a bit of mischief, enjoying
himself, what the hay, he thought, a little trouble-some mischief never hurt. (I just could not resist the
easy pun. Like shooting dogs in a barrel. What! Painful, huh).
All around them rummaged the wages of sin and war: cannon balls stacked, rifles also, men
hauling cargo in wooden carts, men carrying cases of ale, men standing in clusters hawking every little
thing worth a pence or two, pin-eyed men next to worn out wenches wearing curvaceous grins while
urging one last fuck behind the stacked cargo, always time for a last fuck, men wearing tattered King’s
Guard uniforms walking smartly, men who were limping bandages boarding a homeward bound ship,
limping men laughing the crazy laugh of surviving death another day, and last but not least whole men
trying to maneuver this mess to the safe confines: home.
Into all this entered Tristan and Thomas. The newness, as they had never traveled outside of
England, (Thomas did not count at all the six months fighting for King Edwards in English-France.
After all it was England,) showed, unknown to them, on their faces. Travelers who had visited distant
countries recognized the innocents. Some envied in a good way wishing silently luck, others were
enviously wishing ill-fortune.
They rode to the city gate and were mindedly ordered to halt by two King’s Guards. Tristan
offered over the letter his uncle had given for King Edwards. A wax sealed dispatch for the King was no
small matter and not to be taken lightly. The guards huddled, conferring. To serve as escort to the King
could bring notice...which could, depending on the King’s temper, be a good or bad thing.
While they waited, Tristan offered, “Patience is a virtue.”
“So is Fucking another man’s woman.” Tristan again.
“Nice try. A Christian sin.” Thomas
“Not for me, so it is a virtue.”
Thomas refused to relent. “No, you are 50-50 here.”
And so they waited a whole lot more, much more than Trouble cared for, virtue or no.
Impatiently, he kicked up a fuss, pounding at the ground, whinnying, causing people to take notice and
glare at the guards, which prompted a rapid decision which could have just as easily been made all that
time ago. The younger of the two, which was a stretch since both were, what, maybe sixteen, asked
them to follow him. He walked. They rode. Tristan idly inquired, “Edwards does not supply you a
“I am lucky to be supplied a uniform. Most...” the rest trailed off upon the rather sudden
realization he was criticizing the King. Not a good idea. Jesus, he thought. “I…huh...”
“It is all right,” Tristan assured, suppressing a playful urge to inform the boy he could only hang
The boy breathed a ‘Welcome’ sigh of relief, yet still thinking: I am a dead man. At the gate to
the King’s compound, he handed the letter to the guard standing there, and rushed back toward town.
His new motto: staying out of sight.
This guard older by about 5 years than the other guard, had learned long ago the fewer questions
asked of two men riding horses costing five years wages was intelligence at work. “Sirs, follow me
The landscape, dotted by tents, harbored a bee-hive of activity. The guard knew the compound
well and easily led them through a warren of tents to one that stood apart from all the rest, Edwards’
flag bearing the family crest: slashing crossed swords under a ferocious lion, waved lazily above it. A
King’s adviser and a bishop were engaged in conversation and ignored the guard. Several other men
held a discussion a few feet away. Tristan scared the guard half to death (The man died at thirty-one. So
perhaps he was frightened half to death), by commanding: Priest! In a rather playful tone as the entire
affair he found a bit pomp. Shake things up, see who leaps, he thought.
Addressed as such annoyed the bishop, and he snapped, “I am a Bishop.” Placing heavy
emphasis on: Bishop. Vanity to be sure. Although a large man both in height and girth, the voice tinny.
Thomas who not six months earlier had fought for this very land and had failed to find virtue
anywhere in a twenty mile radius raised a high tone. “Whatever. This guard has a letter for King
Edwards. Urgent I imagine, but maybe not.”
“Hand it here.” A haughty order from the Bishop,
“ Sir,” the guard snapped out and complied.
“You may go.” The Bishop said to the guard. For a second it appeared the Bishop intended to
open the letter, but at the last moment thought better and disappeared into Edwards’ tent.
So once again they waited, Thomas thinking: Virtue huh?
And waited.
“Praying?” Tristan ventured.
And waited.
Thomas whispering, “Not Edwards. Probably fucking him. Rumor said he fucked anything that
And waited.
Tristan whispering. “Heard Catholicism contagious. Think Edwards worries about catching it. I
mean fucking a Bishop.”
And waited.
Thomas whispered back, “Doubt it. Virtue huh?”
And waited. “
Tristan whispering back at him, “Maybe mistaken. Thankfully the phrase will never catch on.”
And right there between the spaces of 8 words Edwards appeared, all of him, his glory, his
armor catching the sun almost blinding them, his lone hawk eye examining, his power evident even in
the black patch covering his other eye. He spaced his words deliberately, “Tristan McLeod of the Clan
McLeod.” He was also buttoning his fly. The Bishop did not reappear. (Which they both noticed).
A raised finger, “Be I, Sir.” Tristan was curious how far he could jest here.
“I can see as much, Tristan McLeod, Crown Prince of the Clan McLeod, as your man at arms is
carrying a longbow.”
“Sir, companion.” Not much jest here, he concluded.
“He can speak for himself then,”
Tristan, “After a fashion,” and flashed a smile, engaging, charming, friendly, sticking
everything he had in that smile.
To no avail. “Whatever. You have a name longbow man?”
“Thomas. Sir.”
“Just Thomas?”
From Thomas silence followed by a slight crease of his lips, as if silently answering in his head.
Edwards matched the smile, only more so. “So it is Just Thomas?”
“As much as it is Just Edwards. Sir.” A quick glance from Tristan, who thought: By the gods
between myself and Thomas we are going to have to fight our way out of here.
“You have balls for now longbow man.”
In answer, Thomas rustled in the saddle. Yes they were still intact.
“So Tristan McLeod, Crown Prince of....
Tristan spoke over him, “Edwards, Sir, you can make it Tristan or McLeod. Save us both time,
no disrespect intended.”
...The Clan McLeod “ he finished “do you know what is written here?”
“Sir, I remain clueless. Imagine my uncle intended so. With respect.”
“Yes, well, and with fucking respect, your uncle wants safe passage through English France so
you can board a French flagship to Daneland. Now that is balls.” His aide leaned in and whispered in
Edwards’ ear. ”Really. That is incredulous. My aide declares you are a prodigy with a sword. His son
used to watch you practice at school. Ridiculous. A man can be a prodigy at say writing, or music, but a
sword. Ridiculous.”
Tristan, “Ridiculous fits, sir,” agreed.
“Maybe loosely. Maybe I should witness this event myself. We shall do a match. For play.”
“Apologies, sir. I never play. A man could get hurt. Respectfully.”
Instant anger, known for it, knowing how to use it. “You are refusing me!”
“Yes, yes sir. But respectfully. Were I to kill you wrath would descend upon Scotland. You me,
and wrath upon England. For what? Ego? Play? No.”
Brushing away the anger. “And you Just Thomas?”
Thomas uttered four words that would be uttered for the first time, but not the last “I am with
Tristan.” No Sir. No vinegar. No anger. Just four simple words.
Thomas’s response delighted Edwards for some reason known only too him. And he made one
of his famous snap decisions in which most times a man lost his head. A few times it went the other
way too. “Step down from your horse Just Thomas.”
Thomas complied.
Again compliance. There really was no other choice. Still Tristan brushed a hand atop his sword.
The act went completely unnoticed by everybody there except for Thomas and Edwards.
Edwards drew his sword, placed its tip upon Thomas’s left shoulder and recited, “I pronounce
you Sir Thomas. Now rise and thank me.”
But Just Thomas, now Sir Thomas mounted and allowed silence to speak for him.
“Just as well. Being King has its benefits. Few, actually, but I do enjoy those few so. So safe
journey.” A dismissing hand wave. “Be gone before I change my mind.”
So ended our first meeting with King Edwards, it would not be our that time one of us
would die. Thomas’ diary.
But for now Edwards tracked their departure. “Find out as much as you can about Tristan
McLeod. And I want to know why I have never heard of him. Just looking at him. A man in the making.
And bring me the man who commanded Thomas’s brigade. Also bring me some pussy tonight.
Something is like shoving your cock between two pillows. Unlike Bishops.”

Writer’s notes: Deleate.7/2/09 3:54 PM

The Danish Chapters.
Vikings are extinct. Thor.
Chapter en

The ride through France to the sea and the waiting French flagship was, to use Tristan’s word,
boring; the land and the people they saw very similar to England. Thomas, although born in France,
held no memory and had to agree and silently wondered what were King Philip of France and King
Edwards fighting over. Consequently they were not disappointed to leave France behind, each thinking
about Daneland, as the flagship navigated to open sea. Although there was little breeze and the sky
almost cloudless, the sea held rough white-caps, the large wide waves rocking and rolling the French
flagship. Armaments fascinated Tristan, and to pass the time they learned all they could about the
cannons, how they worked, what fastened them, what kept them from just sliding away sinking in the
sea or crushing the men behind. The sailor assigned to them by the Captain laughed delightfully at all
the questions. He, a little bandy built man with odd shaped bulbous brown eyes, lived life only for
sailing and explained by showing them a cannon and demonstrating how it slid forward and backward,
allowing for reloading, and then forward to fire.
“And the powder,” Thomas, now as curious as Tristan.
Again a good-natured laugh, and a pat on the back. “The powder, yaw, nothing to it. Just need a
little. A fuse. It is the cannon ball, it tis. Rips a hole in a ship. Why, I’ve seen a ball go in and keep
going crashing out the other side. Mean buggers, they are.” To highlight his point, he siphoned a palm
full of powder from a barrel and let it slid onto the deck. He produced two flints and quickly produced a
spark. The powder sparkled, smoked and fizzed out. “See. Burn your fingers maybe.”
Thomas pondered the powder, while Tristan asked a few more questions about the cannons.
Finally Tristan knew as much about the cannons as the little bandy sailor, who had found them apt
pupils and said before departing. “Sir, would gladly serve under you two. Some of these perfumed
officers, they care naught, just want to be important. I want to say to them: You are on a ship and what
is important is defending the damn vessel!”
Thomas and Tristan both agreed, a slow: Mmm huh, escaping their lips as the man went in
search of other chores which a few minutes later found him snug in the cargo hold, z’s bubbling off his
lips, fast asleep; which for some men is a chore.
They fell into a introspective silence for the remainder of the voyage, the frantic activity around
them jerking them back to self-awareness several hours later. The evening was beginning a slow purple
spread across the horizon, a reluctant sun slowly falling away. As the ship ported, they watched from
the bridge Copenhagen, Daneland, head at them. Introspections behind them, they eagerly anticipated
arriving in this, ‘New world,’ as Tristan phrased it.
The words, ‘New World’ had a ring thought Thomas. But he was not surprised that Tristan
phrased Copenhagen so, for although he had only recently met Tristan, he had begun to find that
Tristan enjoyed playing with words, creating new phrases from whole cloth as opposed to relying on the
familiar and tried and true all the time. And he found this refreshing.
Again they politely refused help, electing to off-load their mounts themselves. This time Au
revoir acted up, causing a lad to leap from the off-loading ramp splashing into the sea. Unlike the war
dock at Quimper, English France, this dock catered to spices and other goods. Merchants shouted out
orders, and lads hefted cargo onto wagons. Once on the pier, Thomas soothed softly in French to Au
revoir, calming her, only halting at two men approaching Tristan, here he backpedaled, assessing their
intention. Tall, tall as himself and Tristan, lean also, older, maybe 50, a purposeful countenance and
‘Life is no nonsense’ stride. Dishwater shoulder length hair. Could be Tristan’s, he thought, uncle. More
so than the man he had met on McLeod Island.
“Tristan McLeod?”
Who now tightened the saddle on Trouble, and had his back to them, raised a single momentary
“Sent to fetch you.”
Tristan continued working the strap, absently nodding.
After a few minutes the men grew impatient. “Intend to fuss on that horse all day?”
“A minute,” he muttered, wrapped a controlling hand through Trouble’s halter and swiveled
both Trouble and himself, facing the men now. Tall as him. Eyes meeting eye to eye. The resemblance,
he instantly thought, between them uncanny. Bands made of bone flexing beneath their muscular
forearms. Some sort of talisman around their neck, “I take it we are kin of sort?” All given while
unleashing his hair and shaking it free.
“I’m Bjorn Eger. This is my brother Knut.” holding out a large roughshod hand, “And we are
cousins. Knew your mother, I did. You have a problem?”
Tristan laughing, always laughing, laughed in his sleep probably, problems, no, no problems to
speak of. And allowed Bjorn’s hand to engulf his, tightening, testing, satisfied, releasing. “No,” gaily,
“None at all. Never knew my Mother.”
“Yes, well that woman died given you life. Would a man, say, call her a bitch, how would you
take it. Seeing as you never knew her.”
Serious, as serious as Tristan ever got at that age. “It would be a fatal mistake.”
“On who’s part?”
Not playing. Not anywhere near it. “On your part. Or anyone else’s.”
“Welcome to Daneland, Tristan McLeod.”
“Of the Clan McLeod,” Tristan added, “Though Tristan or McLeod is fine.”
So right there minds met, as Thomas viewed it, and led Au revoir next to Trouble, quiet, just
standing, leaving Bjorn ready to inquire, when Tristan broke in, laughing lightly. “Sir Thomas. We are
together.” And if more need be said on that matter, his laugh lay on the dock amongst the goods, to be
trampled on by the merchants and delivery lads.
As they followed through Copenhagen, both Tristan and Thomas soaked in its measure.
Everywhere a thing served itself up to wet their interest, wet yes, but both had lived in London, and
this city failed to dazzle. Dirty. Dark. The same stench emitting from gutters. People walking head
down, purposeful, yet cautious. The men and women, generally tall, lean, light skinned, most blond
hair, both men and woman. They were well dressed. They also walked briskly, no nonsense to them, as
if life, motion, one, same, get on, do it. These people, so unlike the slow pace in Scotland, or the
haughty ways in London. These people. They were of interest. At least at first glance, they both agreed
later on. Ending, “But first glances can be deceptive.” Both delighted at their own insights.
Once in the countryside lush vegetation and deep green rolling hills receded as quickly as
appearing; here now the land more rugged, not fit for a plow. Bjorn leading, riding hard, in a hurry,
Tristan and Thomas holding both horses back, keeping pace, knowing full well who rode the speedier
mounts. Nobody uttered a word during the ride. Not even when Bjorn turned up a long weedy path
ending at an enormous castle which bordered the ocean. Rising waves slammed the rocks angrily, as if
attempting to break free. Dark, spiteful Gargoyles adorned the castle’s entrance. At least a dozen, by
Thomas’s count. If they were meant to frighten the superstitious, they overwhelmingly succeeded.
But their suggestive presence annoyed Thomas, and, eyes slits, rolled his neck and head slow,
real slow, away, as if dismissing them with an unspoken guttural growl.
Only Tristan noticed.
“Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod, here is half your history. And welcome to the last vestige
of the Vikings.” Bjorn. Pride. A bucketful in his voice.
If Tristan coined a word or phrase now and again, Thomas managed also, uttering “Medieval.”
Bjorn stared perplexed at him. Thomas shook his head and headed inside the castle behind
Many years later the Vatican pronounced an epigram for specific historical periods, Medieval
is one such. The word being synonymous for a thousand year period between the sack of Rome and the
fifteenth century. The Vatican had no idea the word had been uttered long long ago. They also had no
idea I meant a thing far different from what they attempted to place. Thomas’ diary.
Harsh minimalism best described the castle’s interior. A single almost barren large room about
half the size of a small ship. At least two dozen men according to Thomas’s quick count milled about
talking between whatever they were drinking. Battle shields hung everywhere, and not just for
decoration, all were dented, all bearing a fierce beast drooling blood, all meant for battle and battle
only...the walls merely served as racks. Curious objects resembling mishshapen battle axes, helmets,
and other weapons were spilled haphazardly beneath the shields. The floor, earthen, the hearth smallish,
enough room for a large cook pot. A single, long, narrow enough for a man’s arm to reach over, wooden
table... harsh wooden chairs spaced both sides.
A curled thought: no luxury, no sir. The castle served one purpose, only one: to make hard men
harder, and weak men cry. I almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. Thomas’ diary.
A man sat at the table’s far end. Thomas bet himself the man would rise and walk toward them
and won. The man did. A large man, a good two-hundred and fifty solid pounds, a necklace woven from
bones and gold. He counted twelve arm bands. But the sword at the man’s side held his attention more
than the other. Its heft had to outweigh an English sword by twice at the least. A fast strike and the
weight alone would crush a man. To kill this man, he calculated, a man required distance and an arrow.
Right now he owned both. In a few seconds one would vanish. Which was the first time he wondered if
the longbow could be used close in. He made a mental note to work at it. He tossed Tristan silence.
Although he and Tristan were learning each other’s manners, and had made progress, he had
misgivings about the barely perceptible head tilt. But Tristan picked up on it without moving his gaze
from the man.
As the man neared, Tristan raised his head, such was the man’s height.
“Be Tristan McLeod.”
That was not a question but a statement, and Tristan allowed it to ride off. Silently so.
“I be Thor. Named after the God of thunder. And you are named after your mother’s father, my
brother. Tristan. It means the blond warrior. Are you?”
A quick impetuousness answer, easy. But Tristan digested it now, and reached a new, for him,
realization: Warrior? Compared to whom, what? The English. Please. The Highlanders. Sure. Thor?
Probably not even close. So he let the question ride after the statement, let them mate and see what
birthed, much to Thomas’s relief: a yes would inevitably result in proving it. For although he held zero
doubt Tristan would win in a straight out sword fight, he rather doubted any man could survive a blow
from this man. And all it took was a single blow.
Trailing laughter suddenly echoed, its tail slapping Tristan on the back, sending him
backpedaling a few feet, “You have a great deal of your mother in you lad.” Thor observed, “Let us
fetch a drink and talk. You can also give me the letter from your uncle. Many years since I have seen
him. A fine man, he be.”
A soft, “Sir, tea?”
“Sure, we be civilized Vikings.”
No: Men drink hard stuff women tea. Which surprised Tristan. He had endured such remarks
often which, just as often, had led to him proving Tea-manhood versus Ale-manhood.
If there was a command passed, it passed both of them as every man in the room headed for the
table and a seat. But they were allotted the seats of honor, which were across from each other and next
to Thor, who assumed the head seat facing the men. He pounded on the table, shaking its foundation,
and two women carrying mugs and whatever, appeared. They went from man to man. One set tea
before Tristan.
“Archer. Something stronger?”
“Sir, I am with Tristan,” using the phrase for the second time.
“The letter.” To Tristan.
Tristan thought, right, right, and fished it from inside his shirt and handed it over.
“For later,” Thor said, tucking it between the folds in his shirt. “For now there be questions.
Save them for tomorrow, you might not need them. But do make them short, to the point. Now allow
me to answer the most obvious.” Joking, “Vikings have been extinct for 500 years. Mmm, is that so.” A
low belly laugh, so low his body shook from it, “Well, here we be.” Serious now, “It is really very very
simple. Them, all those out there, those civilized ones, want it so. Oh they revel in the history, spinning
tales, Saturday night Viking parties at local pubs. The phony ones. Years ago we,” waving a hand at the
men gathered before him, “vowed to keep the tradition alive. We are the last, I imagine. The world
mourned our passing long ago, or rejoiced. Although when we were numbers the world trembled.”
Tristan…“Atlas shrugged.”…ventured.
“No, even Atlas trembled. Even Alexander would have trembled...but give his due, in joy.” Thor
tilted his head, reading Tristan, “The young are so easy to read. You will find this true if you live long
enough. No, we do not only sit here and drink and tell tales. We engage in battle as our long ago
forefathers did. There is a far off land. A warrior land. Tomorrow night we leave. Sailing two Viking
vessels. The last two around I imagine. They ride swift and true, unlike those tall ships built for cargo. I
have not decided. Will you be on one? Or no? I will make my decision in the morning. But the archer
stays here. I have no desire to bring English greed to these fine people. No offense archer.”
“None taken, Sir.” Thomas responded, “ But where Tristan goes I go.”
“It be like that huh?
“Explicitly. Sir.”
“Ever work a ship?”
“No Sir.”
“Well, on a Viking ship every man from captain on works. The sea likes to surprise.
Consequently, readiness is priority one.”
“Well, Sir, you know what nobles say: a little hard work never killed a man.” Tristan chimed in.
Not to impress, but seeking purchase with these men.
“I have heard that saying. English, I believe. They be wrong lad. My guess is they know it. Just
another case of saying what you do not mean for yourself. A little hard work killed many a man, many a
good man,” he winked, “otherwise the nobles would be out working sun-up to sun-down.”
“You think,” Bjorn joked.
“I have never seen a noble actually work,” a voice further down the table remarked.
“Hey it is hard work counting gold 20 times a day.”
And so ribald wings flew around the table carrying noble jokes. How many nobles does it take to
saddle a horse. four, three to hold the horse and one to hold the saddle while the horses’ ass blows
patriotic harmonic farts: funk, fuck, funk, fuck, time to bunk. How many nobles it take to fuck a woman
properly. Ten, nine to ass fuck each other ten seconds flat, and ten to fuck the woman for nine hours,
and even then she sleeps through most of it. And on, until the drink moved the conversation to harder
men’s talk: personal insults and conquests: each man expansive in his drunken moments past.
Although Tristan had earlier sought purchase with these men, it had met without success. They
were the ‘new’ and these men, all a good twenty years older, knew each other and knew each other’s
ways and dislikes and likes in the way men who had known each other for years do and it was these
years, the picked through succinct moments, that they bantered about the table. The banter did not so
much exclude Tristan and Thomas as render them afterthoughts. So they both drank down the last dregs
of their tea and quietly headed for the door and outside. Both Thor and Bjorn threw them a smile of
They spent the time waiting for dinner by walking a ring around the castle, not so much
discussing events, as wondering when food would be served. They were lads. They were hungry. They
were supposed to be hungry. They were growing lads.
They joked about food for a while before Tristan stumbled up against himself inside himself,
wondering about these people, these Vikings, this new thing in his life: his mother’s side of him. So he
fell into silence, a silence that held a conversation inside himself.
Thomas just walked, pondering; but of late he had found himself pondering almost everything:
he needed to whittle the pondering down to things worth pondering. Or not.
Every now and again one of them would peek inside the castle, much like a youth staring at
adults, and step away and shake his head, mumbling, “No, no food yet.”
This went on for a few hours. At last Tristan quipped, “Maybe Vikings do not eat.”
At such nonsense Thomas restarted their ring around the castle. And pondered if this could be
A little over several hours later they entered the castle and holding their breaths to keep from
choking on the rank air, found every man sleeping.
Well not just sleeping, but yes sleeping, yet all the bodies were askew, as if each had managed to
stand from their chair and take a step or two or three, or even eight before falling, hand reaching out,
legs jumpily. Or to use only a few words: A drunken jumbled heap of men. Tristan started laughing,
slow at first, building its volume as one would a house, step by step, until he doubled over, now almost
maniacal. I, spanning mere moments, followed suit. If it seemed we were always on hilarity’s edge then,
I would answer: Yes. Years of pondering later I figured the reason: We were giddy, just plain giddy…
from over traveling. Thus, we found everything to be funny; and perhaps also the tiredness of long days
into nights into days helped fuel the constant laughter. Thomas’ diary.
The hearth had gone out. The room felt like an icebox to Tristan who shivered. Although
hungry, he decided two things in succession: food could wait. And it would be warmer sleeping outside.
Which suited Thomas. Outside were shadows.
Chapter to

Morning found them wet with dew. Or was it the overcast drizzle. Whatever, they both thought,
and scampered under the castle’s overhang to keep out of the rain and hopefully dry off. Tristan, who
shivered all over, danced in place to warm up. After a few minutes, they engaged in conversation
centered on Thor’s mention yesterday of a far off land. Tristan ventured the obvious. “Africa. I have
heard about savage warriors there, huge beasts.”
“Crossed my mind,” Thomas agreed, “But how do you sail to Africa. A man could, but a horse
be easier.”
“Yes w...” pausing as Thor spoke over him, “Red men.”
“Red men?” Tristan, surprised, “What is a red man?”
“Indeed.” Bushy enough eyebrows to house a flea kingdom aligned an arched forehead, “I made
my decision. Kept me awake. Well that and Sir Thomas’ bow.”
Most of the previous night while everybody slept Thomas had thought he had remained
undetected while haunting the castle and its grounds and tilted his head in respect, also because he had
been elevated from: archer to Sir Thomas. But Tristan glanced at him wondering what Thor had meant.
Thomas shook the glance off, knowing an explanation was in order.
“Honor. Tis be a strange word Tristan McLeod. Every man must define it for himself. I read
your uncle’s letter twice. I have always honored your father and your mother. The question facing me:
does that honor extend to you? I decided so. Blood is blood. We sail at first dark. Leave your horses.
Vikings were outlawed years ago, so if we are caught it is the dungeon for those who do not hang. We
carry no cargo, only food and weapons. You will both require warmer clothing I see. I will see to it. As
for sailing by night. Navigate by the stars. Best that way, hides our presence from other ships. Once we
are far enough out at sea, it will not matter. There are no other vessels. By the way, you are not one of
those who believe the world is flat, that there be dragons out there?”
Tristan quickly injected. “I believe there is more to the heavens and earth than lie in my beliefs.”
“Well put. And you Sir Thomas?”
“I am with Tristan.” The third time.
“Equally well put. I was a bit uneasy about you, what you a Sir, a gentleman, but the bow, there
is a tale there. Save it for the voyage. Also, Tristan starve any questions you have for later. It is a very
long voyage. Besides, I would not answer them anyway. We would not want those good Christians
flocking to save these fine warriors like they flocked to Daneland, now would we.” Not a question.
A million and one questions danced within Tristan. Hi, I am question twelve. Oh you are nice, I
am question 99. So on, hurting his head, all that dancing. He replied, “No, sir.”
“Yes, well about the Sir thing. We are informal here. So drop it. Except for you, Sir Thomas,
you wear it like it were a name. I have a feeling, like I mentioned earlier, a tale lies there. Breakfast.
Ten minutes. Eat up lads, because we drink lunch and dinner; as you may have already discovered.”
And they were happy to report Thor’s departure into the castle. Which facilitated Thomas’s
vocal cords to whisper. “On every map in England is the heading: there be dragons past this point.”
“Yes Scotland also. But how do they know if they have never been there?”
“Good point. Still dragons. Ever see one?”
“No just tales. But if there be dragons, there be dragon slayers.”
“If you are not eaten first.” Thomas. Kidding. Or not.
That infectious Tristan laugh again infected Thomas.
“And there be dragons,” they sang in unison.
“And dragon slayers,” Tristan sang, all the arrogance of youth in his words.
They realized ten minutes had gone by and rushed in to eat.
Comes down to it. Years, many years later, there would be dragons. But by then we no longer
really believed in dragons. Not really. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter tre

They found themselves nervously awaiting the promised departure, and both agreed, over
Thomas teasing the feathers on his arrows, that they were certainly learning patience, Tristan adding, “I
jinxed us by making that dumb saying up. Patience is a virtue, right!”
For the Vikings the day wore on partying; at last for everybody the day-light was eaten by the
beginning evening in a huge gulp, leaving a black suddenness. Tristan and Thomas were the first
outside the castle to burst hardened shoulders into this black, bruising it and marring the black by their
whiter shade. Tristan mentally registered the deep dark as a sea dark, having grown up in it. Thomas
breathed in its comfort.
The Vikings merely sauntered out. It was obvious to them all that these lads were biting at the
bit: that they wanted to go go go go, and did not care who knew it.
As they headed for the vessels, they were ribbed by a few Vikings, “What is the hurry.”
“Com’on lads, we will show you a thing or two.”
Thor remained silent and led them to where trees grew close enough together to lock in a sea
mist darkness. It became evident the moment Thor held a torch up that the trees also shielded two
vessels. Even in the torch shadowed and misted dark they were a sight indeed! “Snekkes” Thor proudly
explained, “The smallest of the old Vikings’ vessels. Also fastest, both in speed and maneuverability,
and no need to harbor. They are capable of landing on a beach. Hold up to 30 men each. The ship on the
left is the ‘Sea Death.’ He pointed an index finger at the escutcheon on the stern bearing said name.
“The other the ‘Sea Wolf.’ The carvings at the head are meant to ward off evil spirits.” A cunning
smile. “Also too frighten them. A frightened man fights badly.”
Both stood there, almost in awe. To frighten? Understatement, they both concluded. The Sea
Wolf, just the Wolf itself embodied ferociousness. A trail of blood ran down from the snarl, which in
turn bared a sharp row of teeth. (Tristan’s curiosity bit him as he touched a tooth, finger bleeding). The
Sea Death defied words. Whatever beast headed that ship no man wanted to meet in this life or the next.
Thomas. “They work?”
Thor…“I am here.”…stated.
Pointed silence.
Thor had not denied the truth. The vessels carried only a few provisions, leaving adequate space
for the men and their shields and battle axes, and glass beads and trinkets (the later birthing wonder in
both). As they boarded the Sea Wolf, both were concerned if there would be enough food for such a
long voyage as the one Thor had described; Tristan formed the question toward Thor, whose narrowed
eyes forbid its exit. So they were left to wonder as twinkling stars led them out to sea. All were deathly
quiet, their silence guarding against notice by other ships. Except for the waves dancing like falling
coins against the hull, the quiet lasted all night. They were far from normal sea lanes by day break.
At full light life returned to the vessel, only life aboard a ship. Chores were handed out. Tristan
and Thomas were assigned an oar which would only be used when there was no wind and the single sail
lowered. This was a simpleton task and they knew it, but did not complain; they were the new men after
all. Bjorn patted them both on the back for encouragement.
I discovered a truism our first day out. As all the men slept simply by hunching down against the
hull & grabbing a few hours sleep, I felt we were all aboard the same ship & saw it as a reason to
explain to Tristan my, what may appear to him, peculiar sleeping habits. The first time I hunched down
to sleep amongst the only shadows on the vessel, Tristan quipped: Like on land, huh Thomas. He patted
my shoulder & hunched next to me. I learned two things right than. One was a man could smile while
sleeping. The other, well, let us just say I learned two things. Thomas’ diary.
The second day out a whale was spotted, black and white coloring. Tristan and Thomas ran from
stem to stern goggling the whale. The crew laughed, but good naturedly, they all enjoyed the lads, each
seeing a little of themselves in them. The whale followed along for several hours before veering away
and diving. The size amazed them both and they discussed it endlessly. The next day a school of
dolphins, leaping, emitting high pitched squeaking sounds, playing, the vessels their toys. The dolphins
replaced the Whales in their conversation. Two weeks out and the father of all fish rammed the Sea
Wolf, which Tristan & Thomas were on. Tristan estimated whatever it was to be as long as the ship. He
grabbed hold of the rigging and braced for another attack, but it never came. They both inquired.
Everybody was busy and nobody had a clue, or is so time to share it. “The sea,” Bjorn muttered, as if
explaining it all. “Just the sea.”
A month out they sailed into a storm. The storm had itself a whole lot of fun, tossing both
vessels about as if sticks, waves carrying them to an un-imaginable height before a sudden drop, rattling
their bones and creaking the ships timbers: but they all held firm, men, slashing rain biting them as they
tied down everything including for some even themselves, and the ships and the men held. The storm
lasted the entire night, and as the sky’s edges lit, the storm sank away.
As the storm subsided, both Tristan and Thomas were washed out tired dead men standing. But
alive, and slid against down the hull and fell asleep.
It was here Thomas decided to keep a journal. Which turned into a life-time diary.
“You speak sparsely, yet are writing a journal?” Tristan, astounded.
“I am also.”
“In case you get a thing wrong. He who writes history is the one who is believed.”
So in their free time they wrote. After a week they compared notes and discovered a sameness.
Tristan. “I am going to write a book of quotes. You do the journal.”
And so it went. Day by day. Words by words. Endless days. Endless words. Endless labor.
Slashing rain almost daily. Waves that stared down at you, you could see them thinking: should
I wash that little man away. July 3: Two men died. What of? No answer. Thor devastated, silent for
several days. From the crow’s nest a place Thor called Greenland, vaguely spotted; a land neither
Tristan nor myself had ever heard mention of. Or maybe just an Island, Thor unsure. Still a week away
from whatever had been spotted. Fresh water almost depleted. So we along with the crew have taken to
drinking Ale. But sparingly. Neither one of us cared for its taste. Still it quenched the thirst.
The land spotted was indeed Greenland. Still a few days away. Bjorn took Tristan & myself
aside & told us of the Snow Rats. Snow Rats, he explained, a touch of melodrama melting down to bare
drama, were only found in the land called Greenland. They, Snow Rats, come in the night. They attack.
Not when a man is sleeping, but injured, or helpless. Thus you watch in horror as they nibble on you,
and it is said they start at the feet to keep even an injured man from attempting escape. They weigh less
than a pound & are less than 3 inches long, even less from the ground up as their legs are tiny. A man,
even injured, can kill one or two, but the horror is such soon madness sets in. By the time the Snow Rats
reach the stomach, yourself now totally helpless, the Snow Rats feast in earnest. The Snow Rats drag
the heart away, still beating, & feed it to their young. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter fire

As the ships approached Greenland, Tristan contemplated the Snow Rats. He knew it was a joke
on them, but was still young enough to half believe despite what his thoughts otherwise objected
Despite believing the tale absurd, Thor loved a good tale and enjoyed tightening their
nervousness, as if same were a loose rigging, “Snow Rats,” he cautioned the moment they set foot on
land. A hearty laugh all round, followed by a sing-song round of ‘Snow Rats’ and he, along with a few
dozen other Vikings left them all alone on the shore and went off to see the settlement’s leader who he
knew well and wanted nothing less but to enjoy a drink and some conversation before re-stocking
provisions and continuing.
Since none of their shipmates had informed them of what to expect, other than Snow Rats, they
expected Greenland to live up to its name and be green. But it turned out to be a very barren landscape.
The cold…oh so cold! Although Tristan wore a bear skin coat that Thor had loaned him he could not
remember ever being this cold. He was too cold to shiver. He mused inwardly: My shiver is frozen, by
the gods that is cold!
The stars shined brighter than they could ever remember, or even imagine. And without a clue
to what Tristan thought, Thomas commented, “We could raise our hand and touch them.”
“Mmm” Tristan murmured, “What drives men to live in such a place?”
“The desire to be left alone by the powers that be. As a Highlander you should feel such.”
“Yes. But this place. Alone is one thing, total solitude except for a few dozen men is another.”
Just standing there, Thomas’s silence interrupted the silence around them, nudging it briefly
aside. As brave young lads, or so they imagined, they set off with a great imaginative desire to see.
They passed a few huts in the settlement. The huts quickly vanished in the perfect pitch dark behind
them, and they soon found themselves to use Tristan’s words: balls out lost in a darkness even darker
than before. All through the voyage Tristan had left his hair unfettered. But now, a keen desire for a
clear line of sight, Snow Rats in mind, tied it back, adding humorously while working, “This could be
our epitaph. Forever lost in this land called Greenland’s icy landscape. Forever searching for a way, any
way, home. By the gods sailors would insert a line in the song they sing while working, The Sloop John
B, about how the good lads Tristan and Thomas centuries later still haunt this Greenland’s barren
landscape searching, haplessly searching.”
Thomas. “Not a bad epitaph.”
“Yes, but untold decades from now. If you please.”
And Thor called out, the sound carrying in the icy night, “Ready! Time to go!”
“How can he see us in this dark. Even the Snow Rats could not.” Tristan, teeth chattering.
Almost shouting out: My shiver has returned!
Thomas remained silent, following Thor’s voice, bumping into him which was akin to running
up against a mountain.
Facetiously, Thor joked. “Lost?”
“Totally,” Tristan grinned, or maybe his face had froze that way because his facial muscles did
not move when he talked, and he emitted a high squeak. He was not sure. “Exhilarating. But I am ready
to push on.”
“Help load the ships. Keep you close. You will be loading the provisions you two so worried
about, so take care.”
And that was Greenland. About all they could say about the place as the ships headed for open
sea, they sang out in unison, the mighty sea wind carrying their words. “Bye. Bye. Snow Rats. Better
luck never.”
Thor startled them by his presence. “Never mock what you do not understand, even myths. They
may come back to haunt you.”
Thor melted back amongst the men. Thomas’ diary.
Greenland behind them, time went on vacation or so it seemed to them. Tristan grew
increasingly weary and weary and weary, the voyage stretching endlessly, that ever never ending
expanse, the seascape of course, the enemy. For a while each day they worked on Thomas’s gestures,
both agreeing a silent form of communication might come in handy. Late at night, unable to sleep, the
sea splashing against the ship’s hull, Tristan thought about home, McLeod Island. He gauged how much
time had passed by the waves hitting the hull. Dredging up a memory of him and McLean sometimes
took 60 splashes, sitting and enjoying a meal with his uncle took 134 splashes. In this way he counted
time, sometimes disappointed when his thoughts ran out before the desired wave count. But the sea was
a seemingly indefatigable enemy, and continued to wear him down until at last memories of home
exhausted, he confessed to Thomas one night, “The sea is sapping all desire.”
Aside from working on the gestures, Thomas had been faithfully practicing a short bow shot,
and while dozing delved into his inexhaustible list of things to ponder. He flatly stated, “Practice as I
To which Tristan responded, “It is a little bit easier. You use arrows. A target.”
To which Thomas scantily proffered. “Why the first time I have heard you...”
To which Tristan playfully warned. “By the gods do not utter those words.”
To which Thomas said zip.
Yes I said: zip. Be the first time I heard you…zip. (Complain. Ha ha ha.) Thomas’ diary.
Determined to defeat the sea, and its endless drudgery and boredom, Tristan in his free time set
about taking Thomas’s advice and practiced sword fighting against imaginary men as opponents. Even
he, eyebrow arched, had to admit this was a mite mad. But he pushed on, day, night, day, night, each
stretching endless, like the sea. Tristan fought 1,2,3,4,5 imaginary enemies at a time. But they were just
shadows. They required a personality. So he thought on that fact and choreographed and assigned steps
and moves to each imaginary opponent, creating situations that all the swordsmen in the world’s history
had never even imagined. As he mastered the old, he added new movements, inventing them as he went.
He also gained the attention of the other men, first one, then two, adding more and more. Each day
more, some even changing vessels to watch. It served as entertainment and helped keep boredom at bay
amongst the crew.
But it was Thor who watched and marveled. To himself, he muttered one night. Nobody can be
THAT GOOD! He would see when they reached land just how good this lad really was.
Very late August, the weather now almost balmy warm, the ships navigated what is now
Massachusetts, about 100 miles South-west of where the English would land at Plymouth Rock many
decades later. But exactly where is in question, around Cape Cod, the best guess as archeologist’s have
unearthed a few Viking relics there.
But here and now consumed Tristan and Thomas. They stood tall on the bridge staring at a land
no civilized European had ever seen.
Were there dragons? Thomas’ diary.
A few years later, Columbus would stumble starving hungry, discouraged, and a crew bordering
on mutiny, far south, and promptly name it: The New World. Himself: Royal Governor. The priests
aboard the flagship Piñata salivated at all the salvation awaiting them. When the incommodious news
reached Spain, the Spanish monarch, Isabelle and her not yet idiot husband Fernando, dropped to their
knees, thanking God for anointing them, the Spanish, as the chosen people. They would spread God’s
word, they, in prayer, promised. Even if it killed them, they would do God’s work and save every last
Oh how grand the promise that lay at their knees…Until they met Tristan. Thomas’ diary.

The Gyta Nation Chapters.

“Last Pagan Warrior, when you left those tracks on paper for the Apache, you impeded destiny.
Ours is an oral history. You must never impede destiny.” Chief Red Hawk, Gyta Nation.
(Cleared from the earth by the year 1621).
Chapter: The Gyta Nation. Writer’s notes: Red Men?

Red men? Thor had never troubled to explain the long ago remark uttered far away, about ten
thousand thoughts away, so thought Tristan as he stood in boot heels sinking in sand, gentle rolling
waves behind him, countless red men facing him. Their build was slight bordering on lean, each carried
a spear. At first glance they all appeared the same, but upon a quick second inspection the subtle
differences were glaring only because they were just like the white man: some short, some tall, while
some heavy. The only difference, none were grossly fat. You just knew these men were fast.
Standing there, I thought: Tristan had been correct: there were far far more to the heavens and
earth. Way far. Thomas’ diary.
In contrast the Vikings, armed to the teeth, ready for battle, shields, swords, battle axes. A
dozen flanked Thor, who stared at an elderly red man, hair gray and braided into twin tails, deep sea
black eyes staring back at him. Some form of silent communication passed between them. They
communicated in such a manner for a good ten minutes, nobody speaking, Tristan and Thomas taking
the cue. They were communicating, yes, but also summoning up a long ago remembrance of each
other’s language.
At last, to Tristan’s relief, the elderly man spoke but did so in broken Danish-English. “We saw
your ships,” he pointed toward a far away mountain, “Approaching a half moon ago.”
Tristan had picked up bits of Danish from the long voyage, but never good at languages,
depended on Thomas who had learned Danish well during the voyage. He translated in a low, almost
unheard, guttural whisper.
“Yes Red Hawk. I figured. So I hurried. Too long a time between us meeting. We have both
Thomas gave his almost impeccable two finger brush on his trousers, indicating the two are
agreeing. Only Tristan noticed it.
“Aged yes, but we are both still here .” (Meaning alive on the face of the earth).
“Yes. That is one thing to be said about old men. They have survived.”
“A great feat.”
“One not to be diminished.”
“By the wind. It carries our lives in its breath. We breath it, it determines when and for how
“So it be so. You are well. The wind blesses you.”
“And you.”
They embraced, as brothers, as fathers, as men, as warriors.
“I brought you much. To honor.” Thor.
“I accept much. In honor.”
Now the chief traced across the Vikings there, acknowledging by a nod the ones he knew,
pausing for a second on Tristan, before keying in on Thomas. “You are not a Viking. Have darker skin,
“No,” Thomas confirmed in an even voice. “I am French and English.”
“And that bow?”
“A longbow.” Thomas deftly slid it from his shoulder to his hand, and readily handed over for
The chief caressed it, the finish, its craftsmanship, handed it back, “Very pretty. But what can
such a thing do. It is too long, bulky, slow a warrior down.”
“I can make it fly, like your name, a hawk. And sing like a song bird, and kill, kill, kill.”
“We shall see. Pretty things are for women and rarely kill.”
The second Thomas stole from time lasted a long time: in an economy of movement, aptly
loaded the longbow, spun in the sand and fired at a distant tree. The arrow sang in the wind, a sweet
whispering before striking the tree, no not striking but penetrating through the trunk, now protruding
out. The other red men uttered approval by a sound like a ‘click’ emanating from their mouths. Less
than a second had passed. He deftly hefted the longbow onto his shoulder and swiveled in the sand
facing Red Hawk, completing the stolen second. “Some pretty things are dangerous.”
Simply delighted, Red Hawk hooted agreeably, the sound akin to the clicks his men made. “Yes,
a pretty woman is so. Thor you bring two new warriors. I see one is good. The other? We will see.
There will be great battles. I think our last on this earth together. The women will tell tales for a
thousand moons. And we will undoubtedly meet as warriors in the next world. And honored friends.” A
rather wistful sigh, almost sad. “The wind, the sun, the rain, all give us life,” he whispered. “We shall
live it to its end. Come, let us eat. Talk. Plan.”
“Catch all that,” Tristan elbow nudged Thomas, as all the men, Vikings and Indians, broke into
groups, talking amongst each other.
“I was about to ask you the same. I caught most. Some sort of ritual, a prelude to what is to
“I did read some of your gestures, but not all. Still working on them.”
Although Tristan harbored many other questions, Thor’s approach stemmed his voice. “These
people are the Gyta,” and waved an arm at the trees and beyond, “This is all their land.” Pointing an
index finger at Thomas. “Good move. The Chief respects you somewhat. Go help unload the vessels.
Again starve questions. I have found that most questions answer themselves in time, and questions that
answer themselves are better teachers than questions answered by men. Now go.”
And off they went, actually gladly, glad for the labor, which afforded them time to think, to take
this newness in. The day was hot, humid, the off-loading steady, monotonous. The Vikings sang as they
worked, the red men were gay as they worked, all in all everybody shared a common good mood. At
last, vessels empty of all but oars and sails, Tristan and Thomas followed like ants a long line of Gyta
and Vikings from the beach through a dense forest. ‘The woods are dark lovely and oh so very deep’,
Tristan wrote in his head, and laughed his infectious laugh, (and laughs are of every language) which in
turn infected the man in front of him, which in turn infected the man in front of him, and so and on and
so and on until they reached a clearing, a village. They all laughed infectiously while entering the
village, which infected the women and children alike who laughed along. The women had held their
children protectively, now released them allowing them to skip happily along the line of men. Happy
times were here.
Happy times were indeed here, singing, dancing, plenty of food, all this and more. Thomas’
Although Tristan and Thomas participated in the initial festivities, they again found themselves
the odd men out. The Gytas had seen white men before and although the few Gyta who remembered
the Vikings last visit, which had been almost six years ago, spoke to them in passing, for the most part
the other Gyta left the Vikings be; and Tristan and Thomas were considered Vikings. The Vikings still
practiced the kin delectation of each other’s camaraderie; at times they became drunkenly delirious in it:
the Gyta viewed this as a barbarism.
The fact that they, Tristan and Thomas, did not join in meant little to the Gyta. They were
outsiders and nothing that they could do or say, and since they could not speak the language they really
could not say a thing, could dislodge this belief. So together they joked how they, THEY formed a tribe
of two. As a tribe of two, they, for the most part, were left pretty much alone while the village went
about everyday life and the Vikings drank themselves into a stupor every night. Which, truth be
spoken, suited them. There was a great deal to learn here. So after working on the gestures and after
practice, they, as if sponges, absorbed all, no detail too small for them to take an interest or to endlessly
discuss. They spent hours figuring out the order, the hierarchy if you will. The Gytas dressed simply,
animal hides, and hunted in groups, carrying only spears, the women worked gaily, bare breasted,
cooking, washing clothes, and every woman tended the children as if all the village children were of one
mother. They bathed every day in the river, (a strange habit, they both agreed,) unabashed in their
nudity, as if such were a natural state not to be hidden by clothes, (which were worn for warmth,) but
celebrated. The huts were made of some form of leaf and straw and each the same size, no single hut
standing out, saying here is a rich man. The children were children: playfully curious. Neither Thomas
nor Tristan disappointed and delighted in making faces at them, their and the children’s laughter so, so,
so real. They next ventured into the lush forest that surrounded the village, discovering that the game
was similar to what they had hunted in England or Scotland: Deer, birds, et al.
On the 4th day Thor crooked a finger at them, leading them to a hut where inside Red Hawk,
along with several other Gytas, sat cross legged; each impassive, as if these young white men were a
thing to be inspected: But? The only light came from the open door, leaving the room and its things
and people shadows. Thor sat. Tristan and Thomas stood, the impassive unreadable faces in the
shadows a little daunting, waiting for an invitation to sit. None forth came. The minutes passed in
silence. A long stemmed pipe passed between the men, each inhaling smoke and blew it out. Little
clouds floated inside the tent. Each cloud held dust particles. At last Red Hawk scooted a few inches
forward and stared directly at them.
Ah, both thought: a question stare. “Do they know how to sit?” Red Hawk to Thor.
“With respect Red Hawk,” Thomas. Tone even, but respectful. “If you wish to ask a question
about me ask me. Not Thor or anybody else.”
A comical countenance masked Thor’s face. Red Hawk’s aged face showing all its years
remained impassive. Unimpressed.
“Well sit already,” Thor almost flustered, ordered.
And we did, awkwardly so. Now what, we both wondered, we just sit here twiddling our thumbs.
Not Tristan. He had enough of this patience thing and pointed at the pipe, “What is that?” Thomas’
“Tobacco,” Thor explained not at all.
Well of course, that was akin to saying: the moon. Which Thor full well knew. He was giving
Tristan an opening. Tristan took it, approaching it slowly. “And?”
‘Was I that young once,’ Thor wondered. He said. “And you will figure it out. For now we are
planning a battle. Red Hawk wants a reason to take you along. I told him you were great warriors. So do
not make a liar out of me.” He leaned in close and whispered, “I detest lying in men, hate it in myself.”
Leaning in close and whispering did not get past both of them, but they both shelved the action
for later.
Thomas…“You like yourself?”…playing.
“Sir Thomas…..” Thor, a low warning escalating in a ending pitch ! point whisper.
Tristan’s low charming smile. Thomas now all innocence. Who me?
Seconds later, Tristan’s tongue bulged his cheek, thoughtfully so. He leaned over, picked up the
still smoking pipe, tracing a finger along it, “Pretty thing. But can it kill a man?”
“It will kill billions, “ Red Hawk prophesized, then was silently impassive again.
Tristan took a pull. Handed it to Thomas who did likewise before handing it back to Tristan. The
nicotine hit Tristan in the head like a battle ax, dizzying him, defocusing his vision, one, two, three Red
Hawks. He softly laid the pipe down, forcing himself to defeat the nicotine dizziness. “I think not.”
Eyes watering. Unsure. By the gods, he thought, what is that stuff!
“Who are you Tristan McLeod?” Red Hawk asked, emitting the same clicking sounds as they
had heard on the shore upon landing. Red Hawk reserved the next question which would be the same
for Thomas next. He had asked the same of Thor and many of his men upon first meeting them. It was
the Gyta way. Ask first. Kill later, if need.
Thor translated while unflinchingly boring at Tristan. “I mean who are you! Not where you were
born, that is not who you are. Who are you?”
In a whisper without arrogance in his voice, yet containing a resonance of the emerging man,
“Red Hawk, first and foremost I am Tristan McLeod of the Proud Clan McLeod. I am a Scotsman. And
my long dead Druid forefathers fight by my side...always. And I have traveled a great distance to do
battle. So we either get the ball rolling or I go off on my own, see what is out there past the village. That
is all of who I am.”
He stood, legs half asleep, unsteady at first. Thomas followed suit, and both exited, ducking
heads as not to bump them on the door frame. “Good speech. We either die here and now or in battle.”
“I was making it up as I went along.”
“We all knew that.” Thor acknowledged from behind them. “We leave at dusk. Be ready. The
battle is called the ‘Moon Battle.’ The foe are the Tfibs, a tribe a few miles away. The battle has been
waged between the Gytas and Tfibs for almost 500 years. The prize, the right to hunt during the winter
months when food is scarce on the other’s land for five winters, which,” he ended solemnly, betraying
a deep inner respect for the Gyta’s, “in the great scheme of things is no small thing.”
Without further word, encouragement, or ‘make a good showing lads,’ he went back inside the
hut. But Thor’s message was clear to both. Win.
A lot of time between then and dusk, but not much to do since they were ready. Tristan had his
sword. Thomas his bow. They were also mentally over-ready, almost to the point of dull. So they
nibbled away an hour practicing, both using their weapons and the gestures. After that, they nibbled on
some form of sweet bark and watched the others prepare for battle, which for the Vikings involved
tightening the ties on their shields, testing the edge on swords, and daggers, and battle axes, last came
the helmets and amulets. The Gyta warriors prepared much differently. The Gyta warriors shed all their
clothing. Using red clay paint, siphoned after boiling red clay for days, painted elaborate animals such
as bears, bison, large cats. Some braves were air and painted birds of prey, hawks, eagles, crow. They
all paid special attention to their cocks, working at them until the once flaccid cock was rock hard, then
tied a twine made from vines above the balls where the cock angled, rendering the cock at ready, solid,
hard, like a rock. (No, not GM). They performed their tasks quietly, no whooping, war dancing, singing,
beating on drums. Next they examined their spears, long wooded shaft tipped by flint. They were also
now ready.
Tristan, observing this ritual, whispered to Thomas that the Scots used to paint their bodies and
battle naked long ago, so the tales say. Thomas, examining each arrow in his bag, while also watching
the Gytas, absently nodded. “Tristan,” he idly mentioned while replacing his arrows, “we have no idea
how these warriors wage battle. The forest is deep. Almost no open land. Or none we can see.”
The same thought had occurred to Tristan who held a firm belief: know thy enemy, a belief he
had culled from The Art Of War. “The Vikings carry swords and battle axes and shields. The Gytas,
spears. I, my sword, you, your bow. Seems like we might be under-armed. Except for your bow,
“No maybe, Tristan. I am assuming, much as I dislike to, the enemy use the trees as cover, and
are very accurate at throwing those spears. My arrows fly true, so whoever we are fighting better chose
a fat tree trunk to hide behind.”
Before Tristan could respond, Thor ambled over and offered them both a shield. Both declined.
“Lads, those are spears.”
“We know,” Tristan responded, “The weight. I relay on speed and agility. I refuse to even carry
coins. I chose my clothing for its lightness.”
“Your call. Thomas?”
“Thanks, but I very well cannot use the bow while carrying a shield.”
Thoughtful, unsure now about bringing them along, walking away, knowing there was nothing
at this point to be done.
Thomas. “We pained the poor man.”
Tristan. “Yes. You guessed about the coins?”
“The moment your uncle told me. Men like Thor underestimate speed. They rely on bulk,
weight, brute force. Unh huh, speed wins out 99 out of a 100 fights. Just ask Causes Say, a fighter I
once saw. He defeated a man twice his weight. Man was fast, moved like greased lightening.”
“So we use the trees, darting from one to another, work our way behind the enemy, switch and
move forward.” Tactics now, Tristan’s forte since childhood, reading every book on battle in the castle,
which were numerous, then requesting more. He carried the Art of War at all times. He studied
Alexander. Read Aristotle, who knew a great deal about battle. In short Tristan knew strategy. He did
miss Trouble. To his mind, used correctly cavalry was a devastating force, DEVASTATING!
“Side by side.” Thomas, etching himself into Tristan’s plan. “You draw them out. Kill the ones
close in. Let the arrows loose on the ones in a distance.”
“Yes, cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war.”
“That be us?”
“It be.”
“Good line.”
“Just sprang to mind. Battle really heightens the senses.”
Thomas, “Like nothing else. Not even close.”
The waiting time stilled their impulses. Tristan considered calling waiting: Learning Patience
time. The Gytas called this: Moon Time. Meaning the moon signaled the long march into the forest
darkness. The waiting time, always the hardest, even on the most seasoned warrior. They were too
young to know this.
They were passing idle conversation (Thomas pondering: is all conversation idle?) when
Moonlight Time expired. They knew this because Moonlight madness raced throughout the village.
Unlike the Gyta warriors silent preparations, they now stamped their feet almost in unison, flattening
every living and dead thing under their moccasins. The Vikings almost in unison touched their amulets,
their good luck omen, then beat their shields, using either a sword or a battle ax, bringing forth a
tremendous: BOOM! da BOOM! da BOOM! da BOOM!
Tristan breathed heavy, having seen such ‘pumping up’ amongst the Scots just before battle.
Charms, amulets also. Scottish warriors loved amulets blessed by a Druid priest. Or used to, back in the
Although fascinated by the ritual, Thomas seemed almost disinterested by the whole thing. In
fact the clanging annoyed him. “Get the ball rolling,” he muttered.
And almost as if heeding Thomas’s words, everything that could roll, rolled, the Gyta warriors
rolling in invasion force toward the forest, Vikings striding proudly along.
If they, and they did not, expected anyone because they were new to take them under wing,
show them the ways, well no, a man had to prove himself. Which was fine by them. They ignored the
moving mass, and fell to the left, keeping a good ten feet away from the other men. All at once, the lush
forest swallowed them whole. The night belched blackness, only blackness, a beastly blackness marred
only by the Vikings beating on shields, the sound a savage echo bouncing from tree to tree. Tristan
halted, tightly shut his eyes, counted 60 seconds and opened them to shapes, undistinguished, yet
distinct. He felt more than saw Thomas next to him and moved cautiously from tree to tree to tree,
sliding away from the savage noise. They continued left away from the sounds, avoiding anything that
vaguely resembled a man. The savage echo grew fainter and fainter...
Thankfully the others were busy, otherwise they would be seen as either hiding or running away.
At last Tristan paused, searching, listening, thinking. There were about 100 Gyta warriors, so it
made sense the enemy’s numbers equaled the same. The battle’s beginnings were told by the anguished
cries, followed by darting shadows. They moved further to the left, away from the darting shadows and
anguished cries until certain the battle now lay behind them. They continued, now angling right until
they met almost silence on almost silence, here the forest spoke above the cries of battle. They now
edged forward cautiously for about five minutes, keyed up, ready for contact. The first two Tfibs they
encountered were using the fat trunk of a tree to hide while staring ahead very unconcerned about what
lay behind them. Tristan slid his dagger from a boot and gutted both in a single sweeping move,
catching one body and gently laying it down on a bed of dried leaves, Thomas catching and doing the
same to the other. They worked their way forward silently, death’s work always silent, and reached
what appeared the heart of the battle. Lying down in the leaves they inspected ahead. There lay an open
clearing well lit by the moon a thousand candles strong. Every movement a pantomime under the moon.
Two Gytas and Bjorn were gamely holding off seven Tfibs. Bjorn’s brother Knut lay dead, a spear
through his neck. Tristan held a pausing hand up for Thomas and sliced down, highlighting their route
straight down the middle to the thick of the battle. Nobody, not the Vikings, not the Gytas, not the
Tfibs, knew they were there. They owned surprise. Thomas waited on Tristan. Seconds passed. Men
died. So very sudden, Tristan moved, fast, stealth, deadly. He killed two Tfibs in rapid order, but from
there the moment of surprise vanished and three Tfibs turned on him, spears thrusting. He feinted left,
slashing at a spear, cutting the man’s hand clear off, while fending off the other two. The warrior’s
screams echoed for all to hear. Even above the scream a whistling sang out, the air singing, the arrow its
music, then another, and the other two Tfibs attacking Tristan died; died silently, a silent deadly whistle.
Several Tfibs swarmed into the clearing. From the left came a feint directed at Tristan who swirled in a
half circle and caught the first of the Tfibs, running him through. He spun on his boots, sword at ready
killing another Tfib. The remaining Tfib turned to defend, leaving his back exposed. Bjorn cut him
down from neck to heels.
Tristan patted Bjorn on the shoulder as he and Thomas rushed past him. All around them now
silent again, both pausing, listening, searching. Suddenly a spear framed in the moonlight, a handmade
snake sent to kill. Tristan its target. He arched back, sucking his stomach in and barely batted the spear
away. Thomas’s whistling arrow sang, slaying the man. Tristan snaked behind a tree, heavily breathing
in and out, waiting. For what? Anything. Sounds ahead. A fierce battle waging. He had assumed they
had engaged the enemy at the main battle where Bjorn was, but he had been wrong, the main battle lay
ahead somewhere. About a minute which seemed a lifetime passed before he pinpointed the battle by
the shouts, cries, clanging. There had to be a larger clearing up ahead. There the heart of the battle
raged. Not here. They had out maneuvered themselves…Tristan would not forget.
They moved hunched low and fast, and it was here that Tristan discovered Thomas was faster
than him. Thomas, Tristan a step behind, reached the edge of a very large clearing, twice the size of the
previous clearing. Tristan caught up and they crouched behind a sapling. The moon was dustier here,
hiding off and on behind clouds, exposing, framing, tricking warriors one second, saving them the
next…an impossible moon. The majority of both forces were fighting. The Tfibs not only had spears
but huge wooden clubs and battered relentlessly at the Viking shields. But, as Thor saw it, the clubs
were not the crux of the problem. No. The crux? The Tfibs had learned some primitive strategy since he
had last been there and were fighting in separate smaller groups. This had really caught Thor and his
men by surprise. The advantage, the Viking’s superior weapons and shields: gone. Thor had visited this
continent six times. Each time victorious. For the first time, defeat entered his thoughts.
Red Hawk, wounded, gamely fought, thrusting his spear. He saw his death in his dead warriors
littering the earth and was content to join them but now yet, one more coup.
Into this battle Tristan and Thomas literally exploded, both tumbling forward. Tristan’s hair, a
rich blonde under the old moon, now blood red, Thomas’s short black hair now coal. Tristan, the action
before him coming in ‘blinks.’ Blink, now fought his way inch by inch, blink, now slashing from left to
right, blink, cutting down two Tfibs in his path, blink, sword held in both hands out and twirling like a
child’s top, the motion slicing down four Tfibs in the twirl’s circle, blink no more: finally bursting forth
from the blink’s momentary darkness: now destroying everything in his path. No more blinks, just
bloody battle. Thomas, supplementing Tristan’s ferociousness, released a slew of arrows killing five
Tfibs in rapid order. The other Tfib warriors were surprised by this sudden onslaught, and their surprise
disorganized them. Now Thomas’s arrows flew seemingly all at once. Warriors fell, one after another.
Two Gyta groups being attacked quickly regained their ground. Chaos around him, Tristan dove ahead,
attacking six Tfibs at once. Tristan held about three feet of ground, just about enough to turn around on,
and covered the ground at one time. A club and a spear descended upon him. He ran his sword though
the man welding the club and turned the man around, crashing him into the man thrusting the spear,
then rammed the sword through both men, and had already spun on heels, slinging another man’s head
clear off, then allowing the forward motion to carry on spinning him around and killing a man behind
Thor witnessed Tristan’s attack. Red Hawk also. As did many Gyta and Tfibs’ warriors and
Vikings. Dozens of Tfibs attacked. A slew of arrows met them. Tristan reengaged. The Tfibs were
easily driven back suffering bloody casualties. Suddenly the battle just ended. Over. Finished. The
forest breathed in a stunned silence, as if the trees themselves could not believe. All the groups paused,
stunned by the battle, once theirs, now lost, their opposite equally stunned, once lost now won. The
battle over. The Tfibs knew it and their laid down his spear. His braves followed suit.
Red Hawk gamely limped over to the Tfibs’ chief and stared hard at him, then scanned the fallen
bodies. Oddly, he was surprised to see the Vikings had fared worse than his own men. Tristan limped
over, sword hanging down, blood dripping from it. Red Hawk saw all that, but mostly the eyes, those
deep blue long goodbye eyes had deepened inward, laying naked the soul: Red Hawk saw what he was
not sure he saw. He thought: Whoever this man was, he was not Tristan McLeod whom he had earlier
teased. Had the gods sent this boy-man? And why?
A thing to be explored.
Thomas sidled next to Tristan and whispered lifelong words that would bring Tristan back from
the gripping darkness within, “Hey you.”
Tristan’s head flung back and forth, savagely as if a thing had hold of him. At last those deep
goodbye eyes focused. At last he blinked away the someone else and smiled that charming Tristan
smile. “Hey you,” he whispered back.
That night, that second, that moment…legend had arrived. Or? And that was the question: Or?
So thought Red Hawk.
But there would be time enough for thinking later. Battle’s aftermath beckoned. The dead had to
be separated. The Gyta would burn their fallen comrades. The Vikings would bury their comrades. The
Tfibs would cart their men back to the village. This was death’s work and the task consumed all until
the moon was straight up midnight. Nobody complained. Everybody worked methodically until the last
wisp of smoke carried the Gyta warriors to their hunting ground and the final spade full of earth bid the
fallen Vikings a happy voyage.
As the other Gytas warriors and Vikings slept, Tristan and Thomas were still too keyed from
battle for sleep and the work to sleep. They ringed a small fire along with Red Hawk and Thor. All had
remained silent for a long time now, each nursing their own thoughts. Finally Red Hawk spoke,
surprising them by speaking very proper English. But Tristan and Thomas had suspected as much when
Thor had leaned in toward them to whisper earlier. Why else would he whisper?
“Tristan, Thor explained you are a pagan like himself, not a Christian...although I confess to
possessing no knowledge concerning Christians. Thor explained pagans were a dying breed in Europe.
He failed to explain what a pagan is. Can you?”
The battle and the thing that had had a hold on him left him mentally weary, as well as
physically, and the usual, ‘always a quip ready’ Tristan, really had no ready answer, but his vocal tone
was flat, almost void of energy. “I am a Druid. I suppose Druids are pagans by Christian definition. I
suppose anyone who fails to worship Jesus Christ is.”
“While in our land you must have a name. The Last Pagan Warrior. You, Thomas, hunt the dark.
You are: The Ghost Wolf.”
The fire crackled. As it grew smaller, Red Hawk and Thor left them be. Tristan curled up next to
the fire and slept.
Now it was night. Thomas haunted it. For the first time he tasted it. Its sweetness, its power, its
world. He realized for the first time: he was the night.
Just before dawn, a problem perplexed Red Hawk, interrupting his sleep. The elements, earth,
wind and fire never sent two great warriors. They were just too rare. So who was Thomas? A ‘chasing
the weather march’. Yes. He would lead them on such. He would know who they were at the finish. The
earth, the air, the stars, the sun: all would tell him, yes, but they themselves most of all. The ‘chasing the
weather’ march always revealed who a man was.
Chapter: The Trading Center.
Writer’s notes: A bargain sealed. No lawyer in Miami Beach, no witnesses in Iowa. Just 2

The next morning Tristan and Thomas expected to return to the village, but Thor informed them
the entire band were moving out. He again said to starve questions for later, which they had already
reached the conclusion that with Thor, meant never. All in all counting the Vikings the band numbered
over 150 men. Tristan did not consider this a large force, but large enough to mount an effective
fighting unit.
Although the groups marched together as a unit, they marched separately. The Gyta warriors
joked amongst themselves and brought up the front while the Vikings who also joked amongst
themselves brought up the rear. There were two exceptions. Thor and Red Hawk were almost never
apart. And a Gyta warrior, Fresh Air, a jaunty happy young man, so named because he always slept out
on the open. Fresh Air, about Tristan and Thomas’s age, had taken to them, even more so to their
weapons. So together, Fresh Air jauntily at their sides, sometimes happily singing, others humming but
always emitting a noise of some kind, if only clicking, they began walking, as Tristan put it: to no idea.
To which Thomas joked: the perfect destination, “to no idea.”
They did ask Fresh Air, but he kept repeating: Clear Water, and returned to singing. They
assumed the words were a variation on his name and not a place. They also deduced by his singing
wherever they were going was a happy place. Because Fresh Air was happy…always.
The band carried little food, forging as they marched for daily sustenance, and over the days
Fresh Air taught them how to trap small game, trapping mice, ground hogs, such. They in turn taught
him how to use a sword. And at night, the flames from a campfire for light, crafted one from an old
spear, sharpening both sides of a large piece of flint into a razor edge that would easily cut a man’s hand
off. Fresh Air saw the spear that cut as ‘Big Medicine’ and drew a circle in the dirt, and slashed a line
across to show them, repeating in Gyta: ‘Big Medicine. Big Medicine.’ They appeared confused so he
stabbed at the earth, then smoothed the dirt over to show what he meant. Muttering the one word of
English he had learned: See. See.
Thomas at last figured it out and said, “Big medicine.
Fresh Air had no idea what Thomas had said but his head bobbed in agreement. He was tired and
wanted to sleep. He liked the barbarians, but…
On the third day Red Hawk approached them. Fresh Air smiled as if saying they were in for a
special treat. It rained that day, and Red Hawk reveled in it, bending his head back and shaking it back
and forth playfully. Laughing all the time. At last, hair matted, he grinned at them. “Life is a game.
Anyway we are on a five day walk.” He pointed ahead, “A trading center. Clear Water. There is no
battle allowed there. I am telling you this because I want you to be comfortable. You are safe there and
your belongings. Many have never seen a white man and you will be an object of curiosity. Do not take
offense. Were I in your land it would be the same.” Laughing out loud at the sky, waving a forefinger at
it, as if chastising it, he quickened, pulling away to join Thor.
Fresh Air, head a bobbin, began singing: Clear Water. Clear Water.
They understood now. “There is a man sometimes of fewer words than you, Thomas. You
should trade Red Hawk a few.”
Tristan joking. Thomas contemplating. Fresh Air still singing. They made such a logical illogical
On the fifth evening they arrived at a much larger village than Red Hawk’s. The trading center
was obscured by shadows that were dusty and only revealed images and traces. A large man greeted
them all, but greeted Red Hawk personally by embracing him in a bear hug. They embraced. Stepping
back, the man disapprovingly glanced at the Vikings. Completely ignored Tristan and Thomas who both
examined him, taking in his full measure. The man stood tight, as if ready to spring at any moment. He
wore a feathered head-band, and a trinket laced necklace and earring.
But the eyes. This was not a man to trifle. Thomas’ diary.
Red Hawk announced, “Clearing Wind has been generous. We have use of nine huts.”
That was more than fourteen men to a hut, but tiredness rode them and each huddled tight to the
person next to them and embraced sleep as if a lover. Except Thomas. He haunted the trading center,
watching those charged to watch, knowing them, them never knowing him. It was at this time Red
Hawk tapped Thomas on the shoulder. A slight smile. Thomas knew he was there moments ago but
refrained from saying so.
“The moon is red tonight.”
Red Hawk saying it like it meant something.
Thomas wondering what?
“A red moon is a wolf’s moon. The Ghost Wolf. It is your moon. Now soon you will tell me.”
Pondering. Tell Red Hawk what? About to say something. Red Hawk gone. Had he really been
there? Thomas wondered.
The day began at first light, revealing what the previous night had hid: a bustling trading center.
Indians of all height weight age emerged from huts. Some set up stalls, yet others simply starting
walking, heading home, while other bands arrived.
For Tristan and Thomas it began by Red Hawk yelling their names outside their hut.
“Yes Red Hawk,” Thomas, who was camouflaged a few feet away.
“Who!” startled, Red Hawk jumped while doing a half dance at the voice.
“Sorry did not mean to startle you.”
“I am a Gyta. Gyta are not supposed to be startled.”
Thomas. “Really.”
“Red Hawk.” Tristan greeted, scratching his arm while emerging from the hut.
“Let us bathe and talk.”
The morning air chilly, which meant the water would be likewise. “I bathed months ago,”
Tristan mumbled.
Red Hawk insisted they bathe, not just wash. “Besides the water will set you free. Also in 500
years this river will be so filthy, bathing will burn your skin.”
All they heard from him was nonsense, but because they were guests they acquiesced. The short
walk to the river provided a view of the village. Clear Water was built on what would some day be Cape
Cod. They were surprised to find the trading center laid out much like a European city. There were
streets. Houses and huts, all constructed of timber, straw and leaves. At the river both sexes bathed
nude, mindless of the people around them.
They followed Red Hawk’s lead and stripped down to skin and waded behind him into the river.
They very quickly discovered a truth in Red Hawk’s words: the waters will set you free. The ice cold
water freed them from all thought except: Ice cold! BY THE GODS!, Tristan ejaculated. And they were
only knee deep.
“BY THE GODS!” Tristan re-ejaculated, before rushing in, water circling his waist now.
Red Hawk, “See.”
“See what?” Tristan, teeth chattering, only seeing naked people.
“Those bugs are jumping off you. So is the smell.”
Thomas approached the obvious while wading forward until the water reached his breasts.
“What do we smell like?” He was cold to be sure, but had steeled himself at first step.
“Rancid. Thor and his men also smell. But it would be dishonorable to tell them. But you two
are young. So I offer it as advice. Now you tell me why your people only bath once in a while?”
Tristan shivered, so Thomas simply stated. “We were raised such. Keeps us healthy. So the
doctors say. All I know.”
Red Hawk appeared perplexed for a moment. “All people are different,” He shrugged.
“Why are we here?” Tristan, whose teeth still chattered.
“Bathe,” he smiled happily.
About to inquire further, Thomas noticed he did not itch for the very first time in his life. He
could not remember a time when something or another was not feasting on him. Truly, he concluded, a
wonderful experience.
Tristan, cold, real cold, also noticed: no itching. For him it was like making love to a beautiful
woman. His body tingled all over. But the cold still invaded him although this was a far different cold
than seemed to always be inside him, a thing he was born with and had learned long ago to live with.
Much like the itching. So he thought while freezing: tough choice. Freezing or itching? Because he
certainly could not spend the rest of his life in water. Oh hi there, would you pass me some lamb stew.
Thanks. And the tea. Good lad.
Life was predicaments, he concluded for the umpteenth thousandth time.
No small matter. So much so, he dunked his head, sprang up. Shaking his hair. No itch. No
louse. But he was as cold as a witch’s tit…which he freely confessed he had never touched.
Red Hawk, “The bugs flee at waters’ touch.”
Tristan, “Tttttthhey dddon’t ffflleee ssssoooo mmmuucchhh aaassssss freeeezzz.”
Even in the cold, the now ever readable between them swift glance.
“Red Hawk why are we here. I mean us three?” Tristan, finding his voice. Actually the water
was beginning to feel if not warm, as least bearable.
“Thor tells me you, Tristan, are a chief. You Thomas are a……I lack the words. So I wanted to
bathe, just us. Thor is brave. I would die for him. Enough said.”
He splashed ashore, pushing water in his wake.
“Once a week cannot hurt.” Thomas.
“No. Help if the water were warmer.”
“Walk? See the village.”
Fine by Thomas.
As they sloshed to the shore, both stopped short.
“Our clothes? Weapons?” Thomas.
“Louse. We can carry the weapons but…”
“Yes. But we are guests.” Thomas pointing out the obvious: their cocks. “Same size.”
“Seems so. So. Anyway, regardless, I take my dagger.”
“Just take it all. Bundle up the weapons in the clothes.”
Buck naked, they started walking, each carrying their clothes in a bundle. The day, warm, but a
breeze kicked up, causing a small chill, but bearable. They were shy at first, conscious of their nudity,
but as they walked the shyness melted away. But with each step and buck naked the shyness returned
because men and woman from various tribes glanced at them in passing, their stares saying to them:
Pale man carry clothes and walk naked, how odd these people are.
Or perhaps they imagined it. In any case, both decided: Clothes, THEY needed clothes!
They stopped at the first stall they came across that had leather garments, rather skimpy, but why
not. When in Clear River, they both mouthed and nervously laughed. Language the first problem, but
hand gestures, as with Fresh Air, solved the problem. Tristan’s uncle’s words proved true. Their gold
worthless. They had been wearing sheepskin clothing which turned out to be very rare. Which fostered
the second problem: negotiations. They had no idea what was worth what. Red Hawk solved that and
stopped and spoke for them. They wound up trading the sheepskin for light animal skins. The skins
trussed around the waist and covered their ass and cock and balls. They also opted for a buckskin shirt.
Problem three befuddled them. Red Hawk explained: The shop owner feels he is cheating you and
insists you choose a few more things.
A ‘We are not in Scotland now,’ sharing thought.
But what else? They only required clothes. At last after hunting and pecking through much
merchandise, they both opted for sandals and a leather pouch with a string to go around the neck. Red
Hawk proudly informed them they now resembled proper warriors. Thor, who was with Red Hawk,
shook his head in dismay, “Here what? Eight days and already gone native! Your uncle is going to kill
me. And that is one man I do not wish to fight. I once hit him and near broke my hand.”
Tristan’s natural first thought: you hit my uncle and are alive, slid away, followed by: Is Red
Hawk right?
Frivolous, thought Red Hawk, all of it. He took Thor’s arm and steered him away, “Let the boys
Now dressed, both happily believing they resembled a Gyta, they spent the better part of the day
idly walking, taking in the sights. Tristan’s sword, merely its heft, a thing of curiosity. But the men from
other tribes were impressed by Thomas’s longbow and he stopped a good dozen times just to show it
“Show off, “Tristan joked, oh about a million times.
Late afternoon they both practiced, Tristan fighting imaginary swordsmen and Thomas using a
tree as a target, imagining an extremely small circle, about fingernail size. They almost immediately
drew a crowd. They knew the men and women from the trading center saw them as a bit deranged, but
did not know they were viewed: crazy, or that crazy was considered as something almost spiritual. One
particularly attractive woman, dark hair trailing past her shoulders in one long pony tail, touched
Tristan’s hair. She giggled.
A smitten Tristan. “Blond,” a finger touching her finger touching his hair.
Just gibberish to her but she giggled and skipped away, paused and smiled at him.
“The women?” Tristan said to a passing Red Hawk.
“Up to the woman.”
The woman had only skipped a short distance and watched Tristan for an hour, a dazzling hour,
all his sword skill on display, prompting Thomas to quip, “Show off.”
“Oh yeah,” he murmured and sheathed his sword and walked over to her. She watched him
approach. Charm now. Gibberish. But Gibberish charm. Ah charm, knows no language. Thank the gods,
Tristan thought. He handed her the sword. Stood behind her close, as close as he could without being
part of her, and showed how to swing. Laughing. Now both staring moons, eyes sparking laughter.
Using the sword’s point as a quill, he slowly drew out his name in words on the earth. T R I S T A N.
Pointing at himself.
“Many Suns,” she very slowly announced and skipped away.
“She will be at your hut tonight” Red Hawk said in passing, pausing.
“Ho…” Tristan, an echo.
“Our customs are new to you.” Red Hawk, explaining over his protest. “Thomas. How you make
the arrows sing?”
“The feathers. They are spaced, yes, but it is in the spacing. Too far apart and the wind is
useless. Too close, same. As I fit them in I blow softly, tuning them. Here, I will show you.”
“No, I will let you show me.” Red Hawk said.
We thought the clothes made us Gyta warriors, but it was our weapons and our age which
bridged the gap between us and the younger Gyta and other warriors from other tribes. And it was our
easy mingling with the Gyta warriors that widened the gap between us and the Vikings. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter: Dragons!

To Tristan. “Many Suns says you are the warrior.” Red Hawk. Saying it just like that. See what
Tristan made of it.
“The fun warrior,” Tristan self effaced.
Many Suns was a Sioux woman and women saw in a man what men missed, thought Red Hawk.
He said. “When the sun is straight up we march. We flee the cold for warm. It is a long journey every
Gyta makes once in life. I did so when very young. I do so again because there is a thing I want before
I die. Many Suns will understand. It is her way. I go. It is the time for goodbyes. Always say goodbye.
Red Hawk strolled away.
Thor commented to Red Hawk, “They are learning.”
Or are we, thought Red Hawk.
Tristan and Thomas had made more than a few friends, most Gyta, but a few who said they were
from the Crow nation, and began the day with them. Upon learning of the Weather Chasing March,
which was an obvious big deal as the trading center buzzed with the news, the other Gyta, all young
men, burst into a mouth clicking ritualistic tune. The Crow warriors soon joined in, and together filled
the air with excitement at the impending journey. Tristan and Thomas joined in by humming loudly
until their lips were numb, then clapped their hands. The festive gathering soon attracted other warriors
from other tribes and they too joined in. The girls joined next, dancing, dancing very suggestively, so
much so more than a few Vikings from a distance enjoyed the show. The fun lasted for a few hours until
one by one or in twos the men and the girls went off to do chores or trade.
The Vikings also celebrated, drinking and shouting. Into this Tristan and Thomas wandered
next, declining the goat-skin filled wine bag that was passed from man to man but joining in on the
singing. “Warriors gather round, give a hand to your brethren when they hit the ground, laugh at your
enemies and scoff at the citizens who shudder their sounds, warriors gather round, for he who fights
first will be the last one down. Warriors gather round...rally round, cry the sounds, warriors gather
round, heed the wolf howling horn’s sound, warriors gather round, warriors gather round, admit that
the blood running is rivers fallen on the ground, oh warriors gather round.”
As they left the Vikings, Thomas commented, “We are of three worlds.” But not serious, as in
lay down and tell me your troubles son, serious. Just a quick thought, no contemplation in it at all.
From there they went to Many Suns’ hut. Thomas had met No Enemy through Many Suns. They
said their goodbyes to each, a long goodnight stuffed into an hour.
When the sun shone brightly overhead, the band departed the trading center. Although sunny,
the day was crisp. Many Suns and No Enemy skipped along, waving, as did many other girls. All the
Gyta warriors waved back as did the Vikings. Great battles awaited.
Writer’s notes: Use only what is in Thomas’ diary for the long march as it best describes
the event.
Within days Tristan and I soon discovered that we indeed chased the weather. Back in England
this time of year was late summer, running into early fall. So it was here. The leaves on the trees had
already begun to loose their bright green, now a dull rusty green seemed to almost run off the flagging
leafs. Although the days were warm, the nights held a chill, a reminding chill of the impending winter
soon to follow into the day. Tristan always awoke shivering, but managed to walk it off, all but the
inner chill that had been with him since a child. By the end of the second week the nights had warmed,
and the days were growing warmer almost day by day. Soon the warm days turned outright hot and
became as troublesome as the chilly nights, sapping everyone’s energy by day’s end, but especially the
Vikings who carried their shields and wore their heavy clothing. The terrain also changed almost daily.
Flatland became rocky, and back to flatland and again rocky and so on. Red Hawk led the band and
avoided chance encounters with other tribes as much as possible; occasionally we did encounter other
tribes, some hostile, others friendly. When a battle did occur, they were not at all like the first battle,
and were usually small light skirmishes that lasted no more than a few minutes before the attackers
fled. The friendly tribes far outnumbered the hostile and gladly traded goods, whooping joyfully at the
brightly colored glass beads that Thor had brought from Daneland, (which explained what Tristan and
I had silently questioned). The tribes placed great value on the glass beads, much like a European
placed value on a gold necklace, and this goodwill on Red Hawk’s part served to open their villages to
us, the tribe always offering to share food and several huts for our use; along with the glass beads, Red
Hawk always offered an animal skin in return for the gracious hospitality. Although the languages
varied, there was a common tongue shared up to a point, and the smoking pipe was always brought into
use. When a village was not in sight, at night the band would sleep on the ground, if not under a warm
moon, certainly a friendly moon offering clear frost free nights; but more often than not woke to frost
on the trees, and a chill in the air. The Gytas and the Vikings took the weather in stride. Tristan almost
always woke shivering. While breaking camp, everybody cleaned the land of their presence before
setting out for the day. As the days and nights wore endlessly on, our curiosity which had served as
mental substance...each of us, as if a child, pointing out a thing here and there new to us...began to
wan. As the weeks wore on, our curiosity fled as if life from a dying man. I developed a limp and for a
week shifted my weight to my other leg, and Tristan, already thin, lost weight and began to grow
haggard. Tiredness now dogged us constantly. We were not the only ones who appeared to suffer these
slight, and I say slight because in retrospect the ills were slight. Many did. But nobody complained. And
since neither one of us were complainers, we trudged on, following the band cross country. Curiosity
almost wore out, we discussed the problem and the fact that the Gytas, more than the Vikings, always
were happy to go in the morning, and although tired by sunset were still chatty and always offered up
their clicking sounds as if singing happiness. So we decided to study the way the Gyta warriors walked
and imitated their movements which were ‘an economy of movement’ far beyond what the actual words
implied. And discovered a smooth easy gait in ourselves that we did not know had existed within us.
As we imitated the gait, we began to develop sinewy muscles that allowed us to march without
becoming by mid-day dog tired. The result was the return of our curiosity... and humor. A few months
later everybody appeared haggard, it was not so much that humor had fled as lived on edge, a very
sharp edge that was as often as not mistaken briefly for the other thing that causes men to kill without
thinking first. Still we marched. Tempers began to flair, sometimes at the silliest word or thing, but not
once did the Gytas complain or lash out in anger. To do so would be dishonorable. The Gyta way was
to go off into the woods and commune with nature until whatever troubled them no longer troubled
them. The Vikings were the polar opposite. They often argued amongst each other, and sometimes
outright engaged in fisticuffs, but always laughed it off at the end. I took more notice of this than
Tristan, and after much pondering reached the conclusion it was each other’s ways: the Gyta, laughing
and friendly, the Vikings ready to argue or fight at the drop of a wrong word. One way was not
necessarily preferable over the other.
A Tristan moment: Walk long enough and you find yourself.
A me moment: I had spent so many weeks asking myself who was I that I discovered I was the
Tristan read the above, keeping his thoughts to himself. Well, he did smile.
It was on a warm night when the long trek reached its forward end. Thus, I concluded on that
day after walking so long, covering so much ground, that there truly were no such thing as dragons.
Flatlands all around us, Red Hawk announced to all, “We are at journey’s end.” He added after some
thought, “We are in Apache land. Very dangerous. But they possess a thing I need. Potent medicine.
We will take one. After, if the wind favors us we will return to the village. If not we will become the
To a warrior, every man whooped and hollered, and danced, as did Tristan and I. . After the
initial celebrations wore off, camps were made. Dusk saw several fires flickering in the twilight. The
Gytas and the Vikings ate, joked, laughed. After eating, Tristan and I just started walking, our
intention to walk about an hour to limber up and return for sleep. I knew the night and Tristan
depended on that knowledge. An hour later we were lost. All the space only sometimes exposed by an
on and off again moon seemed perplexing. The dark flat land in all directions stretched endlessly.
“Sleep here. The terrain too similar. Come dawn we see.”
Fine by Tristan. He curled up on the earth and slept.
Thomas’ diary.
Chapter End.

Thomas hunched down to his knees. In the far distance, he heard men talking. But in a language
different than Red Hawk’s. Not Red Hawk’s men to be sure. Red Hawk had said they were in Apache
land, therefore he concluded the men must be Apache. He half slept, knowing, feeling the mouth of the
wolf. But the moon: red. He was the Wolf.
At approaching light the very ground itself trembled. Thomas, half sleeping, sprang up,
searching for its reason, thinking maybe the Apache were attacking. Still too dark to see very far away.
Yet the earth trembled around him, as if it wanted to crack. The sun slowly rose in the sky chasing
away the last of the night’s shadows. He stood for a long while, motionless. At full light, he saw dust
everywhere. Almost as if the air itself were made of dust. Whatever, he thought, very large…maybe
“Tristan.” Thomas nudging him.
Springing up, hunching, sword ready.
He did. “Dragons?” No fear. Wondering. Curious.
Moving toward the sound, cautious. They saw through the dust…untold thousands.
Thomas, “Not dragons.” All the sudden hopefulness bespoke sudden disappointment in him.
“No,” Tristan, even more disappointed, “Dragons are just myths.”
Still they, not so much in awe but glee, watched. The herd rumbled by, their energy filled the
very air snatching at Tristan’s hair, dragging it seemingly along.
“Snow Rats.” Tristan laughed.
“Yes.” Thomas. “Be around forever.”
Which was their sum conclusion while walking back. The Gytas had managed to separate an old
buffalo from the herd and slay it and were now skinning it. The heart, sliced out, presented to Red
Hawk. The reason he had made the journey. Big Medicine. Red Hawk cut the heart into tiny pieces so
there was enough for each Gyta. Thor had already declined for his men. He gave Tristan and Thomas
each a piece. “Eat. Powerful medicine.”
They did.
“You are now Gyta,” Red Hawk pronounced.
In fact we were. We dressed as so, ate as so, had learned their habits and adopted the ones we
felt suited us. We were so much a Gyta, even the Vikings had long begun addressing us by our Gyta
names. The Ghost Wolf. The Last Pagan Warrior. Thomas’ diary.
From his previous journey when a young man, Red Hawk knew the Apache as superb fighters.
He had been fortunate so far and had lost fewer than a dozen men during the long journey. But the band
was small. A battle amongst the Apache was to be avoided if at all possible. Which meant traveling at
night. The Apache would not attack at night. Bad medicine. But traveling at night was also bad
Red Hawk went to Tristan for advice. Not his war chief or Thor. Tristan sat along with Fresh
Air and Thomas. They had caught a raccoon and were skinning it. Fist pausing briefly at chest, Red
Hawk joined them. They sat in silence while the raccoon roasted over an open fire. The flames dusted
Red Hawk’s face. The ground absorbed his words. After eating, wordlessly he stood and joined Thor. A
few minutes and Tristan went to Red Hawk. He sliced a hand across his chest. “We leave now. The
wind will hide our scent. Thor, have your men wrap their shields so they are silent.”
“Vikings do not run.”
“We are not running. We are putting distance between us and them. If they wish to follow, then
we will destroy them.”
Tristan joined Thomas.
“Still.” Thor protested.
“Thor.” Red Hawk, respectful, but firm. “This is their hunting ground. A harsh land. Yet they
tamed it. We leave now.”
The matter settled. Red Hawk had spoken.
Silhouette men moved out into the ink night. Led by the only man who could see: Thomas. For
fun Tristan took a piece of parchment from his bag and scribbled on it and dropped it next to the
buffalo’s remains.
We began the long journey home. We had traveled all that distance not simply for a Buffalo’s
heart. So much more. The white man would never understand. Thomas’ diary.
At first light an Apaches band stumbled on the remains. After examining the moccasin prints
around it, a Apache picked up the note. All they saw were tracks on tree bark. They all agreed it had to
be very big medicine. The tale was told around campfires for centuries until Geronimo proclaimed:
The Apache await: “The Last Pagan Warrior.”
The gods found this deliriously funny.

Chapter: The long goodbye.


Note here: the buffalo heart is smoked, or had been smoked and was cut into over a hundred
pieces. Each warrior was given a piece, each warrior humbly accepted, they were now Gyta warriors.
End note. Use this. Then delete.
The march in reverse took as many months as going and the band arrived at the Gyta village in
late April. Which was the Gyta date for season’s renewal and also a few days shy of New Years, which
fell on May 1 that year. The day was mild. But the atmosphere was anything but. A runner had been
sent ahead and the entire village was lined up in respect as they marched in. The Gyta warriors to a
man raised a clenched fist, including Tristan and Thomas. The Vikings beat on their shields. The
respectful silence erupted, bursting forth shouting, which stormed the air, nay, assaulted the air. Smiling
faces were everywhere. Even the elderly Medicine Doctor who had practiced solemn his entire life
broke out into a rare smile displaying an absolutely perfect set of teeth for one so old. Women fiercely
hugged men, children clung to their father’s leg. Gifts from the long march, pebbles to bear skin rugs
and everything big and small were handed out. Another year insured. Another year where food and
peace would be bountiful. Even those who had lost a husband or a son were, although sad, glad for the
village. For the village would continue. That was the best reason of all to celebrate.
The celebration last two days and nights. On the third day, which was New Years Day, each
Gyta warrior lined up to be honored. They were now men. They were now ready to take their place in
the tribe as men. Red Hawk honored each by walking up the row of men, pausing at each and handing
over the pipe for the ‘New Man’ to pull smoke from. At the row’s end stood Tristan and Thomas. They
pulled smoke from the pipe. The smoke lazily drifted in the air.
We were now Gyta warriors. Thomas’ diary.
A little while later Thor informed them that they would stay until October. He wanted his men
to rest after the long journey, yet wanted to be on the way back to Daneland before the harsh winter
seas set in. Both were glad they were staying. They even talked amongst themselves about carving out
a life there amongst the Gyta. But although they never said so out loud, knew they never would. This
knowledge made staying all the sweeter. For Tristan this was home’s remembrance. For Thomas it was
a remembrance of a home he never had, yet remembered wanting.
The months went past swiftly, as they knew they would. They were truly one with the other
Gyta men and, unlike the Vikings, joined the young Gyta warriors on hunts, bringing down mostly deer
and elk, but also an occasional bear. They could regularly be found in the story hut at night where the
village ‘keeper of stories’ told the many stories entrusted to him by his predecessor to an enthralled
audience who, for all but Tristan and Thomas, had heard every tale at least ten times. The stories never
grew stale and I never tired of hearing of the Gyta. From how the Wind had exhaled the Gyta onto the
earth, to how for over two thousands years Gyta forefathers walked by each Gyta. But it was the
legend, yes that legend...Tristan’s story. Yes, that story. Thomas’ diary.
All too soon the months expired. As they camped their last night in this strange land they had
grown to love, Red Hawk stooped. There were several braves who stood, each passing a youthful, ‘You
are in for wisdom words now,’ playful glance before departing. Red Hawk did not disappoint. “In the
morning you will depart. As I would for my own sons, I have powerful words for you two.”
Just a long five thousand mile what awaited them in Europe respectful silence from them.
“Good. When a man tries to kill you, kill him. Always. Never feel sorry for him. Never let him
go. He will return, saying he is your friend. You will know him since a child and want to believe him.
So desperately want to. No. Never give a man a second chance.”
Silence. Tristan thinking: there is no way. Red Hawk. His uncle. No way. Tristan reciting from
Thomas’ diary, “And the waters will set you free.”
Red Hawk studied him for a moment, “Tristan, you should never impede destiny. You did so
when you left those tracks for the Apache. We, our history, is an oral history. History will show us. It
must be real. Clean. The white man will never understand that. But you do. Now.” Red Hawk pondered,
a powerful pondering. Deciding. Deciding a thing. Decided. Voice low almost reverent. “The old ones
passed down throughout history a man would come and save the Gyta.”
They both had heard this tale in the story hut. Each also knew that if Thor had found this land it
was only a matter of time before others did. They had often discussed this, but had kept their thoughts to
themselves. Tristan now found touchable sadness. “I am not, Red Hawk. And...I am so sorry.”
“How can you know? Only the Gods know. You might be the one and not know. Just tell me
what you would do to save your people were they under grave attack. Let me decide if the words bear
power and wisdom.”
Perhaps it was the aftermath of all the battles, perhaps the long march. Whatever the reason,
Tristan’s thoughts took him places he had visited before, many times before, and had always found his
thoughts transparent sensations void of clarity: no matter how hard he thought, the thoughts were there,
yet always seemed just out of arm’s reach. But now it appeared as if he could touch them. He had often
thought about his uncle’s words to: kill‘em all, only now he could see them, touch them, understand
them. He was charged to see such did not occur. He could easily manage the former...a few hundred
warriors on horses. Sweep across England. The cities, walled ones, would expect a long siege and hide
in the cities. They failed to realize by hiding in a walled city, they were rendered already dead. No siege
necessary, just ride around them, burning as you went. Edwards would mount a force, at least ten
thousand strong. He respected Edwards, but such a large force moved slow, hampered by its very size.
Again just ride around them, never face them in battle, like Hannibal, who harassed the Romans for
eight years. Again, burn as you ride. Burn every little hamlet, village, all the fields and crops. Scorch
the earth leaving them nothing to feed on. And London, England’s jewel. People locked in walled cities.
Ten thousand men moving nowhere fast. London, burn it, and kill‘em all.
Yes easy. War was always the easy way. The kings who waged it, waged not so much to win as
to appease the nobles who profited from war, thus prolonging war. He had read of very few men
throughout history who waged war relentlessly, their only goal to destroy the enemy. Alexander knew
such. Why? He wondered. He had been no older than Tristan. Younger actually. Maybe therein lay the
‘Why.’ Old men wage war slowly, fearing defeat, fearing too little profit, fearing fear. But Alexander,
barely 20, feared nothing. He waged war because war defined him, and he war. Peace? That was a
whole lot more difficult. Peace, there lay truth. And he had no idea how to accomplish such an
impossible thing. If he did, then he could achieve what his uncle had ordered, he could advise Red
Hawk. He....
His thoughts trailed off, as a new one ambushed him, forcing a ‘mmm hmm,’ at them. It just
might work. Might take thousands of years, but. “Fuck ‘em,” he strongly stated.
“The word fuck, I know not this word.”
“Your women, men, they come together, right.”
“Of course.”
“When they come and they will, fuck ‘em just fuck ‘em. Have all your women gladly fuck every
one of them. Bear many children. Pollute their bloodline. Your people are warriors. Their blood is
strong. The conquerors will attempt to render your people extinct, but will keep the children. The
children will grow up in their world, eating their food, learning their ways, and they will bear children...
children, warrior blood pumping within them. A thousand years hence. And they will remember what
the white man stole.”
He stopped talking suddenly. Thoughts raced. Filling his head. Overflowing, spilling out, lost.
Thoughts replacing thoughts as quickly as a new one arrived. He could never remember his mind so
abuzz in clarity. He removed parchment and ink from his satchel and began to write.
U can laugh at me
U can imprison me
U can torture me
U can humiliate me
U can be victorious over me
U can even kill me
But you cannot! defeat me. In the end, even a thousand years hence, nay ten thousand, I will
walk upon the dust that was once your bones.
He read the words out loud. Red Hawk requested for him to repeat them. He did. Red Hawk
recited along, committing the words to memory. “A great warrior’s words.”
Red Hawk stayed inside himself. He knew them now…took almost over a year. He knew who
they were. Red Hawk was an honorable man and if asked would honestly reply: white man you have
invited your doom into this world.
But the white man would not listen to an old Indian. They had all the answers. We just had
questions. A tale passed from Gyta story huts to Sioux Nation tepees to Crow Nation story huts.
Blink. Go on. Blink. Seconds ago you closed your eyes. Now it is morning. Such is how Tristan
and Thomas saw it. Time to go. It arrived ever so suddenly, they both silently mused. Tristan, never a
big eater, was now almost gaunt, maybe 160, 6’2. Thomas same. 160. They both ate sparse, as was the
Gyta way. But they had learned far more than how to not eat. They had learned many things.
The world packed in their hearts. Long goodbyes not their soul. They embraced many, backed
toe to heel away, spun suddenly and leapt aboard the Sea Wolf.
The entire village lined the sand as the sea pulled the vessels into it.

From here down to be deleted. Note not for book. Thomas in his diary on the long march. He
compares King Edwards to Red Hawk. Also when writing this u need to make it more specific, as in the
playing fighting chapter for counting coup. Tristan did not normally fight for fun, as I had learned that
day at King Edwards Chapter, but when Clear Air mentioned that many young warriors were going to
stage a ‘Fun Battle.’ He decided to go along. It was misty that day, as many in the costal area were
during that summer, run with this. Good beans. Also Thomas has learned Gyta, Tristan only a few
words. Do not forget the play battle, which takes place after they become Gyta men. The Vikings do not
participate. End not delete the above. End note. Delete.
Chapter: Rus.
Writer’s notes: Now part of history.

The Sea Wolf, and its double, the Sea Death, docked on a fine early spring day that birds
communicate through endless song, man through mind numbing prayer and more prayer. Before
hopping onto dry land, I hastily jotted: The mysterious land. The sea. Love it. Hate it. Ignore it at your
own peril. Thomas’ diary.
Due to freakish warm weather that brought storm after storm the voyage home had taken almost
twice as long as the voyage to the Gyta nation. Consequently every single man was overjoyed when
they arrived early one morning in late April home. The men piled out, dragging their shields and
weapons to the castle. The voyage had be head on all, but more so on Thor. He had aged badly,
becoming old, feeling old, tired, no longer the three great desires: fighting, fucking, drinking, just a
desire for rest, peace. He had completed his final journey, fought the final battles, and probably had had
his final hard on. All this and more showed as he stood in front of the castle. He had suffered severe
eructation during the voyage and now belched up a trickle of vile water and bile. He swiped a hand
across his mouth, not so much sponging away the moist, but smearing it across his face. The other
Viking’s paused, but he waved all but Bjorn past. Tristan and Thomas paused alongside Bjorn.
The hungry for souls grinning gargoyles on Thor's castle at their back, the sea beyond that, Red
Cloud way beyond that, Tristan and Thomas still lived what was behind them, but felt the road ahead,
and existed in the here and now. The voyage home had almost finished sculpting Tristan. They say
around campfires and cook-stoves a person grows into their face. His hair, always long, and dishwater
blond, now was sun bleached blond, but his countenance had changed most, now gaunt, romanticized
cheek bones, serious blue eyes, gaining a deadly gaze. Thomas, tall, lean, every step economy before he
had left…now still Thomas, only a deeper Thomas. As were his endless contemplations.
As the stable lad fetched both Trouble and Au revoir, a girl brought out cloths for them. Tristan
and Thomas placed the clothes in a bag attached to their mounts. They had worn their Gyta clothes
under their sea clothes and quickly shed the outer layer and handed them to the girl. Longing to keep
alive Red Hawk a little longer, they would change the Gyta clothing later.
Thor sighed his years. “Tristan, you have a difficult task ahead. I wish you success. Tell your
uncle hello for me. Sir Thomas, you rarely speak about yourself, so I harbor no idea the road you intend
for yourself. But I have no doubts. Wherever you travel, your powers handling that longbow alone will
serve your stead. I wish you both well. I envy you both, your youth. When you reach my age you will
understand why. Safe journey.”
Long goodbyes not them.
‘”Bjorn,” Tristan, an upheld hand, and mounted Trouble who was torn: bite Tristan or lick him.
He licked his leg, ”take care.”
“And you Tristan, and you Sir Thomas.”
“Rode them each day. Also let them run free.” The stable lad beamed.
“Good lad.” Tristan.
Tristan and Thomas turned their mounts, who were now pouting badly how delicious they were
to see them.
“The Last Pagan Warrior,” Thor breathed out. Thor sighed deep, so deep the sigh burned.
“Bjorn, after dispatching a pigeon to Tristan’s uncle informing the boys are arriving, burn the ships.
There are no Vikings. Never were. Just winners and losers and winners write the history.”
“And Tristan and Thomas?” Bjorn.
“Hmm. If Red Hawk is right, well.....” the rest trialed away as they entered the castle.
Before entering, Bjorn glanced up at the gargoyles. Odd, he thought, they appeared almost
comical, as if there time had come and gone. “Almost timid looking,” he muttered and closed the castle


Book 2: European Chapters

Whatever education we had received at the university paled in comparison to Red Hawk’s,
paled badly. Thomas’ diary
Chapter one.
Writer’s notes: A journey without maps: The road to king.

On the road to Copenhagen, they rode easy for a while, both re-familiarizing themselves with the
saddle and Europe: this old world, as Tristan phrased it. They gradually picked up the pace, faster, each
grinning youthfully, a grin SHOUTING: forever we have forever, faster, grins louder, faster yet, now
racing, each urging their mounts on, faster. Trouble complied, happy to be flying across the earth once
again. He did manage to steal a glance at Au revoir before pinning his attention back on the road. That
race two years ago. She felt he had won by a nose and had brushed his advances off, as if irritants. He
remembered, yes he did. He’d sure like to fuck her. Been trying now for over two years. Maybe if he
let her win. Flatter her a bit. A little flatter, a little pussy in return. Might work. He had noticed it
worked for men. But then most women were easily flattered, what! Living walking mediocrity, why not.
Au revoir was a Thoroughbred, might take more than mere flatter to mount her, maybe he would share
his feed, grazing had been delicious the past two years but now that the boys were back, well he was an
old stud and knew lean times faced them. Sure that was the ticket, share his experience and food, man
she had to give up that pussy.
Trouble was in Trouble’s musings, he had relaxed his pace a bit allowing Au revoir to gain
much ground. Oh well there was plenty of road yet, WHAT!, No not now man, you can not call the
race now. How humiliating to be beaten by a mare. The indignity!
Trouble nibbled on Tristan’s leg, just a small bite.
Slowing as they entered, Tristan laughed high, infectious, and eased up on Trouble, now aside
Thomas, who also shared his loud delight “By the gods how can a mare outrun a stallion?”
The statement paused both, both reverting: Many Sun’s. Take No Enemy. A passing traveler on
the road would have come across two young men riding fine horses and appearing very very confused.
No traveler passed. Except for the moments. The last one returned them to Daneland. Tristan snapped
fourth first, “Yes, yes.” muttering.
“Uh, unh,” Thomas agreed.
Slowly now, drawing a picture of what lay immediately ahead replacing what lay far behind they
trotted Au revoir and Trouble...
...forward all the way to the wharf. The sun was bright, people milled about, some departing,
others arriving. Here they amongst the hustle and bustle, the old familiar, they both understood, now, in
the now and in the ahead, yet Red Hawk would always remain...if only for company. They found a ship
heading to Glasgow. The ships name on the escutcheon panel screwed on the stern was fitting
considering Tristan’s thoughts on what awaited him in Glasgow: The Bucket of Blood. Fixing on the
name, he had a Gyta moment before boarding: What was Red Hawk doing now? He shrugged and
preceded to stable Trouble next to Au revoir aboard the ship’s lower decks stalls.
The voyage to Scotland ate two days, stopping at London for a few hours to off load passengers.
They wanted to keep Red Hawk alive as long as possible and wore the Gyta clothing while boarding.
During this time they stayed below deck, keeping to themselves. They discussed what to expect and
still had no idea what awaited them. As the ship docked, they both were at the rail, both had changed
clothes, both were a bit pensive, both bore into the onrushing dock in the hopes of deciphering a hint or
two of what lay ahead, both saw nothing informing except for old familiar memories.

The ‘Bucket of Blood’ deposited them amongst the men working the dock at Glasgow who sang
while sweating labor under a noon spring sun. Happiness was everywhere. And why not? Tristan
wondered, leading Trouble off the ship. Indeed why not?
We looked ahead. From there only lay ahead. We never discussed. We just lay the road as we
went. Thomas’ diary.
They had changed clothes during the trip and were just strangers amongst many strangers
returning home, a little taller than most, but all in all nobody paid them undue attention. Adjusting the
bridle, Tristan turned as his name sounded. Atop a Thoroughbred sat Ian McLeod, his cousin five times
removed. Thor, he thought, then the fact that Ian rode a Thoroughbred told him one important thing: Ian
was part of his uncle’s plan. Well, he was a good man, quick, could handle a sword, and accepted orders
without question... although the last to Tristan’s thinking, a mixed quality. It also told him something
was amiss, otherwise McLean would be there to greet him. A pausing finger, a second working the
bridle, finished, mounted Trouble, and slowly moved through the dock, working Trouble around cargo,
and men. He continued on right through town to the country side, unconcerned, calm. At last he halted
under a large oak tree, glanced at Thomas, who offered an imperceptible nothing, in effect saying: Go
ahead you.
“Ian, how are you?”
“Fine, Sir.”
Sir? Yes, well. Tell me?”
“Your uncle moved on a few days past. Sorry. McLean gave me a letter and small chest for you.
He also said to tell you King Stewart is at the Castle not the Palace. Something about the heat.”
Thoughtfully, weighing his emotions, finding they were too heavy to weigh. “You have the
package? The chest?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Tristan or McLeod, Ian, never Sir. My uncle was Sir. Is Sir. Always Sir. Understand?”
“Aye, Tristan,” and handed over a letter, the wax seal intact, and a wood chest small enough to
easily fit in a man’s saddle bag.
Tristan finger-nailed the wax seal, slicing it apart. As expected the contents contained a letter
written in his uncle’s scrawl. The chest, he knew, contained the McLeod seal. He flicked the brass latch
up and opened the chest, heart pounding, fixed on the seal itself. Flat and no bigger than his palm, he
withdrew it and held it, thinking the authority it contained now his, the power over the lives of two
thousand people. No, more, far more, for his uncle as Chief over all the Highlands; well, such power at
his fingers, enough to mount an army of untold thousands, create chaos: by the gods even the thought of
power corrupted.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely,” he murmured, reminding himself to render the phrase in
his ‘book of quotes.’
Tristan stored the seal inside his shirt and the chest in his bag, and next read the letter twice
before storing it away next to the seal. Thoughtful, hand rubbing face for a few seconds. A decision
reached, he retrieved ink and paper and quill from his sack, and placing the parchment against the
saddle, wrote a note for McLean. He folded it and handed it to Ian. “For McLean. Do not stop for
anything or anyone. Anyone gets in your way, kill ’em and keep riding. Any questions?”
“No, Tristan. Except, ah, I am, ah, saddened by...”
“Sad owns years. Now is the time to ride. Go on now.”
Time, what is time. They had both learned patience, and patience was time. Time’s passage.
Time’s idleness. Time, they passed it sitting under a tree while the horse’s grazed. Passed about 3 hours
of it, all in silence, which for Tristan may have been a record. The day had receded into last light, the
sky taking it away, depositing darkness in its stead. At full dark Tristan stirred, stood, stretched,
everything popped and creaked, momentarily breaking the silence. “Well,” he breathed out, “Thomas,
whatever you promised my uncle is paid. You do not have to be part of this.”
The words rushed out fast like a whip, “Shut up! Your uncle training all those men. Gossip.
There are no secrets. Stewart knows you are coming. So we either hang together or hang separately.”
“I was thinking: for treason to prosper none dare call it treason. Funny.”
“Shut up. Just shut up. For once!”
“I have remained quiet for three hours.”
“Good. Time to go, quietly, at least until we reach the castle. Play it any way you want. But
remember this: it is only treason if you lose. You win, you name it anything you want.”
“And to touch the stars I need only to raise my hand...for I am Caesar,” Tristan whispered.
Slow, each hoof momentarily planting the earth, each hoof finishing sculpting us, we rode, each
hoof touching the earth, which in turn spun around stars; us: destiny’s ? mark. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter Two.

The King’s castle in Glasgow compared favorably to King Edwards’s castle in London; the
former castle the current adopted standard. Although large, over 30 rooms, and nobody really knew for
sure, the castle could be intimate, cozy, especially McBrage Hall, fondly known as: the Great Hall. The
‘Hall’ itself large enough to hold a small clan, had its own pub, exclusive, members only: which meant
no commoners and, God forbade, peasants; were the before-mentioned to suffer an insult or an injustice
real or imaginary and sought adjudicated recourse, well there were places for them too. The ‘Hall’
housed the Council, numerous numinous Lords, and their servants; in short everything holy and official
in Scotland began here and worked its way down to lesser environs and to the men who administered
the laws passed.
Into this largeness, both in size and self-reliance, they easily strolled. Counting the time spent in
England, and the day home, Tristan had been away almost five years, thus had forgotten the hall’s ever
pungent, yet sweet odor: perfume. The nobles loved perfume. A man Tristan recognized raced past
them bursting out the doors. Since it was late spring, all ten council members were there and two palace
guards. And a handful of nobles occupied tables. The ever present Bishop stood by the King’s side,
ever ready to administer last rights. Except for the guards, each noble drank wine, conversing…both
which now halted and waited. They strolled directly down the middle heading for Stewart, who had
lived the soft life since childhood; his features portrayed those years: a chin too many, face a ghostly
pallor from too much white perfumed powder. All in all soft in all the wrong places and softer in the
right places. He could not even use a sword. His father had hired men to do that for him.
A sorry spectacle, Tristan had to admit, for a king, or of.
At the last moment before reaching the Stewart, Thomas slid away, seemingly scurrying, making
himself of no importance.
“Tristan, you are back,” King Stewart greeted happily, happily wishing Tristan were dead.
”Great! The years, including our childhood, are ever fresh in my mind.”
“Stewart,” Tristan greeted, “My guess is you know why I am here. But I will say it. I am
challenging you under the ancient rule, Bge tu, which gives any Scot the right to challenge for the
Crown. Since I am challenging you, the weapons are your choice.”
The bishop laughed, a cruel tone, high-lighting a cruel soul.
“Priest, what is funny?” Tristan’s tone cold. Those long goodbye blue’s gaze dead man cold.
“I am a Bishop.” And laughed at Tristan, considering him an ignorant peasant.
Laughter. Mmm, uh. A slight smile, really more a cruelty of the lips, showing a good joke worth
a worthless smile…at the least. Suddenly the smile ran off, just OFF! Tristan, those hard blue eyes cut
like a razor right through the bishop and for the first time uttered the phrase that would resonate over the
decades and send chills down the spine of any man who he directed it at. “This is not a conversation
priest, and you do not have any options. Leave or die. You choose.”
Courage, some men fake and get away with it, others know they lack such, yet stand their
ground. The Bishop had faked it for so many years, so many, now needed just a drop, and for a second
it seemed to him it was there, but no, merely urine trickling down his legs. He did manage to hold his
head high as he walked the long aisle outside, where he immediately released a lung burning breath.
“You scared that poor man half to death, Tristan. Now how about a drink. Forget this
As a way to dampen his high pitched laugh, Tristan had practiced on a slightly above a whisper
gravely voice while in the New World and utilized it in public for the first time, “Stewart. Stewart.”
Along with his penetrating blue eyes, the voice had its desired effect. Stewart flinched, as if
startled by a stray black cat crossing his path. “Tristan, we have known each other since children. We
once even fucked the same girl just to see if a girl could take two cocks at once. You do not want to be
McGee, the noble who had rushed out the moment Tristan appeared, returned and loudly
announced, “He is all alone. Told you those men were just a rumor fostered by his mad uncle.”
The last sound McGee heard, which he thought strange in the hall, was a low whistle before
dripping down, one knee banging the floor first, the other followed. In the ensuing silence, the noise
thundered. For a few seconds McGee knelt there as in prayer, before collapsing face up. It appeared, so
it seemed, McGee prayed still.
Tristan faced the hall. “Any man moves, he dies. Even a finger.”
“Tristan,” Stewart whispered, in a failed attempt at imitating Tristan gravely voice. His whisper,
and gravely tone, and normal tone, all mixed together to form a clowns’ nasal noise. ‘Hi kids, my name
is booboos.’ Like that.
Close, real close, so close Stewart could smell Tristan’s breath, and Tristan almost choked on
Stewart’s perfume, so astringent it tickled his tongue. For some reason, he fleetingly thought of Red
Hawk. He again whispered, “Stewart. You are right. We have known each other since childhood. You
are the one who does not want this, this being to die. You enjoy life too much. Pussy. Wine. Food. Fine
clothes. Perfume. I doubt they have all that in Christian heaven. Just churches. Imagine, attending
church day in day out all day. On the other hand, nobody else has to die here tonight. Unless you are
foolish. I know all you have to do is raise your hand and those castle guards will cut me down. But hey,
I die, you die. Or you accept the challenge, which under Scottish law is legal and binding. Or...”
“Or what Tristan?” Hope, as often noted, springs eternal. Stewart did so. He lunged at hope.
Tristan handed him the parchment his uncle had drafted. “Read this. Sign it. It is done.”
A minute, no, it took 61 seconds for Stewart to read the document.
“You live in the Palace, entertain the perfume crowd. Whomever. But you will have no
authority, no power. I will rule from the castle. You sire an heir and I give you a blood oath, he will
carry on the Stewart Crown. I will, when he comes of age, step down.”
“Give me a night to think it over.”
“No. Here. Now. Sign it and go to the Palace. Take all these nobles along, convince them. I need
them, yes, but they need me. Take those two castle guards also.”
“A blood oath my heir inherits the throne?”
“Mmm, huh, Tristan McLeod, the Crown Prince of the proud Clan McLeod. King. Your uncle
destroyed your life. For what. I am not afraid of you. I also know you can kill me. I am not a warrior.
But are you a king? Huh? Tristan? I am.”
“Stewart sign it or not, your choice,”
“Oh I will sign it. But the nobles. They will assemble an army and come for you. Not this group,
but the others, and King Edwards, what about him?”
“Just sign it Stewart. What happens, happens.”
A cruel little vicious gleeful smile. “Gladly, if only to laugh while you hang.”
Stewart started to summon an aide by raising an arm to fetch a quill. Tristan reminded, “Do not
do that.” And fished within his shirt and handed Stewart the Clan McLeod seal.
Eyes beads, he scrawled his name, followed by a thud as the seal stamped the document hard.
The deal was done and sealed. Accepting the paper from Stewart, Tristan uttered his first official words,
“In three days time there will be a meeting of all the highland clans and their leaders, here. First to elect
a Highland Chief, since my uncle is gone, and second, well, just instruct the nobles to attend. Any
noble who fails to show forfeits his title and lands. Sleep well Stewart.”
Well so much for the easy part, Tristan inwardly joked.
It was a reasonable act for each person accompanying Stewart out, to search for the archer, that
unseen foe who frightened them so very much because he killed not only from afar, but unseen, as if a
ghost. But it was a testament to Thomas’s stealth, not only blending in the shadows, but actually
becoming invisible in a room with no shadows to speak of. Not a single man could find him. And this
troubled each. Such a foe, why, invincible, to kill from a distance, yet remain unseen, sorcery, each
thought, Druid magic.
It was only after the Great Hall contained only Tristan, that Thomas appeared. He slowly, each
step deliberate, went to the hall’s center and posed: arms held up and out, legs spread apart, head tilted
off to one side, a Jesus on the cross, and murmured, “Dom in nos soi e. King Tristan. What a rush. How
about invading Russia. We will show those dirty rotten Ruskies.”
“You are in good spirits.”
“I figured we be dead right about now. So why not.”
At that bemusing moment the precise past entered to hunt them. The hinges on the door to the
great hall squeaked and two men dressed in black robes swept in. One was about 40, face heavily pock
marked, showing the ravages of small pox, the other around seventeen, eighteen, head low in obedience.
The older man’s voice boomed, “You Tristan McLeod?” Directed at Thomas.
Face all bafflement, wide eyes, a bitten down smile crushing his features all together, Thomas,
arms still outstretched, whispered lower than a whisper, “no.” Lips a perfect 0.
“I am,” Tristan declared.
The pair’s robes dusted past Thomas as if he did not exist, and he did not...he was now a
“We are from the Dominicans,” the older man stated, the younger silent, meek. Tristan a bit-
unsteady, wondering, waiting for more. “You have heard of us?”
“Yes. Sure. The Dominicans? The Vatican’s enforcement arm. Am a Druid not Christian.
Whatever it is you want, you made a mistake. I have no problem with the Vatican. Christians. So. Fine.
“We were sent to bring you to the Vatican. To trial. I have waited in this barbarian country two
years for you. The Bishop informed me.”
A moment, readjusting his mind, shifting from earlier events, now in control. So Stewart knew.
Did know. Also the Bishop! “You made a mistake. Do not compound it Priest.”
The older man’s hand started to rise, the whistling arrow caught the act as the hand touched the
robe, and he fell forward right into Tristan’s arms. The man minutes from death appeared stunned, this
was not happening. He was God’s sword. Surely God would not forsake him. He died forsaken.
Tristan laid him down gently, all the while maintaining eye contact on the boy. “Explain?”
Unintelligible stammering emitted from the boy’s lips.
Tristan, “Slow down. Easy. Explain.” In control.
A forced whisper, as if talking hurt. “We were sent because you killed Pope Innocent’s brother.”
“You are minutes from death is what you are. I do not know Pope Innocent, nor his brother.
Never met them.”
“About two years ago. At an inn on the Scottish border. All I know.” Same frightened whisper.
“Hmm, huh, so that is who the man was. Undress.”
No ands, ifs, or buts of protest of any kind, the boy rapidly shed the black robe in a second flat,
letting it cascade to the floor. He was rather malnourished, normal for a servant. The cock, or lack of,
was not. Still, lice feasted in/on the pubic hair.
“What happened to your cock?”
“I took a vow of celibacy. To starve temptation, we are castrated.”
As Tristan digested this. Thomas by his side viciously stated, “I should kill you right here!”
From Thomas such a rare burst, anger, yes, but...a thing deep inside him. Tristan waited a second on
Thomas. “Go on, Tristan,” he motioned by backing away from the sight.
“But you are fucked by him, right,” Tristan, pointing at the dead man.
“Yes I am his boy.”
“Well you gave up a great deal for your god. I hope your god is generous. Dress.
As the boy dressed, he listened to Tristan. “Getting fucked saved your life, not your god. Were
you carrying a dagger, you be dead. Lucky for you, you are more use to me alive. Go back to the
Vatican and tell Pope Innocent he is a walking dead man. It is not a matter of if, but when. You will
spend the night and be escorted to the border in the morning. I see you in Scotland again and you are all
gone. Go back out the door and to your left will be a room. Sleep there.”
A few minutes later, the boy gone, Thomas declared, “We be sleeping outside tonight. I have
had enough surprises.”
Evening now past, now memories, now so very late, late, late, but not so late as dawn, dawn yet
awaited night’s departure. As did Thomas. They were camped a bit over 50 yards from the castle, a mini
forest of trees hiding them. Laying on the earth, Tristan slept, hand on sword. Thomas hunched, eyes
half closed, still, so very still even mice and other animals idly walked past him. He tasted, and had
been for hours, the now familiar shadows, and as always found friendliness, safety, and himself. A far
off sound. His eyelids flinging open and sight racing through the trees onto the castle’s door. The
silvery moonlight highlighted two men in the clearing, swords at the ready, furtive, slow, cautious,
searching over shoulders, inching through the castle doors. He nudged Tristan, who sprang on hunches,
sword at ready.
Thomas whispered, “Assassins.” Faint, so faint, the leaves on the trees suspected a man had
spoken, but unsure.
“How many?”
“Two. Now in the castle.”
The now familiar waiting time began, time for Tristan to think. His uncle’s words first. Kill ‘em
all. But who were ‘them’? Who had sent them? Which noble? Kill ‘em all. The statement overrode all.
The men were now in the clearing.
Tristan whispering, “Gerry McMuth and Ria McMore. Lord McMasters men.”
The moonlight framed them picture perfect…all they needed was hanging. As talking pictures
they appeared confused, McMuth’s hands gesturing angrily.
“Assassins,” Thomas repeated, as if the word erased their names.
‘Yes.” Tristan, to himself.
Yet unsure. So much so he strode out to the clearing. Thomas shrugged to himself. Tristan was
not there yet. There lived still in him a voice seeking reason. They were not a direct threat, but two men
in a clearing, perhaps visitors. Or assassins. Whatever, Tristan needed to be sure.
“Lads you out late?” Tristan. Friendly.
Startled, McMore went for his sword. A mistake. Thomas cut him down. A piece of the picture
now cut out.
“E tu, McMuth,” Tristan, lips curled inward, “Hmm? Are we Scots killing each other now? For
what? A noble? Gold? Mmm? What? We are Scots. We stand together and die together, but we do not
kill each other. So draw your sword, then you are no longer a Scot, but merely a man to kill. Or go back
and tell McMasters to do his own dirty work, assassin’s work! After, go home to your woman and
If McMuth had, or said, a word it was lost in a tune the wind carried, a whistling tune singing
death. For the arrow to hit its target it had to sail within an inch, perhaps less, of Tristan. The arrow
whistled past his right ear. Tristan did not even flinch. Simply listened to the words behind him.
“No Tristan. Remember Red Hawk’s words. Your uncle’s. When a man intends to kill you, you
never ever allow him to walk away affording him a chance to choose yet another day for the deed.”
For minutes they stood like that, apart for the first time since meeting. Miles apart. Tristan
turned miles and faced Thomas. “I shall not forget again.”
They were now truly one. More so than they could possibly imagine.

Chapter Three.

The dawn brought forth light, yes, it always does, has so for forever. But dawn also presented a
hand painted beautiful sky, an original, never to be duplicated painting. An orchestra of the pounding
of a 100 horses, onrushing horses, beat the very earth itself in applauses at such beauty. Such pounding,
the ground trembled. McLean and the warriors had arrived, riding all night, stopping for nothing, not
even to piss or shit, each warrior doing so from the saddle. They ringed the castle and Tristan and
Thomas immerged in/emerged from the mini-forest.
McLean greeted them both. But unlike when Tristan had returned from London a few years ago,
their greeting subdued, no shouting or hugging, only serious business. “Tristan, Thomas, glad to see
you both.”
All the men were young, about Tristan’s age. They all wore some form of Druid charm around
their necks. They had their long hair tied back. They all now waited on Tristan’s command. Again
Tristan felt the thrill of power. With such men he could conquer Europe. Alexander never had such a
force at his command. Alexander had himself…a force all its own. Next he had an army.
Tristan, “McLean. Good to see you. Been far too long.” Meaning all our lives.
Tristan half stepped stick-figure like to each mounted man and honored each, greeting each by
name. When finished, he gestured to McLean. “Have the men camp, meet me in the McBrage Hall. I
will send out food and drink.”
Said, finished, he entered the castle followed by Thomas. The chill in the castle hit him. He
visibly shook, cold to the bone. McBrage hall colder yet. He never felt so cold. The hearth had gone
out. He rang for a servant who appeared immediately.
“Build a fire, and do not stop adding wood until I say. Also have the staff, all, prepare food,
there are men outside, over a hundred. Drink also. Now. Go!”
The servant had witnessed the previous night’s events, and had no idea what was going on, but
men had died last night, one of them still lay where he had been felled, and the dead man alone reason
enough to obey Tristan. The servant set about doing as instructed, attending to the hearth first. When a
fire raged, licking outward, when it raged more so, and when Tristan said enough, the servant set about
attending to the food and drink. Tristan stood by the fire, soaking in its warmth. Despite the fire, the
inner chill persisted. Would he ever be warm?
McLean entered. “Tristan?”
“Tell me.”
“Your uncle died in his sleep. The entire island celebrated him and the funeral pyre carried him
to warrior paradise. Where he now lives.”
“Good. And McGregor?”
“They will all be here in three days. All the Highland Chiefs.”
“The warriors’ orders?”
“To a man. As instructed by your uncle.”
A touchable sadness in Tristan. And so it begins. If this action were to bring civil war, then let it
be the final civil war between Scots.
“Who is he?” McLean gesticulated at the dead Dominican priest.
“A fool. A Christian. Have somebody take him off the ground and into it. Christians so desire
darkness, in their churches, their fucking, their bodies, they wish to spend entirety in it. Also, in the
clearing are McMuth and McMore. Find out if they are Christian or what. Belay that. Just have a
peasant cart them to the palace. Instruct him to inform McMasters they are dead.”
But instructions were voided by Brian McLeod, a warrior, who entered, “The nobles are
gathered outside. Just a guess, but about a hundred or so. Sir. They demand to see you, sir.”
“Tristan or McLeod, Brian, never Sir.”
“Tristan it is. What should I tell them?”
“Tell them I will be out in a minute.”
“So Thomas,“ McLean, friendly. “You are still around. Thought you would move on by now.”
“Well, few more days. Things are interesting here.”
“Heard rumors you went away sailing with Vikings?” A ‘Vikings, really now,’ tone.
“Rumors,” Thomas grinning, “are unreliable.”
“So I have learned. Also heard rumors of yours and Tristan’s deaths. Yet, here you are.”
“The rumors of our death are greatly exuviated,” Tristan. Joking, feeling warm now, so much so,
reluctant to move from the fire’s warmth. But, he thought, it was time for all good and true men to live
out their fate. Even bad ones. “Time to see what the nobles want.”
As if they each knew anything else.
They entered the clearing, the sight of a hundred Thoroughbreds and hardened men a sight to
behold. The servants from the castle held trays of food, drink, but the warriors sat atop their mounts, the
food and drink not even a consideration, not now: to a man their attention fixed on their designated
noble. Across from the warriors were about a hundred nobles, each sat upon a mount, pretty horses,
made more so by yards of colored cloth adorning each horse, blues, reds, yellows. Each Noble had a
man at arms by his side bearing a staff which in turn held a flag displaying the Noble’s crest and colors.
Yet oddly, even when faced by the warriors, not a single noble really believed they were real. They
were just rumors, a myth spread by Tristan’s uncle. These Highlanders were farmers or fishermen.
Easily beatable
Into this belief Tristan seemingly at once swept a gaze across the nobles there. Almost all had
known him as a lad, playful, carefree. They saw the lad. “I suppose," he, loudly, “one of you speaks for
all of you. Which one?”
McMasters. Of course, Tristan thought, As McMasters urged his mount forward. The one who
dispatched the assassin would be the one who convinced the others, the one who desired power, saw an
opportunity, seized upon it.
“McLean, have the lad fetch Trouble and Thomas’s steed, Au revoir. Afterwards, mount up.
“Instructions given, he strolled, as if taking in some fresh air, toward his men, refusing to raise his head
to McMaster, as if already mentally dismissing him.
The tension was almost visible as McMasters loudly snorted at Tristan walking away, believing
it was a coward’s act. He now firmly held the high ground. Tristan ignored him completely while
tightening Trouble’s halter. As the seconds transpired, McMasters body grew rigid. The seconds swept
into minutes, sweeping away McMasters’ earlier belief, replacing it with the thought: I am a nobleman,
not a peasant to be ignored and treated like a plow horse. He fumed openly now, fidgeting in the saddle,
restless, swallowing back the urge to shout out Tristan’s name. Once Tristan and Thomas were
mounted, Tristan waited for McLean to do likewise, before raising a single finger high in the air. The
warriors rustled, their movement like a strong wind bending branches on trees. They formed a single
width line, each facing a Noble, each withdrawing his sword. Tristan beckoned to Urea McLeod. “I
believe your noble is McMasters?”
“Yes Sir.”
Later, Tristan thought, suppressing the: Tristan or McLeod, not sir. “I will handle him. Stay in
Although back in formation, Urea McLeod focused his entire attention on McMasters, the un-
spoken urge unmistakable.
“McMasters,” Tristan began, riding close to him, “You are a dead man. In fact you move so
much as muscle, and you die here and now.”
”This is not a conversation and you do not have any options. Sit and listen, or die.”
To highlight his point, Tristan raised a clenched fist high, the unmistakable middle finger
straight; the parade began. The first warrior on the far left in the formation urged his mount forward
until face to face with Lord McMillan. In a deadly monotone, sword at arms length, tip inches from
McMillan’s chest, he stated, “I am for you Lord McMillan. Only you. Whatever happens, you and your
family die and die hard, and land burned.”
He calmly returned to his place in formation.
A good hour, a baker’s hour, and the procession at last ended. The Lords almost to a man were
literally stunned……until now, they were untouchable, ransom yes, but out-right killed? Never in
known history. That was what peasants were for. They each required time to think. But about what?
Those men? Those warriors. Not peasants at all. They had to think. Time. So desperately needed. They
had none, each knew.
Tristan patted McLean on the shoulder in approval. The gesture, understood, returned. He strode
past each Noble, halting in a spot where they all could hear him. “So it is said. So it will be. The choice
is given each of you. Decide your own fate. Or you can act like men for once and decide along with the
Highland clans Scotland’s fate. Go wherever you go for such matters, and think long and hard. And
allow no man to influence what may be your very name and life. Return in three days time to attend the
Highland feast at which time a new Highland chief will be elected. There we will decide, together, as
Time. Yes. Time. Tristan gave way. Time. A collective sigh. To think.
He rode to the one Lord who had not received the statement from a warrior. Lord McCone.
“Lord McCone, sir,” he honored, “A word later in the great hall, respectfully.”
Every man witnessed the action. McCone. He would be their spokesman. All but one noble
thought this.
Fifty-five, McCone was dignity personified. Medium in build, a quiet nature, always willing to
listen; reason, as he often stated, should lead, not follow. He sat atop his mount, arms at his side and
nodded slightly, knowing exactly what Tristan wanted, knowing they were Tristan’s uncle’s words,
already deciding.
Tristan shifted Trouble, facing McMasters, “You sent assassins to kill me last night. They are
dead. You owe a life. I will accept yours as payment. None other. You have a week to arrange whatever
affairs require attention. If you bring your miserable peasants against me, your sons loose their title and
lands. Your choice.”
“I could kill you now, McLeod. These men follow me.”
“Look around you McMasters. Examine their faces. They will not follow you. You attempted to
assassinate a Highland Prince and failed. That is correct McMasters. Whatever you believe I am, king or
no, I am a Highland Prince. In fact, a whole lot more. You are merely a Lord. But because you are a
Lord, I allow, allow the week.” This last, voice high, said also for the benefit of the other Lords. Letting
them know the Crown, whomever held it, respected their rights and titles.
Yes, of course McMasters searched the faces, it was his only hope, but he saw Tristan’s truth in
each face. They were not about to lay down their lives and titles and gold for him. He desperately
wanted to shout: I completely forgot Tristan was a Prince. He lowered his head instead, knowing: he
had committed a fatal error. Truth was, in his lust for power, he had forgotten Tristan was a Prince...all
he saw was opportunity, a chance for more power, just a little more. Every man wanted as much.
But now he saw, yes he saw the perfect beauty in Farleigh McLeod’s, Chief over all the
Highlands, plan.
Tristan was not just any Highland Prince, he was, until a new Highland chief was elected, Prince
over the entire Highland clans...untold thousands of men at his command.
Saw all this too late.
The other nobles had seen also, saw that they had been outmaneuvered by an old man who lived
on an island. A Druid.
Tristan expected McMasters to flee for his life. McMasters did not disappoint. Gone within a
week, destination unknown. Fate: Also unknown; which for McMasters and his ilk, the unkindest cut of
all: a lifetime nobody. Thomas’ diary
Chapter four.

Every single highland chief arrived at the castle, so many in fact, that over the centuries it
became known as The Gathering. And tales were told about it for untold decades. There were even
books written about it. There had never been so many highland chiefs in one spot in memory. Even the
small clans, who generally kept to themselves, numbering as little as 30 members, sent their chief.
There was not a doubt in anybody’s mind who would be elected ‘Chief over the vast Highlands,’
McGregor. He was of an age, and age counted, Tristan, although respected and now head of the largest
Highland clan, well, far too young to lead the Highlands. As for Tristan’s claim to the throne, as they
saw it to a chief, the challenge stood. The deal sealed. The only question in their minds: as new chief
over the Highlands, where would McGregor stand? Many clans, believed as McGregor: the land should
be split between the Lowlands and the Highlands...the nobles were not to be trusted. Whether Tristan
could hold the Crown without McGregor, unlikely, they knew. Fortunately for Tristan, although the
clans mostly embraced Christianity, they distrusted strangers and refused to allow priests to live
amongst them. This negated a powerful lobbying power: the Vatican. As the Vatican’s representative,
the Bishop had lobbied the nobles, promising much, much more than could actually be delivered. The
only problem there was the Bishop lay rotting away in his room dead…the rats feasting on a piece here,
there, and most returning for seconds; very tasty, after all.
But in the end, everybody, nobles and clan chiefs alike, knew it came down to McGregor.
Would he honor the blood oath given Tristan’s uncle, or go his own way. Of course, Tristan could
challenge him and kill him. That would change everything. Or be killed. In which case there would be
two Scotlands: Lowlands, Highlands. At some point, civil war.
To say Tristan was unaware, blind, would be a mistake. He had quizzed McLean, seeking a
number on the clans supporting him. McLean guessed about 45-45 split, the rest undecided, but they
had old man McDonald’s support, the third largest clan; his age carried weight, and would turn the
undecided their way.
Thus, armed with said knowledge, Tristan, Mclean by his side, moved easily amongst those
gathered in the Great Hall, greeting men, patting them on the back, smiling that easy-going Tristan
smile, as if he knew something they did not. And he did. He knew if it came down to it, he was willing
to kill McGregor, and any other who challenged him, and not only claim the Crown, but Chief over all
the Highlands also.
Stewart waited out his fate in the palace, while also awaiting word from King Edwards, whose
assistance now sought; at a promised very high price.
At the present time, Tristan sat at the table, across from Lord McCone. In leaving, McLean
brushed his shoulder, letting him know he would not be far. Thomas, eyes closed, sat next to him, legs
lazily stretched out and crossed. A problem perplexed him. Why did old men’s hair turn gray? He
pondered it.
McCone had also thought on a problem. “I have given a great deal of thought to what you said a
few days ago. I will back you, and about half the nobles will follow my lead. Despite what you may
think, they do not want war, not if you can promise them prosperity. But if war rears itself, I stand
alongside the nobles.”
“McCone. If it comes to war, all is lost and it will not matter, respectfully.”
“That stunt you pulled the other day, the warriors, was brilliant, only problem...your uncle
planned it, not you. You will have to prove yourself rather quickly. The nobles will only remain
frightened for so long. And do not forget King Edwards. He will see an opportunity here and attempt to
seize upon it.”
“Carpe Diem.”
“Yes. But you are not Caesar, not yet.”
Tristan’s face lit up like a sly sky, as if relishing the thought.
“Tristan, Tristan, Tristan, you are either very arrogantly sure, or very lucky. Only problem, luck
always runs out. And arrogance? Arrogance, well, it always fades, exposing the man for what he is.
The man behind that arrogance better be real.”
“Carpe Diem,” Thomas muttered after McCone had departed to join the party.
“First thing that sprang to mind.”
“Yes, but they assassinated Jules Caesar.”
“Jules’s problem. He did not have you, Thomas.” Easy tone, carefree, unworried, “Shall we find
McGregor? See what he has to add.”
Maneuvering through the great hall, slow going, impediments almost every inch, smiles offered,
returned, words exchanged, hands shook for the tenth time. At last, Tristan found McGregor. His eldest
son, Duncan, stood by his side. Moss McDonald, chief of said clan, was saying something to McGregor.
Moss McDonald was soft spoken except when riled, well enough said on that. Ian McDonald, Moss
McDonald’s eldest son, commiserated with Duncan. Into this Tristan interrupted. Tristan and Duncan
and Ian had grown up together, had run wild together, and considered each other brothers and were as
close as could be without being blood. Both Ian McDonald and Duncan hugged Tristan.
“Tristan stepped back, and addressed Moss McDonald, “Sir.”
“A King and the lad says Sir to me,” Moss McDonald boasted, “Now that is a King.” And
pumped Tristan’s hand fiercely, grip iron strong, unconsciously testing, always testing a man, heartily
nodding approval.
If Tristan killed Duncan’s father, he would have to also kill Duncan...a thing he did not relish.
Duncan favored his father, 5’7, about 170. Unlike his father, Duncan was easy going. The elder
McGregor was a burly man, and carried a booming authoritative voice and a nasty habit of slapping
people jovially on the back which was a form of greeting and intimidation at the same time. When
Tristan introduced Thomas, McGregor slapped Thomas hard on the back, sending him rocking back on
his boot heals. “Sir,” Thomas managed, “I have heard a great deal about you.”
Right then I thought: killing this asshole a good idea. Thomas’ diary.
While this took place, a silent conversation also played out, Duncan’s eyes pleaded at Tristan:
Do not kill him. For me.
Tristan rested gentle blue eyes on him, the gist: no promises.
McGregor, “And I you lad.” To Thomas.
The ‘Sir’ had served its intended purpose.
“Shall we go outside, talk, see where we are at here?” Tristan offered.
“Where we are at here, is slang invented by young men so old men like me do not understand.”
Teasing. Playfully. Maybe?
“Outside, respectfully,” Tristan just about ordered, “Away from all this noise.”
“Tristan the King, already. Fine. Just fine.” McGregor, tossing his head back, bellowing to show
the ridiculousness of it.
Excluding McDonald and his son, they worked through the crowd, the drunks slapping them on
the back and breathing 10000 proof at them, the young girls dreaming themselves a Clan Chief’s wife,
cooing at Duncan. Tristan, well, the girls knew Tristan. He was ‘a great time’ guy. But not marriage
material. Although now that he was King. Hmm, a few thought.
Outside in the clearing. Midday, the sun bright, sky clear blue, slight breeze. A good day all in
all. Off in the distance the warriors lingered, lounged, played, but all, to a man, monitored events.
McLean stood at the castle door. He raised and let fall a single finger. Absolutely everybody saw it and
knew what it meant.
“Duncan,” McGregor, convincingly harsh, “You and oh, ah, Sir Thomas, wander over to the
stables, check on our horses.”
Thomas like a boulder, unmovable.
McGregor sweeping a gaze around past Mclean, the warriors, Thomas, nodded conformation to
himself , “So that is how it is huh? Fine. You stay Duncan.” Brinkmanship at play.
Tristan, “So? You tell me?”
“Tell you what lad? I gave your uncle a blood oath. You are not your uncle.”
Riding back on his heels for a second, Tristan thinking. “Still?” He did not say: You gave that
oath to the McLeod clan.
“Mmm huh. Well Tristan lad, why should I back you? I could as soon back Duncan.”
“Da,” Duncan almost pleaded.
“Hush. Just listen.”
“You have not been elected yet, McGregor. So at present I rule over the Highlands. You want
that.” He did not say: ‘I do not need any of this, you and my uncle hatched the entire plan.’
“Just a matter of a few hours.”
“And I will support you.” He did not say: ‘I have fifty-five percent behind me. Enough to retain
“For my support.”
“My uncle always said support is a two way road.”
“I will give you eight years, lad. My lucky number. See if this united Scotland thing really
works. I rather doubt it. Edwards wants Scotland. He can easily take the Lowlands, the Highlands are a
different story. So I disagreed with your uncle on principle, but went along. Now? Now I want to invade
England before the nobles sell us out.”
Three hours earlier on the Scottish border the past slaughtered thirty-four men, women, and
children, almost the whole of a small Scottish hamlet. As they spoke, a rider raced for the castle to
spread the news.
“Eight years it is. Your word on it.” Now that was dangerous, asking for McGregor’s word, as if
his words were not his bond.
“You got balls on you lad.”
Said un-nicely, Tristan thought. “Respectfully, McGregor, you gave a blood oath to my uncle
not me. So I want assurance.”
“You still got balls, but also respect. I honor that. You have my word. Eight years. Provided I
serve it out on the council.”
The council was comprised of ten men and all were Nobles. In fact not a single Highlander had
ever served on the council. Tristan had already decided to split the council fifty-fifty, half nobles, half
Highlands. So he readily conceded the point.
The rider, mount exhausted, leaped from the saddle, stumbling, almost breathless, “Lord Bath
slaughtered an entire hamlet,” now breathless.
“Eight years McLeod, but I doubt you will last one.”

Chapter five
Writer’s note: the Vatican.

Two vomit-ridden days later the Highlanders awoke for their departure back to their clans. The
nobles had long since departed having found these uncouth Highlanders, well, uncouth. So they went
home to fuck the maid, or barring that a sheep. A slight drizzle fell as the sober but still half drunk
Highlanders dragged sorry asses home. The few stray Lords paused at the Palace in respect. The no
longer King Stewart, hope fading, still awaited word from King Edwards. Dressed in yesterday’s
evening gown and smelling poorly, he greeted the Lords, his smile morose and ghostly. He was
informed that the council would gather in two weeks’ time for the summer session. Tristan would
preside over it, his first official act as King. Upon hearing of this news, Stewart emitted a tearful wail!
His heart wrenching wail hurried home those who stopped…regretting pausing all the way, sheep
dreams for company.
The moment the castle emptied out, Tristan, Thomas and Mclean toured the castle, clocking
their footsteps to every nook and cranny, and ferreting out cubbyholes, instructing the servants, letting
them know that he who protest: But I did nothing, Sir... has committed the gravest crime of all…doing
something is at least trying. Tristan instructed the groundskeeper, who had been the groundskeeper
when he, Tristan, was a mere boy, to refurbish the old gardener cottage. New bed, chair, so on. He let it
known Thomas would be living there, and he would sleep in the castle’s main bed chamber, the one
overlooking the front visage. He stressed in no uncertain terms that his bed chambers were not to be
entered until well after ten A.M. No maid, servant, breakfast, no one, no nothing. Truth: Tristan
intended sleeping at the old gardener’s cottage. Mostly because of his dislike of castles but also because
the cottage was nestled in a clearing and surrounded by woods and afforded a more defensible position
against assassins.
As the Highlanders and nobles were heading home, he and Thomas pushed their mounts hard,
kicking up dirt, moving fast for England, France, Italy. McLean and the warriors remained camped
outside the Castle. They stopped thrice in England. The first was at the English/Scottish border where
Tristan, in amusement, studied the mist swirling around Trouble’s hooves. The mist, denser, thicker. He
glanced a question at Thomas, who opined, “You are the Druid, not I.”
“Yes,” Tristan enjoined, “But I do not believe in sorcery. Magic, as in a slight of the hand, yes.
Saw much as a child. Magic. Sorcery? The old one’s whispered on it. But they whispered of much lost.”
A slight drizzle and little conversation followed them to Lord Bath’s castle. They waited while a
boy summoned Lord Bath. He sloshed through soggy grass, saw they rode fine horses and summarized:
Noblemen. “What can I do for you?”
Tristan. “I stopped to inquire about the hamlet along the Scottish border. The one your men
“A bunch of peasants. Nothing of any value. Just a good time.”
“Yes but why?”
“Avenging a long ago insult. Some Scottish scum, a Tristan McLeod.”
“Mmmm mmm mmm.” Tristan hummed as if thinking. “Mmm mmm mmm.”
“Edwards gave permission.”
“Well, yes. I still fail to understand why?”
“You are English. Speech shows breeding. Scottish barbarians.”
Enough playing, dallying, he decided. “No. I am Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.”
And no more need be said. Both Tristan and Thomas rode away, Lord Bath dead on the wet
earth. From there they stopped at the inn. The woman, older now, failed to recognize them. Tristan
wordlessly killed her, while her husband silently stood by. They rode away, heading for Dover, the
drizzle a constant companion. The drizzle lulled them into a night’s sleep at the same inn they had
stayed at years earlier. The same drizzle followed them across the channel. Retrieving their mounts
from the ship, they ignored the goings on around them and rode directly to King Edwards’s compound,
where a guard, upon hearing Tristan’s name, immediately escorted him to Edwards who wore a thick
coat of mail sleeved on his right forearm, a Falcon perched there, standing proud, that look, yes that
look…I am the best, I am a Falcon Hawk.
The rain? Gone. King Edwards did not stand for rain so the sun shone.
“Tristan McLeod, of the Clan McLeod, or is it King McLeod, or is Stewart King? So difficult to
keep up with affairs in Scotland these days. By the way, where is your archer?”
Tristan answered the last first “Off in the woods resting, I imagine. But who knows, really.”
They both did.
“Ah yes, such a tiring journey. Information is currency. But I share this freely. I have a letter
from Stewart seeking assistance. He assures me that, ah, the Lowlands are mine if I assist. What do you
“Edwards, with respect, I am here as Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod. Not King. As for
what I offer. Your life.”
A rare smile, a fun smile, “Yes indeed, and in exchange for what?”
“Peace between Scotland, England. No more border raids. Just cooperation. And to show mine, I
offer this information. Lord Bath is dead.”
A bored throwaway hand, tired of it all, ALL! Stroking the falcon’s feathers. “A stupid man
anyway. So what can Scotland possibly offer England. Please!”
“Existence Edwards. I will burn England to the ground, kill every noble..”
“Um hmm, I so love France,” he hummed, again stroking the falcon, “England, I only own. I do
so someday hope to love Scotland also.”
“Perhaps. Edwards.”
“I may assume the archer has me lined up in his sights otherwise you would not be so bold?”
“Edwards, respectfully, you may assume whatever you wish. But know this. You invade
Scotland and you will not live to love her. I will steal life from your grasp. Your heirs, they may enjoy
her, but not you. Or your nobles.”
“Ah, again the ‘heart of the matter.’ But you break a rule. Kings never kill Kings. Ransom yes.
That is why there are peasants. I am sure your nobles explained the same, the courageous brave men
they are.”
“Well, I am rewriting the rules of the game. I do not fight for money or land. I fight for the joy
of it only. And Scotland.”
“For one so young, you are rather old, McLeod. And those warriors, they really do exist. But
really, one hundred men? Please, against thousands.”
“No, against no one because those thousands will be amassed along the Scottish border, leaving
England undefended. Those warriors will ride like the wind, evading danger, creating havoc. They will
cry havoc and unleash the dogs of war in such a manner as never seen for a thousand years. They will
burn everything in their path to the sea, then turn and burn again, leaving a charred land for whomever
to rule over. Cavalry, Edwards, well trained, is unstoppable. They do not need to stop at fortified
villages, just ride around them, they do not need to siege castles, just ride around them, they do not need
to dismount at all...just leave destruction in their path.”
Edwards unleashed the falcon, tracing her flight, majestic in its assent. “So beautiful. So!
deadly.” He raised a curious eye at Tristan, “Do you in your mind, Alexander, imagine I fear you?”
Tristan bowed for a second in respect, “No, Edwards. Not you. You are, ah...a warrior. Fear
nothing. But unlike many around you, you are not a stupid man. Nor vain.”
“So then we will see Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod what I decide. Now go ‘fore my anger
kills us both.”
Tristan, “With respect Edwards,” and turned and rode Trouble away.
An aide to Edwards, merely desiring to please, said, “Shall I go after him and kill him, Sire?”
McLeod was correct about one thing, Edwards thought, he was surrounded by halfwits. And
briefly considered allowing the man to fulfill the request, if only to see the archer cut him down. But
rejected the thought because he needed this halfwit, for at least a while longer.
Now they rode easy, thoughtful, and reached Paris by nightfall. The people seemed gay, happy.
All in all a glorious city, they both agreed. At the palace Tristan dismounted and handed the castle
guard, who eyed them suspiciously, a note for King Philip. The guard informed them the note would be
passed through proper channels, after all the King was a busy man. Apparently the Guard was mistaken,
because he returned, red faced, “Sire, please follow me.”
“News doth travel fast,” Thomas observed.
“Indeedy,” Tristan sang, “do.”
Splendid could never describe the French palace. The French loved opulence and elegance in the
form of pottery, paintings, art; and that love filled every nook and cranny. They were still young enough
to be impressed yet old enough to leave impressions on the floor. They were handed off to a parlor maid
who ushered them into a sitting room where King Philip awaited. Philip, effeminate, gaiety in motion,
sitting still not a strong suit, leapt up and sing-songed to them, his perfume a choking cloud. “Tristan
McLeod. Ah at last. And you bring company. No?”
“Sir Thomas, Philip.”
“Ah indeed, the infamous archer whom Edwards found to bestow Sir upon. Hmm. But such is
Edwards, impetuous.”
“Philip,” Thomas greeted.
“Quite the handsome pair you two are,” Philip, almost dancing in still life motion. “So so so
many rumors about you two. One wonders what to believe.”
Gaiety, gay as a blade, behind the white powder, face soft, almost feminine, eyes very
dangerous. Thomas’ diary.
“None, all,” Tristan encouraged.
“Indeed. So sorry to hear about your uncle. We were very close. I respected him. A dear man. So
tell me, the pact between France and Scotland, it shall continue to annoy Edwards?”
“Very much so, Philip.”
“O’goody. Edwards will be so displeased. I live to displease that uncivilized beast. Though I
confess, I would love to be fucked by him, sexually of course, not militarily.”
“Of course,” Tristan acknowledged. “So Phillip?’”
“Yes dear boy.”
From a pouch Tristan carried, he withdrew drawings for a vessel that Thor had given him. He
spread the drawings open. “Here I have a new type of vessel. Given to me by a...well, a seafaring man.
It is called a Corvette. Can slice through the water like a knife through butter. Carries only a few
cannons. But its speed, maneuverability, your tall ships cannot touch it. By itself, well, in a sea battle
eventually it would be sunk. But as a hunter, serving in conjunction with, say, a flagship carrying 20-60
cannons, well, the Corvette could harass the enemy, and make all the difference.”
A cooing Philip, “Ah Tristan, I never concern myself, such things, why that is why I have a
navy, admirals.”
“I am aware Philip, but it is either France or England.”
“Ah, the other boot. And how many would I be required to ah, say, accept.”
“Three. Just three. Your navy can evaluate them. They like what they see. Scotland can build
“Just three, dear boy, I can approve just three. What about Edwards?”
“France has first rights. In two years I will approach Edwards. Gives France the advantage.”
“Be on guard Tristan. You could become a merchant, such a dishonorable profession.”
“Bear it in mind. So do we have a deal?”
Philip could be such a sweet man. He danced gaily around both of them, singing, “Do we have
deal.” At last he paused, “Tristan can we fuck?”
“Sorry Philip, but I, ah, well, no disrespect.”
“None taken Tristan, it is just you are so gorgeous. How about you Thomas?”
“I am with Tristan.”
“Ah, yes indeed. Yes, we have deal. Tristan. Beware. Forces are building as we speak. A Druid
king in this day and age. Not ‘le bon Chrétien.’ I would dislike for such a beautiful boy to périssez. Et
vous monsieur Thomas. Vous êtes français, non? I know your family. I have something for you,
maybe...I will decide later, let you know. If you are still alive. For you both now swim in shark infested
water, such minnows. Go. I just know you two are busy. Keep riding. Stop on the way back and
remember amongst the gentry, secrets buy gold. And gold, carrier pigeons. Your moves are being
tracked as we speak, pigeon by pigeon. Killing a Bishop, not wise.”

Chapter Six.
From Paris they rode hard, mounts kicking up dirt, and fast, the wind punching at their faces,
stopping only long enough for a few hour’s much needed rest, before again driving dust from the road.
They were in a hurry for more than one reason. The Scottish Crown was not yet secure, and Tristan
dearly wanted to be there in case the nobles or Edwards acted. They also wanted to reach Roma before
news of their destination was discovered. After a long five days, they entered Roma proper. And when
in Roma. So the saying went. Stop and see Leonardo da Vinci, so Thomas insisted and did, fulfilling a
childhood dream.
“We do not know him,” Tristan, not so much protesting as stating, as they pulled up to the house
a man had directed them to.
“Yes, that is the point.”
The house, simple, yet in its simplicity elegant; Thomas expected no less of da Vinci. At first the
house-keeper, a stout elderly woman, denied them admittance by body blocking the door, but Tristan
charmed, easy, like taking candy from a child. Almost singing out their names, she announced them.
From somewhere in the house’s deep, da Vinci emerged, old, like the earth, hair white, frame slightly
bent, gait slow, eyes creating burning life. Those eyes also perturbed, intrusion troublesome. “Yes!”
“I am Sir Thomas, Sir, and this is Tristan McLeod.”
“So do I know you, owe you coin? If so, so! GO!”
Thomas. “No, Sir. You do not know us. But you do now.”
“Good,” da Vinci laughed, real, so so real, as if he had invented laughter, “So I do. Now go-
away before I turn you both into mice.” Joking. Maybe
Long goodbyes not them even amongst da Vinci. They departed all the way to St. Peter’s Square
where they were in time to watch Pope Innocent recite from memory mass from a window to the wad
gathered below. da Vinci and the Pope all in a ten minute span. They were not in Scotland now, Tristan
commented as they dismounted, remembering the same comment a few years earlier.
Nobles dressed in their finest. Peasants dressed in their only. All seeking heaven. Most retiring
to hell. Thomas’ diary.
“Hmm,” Tristan murmured, studying the Vatican and the habits of the Swiss Guard, not really
caring about what occurred at the window. He head-gestured in a direction. “See that entrance?”
“Um hmm.” Thomas acknowledged, thoughts on da Vinci.
“Appears to be some sort of servant entrance. Unguarded.”
“Uh, um.” Redirecting his attention.
“And the four horsemen of the apocalypse rode out of the dark, reaping destruction and chaos.”
Thomas recited.
“There are only two of us, Thomas,” Tristan murmured, attention fixed on the servant entrance.
“Two will have to suffice. But I rather doubt the Vatican will rewrite the bible for us.”
To which there was no response, unless: ‘Uh huh’, counted.
Time. Time. Again time. How to spend it. They decided to ride around Rome, take in its history,
partake of a meal, a bath, maybe a little pussy, after all they were unknowns here, no matter what Philip
said. Lot of churches. Money lenders. Inns. Signs announcing: Special rates for pilgrims. Roman bath
houses. They skipped a bathe and pussy, and except for a quick meal, only really paused for long at the
Coliseum. Crumbling though it were, its splendor imaginative. Tristan easily imagined the gladiators.
At dusk they worked back to St. Peter’s Square and from distant shadows watched and waited. Not
much going on. Dusk. People home. They fastened their mounts to a rock of all things. Tristan knew
Trouble well, he would not wander far, but Au revoir, young. O’well, Thomas appeared unconcerned.
Tristan followed Thomas, who manipulated the shadows easing unobserved to the servants
entrance. They waited for a servant to appear, maybe five minutes, a servant opened the door holding a
chamber-pot only to be greeted by Thomas’s dagger, “Very silent now. Back up!” a whisper in Latin in
the night.
Inside now, the stone corridor lit by a row of torches. Tristan whispered, “This is not a
conversation and you do not have any options. Where is Pope Innocent?”
“His chambers,” frightened, shadows tracing a death mask.
“Take us. Stealthy. Do us wrong, you die first.”
A rapid ‘anything’ “Yes.”
And stealthily the servant led down the torch-lit corridor for he wanted to live more than
anything. ANYTHING! Suddenly just the thought, the taste, food, wine, seemed slipping away, never to
be experienced again. No! No! His fear took them right to the Pope’s bed chambers, avoiding all
possible human contact. At the door, two Swiss guards at attention. They slit the Swiss Guard’s throats.
Taking the servant by each forearm, they slipped in, all quiet. But their caution was wasted. Pope
Innocent was really busy ass fucking a young boy, his face contorted in the onrushing orgasm, which
sprayed a good 2 feet as Tristan, by his bony legs, yanked him off the bed. Which scared the hell into
“What master,” the head buried in the pillow muffled.
Innocent screamed. Thomas’ diary.
Thomas espied almost a man-like pantomime in the air. But only for a moment. He blinked,
unsure. Probably just the shadows, he reasoned.
Tristan shoved Innocent into a chair and waited for him to collect himself. While he waited,
Thomas ordered the servant to lie on the floor, and had the confused boy dress.
“What do you want? “Innocent indignantly managed at last.
A naked indignant man indeed, yes indeed. “Priest.” Tristan devalued.
“Pope to you.”
“Priest,” Tristan redialed.
“Priest, this not a conversation and you do not have any options.”
Frightened before. More so now. Now, unsure, his power slipping away. “But.” This man can be
reasoned with. Any man can. “How can I help, child?” the sound of his own words easing fear.
“I am Tristan McLeod from the Clan McLeod, Priest.”
Way beyond frightened now. So far beyond, his head ached from it. “I am God’s...”
“As I said, this is not a conversation. Who ordered the assassination besides you?”
“Cardinal Gesso. I…”
“Shut up.” Tristan leaned in close, sinking the dagger in slow, assuring as it slid into the soft
flesh, “You so badly want to see your god, well this is a favor. No need to thank me.”
“NOIAMGODRIGHTARMNOOOOOOOOOOO,” Falling away into dead silence.
To the servant, “Cardinal Gesso. Where is he now?”
“His study. Always at this time. He reads the results of the inquisition.”
“Take us.”
“Yes, yes, sure.”
To the boy, “How old?”
“Twelve, Sir.”
“I should kill you. Leaving you alive is dangerous. Can you follow me without comment or
protest? Are you old enough to realize your life hangs in the balance? I wonder?”
“I am old enough. All I ask is you take me home. Please. I promise absolute silence.”
“We will see. What is your name?”
“Galileo, Sir.”
“Fine Galileo. You follow us. Deviate an inch and you die on the spot.”
So they had now collected two people. Which made four of them. Which to Tristan’s thinking:
way too many for stealth. He decided to calmly walk along as if they all belonged. They passed a few
other servants, who exhaled a tired long day. A few priests who ignored them. Once at Cardinal Gesso’s
study, Tristan tapped Thomas on the shoulder, “Thomas you guard these two. But a few seconds.”
True to his words. Before departing, he let a note slip from his hand, landing on the floor next to
the Cardinal’s door. It read: The Last Pagan Warrior.
As they re-traced their steps, Red Hawk’s words returned. “Be careful what you leave, for you
are impeding destiny,” and he almost went back for the note. Stupid, childish to do at best. But they
were already at the servant’s door they had entered, and he decided that testing fate twice in the same
night, no. Foolish. Time to go.
“It appears things must be learned twice,” he mentioned to Thomas.
A raised non-questioning gesticulation, followed by that Thomas silence.
Tristan had just started a war that would hunt him for decades. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter seven.
Nether Trouble nor Au revoir had wandered. Once mounted, they helped the servant and the boy
atop, Tristan taking the boy. Thomas mentioned he wanted to stop at da Vinci’s on the way out of
Roma, ending with, “Seeing as I may never get another chance.” The statement answering Tristan’s
departing the Vatican statement.
Tristan’s expression all innocence be-lighted at the comment. “I will watch these two. Take your
time. No hurry. Once the Pope is found, well, a mere few hundred Swiss guards. Ah, nothing to worry
I did. Take my time that is. Thomas’ diary.
The housekeeper again body blocked the door, refusing him entry. Insisting da Vinci not
home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not
home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not
home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not
home. Not home. Not home. Not home. Not...
Pausing now, head tilted to hear better.
“Ah if I had more time,” Thomas charmed, “Why, no, a good Christian woman like yourself.
Ah, men, but you are so beautiful, ah, men.”
She would never see the bright side of 80 again. “Go on with you, you are saying that so I will
let you in.”
“Non, non, madamsella,” touching her fingers, soothing them, “It is true I would like to see da
Vinci, but from the first moment…Well,” and made as if to leave.
“One second,” she encouraged. “Tell me more about how beautiful I am.”
I mentioned the flowers themselves. Thomas’ diary.
“Men!” she chastised, “Who should I tell the Master is calling!”
“An old friend,” Thomas continued the charm by speaking softly and smiling gently, knowing
full well he lacked Tristan’s charm. But he had enough for this woman, “is calling. Tell him. Later us,
time permitting.”
“Save it. Once though, I was so beautiful.” Voice trailing away memories with her.
The housekeeper, gone a few seconds, returned and admitted him begrudgingly, “You know the
way by now.”
Already his charm had worn off. He really had to learn such. Comes in handy.
An hour later both Thomas and da Vinci appeared at the door, Thomas gesturing a ‘moment’ to
People ask what we were talking about during that time. How should I respond. That I folded
my hand into his. How we lay in his bed. How we, what, bonded? Yes, people always want. Thomas’
“Thanks for coming. So long a time for me. Be well Thomas.”
People always wonder was: ‘Thanks for coming’ a double entendre, after all is said and done, I
am French. And Leonardo, well, un citoyen du monde. Thomas’ diary.
“I always stop and say goodbye to good friends on the way out of Roma.”
“Yes we are,” da Vinci assured.
I would be, years later, very surprised at what that assured voice would send. Thomas’ diary.
“Yes we are,” Thomas assured back.
“Short visit. Somebody die.”
“So true, so true. Well I must return to my project. On your way out of Italy watch out for
Thunder Road.”
“It is?”
“A thing you will discover or not. But if you come across anything...say, unusual, do send for
me. Be well Thomas.”
A long at the door silent yet very communicative goodbye. (Personal. But it is in Thomas’
If there was ever a time to ride swift and true, that was it and both knew it. As they rode, the
night swelled and contracted, withdrawing stale air replacing fresh air. They had long ago deposited the
servant, giving him a gold coin, at a village, and were now approaching the Italian Alps. The boy
seemed to tremble. Tristan inquired, “What is the matter?”
“We should choose a different road.”
“We are almost at Thunder Road. It is evil.”
“da Vinci mentioned it,” Thomas informed.
“Strange frozen men are found in the Alps. High up. Half human. Demons.” The boy shuddered.
Ahead, the Alps, shadowed by its own bulk, a foggy halo shrouded the peak. Tristan stole a
second glance. The night air chilly. He shivered. “Nonsense.” Mildly irritated, more at himself than the
boy, “We passed this way earlier. Just villages, nothing else. It is the shortest route to the French
frontier. Stay calm. ”
They rode on, the night rushing at them, as did deserted villages, peasants huts there, gone,
there, gone, all a blur at the speed they fled.
Thomas was doing mental calculations and figured another hour the French Frontier. He glanced
at the stars. Almost ten, he murmured, weary. A huge fire rushing at them on the boot-black road
further ahead shifted his attention. He started to utter, WHAT!, but their speed had already brought
them to a village, small, eight shabby huts at best, and the fire deflagrated wildly, which he had already
guessed to be a bonfire, and within moments was proved correct. As they slowed, it was not the bonfire
that caught his attention, but peasants grouped around a wooden cart. All men and they appeared to be
squinting, although in the bon-fire lit night, he could not be sure. He reined to a halt, and Tristan
followed suit. The boy visibly shook. What could frighten the boy so? Thomas wondered, and using Au
revoir pushed through the crowd. A few of the men started to protest but upon seeing the fine horses
held their tongues. To a man they thought: authority. On the cart lay a frozen man, dead. Through the
ice his features were difficult to make out. But one thing was apparent: it was not human. At least not
by any current acceptable standard.
Thomas squinted in an attempt to decipher the thing’s features. No good. The bon-fire ebbed and
receded, offering a glimmer one second, stealing it back another.
Though the dead man perplexed Tristan, he was all for riding on. Thomas shook his head and
quizzed, “Who is the blacksmith here?”
A man wearing a sooty apron, the light from the bonfire highlighting white splotches stepped
meekly forward, unsure. “I am, Sir.”
Rummy eyes almost tearing in fear. Thomas quickly guessed the man had spent some time at
the Dominican’s hands. “A gold coin you take that frozen thing to your shed.”
The offer of a gold coin meant they were not the Dominicans because they took, never gave. So
the blacksmith quickly mathed out: A gold coin=three years wages. Why not. Even throw in his fat wife
and lousy brats. Serious.
“Also I require a swift rider to Roma. da Vinci’s house. Inform the great man that I found what
he seeks and will wait.”
Although the blacksmith reached a hand out for the gold coin, the rest of the group merely
shuffled their feet, still uneasy.
“Italians never hurry.” Tristan, amused by it all now.
“A gold coin.” Thomas bartered.
Still no takers.
“A little more incentive.” Tristan, enjoying the show while holding tight to the boy.
“Two gold coins. Fin.”
Six years wages. That calculated into incentive reached with an exclamation point! And a thin
young man stepped forward. Thomas dictated: “Swift, which means you return with da Vinci or no gold
at all.”
The young man never said a word as the blacksmith brought out a horse. Again without a word
the man mounted and took off into the night, the promised gold coins awaiting upon his return driving
him. They were all that mattered. He raced time and intended to triumph, the gold coins speaking for
him in the village for several years to come. Maybe he would even invest in some terra. Rent it out. Sit
back and watch his gold grow…just like, a, sfida la pensa, a Nobleman. He kicked the mount’s flanks,
urging a bit more swiftness. Ah, yes! He would be somebody to rispetto. He urged a bit more speed. If
the horse died, so what. All he had to do was reach Roma. Maybe even famous, after all he was fetching
the great man himself. Why, the ragazze. So many. No ugly ones. No, no, no. Only pretty ones. After
all he would have a position. Ah yes, a beautiful mogile. A mistress also? Why not. He urged more
speed, kicking the flanks until his feet hurt. Yes, why not! Maybe even due. Tre! Più!

Ah, again time. Only this time, time grew restless and angrier hour by hour. The group of men
shifted places and had gathered outside the blacksmith’s shed and stared as if they could see what was
happening inside. Every now and again a low murmur raced from man to man. His curiosity aroused
now, Tristan, holding onto the trembling boy stood next to Thomas. The blacksmith had built a fire,
warming the shed and melting the ice until the man’s features were readable. They leaned in close,
Thomas holding a torch, tracing it up and down the frozen man. The forehead jetted out over the eyes,
the bones on the upper face also jutted out, and the body was covered in hair. The blacksmith crossed
himself and murmured. Thomas absently handed him another gold coin, which, if not stilling his fears,
were at least insurance for his continued silence.
At last da Vinci arrived in a carriage. The man who was sent to fetch him trailing a few feet
behind. Da Vinci’s arrival stole the crowd’s fears and every man shifted interest upon the fabled man.
They could now tell their children and grandchildren they had once seen him. Such an honor. A peasant
in the presence of greatness. A once in a lifetime opportunity. They pushed inward, close to the
carriage, yet maintained a respectful distance. After all, they might be peasants, but they were not
Da Vinci stepped out cane first and allowed the cane to carry him all hunched up to the earth.
He unfolded upright, a black cape unfurling. As da Vinci moved, the cape flowed outward, like the
wings of a crow. The peasants, startled, frightened, lock-stepped back.
The commotion brought Tristan and Thomas and the blacksmith outside, which suited the
blacksmith to no end.
“In the blacksmith’s shed,” Thomas directed.
“We are moments away from being burned by the crowd. I give you two credit for sticking this
long. Superstitious people. Calm the crowd, let me work.”
Only the cape seemed to disappear inside the shed. The man in it hid by its blackness or gone.
Facing the crowd, which Tristan guessed numbered well over twenty men, was a bit daunting,
but he quickly concluded it was the crowd’s restlessness that made it so. Thomas, voice slow, easy, soft,
“da Vinci is here. He will exorcize the demon so you can burn him straight to hell. He is doing this to
save you.”
Save! Ah, save, understood. The restless murmurings and loud voices dimmed. The little
animals who populated the night when man slept sighed. All was quiet. Time to go about life as usual.
The butcher’s cat snatched the mouse, the stray dog ripped apart the cat, the bleeding mouse falling
from its mouth and crawling away only to be eaten by a horde of blood lust roaches.
Life went on as death watched, wondering: For how long would the crowd remain pacified. Ah!
In that momentary silence, Tristan and Thomas heard voices in the shed. Voices. Not just one
but two. They both asked themselves: Who is da Vinci talking with?
Minutes later, da Vinci appeared at the door, and as if addressing a congregation in church, held
out his arms wide, spreading the black cape apart. “A demon. Take it from the shed and burn it,” and
stepped aside to avoid the men rushing in.
“Ride and ride like the wind. This news will. The Vatican and the Pope you killed hunt the night
for you both in the Dominican’s name. Thank you Thomas.”
Wanting to ask who else had been in the shed. Who he had been talking to, but not wanting to
pry. Leaving well enough be. “What was it?” Thomas.
“Hmm.” DaVinci. Stroking his beard thoughtfully, “Let me just say it is a thing you will
discover on your own, maybe. Best that way. Now go. Just go.”
Tristan had forgotten all about the boy and started to turn. The weight in his arms served as a
reminder. “This boy?”
Da Vinci studying the boy. Finding intelligence in his eyes. “I will apprentice him. Now for
whatever god you do not believe in, GO!”
Conversation time over. They rode and rode hard, each feeling the Dominicans’ breath on their
backs. At the French Frontier they paused, waited, the waiting time two hours before four men dressed
all in black arrived.
“Dominicans?” Tristan inquired.
“Yes, and you?”
“Tristan,” and an arrow whistled, “McLeod,” and another, “Of the Clan,” and another
“McLeod.” and Tristan’s sword cut the last man down.
“And may your god,” Tristan, voice low almost soft.
“Be merciful,” Thomas finished.
“Whatever.” Both.
But there would be more behind these.
They rode, still feeling death chasing them.
Riders in the late late night, early morning now. Sounds surrounded us. The what I called:
‘Them.’ Hunters. Two legged hunters. Hunting us. But mostly hunting the weak, the wounded, the
feeble, the infirm. Them hunting those just because they could. I tuned the sounds out and
concentrated at the task at hand. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter eight.

King Philip held up a tiny cage, gold gilded, about two fingers in width and four fingers high.
“What is it,” Tristan, peering inside. Squinting now. Flying specks. Thousands.
“For fleas. It is all the newest rage amongst the gentry.”
“Philip.” Tristan being grownup.
“Yes, dear boy?”
”Never mind.” Tristan now Tristan, “This is a courtesy visit. On my way home.”
“Yes, indeed dear good Tristan. Or is it naughty Tristan? Or are there two Tristans? The good
Pope Innocent died in his sleep according to the Vatican. Ah, gold buys at least semi-truth. It appears
two horsemen of the apocalypse visited the not so innocent Pope Innocent. They rode Thoroughbreds.
“The bible mention four housemen?” Thomas enlivened.
“Perhaps the other two were busy elsewhere.”
Tristan. “People die all the time Philip.”
“Je sais oui. Even Bishops and Cardinals. The poor Vatican has suffered much loss lately.” He
danced very slow, erotic, “Yes, much loss, dear boys. But I do so wish arrow ridden bodies would not
litter French soil.” He picked up the pace and danced circles around them, round and round, stepping
lightly, gleefully, finger touching his body here, there, up here, down there, oh everywhere. “Such a
mess to clean up.”
Tristan “I am...”
“à un perdu pour des mots,” Philip sang
“At a loss for words,” Thomas explained.
Philip spoke under Tristan, cutting both off. “Why not put off home for a week or so. Say you
visit Bayonne. A tiny village bordering Spain.”
“And why?”
”Oh Thomas owns it.”
If total surprise, say worth a kingdom, Thomas, “What!!!!!”
“Yes, oui, oui, Dear Thomas. You are a Noble. Your father, as you know, forsook all such
entrapments, and fled to England to convert the unbelievers. But your uncle, a vicious man I am sorry to
inform, is dead. The De Sade family. Probably has been for many years...who knows. The title, the
village, the lands, the castle are yours. The taxes, most, mine. Bring them along when you return,
please. Sending armed men so tedious for such a small sum. And the Spanish are so sensitive these
days, what with the Moors and Jews. You do this for me and I shall, well, let the Vatican wallow in its
own pitié.”
“Très bien, Philip,” Thomas, pondering the news, deciding he really did not care about relatives
at all. “But not now. In the fall. Gladly.”
“Ah, yes, of course. How rude of me. Unfinished business remains in Scotland. A kingdom lies
at stake. Dear boys, how about we all fuck for the night?”
“Philip,” Tristan chuckled, “Never change.”
Philip threw hands out, “je, modification? Absurde!”

Chapter nine.

Tristan had said what he had wanted to convey to King Edwards. He would know Edwards’s
decision soon enough. So they bypassed Edwards’s compound and quietly shipped from France to
Dover. From Dover they had ridden hard all day into dusk. At the Scottish frontier mist swirled around
Trouble’s hooves. Tristan had had enough, but was at a loss. What should be done?
“The rider with smoking hooves,” Thomas joked.
A quiet ensued, deep, the kind only found in the country. At last Tristan chuckled. Weakly. A
pitiful chuckle.
“That was funny.” Thomas.
“Tell me about it.”
They reached Glasgow hours later, the night all around them. They, dog-tired, dismounted at the
castle. Torches were planted in the ground, lined up like mushrooms, lighting the warriors
encampment. A few waved at Tristan who returned the greeting. McLean walked over to them and
assured Tristan all was fine. Except?
Really not wanting to hear ‘excepts’ at all. “Except what?” Tristan flatly stated.
“ is, ah Porch.”
“What about her?”
“Tristan,” he said, “I know you. So here it is. She is running around Glasgow making you a
laughing stock. Tristan King. What a joke. Drunk all day. Fucking any man who glances at her. Ah.”
Pausing, blowing out a hard breath, not wanting to say the last part. Shook his head. No need for Tristan
to know she was fucking two men at a time. “Long and short of it.”
“Meaningless.” Uncaring. Maybe.
“No. Not in the long run. You lose respect.”
Interrupting above McLean’s last comment. ”Who is in the castle?” Hoping it was late and
‘whatever and everything’ could wait until tomorrow.
No such luck.
“The entire council showed. McGregor and Moss McDonald, although they have not been
seated yet…waiting for you. A few other nobles rode in to watch. Stewart officially abdicated after
Edwards sent him a ‘help yourself’ note. Also, McGregor approves highly of Lord Bath’s death. His
words: That lad has balls. On the other hand, Pope Innocent, well, if you were sending a message to
kings and nobles, it was resignedly received. They now know you are for real and almost scared to
death they might be next. Which means, they, at the first opportunity, will attempt to kill you, fail, and
try again to kill you. But we knew that already.” This last at Tristan’s head shake.
Who thought: if I had pence, and entered the castle. The Great Hall, cold, hearth out, served as a
grim reminder: I hate castles. Without glancing at the council, he ordered the servant to light up the
room...and added, “I want an inferno. Dante’s if possible.”
“Who, sir?”
“Never mind.”
When the council was in session, as now, chairs were arranged on both sides of the throne, five
one side five the other, King residing in the middle. The throne, his prison, dungeon. What on earth or
even paradise could compel a man to seek his own prison, exchange life for power? He himself had
proffered a blood oath. He had willingly chained himself. Did all men in some way? Did they give up
freedom so willingly? A thing so precious? Were all men, himself included, fools? Freedom! Was, was
everything. Gold, women, clothes, land, power. All paled beside freedom.
‘All’ paid tribute to freedom through superfluous praise in freedom’s defense all the while
conspiring behind freedom’s back. Thomas’ diary.
He would not sit there, hoping to deceive himself by not doing so. Instead he walked, paced
really, back and forth, extemporaneously writing a speech in his head. The council member’s eye balls
rolled back and forth as he walked, waiting for him to speak. At last he did. “I apologize for the hour’s
lateness. Unavoidable business. That uttered, each of you give me your silence until I finish. That said,
the rumors I intend to rearrange the council are true. I am sure such disturbs a few of you. Adjust. You
will still earn coin, favors, et al. So first off, any noble who holds an English title and land must
relinquish his council chair. No protest allowed. No man can serve two masters: Scotland, England. In
your hearts, you know this true. So the three of you who hold English titles must step down. McGregor
and McDonald will assume two chairs, and I will name at a later date the other replacements. (This
brought murmurs as no Highlander had ever served on the council). I want an even split. So two of you
must resign. But I will decide who stays and who resigns. This way, no man can accuse another of
back room dealing to keep his seat on the council. (Murmurs, growing loud. He held up a hand.) Yes,
five nobles, five Highlanders. You together represent Scotland, not Lowlands or Highlands. I, as king,
am the tie breaker. As it should be. You will all share in whatever profits come the Crown’s way. And I
expect those profits to be considerable. I have already inked a deal, King Philip has agreed to purchase
three ships from Scotland. (He held a quiet hand up, holding off such remarks as: Scotland does not
have a shipyard). This is a new vessel named the Corvette. The Highlands will supply the lumber, the
nobles and Lowlands will share in the labor and cargo profits. Before anybody asks, yes we do not have
a shipbuilding yard. We will. Construction begins now. The Crown will also build a University in
Edinburgh. Again the Highlands will supply lumber, Lowlands labor. Next, the slave trade in Africa.
This is a lucrative booming business, which so far the Spanish and Portuguese have controlled.
Scotland, the Crown, forbids slave trading in Scotland, but you are free to engage in such through
English ports. Very lucrative, and the Crown will front the gold to any noble who wants to engage in the
selling of human beings....which I personally find despicable. Now we come to the spice trade. The
Dutch and the English control it. So what. We build ships, we trade in what we want. A very real
problem the Dutch and English encounter are pirates. They lose a cargo ship daily. The Corvettes
should negate said problem. They are fast, easy maneuverable. Oh, the pirates will test their metal. Have
no fear, they will lose and suffer much. After sinking a few of their ships they will decide the Dutch and
English are easier pickings. The Crown will also finance any noble who wants to enter the spice trade.
The Crown will tax its customary twenty percent from the gross profits. It is only fair. Now I suppose
you are all asking yourself how the Crown will find the gold to finance all this.”
Here he paced silent, hands behind his back well away from his sword, allowing them time to
digest his words, allowing gold fever to sink in. After twenty minutes, he pointed an outstretched finger
and drew an invisible horizontal line, sweeping across all seated. “All of us will, not just the Crown.
But the Crown will guarantee all coin. (A collective breath, each thinking: my coin). Listen closely,
right now Scotland is an agricultural nation. The peasants harvest and we sell to other nations who steal
profit from us. Call us barbarians.” He snorted, “But are we getting rich? Or just acting rich? They are
getting rich. Behind our back they laugh at us, openly slurring Scotland: Scots are barbarians. No
longer. We are Scotsmen. No longer will Scotland be the butt of jokes. We will use our crops, our
peasant labor, to work toward this goal. Let me tell you, England is almost broke, what with financing
that ridiculous war against France. Spain, the Spanish are religious fanatics. The Germanic kings,
please, all king Charles cares about is the Vatican proclaiming him the Holy Roman Emperor. And the
Vatican, we will make them pay also. Scotland can easily play one off against the other to our
advantage. Will all this happen in a day? No. But within five years, yes. Now ask your questions.”
Questions? Plenty. Tristan fielded questions for a good solid hour and a half. He listened
thoughtfully to each one, and gave a thoughtful response. He knew straight off the overriding question
would be who served on the council and who resigned. He answered that one four times. He would
choose according to past performance. The fifth time the question was presented, he firmly pointed out,
“I have answered it already, and my answer stays the same. Respectfully, do not ask the same question
over and over.”
McGregor, and his son Duncan, and McDonald and his son, Ian, sat at the bar. Duncan and Ian
mocked Tristan, sometimes forming funny faces but only when their Da’s were not looking at them.
Tristan, for his part, shook them off as he would an annoying flea. Thomas sat alone, again appearing
asleep, legs crossed and stretched out. He, like the others, had listened to every word.
Done. Done. Done. Done. Please, Tristan begged, stop asking the same questions. At last they
ran out of breath. Thankful, Tristan announced, “McDermott, Mistaken, McSun, you hold English titles.
Sorry. Oddly enough, they understood, and bowed gracefully while relinquishing their chair for a seat
at the bar and a glass of ale.
No argument at all. Which troubled me a bit. Thomas diary.
That left two nobles to dismiss. He was considering which ones when Lord McKinney leaned
forward in his seat, “There are rumors you killed Pope Innocent, and a Cardinal. Are they true?” As a
staunch Catholic, he felt a need to defend the church.
Lying, a thing Tristan never ever engaged in. It was simply aimless. Skirting the truth so very
easy. Or as his uncle once told him when very young and caught in a lie: Tristan, why on earth would a
man ever lie. EVER!
Tristan skirted the truth very well. “Rumors. A man cannot eat rumors, he cannot fuck rumors,
he cannot spend rumors. Bring me proof, then we can talk.”
Satisfied, Lord McKinney leaned back.
McGregor, from the bar, teased. Half drunk. But even half drunk dangerous. Maybe more so
than sober. “And Lord Bath. His death a rumor?”
“No, McGregor. I killed him. Told Edwards in person. Told him the same I am telling each man
here. The border raiding is done, over. There is no profit in it. Just bloodshed. On both sides.”
“So you say.”
“So I say. I also say the Scottish border is now free land. All along the border. Each peasant will
receive a deed to the land. This will give them an incentive to protect the land and also send for
immediate reinforcements in case the English attack. No man protects his land like one who owns it.
The Crown shall build barracks along the border, several at the very least.”
“Giving peasants land?” from Lord McStern.
“Why not? The Crown owns it.”
“It just seems a bad precedent is all.”
“What McStern, you worried your peasants will rise up and take the land? Tell you what, they
take land, I will deed you part of McLeod Island.”
This sliced a laugh all round. Such an incredulous idea. The border one thing. But overall the
peasants owning the land. Never happen. After all, McLeod was one of them, a landowner. He would
never countenance such a move.
“Let us break for a drink.” Tristan. Not asking. Not offering. No choices here.
Sure. Always time for drink. They headed in mass to the bar. All in a good mood. Except for
those who were not doing a great job faking it. A few thinking of ways to have Tristan killed, but
instantly dismissing them out of fear. What if they failed? The proof was there to see. Failure’s price.
No, best to go along for now.
Secrets are the worst kept secrets on earth. The Gardner’s cottage no exception. I rarely slept
there. Tristan did. McGregor knew it. McGregor fucked a castle maid and, well, she moaned secrets.
Late at night Tristan went to the cottage, spent time working on his ‘book of quotes’ before retiring. I,
as usual, haunted the night. McGregor knew information was gold, and held his tongue, figuring it
could prove useful later. It never did. I know. I fucked the same moaning maid. But always before
McGregor did. Thomas’ diary
Chapter ten.

The next month sailed by swiftly. At month’s close, Tristan dispatched McLean and all but a
dozen warriors to McLeod Island. The weather stayed the 80’s every day. Chilly in the eve.
Tristan honored those few nobles who had supported him first. He appointed Lord McCone minister of
education, thus giving him the university plum. Lord McLehto, who had stood beside Lord McCone
along with Lord McRush, received the shipyard. Lord McDaly the labor contract. As for the council,
Tristan desperately wanted a McLeod on the council, but knew such would never float. He had retired
Lord Flitson and Lord Bushingfearmonger, the last because just the name was a mouthful. The
vacancies left three empty seats to fill, but after long contemplation, decided to leave the council at 7.
Give the nobles a superior position for now. After all, he was king, he could veto anything. Almost like
being a god. Almost.
And in such a fashion, Scotland began to change little by little. To Tristan’s mind the single
most important change: the Highlanders were working in conjunction with the nobles for the first time
in Scotland’s history. Which had been the goal all along.
Thomas’s lone comment, “Ah the start of progress. But remember: Greece was not built in a
“Adding that to my book of quotes.”
“I want a mention.”
“Always, Thomas, always.”
By mid-summer, a great deal had been accomplished. The nobles and Highlanders worked well
together. The nobles polish, the Highlanders roughness, each somewhat, although not always,
complementing the other. To be sure there were arguments aplenty, drawn swords aplenty, and
differences often as not settled over a glass or two. After all, the gold standard was the gold
standard...and as long as each shared in that standard in the end peace prevailed. The shipyard would be
finished by spring. As would the university. Both would be in function by the following summer. The
Crown had rented ships from France and rented them to nobles for the slave trade and the spice trade.
The maneuver that impressed the Lords the most was Tristan buying a French Man-Of-War for nothing
but the promise to pay later. He renamed it, The King Of Scotland. Its goal: sink pirate ships. The
peasants along the border were the happiest. They owned their own land. Amongst all this prosperity,
Tristan watched, and watched, only really conferring with Thomas.
By summer’s end he mentally counted up a few lessons learned, including some he already
knew but had to relearn: 1) the king really did not do very much except settle petty differences, 2) the
job sucked. 3) he found himself pulling further and further back, allowing the council to do its work,
leaving him to comment to Thomas: a king is unnecessary. Scotland runs itself. They only need the
illusion, a man at the top running things. 4) the job sucked, 5), Number five stumped him, so he
referred back to number four.
So Thomas proffered. “He who rules the least rules the best.”
“Exactly. Putting that in my book.”
That Thomas optical silent smile. No mention required.
Winter, a harsh beast in Scotland. A time when both nobles and peasants hibernated. Only the
nobles did so elsewhere, not all, but most. When the council broke in October, Tristan felt confident
enough to spend the winter traveling, returning in the spring. He was a bit concerned about King
Edwards, and although wars were never fought in winter, the clothing requirements simply too great,
vowed to maintain a wary eye toward England...forever foremost in his thoughts.
At summers end Tristan proposed, “To honor Red Hawk. Shall we chase the weather?”
“Let us do so.” Thomas, play spacing his words. Ready to run. Over ready to run.
The weather still friendly, they departed on a late October day for mostly parts unknown.

But it would not only be a harsh winter, but long, very long, leaving the land begging spring
rain, peasants hungry, and nobles shouting to raise land levies. Into this storm they would return.
As for Stewart, he was having the time of his life, grand ball after grand ball, fucking aplenty,
and not a worry in the world lads. Oh!, his wife carried a child. Oh yeah! He the man.
The Vatican? The new Pope, Pope Gregory. Not happy. No, sir. Not even close. As Pope
Gregory said to Cardinal Vince, who now headed the Dominicans, “If this Tristan McLeod believes he
can intimidate the Vatican, he is sadly mistaken. Kill him.”
“He is a king now.”
“We have killed kings. Caesars. They all fall.”
Edwards? He was enjoying the show. He figured Tristan dead by spring, but, as he admitted to
himself and himself alone, he rather liked McLeod. He was a breath of fresh air. Oh well, Edwards
thought, heading for London for the winter, and his wife, the cunt, and his son Henry, whom he loved
dearly, and the nobles who feared him so, and. The ‘and’ died as he wondered: where was Tristan
An old man, face best described as timeless art, could have told Edwards where, but then the old
man could have told Edwards about many bright shining things. And toads.

Chapter eleven.

Why, of course, at the palace in France, Philip entertaining them. But then he never failed to
entertain. They liked him for it. His rather peculiar sense of humor. His self-defacing little dances. So
unlike a King. Or how they imagined a King: stuffy, cold, ruthless.
“So Tristan,” He demurred-not, caressing his own shoulder sexually, “you managed to survive a
summer. I am all aflutter. See. My new clothes just for you.”
Indeed! The multitude of colors alone dazzled. The evening gown swirled when Philip danced,
exposing his cock, but only for a teasing second; yes indeed, Philip entertained.
Tristan, “Philip I am at a loss for words.”
“Dear Tristan. You will now, ah stop at Thomas’s village. Yes?”
Thomas “Why is this village so important Phillip?” inquired.
“Dear boy it is on the Spanish border. There is a toll road there. Very profitable, Thomas,” he
danced around him. “As I mentioned, it appears your uncle just up and vanished. Years ago. I fear foul
play. You will tell me. The peasants there need to know a man is in charge. Never trust a peasant.” He
laughed gaily. “Never never trust a noble.”
“And Kings? Philip.” Thomas, an arched curious eyebrow.
“King, kings, kings, kings, kings, kings,” he sang dancing, “ah kings. Every man wants to be
king. Poor men want to be rich, rich men want to be kings....and like Edwards, kings are not satisfied
until they own everything. Now why trust such men. Pleeeeese dear boys. Grow up just a bit…but never
too much.”
Thomas…“Much coin in this village?“…opined.
“So ‘tis rumored.’ I of course could send troops, but ah...the Spanish are so nervous, ah, fighting
the Moors, what not.”
“Fine Philip.” Thomas, amused, “But a letter from you and the name again, Bayonne, correct,
and how to get there.”
Philip fished such out and handed it over, while laying a palm on Thomas’s left cheek, “Ah, the
one thing a king cannot buy: youth.”
Well Thomas just blushed which vaguely shocked Tristan.
“You may find, dear Thomas, a little more than you bargained for. Your uncle. Well, you will
see.“ He fell his hand away, brushing his own cock on the way across his lower waist. “I am keeping a
very young man waiting in my bed chambers. Il fait plasisir a voir?”
“No Philip, we shall not delay your young man any longer. Appréciez.” Thomas, answering for
Counting a stay at an inn, two lush and willing sisters, tits like a two-pence masterpiece, and
pussies that sucked in a cock as if drinking French wine, well enough said; it took all of three days to
arrive at Bayonne, which left them well rested, in high spirits and expecting and ready for anything.
Except perhaps Bayonne. The village itself consisted: fourteen houses, a stable, and a church. Away
atop a hill sat a castle, smallish.
“Lord Thomas,” Tristan joked.
“That is Le Cha’tilain to you.”
A gurgling snicker from both. Due to the stupidity, the idiocy, and yes the humor.
Slow, due to the heat no doubt, a young man trudged along the dusty street. Thomas addressed
him in French, “Poursuites judicaires?”
The young man answered, “the judge and prosecutor could be found now at court.”
The next question: Where is the court, overridden as the man pointed at a building in front of
“Dire merci!” Thomas thanked him, waving a hand.
They both dismounted and went inside where a trial was taking place. Sun shone through the
open shutters, well lighting the little room.
Tristan, playful, suggested, “Let us A,B,C, this.”
Thomas readily agreed, “I’ll start. A) The judge, obese to a fault, three chins too many, black
threadbare robe. Never to see better days again. Might as well pin a sign on the robe: death awaits
Tristan, “B) The prosecutor. Still young, handsome, suit pressed, hoping to trade those looks on
a posting in Paris. A very large ass is waiting to be kissed for the posting.”
“C) The elderly man taking notes, pained all over eyes ready to water the desert. Oh yes,
wearing his Sunday and only clothes.
“D) The stable lad, say ten at best. Grunt work his middle name. Earns enough coin to eat. Long
story of his short life.”
“What about the Goat.” Thomas snickered.
“A pet waiting to grow enough to become supper.” Tristan opined. Then added with a grin,
“They are going to hang it.”
Thomas…“You have been studying French.”…impressed.
A cool gotcha grin. “Au revoir indeed.”
“And yes it appears so. Anybody,” Thomas announced, loud, almost a shout. The small room,
paper thin walls, vibrated from it.
Annoyed, the judge glared, “I am the judge. You are in a court room. Have some respect and be
quiet, we are busy here.”
Approaching the bench, such as it were which was only a small table and a chair. “I am Sir
Thomas.” He handed over the letter from Philip. “The..goat..out…now,” index finger indexing each
”When I want a butt, it will be yours. NOW!”
Evil, a word. Vicious, a word. Put them together and it described his uncle. And his uncle was
what these men remembered. Post haste, the stable boy dragged the protesting goat to beat all hell
outside and hurriedly returned. These men fascinated him.
Thomas “Explain?” to the judge.
“What, Sir?”
“The goat?”
“The goat was possessed, sir, is.”
From Tristan, in English, “Did the goat confess?”
“Funny Tristan. Um mmm. Although to these rather superstitious peasants the answer is
probably yes.” Although it was beyond Thomas, he just had ask a dumb question, “Why not just butcher
The judge winced at Thomas’s voice. ”Because a possessed beast must be hung and
burned.” Righteous now, but trembling.
“Why not hang and burn you,” Thomas, emotionless.
“Sir, I...”
“Fat. Stupid. Superstitious. Correct?”
“Sir. Yes.”
“Mmm hu. What other trials are on the docket for the same crime.”
“Sir, One. A witch.”
“Show me”
The poor judge. Which is how he felt. Poorly stepped upon. He waddled.
The prosecutor’s feet felt leaden as if doom awaited, and doom entailed life in this PLACE!, his
worst nightmare: spending his life amongst peasants prosecuting petty cases. “je me demande
pourquo,” he muttered.
The lad also tagged along. He had never seen these men spoken to in such a manner. Usually
they ordered him about, and unkindly. They all went out the rear to a small stable where a woman lay
locked in a cage, naked, silent, beaten, bruised, and probably raped. Thomas was sure he had stepped
backward in time. As was Tristan. Anger now, building, threatening to overcome the calm he had
worked so hard at achieving since a child who faced a father who whipped himself for his sins daily,
who whipped a little boy for his-everybody’s sins. He said, “Fetch a woman. Cloth this one and take her
to the castle.”
A protest,” Monsieur!,” from the prosecutor.
Swift, so fast even Tristan failed to see Thomas’s movement, and Tristan’s eye coordination
was razor sharp. The prosecutor’s head rocked back, hard, sending him falling. Thomas now in absolute
charge. “When I want you to speak I will say so.” Total silence beat the room up. “The woman in the
castle in ten minutes,” Thomas ordered and forced his steps away, breathing hard, struggling for control,
regaining a little as he reached Au revoir. “Where does the priest live,” To the lad, who had followed
him out. Disgusted. “Just show me.”
The boy, more an urchin, eyes perfectly round, followed instruction. Thomas did not knock but
unannounced barged in. A little man, barely five-feet, thread worn clothes, startled expression
questions, but smart enough to see trouble and remain silent. Thomas ordered the boy to tend to
Trouble and Au Revoir. Tristan added, “Do a good job. Brush the road dirt from under their saddles.”
“Priest, I am Sir Thomas. Tell me all about my uncle and these people. Leave out one thing, you
die. One lie, you die. “
And so Thomas in this way learned about his family. A tale of two brothers. One became a
priest. The other tortured peasants for pleasure. Thomas saw little difference between them. The rest
would be in the castle, the family’s history and crest. So the priest said. The priest ended “These
peasants are isolated. Have been for centuries. You have to...”
”Priest stop. I do not have to understand anything. You do. You and the peasants have to
understand I can kill them at my whim.”
“Yes, sir,”
“Better. Now King Philip mentioned a toll road.”
“Yes. I collect the money daily from the man who guards it. Come,” he urged.
They followed him to the cellar where a wooden leather strapped chest sat. The priest opened it,
exposing years and years of accumulated gold, silver coins.
“How long has my uncle been gone?”
“Seven years.”
“You, priest, were too frightened to steal this?”
“I am a priest.”
“Right. You were frightened for your life. As are the peasants. There lies a King’s ransom. You
were all very very frightened. My uncle, he enjoyed torture. Take me to the castle.”
The castle had been shuttered for years, upon years, harboring the cold, the stones soaking it in.
So cold even Thomas shivered and ordered a fire built in every room. An hour later, if not warmth, at
least warmness comforted the castle and Tristan.
“Now priest, lead me to the dungeon.”
Once there, Thomas almost rocked over. Holding the torch, tracing its flame over the stone, he
thought, here, and here, and here, so many ‘heres’, many died screaming. The walls showed them,
their last will and testament stained, bloody stained, the scattered bones and skulls showed them, the
instrument of torture, the rack, the whips, showed them, but silence showed them most of all, their
screams trapped here for eternity. He heard them. Now in the yesterdays, now in the today’s, now in the
tomorrows; As did Tristan, who was unable to control his shivering, so cold was the chill within him.
“Have this room sealed, a tomb, never to be disturbed. For here lies madness’ work. Let them
now rest in peace.”
“Amen,” the priest said.
“Priest, never when I am present. Fetch a hand-maiden to attend the woman. Feed her, dress her
wounds. And priest, when you finish those two tasks, I want to see you.”
It took Thomas an hour, but he examined each room in the castle, which was small by standards,
containing seven rooms, the main hall, kitchen and five bed chambers. Tristan silently followed. Each
room had been left untouched for years. They returned to the main hall which was now warm as toast.
Tristan stood by the fire, soaking in its heat.
“Just Tristan.”
“Hey you.”
“Hey you.”
“That is right.”
The priest entered. ”A man is sealing the room. The woman attended too. How else may I serve,
“Whom is your master, the Vatican or the peasants?”
”May I be frank?”
“The Vatican. This is a forgotten village. I send a few coins to the bishop. They are mixed
alongside all the other coins.” He shrugged inside his loose fitting clothes, “Nobody cares about us. So I
do what I can for the peasants.”
“In exchange for?”
“I have a small sin. Girls.”
“A vice,” Thomas corrected, “How young?”
“Oh no no no no, 13, 14, 15, 16. Of age.”
“Fine priest. What do you offer?”
“Comfort. It is all I have.”
“A candid priest,” Tristan cynically commented, “How refreshing.”
“I am a small man Sir. Is all.”
“And that woman. The witch?”
“Superstition demands sacrifices. I do what I can.”
“But you do not believe...”
“No Sir. Witches. No. More likely the family across from the land she farmed wanted it.”
“Uh huh,” Thomas thinking, “Priest bag those coins into three sacks. You and the boy live here
in the castle. For now. Until I decide what to do about,” Thomas, self-disgusted, flung a hand up. “all
The priest, dismissed, gladly about to take leave, paused by Thomas, “Priest you now have a
new master. Serve him well and well will serve you.”
“And well will serve him,” Tristan joked, priest gone.
“See if he figures it out. He may be a simple man but appears to be compassionate.”
“I like him.”
For two days Thomas and Tristan attended to affairs. They had notices posted stating: ‘All trials
for demon possession and witchery now banned’. Thomas, Tristan for once trailing along, visited the
peasant farmers, which numbered twenty-two. Thomas took notice of the peasant who had accused the
woman of witchery, but held his fury. The morning of day three, they rode off, Thomas leaving the
Priest in charge. They carried the sacks of coins over their saddles. The priest had requested a small
thing. Two farmers wanted to start a vineyard.
Thomas, “Why? they cannot sate themselves or their family on grapes?”
The Priest shrugged, “I am not a man of the land. They are. They believe the land is perfect for
a vineyard.”
Harboring a fury at the village and the peasants made departure an urgency, and Thomas readily
conceded, “Fine. I will stay taxes for three years. This wine have a name?”
“See it is done.”
Again long goodbyes, not them. Just itching to race the wind. The priest expected more.
Thomas and Tristan rode off without so much as a backward glance.
“Good luck Last Pagan Warrior.” The Priest whispered, for he had seen the name ‘McLeod.’
etched across the hilt of Tristan’s sword.
All the way back in Paris, Philip, enjoying snails, suddenly remembered what he had wanted to
tell Tristan. His sources in the Vatican had informed him that the new Pope had ordered Tristan’s
death. And he should really stay out of Spain. Oh’ well, he thought, such beautiful boys.
Philip was not the only one interested in them. As the pigeons flew, so flew news. And it was
believed by many, mostly nobles, that Tristan, a mere nuisance, would die in Spain. After all, Isabella
loved the Pope, the last one and the new one; all popes, who in turn had loved her again and again
and. Each again five seconds at a time.
He briefly considered dispatching a brigade of French troop to locate them and return them to
Paris. Oh well, he sang, and joined the young man waiting in his bed, they were a handsome pair.
Chapter twelve.
Writer’s notes: Badlands.

They skirted the mountainous French-Spanish border for several days before cutting into
Espanola. A few days of hard riding later found them in the outskirts of Tarragona, Spain. The last thing
they noticed before entering the city proper were the steady trickle of Moors bleeding exhaustion under
their heavy house-hold loads while fleeing for ships and Morocco. Leaving Tristan to comment,
“Write that one down.”
Upon entering the city, They quickly discovered Queen Isabella and King Fernando were
readying marriage. The town shouted the impending occasion: large pennant banners congratulating the
pair on their nuptials were strung everywhere, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph statues graced every
intersection and at the sea along a mountainous cliff a 200 foot cross was currently under construction.
I wandered upon lineation view, the cross the cross. I wondered. Thomas’ diary.
The decorations brought out gaiety and the town glowed. Its people walked in, if not a sense of
grace, certainly pride. It also seemed, such were their numbers, every person had their own personal
priest. The second thing they noticed were the many soldiers. They filled the streets: horse back,
walking, carriages. Each carried a soldier’s usual accoutrements: a sword, a rattle to summon help, and
a shield. Usually, as Tristan pointed out needlessly to Thomas, men only carried a shield in/during
battle. That the shields were bone white and had a red cross painted on them caused Thomas to
comment, “Those are the same design used during the last crusade.
They both agreed: So far Tarragona was by far the most interesting place in their travels. They
had intended to follow the sea to Granada. They had heard wonderful things about it and wanted to see
for themselves. But upon reconsideration, they decided to put off Granada for a day or two, and poke
around Tarragona.
The gods, Tristan noted, were not without a sense of irony.
“Shall we pay respect to the betrothed who are forming a kingdom, or so they believe.”
Thomas, casual, indifferent.
“Yes, I am king after all,” Tristan agreed, “But first I noticed an old Roman bath. So….”
“Without further ado.” Thomas finished.
“Writing that down.”
“No mention required this time.”
“Bad, just bad, Tristan.”
The bath house had an abandoned stale odor and badly required renovation. Paint chipped the
walls, the marble floor pitted and decaying. Still the water in the pools were clean, as least to the eye.
So they soaked away the road, soaked where Caesars had soaked, soaked alone, which amazed them.
The water, hot, wonderful. They each in turn wondered: such a treasure at ones’ beck and call. Yet such
a waste on the Spaniards.
The inquisition raged. Moors fled. A righteousness so prevalent even the air itself ejaculated
hymns. Into this, they dismounted at the Palace and Tristan handed a letter to one of two palace guards
standing at attention. At first the guard refused to accept the letter, even after Tristan explained who he
was. Their clothes were weather beaten, badly in need of a good washing. Thomas mentioned same,
adding, “We look like peasants.”
Well, too bad, Tristan shrugged, and mentioned to the guards the Queen might hang them for
disrespecting a King. Both guards frowned, surly so, at the words, but one took his surliness and went
to deliver the letter of introduction, while the other stood at attention glaring at them rudely; at attention,
yes, but teeth clenched, stance rigid. Tristan seriously considered killing him.
I have noticed a rather strange phenomenon. Rudeness appears very prevalent in our society,
from the nobles to the peasant. This rudeness is unrelenting, only shattered by inherent danger at
failing to A) perform requested task, B)personal harm him; threats themselves do not work as the man
disbelieves such an occurrence. Thus killing works, but in the end is counter productive. Thomas’ diary
After a long wait Queen Isabella greeted them personally with a ten caret diamond smile.
“Tristan McLeod.“ She had a voice like a song bird, and made his name sing, and repeated, “Tristan
Tristan thought: skin like olive oil, figure built for a man’s hands. My. My. “Isabella, I, a, I,
paused my travels to wish you a long happy union.”
As I read Tristan like a book, was I silently outrageously know it. If only because
next to Isabella a stood a little man of body and soul and spirit. King Fernando. Thomas’ diary.
Fernando cut in, “The Pope has...”
But Isabella sharply cut him off at the balls, “Blessed our union. And we in turn have granted
pardon and immunity to those during this week of our celebration. A gift from us to the people.”
“Jews also?” Thomas teased.
“No. Not Jews.” She had firmly rejected the idea long ago. “But no matter. Me casa su casa. At
least for the next 7 days.”
“Well,” Tristan, really really sure something was very amiss and ‘the amiss’ involved him. “a
day is fine. After all I would not want to overstay my welcome.”
Isabella beamed. Their mounts were handed over to a stable lad, who minded Tristan’s usual
advice to treat the mounts well. As guests, Isabella energetically took them on a tour of the palace, her
pride pointing out obvious areas of personal interest. She chattered endlessly, a nice easy chatter, a
nightingales voice. After an hour she excused herself, and handed them off to a servant who showed
them to a bed chamber where they could freshen up before dinner.
Since they were already fresh, clean, they passed an hour discussing the rather strange welcome.
Isabella had been charming enough. But? As for, Fernando, whom they referred to by various
derogatory names because of his from head to toe weak character, not so much. In the end they decided
to spend one night and left the castle to practice. The same two guards were at the gate and they taunted
them a bit, “Do you two don serious in the morning before putting on that ridiculous uniform.”
But the guards failed to respond, although they held themselves very rigid.
An hour later they had worked up a sweat under the hot mid-day sun and returned to the Roman
bath house. Two bathes in one day seemed excessive, but since they did not douse perfume all over
their bodies, necessary. After all they were guests.
They lounged for a few hours until the same servant (facilitating Thomas to joke: You work
24/7). appeared and stoically led them to the dining area for the evening. Thomas had often heard of the
apple in the pig’s mouth but by and by there in the table’s center rested a roasted pig, a bright cherry red
apple in its mouth, its dead clown gaze staring out at the absurdity. He had also never seen so much
food in one place. Truly amazing. And ventured so.
“Yes we are blessed,” Forefend replied.
To which Thomas spoke gibberish, “Lllookklkokjjm.”
“So Tristan,” Isabella said, ignoring Thomas, “I hear so much about you. It is a pleasure to meet
you at last. I was not expecting such a young man.”
“In years, Isabella, in years.”
“Maybe so, but you managed to accomplish that which has defeated many men. A unified
Scotland. We pray for the same in Espanola, but so many enemies, the Basque, the Catalans, Moors,
A unified Scotland? Not hardly, Tristan thought, but too polite to voice it. “Spain is large.”
“Exactly,” Isabella whole heartily agreed, “And our union will show Europe what Espanola, a
unified Spain can achieve.”
Thomas, “A match made in heaven,” facetiously offered, but his irony went begging. Maybe
they were ignoring him and his winning personality. Could it be possible? He silently chuckled out
more gibberish. “UYeirhjdhu”.
“Indeed,” Isabella responded.
No they were not ignoring me. Thomas’ diary.
“Curious,“ Tristan said, picking at the food, nibbling in his usual fashion. ”What can she
“For example, England.”
“England?” Surprised.
“She, along with the Dutch, controls the spice trade.”
“At present, yes.”
“Yes at present. But I just commissioned three ships to be captained by a Christopher Columbus.
Come here for a second.” She paused, a moment, two, then added, “Both of you.” She led them a few
feet to a map pasted to the wall, its usual warnings: Beyond here be dragons. “Columbus believes there
is a shorter route to the East Indies. He proposes to sail southwest.” she traced fingernail across the
map. “If he is correct, Spain will control the spice trade.”
Thomas tapped his leg, facilitating a quick silent exchange between them. The map was all
wrong. They knew such. The fool, if the sea failed to eat the ships, the ships would land somewhere far
south of Red Hawk. Not the East Indies.
“That is a proposition with Columbus. I also have one for you.”
Tristan, “Me?” As in: ME!!!!!
“Espanola’s manifest destiny is to spread Catholicism, yes. But also a unified Europe. Scotland
on one end, Spain on the other. It is simple math. England is an island. I cannot attack it just from the
sea. But Scotland from the land could. Leaving Spain free to attack France. Exhilarating, is it not!”
Either she was mad or delusional, Tristan thought. But defiantly attractive.
Ah, Kings & Queens & In breeding=Cuckoos. Thomas’ diary.
“Of course you would be required to enter the church. But the current Pope and I are on close
personal terms. So a small sum rendered and arrangements can be reached.”
Tristan, thumb and forefinger squeezing lips open, truly astounded. “I shall give this proposal
due consideration.”
“In confidence, of course.”
A slight bow “Of course.” of insincerity.
The hour, late, and Fend had retired to his separate bedroom chamber. Tristan, enjoying the cool
from the sea, sat, Isabella at his side, Thomas lounging a few feet away mumbling incoherently.
At last Isabella could no longer stand it. “Is Sir Thomas, ah…”
“His mother dropped him on his head and he suffers from these fits. No need to worry, I take
away his dagger at night so he will not harm anyone.”
“Well, you two are a pleasure. Thomas, I have taken the liberty, a small one, of providing you a
girl. She will please. And you Tristan?”
Thomas, “Hee”
Tristan translated for her: “Thomas shall pass.” Followed by. “I will walk you to your chamber
so we can speak in private. Do not worry about Thomas. He sleeps outdoors.”
But she fretted all the way to her bed chamber. Later Tristan could not explain what the Queen’s
Chamber looked like to save his life. Although fit for a queen all right. No doubt about it. Made
Tristan’s quarters almost humble, peasant even. But the silk wall-paper, oriental valises, Persian
carpet…did not interest him. The four poster canopy bed did.
“I dismissed my girl for the night.”
“Of course.“ Tristan traced a circle around her right breast.
“I am to be married Tristan.”
“Yes. Forever married. Drinking the same wine day in day out. A little special wine once
“It is a sin.”
“A how do you say, a little…” voice trailing off
“Yes. I am sure Jesus who died for all sins can handle a small sin.” He gently touched her face.
“Forever is long time.” he ran a hand down to her breast. “It is forever after all.”
“Am a woman. Who can...or just dream.” he kissed her, soft at first, then fierce and stepped
Breathing hard wide round eyes sparking at him.
“You have plenty of dresses, yes?”
“YES! YES. YES!” Passion inflamed now. Wanting it. Badly.
He reached and all at once ripped her dress from her body, popping buttons, exposing a corset,
which he deftly un-laced, and let fell away, exposing her breasts, full, ripe, ready as told by the hard
bulb like oversized nipples. All while he had worked, she murmured low as if a helpless kitten mewing
for milk, “Fuck me please.” He whispered “Hush. We, together, will become one for a night.”
He scooped her up in his arms as if she weighed nothing and carried her to the four poster
canopy bed and laid her down gently. “We shall gently honor each other, then do battle and fuck until
Such a battle, they both never imagined. Nor did I. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter thirteen.
Writer’s notes: Day moves, afternoon moves, night moves. The mood changes.

Early day moves unwind slowly at first, but little by little, after tea, food, saddling Trouble,
everything speeds up as if the body, awake now, rendering returning to sleep impossible, kicks into a
faster gear. Which was how they started, slow, tired, but now wide awake, so many miles behind them.
A killer sun in the sky. Flatland for as far as the eyes could see. Light banter had served to pass the
time. Finally Thomas tossed out, “Had to fuck her.”
“Never fucked a Queen.”
Shaking his head, “Frodo appeared very unhappy this morning.”
“He should be fucking her.”
“He would not know how.”
A ready response formed on Tristan’s lips, he swallowed it back and paused Trouble. “Hear?”
Thomas did. Hooves in the distance. “It appears freako cannot count. No seven days.”
“Well, we can outrun them.”
And so we attempted to do so. Thomas’ diary.
The flatland terrain was one long race track. Perfect for Trouble and Au revoir, and they
opened up, those long sinewy legs lifting off the ground and falling back, pushing their cargo forward at
a gallop at first, then stretching body long and lean riding sleek into the wind, the wind actually helping
push beyond a gallop, now their long necks stretched straight out completing the racing sculpture,
moving them across the flatland at a good 40 miles per hour, breath huffing out, huffing out, huffing
out, at last in full out stride…now a pure guided arrow.
But unknown to them Fernando had let loose a pigeon to the nearest Spanish garrison. The
pigeon rode the air currents to the Spanish garrison ahead of them. The captain read the orders and
assembled ten riders and headed out, glanced at the sun and muttered, “The ……. (about that many
letters) heat.”
They could not out run a pigeon.
Tarragona at their backs, Tristan and Thomas were now between three opposing forces and
knew it. They had paused to give Trouble and Au revoir a short rest and listened. At first they believed
they had lost the Spaniards. Then off in the distance the faint sound of hooves pounding the ground
from both directions.
“We cut to the left, toward Granada and the sea.”
“Loose them in Granada.”
“It is a plan.”
“Or we could stay here and wait. Lay Trouble and Au revoir down. Ambush them.”
“If we knew how many.”
So they rode, fast and hard, pushing their mounts beyond a Thoroughbred’s endurance, pushing
them for an hour. It was too much. The killer sun was sucking them dry. Soon Trouble would die,
followed by Au revoir. They needed to rest them So they stopped and waited, deciding to fight it out.
Thomas had 22 arrows. Tristan his sword. Thomas would kill the furthest, Tristan those close in. The
Spaniards, horses kicking up a dust cloud, had come together some miles back, creating a single large
force. Tristan estimated them to be about 22 to 26. He figured, with Thomas’s arrows, the odds were
just about even, maybe a smidge on their side, but then he was biased and young. They waited, sitting
tall in the saddle, as if enjoying the day…giving the Spaniards something to think about. The Spaniards
expected to chase, not confront.
The captain from the garrison grew increasingly cautious, slowing his men, then held a hand,
halting their forward progress no more than a few hundred yards away from them. He had heard rumors.
He wondered now if they were true. But he had orders and Fernando had a mean temper when crossed.
He waved the raised hand forward, indicating slow ahead.
They monitored all this, Thomas separating his arrows for easy retrieval. Tristan, his sword at
Suddenly the Spaniards halted again.
Expecting a full out attack, Tristan mouthed “What? By the gods make up your mind, fight or
In fact he had been so sure of an attack, he had failed to recon the area. Thomas craned his neck
“Behind us,” Tristan followed Thomas’s line of sight. Sure enough there were about 30 men on
horseback, riding toward them, slow, unafraid.
Thomas. “Who are they?”
“Searches me, but the Spaniards appear to know them.”
Soon the men surrounded them. All wore turbans under the hot sun. The Spaniards watched
from afar, neither engaging nor fleeing.
“I am Captain Mohammed, of The Emir’s personal guard. You must follow me. Résistance will
be met with severally. You may keep your arms for now. Follow.”
Thomas’s lips parting and closing were only seen by Tristan. The gist: Wait and see. We can
fight later.
Tristan agreed, although concerned about their mounts, voiced as much. The Captain ordered
silence from them. Tristan a prisoner. A rather new experience. He found it distasteful. So to break the
feeling, he inquired about Grenada, how far, but the Captain reminded him to remain quiet.
“Captain! Answer the question.” Tristan now angry.
The Captain’s words were stiff enough to use as a pressed shirt collar. “You are on the outskirts
of Granada proper.”
The town’s structures were unlike anything they had ever seen. To the left, orange orchards,
miles of them. To the right, Granada itself, bright red cobblestones lined the streets. Venders, all
wearing white and most wearing a turban, seemed at ease, without worry. The foul stench, or lack of,
chamber pot’s contents, surprised them most. But the Alhambra’s splendor stole their breaths, and
stored them where it stored all first appearance breaths: History. They were so breathless all thoughts
stumbled, and were for a few minutes unable to form coherent words. The size alone stunned, the colors
colored the air itself. A fort, yes, but what else. Suddenly a thousand questions assaulted them, there
numbers rendering them voluntarily silent until threatened again.
The Captain relieved all but nine men. As the men departed, the Captain adjusted his turban and
brushed dirt and dust off his uniform. “You will wait here,” he ordered. “If you attempt to move you
will die.”
“Captain.” Tristan gravely whispered, “Threaten me again and I will kill you. Now return with
somebody in charge.”
Red-faced, he disappeared inside. Time again. Only this time, men watched them through the
eyes of the nine guards. Tristan twitched, and instantly spurred Trouble, who reared up on two legs. As
Trouble’s front hooves’ crashed back down, Tristan slashed out, his sword quickly cutting down two
men, and just as quickly two others. Arrows flew. Minutes later 9 men lay dead.
Here is a short sad history of the dead: moments earlier alive, planning on supper, a drink,
fucking. Now just dead. Man should not plan, I concluded. Thomas’ diary.
The captain, accompanied by an elderly man wearing a long white surplice. The captain barely
contained growing rage at the carnage. The rage was almost suffocating. He withdrew his sword.
“Stand down Captain,” the older man commended. “I am the Emir. The same as a king. One
question will decide your fate. Who are you?”
“Both our fates. Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.
“Sir Thomas.”
“Ah, that explains it. See unnecessary questions answered. The Vatican has a fatwa on your
“And such is the same as a bounty?”
“Yes. You are worth a thousand gold coins. Do you want to offer me more?”
“No.” Tristan declined, “But I can offer you your life.”
The rage in the Captain boiled over. “Yo…” the captain brought his sword around, ready to
fight. Fast so much so only Thomas saw it happening, Tristan had his sword at the captain’s neck.
Thomas, arrow loaded and directed at the Emir. A very tiny sparrow gesture from the Emir. The
Captain bowed, retreated a step.
A delightful laugh from the Emir broke into pieces the aged face, betraying the young man who
once lived there. “You both are honored guests.”
, “But they killed my men,” the captain whined
“Yes. I suggest you enlist better trained men. You may go. By the way Captain, Tristan McLeod
is a King. Consider yourself fortunate. The penalty for attempting to kill a king is death. Plus no virgins
in the afterlife, only fallen women.”
A stick figure trying to reassemble his sticks every bone belonged elsewhere walk. The Captain
thought: humility will do that.
The Emir suggested a bath after such a long journey? “After all a naked man has nothing to hide
and places everyone on equal footing.”
“Love one.” Tristan replied, thinking this made three baths in two days. How much cleaner
could he get.

Book 2 1/2
The Question chapters.
I found so many answers, I forget the question. Thomas’ diary.

Question Chapter ?

While the bath house in Tarragona shouted ‘crumbing ruin, ’ the bath house at the Alhambra
whispered: here be pleasures. Steam lazily drifted above the water. Painted Roman tiles depicting
people in various wraps surrounded the bath itself. Thomas and Tristan soaked, yes, but dared not
move, the water’s hotness forbad such. Instead they listened, while the Emir graciously spelled out its
history. “Caesars bathed here. Not those latter Caesars, but Jules Caesar’s. Mohammed Reesa, the man
whose vision stands around us, carted marble by marble and recreated Julius’ bath in Roma. Ah, the
Romans. They knew how to bathe. Unlike the Spanish. But I will not go there. Always say something
nice about a race, if only to throw them off guard.
Laughter sought, laughter escalated. After which Thomas managed to push through his lips. “So
tell me Emir why is the water so hot!”
“A sweet pain, Sir Thomas. The hot water, although painful, thoroughly relaxes the muscles. As
the water cools, allowing you to move, your muscles are so relaxed they lack the will to move. Thus, a
sweet pain on both ends. Finely life returns, and movement is heaven,”
“I’ll let you know.”
“Please. In the interim allow me to boast about the Alhambra.” The Emirs’ voice sang as he
weaved history, starting with: the Alhambra’s red coloring. ‘Known as the red one, its complete Arabic
name: al-Qal'at al-Ħamrā'=‘the ‘Red fortress.’" After two hours he ended with: “War built it and peace
keeps it safe. An irony.”
“The water is cool now.” Thomas clarified on her earlier remark, “And you were correct, on
both accounts. And the Alhambra is a magnificent building.”
Tristan agreed. “Said story a magnificent piece of history. A scribe should record it before
history forgets it.”
The Emir stood and beckoned for a towel. For such a small man, he was hung, use that cock as
a third leg. Thomas’ dairy.
“No fear. History embraces it.” At the door to the bathhouse, still naked, towel held in hand, the
Emir turned, “Was I pretentious, babbling on. About the Alhambra?”
“When Alexander looked over the breadth and width of his kingdom, he wept, for there were no
more worlds to conquer,” Tristan recited, “But Emir that is incorrect. When Alexander looked over the
breadth and width of his kingdom, he wept...for there were so many worlds to conquer, and he had yet
to conquer one.”
“Bravo bravo,” clapping, its echo kissing the lips of ancient Roman figures, ”Dinner at seven.
The hour when the day’s heat is dissipating, while the evening’s cool is arriving. The perfect time to
dine. There will be a few other guests. Feel free to explore the city. I regret my duties.”
“You made that up” Thomas, after the Emir had departed
“An untruth is only an untruth if discovered.” A trailing hand building a water fall that cascaded
over Thomas.
Which facilitated a leap, landing on Tristan. The water play began.
Two servants stood at ready. Stone like.
To think a mere few hours ago we were fleeing. HUH! Thomas’ diary.

Question Chapter ??

After dressing, Thomas and Tristan, curious about the city, set out to tour the city. They held the
belief that to experience a new city as beautiful as Granada, one must walk. MUST. Now such stated,
and boldly so, the first thing a traveler need determine, is the city a walking friendly city. Size, of course
mattered, only in so far as how the city is laid out. A small city can be deadly boring for walking,
whereas a large city may offer the same old same old block after block, which is also deadly
boring...leading to a pub and drink. Flip that gold coin over and the opposite holds. Granada, as a city,
merely threw the coin away, and in doing so created its own little world in the middle of chaos; an
interesting world: one filled by countless serried foreigners sounding in gentle serpentine serrated
tongues. The languages combined echoed in colors.
The street vendors stalls were stacked with colorful items shipped in from hither and yonder,
some known to Tristan and Thomas, others not. There language universal, “Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy,
buy, buy,” echoed in colors.
Of course, there were goods from Granada and Andalusia, such as oranges. Which Thomas
idled chewed on while they strolled. From Thomas’s view, the city was a melting pot, a well organized
pot. Some men were very dark, giving them a mystiques dark knifed appearance, others light skinned,
showing their pallor in the noon day sun. Some were black men, educated, as told by their dress and
mannerisms: their courteousness in not only passing women, but the book carried under arm, and most
importantly curious eyes, soft smile, and upon chance to hear them speak, very proper. The women
were all in their own way quite beautiful and charmingly gay. So the considered authority between
them, Tristan, commented. The buildings also impressed, and the streets in this section of Granada,
were, like the streets when they had arrived, of cobblestone, only these were black and the white
contrast created beauty. All in all a very fine city that reminded them of Red Hawk’s Clear River. Both
clean of heart.
They, even amongst this melting pot, were the oddity and knew it. Tristan had forsaken what he
considered the bed clothing the Emir had loaned them and now wore his faithful but dirty and road
stained wool shirt and wool pants and carried his sword and had his hair tied back. Thomas wore his
black wool pants and black wool shirt, which did not show the stains as badly as Tristan’s clothing: his
bow riding shoulder, hair close cropped, They were out of place amongst the people here who dressed
in linen, or silk.
Their manner of dress facilitated Tristan to ejaculate, “I am tired of wearing wool.”
“As compared to what,” Thomas wondered out loud.
“Shop we just passed, sign read clothing in 4 language. Why not see.”
Sure why not, Thomas thought, as long as it was black. He had taken to wearing black as much
as possible in an attempt to match Av revoir’s coloring.
Entering the shop, they were astounded by the array of goods. Silk. Cotton. Linen. Some kind of
hemp. All made into clothing. Tristan knew Glasgow shops carried cotton clothing, wool, and some
silk, but un-sure about hemp. Because he did not know what hemp even was. So he sniffed it. A
pungent odor.
Meanwhile Thomas fingered a pair of silk pants, “Silk? Is silk strong, durable? I ask because it is
very light.”
A dark skinned young girl promptly answered the question, “Silk is the finest. Comes from Asia.
Warm, elegant, easy on the fingers, and very very strong. Also very expensive.” Here she smiled to
show empathy at their woe-begotten clothing. “Sadly so.”
Tristan also fingered silk pants and shirt. Smooth. Nice. But he rather doubted silk would fend
off the cold. But then wool had not worked out all that well over the years either.
Thomas “I will try a pair on,” announced.
The girl began to inquire about size, but Thomas had stripped off his trousers, now naked from
the waist down. He had stopped the practice of tying his cock because he figured he would not be
fighting nude, yet she could not stop herself from appraising him and involuntarily smiled at what she
saw; shocked at herself, she quickly uttered, “A 30 waste, a waist, long should do.” Saying it as if
everyday a man walked in and stripped. Of course she had never fantasized about such an occurrence
happening. A resounding: YES! She fished about the pants and selected a pair, handing them over.
Thomas slid into them like a glove and was instantly in love.
“A shirt,” he said, already unfastening his.
“Same color?”
“Yes, black.”
Of which she supplied and he donned.
“You are...Elegant, sir.” Flirting, fighting a lost cause against the urge.
And Thomas wearing clothes that seduced, certainly was. “Yes, well, huh, that is the difference
between I and him,” he joked, gesturing at Tristan, “I am able to make this look good.”
A challenge not to be denied. So one up-man-ship in play, Tristan stripped entirely, exposing a
sunken rib-cage and his tied semi hard cock. The only thing he now wore was a Druid charm around his
neck and a string tied around his cock where the balls met. “Same for me.”
But she was transfixed by his cock. It spoke to her. Calling out to her. The spell broke when two
police entered, summoned by the owner. They shook rattles to summon silence. “You are in big trouble.
Big. As in castration.” One shouted.
A man emerged from the shadows unseen by all, except Thomas, until now. He whispered in the
policeman’s ear. “Excuse me Sir,” the policeman who shouted, now red-faced, apologized, “You are
the Emir’s honored guest. He bowed slightly, “I shall go. Good day.”
“The Emir asked me to watch over you two,“ facing a naked Tristan, avoiding staring at the
cock yet thinking: I must try sting. Drive the men crazy.
The matter settled, the girl again feasted on the cock. Moist. Running down her legs. By
Mohammed, she thought, I must remain pure. And fetched clothing for him. Dressed, he inquired,
“What is your name?”
“Ah Matine, a beautiful name. So which one of us does justice.”
”I..” and laughed gaily, “Both.”
“Ah yes, the safe answer.”
“But what is important is how they feel.”
“Light” Tristan said, “Very light.”
“That is good, no?”
“Very good. If they hold the warmth.”
“Oh they will. Besides you can always wear wool over it.”
Hmm, Tristan thought, I did not think of that, “You are a very bright girl. Train your husband
well, and well will serve you.”
A soft smile. An, ‘I am willing to be your wife,’ smile.
“Fine. Tally all. He will pay.” Tristan pointed at Thomas.
Some parchment, a quill, ink, jotting, figuring, a number. The amount very very high. Gold,
Thomas’s uncle’s gold. Now his and Tristan’s. He paid readily, surprising her. “And keep the change.”
Which was considerable.
“Your old clothes, I can wrap them or clean them for you?”
“Clean them,” Thomas. “Much road dust. Send them to the Alhambra.”
On their way out, Thomas jested, “Well will serve you.”
“Not a bad line.”
Late afternoon moves found them settled in the Alhambra’s great library, so, if not more so,
enchanting than exploring the city and buying clothes. In any case both enlivened the senses. Thomas
already had his head buried in a book, mumbling over his lips to himself.
The library had so many books, billions maybe, thought Tristan, where to begin. The books were
arranged according to culture. So Tristan traced a finger along the Greek Culture, tracing, moving
backward in time, moving moving moving, pausing. The Emir now there. “The Greek’s beginning,
“Mmm. So long ago.”
“Yes, just after the age of darkness.”
“The age of what?”
“Persians’ have a saying: before civilization the age of darkness. Or just: the dark ages. A time
when man’s Gods had forsaken him.”
“Rome’s fall seemed to usher in such a time,” Tristan opined.
“Only for Europe, Rome’s gods condemned to oblivion, darkness covered the land until a new
god exposed, now embraced, now worshipped, now killing, now salvation only lies in death. For the
Jewish, wandering took a religious form until Mohammed came along.”
“They also embraced a dark god.”
“Perhaps. The Koran, much in it based on Jesus’ teaching’s which were based on Yahweh’s
“Then your prophet is a dark prophet, respectfully.”
“Perhaps.” He, his soft voice gentle, “But perhaps it is not so much the prophet as the people
who interpret the words. And your gods, the Druid gods. Little is known about them.”
“Yes. A time of wizards. Magic. Sorcery. Vanished now. A time where fun was the religion,
fundamentalism a byword. ”
“Perhaps as well. Magic frightens people so.”
“Whatever rustles frightens those in fear,” Tristan, as if in his youth such knowledge had been
stamped on him.
“Such words in one so young. I offer no offense, but I would dearly enjoy bedding with you.”
“None taken, Emir. But I must decline. I will state my reasons. We are both rulers. When a man
fucks, every man imagines himself a tyrant. Two tyrants sharing one bed.”
“No more need be said. I shall leave a tid-bit in your chamber. She is young.”
“I now mean no offense. I prefer conquest to tid-bites, a willing submission, to forced.”
“None taken. I do compliment you on your new clothes. Silk suits you both. Now I must attend
to dinner. Continue to enjoy the library. Liberty leads to the library and back to liberty. Well, enjoy.”
They did, delightfully so.
Night moves. Slower than day moves. Servants moving from person to person, setting plates
down while taking plates away. The dinner served in a small dinning room at the Alhambra. The other
guests: An Egyptian ambassador. An east Indies merchant. An Arab king from a country they had never
heard of, and a Japanese navel commander, an Admiral Ito. The Emir, a gracious host, made each man
in turn feel important.
Tristan addressed Admiral Ito. ”You are a long way from home. Why?”
The question, why, was considered rude in Japan, why being explained at the person’s
discretion. But the Admiral adjusted seamlessly. “Trade. I am a representative for General Akio. Japan,
requires certain goods.”
“All countries do. Trade is good. It fosters and forges friendships, no?”
“Ah so, Tristan McLeod San.”
“Tristan or McLeod, respectfully, sir.”
A slight bow “My country is presently engaged in a civil war. chief’s against chief’s. General
Akio is attempting to unite Japan. The trade of goods is a first step.”
“So you are, ah, making the rounds in Europe?”
“Ah so. A few days ago I lunched with Queen Isabella. Tomorrow I depart for France. I am
given to understand you are the King of Scotland.”
“Guilty,” Tristan joked, “I humbly invite you to visit during your travels. Scotland has much to
“I humbly accept your invitation..”
“In the spring, Admiral. Scotland is at its best in the spring.”
“Ah so.”
Tristan took that as a yes, “So Emir, you have a wonderful city.”
“One tries to rule justly, evenly, but in the end the people make the city what it is. I just rule.”
“But you do so under fire from the Spanish fanatics. Must make your task difficult.”
A shrug, “One rules. One does not chose the times or the place. The great God chooses.”
There was a, ‘please stray away from such conversation,’ in the Emir’s voice. Thomas
rearranged the conversation, “Your city is a melting pot.”
“Yes,“ Pleased. “We are very tolerant. Christians. Jews. We all live. It is Mohammed’s way.
And you Sir Thomas, Christian?”
“Nothing! A man must believe in something.”
“Myself. Tristan. All else pales.”
“Ah.” As if such explained it all.
Doubts. Those creatures who weary us, entered in the form of a servant who whispered to the
Emir. He doubted now. “It seems King Fernando is at the city gate. I shall greet him and see what he
wants. You enjoy the meal, please.”
At that point enjoying a meal, well, not part of Tristan’s evening any longer. He and Thomas
trailed along.
“It is me he wants,” Tristan offered.
“Yes, I suspect so. After all, you killed Pope Innocent and fucked his bride. I imagine he wants
your head.”
“So let me talk to him.”
“Here, Tristan, I rule. Not Fernando, not yet, nor you.”
Warm, friendly, disarming, the Emir was all this and more in greeting Frigid. He listened
patiently, almost priest like. “I sympathize Fernando, I really do. But this ground is Andalusia, not
Spain. Whatever crimes Tristan McLeod may or may not be guilty of, he is an honored guest.”
Words, words heard so often are rendered meaningless. Fido persisted becoming meaningless.
Thomas’ diary.
A rolling gentle head shake, the Emir, tired, just wanting peace. The tiredness visible. Tristan,
harshly grabbing Fronds forearm, steering him through the gate, facing his waiting troops. Thomas in
the shadows, bow at the ready, counting ten men, clear line of sight, easy, no sweat.
“Go home Frumbo. Leave these people be.”
Fernando real angry now. A hand gesture. A rider moved, died, another moved died, and yet
another, and died. From where? The rest wondered. The arrows flew from all directions. Yes Thomas
changed places after each arrow.
Fern still angry, but unsure now, hearing Tristan say, ‘I have a question for you?”
“What! Anger. Raw. Arms and body twisting from it.
Tristan, calm, in a gravely whisper, “How do you intend to reach your mount alive?”
What! What! was this boy insane. He was Fernando. He was king. The sheer impudence. These
thoughts followed by: he is insane. he will kill me right here. I have to get away. This boy is insane. He
is a boy, just a boy, an insane boy who kills Pope’s and kings.
Fi-fi-fum unintentionally cried out his thoughts, “I will ride away.” And shame painted his dark
face a crimson red.
“Be what I would do. And never return. Tell Isabella Edwards will not be happy. Just tell her
Relieved upon reaching his mount. Riding away, leaving the dead. Stomach cramps. Awful
cramps. Fear, now released, he shat himself. Upon arriving at the palace, he hung each man with him.
Late now so much later than before, just the Emir and Tristan and Thomas. “He will return. You
two have to leave. Sorry.”
“No need. Nothing to be sorry for.” Tristan assured.
“After the wedding, they will come in force. A few years. I have armed the inevitable. and it is
hunting me.”
“You can run.” Thomas.
“No. This is my home. Besides, a ruler should never run. He should be last.”
“Some would disagree. Say the ruler should be first, safe, able to return and rule.”
“They are self-serving wrong. That presumes the ruler is indispensable. No. The people are. Any
man can rule.”
“But you can hold out a few years.” Tristan. Hoping time would change current events for the
“Yes, maybe longer. The Vatican wants me dead also. They have, along with the African
Moslem fanatics, ruined Andalusia. Destroyed her. We are living history dying. Such a beautiful place,
once room for everyone. Little by little until now only Granada stands in the way.”
“If you escape,” Tristan offered, “Make your way to Scotland. You will be safe there.”
“I am safe nowhere. The Moslems want me dead because I allow religious freedom. The Vatican
because I am an infidel. I am dead.”
Thomas, “Some never live.” Stupid, he thought. So very.
The Emir, “Most, Sir Thomas, Most.”
Tristan. “We will leave now.”
“Yes. I am sorry. I offer you comfort and my house and take it away. It is a wrong thing.”
“A favor?”
”In the spring, send me one of your architects. I have many questions. And work for
such a man.”
“Yes, of course.”
Hugs all the way round.
For them a long goodbye. Afterwards, slipping into Thomas’s world, his friend, lover, weapon:
the night.
Admiral Ito sat cross-legged in his room. He wrote in his diary, had been doing so for some
time. He now wrote: met the king of Scotland, a Tristan McLeod. And his man at arms: a Sir Thomas.
He moved on to more important writings.
The Emir appraised the young man lying on the bed. He sighed. There was no conquest here.
Just a fuck. He went to the window and perhaps saw out there in the night The Last Pagan Warrior, or
so he believed, so desperately wanted too.
Absently turning away from the Emir, Two gods brushed away a planet, sending it spiraling
about a hundred thousand miles away. They were laughing.

Book two: ending tide-bits.

Gossip and rumors in Europe, well, a game, entertainment, fun. The nobles engaged in it,
playfully, yes, but to profit also. The long winter offered much time for gossip. So much so wagers were
placed, large sums wagered, spring the voice separating truth from gossip…revealing who is alive,
dead, or bankrupt. There were those, those who traded and wagered in gossip/rumor, who believed
Thomas and Tristan were just boys, playing, irrepressible boys, why just look at them, dressed in black
silk, or so King Fernando had informed, riding those silly black Thoroughbreds, boys, boys who will
meet sure death, if not by accident, through back talking the wrong person. After all, they were not
invincible. They would certainly meet death at the hands of a Basque warlord, or in Portugal, or
southern Espanola.
But suddenly, as if a stop sign were erected, the rumors/gossip experienced a drought concerning
them. They appeared to vanish off the earth’s face. That would not do. No, no, no. So rumors were
made up, after all that is why they are called: rumors.
And the gossip machine, this entrainment tent, continued, the tea cups relaxed. Their world
Edwards, deep in Buckingham Palace’s recesses hiding from his wife, scowled out a vent at the
dark snow bent sky; the sun peeked through the clouds. He wondered: where in the hell were they?
But there was one who traced their every step, watched, wondering, curious, as they themselves
were curious. He was beginning to believe. Just a little, about the size of a flea.

Question: ???

Fact is they were in Africa. Had anyone listened to Tristan, instead of merely hearing words,
they would remember him saying: ‘We are chasing the weather’.
Which they were. Warm weather. They had traced the darkness to the sea and followed the sea
for two days before booking passage about a trading vessel bound for Morocco. They had spent little
time in Morocco, a land filled with goats and goat herders, and continued following the coast, bypassing
Egypt, and pulling away from the sea until they came to black Africa. But they only brushed along the
border, unsure here. They stumbled across a village, more European in nature, than Arabic; the village
turned out to be the last settlement of the last crusade living out their last moments before passing
unnoticed into history. Here they paused, mostly to rest their mounts, Tristan taking pain to show the
stable boy at an inn how to brush Trouble. Two days later they continued forging south, skirting the
lush jungle beside them, wondering what lay in there. Days had passed without seeing a soul. Out of
this emptiness they met a very obese man, oval like an egg, a palm leaf shading him from the relentless
African sun. He sat aboard a wagon driven by a large man, head shaved, smiling cunningly. Six black
men, tied to each other, trailed the wagon.
Slave trader, Tristan pegged, not his problem.
“Ah ho my man,” the man said in some tongue.
“French, Latin, English, Danish, some Spanish and Italian,” Thomas, not saying: Gallic.
Although they seldom used it, mostly because almost everyone in Scotland understood it. Also because
they had Thomas’s gesture code.
“Ah,” in French, “Long way from home.”
Tristan thought: You have no idea, because I have no idea where we are, but said, “Chasing
“Ah, northern Europe.”
“Scotland. Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.”
He might as well have shouted: Gold, Gold, I am Gold. For the slave trader was aware the
Vatican had a price on his head. The obese man said, “Pleasure,” and raised a gesturing hand meant to
disarm yes, but also a code between him and his driver.
Thomas had monitored the man’s intention and had found them wanting: the way the man had
phrased ‘pleasure’ as if tasting it. Which, well, odd since they had just met. His practice at using the
longbow in short distance paid off well. Only he was disappointed that the arrow’s whistle began but
quickly faded into a dying drone. The obese man died. The driver started to raise a sword, a huge
curved thing that appeared twice its size coming down at Tristan. Tristan batted the sword aside and
quickly cut him in two. The upper part of the man and the curved sword still gripped in his hand flew
off and landed a few feet away. The lower part slumped down on the wagon’s wooden seat as if in
“I cannot wait to kill that Pope,” Tristan commented.
Thomas, pointing at the tied slaves. “What about these people,”
“Not our problem.”
No,” Thomas agreed, “but we should at least untie them. They will die in this sun.”
“True enough.”
Real truth always hides, afraid; and with damn good reason. The real truth hid, yet watched
events, and unwillingly crawled out from the heat of darkness, the jungle; a few truth reluctantly stood.
Truth made up a band of black men, each hefting a spear, or once a spear as the tips were gone. They
were all malnourished, so much that you could not only count their ribs, you could, if so desired, count
every bone on them. One man crept on all fours forward, head lowered in submission, words halting
Portuguese which Thomas made out. His name was Lim. His tribe the Wolof. The gist: Two of the
slaves were from his village.
“So take,” Thomas offered.
But the man pointed at the obese Arab trader. “YeYe?”
Thomas squinted in the sun, “He is dead,” Thomas stating a fact already known by all there.
Tristan counted himself mildly surprised.
“Nitakula? Lim saw that Thomas did not understand and using both hands scooped up some
sand and tasted it.
Why? Thomas still, thinking the Gyta, wondered. Shrugged, why not, and waved a permissive
Which translated into: come to village. Eat Big Gods. Thomas translated. Tristan all for it.,
“Why not. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure...they are not after the Vatican’s gold.”
Thomas silently agreed.
The Wolof quickly stripped the wagon of everything, leaving just a shell. Four men carried the
obese man and his driver. The slaves willingly followed. Tristan and Thomas brought up the rear. The
brush, deep, so deep a man could easily become lost. A hour, two. During the march Tristan saw almost
no game, as if something had wiped out all the animals leaving it spiritless, to use Red Hawks thinking.
At last a village of sorts. Huts, straw, much like Red Hawks, but tilting in rottenness. And disorganized.
Tristan realized right away: nobody appeared to be in charge. He listened for a second and off in the
distance heard the sound of what could only be a strong rushing river. He shifted in the saddle. “So
these be what slavers want. Why?” to Thomas.
“Of course. What else.” Not a question but an agreement.
By this time every single villager had emerged from huts and formed a circle around them. The
yellow of their eyes fixated on the horses. The horses’ amazed them. Whether for food or something
else remained a mystery. They one by one touched Trouble, who allowed it. Au revoir, not a chance.
She nipped at every black hand attempting to touch her. It was while Thomas was trying to calm her
that Lim spoke. “Dinner? You stay. In the light we take you to fort. Other white men.”
“Fort?” Tristan, surprised.
“Be what he said.”
“A fort. Here? White men?”
“Big,” Lim.
“Appears these people trade with the Portuguese. What I do not know.”
Right than I outstretched a hand out toward the horizon, the setting sun. A sun so glorious we
both sat mesmerized for a few moments. At last I murmured: Africa. Thomas diary.
“Very dangerous alone. A river. Big. Big animals. Eat.” Lim.
“Big is his word of the day,” Thomas, pointing toward the sound of the rushing river. “Out there
is big everything.”
Well, wherever they were, nobody knew they were there, that much Tristan was certain. And
that was big.
Later a big fire large enough to roast two good sized men: the Arab slave trader and his driver’s
fate. The entire village, Tristan figured thirty-two people, swarmed out to the ‘big feast.’ Their pride
showed. They, both men and women, wore tatters with pride, as if attending a feast. The women, hair
tangled, clumps hanging, hands held before them. Men stood tall holding the useless spears. They
attended a banquet, just like the Palace in London. They would attend as such: Pride.
Once proud warriors, but now a thing had fallen upon them and hard. Thomas’ diary.
“This river,” Thomas thinking out loud. “must separate this section from the interior. Everything
here is gone. And these people are starving. “
“What could cause such massive migration or death?”
“The river, the river is the key.”
Thomas held the thought as the village gathered for dinner. The young men fed first, followed
by the older men, the women ate last. While Thomas observed all this, Lim handed over a big slice of
the Arab trader to each.
“When in Roma,” Tristan mimicked Thomas’s words.
“Do as the black Africans,” Thomas grimly conceded. He beckoned Lim who scurried over on
all fours, eager to please. “This river. I can hear it. Name? Called?”
“Oh oh,” Lim stuttered, then slowly pronounced, “Erar. Very dangerous.” Shaking his head
now, “Even white gods not cross. Bad voodoo.”
Thomas: Voodoo? He would ask later. “And your people,” waving at hand at them eating, “So
few? Why?
“White man take.”
Waving his arm, standing, waving up and down toward the jungle. “All!”
He scurried away on all. Food awaited.
“I will never again complain about your picky eating habits, Tristan.”
“Actually, ah, tasty, sweet.”
I saw nowhere in such conversation and merely out of respect for these people nibbled. All the
while thinking: What the obese Arab sought to capture captured him. Poetic justice. Thomas’ diary.
It was a starry night. Thomas, hunched just outside the village’s perimeter. He appreciated the
clear sky. Later the jungle across the river came alive like no other he had heard, chattering,
communicating, roars, things fighting: big things.
He listened. At first light his eyes unfurled too Tristan smiling.
“Fort. Time to fort. It appears the other slaves are to be sold, traded, whatever. I could not make
it all out. The question is do we want to tag along or try and forge that river. I must confess, any river is
“Later. I want to tag along. I have questions. Curious.”
Leaning close to Thomas, Tristan whispered comically, “Do you want trader Arab sandwich for
“Please. I hunted a few mice in the night.”
“Goody mice.”
Trouble and Au revoir were in food heaven. They had feasted on the rich grass and were in
excellent spirits. Trouble still wanted to fuck her but the problem was food, so tasty, difficult choice,
time later. Which had been his problem all along, Trouble kept putting off the decision. Au revoir was
pissing mad at him. And showed as much by pissing on his hooves whenever possible. Like now.
Thomas as always before mounting her, gently patted her nose. She loved the touch. She loved
Thomas. If only................
All the onlys were a few hours behind them now. The other slaves were dragged along like
goats, bumbling along the hard red earth, suffering numerous contusions and outward cuts and bruises.
They were now on the coast, following its splashing waves. Tristan spotted the fort first and nudged
Thomas, “Ahead. Protruding from those cliffs.”
“Mmm hu.”
Slowly the fort emerged until they were about 50 yards away, here the chief halted, waiting.
Thomas and Tristan shrugged and waited. For what? The question of the young day, they knew. Two
men riding horses approached. A Portuguese captain and a priest. The men were very surprised to see
them. They introduced themselves: Captain Prodigies and Father Monaca.
The Africans bowed low, nearly touching the sand with their noses, in deference.
“Tristan,” Tristan, dripping the McLeod onto the sand, tired of being hunted.
“I am with him,” Thomas pointed out.
“You are English?” From the captain
“French English,” Thomas responded for them both, not lying just leaving Scotland out of the
“I am Portuguese. The Vatican has granted us domain over this land. King Edwards is aware.”
“You, ah,” Tristan stumbling over his thoughts, “Ah, we are not here to deal in slaves. Just
passing through.”
“All right.”
The priest had remained silent, now laid his thoughts out, “You are Tristan McLeod?” Hesitant,
His sword, of course. Imprinted on the hilt in bold letters: MCLEOD. “Yes, but I am here as a
The priest spoke in Portuguese, captain attentive, listening.
“This cannot be good,” Thomas warned needlessly. Utilizing Tristan’s over-wordage.
“Understatement.” utilizing Thomas’s word scarcity.
“You must come with me,” The captain. Not a statement. An order.
Tristan shook his head, disgusted. “You are making a mistake, Captain.”
Thomas disarmingly held his hands up, backing Av revoir away slow, as if all this had nothing
to do with him. Tristan saw the familiar continuation of Thomas’s arms moving back until fingers
touched arrows. The captain raised a hand and four riders erupted from the fort. Not, Thomas thought,
in formation, but staggered as if nothing important. He could wait, make a sport of it, but no. Never
wait. NEVER. One o’clock, he muttered, two o’clock. Whistling death followed.
“And you only are allowed one.” Tristan, sad at the needlessness.
Tristan had his sword at ready before the captain’s hand glazed his. “I have Gold,” he begged. A
merchant. Trying to barter life. An imposable task. Tristan killed him, turned on the priest before the
captain hit the sand. “Priest…
Quite frankly the Africans were stunned beyond belief. Lim had been taken in a raid by Arabs as
a youth and knew their ways as the Arabs had been slaving for hundreds of years, and often killed each
other. But the whites, they were devils, white men black hearts, and had never witnessed a white killing
another. Tristan must therefore be God. And Thomas, who struck from afar, a bigggg God. Or so his
thinking went.
…this is not a conversation and you do not have any options. Speak only when addressed.”
Many questions later they both learned the slave fort held sixty-six slaves. The four soldiers
were the entire fort’s defense. A ship was scheduled to arrive in two days, maybe one. They purchased
slaves for a little powder, necklace, trifles. The slaves would be shipped to the East Indies. At last the
priest, feeling a bit courageous, said, “They are yours. Take them. Spare me.”
Lips pursed, Tristan raised a single stiff finger indicating once. “Priest I did not ask that
It is untrue, the priest learned, one does not see their life flash before their eyes, they have a
bowel movement.
“But I need you for a little while longer.”
SO! relived. SO! SO! SO! “Anything.”
Anything turned out to be the fort. They wanted to see it, how it had been built, and what it
contained. The priest escorted them through every room. The fort was very simple, the upper half
contained the captain’s quarters, the troops barracks, a cook house, a chapel with a connecting room for
the priest and off to the side the powder room holding about fifty barrels of powder. In the lower level a
small damp cramped airless room where the slaves were quartered. The slaves, men, women and
children, were chained by the ankle to one another, and stacked side by side like cords of wood, and lay
in their own excrement. The stench in the airless room was overwhelming, almost causing Tristan and
Thomas to toss their Arab trader sandwich. Here they lingered seconds. Once outside in fresh air, ate
the air. The slaves, not their problem.
“The powder,” Thomas prompted, “Why so much?”
Intrigued remembering long ago, the little bandy seaman, the palm full of powder, the sparks,
followed by smoke. “How does it work.”
“Light it, and it burns. Used for cannons.”
Thomas, thinking, pondering, in himself now, all the way in.
Tristan, “What?”
Thomas smiling, “Big. Big,”
“You are loosing me.“
“We have a chance here to see a great deal of powder at work.”
Tristan, “Uh, um, sure, hmm, why not,” totally disinterested.
“Have to move those slaves first.”
“Sure. Priest go back in that room and unchain them. ALL!”
They waited. The priest had worked fast in that little airless room because within minutes men,
women, and children funneled out under the searing African sun. A few strong enough ran for the
jungle, legs pumping up and down, yes, but awkward, running almost bowlegged. But most wandered
aimlessly in a circle, temporary blinded by the sun light. A second wave funneled from the fort. Again a
few made a run for the forest. A third wave emerged. Soon the surrounding area was swarming, naked
men and woman, drinking freedom, delirious in it!
The priest emerged under the sun and stood waiting for a command, not willing to risk a word,
not even a letter. Heck, barely a breath.
Thomas ordered, “Priest, powder room.”
Following the Priest, Thomas summoned up the words from the long ago French seaman who
had taught them about cannons and powder. He remembered the powder required a fuse to blow. He
said as much and the priest rummaged in the room and from a wood crate produced a very long fuse,
thinking a long one would please Thomas.
But Thomas paid little attention to the fuse. Now what, he thought, examining what lay before
him. The barrels of powder were closely nestled together. Tristan wanted to hurry-up, Thomas reminded
him that patience was a virtue, and slipped his dagger from his left boot and used it to sliver a hole in
one barrel, then inserted the fuse. They were all very lucky that day because the priest had chosen a long
fuse. Thomas removed two small flint and struck repeatedly until the fuse sparkled. “Just in case,”
Thomas, lazily, “We should wait outside. No hurry. I expect a lot of sparking and smoke.”
To say Tristan, bored by all this, well, an understatement. He wanted to be on the merry way
and maintained a brisk pace all the way to Trouble, who was still about fifty yards from the fort. Tristan
was about to say, “Time to ride,” when the powder blew. The explosion alone, deafening, the fort...all
gone vanished, rubble, rocks, dust swirling the air, choking breath blinding sight rendering only voices
useful. Thomas shouting for Tristan who shouted for Thomas while thinking: by the gods, Thomas just
created a weapon of mass destruction!
The priest and his thoughts of dying had vanished replaced by the thought: Glory. The Pope.
Must inform the Pope. I will be a Monsignor.
The slaves thinking: Tristan and Thomas were very BIG GODS! THE BIGGEST GODS OF
Thomas grinning, just like a boy playing with toys. Which he was. “Who would have thought,”
he remarked, having found Tristan amongst the destruction.
“We came we saw,” Tristan recited, “we conquered the world. The only problem there was
nothing worth ruling. We blew it all up.”
The world at our feet. Turn. Left? Right? Forward. Backward. Thomas’ diary.
The freed Africans waited, fear rendering all but a few unable to move more than a few feet.
Those few who did move did so out of hunger and picked lice off ones next to them and ate. Others
seemed in a daze. Others yet, mostly the ones Tristan and Thomas arrived with, waited on their GOD!
It took a good while for Tristan to realize this. They were free. Why did they not all flee. He shook the
thought away and instead asked of himself out loud a question that has befuddled philosophers for
eons: Why does man freely walk to his doom?
“Because most people walk a straight line, too afraid to do otherwise.” Thomas theorized.
Lim lifted himself off the earth and now stood tall. Tristan pointed at the dead captain. “You
A greedy jackal eyed thank you, the winkles around his eyes snakes.
“You let these other Africans alone,” The other Africans had huddled together, clinging to each
other while still picking lice off their neighbor. Tristan’s voice frightened them more now than before.
This God was angry. “I will throw in those four soldiers.”
“Yeye,” Lim said pointing at the priest, for the first time iron in his voice, here the man he once
feared, the man who said he spoke for God. He wanted him who lied.
“No,” He shouted, “I need him to pass on a message. He will die, do not worry. His masters will
kill him. You are not to touch him.”
This god’s loudness. This Lim really understood. A resigning sigh. A powerful god had spoken.
“Take them. Tell these others to flee. Now.”
Lim never uttered a word. The Africans understood the word: flee all too well.. Within moments
the jungle had swallowed up all the Africans or they had swallowed the jungle. Except for the priest,
they were alone. The only sound the sea’s endlessness.
“Priest. Priest.” Tristan repeated, sponging sweat off his brow, approaching a cross stuck in the
sand, boot heels creating sand art. The cross had leather straps where hands and feet would be if a man
were standing upright. “Well well what do we have here. I believe some manner of torture contraption.
Used also for?” Already knowing.
“Punishment only. I never...”
“Yes, Sir.”
“And fucking?”
“Yes.” Dejected.
“But you never.”
“Yes. No I mean.”
“Disrobe.” The priest had soiled himself. “Jesus, you will be Jesus on the cross.” Tying the
priest to the cross, “If you last two days, you will not have to die for anybodies sins. If not, well perhaps
they will write a book about how you died for others’ sins.”
Meekly, “Please. Have mercy.”
“Why is it Thomas that one moment a man is willing to kill you and foiled, begs for the very
same mercy he denied you?”
“Because the meek shall inherent the earth,” I recited that day, “For they have no mercy.”
Thomas’ diary.
“Priest, when your ship arrives, tell The captain The Last Pagan Warrior was here. For him to
inform the Pope I am hunting him.”
The shore line led them back toward Europe. The same thoughts on both their minds, if a lowly
Arab slave trader and a slave captain isolated in Africa knew there was a price on Tristan’s head, then
things were more serious than they believed. Weather chasing done.
But they had a few stops. The first…

Question Chapter ???

Roma, I thought, once home to Caesars. Now home to Popes. The Caesars were better company.
What many failed to realize? Caesars had held a extremely precarious position: at one point, twenty-
two Caesars fell in a single year. Popes were suddenly finding out their positions equally dangerous.
Certainly as Gods right hand man, well, a peaceful death insured. Thomas’ diary.
So Pope Gregory believed as he sat at his desk in his chambers studying the ‘lost chapters.’
These were bible verses even his predecessors had deemed too cruel, too fanatic, too dangerous to
include in the bible. A lamp lit the room. A fire burned in the fireplace. It was late. Quiet. As he liked.
All the pilgrims were gone. He had just had his cock sucked by a very willing young nun. His stomach,
full. All in all, at peace, safe.
The realization you are not alone when you believe you are is rather, to put it mildly, startling.
But it does race the old heart. Gives it a boost. Nothing like it.
A gravely whisper, “Priest.”
What a rush, Gregory thought. Fear can be like that.
“Tristan McLeod, “ he said.
“I knew you would come.”
‘Yes. They are all dead, sixteen.”
“The Ghost?”
“Yes, the Unholy-Ghost?”
Thomas. “Yes priest.”
“You will burn.”
“Priest,” a soft whisper.
“You cannot stop us. A new pope will take my place. And his on and on.”
“Priest, I do not want to stop you. I want to be left alone.”
“We cannot let you live now. Before, yes.”
An “I know” sad whisper. Then Tristan appeared in the light. He wore the black silk bought in
Granada. He lifted the papers the Pope was reading.
The dagger slid softly in, slow, even, Gregory staring into Tristan’s deep blue eyes. No fear. Just
resigned failure. And died.
Slipping along the shadows, Thomas his guide. All was quiet throughout the Vatican. Not even a
mouse stirred. Once outside they changed into their wool clothing. It was too late to stop and see da
They followed the emaciated blackness…

Question chapter ????

..Into France. The weather had progressively worsened. Growing colder. By the time they
reached Bayonne snow covered the ground. The ride more tiring than the long march with Red Hawk.
It was the horses, of course, all that jostling, jouncing, bouncing, fingers clutching, tightening,
loosening. The horse covered more ground in less time but demanded payment for that swiftness.
Consequently, the ride had been one of endurance, and weary, tired, cold, and in all sense of the word
worn to the bone, they nodded at the stable boy who greeted them enthusiastically, and drifted inside
the castle, Tristan throwing over his shoulder, “Take good care with them.”
They were out of idle conversation. Thomas woke a servant and instructed her to build a fire in
the main hall. He went from room to room until he found the priest who lay with a young girl. Both
slept. The poor man appeared so happy, so warm, so snug, under the wool blanket, he almost could not
find the heart to wake him, but did; it was important.
“Priest,” he whispered.
“Waa!,” startled, awoke instantly at the voice, “Who?”
“Thomas. Dress. Meet me in the main hall. Hurry.” Still whispering, not wanting to wake the
The fire raged, and as usual Tristan, face haggard, soaked in its warmth.
For the first time Thomas had known how Tristan felt. During the long drive to Bayonne the
cold had just about frozen his fingers to the bridle and he wanted to join Tristan, stand there and allow
warmth inside. Instead he stared absently off into himself for a second, hoping beyond hope that the
Vatican would give way. But he knew better. After all his father had been a priest. True believers never
give way, or stepped aside.
Hey you,” Tristan, noticing.
“Hey you.” Thomas returned.
“That is right.”
All was well.
“These are the lost gospels,” Thomas, holding the papers they had taken from the dying Pope’s
“Lost. This entire planet is lost.” Discouraged for one of the few moments in his life. Yet oddly,
he did not know why he had said that. They certainly were not his words, him.
“I know, it is a, a conundrum. But that is what they are. Old Latin, Greek. Some written by
Luke, and others who pieced and cobbled together the bible.”
A puzzle, Tristan thought. Was about to dwell on it when the priest disturbed his thoughts.
“How old is she priest,” Thomas inquired, not really caring.
“Of age. Thirteen.”
Thirteen? He shook his head. “I am changing the age. Fourteen and up.” Tiredly. Not that it
really mattered. What was the difference between a girl who was thirteen and one who was three
hundred and 66 days old aside from a day. Both wanted someone to care, if only for night.” Forget it.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good. What happened to the woman recovering here.”
The story came out of the priest in a rush. She was dead. Burned alive. A witch. The judge and
prosecutor came at night and took her. He tried to stop them. The man who had originally accused her
accompanied them. He now farmed her land. The prosecutor fled to Paris. The judge died last week.
The news, expected, after all you do not alter superstitions overnight. He really had no idea how
to reach them, peasants, a peasant’s mind. And did he really care? Especially in the mood he was now
in, compared to only a second earlier. No. Let’em all burn. Seeing Paris in his mind, muttered: Except
Man’s mood changes almost by the second. Should not happiness or sadness or anger last
longer? Are humans a secondary people? A thing to ponder. Thomas’ diary.
“Priest,” he approached, “Theory speaking, were I to inform you the Bible, well, fake, would
you believe me?”
“No, sir, respectfully,” he answered, “I am a little man but I believe in God.”
“Good. Return to your girl. Talk in the morning.”
Thomas turned to Tristan as naturally as the wind turned on itself, “There it is. The Vatican has
had over a thousand years to do its work. We have to find some other way to convince them to leave
you be.”
A long sigh. A very short nod. Time enough for thinking come tomorrow. He curled up on the
floor and some hours later morning arrived in a second. One moment Tristan had closed his eyes,
exhausted, and the next opened them to morning streaming through the castle window. Thomas stood
over him. Not last night’s Thomas but the real Thomas. “Tea?” A broad jesting smile, saying for
Tristan: “As opposed to what?”
Tristan. “What!” Perplexed.
“A joke.” Brow scrunched in confusion at his own words. “Or an amalgamation of letters
lacking all meaning. I am tired.”
The room, still warm, fire still burned, breakfast followed tea, three eggs scrambled, and hot
bread. The first really good meal since Granada. Tristan washed up, relieved himself and pronounced:
Thomas searched for the Priest, found in bed licking the girl’s pussy, and who immediately and
immensely came out and up for air, gasping. The conversation, short, and one-sided, Thomas’s real
scarcity of words portrayed. “Farmers. Grapes. Encourage.”
Seeing a way out.
Vanished, almost right before the old priest. He chalked it up to too little sleep. Or a dream, and
returned to the girl.
Vanished, not hardly, he simply had stepped one step back into a shadow and slide out the door.
On the way out of Bayonne, they stopped at the farmer who now worked the ‘withes’ land. A small
thatched roof hut. He rode right up to the door and kicked-banged it loud enough to startle the rooster
who was busy fucking the chicken. The farmer stormed out, protesting, saw Thomas and escaped into
silences. Into Thomas’s world.
“You are gone. If you are here when I return, you are dead. Your choice.”
And spun away to…

Question ??????

…Paris. Now at the Palace, cold ride, now warm, talking to Philip. Tristan thinking: Might stay
here forever. Knowing not.
“You two have been very very very bad boys.” No dancing around them. No gaiety. Just dead
seriousness bordering angers frontier.
Two playful innocent stares in return.
Philip, not the least bit amused, held a hand up, one finger folding at a time. “A Pope. A
Portuguese captain. An Arab slave trader. Promising to kill King Freudian. Need I continue.” Wrist
twisting the four fingers as if chastising. No not as if. Definitely. “This cannot continue.”
For once Phillip appeared serious. So Tristan played his trump card and hefted a bag of coins,
resting it at Philip’s dainty fingernail painted toenails.
Philip, after peeking inside, brightened considerably, so much so he actually danced while
singing. “Bad boys, bad boys, what will I do when they hang you…Mmm, huh?”
“Kill the ones who hang us,” Tristan ventured, joking. Maybe.
Tristan’s humor paused Philip’s momentary merry in his merriment, “My kingdom should be
thus blessed. Still this killing Popes must stop. Thank God you did not kill; did you really address him
as Foom?” Laughing. “Christ, do not tell me. The entire Royalty of Europe would be after your heads.”
Tristan had had enough; playing, well, one thing, but he was the King of Scotland. “I admit
nothing. But Scotland backing you in case Spain attacks France.”
“Ah, you know something. You are learning. Good. But you told me too much. Tsk, tsk.”
“No. Too little. And too little is very dangerous Philip.”
“True. Now go see Edwards. He should just be setting up for the spring-summer festivities. He
has a deal for you. And I shall not spoil the surprise.”
Both Tristan and Thomas shifted to each other. Deal? Edwards?...

Question Chapter ?????

…Who, little did they know, awaited them.

Tristan insides like ice. Traveling fast, they had reached Edwards compound by nightfall only to
find him about ready to sail for England. He held a white pigeon. Or maybe a dove. Hard to tell in the
“Pigeon say we were arriving?” Tristan.
“Dove said many things. Like you are heading for Scotland.” Sly, telling him sly, knowing he
would make that mistake.
“Fine,” rubbing his hands for warmth, “Edwards.”
“No, Tristan, but the first thing you will do upon arriving in Scotland is appease your nobles.
Their peasants are on the verge of starving and in foul mood.”
Silence from Tristan. He had made an error, and Edwards for some reason, was offering
something other than peasants were in a foul mood.
“It is urgent I return to England. A pain since I only just arrived in France. But there it is. Sail
along. We will talk. I have a proposal for you that might save your Crown so I can take it after I finish
this stupid French misunderstanding. Unless you would rather use your warriors. A good Scottish civil
war good for England bad for you.”
“Or not.” Tristan taking the lead back.
“Uh, um.”
What could Edwards want? Part of Scotland. The only way to discover, sail along. They did so.
Edwards preferring to stand at the deck in the elements. The channel wind blew blustery and fierce like
none other. Edwards face challenged it, but here the elements did not give way to even him. Tristan
shivering inside. Thomas, quiet, thoughtfully pondering, appearing asleep in/on his feet.
“So Tristan how went your travels? Make many enemies?”
“Fencing Edwards, a French sport.”
“So true. Okay. The ground is frozen. No planting yet, but soon. The nobles want to raise levies
for the yet lost income. And your new shipping yard burned. And lastly a minor plague has affected
Edinburgh. All that qualifies as a crises.”
The sea wind blew Tristan’s hair in his face. He stole a moment to tie it. “A minor plague. Burn
the buildings infected. Kill every rat. The shipping yard can be rebuilt. The nobles can be sweet talked.
So only the frozen land remains. So the peasants plant later this year. What are you offering?”
“Grain. Miles of grain. Just like in the Bible, the promised land.”
”Something that cost you nothing,” Edwards, staring out to sea wistfully; almost sad, Tristan
“Your ability, your prodigy, the sword. I want you to train my son Henry in the art of
swordsmanship for one season. The Prince needs letters, yes, but also how to use a sword.”
Was Edwards mad, thought Tristan, an English Prince on Scottish soil. No, Edwards was not
mad. Sly, intelligent, devious, yes, but not mad. “Miles of grain?”
“Yes.” A tired been there before sigh, “England has gone through this. I have stored up grain
over the years.”
“Done. But not this summer, next.”
“Of course, this summer you have a Kingdom to save or just hand it over to me. Kidding. But
you are learning Tristan. Thought you would be dead by now. Glad to be mistaken. I mean to say I
want the honor.” Again joking. Maybe.
“Happy to disappoint.”
“And you archer?”
“Still here Edwards.”
“Still insolences. I shall set the grain transfer in motion.
“And in six days god made the heavens and earth,” Thomas recited.
Edwards. “Despite the rumors to the contrary, Tristan protects you, not just you him archer. But
on the eighth day God slew insolence.”
I badly wanted to ask what god did on the seventh & ninth day, but unlike most men, Kings,
there was only so far you could push a man like Edwards, and I could not swim. Thomas’ diary.

Book 3
The Scottish Chapters.

Chapters I
Writer’s notes: Learning how to be king. Or: Traveling left without them. Excruciating or
the other.

London behind them, their long back-ward journey almost over... the mere thought of stopping
to rest for the night execrating. So they pushed along the coast toward Scotland. Although spring, the
sea air blustery, cold, chilly, and at the pace they set, the wind almost froze the teeth in their mouths.
Trouble and Au revoir, they endured, it is what, Trouble thought, Thoroughbreds do.
Some painful hours later, Tristan having developed a blister on his ass, they paused at the
border. Mist swirled around Trouble’s hooves, only more much more almost reaching Trouble’s
stomach. “Odd! Thomas. I think I will try the word: ODD!”
Just talking hurt. And for once Thomas’s silence on a matter suited Tristan right to his frozen
Lingering not on the agenda. They continued, knowing the only way they would stop was if
Which is what they almost were…practically dead men in the saddle by the time they reached
the castle. A few warriors heard the pounding hooves and were out to greet them. But Tristan, beat,
offered a feeble wave and failed to instruct the stable lad on brushing Trouble. But one of the warriors
took a look at Tristan and ordered a stable lad to see to the mounts and treat them well, very well, then
decided to do so himself. (He too rode a Thoroughbred).
There are many ways of writing the below paragraph. I offer two. Thomas’ diary.
1) Tristan ordered an immediate fire built in the Great Hall’s hearth. The servant
passed the order to the yard lad who went to the woodshed and using his fingers counted out
ten logs, then stacked them on the ground and bent over and using hands as scoops lifted the
stack and legs trembling from the weight, murmured, ‘just a few feet, a feet.’ The servant met
him at the door and took the weight and carried it to the hearth and set it down, hand instantly
grabbing his lower spine, indicating pain, seeking pity, seeing none, yet still making a show of
pain, built a fire. “Sir.” He said, when finished , and limped away. Tristan soaked in the
warmth, sleeping on his feet. McCone’s voice brought him up from the deep blue, the sudden
awakening a bruise.
2) Tristan ordered an immediate fire to be built in the Great Hall. Once the fire roared,
he stood by it soaking in heat, eyes closed, really sleeping on his feet. He slept like that for four
hours, abruptly awaking at the sound of McCone’s voice.
Yawning wide, jaw bones creaking like a rusted wheel now put to use, Tristan in a loud
whisper, “By the gods. Tea. Hot. Bread. Hot. Now! ”And fell into a chair at the long table. Thomas
already sat there, legs out, sleeping, or as close to it as he got.
“We need to talk Tristan.” McCone
“Oh it is you McCone. Thought you were a servant.” Focusing. Two McCone’s. Blinking. One.
Good. Awake. “Yes.” Yawning. Almost. “I know. I know.”
A servant had had heard Tristan. Consequently tea and bread arrived. Two life savers. Thomas
woke right up, wrapped both hands around a hot mug and murmured, “Ahhhhh. I am alive!”
“No Tristan you do not. You know what Edwards said.”
Tristan absently, not thinking, “Pigeons. I am already working on it. Pigeons. Mmm.”
Which McCone did not find the least bit amusing. “Are you working on being King? Are you
working on holding Scotland together, its people, believing a King is here, and failing all else, that King
will save them?” All this from a man who stood 5’6 and weighed in at 140 pounds. The voice though,
no matter how you said it, demanded respect.
“What is your point?” Munching on bread, while sipping tea. Feeling life return, not much, but
“My point is: The nobles leave for winter. The King stays and tends this flock, the country,
handles things before they become deadly. He does not go off on a mad rampage. That is not what a
King does. Also the nobles gave you a pass last summer. They were waiting for you to fail. You are on
the edge right now, giving them a reason to call for your head. In short, grow up Tristan. It is long past
that time. You are no longer a lad, despite how much you enjoy being addressed as such. You are a man
of 26, and a King. Act like it.”
McCone’s word stung and stung hard. In the first excuse ever to fall from Tristan’s mouth since
a mere child, he almost whined, yet managed to tone his feelings down “Stewart was here,” He
regretted the words and their tone and so wanted them back.
“Ah yes Stewart. He so loves not being King, but loves the trappings. The balls, greeting
important men, spending the Crown’s gold. Yes Stewart.”
An absent hand brushing face, another hand brushing at air, both hands touching sword, hilt, at
last all fault lost, he, utilizing that Tristan charm, “My wrong.” Head shake at himself, “A bad saying.
How about: I will solve things. With your help.”
McCone’s brown eyes studying Tristan, deciding a thing. “You will soon turn 27. Stewart
named his child Mary. He is sending her to France on her sixth birthday where she will be tutored. So
that gives you, what, assuming she claims the throne at eighteen, sixteen years give or take a few
months. The clock is ticking. I am not a man to harp on a mistakes. Move forward. Always forward,
never look back, but learn from what is behind. So where do we start?” The thing decided, deciding to
pitch in.
Where do we start? Tristan asking himself that question. He explained about the grain Edwards
agreed to front the Crown. The Crown would give the nobles whatever grain they needed who in turn
would ration it out to the peasants when in affect the Crown was doing the rationing; this appeased both
the nobles and the peasants. In turn the peasants will pay the borrowed grain back to their nobles from
their future crop, which again should appease both peasant and noble. The grain that the nobles paid
back to the Crown would then be stored in yet to be built ‘grain towers’ only to be used for such future
emergencies as were taking place now. The mini plague. First, burn the infected buildings. Next, hire rat
killers. The two combined should solve the immediate problem. As for the future, the Crown would
appoint a sanitation director whose job would be to pound away at the rat problem, and also maintain
sanitary habits such as hauling the garbage twice a month instead of once.
“King Edwards advice, Tristan remarked, “said he did not want a ravaged land to rule over. On
that point I agree. Also, since the ground is still frozen, the peasants can, and will plant late this year.
But next year I want two plantings. The first planting in early spring, after harvesting that, begin a
second planting, but only sturdy crops such as potatoes, crops that can withstand temperatures in the
high to mid forties. For now, while the ground is frozen, I want extra workers, they are to work round
the clock and rebuild the shipyards. And I want the council here. A week. I do not care where they are
at. Use pigeons. I will contact the Highlanders.”
And in Ten days the gods made the universe but saw it was empty and scratched their heads.
Now what? Thomas’ diary.
“How many do I have left?” Tristan. Joking.
“Seven.” Thomas. Joking in turn. Maybe.
Shaking his head at them both, McCone advised, “Get some more rest Tristan. We have a lot to
do in seven days.”
“It worked for the Christian god.” Both walking outside. McCone shaking his head thinking:
‘How the hell could a man dislike Tristan. He was so real.’

Pigeons flew and the news traveled throughout Europe. In mere days people learned Tristan
McLeod was alive and the rumors were true not just rumors. Tristan had indeed returned to Scotland
alive and well.
The Vatican College of Cardinals had elected Cardinal Falcon as the new Pope. He chose the
name Pope Pius; he no more believed in Jesus than Tristan did. He, a smallish man, thin as a hair, had
a nasty temper and unforgiving heart to which both had served him well in clawing his way up the
church hierarchy. Unlike his predecessors, he had no intention of allowing a Druid to ruin his papacy.
That Tristan lived incensed him.
Poor Fernando also fumed. He so loved God. God as a reward bestowed a two inch cock. He
constantly reminded himself that size did not matter; an unfeeling inner voice announced other.
Isabella soothed his ego. But his cock, well one lonely cock. Yes, Fernando was angry and badly
wanted Tristan dead. Not so much for fucking Isabella or his lonely two inch cock, but soiling his humiliating. But he would soon forget about Tristan. Thousands of miles away Columbus
stumbled into a world beyond all imagination and was returning to Spain, sure a title awaited him, him
the son of a peasant. He had showed them all.
The nobles in Europe were busy paying or collecting wagers. All in good clean fun.
Stewart was happy. How happy? He partied himself into a grave two days after Tristan
Isabella, well she still glowed from a good fuck.
And an old bearded man, face times’ art, left the rear door of da Vinci’s house. They had
conversed for hours and agreed on one point and only one: Continue to monitor Tristan. As for
Thomas, the old man asked da Vinci. “You do not want to go there,” was da Vinci’s reply. “If he is who
I think, he will….”
da Vinci let the rest trail away.
Chapters II

On a warm June afternoon a few days before his birthday, Tristan outlined to the council his
plan to save the harvest, rebuild the shipyard, eradicate the plague, and other lesser matters (He and
Thomas and McCone had worked for days/nights polishing each plan and Tristan’s speech until their
eyes mere shadows meeting eyebrows. McCone asked himself a dozen times: why was he helping. To
which there was no answer except: Scotland. And he liked Tristan). The speech, elegant, yet simple,
did not go begging, but instead met with grudging approval from the council and the nobles present.
Now came the hard part. Fitting all the pieces together so they worked somewhat seamlessly.
Still Tristan was Tristan and later that day, much later, he jostled with Duncan McGregor and
Ian McDonald on the castle lawn. Breathing in husks, he managed between breaths, “I am the Crown
you idiots.”
Which facilitated a ‘You the crown’ laughter.
“Yes you are.” Duncan’s father, McGregor, watching, angry, “Act like it.”
McGregor and McCone stood at the castle door.
“They can still play.” McCone laughed along, remembering his youth.
Swift for a man pushing sixty, McGregor threw as if a rock, anger at McCone, “Stay out of my
business McCone.”
As already noted, McCone was a smallish man both in height and weight, but many a man had
mistaken his size, or lack of. They now resided in the earth, as opposed to on it. “As councilor to the
Crown, McGregor, this is my business.” Voice a sharp edged sword.
“Well I am the Crown,” Tristan, an attempt to defuse the situation.
“And a sad one at that,” Ion McDonald quipped.
Thomas sat supine against a tree, sleeping, or not. “You are interrupting my sleep.”
Laughter sought, laughter, excluding old man McGregor, given. All now well.
I thought that afternoon: Yes you are the Crown. And in this way all was well. Thomas’ diary.
Chapters III

Thomas’s prophecy became true. Tristan was the Crown, and that summer became the summer
he learned how to rule. Changes not only occurred in the country itself, but on the council as well.
Filling the empty council seats, he appointed Sweeny, McGinley, and McBob, to the council. They
were each from small clans, and Tristan wanted to give even the little clans a voice on the council,
knowing combined the small clans outnumbered the large clans. Tristan badly wanted the University up
and running for the summer and to that end purchased a building in Edinburgh and hastily had supplies
and desks either purchased or manufactured. He recruited professors from both France and England,
promising them a plum: a nobleman title. Scotland now had a university, or almost, all it needed were
students. The nobles sent their boys to England for an education, a rule set in stone. Tristan, contrary to
popular thought, so loved the rule. The rule made it easy to gather the votes needed for the Crown to
sponsor twenty-three young men from the Highland clans. Tristan now directed his focus on the
shipyards, where once a dozen men worked, now three dozen, employing men from five different
Clans. Day and night laborers could be counted on by the citizens of Glasgow to be seen bent backed
hauling wood to the docks. He had promised Philip fast lean ships, and meant to keep the promise even
if the Crown lost money in doing so. There were weeks he ruled personally over every little thing,
forgoing sleep or just forgetting his body required rest. He checked the shipyard’s progress daily, had a
mason show him how to lay brick, rode the land for days, checking on the grain. Not a thing was too
small for his attention. He even walked along with the rat catcher, watching as the man set loose ferrets
which were used to catch rats. Eighteen hour days were the norm, twenty-four not the exception.
Thomas was always by his side.
While the country hummed along, the nobles engaged in their usual summertime pastime:
Gossip. The nobles played ‘the gossip game’ as entertainment, which helped pass the warm, sometimes
hot, summer days and evenings in Glasgow. Who bedded whom was a court favorite, but quickly grew
stale. That was when the nobles searched around for someone juicy to gossip over; a squeeze it and it
bled juicy. Every season served up a sacrificial lamb for their dinning pleasure. But for such ‘juicy’
gossip, gossip required gossip that carried a germ of truth for it to become THE truth and flourish. So
the nobles set up a gossip committee, as they did every summer when just sitting around fanning oneself
became BORING. The committees sole charge: find ‘Juicy.’ Fortunately or unfortunately; actually it
turned out to fall in both categories, Tristan had recently signed into law a decree opening the ‘The
Great Hall’ to commoners such as merchants, sea captains, and military officers. He had done so to
further trade. That it worked, deals signed on a daily basis, was beside the point. (Why the gall, one
Lord was heard saying. I shall propose we charter our own men’s club. Where ‘Members Only’ are
allowed). The nobles thus viewed the law as an unfortunate infringement on their social standings. The
unfortunate became fortunate when the ‘Juicy’ committee served Thomas on a platter to be sliced and
diced daily. But always in whispers, in whispers boys, after all, no sense in charging into harm’s way, or
knock, knock, knocking on death’s door. To this end they enlisted the, or more appropriately hid
behind, Commoners to spread the gossip deriding Thomas as an opportunist seeking fame and fortune.
The commoners, delighted to be rubbing elbows with here-to standoffish nobles, gleefully seized the
role of supplementary cohorts. Soon almost daily a new rumor concerning Thomas ran cock-crowing
about the Great Hall whispering: Pst, did you. Or: Sir Thomas is. & next & next.
Thomas remained silent on the whisperings. As did Tristan; both ignoring the gossip as a petty
nuisance. Their silence irritated the nobles and the gossip grew more bold. Whispering turned into low
outspoken courageous voices: ah, just the act of actually speaking above a whisper about Thomas out
loud was a delightful voracious vice. So they thought. But still Thomas and Tristan remained silent,
believing silence best addressed the matter. They were proved correct when at last the gossip fell silent
replaced by the stunning changes occurring in Glasgow. Gossip returned to who fucked who.
Mid summer, gossip suddenly discarded who fucked who and whispered the rumor: The Crown
is out of Gold. Unfortunately, this was not mere gossip nor rumor, but the truth, a very well-guarded
truth; not even the council members were kept apprised, only Thomas, Tristan and Lord McCone knew
to what extreme poor extent the Crown’s coffers were in. To put it simply, the Crown’s coffers were
depleted, awaiting replenishing from the gross profits the nobles were earning on all the gold the Crown
had fronted them. McCone wanted to prepare a statement explaining how Stewart, when alive, had
through all his gala trips to London and Paris where he bought every fancy that fancied his eye,
presenting gold necklaces and bracelets to his many mistresses, had spent the very Scottish Crown
itself. Tristan would not hear of it. He had accepted the conditions, and honor dictated he would live
with them. Besides, Tristan explained, Stewart is dead. The Crown has an obligation to pay off his
The Gossip committee had found the perfect foothold and crowed daily: the Crown is running
dry. You just wait. We will eat our boots this winter. The lad is our ruin. Those warriors, they can be
defeated. And on. But covertly. To cry wolf was one thing but to be eaten by one quite another.
Unfortunately for the Gossip committee, late at night when peasants fished the ocean for coal
selling it for a pence or two, or three, carriage drivers dog tired but sticking for that one last fare, wharf
rats hunted cats, cats in packs hunted dogs, yes that kind of night, found Tristan and Thomas and
McCone at the gardener’s cottage. Tristan, dead silent…probably for the first time in his life…helped
Thomas and McCone lift the two sacks of coins brought from France. As usual, Thomas, word shortage
his forte, thought: Coin?. Then pondered it.
I pondered coin afterwards. I realized ‘coins’ point in society, but fail to recognize its ‘reason’
for such’. The words ‘I worked for that’ seem so trite. Every man works. Some men work at waking up.
Others farming. Yet others counting their coin. All men work. It is in the compensation or the value
society places on said labor. Therein lies ‘coins’ mysterious valuation: one labors fifteen hours for a
pence and another a few for gold: I fear I know the question, but lack the answer. Thomas’ diary.
Next morning the sacks were in front of the Throne. The sacks, split open by a spade, spoke
thunderously. The Druid gods had visited in the night. Or so superstitious people wove legend from.
Suddenly, or seemingly all at once, Scotland hummed even greater than before, a bee hive working
together. So much coin was earned that everybody from noble to peasant bought needless things just to
spend coin. The spent coin worked its way through taxes back to the Crown, and summer reaching a
close the nobles paid the Crown their debt, thus together replenishing the Crown’s coffers even greater
than before the summer had begun. Scotland was solvent. Bankers rushed from all over Europe to loan
the Crown coin for any project the Crown saw fit to implement.
Thomas rather facetiously commented, “Coin. Nothing beats coin.”
“Pussy.” Tristan.
“Takes coin.”
Tristan, “Every different coin minted. But nothing out spends a flower and kind words.”
à ce que j'ai convenu. Thomas’ diary
Summer’s whirlwind ended as fall early on entered its stately colors and cooler evenings. Just
about everybody was glad to see fall arrive. A break was badly needed, both mental and physical
exhaustion had set in. But the summer had been a roaring success. The peasants brought in record
crops. Three corvettes were built as promised. Twenty-two students enrolled in the new Edinburgh
University. Tristan urged a medical college there and so work was began. Also Glasgow and Edinburgh
were cleaner than they had ever been and the constant rank odor from chamber pots if not completely
gone at least now the smell barely noticeable. Untold thousands of rats killed. Even McGregor was in
good mood.
All too soon late Fall let her presence be known, the leaves on the trees falling and turning to
rust before dust were a sure sign, also the increased chill in the air, reminding all that winter was a
stone’s throw away. The last council meeting of the summer-fall year was traditionally a day to
celebrate. Tristan was delivering a speech, usually a traditional ending the year speech on what had
been accomplished during the spring-summer. The council members were all-a-glow-smile, more
tuned into where they would winter, than what Tristan was saying. A word here and there broke their
thoughts. A few more words. A few council members stared incredulously at Tristan as dawn dawned
on them at what he was saying. Others soon followed suit until a galley of fish eyes and gaping mouths
sat and stood stunned. A voice hid behind others muttered, “He is mad!” followed by silence as every
eye ball in the hall searched for Thomas. Mad, though Tristan may or may not be, death awaited such a
remark…or so believed. Truth, Tristan cared little about the murmurings and continued speaking,
unhurried, un-everything. Just stating a fact. As for Thomas, he sat where he always sat, legs stretched
out, appearing to sleep; but past experience had taught other.
“I repeat. I have signed a decree banning priests from wearing their traditional black robes. The
black robe is their simple symbol of power. The peasants see it and fall over bowing, and hand over a
coin or two, a coin or two they desperately need, the same coin or two just as well spent in your stores
purchasing your goods, Scottish goods.”
At this last statement a few merchants licked their lips, the merchant in them understood this
“Besides,” he continued, “I am not saying they cannot say mass, or attend a death. The peasants
need this. But they need to know more you are in charge not some priest schooled in Italy and sent by
the Vatican to Scotland to collect money which is in turn returned to the Vatican.”
More licked lips. Two had erections, such was coins lure. Ah, greed, yes. Yes, this they
understood, and understood it to be a good thing. For who truly had the peasants’ ‘well being’ at heart?
Why ‘THEM’, of course.
THEM. Thomas’ diary.
Seeing that his words had had their desired effect, he, as Thomas from the table silently urged,
shut up, knowing that the council members were itching (Literally since they only bathed once a
month). to depart for parts more suiting to their status in life: London, Paris. Those brave souls who
were gay at heart ventured to Italy…why a person could buy anything in Roma. The Highlanders had to
return home where needful things required tending to: such as? Even Old Man McGregor was itching
to see the Clan again. The merchants’ stores were already stocked for the fall. Everybody after the
initial shock just wanted gone. So as Tristan paused, smiling his disarming charming smile, almost the
entire hall nodded. Lord McCone chuckled, thinking: The lad had traveled a great distance this summer.
People began filing out. See you next spring, goodbye all, so long, remember me to Cipriani.
Tristan and Thomas prepared to winter on the Island. Tristan thought: How long had it been?
Eight years? Around there. Eight years since he had been to the Island, really been there.
As they rode to the dock, easy like, the weather mild, he examined feelings. Found them. Lost
them. He would see his emotions when he stepped foot on the Island McLeod.
But first they had someone to meet.
A priest in Glasgow set loose a slew of pigeons bound for the Vatican. As did many lords before
departing for the winter.
Now in the fresh mornings light, now in the proud noon delight, now in the early evenings
shadows, and now in the shadows of now, in the rain of now, in the clouds of now, now pigeons
darkened the sky over Europe for three days now. On the third day the sun pried open a slant between
wings and shone between two of the many pigeons. The two pigeons died from fright, so unaccustomed
they were of light.
As the pigeons flew, Pappas Pius at first blamed the pigeons for the news and ate as many as he
could at one sitting, satiating his anger but not his rage; for such a deep satiating, he clenched a tight
fist figuratively around Pope Innocents neck, blaming him for failing to kill McLeod and had his body
exhumed and propped up in a chair where twelve Cardinals attended a mock trial. Since a gavel could
not be fetched on such short notice, Pius banged a wooden spoon and pronounced Innocence guilty.
He gleefully sentenced Innocence to be beheaded.
Pope Pius found the sentence fitting, so much so he ordered a feast in honor of justice and for
the occasion paid a peasant family two lira to borrow their eight year old boy. Pius had the boy
painted gold as the symbol: Golden youth, and instructed him on how to assume a miline heraldic cross
pose, a pose which required the boy to curve spine backwards while standing in the middle of the
feasting table, one hand held out to the heavens. The boy, awed by all the great men there, performed
marvelously, standing naked in the middle of the dining table, one arm outstretched as if reaching
what he imagined manhood to be. The boy was indeed a delightful rendition of youth, and while sucking
succulent marinated pig balls, Cardinal Fretti congratulated Pope Pius on his taste in boys, and the
rather erotic pose and insisted the boy be sent to his chambers later on. “Ah,” fingers to mouth,
“Golden youth. Ah.”
Unfortunately, two hours into the banquet the boy keeled over from the strain, landing face
down in a large bowl of spaghetti, and upchucked a raw sewerage pale brown odoriferous liquid. The
boy’s stench was overwhelming and several guests upchucked, soon everybody upchucked including
the Good Pope Pius…except he upchucked holy vomit. The next day, blaming the painted boy for
spoiling his gala dinner event, he sold the boy to a Moor who was a traveling scholar; the Moor
taught the boy Moslem ways; the boy grew up to form a new religion called: Bahrain, followers: 1. (But
he encouraged himself, one is always the starting point). Pope Pius also had Pope Innocents’ hands
cut off, rendering him unable to eat in the after life. Next he had the rest of him tossed in the Tiber.
Made perfect sense. What! Without hands he was unable to tread water. At last he simply blamed the
entire affair on Tristan and renewed the Papacy vow to kill him. He could dispatch someone to kill
McLeod, of course, but failures price lay in the ground and the Thames river. But Pope Pius shooed
away discouragement and renewed his vow to kill Tristan. A man should not be allowed to kill a Pope
without consequences. But Pies was not completely deranged and had no intention of winding up in the
ground, unlike his predecessors. So night after night he planned, only to throw a plan away. The Good
Pius had worn out the rug in his sitting room to a few threads, such was the constant pacing. Out of
desperation one night at midnights stroke he screeched, “Eureka!” His maid thought: Heart attack.
And rushed in only to be grabbed and tossed on the bed and fucked, which she, at 87, enjoyed. But
raping her, well, just would not do. She would burn a gift to the pagan God Hessis, placing a curse so
his cock, already old, shriveled to the size of a pea.” It was simple,” he, in a rare good mood, told the
maid, who’s name was Mary. “An assassin. (She wanted to tell him folly lay there, but folly lay in
telling him folly lay there so she masturbated as he droned on). Not just any assassin, the best, the most
skillful in all of Italy and Spain. If the man failed, than the man sponsoring him died a thousand deaths.
On the other hand….”
An erection crept up at the thought. The maid decided: one more good fuck before invoking the
Pagan Gods.
The gods were so busy wagering on a planetary war in the Peon Galaxy, they missed out on all
the fun. Except for one. He wondered if he should be concerned or not. But the Norse God Odin since
relocated to secondary status had kept his own counsel over the centuries and decided to now.

Book 3 1/2. Island McLeod chapters.

Chapters 1
Writer’s notes: The Island McLeod

The docks were humming. Porters. Carriages. Horses. Men. Tristan and Thomas were there
waiting on a man to arrive from Andalusia. The Emir’s letter had specified: Look for a turban. There
were dozens. Look for a little man, dark skinned. Also dozens. Look for a man who bounced while
walking. There he was. They introduced themselves and likewise. Mohammad Hussein Rajeed Reese
and on and on. He shook his head, “Just call me Reese. Persians keep their names going back to time’s
A quick hand shake. Tristan pointed at a horse, explaining the horse was his to use while in
Scotland. He further explained they were leaving for McLeod Island; which confused Mohammad.
“My home.” Tristan, mounting up. “We can discuss matters on the way.”
The newness for Mohammad etc, etc, etc,...
and so on, was a bit daunting and settled stiffly in him. He found it all so very strange from
Granada. He remained uneasy as they enjoined to the island, listening to Tristan, but adding very little.
They reached the river separating the mainland from the island. They splashed across, and rode over
dead grass and through trees. Waving at several warriors at the corral working horses, or maybe just
talking, (who knew who cared) they continued on to the castle.
The sea breeze ruffled Tristan’s hair. The years caught up to him than and there. He had been
holding ‘It’ in. Now here now. Feelings. Minute memories flooded him, blink by blink, almost choking
him up. He always knew. He never knew. So much, so little. So much had transpired. Yet so little,
only yesterday’s, and they never went far away. They stayed, living along side the today’s, ignoring all
the tomorrow’s.
But enough already, he shouted inside himself, there would be time. A winter of it.
He swung off Trouble, more a leap. McLean and the girl Maria came out the castle, McLean’s
grin all giggles. Before Tristan could say anything, Maria literally jumped into arms, and vice-gripped
her legs around him. McLean and Thomas roared in laughter. Mohammed sat rooted to his horse, trying
not to appear at all. Trouble and Au revoir lovingly headed to the stable, their birth home. Both had
never loved a stable as much. They believed they owned it. The other horses boarders. They were right.
“Hi to You. So you stayed.” Tristan managed, slightly embarrassed.
“OH YEAH!” Marie.
“Now Down.” Taking control.
A pout, but acquiescence.
“Tristan,” McLean boomed, “Way too long.”
“Yes. This is Mohammed.”
Who stillsat rooted to his horse.
McLean waving a welcome to Thomas, as Tristan led him aside, “Maria, where she staying.”
“That little cottage along the cliffs. She helps out in the castle. She is very sweet.”
“Glad.” Thinking about 31 lives snuffed out. He crooked a finger at Mohammed. “You can
dismount. Nobody will bite you.”
“Can do, Sir.”
“Never Sir. Tristan or McLeod. Castle warm.”
I do not know, Mohammed started, confused, but McLean answered over him, “Tasty toasty.”
“Maria have you a horse.” Taking total charge.
“No.” Confused by the question.
“McLean pick her one out. Something gentle. Also have the staff brew tea for all. And whatever
for those who desire a stronger refreshment.”
Everybody set about doing something. Tristan beckoned to Mohammed who dismounted and
followed very close, still unsure of these people. Tristan and Thomas led him to a clearing a good
distance from the castle.
“Here.” Tristan. Short. To the point. Never having a house of his own. A new thing. Unsure
how to approach it.
Mohammed. “Good spot. One can view the sea and river.” Glad to be talking about a thing he
knew. Glad to be comfortable again. The ride peaceful, but everything so new. The land. The people.
“Running water. No chamber pots. Can do?”
“Certainly. Water tank on the roof. Easy. What about style?” Still a little nervous.
A great deal nervous now, now a need to impress. “Something airy. Facing the sun in the
morning. Large? Small?”
“Go on.”
“Small. Intimate. Stone? Wood?”
“Wood. Six, seven rooms, counting kitchen and cold room. No. Kitchen separate.” That leaves
three bedrooms, or 4, and a main room. The main room large enough for two escritoires.” (Writers note:
A writing desk with hinged flap and pigeonholes.)
Mohammed nervous. Who? Him? Not now. In his realm now. Drinking it. “One floor. A stable.
Real glass windows. Stone around the windows. Let me walk around the island. See what else I find?”
‘Enjoy .”
“I will,” and meant it.
At the castle McLean and Flin McLeod were locked in conversation.
“I was telling McLean you missed the fall Solstice.”
“For the umpteenth time,” McLean ribbing him.
Druid fall festival, celebrating a mild winter. The one Druid festival Tristan enjoyed. O’Well.
“Next year. Maria back?” Tristan.
“No, must enjoy her new mount.” McLean. Unconcerned.
“Hmm.” Thinking out loud.. “Which way she go?”
“Be back. Thomas. Tricky up there, the bogs, cliffs.” Really wanting to just get away, find
himself amongst everything rushing at him. Just him and Thomas. Easy. Peaceful.
The land away from The McLeod Castle gently swayed, as if offering an inviting greeting. But
the greeting could be deceptive, offering beauty yes, but also danger to those unfamiliar. To Tristan’s
thinking: his little whim had caused enough death. They rode north away from the castle. Here the land
climbed, deceptively so. The rolling land followed a cliff, that at its peak dropped over a thousand feet.
They followed the grade, hearing the raging sea below but not seeing a rider ahead. The breeze was now
a strong wind. At last they came to a break in the land, a leap, about four feet to the other side. They
were about to ride around it when Thomas yelled above both the wind and the sea, “There.” pointing,
“She is riding too close to the edge.”
The roaring wind took all thought now from both. Action through reaction remained. Thomas
kneed Au revoir, as did Tristan Trouble. Au revoir leaped and cleared the opening, a few feet to spare at
the same time Marie’s horse lost purchase, hooves slipping, horse frantic, panicking, Thomas reaching
her, her horse now sliding, now falling, Thomas’s arm outstretched, right hand grabbing her upper
forearm as her horse tumbled away into the abyss, glancing back now, Trouble leaping, clearing, but
not, rear hooves on weak earth, slipping, Thomas screaming, backup an inch, Tristan just doing it,
Trouble now losing all purchase, but in doing so catching purchase on the hard side-surface and
springing forward. Maria dangling, watching it all in slow motion, thinking: Tristan did not even
question. Just went backward. Where does such trust come from? Then: I am alive. followed by
exhilaration. “OWWWWWW!”
When Marie queried Tristan some time later, he shrugged it off. “Thomas could see, I could not.
The man who can see the battlefield is the man you listen too.” He left it at that.
Still she wondered where such trust came from.
The island ran on its own time. There was a small hamlet, six houses. Every house operated a
business serving the residents who numbered around two thousand, depending on the weekly birth or
death. Blacksmith. Seed. Grain. Also, the weather never predictable. The sea. The sea would blow frigid
air one moment, the next balmy. The same with rain. It always rained at least once a day, except for
when it snowed.
Seamlessly, as if there was a zipper closing the time Tristan had left and had returned, he
picked up right off, old habits like warm boots, a perfect fit. When not pouring through his uncle’s
papers, he and the warriors practiced, as did Thomas. Tristan marveled at how well his uncle and
McLean had trained these men. These men made the Vikings seem like armatures. When not training or
putting his uncle’s papers in order, he and Thomas walked about the island. Tristan showed Thomas all
the places only few knew about. A small lake, legend maintained a magical creature lived there, (a very
small magical creature, Tristan chuckled, as the lake is maybe six feet at its deepest), and was a place
where warriors came to bless their swords. A cave he played in as a child. So many places, so many,
that they alone would eat up a book.
So many places. Each a memoir. Each a book. Each a upwards stepping stone. If I were a
writer, I would place all the ‘stones’ in a book. For Scotland, for Tristan, for the Island McLeod is
worth it. Thomas’ diary.
After a few weeks, they crossed the island to the other half to see his sister Joann, who was
almost as tall as Tristan, blond hair, nice figure, charming smile. She and her husband Tier greeted
them. Dinner? Of course. They both endured ‘dinner talk’ for three hours and children running and
screaming. The good uncle. Not Tristan’s way. Honored his sister, but glad to ride away.
Thomas’s lone remark riding back. “Nice enough fellow.”
“Unh unh. She could have done better. Her choice.” Ending the conversation.
Over the weeks, Mohammed had made an exclusive study of the island. Designing the house
would be easy. But all was not good, he informed Tristan and explained, “The river washes into the sea.
the people wash in the river, and defecate in it. Which means they are wearing shit.”
“Exhaustive. Clay piping. Lots.”
“Going where?”
“The sea. The river will clean itself.”
“Do it. Tell McLean what you need and how many men.”
“Very expensive.” Instantly regretting the words.
“Do it.”
Taking a gamble. “For some land? Granada is dying.”
“Your house first?”
“No. The island. Piping. I have the castle”
“What about the other side?”
Pausing a long ten count, thinking about his uncle’s desire for the Island. “On second thought
start on the other side.” His sister’s husband badly wanted his own clan. Too soon for such.
Mohammad might appease them.
“Your house will be on this side.” Stating what Tristan already knew.
Ignoring the obvious. “And find a way to move houses.”
“Soon.” taking the cue. Not questioning.
“No hurry.”
Tristan and Thomas found McLean brushing his mount. “Listen I had a thought. There is what,
two thousand people here? About half on my sisters side. Except for the warriors, begin moving
everyone on this side to the other, give them more land. No hurry. If a person is old leave them be. Oh,
and Mohammed and Porch’s folks stay here. Once I move into the new house the castle is yours.”
Questions, a strange where you going with this look. But Mclean was a McLeod, and remained
silent on the matter.
To Thomas later, “I want this side empty. Return it to nature. My sister’s husband can have his
own clan eventually. I will never marry. McLean can have this side until he passes over. Scotland is my
“What about the sheep”
A perplexed stare.
“I meant marriage.”
“An idea.”
“But all that bleating”
“Oops. Right.”
“Aha.” And back to silence. Thomas’ silence.

Chapter 2
Writer’s notes: The Druid books.

Mohammad had began work, employing 20 men. By January’s end the house took a shape.
Mohammad refused to allow anyone but the workers inside. Maria made her presence known, pesky,
obvious, pouting. She snared two unintended targets: McLean and Mohammad. They both spent every
spare second trying to impress her.
Tristan, obvious to the obvious, wondered which man would win; perhaps neither.
On the first of February on a bright sunny below zero day while sitting in his uncle’s chair in his
uncle’s den drinking tea from his uncle’s mug toasty by the fire raging in his uncle’s hearth, he idly
commented, “I cannot wait to be shed of this castle.”
Thomas fixed on the portrait of Tristan’s uncle staring down at them, remembering him, the
short time they had spent together. The portrait rested next to Tristan’s Da.
”They staying?”
“Tradition dictates.”
“The books?”
Now there lay a thought.
“Let us go through them. Divide them up. Some for here and some for the new house.”
The day’s eternity spent on said task. At night’s sea howling, two stacks of books lay on the
stone floor.
“Forever lies there.” Tristan held three books. Forgot he held them. Glanced at them. Druid
books. Old. How old? He did not have a clue. A least a thousand years, and it was said by his uncle
much more, untold thousands. He set them aside.
Thomas watching all this. “You are the sum total of this castle. Forever.”
Their silence at ease. Safe. The silence guarding against fear and fear guarding against the
outside world.
The fire raged. The night outside howled.
The gods paid us no mind what so ever. Who said the gods never made mistakes? Thomas’

Chapter 3
Writers notes: A Christmas gift for men who did not believe in Christmas

The second of February is the Druid winter solstice. According to legend, on this day Druids left
the shelter of their homes no matter how inclement the weather and gave thanks to Winter. Dancing,
wine, yes, but also a day to forgive last year’s little insults, a day to shake your neighbor’s hand.
Throughout Scotland on the day of the Lord, February 2, priests forbid all such Druid celebrations. On
McLeod Island even the Christians ventured out and enjoyed the corroboree festivities. The weather
cooperated, sunny, a balmy 20 out. Also on this day of our Lord, winter delivered a gift: Admiral Ito.
He was escorted by two flanking warriors and waited while one went to inform Tristan, who followed
the man out. He vaguely remembered Ito, the soft way in how he spoke, the delicate way in eating.
The wind was howling. (The wind always howled, even when it did not). Some hundreds of
years later a young black man unjustly accused of some trumped up crime would travel through
Scotland before returning home and vindication. He sang the blues and chose the name: Howling
Coyote). Admiral Ito sat on his mount as if at attention. He wore white silk, thin, yet even in the cold it
refused the cold, denied its entrance. Also very fashionable, yet on Ito the silk and his skin joined,
leaving just Ito.
“Admiral Ito. A joy.” Tristan greeted.
A respectful bow. ”Ah so Your Majesty San. At your invite.”
“Tristan, is fine. And yes. A servant will assist you in choosing a room. Freshen up. Later,
conversation, tea. A walk. You require anything, ask, it shall be provided.”
“Yellow men,” McLean, joked when the Admiral was well out of hearing range, “Red men.
Black Men. You suppose there are pink men?”
“Hope not.” Tristan
“Pink women.” Thomas added.
“Women can be any color.” McLean painting the truth.
Which elicited laughter all around.
Later now. Dinner over. Just walking around the Island. Thomas thinking on something that
eluded his pondering. Ah, there it is. Nope. More thought. Tristan and Ito learning each other.
“Ah so, very peaceful here, as if nature conspired with the elements to leave nothing wanting,”
Ito commented, voice neither high nor low. Normal. A voice at ease “The castle, for defense?”
“Not so much,” Tristan, “the sea, very rocky, no harbor, the sea is for defense. The Castle more
a sign. Here stands authority.”
“Ah so.”
They had been slow walking and now stopped at the new house. To Tristan’s amazement
Mohammad greeted them, and invited all in to look around. Over the months, Mohammad, like a
dragon protecting its young, had refused even Tristan and Thomas entry, steadfastly maintaining: Not
done. Not done. But now thrilled to show off his new creation. He swept an outstretched arm, the
gesture sweeping them in. Room by room, step by step, inch by inch proudly showing his work. White
to contrast the blue sea. An ashen wood floor. The bathroom, sparse, only a metal bathing tub. There
was running water for a bath fed from a tank on the roof; a confession: the tank a Roman design. Four
bedrooms. A large study/den/library. Here, his masterpiece and every inch showed the countless hours
spent designing, drawing, re-drawing, yet re-drawing again, countless again. Now he stood proud,
awaiting due.
Politeness dictated Ito say something. So he marveled, “Scarcity’s master-piece.”
“Words escape... creating magic,” Thomas congratulated.
“Without peer!” Tristan announced, “But when can we move in?”
“Few days.” Proud speaking. “Little things require finishing, but I can detail around you.”
“Fine, Mohammad.”
Tristan looped back to the castle. They went into Tristan’s uncle’s study. The maid served tea.
“Ah so,” the Admiral said, “It appears I arrived at an inconvenient time?”
“Not at all.” Tristan assured. “But you must be tired after such a long journey.”
“Ah so,” the Admiral admitted. He sipped. He, in fact, was tired. But had discovered in touring
Europe, that the occidental expected to be entertained by the strange yellow man. They were
unaccustomed to silence, he had figured out, and always filled their space with noise, chatter, music, as
if they feared their thoughts. So he waited for a comment, a suggestion.
“Might I suggest we retire. You mentioned you were staying a fortnight. Leaves us plenty of
time to talk.” Tristan catching the Admiral by surprise.
Ah so, the Admiral thought, again sipping.
Although the hour was late, well past seven, Ito had only moments earlier finished meditating.
He stood, thoughts on the house, its starkness and openness had truly impressed him. Almost Japanese
in that effect. He sat at a desk where his diary rested and expressed as much. He also reread what he had
written long ago. ‘Met a Tristan McLeod.’ Saw he had paid much more attention to other men. He
closed the book. Thinking now. He stood, hands brushing the silk kimono, and padded from his room to
the study where Tristan still sat. He did not see Thomas, but his every inch tracked by him... after all,
Thomas reasoned, the Admiral was an unknown, one who had dined with Isabella and probably the new
Pope as well.
“So sorry to disturb, Tristan San.”
“Admiral. I am enjoying a cup of tea and reading. Tea? Help you sleep.”
Of course. Tea served from a pitcher of tea on the desk. Ito sipping before speaking. “Ah so, I
read what I had written upon meeting you. Ah so, I see how mistaken I were. You are well known
throughout Europe. Everywhere I went after first meeting you, your name was mentioned.” He was too
polite to add: ‘Some remarks were very derogatory.’
“Fame is fleeting Ito.”
“So true, but some never have it and others do not deserve it.”
“Well, for the next few years I intend to lie under the radar. Give people some one else to gossip
“Ah so,” Ito expressed, “What is radar?”
“For a moment Tristan appeared confused. “I do not know,” he confessed at last. “The word
popped into my head. Must have heard it somewhere. Of no importance. But allow me to rephrase. I
intend to lie low for a while. Run Scotland.”
“Ah so, Tristan San. Ah my cup is empty. I see my destiny there.”
“Time for sleep.” Not a statement nor a question, but an answer seeking both.
“Ah so. One last cup.”
“Of course.” He stood and poured from the pitcher. “Tell me about yourself, Japan.“
“What to tell I have not told a dozen times. I Admiral for General Akio, who is chief. We have
small navy. There are many chiefs in Japan. Like your Highlands. Akio is presently at war, attempting
to unite Japan. He needs trade to finance war.”
“I recall your General Akio was engaged in war last time we spoke.”
“Ah so.”
“How long now?”
“War. Fifteen years now. War in Japan take many years. Much honor involved. Much
“War everywhere lasts a long time.” Tristan fortune telling history, both past and present and
future. “You return to Japan?”
“Ah so, fortnight. Scotland is my final stop. I carry my decision.”
“Scotland. For one reason. I will not switch sides for gold. I honor you, your General Akio, I
stand alongside him.”
“Ah so. This is no small thing.”
“No. It is the most important of things. A thing gold cannot purchase.”
“Ah so.”
“Your silk, rice, tea shipped into Scottish ports, from there all across Europe. Scotland offers
wool, ships, arms.” Here he paused and stood. “And me.”
“The others wine and dine, insultingly offer bribes, you speak. Ah so, this is not small thing.”
A joke. “We can eat later.“
“Ah so Scottish humor, Tristan San.”
“Ah so. The tea leaves speak.”
“Good night, Admiral.
Later, much. Outside. “A man who wastes nothing...words.” Thomas.
“Ah so Thomas San. You, if, anybody, would know.” Tristan kidding him. Stepping inside.
Glancing back, gently whispering, “Good night, Thomas.” Moving to his bed chamber, thinking: I do
not say that often enough. Not by half.
Flanked by four warriors, the Admiral departed a fortnight later feeling he had found friends.
And he had. There had been no further mention of trade or who Japan would choose. There was also no
doubt: Scotland. There was also no mention of when the Admiral would return. He said he would.

Writer’s notes: A new house and a wedding.

When moving-in day arrived, they were excited, each in turn in their own way. Thomas because
he had never had a house of his own, he had never had a house, he thought, he had had a mad father.
Tristan because the house signaled the end of the castle for him. The castle would remain, always, but
he would stay at the house. They, he and Thomas, would make it a home. So along with McLean and a
few warriors they set about moving slices of the McLeod history into the new house. The weather
offered a slightly cool day, perfect weather for moving. The task consumed less than a few hours.
Tristan had decided to leave most of his uncle’s belongings there. He did pick out a few things
belonging to his father. His kilt. Sword. Also his mother’s painting. When he died the painting could be
returned to the castle. As for furniture, Mohammad, following instructions, had designed simple
furniture as their taste ran in that direction. The furniture had been stored in the stable, and the warriors
hefted each piece, humming as they worked and delivered it to the house and the exact place
Mohammad wanted it. After everything met Mohammad’s approval, he set about explaining every little
detail. He was in his element and it showed as they walked around the house for the second time. The
floors were heated by clay pipes running beneath, which in turn were heated by a re-circulating water
basin. Mohammed had chosen Arab toilets, which were a simple hole in the bathroom floor deep
enough for the waste to compost. He could have chosen Roman toilets, but they were more elaborate
and sacrificed impression over function. Water flushed via a clay pipe connected to the main piping
(also clay) which was connected to a miniature Roman aqueduct. Each room had a hearth. Smaller
hearths for the bedrooms and slightly smaller hearths for the den/study. He explained that a large hearth
wasted its own heat. Whereas a series of smaller hearths could be used effectively, one or two or all
three. The beds feather stuffed. He explained that feathers were less likely to attract lice, unlike sheep
wool. The den/study was furnished with two of everything necessary: chairs, desks. Each room had a
single glass window which offered a generous view of out-doors. The main room faced the ocean, and
the sun. Every room white, except for the ashen wood floors. The grounds were cleared for 25 yards to
afford a defensive view of anybody approaching.
“Is it good?”
Yes, the house…elegant, they both agreed.
Mohammad. “Good. I will not ask again.”
“Great. What about the island’s?” Tristan.
“Clay piping leading to the sea. Out houses for waste. No more using the river. You will need to
post notices.”
“Again great.”
“Thank you. Now I must be serious.” And Tristan wondered what he had been. “I wish to ask for
Maria’s hand in marriage.”
Tristan almost blurted: I am not her father. But caught himself. She wanted his blessings. “My
“Maria loves me but she is in love with you. But it is enough. I am very lucky.”
“Yes you are.”
“Yes, yes,” he seemed to glide above the ground in happiness as he left.
“McLean will be devastated,” Thomas.
Tristan, “He will… adjust, it is what McLeods do,” speaking his uncle’s words.
It had been a glorious winter. Or maybe the island itself charmed. Whatever, almost everyone
mourned winter’s passing into the end of May where they knew summer and work beckoned. Maybe
that was it. Work? Hmm, I pondered this. Also the fact that in a few days I would be 28 years old, 30
within shouting distance. I must confess, 30 seemed old, seemed like history, Thomas’ diary.
Although they disliked celebrating their birthday except between themselves, or with Duncan
and McLean, they did so this year because Maria had chosen to marry Mohammad on the 3 rd of June.
As King, Tristan would perform the ceremony. Not a Druid wedding. Not Christian. Not Moslem. But
two people honoring, loving, promising; what piece of paper could do all that, what outside faith could
ensure such. No. The bride and groom gave their word, and if that was not good enough what on earth
and the heavens were. The wedding brought out Joanne and her husband, the kids left at home. Every
single warrior, who to a man loved Maria as a sister and God have mercy on whomever bothered her
and did Mohammed feel the heat, you bet! Although these men, hardened warriors, liked Mohammed,
smiled and joked with him, there was always a hint, a tiny feeling: You better measure up! But he was
up to it, he loved her. Also many islanders showed up. The final words: ‘Forever and never-more nor
less,’ spoken, the celebration began in earnest and lasted well into the twilight hours, the hooting owls
hooting, the sea roaring in whispering, the moon spot-lighting. All in all a wonderful occasion. Even
McLean enjoyed himself, after all he was a McLeod, and although he loved Maria, as long as she was
happy, he would be also. Before leaving, she stepped aside, alongside him. They sat staring out at the
blackness, the sea. At last he stood, bent and brushed lips, turned and walked to the castle. It was almost
morning. No more need be said.
Writer’s notes. A page found at the Castle McLeod. The reader may make of it what they will.
After Thomas and I had moved what little we had from the castle, McLean sat at my uncle’s
desk. He had taken the news well, smiling and wishing them many children and a long life. He now had
the Castle, not counting the servants, all to himself. Oh, warriors stopping by for a mug or two, and
over-seeing the island took a great deal of time. No, he would not be lonely. He was not that type. Still
he missed Maria, and would have enjoyed sharing the castle with her. There lay true happiness. He
would adjust though, as I said. He wished Mohammad well, she deserved it.
And he did also. Maria asked Thomas to include the above in his diary. I am unsure if Thomas
did, so I am writing this note to remind myself to remind him. T. M.

BOOK 3 3/4.

Everybody waiting for summer to end, and it had just begun, even McCone, who was always
happy, seemed to wait, want it all to be over. Maybe it was last summer, maybe it was Tristan being
king, a serious king not offering any laughs to go along with the work, or maybe it was all of us. But we
all knew this summer would end badly. A man could sense it. It was in the air. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter 1: May Snippets.

Writer’s notes: On the Porche

We had discussed the previous two summers, comparing them to the coming summer. Stewart’s
demise, eased matters, we were sure. Much of what was implemented the previous summer would spill
over into this summer. All in all we expected a smooth easy summer session. We had not judged fate’s
wily in the equations. Thomas’ diary.
They had planned to leave for Glasgow and the castle early, but the previous evening’s
festivities had required three cups of tea to waken themselves as opposed to their normal two, and
eight a.m. found them mounting Trouble and Au revoir. They had a long day ahead, absolute sure it
would melt into night before they reached the castle. Several warriors flanked, ready to ride, ready for
anything. McLean saw them off. The road, soft, almost mushy from the spring rains, slowing forward
progress. Tristan wanted to stop at as many clans as possible on his way to Glasgow and pay his
respects to the Clan Chiefs who had supported him the past several years. Doing this was a thing.
Unsacred in itself. Yet from a King sacred to the Highland Chiefs; respect paid to them for their
loyalty. They first stopped at the Clan McMore, a small clan numbering around forty-five people.
Michael McMore, the clan chief, greeted Tristan, who explained, a short visit, just wanted to say hello
Michael. So the day went, stopping for a few minutes at as many clans as he could, paying respect, and
now comfortable in accepting it in return.
At the castle, late, a little past 7 p.m. Duncan standing there waiting on him along with Ion.
Nothing much going on. Quiet. Most people in bed. He dismounted, tired, yes, but not weary. At least
not until Duncan informed him that Porch was drunk at McCauley’s Inn and ranting about him. At the
news a weariness set in. “What!” he exclaimed, “Back five minutes. And already?” Half joking, the
other half not so sure.
For the barest second Maria and Mohammed happy flashed before him, then gone. He had
“Hail Caesar! By the way, pass the wine please.” Thomas’ diary.
“She is just a woman.” Tristan almost pleaded. The words echoed back, ricocheting.
Right! He decided less words and more action were needed. He and Thomas remounted and rode
to McCauley’s Inn. Although filled by mostly older rough tough workers imbibing day’s finish before
heading home; tough as they were, nobody wanted any part of this, Tristan the King or not, and studied
their mug, each person finding something interesting there. Just as well. His blue eyes would brook no
argument. And they were everywhere at once. Now even the room itself seemed to stop breathing.
Tristan saw her at a corner table sitting next to a man he knew to be a Christian and English. Two things
he hated. Well, one for sure. He withdrew his sword, then his dagger and handed them to Thomas “I am
going to send that Christian to the bar. He moves kill him.”
“Glad to.”
At her table in three long strides. “This is not a conversation and you do not have any options.
Go to bar. Stay there. Do not move. Move an inch you die.”
The men, not hesitant at all, left the bar entirely. Even if he had the courage, which he lacked,
challenging Tristan certain suicide. There were other girls to sleep with, safe girls. He decided from
there on to only practice safe sex.
“Tristan.” Voice even.
“Porch you have a thing that is mine. I want it.”
“Tristan.” Voice lower.
“Tristan.” Voice a whisper.
Tristan waiting.
“I am sorry.” Voice barely audible.
A half nod, “It is done. Now I am appointing you chancellor of the new Medical University in
Edinburgh which should be up and running in a few weeks.” Get her out of his hair.
“Tristan, no. I am a woman.”
“Yes and your father is a doctor and taught you medicine. But a woman cannot be a doctor. No
man would allow such. So hire teachers, professors and do whatever is needed. I will brook no
argument here. I want a quality medical school up and running and producing Scottish doctors within
three years.”
A swirl turn-around, and two long strides toward Thomas, her scratchy protests following,
hurting his head.
“For crying out loud Tristan,” Thomas, leaving the pub, “That fluff had no intention to challenge
you. In his haste to leave, he almost ran right over me.”
“Then she was too good for him,” his only comment.
And the matter closed for once and forever. Although he did complain jokingly while swinging
atop Trouble, “My head hurts. Somebody should invent a medicine for that. Make a fortune.”
And so began our summer. Boring–self-amusement. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter 2: June Snippets.

Writer’s notes: The short Scottish summer of a King to be and Itsy-bitsy schoolhouses.
apéritif amusement drunk, the summer boredom feast served up Prince Henry as an appetizer.
Thomas’ diary.
On June 16, the English invaded in the form of Prince Henry. Tristan had kept the long ago pact
between himself and Edwards quiet. Only Thomas and McCone knew. Consequently every person in
and about the Castle were caught napping as the Prince and a dozen English guards rode in. The stable
lad screamed, running through the castle into the Great Hall itself: THE ENGLISH ARE INVADING!
The lad ran right into Thomas’s arms and a hand clasped over his mouth, still he muffled a high
squeaky: the English are invading! the English are invading!
Which pretty much sent everybody, noble and merchant alike, into a panic; a stampede of men
pushed and shoved in a rush to reach the castle’s rear entrance. Prince Henry’s appearance in the Great
Hall, flanked by two English guards, did not help matters. Women knelt and began praying. ‘Our Father
who art be thy name,’ rang out; or at least that is how Tristan heard it. (Sinners & hypocrites remember
those middle words, the ones flanked by ‘who’ and ‘be’).
Henry found it all so delicious. So much so he almost pleaded the opposite when Tristan to
restore order loudly announced. “Prince Henry will be staying with us for the summer. I remain positive
each of you will be above reproach when you are in his presence.” Reading in-between the words:
Edwards. Edwards. Edwards. (Who loudly, his ever-present growl raging up and down in scale,
maintained: a man could die twice, or even thrice, you know!)
Panic had reared its head within moments, and fled mere moments later, returning The Great
Hall to semi-normal. Tristan’s announcement stayed feet and prayers alike: the men attached to the feet
fled to the bar for a desperately required drink, the women mouthing memorized childhood catechisms
exchanged holiness for equally superficial ‘A Crown Prince required entertaining.’ tongue licking lips
The irony of the Princes’ appearance did not escape Tristan. The shocked faces and actions did
not escape Tristan. The whole of Europe knew he hated the English. It was well known the entire
McLeod clan hated the English....all the way back in English-France, growling laughter roared from
Edwards’ tent, the irony did not escape him either. Irony or no, shocked faces or no, Tristan had already
decided on where to house Henry. The Scottish Palace, although far less palatial than Buckingham
Palace, had a raison d’être chic to it fit for an English Prince: King’ Stewart’s drunken bloody drunken
death. Besides, the Palace would separate the English troops guarding Henry from Scotland’s
population; particularly the Lords whose hearts harbored treasonous waters seeking friendly Flagships
of which their sheep dreams imagined King Edwards would gladly captain.
Tristan thinking out loud in his gravelly whisper woke me from my pondering, “After all, Henry
would only be at the Palace for a short time.” I continued pondering salt. How in the Universes did
my… Thomas’ diary.
Tristan. “Thomas.”
Again I shelved my pondering. “What?”
Thomas: (:
It took Tristan a baker’s hour to rescue Henry from the nobles, who after a stiff drink had
gathered around him as if he were the second coming, and accompany him and his guards to the Palace,
which following prior instructions from Tristan had been maintained daily. Eight servants stood
outside on the lawn waiting to spring into retrieving whatever the Prince desired. Two stable lads were
at ready to fetch the horses. Tristan disliked the Palace, disdained really, and felt the Crown wasted coin
maintaining it. The nobles viewed it otherwise, successfully arguing the Palace was needed to house or
entertain Kings and visiting jointworm; prior word Highland slang for English Royalty and nobles.
Tristan had long ago confided in Thomas that perhaps a smaller palace, say two rooms, would suffice.
Thomas had joked back: no, has to be three rooms. Heads of State like to stroll from room to room,
hands clasped behind their back, as if in gravitas thought affecting the entire world, when in reality
posing for the ever present imaginary portraiture. Such-minded strolling required three rooms at least!
Although only a few years separated them in age, Tristan being older, they had never met. They
remedied this slight oversight over tea at the palace. The conversation at first was about the ongoing
war between France and England. Henry freely admitted, “I find the whole affair dreary. I dare say my
Father enjoys the affair. It is well known, well, my father dislikes my mother...and that is phrasing it
mildly. So the conflict enables my father to summer in France, well away from my Mother’s constant
complaining. ”
Tristan cocked his head, sizing Henry up. He had that English build, a jolly face, figure not
rotund, but heading in its direction. But the eyes, they held intelligence. On this basis, he decided that
Henry was testing him, seeing if he took the bait and bad-mouthed his father or mother. He steered the
conversation elsewhere. “This tea, the spices come from India. Very tasty, no?”
“Oh yes, yes, oh, ” Henry stuttered, expecting the other. Expecting what his own nobles would
utter. Caught off guard.
A slow nod, telling Henry not to try that again. “Tomorrow morn.”
There was nothing for Henry to do but agree. Tristan and Thomas left, each thinking the same
thing: Have to move Henry out of Glasgow.
The next morining McClure, a warrior and a 6th cousin to Tristan, who Tristan
had left at the palace to see nothing untold happened to Henry and to monitor
who paid a visit, reported to him outside, “Nobody called on Henry, Tristan,” he
began, “But the man is manic. He personifies impatience. From the moment you
left yesterday, he paced incessantly from room to room, ranting at the servants
for the smallest mishap. He took two handmaidens to bed with him. They
complained this morn. I gave them each a gold coin.”

It was very obvious that McClure did not like Henry. Tristan assured him it
was all right, and joked he could kill him later. “And I will talk to the

“Char’m wil’ya, Tristan.” McClure, eyes twinkling, teasing, falling into

McLeod baroque Islandease. Tristan knew full well McClure had a classical
“Ah, lassies, tis narry’a’on wo’t fa’l bac’k fu’r a wr’d, tis th’y.” Tristan teased

“Thr be a’on me’knw, ty tis.”

“Be off wit’ya McClure, be ya.”

Trailing laughter, McClure mounted his Thoroughbred, throwing at the wind,

“I be in Glasgow you need me.”

All this on his first day in Scotland, Tristan thought, going into the Palace
where he found Henry enjoying English toast and jam. Well, he decided, he had
given his word to Edwards. He and Thomas joined Henry in tea and toast and jam.

The English prepare delicious toast. Thomas’ diary.

The next morning and for a week, while Tristan practiced, he included Prince Henry, starting the
Prince off slow, explaining about sword fighting first. “The sword is the weapon. Your body
is its extension. Movement is everything. Never anticipate your opponent’s move.
You do you die. Because once you are in motion, you cannot readily change
direction. If your opponent fakes you, and you move, he takes you. Instead, follow
his motion. Use his motion to direct yours. This is the tricky part. I can predict a
man’s movement by his motion, meaning I know what he will do about a half
second before even he knows. Why, I do not know. I just can. You can not. So do
not count on it. And again do not substitute anticipation for it. Now speed, is
everything. I am fast. Thomas is faster. A much stronger opponent is helpless
against speed and agility. He will soon tire. Muskets are in fashion now. So men
are not as good using a sword because they have not practiced. I cannot speak for
the future, but Muskets have one shot, and the man is usually afraid, frightened,
in a hurry, and not trained and will miss unless very close up. Once he has fired,
he must reload, a thing that takes grace under attack; most men lack such grace
and die by the sword. Any questions before we began.”

None. Not a question. In fact Tristan got the impression the entire affair
bored Henry.

Which it did. Still they got along well together, although Tristan knew they would never be real
friends, not in the sense that Thomas was or McLean. But Henry was affable, charming. He did display
a macabre sense of humor. He rejoiced in poking the eyes out of chickens, chuckling at them as they
frantically twirled around in circles, clucking at their own blindness. Simply by accident, Henry
captured a fox and poked its eyes out expecting similar frantic behavior. The fox had other thoughts on
the matter and bit into the young Prince’s thumb and hung on for dear life. Henry grew increasingly
frantic, and began running around in circles shaking his hand in an attempt to rid the fox as a body
ornament. The entire episode elicited laughter from several warriors who had gathered around to enjoy
the show. Henry’s pleas for help caught Tristan’s attention who was working with Trouble. Although he
failed to see the humor in poking an animal’s eyes out, calmly slit the fox’s jugular. Henry felt forever
indebted to Tristan. The warriors, well they were another matter. The incident also cured him of poking
eyes out of chickens, but when grown and King, graduated to killing wives. Ah, life.
After Henry had made adequate progress, Tristan followed his plan that he had set in motion
long ago, and dispatched him to the Island and McLean. There he could be as English as he wanted, eat
liver pie, even use the term: ‘how you doing mate,’ on the warriors or McLean; they were instructed to
placate him. He would also be out of his hair and unable to fuel dissent amongst the nobles.
Only problem, McLean really really really really HATED THE ENGISH! The delicious irony
did not escape Tristan. Thomas’ diary.
Under McLean’s tutorage, Henry decided sword fighting, well, not his cup of tea. After all,
some men were fighters, he happily concluded, while others…fucked their way through life. He did
vow never to tell his father. He loved him too much to disappoint him; he was not a warrior, pure and
simple; so why chase its song.
Henry’s progress, or lack of, was reported to Tristan who shrugged it off, confiding to Thomas:
“I am not in the business of training a man in the art of swordsman-ship who well might someday
invade Scotland.”
To which I examined the sky and offered up, look’s like rain. Thomas’ diary.
Henry departed for London at June’s middle, severely cutting his Scottish summer short. As the
English flagship ported, Tristan could see Henry had a thing on his mind just dying to get out. He knew
what. “You are worried what your father will say.”
“Yes. I so do not wish to disappoint him.”
“If Edwards asks, Henry, I will tell him you did swell. Which you did. ”
“I did by God, I did.” Convincing himself. “Not great, mind you, but swell, yes swell.”
Henry was still convincing himself, encouraging himself in low murmurs, as he boarded the
So goes future warriors, Thomas’ diary.
The rest of June took on mediocrity. When not practicing or hitting the pubs in
Glasgow, Duncan and Ion tagging along, Tristan and Thomas showed up every day
to attend the council. The sessions were mirthless. Not in a mean sense, no that
would imply mirth: even discontent has its joy, but as if joy resided elsewhere,
everywhere but here. Across the Hall at the bar. Or outside on the lawn. Or even
in ones thoughts on gossip. Anywhere but in those chairs. At some point, Thomas
pointed out to Tristan that he, along with the other members, were merely going
through the motions for motions sake. Tristan admitted so. Bored by them all, all
the council members, much gibberish about nothing, accomplishing nothing
gibberish. They in turn, by me. We accomplished so much last summer that this
summer has left on vacation. “Just boring.” He strongly pointed out.

Thomas agreed but offered up a single word: “Schools.”

“What about them?”

“In every village. Three years per boy mandatory.”

“Good idea. Nobles will not buy it. They will say: educate the peasants and
next thing they will want the land, which is not too far from true.”

“Maybe. But the mere thought will add some spice to the show. Shake
everybody up. Try and sell it. Watch the fur fly.”

A half shrug. Summer was boring so far. Add some spice. Sure. He grinned,
warming to the idea. “Why not.”

The next day at the council meeting, Tristan outlined the idea. Talk about fur
flying. Immediate fierce resistance. Even from Old man McGregor.
The resistance awakened Tristan’s always ready fierce competitiveness. He
scratched his head for time to think out what to say on the matter that might sell
it. “Hear me out. Three years. Nothing, just enough to learn reading, writing.
Every peasant can thus be relied on to keep proper accounts. Now you rely on the
priests. He is a middle man, takes a cut. Erase him out and more profit.”

“And who pays for teaching?”

“There in is the beauty. The priests teach. They already know how to read
and write.”

There lay a pause so long and so wide Scotland would not fill it. The
hamsters turning wheels inside heads doing calculations. Little school houses built.
Small itsy-bitsy houses. Profit large. Simple.

McCone chimed in, “Why not try it. Ten villages. See how it goes.”

The nobles all embraced the idea. More lumber. More labors. More gold.

Surprisingly the other pieces to the puzzle fall naturally into place. The
priests on orders from the Vatican loved the idea, they could spread God’s word
while teaching the A. B. C’s. The mothers had the only pleasure their husband had
after a hard day farming. They wanted more for their sons. The men wanted their
sons by their sides in the fields. The women held firm, both in belief and crossing
legs until the men caved. Ten itsy-bitsy school house were completed by the end
of June. More would soon follow. Lots more.

Ah, pussy, and daily prayer, Thomas commented, a match made in heaven.

Combine them and a man could beat the devil while saving his soul.
Thomas’ diary.

Tristan agreed. Remarking, it was a beginning, and from past beginnings had learned that
beginning eventually went all the way.
Chapter July Snippets.
Writer’s notes: Summer tid-bits: mid-late June: assassin comes in from the cold.

Summer’s beginning went like that. All in all a little spice added was just
enough to get through June. July heated up right away when Thomas stumbled
upon an assassin’s campsite the last day in June. He pegged the man ‘an assassin’
because the man changed campsites every night, yet always camped within clear
sight of the castle. He and Tristan had discussed it and were doing so on June’s
demise, a fiery rainy night outside, the kind of night where the wind howled like
wolves and wolves eat their young, when the assassin, perhaps tired of being
hunted, or perhaps just tired, boldly walked in the castle and into McBrage Hall
and up to Tristan and announced: “I am here to kill you.”

Just like that. See what Tristan made of it.

Except for them and the servants, who all but one on call, were sleeping,
the castle was empty. Tristan had to admit the man standing before him, well,
amusing. There was no other way to put it. How many men had the balls to enter
and announce: I am here to kill you. Rather dramatic, he thought. “Means you are
dead.” Tristan, matter of fact. Almost laughing at the idiocy of it.

The assassin, well, stayed boredom’s hand. Fun had entered the castle. Had
we but known boredoms terrible trickery. Thomas’ diary.

Thomas shaking Tristan off, mildly curious about this man who had eluded
him for so long, (a week seemed long to him). The assassin did not disappoint and
got right down to it ‘I am Miguel. Like I said, I was sent to kill you. I have been
studying you, your habits, that evening walk you both indulge in, everything. The
fact you sleep in the old handyman’s cottage...”

“Gardener’s cottage.”

“Whatever. I know you as well as myself. It is my job. What I do very well. ”

No bragging, a smooth, clear, yet soft, confident demeanor.

“Continue,” Tristan, now fascinated.

“The Ghost notwithstanding, I chose not to kill you because those bastards
have been controlling me since I was fourteen. Almost twenty years. Time to
switch sides. I know things about them. Let me tell you some of what I know. First
off, there is a way into the Vatican even Pope Pius is unaware of. The Dominicans

An hour later he ended with, “I have assassinated twenty-nine people, none

of importance. The Vatican kills anybody deemed a threat except Kings or Queens.
Killing you. That would be breaking the rules. Guess they made an exception for
you. So as I watched you I began to wonder, who was I killing? Suddenly they want
a King killed. Got me thinking. So here I am. Once they discover I have switched, I
am on the list.”

Thomas. “Spanish?”

“Sort of. Parents moved to Rome as a kid. Father died. Mother raped and
killed. A priest took me in, fucked me, praying all the time he was saving me. I got
too old for him so he passed me onto to the Dominicans. I am self-taught. Can
read and write. Speak four languages. And I am extremely dangerous. The very
best. Even now standing here you two, well it would be a close call. And I will
explain why. You, Tristan are about three, four feet from me. The Ghost is to my
left, but almost behind me, say four feet. I am in the middle. I hit the floor, grab
dagger in right boot, fling it at you Tristan then roll to my right and reach for the
dagger in my other boot. Close enough to call it a draw, but at least one dies.”

“Think so?” Tristan, moving while speaking, fast, real fast, sword now at
ready, blade covering the three feet between him and Miguel who was flat on the
floor, head raised, hand holding dagger at ready to fling, Thomas bridging the gap
in a single long leap, in hand an arrow coming down toward Miguel’s left eye,
halting inches away. Dead stillness, each frozen as if posing for an artist. Suddenly
an eruption, each laughing... but not relinquishing an inch.

“You really think so?” Tristan again, unable to stop smiling. “I mean really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“I mean REALLY? Considering my sword is blocking your dagger. So Really!”

“Really. I can see the left rear white part of your right eye. Close, an ‘I die
you die’ thing. But that is why I am paid the God coins.”

“What are the God coins?” Thomas, thinking he meant gold coins.

“The Vatican, or more accurately, the Dominicans have them. They weigh
eight ounces. Average merchant earns as much in ten years.”

“Hmm, God coins, huh.” Thomas.

An ever so slight communication between Tristan and Thomas, which Miguel

picked up because they all sheathed their weapons in unison, each in turn curious.
Each knowing they would never know... this time.

“Okay.” Tristan. “Find a room in town, have fun. Once you are settled in,
stop in, we will talk more. But ah, a man who will embrace treason once, well....”

“You did. Sometimes it depends on the cause.”

“Fair enough.”
Miguel slid through the shadows to the door and gone baby gone. Thomas,
impressed, very.

“The Ghost not-withstanding.” Tristan, teasing.

McBrage Hall echoed laughter loudly, startling awake every servant in the

Late July brought daily rain. Driving people to seek shelter. During the summer McBrage Hall,
here-to home to the council and nobles and merchants had slowly became the ‘in’ place in Glasgow to
be seen. Everybody who was nobody began to frequent the Hall’s bar. Tristan supposed the change had
begun a few years ago when he had opened the hall and its bar to the general public. But it seemed
sudden, almost overnight the hall was filled daily, the bar turning a profit; odd, Tristan thought. The
days brought forth many a ship’s captain, business man, old men dressed in last year’s fashions, young
men starting their years and seeking a place to begin, young men talking the game, playing rather lame
to the older more experienced hustler. Laughter, a constant. All in all a clean well-lit place where men
came to engage in business, yes, but also just to socialize. Even the nobles embraced the change.
Duncan commented on this to Tristan who was engaged in conversation with Miguel who spent
whole days at the castle, conversing, yes, but also joking and engaging in playful rough-necking. He, as
all the others, had also found a home there. “People need a place to go. To engage in business, yes, but
more so for pleasure and company. You gave it to them.” Miguel pointed out.
He and Thomas and Tristan and a few others like Duncan had become friends. For their part,
they found Miguel to be a rather likable scoundrel. The ladies found him delicious, yes, a fling, a night,
but marriage, no, scoundrels were not marriage material. Marriage required a Lord’s son, banker,
lawyer, doctor; in said order.
Tristan was about to respond when right then a rather short square-shaped man walked stiffly, as
if a wood beam held him upright, by them. By his clothes a German trader, they in turn guessed. The
man paused to point out Thomas to Duncan, who as usual sat, legs stretched out, appearing asleep.
“That man is sleeping.”
Tristan “Really.” amused. “Thank the gods.” rolling his gaze to the ceiling, meaning the
“Yes. Thank them,” Miguel carried on, also glancing at the ceiling.
Duncan deadpanned in a hush whisper. “Be safer. The Grim Reaper.” Nodding empathically.
“You mean,” the man now whispering. “The ghost?”
“Exactly.” Miguel, pointing a cautious finger.
“Well I have a ship...” and the little man hurried along, a song-to-live in his step.
A slow creeping smile from Thomas, finely stretching lips wide into all out laughter. Tristan’s
contagious laugh may have fled, but Thomas’s infected and soon all four joined in.
“The Grim Reaper?” Thomas. “I would rather be, huh, mmm, say… a writer.”
“The little man seemed so serious.” Miguel. “Give him a tale to tell.”
“Grandkids will suffer it until his death.” Duncan.
Right then Ion McDonald asked what was so funny. Heads shook all around, implying nothing
of any importance. He had recently married and his pregnant wife, whose belly stuck out far enough for
twins, asked what was so funny?
Tristan. “I composed a song. Goes like this: Young McDonald had a farm, e I e I…”
“And that is funny,” she laughed out. “You have the lyrics all wrong. Should be: Old McDonald
had a farm…”
“You think?” Tristan, head tilted off to one side as if in thought. An ‘innocent child all alone’
“Yeah.” McGregor. “You think?”
“Women are always right,” she said and her laughter trailed away along with her.
“Be what my wife says.” McGregor. “Especially when I stray.” Rubbing his left ear in thought.
“Young McGregor had a cock, eieiooooooo.” chimed.
“And a cock cock here and a cock cock there,” Thomas added.
“Here a cock there a cock,” Tristan threw in.
Miguel screamed out.
Duncan searched for his wife and saw her about twenty feet away staring at him, no not staring
but leading him to her: an order. “You guys, funny. Should form a minstrel group. Go on road. Make a
little something for yourselves.” And went over to his wife to try and explain.
Yes funny. Just guy funny.

Chapter August Snippets.

Writer’s notes: Hot August night magic.

August did not waste any time and on its first day hit an even 100, and that was in the shade. The
heat blasted into McBrage Hall an old man so old his hair was not white from age, but yellow from age.
Old, yes, but spry and crispy, walked to Tristan who was busy sweet-talking a lassie, wondering if it
were too hot for what he had in mind, to notice the man.
The old man wore a long robe, once white, now stained and dirty, as if he had been living out
doors. He spoke loud, fire eyes burning, not hate or love just burning, startling all who heard him, “I am
Odenton. I knew your father. Also your mother. Attended your birth I did. I am the last Druid wizard.
THE LAST. HEAR ME! Before I die I want to inform you, you are immortal. Oversaw the event
He had spoken very fast as if the words had been stored in him for decades and had to get out
and breathe. And just as fast, so very fast for one so old, he whipped out a dagger from beneath his robe.
“And I will prove it.”
And sprang at Tristan, who sat stunned, the lassie forgotten. Hand on sword. But knowing, just
knowing, tasting death’s amandine dinner…and finding death amateurish.
Thomas ready, fired. The man crumbled as if a loaf of stale bread. Thomas and Tristan knelt
beside him. The old man’s choked up blood, talking more out, “You would have seen…” in his last
“Yes old man, I am sure,” Tristan, head shaking back and forth, murmured.
Thomas and Tristan were quiet for a second. The lassie Tristan had been charming shrugged and
commented. “Just an old man. Who cares.”
For a brief second Tristan flashed those cold blue eyes upon her. She flinched.
Miguel assured, but needlessly, he knew. “The Vatican did not send him. He is too old.”
Thomas, quiet, thinking, rearranging thoughts, placing them in spaces, some fit, others not and
he moved them. Nothing. He shook his head.
Ian. Worried. Which was his way in most things. “Tristan?”
“Is he a Christian?” A voice from somewhere.
Tristan wanted to shout: ‘What he is, is dead.’ Instead, “He is a Druid. We will give him a Druid
send off at midnight.” He brought in a breath, as if bringing in food. “Spread the news. I want as many
people attending as possible.”
Still kneeling over the man, Tristan thought about the old man at the border, not the same man
but still he wondered how many old men wandered around Scotland, homeless, minds going, leaving
them all but helpless. What happened to them? They go off and die alone?
Thomas, guessing his thoughts, knowing him, “Like pigeons. You rarely see a dead pigeon. I
often wonder where they go to die.”
By that time boredom owned us. Only a matter of time before… Thomas’ diary.

Mid-August Snippets.
Writer’s note: Nothing tid-bites

A glass half full leaves wants. A glass half empty leaves desires. Thomas’ diary.
Since the death of the old man, McBrage Hall had been a little less noisy, the drinkers a bit more
cautious, as if an ill wind had blown in and now waited for its next victim. As Tristan walked about the
Great Hall, an unshakable feeling nagged. Hunger. He had just eaten. Maybe a good fuck. No, just
seemed like too much work. At least the insistent heat had given way to cooler weather. He paused at
the bar, the need to place a name to what troubled him, almost overwhelming him. A young man stood
there drinking from a glass. Glass, not a metal mug, the man’s clothes telling him: merchant’s son.
“How much that glass hold?” Tristan placing ‘no-where words’ to replace how he felt.
“Who made it?”
“McGlass’s on Douglas Street.”
“Pint, huh.”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Do me a favor. Go order a hundred of them. When you come in next time just ask for a pint.
Save you the hassle of bringing your own glass.”
The lad, happy to serve, ran out the door.
What? Was he a bar-keep now? He glanced at Thomas who slept.
But, in sleep Thomas crooked a finger at himself and as if a string followed his finger to Tristan;
he stayed silent, just stood there.
The rest of August rolled away, never to return. Some wondered if it had taken something of the
fun with it. Others did not wonder but were sure. Others did not care.

Chapter September Snippets.

What dose the sound of thunder sound like in your head? An 8 year old girl answered: Sounds
ominous. Thomas’ diary.
On a late September day, the 23rd to be precise, which happed to be Miguel’s birthday, they,
Thomas, Tristan, Ion and Duncan braved the slight drizzle and headed for McGill’s pub to celebrate.
Despite the drizzle quite a few people were out. A few waved, friendly, at Tristan who returned the
greeting. Birthday jesting served as conversation; Miguel joking the loudest, was not paying attention
and walked smack into a large heavy-set man. He instinctively dropped a hand to boot, bringing up a
dagger. Duncan managed to say: “forget it,” before thunder rang out. The street became deathly quiet as
on-lookers wondered what the noise was.
Miguel fell face down, a grisly smack rising up from the ground. Each were stunned in the their
way. Tristan thought: what happened? He bent over Miguel, blood pouring from his chest. Pleas poured
from the heavy-set man, as if water from a pitcher. His pudgy hand held something small. Smoke curled
from the end. Thomas snatched the thing. Angry! Just his vibes were angry. Tristan stood. A police
officer rode up, whipped out his rattle to summon aid. The rattle broke the quiet. The officer said
something. Tristan shook his head to and fro clearing his mind.
“Sire,” the officer repeated, “are you all right?”
Sound returned to him. “Fine,” to Thomas, “What is that thing?”
“Ask him.” Thomas. Stunned by the suddenness. Stunned by being stunned for the first time in
years, sure he had reached an age where he could never be stunned again.
The man’s pleas overflowed the air. McGregor slapped him quiet. Asked: “What is that thing?”
“A pistol is what the man called it. I...”
“Shut up!” Thomas.
But the man, badly frightened, could not stop words spilling forth. And more words poured from
him. He thought it a delightful toy. He had no idea. God, please. It only held a little iron ball. Not large
enough to hurt a man. “God, plea…”
McGregor slapped him again and shouted, “Shut up!”
The man finally complied.
Thomas examined the weapon. Shook his head dismally.
Tristan’s hard blue eyes were tearing the man apart, “Explain?”
“I purchased it in Italy. The man who sold it said it would barely wound a man. But the noise
would frighten him away. I thought, a dagger, I...”
“Shut up,” Tristan now. He ordered the officer to ride to the dock and see if any ships were
leaving for London. The police officer complied and rode off. “English, correct?” All the hatred of the
English in his voice.
“Yes, Sir.”
Tristan repeated to himself as if the words would imprison his fury: Just a senseless accident.
Just a senseless accident. Just a senseless accident. The sentence continued to repeat itself as he stated
coldly. “You are going back to London. I see you again in Scotland and you are all gone!”
Tristan and Thomas stooped, rocking on boot-heels until the officer returned. There was a ship,
there was always a ship to London, leaving in an hour, the officer glad to escort the man to the ship and
wait until it sailed.
“Well at least the Vatican did not get to him,” Thomas, head shaking at the senselessness of it.
So very Thomas. A need to hold onto Miguel, not let him go yet. Yet stating a fact.
“I suppose.” Tristan coughed back a sigh. “Of small comfort though.” By the gods, he thought,
slightly dizzy. He stilled everything in him, shook his head, almost an after thought. All at once words
rushed at him for what he had been feeling all summer. ”Boredom’s price,” a dullness in his voice,
almost resigned to its continuance.
“First the cannons, then the powder, now a miniature cannon. What will we think of next to kill
each other with?” Thomas added, still stunned, thoughts unsteady.
“I do not know, but eventually we will go so far down that road we may return to sticks and
stone.” Tristan. Flat. Emotionless.
They were not really engaging in conversation, just freeing confining emotions. “Cool day.”
“Yes.” “How is the wife?” “Fine.” “This ale is flat.” “Hey barkeep!” Those kinds of conversations, both
knew, and knew they never before had engaged in such meaningless banter. They stared at each other,
heads shaking.
All Duncan could manage to say: I need a drink badly. Thomas’s diary.
For weeks Tristan felt almost haunted. For the first time in his life he lost his outward charm,
every sentence flat, emotionless. He had had no idea a man’s death, and a man he had known such a
short time, could affect him so. Certainly his uncle’s death had hit, and hard, but honor called from the
grave so to speak and he had been able to place grief aside for later examination.
Duncan sensing Tristan was troubled attempted to cheer him up but all his efforts fell flat.
As did the good intentions of many others. All fell on Tristan’s deaf ears.
“It is true, we can deny, yet not,” he told Thomas one night. “We have held luck’s hand. Maybe
we held it too long, and Fate grew jealous.”
I had to agree. Thomas’ diary.
Over the past same weeks, Thomas had caught himself on more than one occasion longing for
those days past, thinking, catching himself: STOP! Still daily, almost involuntarily his thoughts led to
Miguel, leading him to ponder ground already well pondered. Miguel had hunted Tristan intending to
kill him, admired what he hunted and switched sides. When a man hunts you and for whatever reason
gives up the ghost (no pun, he thought, intended,) and befriends you his death leaves you rattled; for
there by the grace of the arrow… goes you.
“We are stale is what we are. And there is Miguel.” Thomas, legs stretched out, crossed,
lounging. He contemplated his own word and stood all at once. Body movement saying: we are leaving
here for a while. No argument accepted.
“I know I am stale.” Tristan. Hearing the hollow man in his words.
“Let us go for a ride. Paris. You can see Philip. There is a man I want to see.” Thomas,
pondering the task at hand, yet already placing the summer into history.
We may be dammed if we forget history, but sometimes we are doomed if we do not. Thomas’
Mmm. Road trip. Stole the blues cheering Tristan right up. Even the charming glint returned to
his blue goodbye eyes, admittedly dim, but there. Besides, he also wanted to talk to Philip, he reminded
himself. They invited Duncan, but he had to decline. The clan. His Da on the council, he served as
temporary Clan leader and was due home by evening every evening; leaving his wife’s ‘I be sticking a
dagger in you, I will, all I have to say,’ out of it.

Chapter October Snippets.

Writer’s notes: The first cut is the deepest.

On a very cold day in early October they saddled Trouble and Au revoir and steered them
toward Dover and a ship to France. They were unaware that on the same day Pope Pius died in bed,
calling: “God, please God no.” Or that the Vatican had already started a rumor: Tristan McLeod had
killed another Pope. The rumor spread like wildfire in October.
Never one to deviate from a mystery, Tristan paused at the border. The mist was thick now, and
almost obscured Trouble. Also Tristan. Testing a theory he had figured out, he trotted Trouble a few
feet into English territory. Not a hint of mist. Only in Scotland, he thought and pondered what that
meant for a few minutes and concluded: nothing. Stumped.
They both agreed, very very very strange, as if saying so made it so. They discussed the mist
while riding at a slow pace and soon exhausted all possible explanations, prompting Thomas to
comment: when you rule out the possible you are left with the impossible which further opens endless
There was no possible answer to that, Tristan knew, but willing to try when distracted by
several peasants standing alongside the road. Ragged peasants. Sores on arms and faces. Bone thin,
starving peasants. Broken spirit peasants. Peasants whose dead vacant eyes did not watch them pass;
there was nobody inside to see out, just acceptance.
Tristan thinking: Just English peasants. See them all the time. Not his problem.
A mile later, they encountered another group of peasants. Their dead eyes also did not watch
them. They too were thin, clothes ragged, all spirit gone.
The lack of which would be passed on for generations. Thomas diary.
A hand brushing hair slight sign between them.
“What?” Thomas, not understanding.
Tristan shook his head.
As they rode, more and many more peasants appeared forming a continual row, as if by some
magic, one told another and so on. This continued for about ten miles, then gone, poof, alone, just the
road and them.
“What was that all about?” Tristan.
That Thomas sigh, the one saying nothing, everything.
But one man or peasant Tristan had seen before. Amongst the crowd stood the old man he had
seen years ago. His timeless work of art face unmistakable. He remained quiet on the matter. Just an old
Again they lodged in Dover for the night. After an early start to the day, they disembarked in
France in the late morning. They by-passed Edwards, and headed straight for Paris, arriving mid-
afternoon. As usual Tristan demonstrated for the stable boy on how to brush Trouble. They were
ushered straight to Philip, who was in an exceptional gay mood. The first tell was: pink clothes. The
second: petting a sculpture in the shape of a cock.
“Let us orgy,” the third.
Fall fever, Thomas thought, must be contagious.
“If only because my eyes feast upon beauty.”
“And doth beauty rise to the occasion.” Tristan, playing along.
“Tristan, you are French.”
“In my last life Philip. So tell me what rumors are said about us?”
“Ah dear boy, you killed Pope Pius. For awhile you were yesterday’s gossip. Now. Gossip is
like that. Even a lie is believed. I have a source. But I can make some up. Let slip we fucked.”
Pope Pius dead? He did not kill him. A slight head tilt at Thomas who stood motionless
thinking: Will it never end. What is the Vatican’s problem!
“Thanks, no thanks Philip. I want to remain a virgin.” Tristan, an absent response, he was
thinking on the Vatican. What were they up to?
The statement intruded on Thomas’s thinking and he rolled his eyes.
Thomas, who was French. “Yes… That part not enjoyable.”
“ tell me.”
“Tell me Philip,” Thomas encouraged.
“What can I tell you, Thomas dear?”
“The prosecutor at Bayonne. He moved to Paris. I would like to see him.”
“Dear boy, you cannot just kill a Frenchman because he burned a woman. If that were the case
France would be empty. Leaving but myself; an enjoyable thought at first thought… but?”
“I promise I will not kill him.”
“Can we fuck?”
“You both are no fun.”
“The prosecutor.”
“530 Rue de Rouge. I only tell you because you were kind enough to share the gold.
T................................” Philip’s voice just ran away, ran every which way, ran into gibberish. Philip’s
body followed, running to the floor, running itself without him, flapping, twitching, arms and legs
Thomas knelt next to him, holding him still while Tristan summoned aid. Young Philip, as the
prince was referred to, arrived first, saw, and shouted for the doctor who was there in a minute. “I will
bleed him, Young Prince. Please leave and have guards at the door with instructions to allow no entry.”
In the hall. “Papa has these fits.”
“He will be okay?” Tristan.
“I hope so. You will not mention this?”
“No. Not at all.”
“Thank you.”
“Certainly. We should go.”
“I will escort you out. Again thank you.”
They both appraised Young Philip for the first time. They had never met him before now and
had always assumed the lad was referred to as ‘Young Philip’ because he carried his father’s first name.
They were not so sure now. The lad, a bit effeminate, voice rather girlish. All in all not a manly figure
to inspire confidence in the French people. The lad’s father may have his quirks, but those quirks hid a
ruthlessness. The lad. Time would tell.
Once outside, the stable master seeing the young prince, fetched their mounts himself.
“Tell your father we will visit on our way back.”
“I shall. He does so enjoy both of you.”
Yes, I am sure, Thomas thought as they rode away. The streets, very crowded, people, carriages,
horses, carts. Amongst this, cats slipped along the shadows while dogs tried to maneuver the carriages,
horses, anything that might cause harm. The occasional howl indicated failure. Thomas stopped more
than a few times for directions. At last 530 Rue de Rouge. A fine house in a fashionable section of
Paris. My, my, Thomas thought, the prosecutor is doing well.
They dismounted, allowed their mounts free roam and went up the steps and walked right in.
Thomas: Ah, the prosecutor sitting at a desk prosecuting papers. Such a man. “Busy man?” he
Bloated importance shouted, releasing venom “Get out!”
“Mmm mmm mmm,” Tristan hummed, “mmm mmm mm m mmm.”
“I said get out before I summon the police.”
“Busy man, busy man, busy man,” Thomas chanted while circling the desk, “Did she scream
while burning?”
“I sa...”
“Did,” he yanked the man’s head back, such force the neck popped. “She,” he slapped him.
“Scream,” he pulled him from the chair and tossed him on the floor. “While burning!”
“Tristan, go find a doctor?”
“Be glad too.”
“So did she?”
The prosecutor lay there too afraid to speak. Shortly Tristan returned, doctor in tow. The doctor
resembled a doctor. He had a goatee, wore an overcoat which a frock peeked out of, and carried a black
doctor’s case. He surveyed the scene and was about to speak. Thomas cut into him using surgical
words, precise, no-nonsense. “This man has lost the use of his legs, so sad, so sad, best to amputate
them before the infection spreads.”
Both Doctor and prosecutor, “I...” voices tiny.
“And without question.”
The prosecutor’s traced the doctor’s every movement. The doctor opened his black case. Now
the prosecutor screamed.
The doctor Tristan had summoned, well, more a society doctor than a real doctor. This was all
too much for his nerves, too much by half. He was more accustomed to a higher class clientele, those
who simply required reassuring words. So to calm his nerves, he quickly poured chloroform onto a
large piece of cotton and held it over the prosecutor’s mouth until the screams subsided. Everywhere but
in the doctor’s head. There he screamed himself deaf to all self-objections.
Trembling, the doctor removed the required instruments, about to speak, but Thomas again cut
into him, silencing any present or further protest. “No choice.”
A half-heated frightened squint, and he began cutting, sponging up blood along the way, using
the same sponge to wipe away perspiration on his forehead. He blinked repeatedly, blinking away the
scream building up in him. An hour elapsed before he finished, faint, just wanting gone. Thomas paid
him handsomely. While returning the instruments to the case, the doctor at last, escape close, brushed
aside the affair as not his affair. Once outside, he stumbled to a carriage for hire, thinking maybe it was
time to retire.
The prosecutor lay on the floor, legless, awake now, alert, yet in shock, quiet. Thomas laid a
piece of paper in front of him. “Sign it.”
Stubborn. Or maybe too much strain. Who knew. Thomas did not care. “Tristan, summon the
doctor. The arms.”
The prosecutor willingly signed. A weak scrawl.
“You now own nothing but the clothes on your back. Tristan, summon a carriage.”
Not the least bit tired from all the fetching, Tristan gaily returned; smiling even, a real smile not
those fake ones he wore as King. They carried the prosecutor to the carriage and laid him inside. He did
moan at the movement. “Driver, take us to the worst section of Paris. We will follow.”
Twenty minutes through Paris. The ride akin to stripping away layers from a well made bed only
to find at the bottom an infestation of fleas and lice. Wealthy, middle weary class, upper poor class,
peasant class, homeless. Each dressed accordingly. Now at their destination, men almost wearing what
passed as clothes, bodies covered with sores, human waste everywhere. They carried the prosecutor to
the street and set him there. Thomas paid the carriage driver handsomely.
Thomas before leaving whispered in the man’s ear, “When you take a life, you steal everything
they are, will be, can be. I leave you your life. Make of it what you will.”
Mid- October Snippets.

Dusk obscured what little Bayonne had to show. Tristan felt fresh even after the long day’s
journey into a night ride. He had carried Miguel’s death for a long time. Here at last he laid the last of
Miguel to rest and dismounting, silently bid him speed to warrior other-world.
They entered the castle and found the priest in bed, standing over him a girl about fifteen, lips
curled in a pout. “He can not do it. Old dick, just a noodle. Can you?” This last addressed at Thomas.
Life is a bitch, Tristan thought.
Thomas, “Get...” saw her dress lying on the floor, things crawling on it. “Never mind. Priest, get
dressed. Meet me in the main room. Bring the girl, naked, burn that dress.”
Summoning a servant, he instructed a fire and someone, the stable boy, anybody, to run into the
village for a dress, small.
“I am buying a dress for a girl who will infest it in minutes. Which one of us dumber, her or
me?” To himself.
“If you happen upon a master beating a servant and you stop him, knowing the moment you
depart, the master will beat the servant harder, do you still intervene?” Tristan.
“Dumb world. Thanks.”
“What I am here for bro.”
“Priest,” Thomas said as he entered the room followed by the dejected girl, “respectfully, but
maybe your cock is getting tired.” He appraised the girl. Again thought about fifteen, very pretty. No,
correction, far too young to be pretty, cute, about 5’ feet, butterfly tits, croissant ass. “Name?”
“Mary. I just wanted to be fucked.” Almost a plea.
He rang for the maid. “Run a very hot bath. Scrub this young girl clean, spotless! Go with her.”
“Only if you fuck me.”
“I will spank you. Now go.” He gestured to the maid who led the pouting child away. The child
threw her best mean look at Thomas.
They both smiled, heads shaking.
“My cock,” the priest said woefully, “it changed its shape almost overnight.”
“Priest, Priest,” Tristan. Soothing.
“I have a name.”
Thomas surprised at the meager defiance. Liking the priest the better for his courage. “Yes
Priest. In fact as Lord over this manor I present you a choice. I can christen you Priest. Or refer to you
by your birth name”
Tasting the word: Priest. Savoring it. “I am a priest. Fitting.”
“So it is.” Thomas. “Now the vineyards.”
“They expect wine this time next year. I loaned them coin. Borrowed it from the Toll road coins.
A few other farmers want to start vineyard terraces.”
“Encourage them, Priest.” Thomas, thinking at last a way out of this mess. “Encourage them all.
Tell them if they succeed they own the land. But cannot sell it.”
“They will jump at that.”
“Good. Like your new name?”
“I do. I, ah, well priest, it is what I am.”
Before Thomas could respond, the demoiselle appeared, still naked, but clean, not a louse
crawling on her. She contorted into what she believed an enticing nymph pose, hoping to entice
Thomas. Seeing failure, she demodulated directly at him, in him, through him; each look in turn,
menacing, loving, leaving.
Thomas thought, she is French: so demonstrative. “Vous avez la famille?”
All posing evaporated, leaving just a confused girl. “Fourteen brothers and sisters.” Eyes
blinking repeatedly. Blinking hopefully.
“et vous voulez juste allé.”
“oui monsieur.” Thomas corrected.
“Yes sir.”
“Okay. Can you keep a house clean, cook, Hmm?”
“Oui!” Brightly.
“When the clothes arrive dress. Priest, teach Mary simple reading and writing and to keep simple
books. She is out of bounds. You can stay here for now. We will see when I return. Do not cross me
Whoosh, like a shot, all over Thomas, who quickly grabbed her and held her out before him, her
legs dangling, her head barely reaching his neck. “Down! Now!”
“Yes Sir.” All happy face.
Later, the stars twinkling, a fire in the hearth warming Tristan’s inner shiver, “Do not cross me
girl. Father Thomas.”
Thomas’s soft smile left what but both knew unsaid.
They rested there for a week, holding long conversations, discussing Miguel mostly. At week’s
end, refreshed, both in mind and spirit, they rode off. An impending winter drizzle followed them to
Paris. At the last the drizzle grew to a rain like frozen knives falling, slicing those unfortunate enough to
be out. Philip even gayer than a few days earlier. Dancing, singing, gay gay gay. “So you two know my
secret. I am glad. I have a hard cock, a free heart, and clear mind. No more hiding. And you two are
fortunate I am happy. Cutting a man’s legs off, stealing his house. Shame.”
“The house is yours Philip,” Thomas handed across the deed.
“O’Well, all is well. And the girl?”
Thomas, not surprised, Philip knew what was happening in France. “She is living in the castle.”
“O’dear, must be much fucking in that girl.”
Thomas, “I will send you a note.”
On the streets of Paris now, having left Philip laughing at Thomas’s last comment. Neither one
wanted to return to Scotland. Thomas reacted first.
“Weather chasing?” Not really a question for more reason than the cold and rain.
Tristan, “Africa!” A shiver racing in him at the name.

Book 3 7/8 -Odds & Ends chapters.

The gods are busy sir, can I be of assistance? Thomas’ diary.

Chapter: The last Wolof.

In Morocco now. Sun not an oven nor a furnace nor an inferno. Just a sun. Now skirting the
ocean. For days not another living soul. At Egypt the usual goat herders, bazaars, men selling slivers of
the cross. No reason to stop here last time nor this time. Now following the same route as their first
visit. Vegetation flattened. Trampled on by thousands. Grass brown. They knew right away things had
changed. The smell. The air. The land. They entered the jungle and after several attempts found the
village. The huts remained, or what was left. Huts torn through, gaping holes, leaves pale, the green
stolen by time. The people gone. A few miles further they found where men on horses had forged the
river. Also found Lim. He wore rags. He worked a small raft large enough for ferrying a few people and
horses across the river; very dangerous work.
Thomas slew a small animal, whose name he knew not, and offered it to Lim. Over a fire Lim
told them everything as if everything needed recording and these gods would know it forever.
“The Portuguese crossed river. They cut trees lay across river slow river. They did many places.
They took people. Many. They kill wild-life not food only kill leave for hyenas. Wild-life gone,
Africans selling Africans. I old. I happy not see. They cut hands feet. Use women. They no spirit they
no gods they devils.”
Tristan, “We are not gods Lim.”
“But you can blow up everything.”
“Yes we can.”
Thomas had listened. He considered taking the old man with them but knew he would never
survive the journey.
“The fort?” Thomas. Wondering.
“They built new one across river.”
“How many men?” Tristan. Thinking.
“Many, many more than before. You can not change what happening. The Wolof believe they
not be defeated. Killed, yes.”
“So it is.” Tristan.
“And the others?” Thomas.
“Gone. The earth embraced them. Take home.”
The river. Whatever lived on the other side was dying. But they had traveled to see, so hired Lim
to take them across. He led them to a Portuguese fort far more organized than the previous one. Maybe
a hundred men. At least that many wooden cages holding blacks. A tall captain, who while dressing in
the morning donned proud, greeted them. They dismounted.
“How far in country have you progressed?” Tristan
“Fifty miles, few more.” The Captain started to add something more but paused as a very large
black man was dragged to him.
“This is the one Captain. Hands are twice normal.”
“Hold him.”
The man, huge, muscles rippling, did not resist. The Captain withdrew his saber and cleanly
sliced off the man’s right hand at the wrist. He picked it up to inspect. Blood ran freely splattering the
already red African earth. He was satisfied, “For my wife. An ornament.”
The huge black man had not whimpered once. The man dragged him away, his bloody stump
smearing the red earth.
“I am sure she will love it,” Thomas, voice hoarse, rigid, afraid to move.
“Hey you.” Tristan.
Thomas. “Hey you.”
“Right.” But those goodbye blue eyes speared the Captain. Who for a few seconds squirmed, in
vain attempt to shake them loose.
They mounted. Trouble and Au revoir danced a bit, nervous. Maybe the blood. Some primeval
reemergence. Maybe the heat. Who knew. Thomas pulled Lim up. They reined back the way they came.
Thomas thinking out loud, “I have to kill him.”
Tristan paused, the jungle quiet around them. It was still day. Jungles always come alive at
night. “They will kill Lim.” Saying it. Wanting a whole other thing. Trade his life for it.
“I dying. I go jungle. I die. You gods. Kill him. For Wolof.”
We had just come out a jungle as deep as I had ever seen to the river. The small raft beached,
sat there. Lim slid off Au revoir and began walking to the jungle. He never looked back. For to look
back means you may never move forward again. After a few minutes he was gone. The last Wolof.
Thomas’ diary.
An African night. Alive. So many sounds, unlike before where everything had died. They had
snuck close to the camp. After waiting two hours, they saw the Captain. He held paper. Going to take a
shit. Thomas waited until his trousers were down up his ankles. He fired. The jungle sounds drowned
out the whistle but not the death. It would be morning before they discovered him. Or maybe a creature
would drag him off. Maybe a relative of the snow rat, thought Thomas, an African rat.
As they stowed the mounts aboard the raft, Tristan touched inside himself. He felt it. He had
dreamed of returning to Africa for many long nights. The dream died there in a pile of worthless
Portuguese shit.
Where everything began. EVERYTHING! Thomas’ diary.

Chapter: The old man.

Weird. They had traveled all the way back chasing the weather in reverse. England. Way weird.
Alongside the road now was a continuous row of peasants. Ten times more numerous than before. All
staring blankly as they rode slowly past. Spooky, came to Thomas. Standing dead people, came to
Tristan, who studied the faces as he passed them, eyes just empty, as if a vacant house lived there. The
old man was not there, but he spotted a girl, about ten, and halted Trouble and dismounted and
approached her, and stooped down. “What are you doing here?”
Tonelessly, “Waiting, Sir.”
“For what?”
“For the one who will save us from the men in black who take what little we have.”
“Thomas, a gold coin.”
Thomas flipped it to him, Tristan catching the coin’s twirl on the heads up.
“Nobody can save you but yourselves.”
“You are wrong, Sir.”
He pressed the coin in her hand, her warmth warming his. “No. You must save yourself.”
“Sir, The Last Pagan Warrior will save us.”
Her, like a soft blow from a feather, words rocked him back on his boot heels.
Thomas cautioned, “Indefensible.”
All eyes were on Tristan, hundreds, possibly thousands. He began to mount up, paused, hanging
from the stirrup, one hand on the saddle. There in the crowd was the old man. His face still a timeless
work of art. He was almost obscured by the peasants. Tristan swung atop Trouble, thinking: who is he?
“Hey you.” Thomas.
“Hey you.” Tristan.
“Slow, easy, no reason to spook these people.”
They rode, uneasy now, faced by a thing they did not understand at all, not even close to
At the border now. Both breathing a sigh of relief. Tristan glanced at Trouble’s hooves.
Needlessly. The mist obscured Trouble and him and Thomas. They burst out of the mist. Glanced back.
Just air. And the old man.
Tristan thought: How did he arrive here ahead of us. “Old man?”
“I told you last time it is rude to call a man old. What if I were a wizard. I could turn you into a
“You are an old man.” Spoken gently.
“Perhaps things are not as they seem, Tristan McLeod.”
“Old man, knowing my name in Scotland is not sorcery.”
“No. But, and it is those buts. Good day to you both.”
And he vanished. To their astonishment.
“Tristan can you explain? You are a Druid. Thomas trying to wrap his head around what he had
“Uh huh, a, well, no. When I was little, I saw Druid magic. Rabbit disappearing. Such trickery.
Once I witnessed a man at a fair who was standing in one spot and reappeared in another. Remember I
was, what, 7. So impressed me. And the elders who passed down stories, well, Druid magic was strong
once, a thousand years ago, but it weakened because man weakened, or so the legend speaks. This old
man. A magician of sorts, I imagine. Some trick though. What is more startling is he was standing
amongst the peasants. I saw him. Also on the way. Again the day I met you. So the begging is: Who is
he? And how did he arrive here ahead of us?”
“The first is a mystery. The second, obvious, a horse.”
“Huh uh,” Tristan. “We are riding the swiftest horses in Scotland, England. No way.”
“And those peasants?”
“Oh gossip, rumor. Starts at the nobles and trickles down. Call it the: trickle down theory. They
heard we had killed two Popes, a bishop, now a third Pope. The priests are bleeding them. So rumor
spreads. The Last Pagan Warrior. No, that one is easy.” But his words failed to convince even him.
“That is the easy explanation.” See what Tristan made of that.
Tristan muttered, “Uh, um, no. I, ah, no.”
For a few miles Thomas made silence from nothing at all. Thinking, questioning. “Remember
when we killed Pope Innocent?”
“For a small second I sensed a presence in the room. Gone while you talked.”
“The wind?”
“No. Window was shut.”
“Something is tracking us?”
“Be my guess.”
“But who, what? And is this old man part of it?”
“At some point we will know....friend or foe.”
“Like Miguel.”
First foe, second friend. Thomas’ diary.

Book 3 99/16
The best summer. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter: Summer.

The island welcomed them as it always would, Tristan knew. Weather chasing had eaten a few
months. They wintered there, planning, re-planning, and re-planning the coming summer; Tristan dearly
wanted to avoid a repeat of last summer. They planned so they arrived at the castle a day before the
council convened, fresh, un-hurried, un-bored, happy. But the moment Tristan stepped in the castle:
instantly bored by it all. But determined: No, not again. McCone greeted him, both exchanging how
they spent the winter. Tristan made no mention of the journey. McCone shook his head just a bit,
knowing. It was Tristan’s business. As long as Scotland was working anyway.
Possibly because he was bored and had visited boredom’s lodging house of horror, he hit the
ground running, as Thomas put it, and the day the council convened, quickly approved building two
more ships for England. But it was warm outside. A lazy day in all. And just as suddenly announced
“Enough. We have all summer.” The council agreed and dispersed, some taking a pint and talk, others
headed for town. The castle was crowded, people drinking pints, tea, water, talking, having a good time.
Tristan thinking soft thoughts at a woman who waved at him when Old Man McGregor approached
him. “Tristan.” Loud. As was his habit.
“McGregor.” Greeting him. “How was your winter?”
“Fine lad, just fine. You know lad, you impressed me these past few years.”
“Glad to.” Mood cheery.
“Yes. But it changes nothing. So why not end this farce. Kill'em all. Highlands rule.”
“You rule.” Still cheery.
“We can take turns.”
“McGregor. First you wanted to be Chief over all the Highlands. Now you want to be King and
rule everything. What next? England?” Not so cheery anymore. He really hated this job, he muttered
under his breath.
“Why not. England is ours. It was Brittany first. The German-English stole it.”
“All true. But conquering England and holding England are two different wolves.”
“You can conquer England. You have the military knowledge. I can hold her.”
Suppressing a snort, “With what? Your clan numbers, mmm, 700. Yes I can conquer England. I,
nor you, can hold her.” Explaining. Patient. As if talking to a child.
“I have spent these many summers working alongside nobles. I have learned you can buy them.
You can buy English nobles also.”
“And Edwards? He will stand by and watch? Uh huh.”
“Just give it thought McLeod.” And strolled to the bar, easy like, time on his side.
“You will need to kill him,” Thomas commented.
“I know. But he will go the eight years.” Frowning. “But can I?”
“Leaves you four.” Teasing.
Like all summers, time passed swiftly, time passed slowly. Tristan’s internal burst of energy
ebbed and flowed, keeping boredom at bay. He approved almost all things, vetoing little. The one act
that caught him by surprise was for more school houses. By the gods, the nobles have gone mad. So
Tristan thought when the council proposed such. He was delighted, of course. But their sudden change
of heart, a bit suspicious. He approved the measure, but made a mental note to find out what was going
on. He soon discovered the reason: the Vatican. The Vatican spread a little gold. Schools, generally a
bad thing to the Vatican who sided alongside the nobles: there was no logical reason for peasants to
read or write. Ignorance, after all, equaled bliss. And knowledge equaled: self thinking. No, not a good
idea. But were priests teaching... a truly wonderful idea, and thank you, the Vatican shall take it from
here. After all it was their concept.
The whole affair caused Tristan to smile ironically.
But the tilt, unbalanced, he knew. The Lowland peasants were learning; the Highlanders were
not because they would not allow strangers, no matter how well intentioned, to live amongst them. He
could approach McGregor or McDonald. But before doing so needed a plan, a smooth clean plan. So he
and Thomas kicked it around. At last Thomas in his single word fashion uttered, “Women.”
“What about them.” Perplexed. But only a little. Knowing Thomas.
“They can teach. They generally keep household records, and so on.”
“Sure. But working. A long stretch. The only women who work are maids, cooks, bar and street
“Add teachers. Work it so it is a thing a man would never touch, not a, manly... if that is a word,
job. Women tend to children anyway. It is natural. And best, the coin goes to the husband. The husband
can have her working 20 hour days, teaching, cooking, washing, and fucking. A horse should do so
It was worth a try, at least one good try. To Tristan’s surprise, McGregor leaped at it.
“McGregor’s caught coin fever.” Thomas. “Which proves a theory of mine. Have you seen the
Highlanders on the council, how they now dress, even dabbing a little perfume. If,” Thomas held up one
finger, “you were to pluck a peasant, any peasant, and set him down fully dressed in noble’s clothes,
and Lord over fifty peasants, and in turn pluck a Lord and place him where the peasant was plucked
from, and waited, say two months, there would be no difference between them. The Lord would be
outwardly filthy and toil the land, and the peasant would smell awful in that perfumed way, and treat his
peasants like he himself was once treated, cruel.”
“You my dear boy are a cynic,” Tristan said, imitating Philip badly.
“I, my lad, am a realist.” Raising eyebrows, “Whatever a realist is.”
“A new word. Let us go look it up.”
Always enjoying word play and with nothing much to do since Duncan was spending the
summer at the Clan, as was Ian, they spent large chunks of summer studying words. Tristan’s
preoccupation caught the attention of several nobles who together managed to sneak several
meaningless measures by him, thus earning them a little extra gold. The other nobles discovered the
deception and were angry enough to inform Tristan who merely shrugged it off, promising them ‘cherry
picking’ over ‘the dirty rotted schemers’ as one Nobel dubbed the men, next summer.
At summer’s end, everybody closed shop for the winter, happy.
That summer was our most happy at the castle yet. Thomas’ diary.

Book 4
The Lost Chapters.

Nous ne nous sommes jamais trouvés. Mais d'autre part nous

n'avons jamais recherché. L'agenda de Thomas.



They had managed to fend off the boredom of a two summers ago, but were restless again which
led to thinking about just going. Or maybe Miguel still haunted their thoughts. They did not know.
Maybe just rusty. So they first rode to the island, see how they felt. At the corral Mclean greeted them
as usual. Men offered hello’s while working on the horses or just training them.
McLean. “You are not staying. I know you Tristan. Those long goodbye blue eyes are saying
just that, you standing still.”
“Long summer,” Tristan. Reasoning.
“Go on you,” laughing.
“Yeah, yeah,” Tristan.
“Yeah,” Thomas.
Laughing. McLean.
Minutes later, which transpired as moments, they splashed back across the river to the mainland,
paused. “Weather chasing,” Tristan, almost dancing in the saddle. “Weather chasing.”
Thomas quipped, “We need to get out and run. So right-o, to use an English phrase.”
“Bad. Just plain bad.”
Each grinned like eighteen was forever and lived in them. The sun sinking in the west, they rode,
merrily clueless as to where they were headed. They chose a south-western route through England,
which ended at Breaker, a small seaside village. They rested for a day, before boarding a ship and
landed in late afternoon at English France. The port was erratic in busyness. Someone important, they
both thought and were surprised to see Edwards. He should have folded up shop long ago. The summer
over, so was the war for the winter.
“Tristan McLeod and his trusty archer. What brings you two out?”
Tristan, “About to ask you the same.”
“I delayed. I dallied. I want one victory over the French. Year after year. No end. Just one. Also,
I can not bear the thought of that witch I married. If there truly is a hell, it is spending a winter hearing
her voice.”
Tristan wanted to say: hang the cunt. But Edwards bad-mouthing her was his right. Not
Tristan’s. “I would not feed dallying too much longer. The ground is almost frozen.”
“McLeod. You could give me a victory. I, I am a warrior, but you, you study battles, or so I am
informed. Did so at my very own college.”
“Say again, all again Edwards?”
“You heard.”
“Edwards, France is Scotland’s ally.”
“Yes, but one battle. Philip would understand. You owe me.”
“How so?”
“I could just as easily pull up stakes here and camp on the Scottish border. I have not done so.”
“Edwards, that is weak.”
“Yes, I know. How about please. Just one little victory and I go home and listen to that scratchy
bitch’s voice.”
There were moments in life, Tristan thought, when you just do what you know you should not
do. “One.”
Edwards, “OH YEAH!” grinning.
No no no no no! screaming at him, inside him, DO NOT DO THIS TRISTAN. YOUR DUMB
DUNG. (IS THERE SMART DUNG HE THOUGHT?) All heard only by him. He blew out a breath,
expelling all reason. “The French are ready also. So tonight. Late,” heard himself say.
“It will be dark.” Saying battles were not generally fought at night, knowing Tristan knew this.
But still saying it.
“Yes and the French will be asleep. Very surprised. Use your archers. Dip the arrows in tar and
fire them. Your archers set fire to each French tent. In the dark the tents will light our way. We could, if
mounted, chase them all the way to Paris, in which case I would switch sides.”
“Bah!” Edwards. A growl. “I do not want Paris. I want to see the French run. Piss off Philip.
Make my winter.”
A short while later found them in Edwards tent. Thomas drummed the fingers on his right hand
to the chirping of a cricket somewhere in the tent. He was not passing a signal, instead waited for the tea
to cool. Tristan laid out a battle plan. Once the tents were fired, the element of surprise would vanish
quickly. He wanted Edwards’s men in a wedge formation...moving fast forward, trapping every French
soldier in its wake, scooping them in, the killing ground closed up tight. Thomas would direct from the
left side the English archers, Edwards and Tristan would form the wedge in the center catching any
French soldier who attempted to break the formation.
Tristan assured both himself and Edwards, “The whole affair should be over in twenty minutes.
Afterward you can go home and gloat all winter.”
“Well archer, at one time you fought for me, now alongside me. Quite a change.”
“Edwards, I be you, I be treating me real nice.” Thomas playing. Maybe.
A small smile. Tristan.
“Good point.” Edwards. Showing he could play along. Be one of the guys. Maybe.
To say Edwards had a sense for the dramatic would be an understatement. At Midnight he
jumped up and shouted in his gravely voice: The be-witching hour. And at Two A. M. he drew his
sword, and flung it across the tent in mad growling laughter.
However much he enjoyed Edwards’ antics, Tristan announced, “Are we ready all?”
“You are so serious McLeod,” Edwards growled. “We are about to do battle. The only thing a
few men do well, while the others earn gold or die. WE ARE WARRIORS, TRISTAN, CITY PEOPLE
around them both. “BAH!” and marched out into the night, unafraid of whatever lay out there. Tristan
liked him. More importantly, respected him, and this surprised him, after all Edwards was English.
They followed out.
Everything set. The English archers lined up facing in on the French tents. Each archer had
already driven ten arrows into the hard earth; this allowed them to more readily load the next arrow
after firing. Next to the arrows protruding from the earth, were several dozen arrows piled on the
ground; already dipped in tar. The archers would feed the arrows flame from a fire that had been built
for this purpose. The arrows in the earth were the actual killing arrows. The archers, one by one, would
load an arrow and fire. There were a hundred archers. Thomas positioned them so fifty were to his right
and fifty to his left, so as no two arrows hit the same target. The king’s flagmen stood at ready.
Everybody in position, Edwards gestured to his adjunct who passed it on and on and on until each
flagman ready. Time now. Counting time. A slow count by the lead flagman to sixty which set the flags
in motion, signaling the attack. The arrows lit up the sky, before falling to the tents. The tents exploded
in a fireball and the ground troops could see as clear as day light and crying hunger, rushed forward at
such a fast clip they reached the tents before the first French soldier could struggle out, pants being
pulled up, many caught sleeping. The slaughter began and it all seemed a bit too easy. A French
captain, grace under attack his forte, rallied his troops and swung around to the right of the on-rushing
English troops into the dark. The screaming and dying were behind him. Straight ahead the English
wedge. He rallied his men by example and, saber held high, raced screaming down the middle and
engaged the men defending the middle wedge. He met fierce resistance. His men gave as much as they
took. But the men were few, brave, but few. He realized they were down to three men at the same time
he spotted King Edwards’s unmistakable dress and eye patch. He dove forward arm and sword out-
stretched to pierce Edwards, using the other French soldiers for cover. Edwards engaged him and the
meeting swords, the metal on metal clashing, sparked in the night, as if two blacksmiths working a
forge. Edwards saw an opening, brought his sword up to bring down the killing blow when providence
stepped in; he slipped, causing him to arch backwards, arms in the air, whole body exposed. The French
captain could not believe his luck and went for the kill. As he did so, he caught from the corner of his
eye a dazzling move to his left. Tristan virtually cut down the remaining three French soldiers, then
threw himself forward over bodies in a vain attempt to reach the captain before he could kill Edwards.
But the captain was not to be denied, he knew death awaited him, saw the glint from the sword’s blade
appearing out of the night rushing at him. Then saw no more forever.
The fighting was all in front of them now. Tristan squinted down at Edwards. The captain’s
sword had penetrated the chain mail, deep, driving Edwards to his knees.
“I am all cut up inside,” Edwards. Face ghostly in the night.
“You might pull through.” Tristan speaking a self admitted lie.
“Do not shit me Tristan.” Anger. “I will be placed on a wooden cart and carted to London where
my wife will cluck her tongue until I die. There is no glory in such. I would do in myself but I am too
Tristan knelt, more for support, both him and Edwards.
“Do not betray the moment yourself because I am English, Tristan McLeod of the Proud Clan
McLeod.” Speaking the bond of brothers: warriors.
The night hid the movement. The sword set deep until the blade protruded out Edwards’s back.
“Yes, sweet death, yes. Tell.” Speech slow, difficult, labored, fading now, head dropping away.
“Tell Henry...”
Now Gone.
Now all around Tristan war’s sound.
Now around him silence. Graveyard silence. Silence from the soul.
Now a thought: He had just killed the King of England.
He stood all at once, as if a hook dropped from the sky and yanked him to his feet, accepting, no,
not yet, now?, no...
“Hey you,” Thomas whispered.
“Hey you.”
Approaching the bugler now, shouting, “Call a general retreat.”
“But Sir the French are on the run.”
“And King Edwards is dead.”
Misshapen mayhem and confusion reigned. The French ran so far, so fast, so hard, they dripped
to the earth from exhaustion, only to realize in fear that nobody chased them which frightened some
men more. The English, a leadership vacuum since all the other generals and noblemen had departed for
the motherland, even the ever-groveling bishop, gone; only Edwards, to use his words, had dallied. Out
of chaos, they all turned to the only King amongst them: Tristan, now commanding an English force on
French soil.
He thought while him and Thomas slow stepped to Edwards’s tent...well, the gods were crazy.
Just right out full tilt mad! A logical thought followed: I could take France and old man McGregor
could now take England.
The mere thought...exhilarating! With France and England as one, the whole of Europe’s legs
would spread open like a one pence French whore... inviting smooth passage. No, begging for it.
That moment defined him. Instead of pursuing his thoughts, he chose peace, minded by his
uncle’s charge to him: A united Scotland. At peace. Otherwise kill 'em all. Sitting at Edwards table, he
wrote and dispatched three letters. One to Philip, the other to Henry, the last, McLean. You and Duncan.
Sail two corvettes, and bring them all.
Lost Chapter 2.

Time brought a procession, as it should, fit for a King, and also two corvettes from Scotland.
The corvettes had been stripped of anything not required. Only horses and men. They off loaded in
formations, at ready. To a man willing to die without question. But also knowing their task was not to
die and not wreak chaos, but Armageddon. The warriors did not go unnoticed by the English Lords and
generals. Their peasant army, although larger in numbers, paled badly next to these men. Paled so badly
General Churchill thought: I could conquer the world with a few thousand such men.
Much needed sorting out. During this time the English and Scottish did not mingle, but stayed
separate. More important the English nobles regarded Tristan as a King, a regard unbelievable a few
years earlier. Tristan conferred with McLean, Duncan, and Thomas for about an hour, keeping Henry,
now King Henry, waiting in his father’s tent. Finally McLean and Duncan strolled away as Tristan and
Thomas entered the tent. Henry sat there sipping tea. He pointed at two glasses, already filled, steam
wafting upward. The Bishop examined them. Thomas sat and stretched out, eyes closed. The Bishop
attempted to join in the conversation between Tristan and Henry, but Tristan gave him a choice. The
Bishop chose the lesser part of valor.
They had not seen each other for well over a year, maybe two. They stood and embraced.
Stepped back a foot and stared at each other before reclaiming their respective chairs.
Henry, “You left the sword in?”
“Yes Henry. Wanted there to be no mistakes. Wars are started on much less. That is a French
“Meaningless in itself, Tristan.”
“True, but there it is. Also only two men alive were present. Myself and Thomas. Anyone else
says so is attempting to curry favor and is a liar.”
And Tristan word for word told the story, ending: “Tell Henry.”
“He loved me?” all alone now.
“Be my guess.” Soothing.
Reflections moment holding silence for minutes. “My mother, she has worked behind the Crown
for years, wields much power. I am King, yes, but must tread softly for a while. I believe you. But here
it is. There has to be a fall guy. One of the French prisoners. Behead him. Deliver the head to my
mother. Toss it on her lap.” A grim amusing smile. “See if she jumps.”
Henry’s meaning not lost on Tristan. But reflection now in his hands, “A man should not die
needlessly. Let this be the last death in this war. You and Philip sit down. A hundred years stops now.
Edwards had his victory and died as a warrior. I will talk to Philip.”
“I can sell that. As long as England retains its legal claim to France. To be pursued though
courts, diplomacy.”
“Fine.” Speaking for France now. Now the King of Europe, if only for a few days.
“So Tristan, you are what, 29? Makes you, except for Philip, the oldest monarch.”
“Mmm huh, things change. The only constant Henry. You now rule. I rarely offer advice, but
here. Never allow a man to come at you more than once. Kill him. That is all I have.”
“The sum total of your years.” A gentle laugh.
“About sums it up.” Red Hawk now.
“Will you attend the funeral?”
“Of course. He was a great man. I honored him.”
“And he you Tristan. That is why he sent me to you. He once told me you were the only real
thing on the island.”
A soft smile for it was a time for such, “Sounds like my uncle. They were of a time, a time now
gone.” Standing, turning to leave, “Three days. London.”
A nod.
Tristan. “I will see Philip.”
Weather chasing over.

The lost chapters 3

First he felt Philip, who was so furious he threw pillows at Tristan, rage ebbing as each pillow
hit, bounced, hot pink, fingernail red, misty green, burnt orange, Sunday yellow, ah, rage almost ebbed.
“How could you betray France?” Hard. Cold. Gaiety gone.
“A whim. A harmless battle, yes, yes men died, but they would die eventually. Now Edwards is
gone. I would say you should thank me but, well, it would be fractious. That whim opens a door, enter
it, peace resides within. Embrace it. And Philip, I could have made a different decision. One on which
we would not be having THIS conversation.”
Gaiety returned now. Gentle. But not. Well maybe. “Ah dear boy, I am so so so so ssssoooo
sorry. Did the pillows hurt? Hurt The Last Pagan Warrior.” Now anger at an ending.
“I am and always will be a friend to France. That friendship does not preclude others.” Tristan.
Serious. Real serious.
“Above Scotland?”
A laissez faire head shake, “One must try dear boy. Do you know that you once again hold
almost all of Europe in thrall? Yes, those, what is the number, hundred men, warriors. On French soil!
A mere one hundred men. Easily wiped out by an army of a thousand. But what noble dares? What if
they fail? A hundred men whose sole mission is to kill the untouchables. The rules, you see: you ransom
a noble, kill a peasant. Not you. You have demonstrated such by killing three Popes.” Tristan, confused,
two yes, but three? Philip knew the Vatican had fabricated Pope Pius's death. Face showing as much.
Philip held up three fingers. “THREE! Yes Tristan. Three. Pius, that pious bastard, worried so about
you killing him Death took him; to relieve him of such painful suffering, I am sure.” Factiousness gone,
almost. ”By the way, Pius boiled the man alive who had recommended Miguel. Fitting judgment, I
would say, no? The new Pope, I may add, has not yet called for your life, maybe the Vatican has
learned or maybe they too are afraid. Now add a King to that list. Why the royalty and nobles are
frightened almost to death. Except two. Edwards’ bitch and Isabella. Yes Tristan, although Edwards is
gone, his bitch will turn her eye on Scotland. God, Edwards hated her so. England’s nobles I am certain
are very much frightened she will invade Scotland. Uh oh!” This last, head back in mock fear.
“She will not.” Tristan, “Ireland.”
“Ah yes, the land of the 4-leaf clover. The land whose King kisses England’s ass. And Scotland.
Will she take sides?”
“Scotland does not invade, Philip, she defends.”
“Mmm uh huh, and after clover land?
“She will be gone by then. Time Philip, cures all ills.”
“Yes, even you. After time ah, cures you?”
“I am working on it.”
Dancing round and round, “I am sure. And Isabella?”
“Please. Do not ask questions you already know.”
“Yes yes. She would have to march an army through France to reach England.” He continued
dancing, showing his good side, “I am aware of the prospect she offered you. The gall. Spain
conquering France. She is mad! Yes, yes , yes, I will dispatch a diplomat to Edwards’s funeral, who will
meet with HENRY!!!! We will see. This war bores me. It so bored Edwards he died, but at least as a
man. So how old are you dear boy now, what... let me guess, 29. Ah, growing old. I offer you a last
chance to fuck before you are too old.”
Wearing simple wool held tight by a thick cotton cord, he unclipped the knot, and allowed
trousers to fall exposing the string and semi-erect cock. At the sight, such splendor, Philip grew dizzy.
Tristan quickly pulled his trousers up. Worried. Remembering Philip’s fainting spell. “Philip, such
would mean your death.”
“Ah yes, but Edwards was a war warrior, I am a sexual warrior and would die happy.”
“Well perhaps when you are ready to die,” Tristan. Joking.
“Or we are ready to kill you.” Thomas, also joking. Maybe.

After attending Edwards funeral, put all thoughts of weather chasing aside and wintered on the
island. Tristan turned all everyday duties and decisions over to McLean, which was not a stretch since
McLean had unofficially run the island for some years now. But for appearances sake, Tristan made
him the official Vice Lord, thus granting him not only a title but leave to exercise judgment at will.
McLean did consult daily with Tristan, who was wise enough now to refuse intervention that might
undermine McLean’s authority. Free of everyday island demands, Tristan and Thomas conferred on
many things, sorting out thoughts that went begging during the summer.
As predicted by Tristan, spring brought the English invasion of Ireland. A brokered peace
between England and France freed up men for the invasion. The Irish nobles, already bought, basically
handed over the land. A few nobles fought on, but only a few, and on a May spring day the land of
clovers fell.
So one stands, one falls, Tristan observed.
Still spring, glorious, displayed all its magic and every blooming thing bloomed, and late May
found them leaving London. King Henry’s mother had passed away and they had ridden in for the
funeral, representing Scotland. Henry had certainly bloomed since the last time they had seen him
which was at his father’s funeral. Henry appeared more confident, engaging actually, his sole complaint
to Tristan was about his wife who had recently given birth to a girl named Elizabeth. “She,” referring to
his wife, “Knew I wanted a boy. Damn her. Woman can not get anything right, Tristan.”
“Always try again,” Tristan commented, lack of anything else to add to the matter.
To which Thomas added as they left London. “You can always try again? That was the best you
could do. Henry will poke her eyes out and try again with someone new.”
Tristan merely hummed. In his pocket was a signed peace agreement between Scotland and
England for the first time in over two centuries.
“I think,” eyebrows arched, “it is a wonderful life, all in all, by and by, so on and on.”
Thomas. “Shut up.”
Ah yes, the gods smiled, the future looks ever so bright.
They had no idea. Thomas’ diary.

The Japanese chapters: Part one.

Book 4 1/2
Are there dragons? I mean really. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter iti

Writer’s notes: Tristan at peace.

A few days at the castle, shaking off the winter, airing all the rooms out. The council still weeks
away. Tristan and Thomas lounging in McBrage Hall, wondering what to do next, when spring solved
the wondering by returning Admiral Ito. He had docked in Glasgow on a bright sunny day. The sea
sparkled diamonds. The dock, busy, people paying attention only to their chores. He was met by
nobody, and hired a driver to take him to the castle where he went to McBrage Hall, surprised, very, at
the lack of guards. Also impressed. A few merchants were downing pints at the bar. A half dozen nobles
occupied a table, their conversation low, kept amongst themselves. The Admiral found Tristan sitting
next to Thomas who was quiet, as usual, in himself, thinking about thinking... was it worth it or should
he forget it for forever? Always questions. Tristan nudged him. Thomas only rolled his eyes. Ah,
Admiral Ito. Love spring. Spring always brings gifts.
“Ah so Tristan San,” he bowed. “Sir Thomas, San.”
Tristan. “Admiral Ito. How are you?” Standing, as did Thomas, who was now thinking... there
was no way out of thinking.
“I am well. General Akio sends warm greetings.”
“Appreciated. How long you staying?”
“Ah so, three years. If Scotland and Japan reach an accord.”
“We shall make it happen,” Tristan, assured, emphases on the ‘happen’, confident. “But first we
must find you suitable quarters. Tell me what you require to be comfortable.”
To be comfortable, Ito thought, ah so, very important, what he, Ito, thought to be comfortable,
not what Tristan thought. Ah so, he had chosen wisely.
Tristan found the Admiral a suitable house, right on the sea. First thing he requested were:
pebbles, lots of pebbles. The request perplexed both but were furnished in a day; horse drawn wagons
ferried them one after another until pebbles sparkled across the entire yard. The Admiral had indeed
chosen wisely and wrote such in his diary.
The days, nice, spring could be like that in Glasgow some years, and the nights cool, good
sleeping weather. Tristan left Admiral Ito be, knowing new surroundings took time, familiarization. The
nobles and the Highlanders that formed the council took up residence in Glasgow. One or in twos they
entered McBrage Hall. The hall busy as usual paid them no mind. They quickly discovered a rather odd
truth underlying their own importance in the great scheme of things; there was nothing to vote on and
really nothing to do except be in session. On June third, their birthday, Tristan sprang Admiral Ito’s
arrival on the council. He briefly explained what it meant to Scotland to secure a trade pact with Japan;
albeit needlessly as they were already drooling at the prospect. Questions abounded. But it was
McGregor who put forth the first all important question. Which surprised Tristan, a Highlander seeking
coin over glory. My, my. How times change.
“How can you be so sure lad. Maybe this yellow skin Admiral is just playing you. Like that
peace thing with Henry. More likely the English are enlisting these yellow men and will soon attack.”
He was a bit drunk.

Tristan ignored the little dig at the peace accord between England and Scotland; he had
dispatched each noble on the council a letter on the matter and in truth had received nothing but
encouragement at the treaty: and why not, peace encouraged trade and trade meant more gold.
Consequently he saw little sense in stepping over new ground.
“Because McGregor, Japan has to trade with somebody.”
“Why Scotland? Tell me.”
Tristan already tired of it all, merrily threw “Why not” over his shoulder, and left the hall
followed by McGregor’s son Duncan and Thomas and Ion McDonald. Thus again Tristan’s birthday,
which he never officially celebrated anyway, a personal affair to him, except with close friends, passed
unnoticed. They all met McLean at McGill’s pub and made a day and night of it, Thomas and Tristan
drinking water or tea, not minding the good natured ribbing from the others. All in all had a good time,
especially Duncan who wound up prone in the gutter, drunk, staring at the night sky. A loopy smile on
his lips. “I am laying in the gutter and am happy. Why is that Tristan?”
Tristan’s lone comment echoed along the empty streets. “Duncan, we are all in the gutter, only
some of us are staring at the stars.”
Japanese Chapter ni

A few days later, Tristan and Thomas called on Admiral Ito. Wrapped in a silk kimono, he
greeted them, a slight bow begging, in the Japanese sense of the word, entrance. After tea, after
pleasantries, after a walk along the sea, and after Admiral Ito had changed into his uniform, they all sat
down again to tea, each knowing this was it. Each enjoying the company. So much so, Tristan made a
snap decision. “Respectfully Admiral Ito. And what I am about to say presumes much, so feel
comfortable in correcting me if wrong. I would feel more comfortable if the trade agreement between
our respective countries be worked out through emissaries, freeing us to familiarize ourselves with each
other and ways. Respectfully.”
Ah so, Ito thought, Ah so. I have found a friend. “Ah so, yes Tristan San. I also feel likewise.
Merchants are best suited to such matters. While we are suited to ensure such negotiations are fair for
all concerned, we are also charged with forging a friendship between our respective countries, one that
supercedes gold: mutual respect.”
Tristan. “Respect, Admiral, is everything. Without...” voice trailing off.
“We eat our young,” Thomas quipped, added, “French humor, Admiral.”
“Ah so Sir Thomas. I have much to learn about European culture. Unfortunately the Japanese
have not humor. Only a quest for beauty in everything, thus pleasing the senses.”
Thomas. “An admirable quest, Admiral.”
At the castle over dinner, roasted chicken and tea, Thomas and Tristan decided to spend the
majority of their time at the Admiral’s house agreeing much was to be learned from him. The next day
Tristan explained to the council that he was working out an agreement between Scotland and Japan and
would be gone most days, but close in case needed. The council urged him, to a man voicing such an
agreement would benefit Scotland and place the nation in the ranks of France and England amongst the
European community.
Thomas smiled, commenting later, “So wonderful to see men in agreement to a man.”
“Gold fever,” Tristan.
“In the forefront of the European community. Huh!”
A cascade, a laughter cascade building in both, exploded all at once, doubling them over, at the
idiocy of it all.
Japanese Chapters san
Writer’s notes: The land of the rising sun.

The summer unfolded as most, perfect days migrating into hot August nights. Tristan and
Thomas paid little attention to the weather or their duties and spent long hours at Admiral Ito’s house.
The Admiral brought them a whole new world to their front door, easing their inner need for constant
travel, and they literally bathed and soaked it in. The request for pebbles had initially perplexed them
both, and this was the first thing they broached to the Admiral, who stated simply, “Rock Garden,” and
smiled, waiting for the more sure to follow. He was not disappointed, as ‘Rock Garden’ was a
contradiction in terms to both. Thomas leaped ahead of Tristan, proffering the first vocal
inquisitiveness. “What is Rock Garden?”
Ah so, Ito thought, apt students. He was a gentle man and had gentle ways and as such, and
never for an instant forgetting he was in the company of a king, respect foremost and always in mind,
tutored their curiosity respectfully as an elder, as an appointed father, and as a warrior in the company
of same. The pebbles were the first of many conversations on life. He explained that a ‘Rock Garden’
was meant to soothe the mind, the man working the pebbles daily in a vain attempt to create the
impossible: perfection. The attempt was everything. The mind absorbed the ‘attempt’ at the
‘impossible’ thus freeing the mind to work on outside interferences that plague man’s every waking
moment. “The Buddhist philosophy,” he continued that first day over tea, “the vain attempt at
perfection, never achieving, a thing always becoming, never finished.”
So now every time they visited the Admiral they both inquired through one or the other while
over tea, “How is the ‘Rock Garden’?” To which the Admiral would smile gently and say, “It is
becoming.” Afterwards they would engage the Admiral in conversation both broad and wide. They
taught the Admiral European ways and its history. The Admiral taught them Japanese ways and its
history and the game Go, which Thomas instantly grasped. Tristan also, but his mind ran more toward
quick strikes, and therefore had to confront himself in order to alter his way of thinking. In the end he
succeeded, but only just.
They both understood the beauty in the Japanese belief that everything from farming to King
took the high form of art. The Admiral for his part very much enjoyed watching them practice the bow
and the sword and although never ventured such, considered them both to be artists in their respective
rolls, archer/swordsman. But it was this thing: it is becoming, that fascinated them most. They both
dwelled upon it. ‘It is becoming.’ They realized it meant on the surface that a thing was never finished,
always room for improvement.
They worked at a suitable answer, and arrived at one which suited them at the same time (which
was a none answer) and asked the Admiral who replied,
“You are searching for Shibumi.”
“What?” Thomas.
“Shibumi cannot be defined. Few obtain it. It is a perfect state of mind over body over earth. A
begging definition.”
“Does one stop searching?”
“Only the weak, Tristan San.”
“And those get married,” Tristan quipped.
“Ah so, Tristan San. Scottish humor?”
What humor, thought Tristan, but too respectful to voice as much.
How does one obtain Shibumi, they both longed to ask, but held back, knowing if few attained it
then there was no easy answer. Tristan. “And you, Admiral?”
“No Tristan San,” I am far from it.”
Such a gentle man. A man who moved rocks around daily in order to discover the perfect
formation. He must possess Shibumi.
“You both are closer than I.”
A wonderment surprise, Tristan expressed, “I doubt it.”
“Ah so Tristan San, doubt is the first step to the last step.”
“If doubt is the first step,” Thomas joked, “I am cart of doubt.”
A gentle smile. “Respectfully. If I leave you puzzled, I succeed. But only if you think not of the
puzzle. An almost impossible task.” English still halting, but point made, yet puzzling.
So went the summer. Searching for the answer to the impossible. Which I observed, ‘The story of
our lives.’ Thomas’ diary.
Summer’s end erupted forth Columbus, who carried Indians, gold, tobacco, a whole new world.
He was soon the talk of town, so to speak and invited to all the important events. Tristan, not so much
forgotten, as yesterday’s news. Also on the council’s last day in session, McGregor saw fit to inform
Tristan of what he already knew. “Three years left lad.”
And was Tristan tired of being addressed as Lad? O’yeah!
But a lot could happen in three years. Both knew.
So the nobles packed up and shipped out once again. Tristan and Thomas made ready to spend
the winter on the island. Tristan invited Ito who graciously accepted. The ground almost frozen, a late
October day, they departed, happy, smiling, at ease in their skin.
The future seemed ever so bright.
Chapter: Thomas’ diary.

Endings unbalance one’s world.

At the house on the island, having left Glasgow several days ago. Or was it several weeks ago?
No. Several months ago? No----------years.
Yes, years...sweet years.
We each in turn laughed at the three wonderful years that had just flown by, seemingly, days,
weeks, months. Or maybe even yesterday. Beginnings behind us. Now? Well now it was all endings.
Spring very busy replenishing the leaves on the trees. Tristan, pacing, having no idea what to say.
Long goodbyes not him. Admiral Ito packed and ready to leave for Japan, his house in Glasgow
shuttered. He would leave from the island, The King of Scotland waiting to ferry him to a waiting
Japanese flagship. Ito now drinking tea, mind at peace, head slightly bowed, accepting leaving, but not,
waiting for his inner Buddha to grant him courage. He had found friends and the Buddha was letting
him know.
The only one of us at ease, or so appeared, I, seemingly asleep, yet oddly my thoughts stilled, as
if doing so too painful.
Ito, “Ah so Tristan San, the present meets the future all to soon.” A need to place words in the
increasingly shrinking room.
“Mmm,” Tristan in thought. Honesty. Exposing his soul to someone other than me. “Parting.
Painful. Difficult.”
“A sweet sorrow,” I proffered, and stood to my full height and smiled softly at Ito, for it was a
moment for soft smiles, “I shall bid you fair journey now Admiral. Perhaps we shall meet again.”
Ito. “Thomas San.” Standing.
Now all of us standing. Legs and arms useless, in the way, the mind having its way. At last
Tristan opened the door and beckoned to the two men waiting. They already had instructions and went
about them, hefting Ito’s trunk, light though it was, Ito having already joked, “I travel light. A
Japanese thing.”
“Safe seas, Admiral.” Tristan.
A full bow. “Your Highness, at your leave.” Ito
“Hey you.” Tristan.
“Hey you.” I.
The world balanced.
Thomas’ diary.

Book 5
The Spanish Chapters.

To him who is...

Writer’s notes: Tristan killing King Philip in a most unreal fashion, facing in battle Queen
Isabella and leading over two thousand Moslems, Jews, and Christians to the promised land. And
McGregor’s three years now due. O’yes, Thomas becomes King of France. fear everything rustles. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter una.
Druid year 2018: the year of thunder.
Our Year of the Lord 1498: the year of the mouse.

During those three years while Tristan and Thomas had engaged Ito and enjoyed every moment,
Europe had been a beehive of activity, mini wars erupted aplenty and were quickly snuffed out. England
colonized where Tristan figured Red Hawk lived. And the nobles prediction had proven correct;
Scotland, trade with Japan the driving force, became the third most prosperous nation in Europe, after
England and France. Ships from the orient filled her harbors, yes, but also those from other countries
whose nobles could not get enough silk and other oriental goods.
Shortly after Admiral Ito had departed, Tristan and Thomas set about leaving for the summer. To
say Tristan was unaware of events swelling around him and Scotland would be a grave error, and for
some would in fact be. He had kept abreast of events. And he was years ahead of McGregor.
McGregor’s eight year grace history, Tristan and Thomas and McLean conferred for an hour, deciding
how to deal with the inevitable. They decided a show of force was necessary. The nobles, most,
although greedily sated by the new-found prosperity, still harbored a grudge against Tristan and would
gladly support McGregor in a fight between the two. That fact foremost in their minds, the warriors
would accompany Tristan to the castle. McLean had had the warriors mounted and they waited. Maria
and Mohammad along with Porch had walked to the house to bid Tristan and Thomas a fair summer.
But the warriors lined up gave them pause and they stood a distance from the house. Scotland had been
at peace for so long, Porch thought, that she had forgot danger existed. The warriors were a grim
reminder. As Tristan exited the house, she felt her breath do a sharp involuntary intake. What a sight,
his long hair tied back, stride confident, all in all a man. She smiled at the memories in her, him and her.
No woman could really hate Tristan, not for very long anyway.
Tristan veered away from Trouble to where they stood, smiling, face lighting up, happy, gay, no
hard riding in sight smile. Thomas at his side also smiling that repertoire of Thomas smiles, this one
saying: HI! And to think people thought of Thomas as dangerous, pooh, Porch thought, but Tristan there
now, touching her. She just lit up. “How are you?”
“Tristan.” The only word in her.
“Mohammad, Maria. Come to see us off have you. Miss us during the summer do you. Want us
to stay.” Joking.
“Go on with you Tristan, I came to see Thomas off,” Porch finding her voice, the one she and
him had used, the soft gentle one, the hard scratch gone.
“Thomas huh, he always gets the girl. Me, what, water.” Almost laughing now. Kissing her
cheek, stepping back, a wave, Thomas shaking his head, a slow eye roll at them, following Tristan now.
Both mounting. Tristan freeing his hair, the spring breeze rising up from the sea grabbing it, mussing it.
Tristan shivered inside, shrugged it off. McLean letting loose a high laugh. More than a few warriors
following suit. Good time guys. All. Reining the horses, eyes flashing, hooves pounding thunder now,
its noise almost deafening, dust swirling, laughs echoing, fading.
“Now that is an exit.” Mohammed.
Maria and Porch locking eyes, smiling. Knowing. Not saying. Just knowing.
Chapter dohs.

The day grew warmer the further inland they rode. As instructed, the warriors slowed the pace as
they approached Glasgow and lined up in a single file formation, McLean leading, Tristan and Thomas
flanking. They slow-paced through Glasgow, people rushing out to watch. What a sight! A sight to be
remembered! God save us! All this and more ejaculated from people’s mouths. Many many years later,
Grandparents enthralled grandkids in telling the sight, embellishing the story as the years passed, “Why
the very earth itself trembled, it did lad. And Tristan. A GOD!” (And the grand-kids would wonder: was
grand-pa speaking the truth, was Tristan a God? Was he?)
A comedy at the castle ensued as stable boys and merchants and even nobles mistook the
advancing line as an invasion. Stable boys screamed and ran bowlegged over each other, falling, rising
only to be bowled over by another lad. Merchants and nobles alike shoved at each other in a vain
attempt to push inside the safety of the castle. Atop Trouble, Tristan shook his head in disgust and
barked a command to stop it! The command resonated throughout the clearing and everybody stopped
at once, frozen in motion, afraid to move. A stable lad came to his senses first and said, “It is the King.”
An elderly noble thought: ‘Stewart? He is dead.’
A merchant from England thought: ‘Henry here?’
The stable lad shouted in greeting, “Hi Tristan,” in that way only kids can manage, free of earlier
fear, happy now. The earth also balanced for him now.
Order was quickly restored, embarrassment hid behind wooden faces as all proceeded along.
But everybody knew the day had arrived.
McCone guessing at the commotion outside, now stood staring up at Tristan. “Now that is an
entrance all your own lad.”
Chapter trehs.

McBrage Hall crowded, nobles as usual grouped together, citizens in small groups. Duncan
McGregor and Ion McDonald, nervous, talked between themselves. The council members were seated,
waiting. The room seemed to one and all unusually warm, causing many to sweat. Tristan conferred
with McCone while Thomas sat, legs outstretched, thinking. He was doing as much when McGregor
spoke harshly to him. “Thomas!”
“Yes McGregor,” Thomas, hand shading face.
“You will be free to ride off.”
Thomas smiled, the smile: I could not care less, and closed his eyes. And listened to boot-heel
footfalls fading. Now thinking: Get on with it McGregor.
As if reading Thomas’s mind, McGregor did just that, roaring loud enough to be heard in
Newburgh. “Eight years is up. I challenge you, McLeod!”
A rushing Duncan now at his side, “Da no. The warriors are outside.”
“I do not care about them. It is for you Duncan.”
“Do not tell me no. Just do as I instructed, understand Duncan!” he roared and stepped back.
Sweat ran down his forehead, maybe from the heat in all the eyes on him. “I will have my way. This
pup has ruled long enough. It is time for a McGregor!”
Tristan realized something that had fully escaped him all these years. McGregor did not dislike
him, he hated him. The hate had feasted, festered eight years, gouging itself until this creation, this
man, this stranger: stood before him. All hate. The hate glowed, the glow itself a force, the force a
substance, the substance energy, the energy requiring an outlet or implosion.
Duncan had nearly stumbled over himself in rushing to Thomas’s side. “Stop it! Only you can!”
Calmly and sadly truthfully, “I cannot Duncan. Only your da can.”
“Blood for blood!” Duncan screamed back.
“I am aware. But Duncan, Tristan kills your Da, if per some lucky chance you kill Tristan, I
challenge. Since I am not of Scottish blood the choice of weapons are mine. Bows and arrows. You
cannot win. I will fold the McGregor clan into McLeod’s. Wipe it out. Blood for blood.”
“You are not...”
“Blood for blood Duncan.” Voice ice. A Thomas voice.
Reluctantly, almost resigned, Tristan faced McGregor, “You will die and so will Duncan and so
will your clan. The very thing you wish to accomplish you will destroy. Why? Scotland is working. We
are one.” An ineffectual plea, he knew.
Anger, a bull anger from a bull of a man. Yet an old man, 65 facing a young man, arguably the
finest swordsman in history. What were the odds? McGregor charged. McGregor died. Less than a
breath. One mere second were the odds.
Duncan screamed, a tormented sound slicing the soul.
Tristan had dreaded this day for years. “Duncan. Let it go.”
Hollow words. Hollow men. Hollow life. Hollow world. Thomas’ diary.
As Duncan McGregor drew his sword. Engage. Engage. Engage, a noble woman thought,
tongue brushing lips, pussy dripping, the thought racing to every woman in the hall, their eyes holding a
sexual glaze. The men were not exempt. Their, although breath held, cock owned the moment.
Duncan circled Tristan, slow, easy, sizing him up. Ah Tristan thought. Duncan you have been
studying my practices. Good. A thrust, a fake. A smile, Tristan stone still. Another thrust, probing. Still
a stone. Another thrust, closer, its wind ruffling Tristan’s hair. The same stone only more so. Now came
the thrust, an arch, brought from the left, around the shoulder, approaching in at an angle. Tristan
nodded, and twisted sideways. One moment McGregor had a wide target next paper-thin, as if Tristan
had vanished. Reaction, halt, far too late, sword already in motion, whooshing right past Tristan who
calmly placed his sword on Duncan’s neck. A quick slice and Duncan would lose his head. Tristan
paused, holding the sword steady. “Eight years Duncan. For Scotland. To practice, to avenge your Da.
Otherwise I slay you and claim your clan. Your choice. But remember we are not kids anymore. Men.
We must act as men.”
“If I give my oath, whichever way it goes in 8 years the clan stays a McGregor.”
Rising, sheathing sword, the silence in the hall so profound the scrapping rattled nerves. “I shall
practice. You are right Tristan, we are no longer kids.”
Later Thomas’s only comment, “You rule in eight year increments.”

Chapter cuatro

Writers notes. The promise kept, and promises lost. Minimalism. Work on that. Rewrite, revise
until only the vague bare essentials carries the stories forward. End note.

As the summer deepened enriching both man and animals and trees, the usual rumors which
covered everything from A to Z spread, leaving the listener to separate fact from fiction. After all,
where else was a person to find pleasure and entertainment and true self-worth but at the expense of
others. Tristan and Thomas were bitten by the one concerning the Emir. The Emir had guessed wrong
about the Spanish invasion, it did not come in one year or two or three years but now. So they decided
to pay him a visit. The Spanish were already on the march. So were they. They could not explain why to
each other. They just knew, a feeling inside both of them. So they steeled away late at night as to avoid
explanations. A steady rain hampered travel. As usual Tristan paused at the border. A heavy mist
swelled around Trouble, so thick obscuring them both and also Thomas. “A puzzle,” Tristan again
uttered for what seemed a thousandth time.
It had been three years since they had last passed this way and were expecting the familiar, and
were not disappointed: the landscape very much the same as expected. One thing they took notice of
were the peasants that had lined the road in the past. They were gone, gone as not dead, just gone.
Thomas’s comment, “You guessed correctly. Their priest probably clamped down.”
The second stop, the inn at Dover. Gone. A fire in the night, or so told. Tristan’s comment, “It
is the changes you cannot see.”
Thomas’ silence.
From there they crossed the channel and rode, passing only for a nap here and there and a bite to
eat. They were beat, having traveled a great distance in mere days. They needed sleep and decided to
spend a few days in Bayonne, to relax, yes, but also to allow Trouble and Au revoir to rest. They stole
into Bayonne late at night. The village slept elicit dreams where they were all wealthy and had servants.
(Just a dream they sadly discovered upon waking.) At the castle they handed the mounts over to the
sleepy eyed stable boy who scratched at his face just wanting to return to sleep. Tristan instructed him
to brush under the saddles for road dirt and do a fine job or else..., the ‘or else’ left to the wonder. The
young girl, Mary, who three years ago had only wanted to be fucked and was crawling with lice, greeted
them, smiling, gay, dressed well, clean, not a louse in sight. Her dark eyes followed them as they
entered the castle. They went to the main room. Thomas was very surprised she had stayed, and
inquired about the Priest. Sleeping. Hmm. A small fire burned and Tristan stood by it, the shiver in him
not at bay but less chill. He sighed the sigh of a long day. Thomas had sat and now stared at Mary. She
had certainly grown up physically. Those butterfly tits were filled out, full, luscious. Her face had
grown into itself, gone the pouting lips, replaced by a lively smile and a courteous voice. He waited for
her to speak.
At last Mary did so. “Hello Sir Thomas.”
Was she addressing him as Sir Thomas or sir, Thomas, he amusingly wondered. Tristan
“So you stayed,” uttering Tristan long ago words to Maria.
Ah, she had addressed him as: Sir Thomas. Ah so. Such familiarity often breeds contempt. But
not always. Her demeanor, soft, friendly, intelligent eyes. “The priest, he taught you letters, simple
“Yes. The priest was very patient and understanding. I thank him.”
I thank him. Indicating a willingness to move on? “So what now?”
“I...” face flushed.
Following Tristan’s lead from years past, Thomas stood and went over to a desk and took quill
and ink and parchment and wrote while standing. He handed Mary the finished product and studied her
as she read.
“I would like so very much.”
Formal. Yes. that was it. She was formal. The priest had taught her that. “Fine. I will instruct the
stable lad to accompany you to Paris, from there board a ship for Glasgow. Hire a driver to take you to
McLeod Island and see a McLean. Hand him that letter. Go on and pack. You leave in the morning.”
An impish smile, showing she had not given up her youth entirely, “No ‘do not cross me girl’?”
Tristan almost roared in laughter, but stifled bubbles off lips instead.
“No.” Thomas. Serious. Or playing at being a father. He was not sure. “You are old enough to
know what you want. Your choices are yours. Make of them what you will and they will remake you or
break you. Just do not ever blame anybody but yourself for your misfortune and never ever misguide
your fortune. Now go pack. And get a good night’s rest. It is a long journey. ”
A bounce disappearing up the stairs to her bedroom.
“Father Thomas again,” Tristan teased.
The Priest entering forestalled Thomas’s remark. The Priest, wearing a shabby wool nightshirt,
had aged badly over the years and walked stooped, as if age, the years, their beastly burden, bent his
spine. But the smile and the voce were the same. Thomas felt a kindness toward the priest. “Sit.” He
urged, standing.
“Yes, yes, thank you Sir Thomas. I heard you enter but I was in bed and had to dress.” His bony
fingers clutched the nightshirt.
“No mind. The maid?”
“She died last year. Mary took to cooking and cleaning. She is a nice girl.”
“Yes, yes. The vineyards? Mmm.”
“They are coming along. You might want to ride out tomorrow. You are staying?”
“Hmm huh. Go back to bed. Sorry to disturb. We will talk tomorrow.”
Old age.
Old men.
Old woman.
Old world.
What do they add up to?
That was the question on Thomas’s mind as Tristan slept. As usual, as in most things, the answer
only provided more questions.
For two days they toured vineyards which were now producing. The farmers were very proud of
their wine, their pride showed as they urged, “Sirs sip, sip.” Even to address a noble a few year earlier
required courage. But to demand anything from a noble, unheard of. Tristan and Thomas sipped, each
pronouncing the wine the finest while hiding a sly smile, each knowing they would not know fine wine
from vinegar. The farmers collectively sighed. Not a sigh of relief, but of pride. They had accomplished
the impossible. Thomas announced that the land would be theirs; he had solved the problem, the village,
the toll road, the land: no longer his headache. Once back in Paris, a lawyer would be dispatched, deeds
in hand. The toll bridge? Now open to all, no toll.
A few days later they rode on, commenting on the change in the priest. Their presence had
livened him up a bit, but he still walked slow as if life painful. Yet, he appeared content. At ease.
Tristan’s final comment before reining their mounts towards Spain, “He is dying.”
To which Thomas sighed, “He will die happy. He has Christ.”
Soon Trouble and Au revoir’s hooves pounded the now free to all toll bridge slipping them
along the Spanish frontier. From here, weary of Spanish troops, they slip-slided away. Which best
describes their journey through Spain. There were patrols everywhere. On several occasions they had to
force Trouble and Au revoir to lie down while solders carrying shields bearing a red cross passed. Four
days from the time they had departed Bayonne, and late at night, so late even the humming birds slept,
they tapped on the city gate and were admitted. A slight drizzle dampened the air. The Emirs’ face
betraying all of fatigue’s signs: Sagging skin, dark circles around eyes, but most of all... a sadness in
acceptance: defeat.
He managed to greet. “Old friends. You risk a great deal.”
Tristan, “We risk nothing.” To the point of it.
“True. Still.”
Thomas, “How bad is it?”
“Surrender or burn.”
“Will they allow the people to go?”
“Round up all who want to go. We will ensure their safety. And yours.” Tristan. Spur of the
moment. No thought attached to it at all. Thomas sitting high in the saddle, passing that imperceptible
glance, Tristan picking it up, its gist: Fine by me.
“I stay. I will hand Isabella the city keys. Perhaps she will take mercy on those who stay.” He
swiped a hand across his face, wiping away some mist. Or tears.
Arguments, no, not them. It was the Emirs’ choice. Later there would be time enough for
conversation, hopefully. Now forces were aligning against them, now required thought, now required
action, now required luck’s breath: they both knew. After a brief discussion, the Emir gave them forty-
three mounted troops to command at their discretion. Tristan did not have a clue yet, still mapping it all
out in his head. Motion, though, was essential. People in motion, given a task, did not linger and think,
they moved, acted, reacted. So he had the Emir’s men pass out instructions to all citizens. He ordered
them to be brief, short, no arguments. The troops were to a man Arab, to man wore a turban, to a man
had dark intense eyes, to a man wanted to stay and fight. Tristan did not allow the option. Motion, a
thing, a force, and once unleashed assumes its own course, stopping only when impeded. So it began.
And Tristan knew it had to end, be stopped, all the way stopped, moments before dawn’s silent opera.
The troops worked under the slight drizzle, disciplined, going about their task in an extremely effective
manner. Hooves clopping on the black cobblestones, they shouted for all to step outside. The city had
lived in war’s grip for so long most inhabitants followed orders; the few who did not were the elderly,
the infirm, those who had known no other life but the one in Granada. The inhabitants, Moslems, Jews,
Christians, who wanted to leave the city were instructed to carry as little as possible and not one item
that would clang, or make a loud noise. Around a thousand opted to leave. A few hours before dawn,
the Emir handed Tristan a letter for his brother in Morocco. Wordlessly they parted. The people
followed instruction to the letter. Tristan knew there was no escape to the sea and the waiting vessels
that would carry them to Morocco before first light, and gambled on superstition. He marched them out
to the battle field and lined the people across it, men, women and children. The night carried the sounds
of the Spanish troops a few miles ahead preparing for battle. The Emir’s men voted to stay but Tristan
ordered them back to Granada, thinking they might yet save the Emir. The drizzle had petered out,
leaving a slight chill in the air. Tristan shivered inside as he and Thomas waited. For what?, they were
still unsure. After a while Tristan leaned in close so only Thomas could hear, and laid out his plan;
while doing so one eye caught the beginning sun rising in the east, as told by shafts of red streamers
painting the sky. Only had moments now. What had Tristan’s uncle’s life-time motto been: Life is
moments, do not waste them.
The quickly expiring moments set the plan in motion. Aside from the rain, morning dew wetted
the battle field. Tristan rode Trouble back and forth, across a straight line between the people from
Granada and the Spanish army in front of them. He rode hard, fast, heating Trouble’s hooves, the
morning dew raising a mist, more and more. As planned, Thomas joined in. Within minutes a misty fog
hid them from the Spanish troops ahead. But Tristan knew the heavy mist would dissipate in moments.
So they both rode to the battle field’s center stopping at a guessed equal distance between them and the
Spanish troops ahead and people from Granada behind.
Now they faced the Spanish troops while watching the red streamers exploding across the sky,
lighting up the battle field. The sun rising revealed them inch by inch, until their features took form. At
first mere traces, in seconds they were completely exposed. Two men on black horses, just appearing
out of the night. They both danced their mounts, planting unrelenting energy in the Spaniard’s minds.
The front row of Spanish troops crossed themselves, frightened. They could almost hear the Spaniards
think: This was magic. How do you fight magic?
A tremendous gamble, Tristan knew. The Spaniards still might charge, urged forward by their
Controlling their mounts, they both surveyed what lay ahead; they were very surprised. Isabella
had been very sure of victory. Only a few hundred Spanish men at arms lined the field. Flag bearers also
indicated French and English troops. Atop mounts were King Henry and King Philip, who urged their
mounts forward riding slow, pausing in front of them.
“You two are the last people in the world I expected to see.” Henry.
“My dear boys,” Philip cooed, “You could be killed.” Philips flaming gaiety not so much gone
as on hold. This was Philip the King. Tristan’s uncle had once complemented,” In a battle Philip can
hold his own and some to boot.”
Tristan. “Why are you two here?”
“King Charles of Germany, not Poland. He wants to be named Holy Roman Emperor. We are
here for show.”
“Uh, um,” Tristan. “She bought so few.”
“Thinking about fighting her here?” Henry.
“No. These people are not fighters.”
Henry, “Fleeing?”
“Um huh.”
“The Emir is waiting to personally hand over the city keys.”
“I do not see a problem. Do you Philip.” Henry paying Tristan back.
“No dear boys, none at all.”
“Tristan...ah we are, even now?” Henry.
“Canceled out.”
“Dear boy I, a, well just stop by the Palace on your way home...we will work something out.”
“She hates you.” Henry, stated, holding his mount at bay.
“A huh,” A short laugh, “I fucked her too good.”
“Delicious,” Phillip grinned.
“Well, we will go and talk to her. Wait.” Henry instructed.
“Just had to say it huh, I fucked her too good.” Thomas. Blowing out a hard breath.
“Be true.” Tristan grinning.
“Just could not let it go.” Shaking his head.
A ready response but all her regale-ness rode toward them. And without a man at arms. Courage
under fire.
“My dear Isabella,” Tristan greeted, charmed, all he had. All to no avail.
“You can have these peasants,” Hate. Body full of it. Rigid, eyes ablaze. Tristan thought:
Christian hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Mentioned this to Thomas later who wrote it down.
“The Emir is mine.”
Tristan, “Hurt him and I will hunt you down like game.”
Sneering. Leaning in close. Rose perfume. “Your warriors!”
“Just me.”
Thomas, “And me.”
As her mount sloshed back to the Spanish line, a spidery tremble crawled up her spine. Sir
Thomas’ eyes, so deep, voice, ice cold death and only that, as if her entire universe contained it.
Suddenly fear racked her. A never known before fear. She dare not show fear, the troops, the nobles,
God. She stiffened and rode to her tent wordlessly. Once inside, a release so great it fell her to the bed
and curled her up into a tight ball.
Tristan urged Trouble backward, turned him in a half loop, and began leading Emir’s people to
waiting ships. They sailed along to Morocco.
Chapter seis

Sand like will-o-wisp ghosts stretched for as far as the eye could see. The light breeze, the
willow, the fine grains of sand seemingly forever floating across the landscape, wispy ghosts: a man
alone out there faced not so much death as certain insanity, the same as a man alone in Greenland’s icy
deceptive beauty: flip sides of the same coin. Tristan and Thomas had spent four weeks in Teton, a
small trading village on the Moroccan coast; mostly goat headers, spice traders, slave bazaars. The
warriors along with Duncan and McLean had arrived a few weeks ago, each manning a corvette. Tristan
and Thomas had used the interim to meet whom they had to meet until finely being introduced to the
Emir’s brother, Nadeem, a quiet unassuming man not unlike his brother, who gratefully accepted the
letter, tucking it between the folds in his turban for later. He agreed to listen to what they had in mind,
and they all rode out into the desert, McLean and McGregor sticking close to Tristan and Thomas. The
desert sun, less a furnace than, say, further inland Africa, yet relentless, did not quell the inner cold
Tristan lived with daily. They rode for a long hour until reaching a compound dotted by a half dozen
tents, women doing chores and children playing. They stood off to one side as outsiders while Nadeem
disappeared inside a tent. After a few minutes, he emerged and begged them entrance. The only light
were sun shafts streaming through slits in the tent’s fabric. Inside seven mustached men, dark in color,
their dark intense eyes displayed hostility, mistrust and hatred all at once. Nadeem introduced each one
by name, each merely nodded, deferring to Nadeem, who explained when finished that they were his
sons. The men sat on poufs, which were described as stitched Camel hair filled leather pouches. Very
comfortable, Nadeem assured, gesturing at several unoccupied for each to sit. Thomas lowered onto one
and immediately sank ass almost scraping the sand. He quipped, “I will let you know.”
While trying to decide: cross legs, or jut them up against my chin. I opted to fold them, as did
Tristan and the others. Thomas’ diary.
Thomas’s levity broke the tension somewhat, which helped lighten the tension built up over the
centuries between the Persians and the Europeans. Lighten, yes, but still mistrust swirled about,
clouding the confines. Each reserving judgment. A woman, a shawl that covered her entire face only
disclosing the curvature of the eyes entered carrying a tray holding numerous cups and two large tea
pots. She served each man, taking care not to directly glance at or meet any one man’s face. Nadeem
explained many herbs and spices went into mixing the tea. He added, “The tea is a source of national
The other Persians studied Tristan, their intense eyes more so.
He knew, just knew, any miss-cue and game over. The Persians slipped back into the vast sandy
landscape. Tristan and the others went home. The Spanish won. Isabella won. He sipped, commented,
“Very tasty. Chai, I believe.” His pronouncement further broke the tension.
“Yes, Chai.” Nadeem confirmed, “My brother served it.” Not a question.
But Tristan treated it as an opening, “Yes, he did. While bathing and at dinner. Both times over
“As a good host should,” Nadeem replied, head nodding repeatedly, “We are nomads, but have
heard of you two. The Last Pagan Warrior and the Ghost. Pagan’s, no?”
“Ah, Christians.” As if catching Tristan in a trap.
“No Nadeem. I am a Druid. The Vatican confuses things to suit their own doctrine.”
“Yes, we have found this is so. Still?”
“No still about it. I am a Druid.”
“And the Ghost.”
“I suggest you ask Sir Thomas,” and sipped the tea, a tea tasty enough to smack lips in delight,
which facilitated the first smile out of Nadeem.
“I am with Tristan,” Thomas freely offered.
At that simple statement the remaining tension further evaporated and for the first time
everybody smiled, even Duncan who had been sitting there thinking: I am going to have to fight my
way out of here. From there they engaged in small talk for over two hours, which at the end had
evaporated whatever tension remained.
If asked what we talked about for over two hours, I would say: nothing. We were not talking, we
were sizing each other up, seeing if the other worth dying for. We all discovered a truth: Warriors were
worth dying for. Religions were not. Thomas’ diary
Nadeem said at last, “Shall we plan a welcome for the Spanish.”
“Indeed,” Tristan.
“Always welcome guests,” McGregor. Smiling. Cheerful. Ready.
“O’YEAH!” McLean. Way ready.
“Tell me what you require and it shall be provided,” Nadeem. Letting Tristan know he
commanded. For now.
“Do you have access to gun powder and Thoroughbred horses?”
“Are we not nomads. We have access to everything.” Laughter ensured. “And Thoroughbreds
are the only horses we have. We use them for sport, racing. In the desert only camels carry you safely
“So let us begin.” Tristan, standing, grinning, in command, maybe.
“The port here, small, maybe hold four ships. Figure two hundred men to a ship. Eight hundred
total,” McLean observed.
“Easy.” Tristan, not talking about the number of men. “When they land we will treat them to a
loud welcome.”
He for the umpteenth time stared at the letter received from Isabella: Skinned him alive. Should
have heard him scream.
‘Run that cunt through, toss her in the sea, see how long she can tread water, fish her out and
slap her silly and toss her back.’ Tristan uncharacteristically thinking out loud.
Thomas smiling, along with the others at him, almost laughing.
“What?” Tristan, hands held out palms up fingers splayed, confused. “WHAT!”
The tent shook in laughter.

Chapter siete

‘The planned welcome’ took the better part of two weeks. Tristan figured the Spanish would
land, and quickly march through Teton to the desert. His plan depended on it. McLean set about training
the warriors desert warfare; McLean’s instructor loaned to him by Nadeem, an Ali Baba, drilled the
warriors unmercifully day in day out until they knew the desert like themselves. McGregor set about
disguising the corvettes as plain cargo ships. Tristan and Thomas, along with 20 Persians, set about
burying kegs of powder in the sand, wicks peaking less than an inch above the sand’s surface. Nadeem
utilized an old Persian tactic, and taught around a hundred and fifty men how to breath while buried in
sand, unseen, only springing out upon the music from a ram’s horn. The Persian nomads instructed
them all on how to defeat the sun. A hat, or head scarf an absolute, loose fitting clothing, drinking less
water than normal not more. And walk, walk in the sun, grow accustomed to it. Tristan told himself: If
Alexander could do it so could he. But the worst part were the Arab goat headers. They stole anything
not tied down. Nadeem was sanguine about the goat herders, “They are merely peasants, they do not
know any better. Besides, their own people would cut their hands off for stealing.”
But then he was sanguine about everything, much like his older brother.
Sixteen days later McGregor spotted the Spanish galleons and shouted, “Ships ahoy.”
Actually four ships. McLean had guessed right. The warriors mounted up and assumed position.
The Persians, hefting huge curved swords which impressed Tristan, buried themselves in the sand. The
Corvettes were out of sight, one at ready because Tristan just knew Isabella would land, claiming this
land for the Pope, and flee. He wanted to catch her, very very badly... so palpable, he could taste it.
The flagship’s longboat carrying a stand up proud Isabella wearing armor led the invasion. She
was so confident, overly so, only ten long boats shored and docked only one galleon. The men quickly
poured out, rifles at ready and headed for the desert. The Spaniards had off-loaded 20 horses. The men
riding them were noblemen. They dressed as such, pressed trousers, white shirts, battle ribbons pinned
to their coats. They each commanded a regiment. Fearlessly, they rode into the desert, away from
protection, places to hide. They rode proud. Sure victory theirs. The Spaniards moved rapidly, and very
soon Teton lay almost a half mile behind them. As if rising from graves, the men buried in the sand,
having used reeds to breathe, sprang, each brandishing a sword, each vengefully attacking. Behind the
Spanish, explosions rang out. The Scottish warriors descended upon the now retreating Spaniards who
fled toward the sea. The Scottish warriors easily cut them down. Now confusion, as always occurring
in hopeless battles, reigned and quickly defeated the Spanish, a few brave souls standing their ground
and dying for Jesus and the Crown. Into this rode Tristan and Thomas, who were trampling over bodies
more than fighting their way toward Isabella’s longboat which was already heading for the Flagship.
Thomas was in the lead by a few feet and spotted Isabella’s longboat pulling out, swirled a finger in the
air, indicating the waiting corvette, and they both veered off toward the it. Leaping from their mounts,
they jumped aboard the corvette and were off, McGregor setting sail, veering left, the sails more than a
match for the larger Spanish galleons. But veering had taken precious seconds, and the harbor small,
had afforded Isabella enough time to board her flagship and begin to pull away into open water. Thomas
grabbed a sailor, pointed at the tongue that spit out the corvette’s fore. The sea roared, forcing him to
scream, “Tie me down!” The sailor did as instructed, affording Thomas a clear view. The Spanish
flagship sailed right ahead. “Bring her around in a curve. Do not wait for me.” He shouted, Tristan by
his side now, holding onto rigging, the wind fiercely blowing his blond hair back, his chiseled features
determined. And there, there stood Isabella on the deck staring back at him... defiant. In Tristan: Rage!
A never known rage. The sloop began its curve, The Spanish galleon fired her cannons, the balls
splashing alongside the sloop. Thomas, water drenching him, readied a shot, blinked away mist, water,
distraction, Tristan moved, barely an inch, but touched Thomas’s arm, who still blinking away water,
made a quick adjustment and fired true. The arrow, its whistle lost in the wind, covered the thirty yards
between ships and buried deep in Isabella’s upper right shoulder rocketing her back on her heels... yet
managing to stay upright. The sloop’s curve almost complete, almost pulling away, Thomas readied
again, adjusting as Tristan realizing his first mistake, attempted to give way, make room, but Thomas
had already allowed for the space, and again Tristan bumped him, yet still the arrow, true, furrowed
through the flagships banister, coming to a dead stop two inches from Isabella’s chest, six from her
heart. It was done. Over. Tristan screamed at the wind, “SPAIN IS YOUR PRISON! YOU
“Two Spanish hunters coming around the fore bow Cap.”
“Head for Morocco,” McGregor ordered.
As the sloop completed its curve and headed back toward Morocco, the Spanish hunters pulled
away. Tristan untied Thomas at the same instant the sloop hit a high wave sending Thomas, arms
flailing, resigned, into the water. Well we need a good laugh, he thought, of course I never learned to
But no matter. Both Tristan and McGregor dived in.
All now remaining was to strip the dead, kill those too weak to be used as slaves and determine
who were valuable hostages. None of this concerned Tristan. But McGregor chose two Spanish Lords.
Coin for his men. Tristan understood. The route home was discussed as the Spanish ships would be
hunting them. Skirting the shore except when approaching a port was the general consensus. Besides,
the Corvettes could easily outrun the Spanish ships. Tristan and Thomas shipped as far as Paris, an
exchange resulting in “See you in Scotland.”
They had Kings to thank.

Book 5 4/3
Chapter Une
Writer’s notes: Sir Thomas replaces King Philip.

By the time they arrived in Paris, every noble and even most peasants had heard the news,
Isabella had lost and lost bad. At that period, Europe was very prosperous. Trade abounded. Spice. Silk.
Slaves. Tea. Sugar. Coffee. Coin, if you could not make coin then, you never would. But Spain, they
were prosperous overnight. The new world showed great promise, great wealth and the Spanish became
overnight snobs. So the trashing, well received... behind closed doors of course. After all, trade was
trade. And gold, gold.
They found Philip in his study, dressed as can best be described as a Pink Flaming: A pink one-
piece silk large sized shirt, allowing the smooth fabric free will to buff his cock which now stood at half
mast because he had tied a sting at the cock’s shaft. He laid a book aside at their entrance. “Will we
ever have good stories to read dear boys? I despair so.” Voice attempting flame, but achieving a whisper
brought no doubt by the blood flow cut off at his extremities.
“Philip, you were splendid on the battle field, simply splendid,” Tristan complemented him.
“Splendid enough to be rewarded?” Rising to the occasion, both figuratively and literally as
evidenced by excitement ringing the air and an increasing stiffening cock.
“Be careful what you wish for Philip, you just might get it.”
“O’goody give it to me.” Teasing.
Utilizing the graceful moves of a swordsman or a bullfighter, Tristan let slip the knot holding his
trousers up and disrobed all at once, his clothing tumbling to the marble floor. Philip, transfixed on
Tristan’s fettered erect cock, muttered, “What about Thomas?”
“I like to watch.” Joking. Maybe.
Now not.
Now Philip gasped deep, beholding a sight so wonderful, two stiff cocks. He died with a smile
on his lips and a song from the next room over where a six string group belted out “Ad Old to Joy.” His
heart ringing as the tune rose in pitch, joyfully killing him.
“The killer cocks.” Tristan observed, “Maybe I will outlaw swords and knives and bows and
state only cocks used in fighting. All the before-mentioned instruments are just an extension anyway.”
“Be careful what you wish for?” Thomas, ignoring the other.
”I was winging it.”
“Remind me to write that one down.”
They both dressed and summoned the King’s doctor who arrived in an instant. All official, as if
he alone could determine the obvious, “Heart.”
They had only met the Prince that one time when his father had suffered an epileptic seizure. But
the boyish face, dimpled cheeks, round eyes were the same. He had not changed a bit since their last
encounter, leading them to correct the earlier assumption the “Young” a reference to the older Philip,
and understand why people referred to him as: Young Philip. He seemed doomed forever for all intents
and purposes to resemble a girl, and the plain effeminate clothes he wore accented the effect. But he
entered, all business, as if he had rehearsed this unenviable day or maybe reciting his father’s
instructions. Whatever the case, he was not grieving, or maybe his sweet high voice was incapable of
registering grief. “Poor Father. At least he was not alone. He liked you Tristan, about as well as anyone.
I do have a problem. The nobles eat their young. I, a, well.” The rehearsal ended, and the poor youth
poured forth an admission, “Grow ill at the sight of blood, so, I, well, cannot fight.” A pause, youthful
face down in thought, “Ah, the ah Coronation will be held in three days, soonest. Allowing the nobles
enough time to empty the treasury unless a strong temporary King, one my father trusted and appointed
by him on his death bed, keeps them at bay. Thomas, you are French.”
The Prince suggesting? Yes he was, but King. Him, King of France. Grinning. A child again.
“Why not!” the grin stretching a Paris boulevard mile.
“Only for three days. Stop the nobles from passing any legislation. I will owe you. Keep your
other uncle out of the dungeon.”
“Other uncle?” Thomas, surprised.
Seeing bafflement, the Prince explained. “Father did not inform you.” Not a question.
“No. But I care naught about him, whoever he is. I liked your father.”
“Thank you. And if you want to meet your uncle, let me know. Well, I shall instruct the Palace
lawyer to prepare the temporary change. The servants shall prepare chambers for you both. Later?
“Fine,” Thomas. King now.
Alone now in Tristan’s overly opulent bed-chamber, “King Thomas.” Bowing. “I beseech you
please spare my husband from the guillotine. He is a bastard but my bastard. I will do anything.”
Circling Tristan, “Anything Cheri? Mmmm Cheri?”
“Ah Cheri, we can think of something, no?”
“Anything. Even everything.”
Both beside themselves.
“Has a ring to it huh?” Thomas settling back in a chair, face posed, fist brushing chin, kingly so.
“King Thomas.”
“Yes like fire. A burning ring of fire.” Tristan, “What is this about your other uncle? De Sade.
Remember we saw the name etched above the castle entrance at Bayonne. Meant nothing at the time.
Now maybe.”
“Maybe what. My one uncle enjoyed torturing people. Hope he died that way.”
“Family I do not know. They all appear to be mad.”
“Maybe this relative is sane.”
“If he is in Paris?”
”Let us find out.”
“Why not. Since I am King.” Reluctant. Acquiescing for Tristan.
Yes King. Yes the man lived in Paris, a well regarded nobleman. Thomas not desiring to appear
un-announced, dispatched a rider to inform De Sade of his impending arrival. Needlessly, for Thomas’
temporary elevation to King had already spread like wild-fire across Paris and was burning its way
across Europe, where murmurings at the appointment are far too numerous to include here; except to
add: Tristan, King of Scotland, and Thomas, King of France, frightened pretty much the entire
European community half to death and never in memory had stillness and held breath at what would
occur next so widely spread; they were unsure who to be more afraid of: Tristan or Thomas; but one
thing they knew for sure... either one would kill you in a heartbeat. But to those, as Thomas once
commented, who live in fear, everything rustles.
But all this was of no concern to Thomas. He was having fun until he quickly discovered the
king of France never went anywhere alone. The king dragged along about fifty people, one to perform
every little service from dusting the ground about to be stepped upon to sucking his cock if so desired.
In such fashion they appeared at the Marquis De Sade’s mansion. Two members of the entourage
escorted them to the door and knocked for them and directed the servant to summon the master.
Thomas had to self-confess to be taken aback at the man who appeared. He wore a silk dressing gown
and bore no more resemblance to Thomas than the average man on the street. The man, as if nature had
conspired against him, was almost grotesques: short, could not stand more then five feet three inches,
the head far too large for the squat body that appeared to have grown in lumps, lumpy stomach, thighs,
only the arms and legs had escaped, and in thus doing so had lost all flesh and were mere sticks; or
perhaps his observations were unduly harsh, expecting a mad-man. But De Sade’s demeanor displayed
no madness at all, quite the contrary actually, gentleness, ushering them in, instructing the servant to
serve the entourage both the pair who had entered and the ones waiting outside, refreshments, while
softly taking Thomas’s arm and leading them to a well decorated sitting parlor where a sterling silver
tea arrangement sat on a Queen Anne table. Tristan waited while Thomas assumed a chair, then sat,
greatly amused at his friend’s so obvious discomfort. Over tea, De Sade reminisced about the family,
chastising his brother for torturing the peasants. After a while, Thomas began to relax, for the first time
beginning to believe the entire of his family, from his father on, was not mad; living proof sat before
him: a normal sane man, albeit strange appearing, true, but one could not blame the man for nature’s
cruelty. So it was normal for Thomas to feel protective when De Sade petitioned that some of his ideas
were, well, odd, that he suffered for them.
To which Thomas inquired, “Such as?” Thinking ‘controversial’ did not fit this man at all.
Normal. Perhaps a bit boring, as most nobles were, but controversial. No.
But Tristan had picked up on something in De Sade’s demeanor, and tilted his head at Thomas
who brushed at his nose in acknowledgment.
“I can show you better than explain,” De Sade, rising.
They both stood and followed through the rooms, more a catacomb really, and down a half
dozen stairs to a dimly lit wine cellar. Since the light, dim, De Sade fired a torch, revealing a
homemade dungeon and a woman hanging from chains. “She enjoys the whip and the sexual pleasure
it gives a man is tremendous.” Thinking: he would be famous.
They both remembered the dungeon in Bayonne.
“Truly she does.”
To Thomas she was a scraggly thing, all bone, ribs, tangled hair, filthy, infested. Try, try, the De
Sade, obviously sexually excited by the urgency in his voice, urged, holding out a whip. Thomas
gripped it and swung once, then handed it to Tristan who also swung once.
“See?” De Sade. sexually excited head bobbin jungle cat eyes burning.
“Stay away from me. Come near you die.” Thomas now departing, the entourage following.
“Was a thrill,” Thomas resting back in the carriage.
“Oh yeah. Like I said, a burning ring of fire. Come near me you die?”
“Winging it.”
“I am dying to meet the rest of your family someday when I want to die.”
“I am sitting next to my only family.” Thomas’ lone comment.
Chapter nueve
The days leading up to the Coronation found them slipping out a servant’s door to wander
amongst the streets. Curiosity brought them to the section where they had dumped the prosecutor years
earlier. Amongst the filthy hands tugging at their trousers, whining for a coin or two, they came across
an office, the gilded window lettering informing them here is what you seek: André Feral, consular.
‘Rter Grte Per.” Which meant: ‘Pay what you can but you must pay something. We all must.’
Providence, as Tristan so often noted, stepped in for at that very moment a woman helped a man
who sat on a four wheeled board out the door. The chance meeting started off in total and complete and
thick silence; a silence Thomas had never before experienced: he, intrigued by it, shelved it for later
examination. André Feral had aged badly, hair almost entirely gray, and body heavy, betraying the lack
of exercise. When André spoke a window between them shattered. “So it is you!” Sneering hatefully.
Thomas fixed on the gilded lettering before settling on him. “See you are doing well.”
“Oh no, oh no no no no no no no no no no no no no no,” a continues unbroken monosyllabic
murmur, as if these were the only words he knew.
“Oh yes,”
Thomas’s words broke the murmur into a harsh laugh, “You! You want to take credit for my
success. Look at me!”
“No, I assume no credit...”
“No, no, no.”
“for what you have created, is of your own creation.”
“My only creation is the want to earn enough gold to hire an assassin to kill you!”
Venom, an understandable venom. Thomas’ head raised as if in thought at the clear blue sky.
The sun shone. “I wish you luck.” Head at half mast, staring now at him, “But always remember you
burned a woman alive. You have your life. Do with it what you will. Hate or love.” He turned as if to
depart, but abruptly paused, boots scraping the ground, “Or you can honor her.”
DAMN IT! HOW MANY! HOW MANY!.” Sobbing, “how many? What gives you the right?”
But they were gone, swallowed up by the throngs of beggars and children selling stings of hard
“how many how many how many how many how many how many how many how many.”
Echoed for monotonic minutes along the street.
But it was the head in hands in lap racking sobs that turned even the beggars’ hearts inward.
“how many, God please tell me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me how many how
many how many how many how many how many...
How many sobs are in a heartbreak. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter diez

The coronation, a gala affair, every Frenchman anybody of course had attended, and were now
crowding the Ball held in the Palace Ballroom. They, Tristan and Thomas, the ‘honored’ guests for
more reasons than Thomas abdicating the throne; the women made it a sport to bump sexually against
one or the other of them, always flashing a surprised countenance, blushing and holding a hand out
while introducing herself: Princess this or Princess that, the names and ash white faces all bleeding
together forming the word: meaningless. The men, ah, another story, the men were afraid to approach
them, yet made a ‘s’imposer’ in brushing them in passing; the cock in them strutting away: I brushed
up against The Last Pagan Warrior and the Ghost and am alive to tell the story, became fodder for
many a month, so much so wives, mistresses, and girlfriends grew oh so bored; the courtesans
however, knowing their craft and wage, always listened smiling, nodding, cooing: such braveness
Monsieur, I have never! The flowing red garish silk ceremonial robe brought out Young King Philip’s
budding girlish gaiety, or maybe it was the robe, the side crease teasingly opening as the young Prince
danced a waltz, the movement exposing flesh, displaying briefly the former prince’s nude body and
cock; prompting Thomas to comment: “Like father, like son.” To which Tristan promptly wrote the
words down.
But truth be known, they were un-comfortable amongst the posh and pomp and gaudy dresses
and skin tight uniforms and perfume, and left the Palace early to walk amongst the streets of Paris. The
evening was cool, but bearable, and both enjoying sights and sounds, the street vendors, the prostitutes;
or perhaps the anonymity they so craved: whatever, all the fabulous city offered they partook. They
departed Paris entirely, before dawn, exactly four days after arriving, Thomas’s kingship ending twenty-
four hours earlier, their debt to King Philip paid. They were not in the least bit sad leaving Paris behind.
As a great writer once noted, Paris was a moveable feast, but they preferred to think of Paris: As a
bloated parasite feasting on Paris’ lees and leavings.

Book 5 & an ending fraction.

The alphabetical Marlow chapters.
Chapter a
Writers note’s: sometimes it is as easy as A, B, C. (Sometimes it goes the other way, too).

They arrived in London a day later. Henry had been expecting them and had issued orders to
usher them in the side entrance to the palace and brought directly to his study. The study was sparsely
furnished. Plush sitting chairs, flower pattern cloth. A simple writing desk. A new world Globe that
showed the earth as round as opposed to flat, a thing most learnerd men had known since Grecian times.
A tea cart held, well, a pot of tea and a half dozen cups and saucers and a wicker basket filled with
biscuits. Henry was casually dressed as well.
“You are both looking well.” King Henry. Pointing at two chairs before sitting. “Tea? Biscuits.”
”And you Henry. Thanks for the assist.” Tristan taking a biscuit. “I will pass on the tea,
“I am with Tristan,” Thomas. Sitting. In himself as usual, thinking over the past few days,
assigning things to a proper slot until he reached the present and thought: Why are biscuits called such?
Why not sweet bread? Or: hard cookies? Forget about it.
”No problem. You really kicked her ass in Morocco.”
“Apparently not enough. She lives.”
“She will remember for as long as she lives.”
“I suppose that is something.”
“Yes. Counting Thomas’s accession to King of France and a few other rather delicate things I
shall not mention, you are back on the gossip circuit.”
“Lucky us.”
“They are saying good things this time. Although you do seem to be present when kings die.
But gossip is writing that off as a coincidence.”
Tristan. “Yes I noticed.”
“If you do not mind, I, well, want to stick around for a while.” Jesting.
A smile. “I will see what I can do Henry. This is just a courtesy call on the way home.
So we will be going.”
“You mind departing from the side door. King Charles is out there. He is now the Holy Roman
Emperor, whatever the hell that is worth.”
“Hell for sure. I would like to meet him.”
“Okay, but ah, no killings in the palace.”
“I will take him outside.” Tristan. Joking. Maybe.
The English palace was built to entertain, warm, comfortable, an at home feel. So when Henry
entered the main room along with Thomas and Tristan, well, everybody felt at home, but a gasp escaped
most lips. Tristan McLeod! Sir Thomas! For most simply seeing them in person was a veracious thrill.
But Charles was not King for nothing. He greeted Henry first, then turned on Tristan, “Tristan McLeod.
I have heard so much about you.”
“All good, one hopes.”
”Most certain.”
“Splendor.” Being cute.
“But your skill using a sword, fabled. Yet no one has actually seen you except for practice.”
“Alive,” tilting head, one eyebrow raised, “Charles.” Being precise.
“Ah yes, such would be the case,” he replied, “Still I fancy myself a fairly good swordsmen.
How about a match?”
“Sorry, no disrespect, I do not perform matches. A person could get hurt.”
“Oh I guarantee no one will.”
”No man can guarantee such Charles. Not even your god. Otherwise they would not
have nailed that poor carpenter to a cross. Or was that the good thief, Michael?” Taunting, which
annoyed him at himself. Childish, he self-chastised.
“Three minutes. Give the good people a show to remember.”
It was a thing. So unnecessary. That was a second ago. Now he wanted to dazzle this fool. So he
acquiesced to Henry who shrugged: fine. But just a match. Rules had to be set. No swift or hard crushes.
A man down, the other backs away. Fine. There was a small arena for just such and they went there.
Thomas gone, lost in the palace’s hugeness somewhere. Or Not.
The match began slowly, each circling, touching blades twice. A smile from both. Just having
fun. Charles parried, Tristan easily deflected it, preferring not to counter. Another, Tristan deflected,
again preferring not to counter. A thrust, Tristan brushed it aside. Holding the sword with both hands,
next came a ferocious swing from above the head. Back-flips never work because there you are in mid-
air. So sudden the swing, Tristan did a side role, landing on his feet, sword at ready. The swing
powerful enough to bury the sword in the earth where Tristan had stood. An arrow flew, whistled,
digging in the earth at Charles’s feet.
“Just once Charles. Because you are a king.” Tristan. Factually.
And then Tristan moved, both hands gripping his sword, all of him a blur, dancing, all places at
once, behind, beside, in front, slapping at Charles, at last slapping the sword from his hands sending it
flying, crashing to the floor, the clang echoing. He had dazzled. Applause rang out. It was a fine show,
so pronounced Henry who invited them into his study.
Angry, pissed, mad, Henry shouted, “Charles!”
“Fine Henry. No harm.” Tristan.
“The archer should be hung. He tried to kill a king.”
”No,” Thomas. “If I had wanted to kill, you would be dead now.”
“You are impertinent.”
“Yes.” Thomas, knowing Charles had misspoke and intended a similar word.
“Enough!” Henry.
Tea. Parlor maid served it. Biscuits also.
“Charles, tell Tristan what you told me.”
“The Vatican sees no reason to continue this messy business. Agree?”
Tristan. At last. ”Certainly.” At last again. The news worth two.
Voice wooden “I shall inform the Pope.”
“Good, good. I would have mentioned this earlier Tristan but I wanted to be sure.” Henry
mentioned, “So I have a new playwright who trills me. He is young. But good. His name is Marlow.
Spends most nights at the Boar’s Head writing. If any of you find time, see his work. I encourage.”
“Yes, well I must return to Germany. Maybe next time. You McLeod?”
“I am forever on my way home.” A Cheshire cat grin.
Proper, German, stiff, standing, Charles bowed and departed. “I had hoped to break the tension,
but I guess theater is not Charles’s passion. I doubt he has a passion except titles, power.”
“Apparently.” Tristan. “I trust I did not cause you grief.”
“Ah, nothing lasting. Go home. Kiss your nobles. They enjoy their asses kissed. Mine do.”
“I shall bear that in mind, pun intended.”

Chapter b
Writer’s notes: Marlow, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Lorca. Continue the minimal writing. Work
at it. Love it like your wife. Fuck it like your mistress.

All good people were home, safe behind locked shutters and doors; leaving only voices for the
outside world: what was that noise hon?, oh probably nothing, she pushed out, only our neighbor; up the
street a she whispered, cannot you fuck quietly. He, if you would shut up I could. Tristan and Thomas
listening to the sounds of unintended noisy silence, stood in the shadows watching the Boar’s Head
front door. They had both picked up on a glance from Charles when Henry had mentioned Marlow.
They had seen such before, it saying: I am not happy so why should you be. Or maybe it was nothing.
They had been there for an hour. About time to leave. Yes. Wait! What is that carriage? Ah, just
passing. Well. Wait. Two riders. Nobody. Cold. Le.... Wait. Another carriage this time stopping a few
doors away from the inn. A rather well-dressed tall man exited and went in the Boar’s Head. “I will take
the pub.” Thomas on the move already.
“Fine. I got the carriage.” Tristan, already headed its direction. “Driver? What is your name.”
“Hemmingway, Sir.” All earnest.
”You for hire.”
“No, Sir.” Still earnest.
Tristan peeked inside: Charles. “Hello Charles.” Phony as can be friendly, friendly
Defensive, almost hostile. Definitely not earnest. “What are you doing here McLeod?”
“Waiting on you.”
“You have no...”
“Doth are not very earnest. ” Tristan having fun.
Further conversation halted by Thomas assisting a man, injured, unsteady, clutching Thomas’s
shirt for dear life, murmuring gibberish. “Get out Charles.” Tristan. Not a request. But earnest.
“By whose authority?”
Earnest enough to drag him out if he said another word. “Mine. Now. Out!”
Rigid, Charles exited and walked away, the cane he carried echoing its tap-echo-tap echo,
highlighting not a care in the world. He owned the world.
“Marlow,” Thomas explained, “I failed to get to him in time. Knifed in the spine. The other guy
is dead. The Palace.”
The driver drove straight to the Palace where the palace guard woke Henry, who upon glancing
inside the carriage, cried, “My God man, bring him in.”
Once inside, Tristan explained. He also cautioned not to remove the knife because it would
increase the bleeding. Henry called for the doctor who worked while they discussed events.
“Charles you say? Why?”
”Spite. Meanness. Whatever.”
“Nothing to be done. The whole affair would cause a bloody mess. In fact, he is not safe in
London. Charles will want all evidence erased. Can you ferry him to Scotland until he recovers. In the
meantime I will reason with Charles.”
“Sure. Need an escort. Just in case.”
Chapter c

For once Tristan did not stop at the English-Scottish border to comment on the mist. They
decided to by-pass Glasgow and the castle not wishing to expose Marlow to gossip’s dangers. Two
English guards drove the covered wagon carrying Marlow, the cover hiding him. Tristan and Thomas
discussed the best route to take, wanting to avoid not only Glasgow, but most hamlets, stopping only at
inn’s that Tristan knew to be deserted this time of year. Marlow appeared to be enduring, suffering,
moaning, yes, but enduring. Tristan liked him for that alone. Still the trip, difficult, and they feared the
jostling would finish Marlow off. By the time they reached the island, their fears appeared realized:
Marlow’s face, pale, eyes sunken hoods, voice barely a whisper.
McLean welcomed them and inquired about the wagon and the English guards. Maria and the
French woman Mary stood by his side, perplexed at the wagon and its cargo. Tristan merely shook his
head at all questions, indicating later. For now they had to move Marlow to the house. Enlisting
McLean, they and the English guards picked up the make-shift wooden bed and began the short but
long journey into the house. The movement ignited loud cries out of Marlow. The cries rattled them
all, but most of all Maria and Mary who followed into the house. Thomas gave up his room, saying he
would sleep... well he did not say. Once they had Marlow settled in, a quick discussion ensued about
the English guards. They decided to send them back to London aboard the Scottish King because two
English guards riding through Scotland alone, Tristan could see it, panic, the same as when Henry
arrived: The English are invading!
Maria and Mary, questions dancing in their eyes, attended to Marlow, the mother in them,
McLean commented following Tristan and Thomas outside. Tristan filled his lungs, sea air sweet. “The
man’s name is Marlow. An English playwright. To make a long story short, here he is.”
“Way short,” McLean, knowing more would follow later.
“Yes,” Thomas, “The girl Mary. She working out so far?”
“Sure. I set her to keeping the house. Checked in on her every day. Nice girl. Clean as hound’s
“Hound’s tooth,” Tristan, teasing, playing.
“Just made that up. See we both can do it,” McLean playing right back.
“It is a McLeod thing,” Tristan right back at him, “Any trouble returning from Morocco?”
“Hmm huh., naw, Duncan played rough with the Spanish Lords and is demanding a huge
ransom...what the Spanish hoarding all that new world gold, why not.” Feet shuffling, McLean
yawning. Goodnight Matilda all.
Alone, just them, together a force, a country, glancing, each knowing, Thomas whispering, “Hey
“Hey you.”
Everything was all right. Tristan went into the house, leaving Thomas staring inside himself,
humming outside himself.
Later on that evening, Maria paused as Tristan sat at his desk, writing. He also paused. Still
pretty, still a wonder. He smiled. She asked a single question, “Why?”
Expecting it long ago. But some things are a long time coming, time placing the moment.
“Because I was playing around. Did you expect something more noble?”
“No. You are noble. So that is how I wound up here. A whim.”
“Sure. A whim got you sold for a horse. A whim got you here. Life is whims.” A whim
slaughtered thirty-something odd people, he thought.
“You just made that up.”
”For sure.”
“Thank you.”
“Tristan, do you do whims often?”
“I have no idea. I, ah, act in the moment.” He told her about all the peasants standing alongside
the road and giving a girl a gold coin, “Probably will not change anything.”
“Maybe Maria, but I am not out to save anybody. I am not out to hurt anybody. I think... it is like
you put yourself in play, and things happen. If you stay home, well, nothing happens.”
“But you expose yourself to danger.”
“Ah, so what. That day you almost rode off the cliff, you exposed yourself to danger. Not
intentionally, but even so. Danger is everywhere.”
“What about this Marlow fellow?”
”Let him heal. See then.”
“Goodnight Tristan”
But she was gone. Thomas there now. “Walk?”
A heavy mist rolled in from the sea, obscuring shapes, and things. They walked arms swinging,
easy, peaceful, until they almost ran right into Porch, the mist obscuring her. Surprised, Tristan thought
she was in Edinburgh attending to medical things. She was as surprised as him. “Tristan.”
“I, ah.”
“Yes, me too.”
“My mother passed on.”
“Sorry. How is your father?”
“Lonely. Old. I want to take him back to Edinburgh but he says he must stay here. He is the
island’s only doctor. Your uncle helped him when nobody else would. He cannot forget.”
“I will speak to him.”
“No, I have been walking, thinking. He has friends here. Edinburgh, nobody. He belongs here.”
“Tell him I said hello. Also, if he has time have him stop by and examine a patient at my house.”
Who, she wanted to ask. Smiled instead. And began walking, the mist disappearing her.
Thomas mentioned Mary. Tristan, Maria and Porch. A day to reassure women, they both
agreed. Who in turn would tend to Marlow.
Funny how things go. One person says a kind word to another, another person helps out a
wounded stranger, another saves a drowning man. There is no coin at the end of such acts. Yet there
they are. Thomas’ diary.

Book 6 the ! point chapters

All of life is an exclamation point, Thomas’ diary.

Chapter !

New Year’s. Everybody loves New Year’s, but new Century’s? Hmm. So here birthed the year:
1500. Birthed to the echoes of ‘May Old Acquaintance’ and the under-breath whispers... a Druid king
in Scotland, in this enlightened age. The new century, and the undisguised whispering, meant nothing to
Tristan as he followed, loosely speaking, the Druid Calendar. Since it had been late summer when
Tristan and Thomas brought Marlow to the island they had stayed for the winter, allowing the council to
maintain affairs but were kept abreast of events by Duncan. Thus they knew that 1500 started the year
carrying a mini-plague to Frankfurt, Germany and Seaside, France. Only 40,000 died. Including kindly
Young king Philip. Sometime later when informed of Philips’ death and the gossip circuit mourning out
loud: it is a tragedy, a king dying so young. Tristan thought, although he had personally liked the young
man, why it is always a tragedy when someone important died young? 1500 also failed to raise the son
of God, much to the Vatican’s relief who otherwise would be forced to hold a fire sale. Still it did not
stop many people from believing... so much so more than a few families committed mass suicide. The
end of January, 1500, gifted a mini-plague in the new world where 100,000 Indians died... but they were
Indian so hey. But the Vatican did hold a special mass for them.
No, Tristan and Thomas were aware, just quietly happy on the Island, and quite comfortable
keeping to themselves, thank you. The house Mohammad had designed was warm, even the floor, and a
grateful Tristan silently thanked him daily although he still suffered inner chills. Marlow had, still
bunking in Thomas’s bedroom, improved greatly, and Thomas slept in... well, who knew. Mary cared
for Marlow and this came as no surprise to no-one, ten minutes listening to her and a person knew, just
knew she had a gentle caring soul. Tristan worked daily on his book of quotes, reworking some,
discarding others altogether, and intended to publish it in the spring. Just for fun. And a big surprise
arrived for Thomas on a ‘By the gods it is cold outside’ day, a trunk from da Vinci containing many of
his personal notes and papers and so much more. Thomas’s exuberance lit the room up and he spent
every waking moment rummaging through the trunk. On February 5th, both hunched over their desks
studiously working, Mary approached Thomas about Marlow. He wanted a desk to write at. The desk
could be put in the bedroom. Thomas decided Marlow should have a desk in the main room, and had
one built in a day. But the desk just sat there, unoccupied. So Thomas inquired. Mary explained
Marlow could not walk yet, and did not want to be a burden. McLean solved the problem. He
constructed a chair with four wheels. Crude, he said, but Marlow could move about. Self pity did not
appear to be a Marlow characteristic, and fearlessly on February 9th rolled to the main room and set up
shop, as it were, about twenty feet from Tristan, thus placing Thomas in the middle between them. So
now the three of them wrote or studied, Mary prepared tea, and food. Marlow talked constantly. Perhaps
he incessantly talked to take his mind off his injury, or perhaps to take his mind off King Charles and
what he would like to do to him, whatever the reason he talked and Tristan talked right back. Chatter.
Chatter. The damn constant chatter was riding Thomas mad. At first he pressed into his work and
ignored them. But, and as already noted, Tristan, who loved talking, found Marlow a delightful
Their conversations bordered on some of the most inane subjects, at least to Thomas’s way of
thinking. The one about writing almost done him in.
For example:
“I say, does it matter who publishes or who writes it?” Marlow.
“Who writes it,” Tristan. “definitely, no?”
“I think so. So what if a man plagiarizes your work. You wrote it first. But so what.”
Thomas playing moderator. “Are you two crazy?”
Explaining. “No. I just want a reason to write. I am unable to walk yet. So I am unable to
produce a play. But I can write one.” Marlow. As if explaining to a child.
Caught up in the conversation now, Thomas responded “So have somebody stage it in your
”I am afraid it does not work that way, mate. The playwright has to be there. Rehearsal
and all.”
Just yanking Thomas’s chain. “See Thomas,” Tristan, as if he knew that. Right, as if.
No he did not see. He did moan out loud for effect and hunched over his work in a vain attempt
to tune them out.
“Did you ever count a woman’s pussy hairs?”
Thomas. “WHAT THE...” a cry.
“No,” Tristan. Innocently. “You?”
“I tried, mate, but I kept losing count. That pussy staring at me.”
Thomas, “Are you two crazy!” Wondering if such were possible. So bushy. No. No. No. No.
Definitely not.
Over the winter we slowly grew on each other. I suppose, in retrospect, a person who knew us
might say that Marlow had replaced Miguel. I find people in general ‘ce que j’ai pu’ In observing
such behavior, I can not help wondering: Are they reaching inside themselves and exclaiming what they
would do thus assign it to another as truth? If so, individualism is eradicated by man himself in a vain
attempt to attach his feelings onto another, thus granting him...him in another, completely disregarding
the other’s raison d’être. In any case, Miguel is Miguel and Marlow is Marlow. Neither Tristan nor
myself harbored any such delusion to the contrary. Thomas’ diary.
They became fast friends. Tristan, because they enjoyed conversing together. Thomas, well he
loved writing and felt Marlow had a lot to teach him. Mary, well she just found him delightful and he
knew so much about art. She loved greatly and often shared his bed holding him late at night absorbing
his tears into her, soothing, comforting, Mary.
And they all knew he would never walk again. But nobody mentioned that. Probably the only
untouchable subject amongst them.
Winter had what Marlow called, ‘philosophy moments’ that year. One week it would hit the 50’s
melting everything in sight, including the ice used for ice tea. Another week and it hovered well below
zero. Except for Mary, who never complained about anything, we all complained, even the warriors,
tough as they were, had had enough. So Marlow stole a break from working on a sonnet, and jotted
down for us all to sing in place of complaining: ‘THAT OLD MAN WINTER, THAT OLD MAN
Soon everyone on Tristan’s half of the island stopped complaining and sang the song. Tristan’s
only comment: By the gods it works.
His lively wit, and yes, even his chatter became enduring to Thomas.
By spring Marlow had finished a play, and Thomas read it second after Mary, then Tristan. It
was good. In order, Thomas to Mary to Tristan told him it was Great, a master piece, a tragic portrait of
men. He dismissed their accolades. The play was called Hamlet. “I cribbed your line about: there is
more to the heavens and earth. Changed it a bit.”
“Fine.” Tristan, grinning like boy licking a pence lollipop.
“I know a fellow. Shakespeare. Can not write worth a shit. He can stage Hamlet under his name.
Just fluff anyway. Earn a few pence. Pay my way here. Can you drop it off?”
Pay his way. Well, better not to go down that road. A man needed to feel like he was
contributing. “Glad to. Or send a rider.” Tristan.
Which Tristan did. The play was a modest success, which moved Marlow to continue writing.
Hamlet ushered in late spring. The island bloomed again its colorful flora not found on the
mainland. On a warm spring day Thomas unpacked a picture from the da Vinci trunk. It came attached
with a note. The note said: Thomas dear, please find a forger and have this painting expertly copied,
then destroy the original and send the copy to France. Odd! he thought. The picture he saw was named:
the Mona Lisa. He was not an art connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but found the painting a
bit stiff. He hung it on the wall over his desk for now. As the days passed, her smile began to please
him. He wondered who she was. Tristan also found the smile pleasing. Marlow also, so much so that as
they poked around the house choosing what to pack, preparing to leave for the summer council, asked if
he could hang it over his desk. Thomas shrugged. Why not, and continued hunting for winter-lost items
to pack.
They lingered a few days, rusty, and took in some practice hours. Which turned out to be
fortuitous. The night before parting ‘Them’ came. They were the dark. They wore all black silk, their
faces covered by silk scarves. They were the dark. They were not the shadows, the shadows belonged to
Thomas. He tracked them, their every pause, step. He slid past them, a shadow moving into the house
and nudged Tristan. The dark entered the dark house. Darkness meeting Shadows meeting death. They
shadowed death through the house to the main room, and studied them for mere seconds, unfamiliar
bodies, movements; who were they? How did they get on the island? But those questions had to wait.
Death had to die before death reached the bedrooms. Thomas’s arrows sang their tune, and Tristan
dazzled. Death died. Unmasked. Surprise: Oriental. Which all but ruled out the Vatican. King Charles?
Their thoughts leaned.
The island was a natural fortress and landing from the sea side in the dark not for the faint at
heart. Still they were sure the assassins had not driven horses overland and after waking McLean and a
dozen warriors searched for a small boat and well after sunrise and not much to their surprise found
two, each barely large enough to hold a man. Even though the crafts were small, whomever they were,
they had risked a lot on that open sea at night. Somewhere had anchored a mother ship. The mother ship
had waited, they were sure, the assassins return, but had left at first light.
Charles! This they learned for sure while searching the boats. McLean found a map of German
Europe. Say good night Charles.
Tristan and Thomas left that night, leaving McLean instructions. Weight the bodies down and
sink them. Save one head, store it in the castles’ cellar. Also lock down the island until they returned.
No one entered or left. Period. No if, ands or buts about it. Tristan and Thomas sailed for France, each
had donned a monk’s robe, their weapons under the robe. They bought two old nags, just about death on
four legs, the seller saying: best deal. These horses live ten more years. Tristan thought: If you would
cheat a monk, who would you not cheat.
They left France for Germany. They camped out, working from information bought from a man
who had worked for King Charles, deep within the Black Forest and waited, existing on tiny tree
berries, and a slow mouse or prairie dog. They spent the days and nights commiserating about the Gyta
and Red Hawk. On day eleven King Charles, as predicted, hunted, alone, believing he was so.
From the trees, the shelter they had created, they emerged. “Charles,” Tristan greeted. In a way.
“You can..”
Cutting him off. “The Holy Roman Emperor?” Tristan sneering.
“I am….”
Thomas. “Dead.” Stating a certainty.
On the way out of Germany they paused and listened to a man named Luther at a rally. He had a
grudge against the Vatican, or wanted power, or probably both. Whatever, he gave Tristan pause for
King Charles of Germany, the Holy Roman Emperor would be the last king they would kill.
After all these years the message would be widely received throughout Europe, received with a
exclamation point! The nobles and kings and Popes not only had fear itself to fear, but also Tristan and
Thomas. Whom they viewed as the most powerful and dangerous men in Europe. Whenever people
talked about them it would be in whispers, and even then would look over their shoulders to be sure.
Except Isabella, who uttered an odd remark, odd because she had not left Spain for years, such was her
fear of them. “God keep them safe.”
The gods rolled over a few dead stars in laughter.

The lost Chapters.

Book 6 & 1/2.
Are there dragons…I mean really. Thomas’ diary.
The Lost Chapters 1

They shipped to Dover and rode the nags from there. A few miles from the Scottish border ‘the
old man’ as they had come to refer to him, was sitting under a tree, shaded by branches. They were both
surprised the man still lived, both concluding he must live in the forest, forage for food. He still wore
the spotless white robe, and his face still time’s canvas. “What, old man, by the gods is your story?”
Tristan, pausing Trouble.
“One day you will be a toad.”
Thomas. A smile, friendly. Toad. Liked that. The old guy had balls.
“But before I turn you into a toad care for some tea first?” The old man offered.
“You intend to brew out of thin air?” Tristan, facetious, yes, but funning him.
“Yes,” and did so. A sterling silver serving tray appeared on the grass flanked by three bone
white china cups and a matching tea pot. “Come. Sit.” He urged.
Curious, they dismounted and sat, each accepting a cup. They sipped. Very flavorful. “Tasty,”
Tristan smacked lips.
“Earl Gray.” The old man explained.
“Earl who?” Tristan thinking: obliqueness.
“Never mind,” The old man. Teasing them. Maybe.
“You live around here?” Tristan. Probing.
“Used to a long time ago.” The old man smiled mischief’s locker. “Back when there were
“Old man,” Tristan observing his frailty, “you would not even be a snack for a dragon.”
“None of us would.”
“Be true,” Thomas admitted, thinking it was a shame he no longer believed in dragons. Well, a
child’s thing.
“Sir Thomas speaks after all. After all is said and done.”
Tristan, “So what is your story, old man,” continued probing.
“I have a name.”
Tristan. “And?”
“It is...” he stood suddenly and very spry considering his probable age. I must tend to matters,
and waved an arm chest high. The cups and tray vanished. As did the old man.
“He is,” Thomas, head cocked, as if pondering what witnessing, “annoying. Can you explain all
“As I said before. Carnival magic. The old guy probably lives in the forest, same as the old guy
who came at me a few years back.” A thinkable pause. “Remember when you said something or
someone might be tracking us. Could be that harmless old man. Toad indeed!”
Thomas had to agree. But most elderly were annoying to the young, he had begun to notice. He
had not noticed such a few years ago. Age, he thought, mounting the nag. When they reached the
Scottish border Tristan paused. Mist! Thick as pea soup. He muttered, hmmm, and rode on. When they
sloshed across the shallow river leading to the island, they were met by McLean and two warriors.
McLean glanced at the nags and woefully shook his head. “And you used to be such a fine lad too.”
Tristan, “Shut up,” smiling.
“Tristan, Porch’s da died last night. Missed his woman I imagine.” McLean informed..
“I imagine. Where is she?”
“At their house.”
“I will stop later.”
At a gallop that just about did the nags in, they arrived at the corral. Maria stood brushing her
horse. Mohammed stood, his gaze brushing her. They both waved. A few other warriors working their
mounts paused long enough to wave. One of the stable boys ran out. Tristan threw a greeting his way.
The boy grinned wide, happy he was liked.
“Here are two horses for you, Mohammed.”
“Those are not horses, they are food.”
“Not on the island.”
“I am sure I can barter them for something.” A quick back-step.
As Thomas dismounted, Mary came over and kissed him, surprising him, blushing him.
Tristan and McLean grinned, the grins saying: Ah, watch out Thomas.
Ignoring them. “Food?” Mary encouraged.
“Sure. Starving.”
“I am with Thomas.” Tristan walked a few steps away with McLean. “Charles died.”
“So sad,” McLean tilting his head in mock sadness. “I tossed one head in the cellar, and the
bodies to the fish. Burned their crafts. Never know they were here.”
“Good. That is good. Food.”
Sure, always. They went into the house. Thomas was leaning over Marlow’s shoulder reading.
Mary brought out plates. Fresh chicken, potatoes, tea. A fine meal all said. Mary was very attentive to
Marlow, but in subtle ways let it be known she had her sights set on Thomas.
Much later, the house sleeping, Thomas hunched the outside right perimeter. He had been there
for a while now, listening, watching the dark. He half grinned. “Hello Mary.”
“How did you know I was there?” She was dressed in a night gown. Even in the moonlight the
gown accented the natural curves of her body.
“Just a thing, is all.”
“Yes. Thomas?”
“Can I sit here with you for a while?”
“All night every night.” Meaning it.
And so it began, like silence and music. Love to Mary. Honor to Tristan. Thomas? He never
So it began.
The Lost Chapters. 2
Writer’s notes. Duncan succeeds his father on the council as does Ion McDonald. And a
reader returns this book to City Lights, reason. Not enough sex. Another reader returns this book
to Prairie Lights: reason: Too much sex. Go figure.

The council, minus a few members, were seated by the time they had arrived. Winter had taken
McCone and Ion’s father, old man McDonald. It was a shame, true. Tristan felt bad for old man
McDonald. He had so enjoyed Tristan’s song and loved singing it partially screaming out the:
eieieeieieieieieie O! His son Ion now headed the McDonald clan. McCone he personally liked, but
people went, especially old men. He did instantly see an opportunity here and quickly seized upon it. He
appointed Ion McDonald and Duncan McGregor to succeed their fathers, above outcries of, “Caesar!”
Of which he deftly, feigning deaf, ignored. From that tremulous beginning, Tristan waited a
week before springing what he had in mind on the council, whose elder members were still pouting. He
laid it out slow, allowing each man, Christian and others, to soak in the words. After all, this was no
small matter, Scotland would be challenging the church: the very foundation Europe rested upon.
Although he had given the matter much thought, he expressed them extemporaneously, drawing
somewhat on previous speeches concerning the Vatican. “Let me begin by saying: the coin goes from
Scotland to the Vatican, no stops in between. Why? Who is the Vatican? Just a group of men wearing
fine cloth. They are not even Christians, but Catholics. They decoratively follow Jesus’ teachings. The
Scottish people can do this without the Vatican’s help. I listened to a man in Germany, a Luther, who
had much to say on this matter. To be sure this Luther is German and not to be trusted. As his King was.
(A little dig there, a subtle reminder). I approved a decree drawn up by several Scottish theologians
creating the ‘Christian Church of Scotland.’ I have appointed Lord MacAdam, the well known and
respected Scottish theologian, to set about as the church’s first Bishop, riding the land, convincing each
noble, to join this our new Christian church where the coin will stay in Scotland and where its people
can practice Christianity away from disapproving Vatican judgment. Fifty percent of the Catholic
churches will be by decree nationalized and be rechristened Scottish Christian churches. I am in no way
condemning the Vatican nor the Catholic Church, only creating a new clearer Christian belief more
toward Jesus’ teaching...good will toward all men. And may the Vatican keep out of Scotland’s affairs,
or else I may forget myself.”
The ‘Or Else’ hung there. Its warning unmistakable. One more Vatican misstep, Rome would
To be sure, many suspected Tristan of a hidden agenda, and considering his past concerning the
Vatican, their suspicions were expected. Some even wondered if Tristan had reached an age where
power had corrupted him. As evidence, a few nobles pointed to many once young rulers who had grown
more tyrannical as they aged. So once again rumors flew. Tristan, as in the past, ignored them. He
knew that to openly challenge Rome, the Vatican, not even a possible a few years earlier. But events in
Europe were changing. Other theologians than Luther were questioning. Calvin preached loud against
the Vatican. Of course Calvin hid in fear in Switzerland. Also other King’s besides Tristan were
questioning the Vatican’s role and rule. King Henry had petitioned the Vatican thrice for a divorce,
each time the Vatican had refused; he was furious and sought a way out from under the Vatican’s
considerable robes. France, a hot-spot, had to put down daily riots concerning the Vatican and its strict
rules. The only true believers were Spain and Portugal. And of course the Italians...but then a person
could not expect more from a race who perfected imitation (the Greeks, the Greeks,) and dubbed it: the
sincerest form of flattery.
But in the end, and as Tristan expected, the Scottish nobles went along... for now, each waiting
to see which way the prevailing wind blew. They, the nobles, were gambling their immortal souls... and
although true, souls were bought and sold, it never hurt to be careful. The nobles did not have long to
wait. Mid-summer King Henry dropped the other boot (there were several meetings between him and
Tristan that historically have gone unrecorded. Whether the Vatican was discussed during these
meetings is unknown), and completely threw out the Vatican and clamed their land for the Crown and
created the Church of England. Gossip ran rampant. Simply stunning! The Scottish had merely created
their own church. The Vatican had so far kept its own council, but to openly challenge England, no.
Their navy was far to strong. They ruled the seas. Invasion impossible!
Still a hurried Vatican council convened. Much talk. Little action. England controlled the sea.
The Vatican decided to bet everything on the Spanish. Give them anything. Ships. Gold. Break England
and Scotland would follow, so the Vatican reasoned. The Spanish would eventually attack England and
restore the Vatican’s power. Fortunately, Cardinal Maorrni commented, Henry had never sired a son,
only that bastard child Elizabeth, and a few daughters. Defeating a Queen should be easy. When Henry
died, they would step events in motion. As for McLeod? Continue to let him be. He would die
The gods foresaw much tinkering amongst the ‘New Christians.’ Much playfulness, deadly in
nature. Laughter in play.
The lost chapters 3
Into all this, fall made its annual appearance. The usual nobles packed for livelier environs.
Tristan was ‘satisfied’ to see this summer end. Before departing to winter on the Island, he took care of
unfinished correspondence and dispatched a half dozen letters, one went to King Henry, congratulating
his daughter, Elisabeth, on her eighth birthday; he enclosed a broach. Henry had quickly responded
informing Tristan that he had never wanted a daughter but a son. The reply continued: You and I both
know to carry our line forward, a son is essential. My last wife seemed unable or unwilling to comply.
So I had her beheaded, regretfully, but the Vatican left me no choice: the Pope would not grant a
divorce. I do so regret the severe action, yet feel secure in God’s understanding since I did it for
England. I can only hope my new wife will bear me the son I so desperately desire. As an incentive I
had my last wife hung from the London bridge. Within view of my new wife’s window. See if that
He also added, ending on black humor’s door step, “I am certain of this ...but remember the
Tristan handed the letter over to Thomas who commented, “Gee, no more poking the eyes of
chickens. What will Chicken Little with all that sight.”
The days on the island were much the same, storming one day, storming the next. Which was
fine by Tristan. He was happily warm as he could be and writing and reading and fucking the occasional
villager girl who came a wanting. More chests had also arrived from da Vinci and Thomas engulfed
their contents as if dinner. Marlow wrote prolifically, crumbled up parchment littering the floor. (And
who could have guessed that someday that crumbled up parchment would be worth a king’s ransom.)
Mary, happy, content, she had three men and Thomas was sharing her bed... for a few hours each
evening. Into all this one night McLean entered and announced, “Ship ahoy.”
The wind howled, and the waves crashing could be heard outside the window. Tristan had
absolutely no desire to go out and stand by the sea freezing his nuts off. “Who?” Unless it was
somebody very important or danger.
“Spanish flag. Spanish flagship. Should I send out the corvettes?”
Ah ha, important and dangerous. “No.” Tristan ordered. “Round up the warriors.”
Thomas and Tristan on the shore. The cold shocking them. Tristan ice inside. In the distance the
ship’s sails traced the darkness. The ship dared not approach closer, impeded by boulders and sharp-
edged rocks. “One ship. Two-hundred men. Never make it to in this weather and these rocks.” McLean.
“Um hmmm. So what?” Tristan shivering violently.
Thomas disagreed. “No, not that. Even the Spanish are not that crazy to launch a single suicide
run. Isabella wants something from you.”
As McLean spoke, the warriors arrived. Cold, yes, but steady in the saddle, waiting. A longboat
launched from the mother ship, the sea carrying it closer, closer, now close enough to see four men and
a woman. The ship scrapped against rocks, the unmistakable sound ringing the night. Still they all
waited as the sea brought the boat close enough to beach. Helped along, Isabella stepped out.
“You have courage I will give you that,” Tristan. Severity crossing his brow, he set it aside and
frowned at her. He had fucked her, honored her, fought her, imprisoned her in her own country, and
now: the sight of her tugged at him. She sagged in all the wrong places, face places, betraying long
nights awake, fighting thoughts, losing, embracing them at last. All this: her legacy.
“Kill me if you must. But hear me out first.”
“Inside. Your men stay here. They move they die.”
“The cold.”
“They move they die. The cold will not kill them.”
Inside now. Introductions. Marlow, now Frank, a protection. Leading her to his bedroom.
No argument, and no weapon.
“What?” handing her a sheet.
“I was wrong. I believed. The Pope. Believed God wanted me to change these people. Jews,
Moslems, pagans, Indians, blacks.”
“I am not your confessor. I do not care.”
“I was wrong,” a wail, falling to knees, painfully bruising them. Not feeling it, only the pain
inside her ached up. “Millions died.”
Eyebrows fighting in the way when a man hears the unbelievable. “What do you mean?
Millions.” Serious. Deadly so.
“The new world. Whole nations. I tried to stop it. I even imprisoned Columbus. Yet it
“You better pray there is not a Christian God.” Coldly.
“I, I, I, I came here. No place else. You can..”
“I can not. I can not kill you because the Emir would not want that. But I can not help you.”
“Go. I will give you this. Forgive yourself anything, but condemn the action. Now go.”
“Yes. Yes. No. I want to stay. One night.”
A silent yes, more to convince himself, and he led her to the bath tub and filled it. “Clean
yourself. Take time.” And left.
A slow walk to the sea, cold inside, forever cold. Thomas quiet. Another longboat had landed. A
Spanish captain stood on shore. “Take both boats back. I will have her brought out in the morning.”
”This is not a conversation, Captain, and you do not have any options.”
A quick glance at the warriors, their deadly gaze on him. Both longboats departed.
Before returning to the house, he and Mclean held a hurried conference where it was decided to
take men further up-shore where, in a watery cove, the King Of Scotland docked, and move her out
facing the Spanish flagship. McLean added, “And a corvette.”
“Do,” Tristan as he walked away.
Trembling all night, he held her, whispering soft words. In the morning she departed, appearing
all dead inside, betrayed by those whom she had trusted.
Later that day Tristan shared the news Isabella had told him about what had been ‘the New
World’ but had recently been christened: America. The grim news depressed each and the room itself
seemed to absorbed the over-all depressive mood. Marlow decided the mood just would NOT do, and
announced, “I shall do a play set in Venice. In dishonor of Isabella.” And set about doing so. The quill
scratching the parchment, the day brightened.
Through Marlow, I discovered that through writing a diary all these years, I had also discarded
whatever the day had wrought, thus liberating me to move forward without mental baggage. I
mentioned this to Marlow. He responded thus: Believe me Thomas, Literature is the most noble of
professions. In fact, it is about the only one fit for a man. For my own part, there is no seducing me
from its path. Thomas’ diary.
By winters end, Tristan had finished a small book barely thirty pages, not the book of quotes,
which now seemed pedantic, so much so he lent it to Marlowe. His new book he named: The Art of
Fucking. It sold very poorly. Marlow finished, “The Merchant of Venice.” He pronounced it a rather
poor piece. But still dispatched it to Shakespeare. The play was poorly received. Shakespeare wrote
Marlow: No more Jews.
Thus the winter ended on a Jewish note.
As we once again, like migrating birds, departed the island for Glasgow, I, unlike others, saw
all the inward tells, and yes the outward anguish in Tristan. A weariness had set in. King, or merely
playing King, had long ago worn out its welcome. But now, but now, in the now, in spring’s damp,
Tristan’s head hung, yes to ward the damp, but also the other. The strain, years, showing. Almost
eleven years old,” I softly mentioned. Tristan all silent. Silent knowing. Thomas’ diary.
The gods passed a bare glance at Tristan, their glances on their way to other things, shaking
their heads, poor man, laughing wildly.
Chapter endings: cleaning up strays.
I had never known, in over a million years, of one with more grace and honor than Tristan
McLeod. His brother. Graffiti written on a lower portion of the castle McLeod.
Six of those eight years Tristan so frustratingly looked forward to were a hare running down the
road seemingly all by itself, not even a turtle chasing it. Likewise Scotland, who’s prosperity stalled
somewhat. The shipyard, Scotland’s pride and joy, saw new orders fall year over year until the past
year actually had to content itself building a few already commissioned ships. The crops were fine, not a
record, but no disasters, the plaque that appeared out of nowhere, staging a death march in Germany,
England, France, and other places seemed to leave Scotland be. (Tristan attributed this to cleanliness.
The peasants to prayer.) The university hummed along, producing young men Scottish proud enough to
stay in Scotland. The medical school in Edinburgh turned out doctors, and after all, what else was it
designed for. Trade climbed, steady, the one bright spot. The people wanted silk, spice, all the people
from every day people to aristocrats, and Scotland owned the trading rights to the silk markets of Japan.
Fifty percent of Scotland had embraced the church of Scotland, which proved a great source of revenue.
At first Tristan thought odd! the many Catholic priests who had migrated to the new Church, but
Thomas singled out, “the reason is the priests can now openly marry.” Tristan reaction, “You mean
offer a man pussy and he will follow you anywhere!” Joking. Or not.
Thomas only smiled.
I was French after all. Modestly so. Thomas’ diary.
As they rode to Glasgow for the summer of the year 1508, in Tristan’s view, the years had gone
well, and he expected this spring to follow the past. The same old same old; he had grown accustomed
to it, and come to accept it, much as a man beginning a journey of a thousand miles accepts that a single
step begins what victory’s final step completes: the in-betweens the only unknown. What surprised him,
and did not expect at all: Admiral Ito, who again arrived on a passenger ship. He quietly slipped through
the crowd on the dock and hired a carriage to carry him to his house, which he had kept, and hoped had
been maintained according to instructions. He was pleased upon entering. The house was in the exact
same condition, the cleaning woman Tristan had retained maintaining it so. It was like he had never left.
He inspected the rock garden. A little work, not much, a thing to tune-up, a thinking chore. He smiled.
He now realized how much he had missed Scotland. A week later he sent Tristan and Thomas an
invitation for tea.
Caught completely by surprised at the invitation, and also extremely pleased, they immediately
left the castle and the council without a backward word. Ah so, they told Admiral Ito over tea, the three
of them lounging in the rock garden. At Tristan’s feet rested a cloth bag large enough to hold, well, say
a Head.
“Ah so, Tristan San. Old friends are not cleaner than new friends, only more.”
Tristan, ever mindful of Ito’s ways, bowed slightly, an odd smile gracing him. “So you sneak
into Scotland?”
“Ah so, and all alone, the yellow man is cunning, no?”
Thomas. “But it is better for a man to walk alone than occupy oneself.”
“Ah so Thomas San, you have studied Haiku.”
Colorful silence. Reds. Blues. Yellows. A new Thomas silence.
The new beginning between them began that day. The years made fresh, catching each year and
revealing its contents, much tea drunk, the telling eating hours until only the present remained
revealing. “Ah so. This visit delivers purpose. General Akio extends an invitation?”
“Japan still at war?” Thomas stating an obvious.
“Ah so, wars in Japan take forever.”
“So you mentioned,” Thomas reminded gently.
For what purpose Akio wanted them, Tristan did not ask. “I humbly accept.” He did not ask
because he and Thomas had expected as much and had, upon receiving the invitations for tea, begun
mental preparations. A calculation. A six month, depending on weather, voyage. A year in Japan.
Almost two years in all. Duncan or McDonald could serve as King in his stead. He would let the council
know in no-uncertain terms that this trip was necessary for trade. If luck be a lady... upon his return
Mary would be Queen of Scots. And he, free at last. Thank the gods.
He informed Thomas. “Ah so! Luck be a lady.”
Ah so, luck shall reveal all in time. Thomas’ diary.
Tristan. “Indeed, or let us hope so.”
Ito sipping tea, feeling not so much excluded as wondering.
“Nothing important good friend. But I do have a mystery.” Tristan opened the cloth bag and
grasped the hair and presto, drew up the head which had shrunk considerably over the years, but
surprisingly its features were more accented than before. “One of two. Assassins. Can you shed any
light? I named him: Samuel McPeckinpauh, after an old Scottish folk hero.”
“Ah so.” Followed by silence as the Admiral studied the head. “Ronan.”
“Are?” Tristan.
“Is.” Thomas.
“Ah so, disgraced samurai. They hire themselves out as assassins. Very dangerous. Very good. I
am impressed. You killed two.”
“Still a mystery.”
“No, Tristan San, behind the left ear. The star shaped tattoo. One of Chief Suzuki’s men. Or was.
Suzuki is the last warlord Akio is battling. I imagine these two searched for work in Europe. The
Portuguese do a little trade, not very much as Akio restricts all trade outside Japanese borders. Still.”
“Are German allies.” Thomas. So they had guessed correct. Tristan explained such to Admiral
“Ah so. Bring the head of Samuel McPeckinpauh along.” A rare smile on a face that did not
believe in smile, only honor and art in all things from gardening to battle. The smile fit well. Why?
Because on Ito’s face it was to a smile what the Mona Lisa was to art.
Preparations were set in motion. Duncan caught Tristan off guard. He insisted on traveling
along. “After all, eight years will be up. I can kill you in Japan as well as Scotland. Besides Japan
sounds too... what is that word the kids just started using, that stupid word, you know, means cold.
Anyway Ion McDonald can handle the council.”
“Cool.” Tristan offered.
“Yes. Japan sounds cool. Dumb. Cool is bad. Now if a thing is great, say: ‘hot man,’ Japan is
hot. Kids? Dumb.”
“Word be here today gone tomorrow... always a new word.” Thomas.
I am more of the belief Duncan by traveling to Morocco was bitten by the travel-see-new-places
bug. Than the other. Time shall reveal. Thomas’ diary.
Ah so, the entire council mimicked during Tristan’s preparations. They were very happy. Their
sweaty hands anticipated more coin in theirs in Tristan’s absence. After all, when the cat is away the
mice play. Young Ion McDonald was not so young, and he intended to hold a very tight grip on the
council until Tristan and McGregor returned. After all, they were his friends and Highlanders. A thing
the nobles would never understand. Honor. Friendship. Fuck ’em. He also had the warriors and
McLean. A thing the nobles understood very well.
Soon, ‘Ah so’ beamed across dinner parties. The aristocrats thought it was a Japanese word.
They knew a Japanese word. They were so cosmopolitan. They were so... Cool!”
All Tristan thought: Mary Stewart would be eighteen upon my return. SO HOT!

The Japanese chapters. Part II

Book 7
Ah so! Thomas’ diary.
Chapter 1 つ.

Writer’s notes: Ah so!

Ah so, Trouble thought being led aboard the King Of Scotland. We be taking the flagship, means
we be going a long way. Time enough to finely get me some Au revoir pussy. Which a month into the
voyage he finely tapped. Sweetness itself, he purred like a well fed cat, sweetness itself.
The trouble for Trouble was afterwards Au revoir would not let him alone. She did not live up to
her name and go; of course, he self-confessed, where was there to go. Yet enough already, he thought, I
am tired. But she persisted right up until she fowled a stallion a week before landing at Hiroshima
harbor. Which Tristan thought would make a fine present for Ito’s boss, general Akio.
“Maybe,” Thomas frowned, “I might not like him.”
There were moments, albeit few, Tristan knew he was not really king. That was one.
After a long sea journey, all three, Tristan, Thomas, McGregor were ecstatic to be on land, so
much so McGregor, who fancied himself a seafaring man, kissed the wooden dock. After unloading the
mounts and other personal belongings, the King of Scotland was anchored in the harbor. Ito had
explained General Akio allowed no foreign vessels to dock for any longer than it took to unload the
cargo, and only very select foreign visitors were allowed to stay ashore. He did not say because to do so
would be an insult, that Akio viewed all Occidentals as barbarians. He did not know that such would not
trouble Tristan as the English had insisted the Scots were barbarians for centuries. (Which centuries ago
the Scots would capture an Englishman and bash his head open to see if it contained a brain. They were
never disappointed, at least according to Scottish folklore. Empty, oh, well time to eat, they would
mutter walking away. The Englishman in question would then stand and reassemble his head and return
to England and tell his mates all about the barbarian Scots. Ah, folktales.)
Upon arrival in Japan. We had traveled to many lands. Seen much. But Japan: a poem all by
itself. Thomas’ diary.
Thomas glanced seemingly at once at everything, everyone, every horse, its decoration, every
longboat, its decorations, every bug, every flying creature, every sword, every bow. The dock, crowded.
He had never seen so many people in one place and this was just the dock. Or maybe because it was the
dock. Trade goods. The men wore cotton pants and shirt. The few woman, each slender, wore silk
gowns that hugged their bodies and had their hair tied back in a bun. They were elegant.
McGregor inspected the women as told by the bulge in his pants.
Tristan and Ito discussing arrangements. Thomas to be informed later.
“We go to the palace. The general will greet you.” Ito told all three.
A hand gesture and a carriage appeared. So did twenty riders, leather armor, leather head
coverings, and leather gloves. All in all they appeared to be well schooled in the art of fighting.
Thomas politely vetoed, “We ride our mounts.” No further information necessary.
“But Thomas San, in Japan it is...” Ito.
“Ito, when in Roma do as the Romans. When in Japan do as the Japanese. Only we ride. That is
my only rule. Those in carriages often die. Those on mounts often live. And you did say you are still at
“Ah so, Thomas San.”
Hiroshima Village proved very crowded, much like the dock. Only the people here wore a finer
thinner clothing. The women silk, hair also tied in a bun and artistically performing short steps,
matching each step. The men walked in a hurry, but slow in motion, also matching each step. They also
kept head low, not meeting eyes. The buildings were bumped up against each other, saying: space is at a
premium. The streets were patrolled by men with swords but no bows. Tristan glanced at Thomas, its
gist: ‘So far these people appear defeatable.’
Thomas tapped a finger against the saddle in acknowledgment.
McGregor smiled all his stained teeth at the women.
They found the countryside very pleasant. Rice crops were harvested in unison, an arranged
order, each person following the lead of the person next to him. Once at the palace, its splendor
impressive enough to bring to mind the Alhambra in Granada. The grounds very spacious, a long
narrow fountain stretched for almost a mile. Flanking both sides the shrubbery sculptured: mostly fish,
but in an arranged order, small to large, to medium, back to small so the whole formed a sort of
aquarium. Once inside an entrance foyer, Thomas thought, as he had in Africa: real truth emerges. And
uttered, “Magnificent!” astounded, and at a further loss for words.
“Ah so,” Ito, obviously proud, “We strive to maintain a balance with our European friends.
“Ah so,” Tristan. “The English Palace would fit in here as a guest chamber.”
And they were only in the foyer.
“Ah so, Tristan San. Scottish humor. A thing I fear I never grew accustomed to.”
What humor, Tristan thought.
Porters followed Ito, who showed them to their rooms, bowing, saying shortly the general would
greet them. Shortly turned into three days. They had the run of the grounds and the Palace during this
time, and were provided with women, food, drink, books. Anything short of going into the village.
McGregor loved it. He was fucking three times a day. Tristan and Thomas got lost twice on the first
day; they loved it.
On the fourth day, Tristan summoned Ito. “Ito. We are friends. But, ah, we are leaving.”
“Tristan San.”
“Even if we have to fight our way out.”
Duncan stepped back a step and goggled Tristan, as if, he, Tristan were crazy. That girl last
night. “O’man, Tristan,” he wanted to say. But a voice overrode his wants and desires.
“That will not be necessary, Tristan McLeod.”
General Akio. A thin reed of a man. Pencil thin moustache and stringy goatee. Strong voice.
Killers’ eyes. Thomas’ diary.
“You display the western impatience well.”
“Or patience very well,” Thomas.
“Yes. Much better than the Portuguese Chief Suzuki employs,” Akio added, “I humbly
apologize. I was called away. Ito never divulges State affairs.”
“General, I never accept apologies. They are unnecessary.”
“Yes, Tristan San. I agree. I am here now. We will talk, plenty of time. Perhaps we will enjoy
each other. For now I must attend to my wife, an honorable duty, an enjoyable one.”
The general, short, maybe tall enough to reach Trouble’s saddle. Yet, strength, will, a man to
They both saw this. Thomas mentioned the other thing.
“His eyes. He kills easily.”
Good to know.
Chapter 新しい.

Writer’s notes: conversation snippets. Most Japanese and North Americans can skip this section
and just go on to the killing fields.
To sail for months, labor, risk death, health, not things to be taken for granted. Tristan wanted
his crew to enjoy the town, not all at once but in shifts and broached as much to Admiral Ito. To Ito’s
surprise, Akio readily agreed. That accomplished, he and Akio met in a garden, one of many.
“So Tristan San, you accepted my invitation.”
“Yes. To learn.”
“Shame. We are at war.”
“You were at war when I first met Admiral Ito.”
“Yes, in Japan war takes a long time. There are just two now. The winner rules Japan... almost.”
“We have an Emperor. We have not had a Shogun for a thousand years.”
“I take it you want to be Shogun?”
”My destiny. Unite Japan.”
“The Emperor can not accomplish this?”
“It is complicated Tristan San.”
“General, war is never complicated. You win. You lose. The land between the two is: failure to
“Very well put. I noticed you reading the ‘Art of War’ by Sun Tzu.”
“I too read it often.”
“How many chiefs support Suzuki and how many support you?”
“Blunt. Not a Japanese way. But. all support me. His clan is very large. He trades with the
“And he is how far?”
“People seize upon weakness, Tristan San. I must at all times remain strong.”
“Or poetry. So there is a battle every now and again. Men die so other men may rule.”
“Such is life. In your Christian bible it says the meek shall inherit the earth. Perhaps. But from
these meek will emerge the strong.”
“I am a Druid, General. I do not believe the meek shall inherit the earth. Because as you say,
from them will emerge the strong, but a watered down strong, a weak strong. Just look at the United
S…What!” Confused, as if his mind had blinked off for a second, “Never mind.” Regrouping, “No, the
strong survive.”
“Ah so, Tristan San. You are a philosopher.”
“No. I see. I learn.”


And two days later while strolling under orange blossom trees.
“You would destroy Suzuki, Tristan San.”
“It is always better for one man to die than thousands.”
“But he is a man of honor. He keeps his word. Only to fight once in a while.”
“Or is he arming the inevitable future? The Portuguese are not there as tourists. Besides, you
both are impeding the future by arming it.”
“Ah so, is true. I arm the future. I also impede it. The people suffer in place.”
“Then you are a poor ruler.”


A week later, after dinner where it was only him and Tristan and Thomas. McGregor was
“I wish to complement you both. At every meal you have not raised merchants’ sticky finger. A
most uncharacteristic attitude for a European.”
Thomas breaking pondering. “We aim to please, Sir. But you still do not get the stallion.”
Befuddled, “The what?”
“Scottish humor,” Tristan.
“Ah so. So trade goes well?”
“The nobles are happy.”
“Ah so.”


Two weeks later, McGregor now tired of fucking, gathered at the stables. “General.”
“Ah so, Duncan McGregor San. Very busy man.”
“General, just McGregor,” a loopy smile.
“Ah so. I was admiring your mounts. Very large. Very thin. Fast?”
“Like wind.” Tristan.
It was coming now. The courtship done. The lead up finished. Here it came.
“Can you lead them against Suzuki? Command my cavalry?”
“I am not of a mind to lead them anywhere, General.”


The next day, bathing in very hot water, so hot they dare not move, which summoned up
memories of the Emir.
“The further we travel the cleaner the people,” Thomas, smacking the water creating mini
“Noticed. The Japanese bath twice a day. Poor McGregor, he has never been so clean.”
“We did not travel here for war.”
“No. But ah, why not?”
“I have no reason. But he is not getting my stallion. Besides I would like to meet the other guy.”
“And I.”
And there it was. Just looking for a reason.
Chapter サン.

Admiral Ito again expected an argument from Akio, was again surprised, “You escort our guests
to Suzuki's village. Show them Japan. Its people. They are our guests.”
Ito did as instructed. They left early. The road was busy, commence. Right from the beginning,
they knew they were the first white men in Japan’s interior by the not-looks they received. Eyes avoided
them like the plague. Except for men who dressed like warriors. Ito explained these were samurai. They
were warriors and liege oathed to a Lord and willing to die without question. These men walked proud
and bowed to no man. The first night they stayed at Lord Mahaska’s village. A little village which
reminded them of Red Hawk’s village. Rather simple in nature, and with nature. Little stone used.
Much bamboo. They found it a bit primitive. Nice. At Lord Mahaska’s house a tall woman for the
Japanese (They had noticed Japanese women were very small, especially McGregor), dressed in a very
colorful kimono decorated with dragons, begged them entrance. As they started to walk in, Ito begged
them pause. “Boots. You must remove them.”
”Why?” McGregor started to ask, but Tristan spoke over him, “Certainly.” Much to Ito’s relief.
As a servant helped Tristan tug off his boots, he observed, “Ito, you find yourself in a strange
position. I am a king, therefore without question in your mind, always right. You on the other hand are
tasked to lead us to Suzuki. You cannot effectively accomplish both without seemingly offending me.
So offend away. As long as you keep it to your people’s customs.”
“Tristan San, thank you. You stayed in a part of the palace where Occidentals stayed, so taking
your boots off was unnecessary. But it is a Japanese custom.”
Their visit offered a reason to celebrate. The village hosted a feast, girls danced, music played
and Tristan endured, as always, such events, also enduring Thomas’s grin, suffering through actually.
Afterwards, Ito serving as translator, Lord Mahaska, a Buddha-like man in every sense, asked many
questions long into a night that was a whole lot darker than in Europe.
Later yet, the night found Thomas a shadow. He watched two teenagers now all tangled up arms,
hands, legs, mouths missing mouths. He smiled. Kids are kids.
In the morning a Hazy mist surrounded the village, the sky rumbled, lighting flashed. Tristan
shrugged the impending storm away and rode forward, slightly behind Thomas. The others followed in
single file. The formation kept talk to a minimum. They were far enough in country that little activity,
commerce or other, shared the road. The land appeared dearth of animal life. Lots of rocks, bamboo
trees, few animals. The storm subsided. The sun shone. Still they rode. At last, Tristan and Thomas
lagged back until Ito was beside them and inquired, ending on a question, “Why?”
“Japan is many islands, yes. Our diet is fish and rice. Never were many animals.” Ito.
“Do we smell?” Thomas, a long-ago Red Hawk remark.
“Yes, Thomas San.”
”We bathed twice a day for days on end.”
“I know. You do not smell as bad as other Europeans, disrespect.”
“None taken. I asked. A mystery.”
“Ah so, no Thomas San. It is the meat. We only eat fish. Europeans eat meat. Why meat causes
an odor I do not know.”
“So we do not smell so much as emit an odor?”
“Ah so. The language still. I should have said. You emit an odor. The Portuguese smell.”
Thomas surprised him, “What about the head?” Tired of the conversation. Everybody emitted an
odor. Some smelled rank. So what.
“McGregor, “What head?”
Ito. “Sam McPeckinpauh’s head.”
Thomas laughed.
“Bring me the head of Sam McPeckinpauh,” Tristan huskily sang.
“Funny guys.” Duncan, feeling left out.
Tristan explained.
“You two play everything close, huh.”
“Hey, people trying to kill me.” Tristan jested
“He be one,” Thomas. Pointing at McGregor.
“What!” Ito exclaimed.
Now they all laughed. Which is what they were engaged in when fifty men surrounded them, led
by a Portuguese. Their numbers and presence snuffed out the sunlight.
“I think we have just stumbled into a stage setting.” Tristan.
Ito spoke, short bursts, firm, no nonsense. Turned out the Portuguese was not the leader. The
leader was a short man, leather armor, samurai sword, who respectfully bowed for a bare moment,
before throwing out a harsh order. Ito translated. “The man is sorry a thousands death for startling us.
We should follow him and his men. Suzuki is expecting us.”
Being led. Through vines, bamboo, along a river. Small boats navigating the river. Guards
posted every one hundred yards alongside the river. Villages chained by so little as a rice paddy,
connected villages all the way upriver. A few miles and they cut inland, fighting a tick forest now,
tossing the little buggers off as fast as they fell, until thankfully reaching a clearing. Not a village, but
an encampment, adorned with a mini-palace, and a few dozen tents. Unlike the villages where life was
slow peaceful, here the pace was frantic, a man being whipped, another about to be executed, another in
a bamboo cage.
However Suzuki viewed himself: Chief, General, Poet, Warrior, he brooked no dissent. Thomas’
“The band leader,” Thomas nicknamed him, as who he assumed was the man himself, head
shaved, huge in body, came to greet them accompanied by a Portuguese.
To Ito, “Welcome, Admiral. You bring a king. The Portuguese tell me he is an unimportant
king.” Meant to disarm.
Tristan, even, clear, clean, “He is...Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod. To a land of peasants
every king, even the one who cleans the dung from gutters is important. If they think other let them
draw a sword to add weight to their weightless words.”
“Well my Portuguese friends?”
“We will not soil our hands on Sc...”
“If you finish that slur,” McGregor, drawing his sword, leaning in, speaking right at them, “you
will not have any hands.”
“As enjoyable, I must excuse them. They can vent their anger in Europe. Besides my Portuguese
friends, you are far out-matched.”
“You have not changed, Suzuki,” Ito. “Still enjoy pitting men against each other.”
“Of course. How else to find a man’s true courage. But again excuse me. You are guests. Come.
Watch. A man is about to be executed.”
Leaving their mounts, they followed.
“The man is a thief. A pardonable offense except he stole rice. My men march on rice.”
“How much rice can one man steal?” Thomas wondered out loud. Which was not the point. The
point: discipline. Thomas knew this. Still it annoyed him.
“You are Sir Thomas. The bow gave you away, obviously. So you know the answer; so the
waste of a man annoys you.”
Being read so readily further annoyed him and in a flash fired an arrow, killing the prisoner.
“Yes,” he, shouldering his bow, “On both accounts.” Calmly as if a hundred swords were not pointed at
him. (One hundred and two, to be precise).
“You live dangerously.”
“I die you die.”
In fighting stance, Tristan, sword at ready.
McGregor’s also.
Suzuki waved a hand. The swords sheathed. “I do not kill guests. It is rude.“
Ito breathed. The breath stung. McGregor smiled boyishly. Trouble inspected the inferior
Japanese horses. A horse is a horse, a horse is a horse unless it is a Thoroughbred... then it is wind. Ha
ha ha ha ha. Au revoir pissed on him. Teach him some respect.
Suzuki. “Come. Tea. We talk.”
A woman served them, peacocks adorning pots and cups. “It is said a man must understand its
culture to defeat it. So you did not come for that. Such takes time. Trade, but you have such. I trade but
a little with the Portuguese. So why? I ask myself.”
“Just conversation,” Tristan.
“Ah so. You are a legend here. The Last Pagan Warrior. can not be. All non-Catholics
are pagans. I myself.”
“I am the last of my people. We are not pagans. Druids. the Vatican is wrong. Romans are
pagans. You are Buddhist.”
‘Ah so. Still, you... are called such.”
“A title is all.”
“I see. So you see and leave?”
“Good. You would not want to die here.”
“It is as good as any other place.” Thomas. Deciding now. No maybes.
Missing the underlying. Or dismissing as unimportant. “Yes. So tell me about Scotland.”
Which occupied two hours. At the end Tristan smiled, “Japan shall never defeat her.”
“Never is a long time.”
“Yes, but you do not know Scotland.”
“Ah so. Too far. Dinner, raw fish. You ever have?”
“Yes, I live on an island.”
It was all about sizing each other up. Done now. Food included rice wine, tea, pussy. Tristan
passed on the wine and pussy. As did Thomas.
Morning brought a rainbow: reds, yellows, blues, greens and orange. A Scottish rainbow. To a
Scot Lander it meant good luck.
Mounted now, Suzuki saying goodbye. Tristan dropped the head at his feet, wrapped in a cloth.
“One of your men.”
And rode off.


Chapter あそこ.

The attack occurred at dawn. Men swam upstream and emerged from the river and the posted
guards’ throats were slit. The King of Scotland fired her cannons turning the Portuguese ship into
toothpicks. On ground Tristan swept in from the left erupting from the forest to the clearing with such
ferocity Suzuki's men, except for his samurai, ran, screaming. Thomas, arrows dipped in tar, fired the
flaming arrows. Suzuki's tents exploded, a ball of flames racing, burning, scorching everything in sight.
(The Portuguese had been storing powder in the tents, Tristan discovered later.) Fiery men ran
screaming for the river. Everything that hit the water was met by an arrow. Akio, no strategy, just
fighting the way the Japanese had fought for centuries, led forty-thousand men straight forward to meet
Suzuki’s main force. It was a rout and over almost before it began.
Afterwards, a slow rolling nod as if now knowing what he had blinded himself to earlier, Suzuki
met Tristan’s eyes. “I was wrong.”
“You were.”
Suzuki, “Seppuku.”
“はい,” Akio agreed. It was explained to Tristan.

“Perhaps Tristan San we meet again,” Suzuki.

Studying him for a second. Thomas, as usual good with languages, had picked up a smattering of
Japanese. He answered for Tristan. “ それがほしいと思わない ’ Then translated, “You do not ever
want that.”
“Perhaps.” A tiny bit unsure now.
“No perhaps, General.” Tristan.
No reply.
Much to be done. But right now Akio, already assuming the Shogunate, led Tristan aside, “I
wish to reward you. I will take you to Yamamoto. He is holy man. But not. You will learn, and he.”
Akio left Admiral Ito in command and they left that hour, the battle still warm in Tristan and
Thomas’s thoughts, battle’s blood still wet on their clothes. On the best of days a holy man was the last
person Tristan Thomas wanted to visit, and wanted a hot bath and some rest. But Akio was insistent.
Honor dictated, overriding all. McGregor, who was as honorable as the next highlander, elected to stay
and enjoy the pussy...the bath, well if one came attached to the other fine.
Akio’s conversation bordered on sparse as they rode. The land went from grassy to pebbles to
rocks and graded up for about an hour until they reached a compound of bamboo huts. The huts faced
a cave. Akio introduced them to Yamamoto, a short rotund man, busy white hair and beard. Leaving
Tristan and Thomas out of the conversation, the two exchanged equally orotund rapid Japanese for
several minutes.
After which they watched half amused, as Akio rode away without so much as fare well,
goodbye, have a nice time, kill each other, scale the hill to greater heights. Nothing. They almost
laughed, but Yamamoto who lived in the cave turned milky white eyes on them. “Akio has convinced
me to teach you for two weeks. So I am Yamamoto. I am nobody. You are great warriors. 私を教え

We both harkened back to the time spent with Red Hawk and the Gyta. The long march. The
battles. There had been one tribe who had attacked us while in marching formation. The Sewanee. The
battle had not lasted but ten minutes, maybe even a few less, but fierce minutes where death or life
hung, yes, but more important: how a warrior presented oneself: on both sides. The battle had ended
as suddenly as it had started, leaving us all, the Gyta warriors, the Vikings, and Tristan and myself
exhausted and bloody. I had expected to rest. But no. Red Hawk and Thor had continued marching on
for another six hours. I cannot speak for the others, but I had learned a lesson that day. There are
miles to be covered, both literally and figuratively. Not even battle halted the slow forward march in
life...only death, both figurative and literal. Thomas’ diary.
Taken aback by the sudden shift in the day, they rustled in their saddles for time to think. At last
Thomas freely admitted, “We have nothing to teach,”

Thomas translated as best he could. “Teach nothing?” Perplexed. Both.

“You teach nothing first. Age before beauty,” Tristan.
A hardy belly laugh, “See those students. They are meditating. I sometimes hit them on the
shoulder with a stick to wake them up.”
“If you hit me with a stick I will break it,” Tristan, matter of fact, still unsure here,
‘Very good. Thomas?”
“I am with Tristan.”
Another laugh. “So to save wood, plant flowers. You can plant?”
“We can learn.” Tristan. Having never done so.
So they set about placing plants in dirt in a single row. Their row was even, almost an exact
horizontal line. At sunset, they were called by the dinner bell. Rice. It was food.
After the haughty fare the palatial palace had offered to fill the long days spent walking in the
garden about all a person could utter: rice! But rice was food. Yes food. And it achieved the same as
the palatial dinners at the palace: the rice served to sate us. Thomas’ diary.
Next day more plants. And the next, next, next, next. They worked fast, together devising a
system where Thomas dug, and Tristan placed the plants roots in the dirt. By the fifth day Yamamoto
approached them, “So many plants. We should un-dig them.”
No argument. It was done.
On the eighth day Yamamoto, testing their Japanese, ordered, “私を殺しなさい”

“Kill yourself. I am busy planting.” Tristan informed him, after Thomas had translated. And
continued doing planting.
On the ninth day, Yamamoto, still testing, presented them a puzzle. “神はだれであるか”

One second flat, Thomas, “Me. And you. Everyone is god.”

On day fourteen, he called them to the cave. The students were instructed to meditate facing
them. “These students strive for enlightenment. None will make it. But that is not the point. The journey
is the point. You two do not strive for it, and do not have it, and do not care. You might make it. A few
do. You, Tristan, care only for battle. You, Thomas, care for nothing material and find joy in the
emotional concepts, not the emotional itself. You two do not belong here. I do not know why you are
here. But it is a mistake. The gods made a mistake. They do every now and again. You two are one.
That is as much as I know. Even this conversation bores you. But there is a purpose why you are here.
Mistake, yes, to be used, yes. You two are gods. That is what Red Hawk saw so many years ago, (They
had not mentioned Red Hawk.) And Thor. I would not be you. Ah so, Akio arrives just in time, for my
monologue was running out of strength. Good sailing.”
The students did not move. Akio and Yamamoto spoke at length. At last they rode off, waving at
“He was my instructor as a child.”
“And Alexander had Aristotle,” Tristan.
“Ah so, Tristan san, no understand.”
Tristan explained,
“Ah so. Yes, and I had Yamamoto. When I was young, he was a very hard taskmaster.
“Still is.”
Ah so, I expect so. Not in the sense of the physical, although sure the physical was expected, but
more in the sense of the mental, the thinking: stripping all thought down to it bareness, then stripping
more. I spent two years under his tutorage. Ah so, I apologize for so little time allotted you both.
Perhaps on your next visit. I have a Land and its people to attend to. As do you. So time must for the
moment be compressed, no.”
“Yes.” Thomas.
“I am glad you enjoyed him. Knowledge is a present that never goes away.”
They spent the next few months enjoying Japan, which had much to offer. But their thoughts
often strayed on Yamamoto.

Chapter: end game: 行きなさい.

They ported at Glasgow. The sun was out, but as par for spring, a bit chilly. As the King of
Scotland docked, excitement lived on the dock. The Warriors waited. Towns-people stopped to say, I
was there on.... The Palace Guards stood at attention. The boys earning one pence an hour sat on cargo
instead of working because there was only so much room. Bagpipes moaned pleasure, filling everybody
in wistfulness. Drums beat rolling out a dramatic carpet. Flutes joined, adding tinker-bell sweetness to
the air. Men repeatedly shouted, “Long live the Crown.” The sound a growing crescendo for about ten
minutes now reaching a fervor pitch when the gangplank dropped. Tristan and Thomas emerged. All of
a sudden, sudden silence, as if somebody turned off the sound switch. McLean and a few dozen
warriors, greeting them, explained, “The nobles, they formed a welcoming for Mary. Hereto known as:
Mary Queen of Scots. Mistook you for her, I imagine.”
Tristan had already guessed. Most of the men were peasants who worked for three or four Lords
who disliked him. “Love to disappoint.” Even, no nonsense, in total command.
That unmistakable sound of a sword scraping its sheath in being drawn. Tristan in response, fast,
so very fast now. But he knew, knew it was not fast enough. Still he managed to withdraw his sword
and spin on his heels facing McGregor. Thomas, arrow at ready.... McGregor was a dead man standing,
and knew it. Thomas was always the fastest.
Tristan. “Eight years, huh.” Not a question.
“A bit longer.” Duncan, a weak smile, “I failed to count on Thomas.”
No more music. No more happy shouts. No more...more.
Tristan. “Sorry Thomas. Honor.”
Black silence. Motionless. So, so, so Thomas.
“Thomas. For me.”
The dock so quiet now, the bow’s string so tight you could hear the string giving away, the
tension departing, like a string on a violin breaking. But it was Thomas’s plan all along. Give Tristan
those precious seconds to prepare. He could always kill Duncan after. After all, he had not given an
McGregor touched Tristan’s sword with his own hard enough to spark. “It is done. I promised
my da all those years ago I would not seek vengeance. From here on we are true brothers.”
A far ways back in the past, Tristan hearing Duncan’s father’s words before they had engaged in
battle: Just do as I instructed. Uh huh, that wily old man. Old McGregor and his uncle were a pair. Yes
Every person on the dock desperately needed air as if a starving man food. But there was a
shortage. A ‘breathable’ air shortage.
And that little boy in Africa, he needed also. But that is another story.
Suddenly air supply plentiful. Gasps for air turned into laughter. An ‘Am a breathing man’
laughter. The dock returned to normal. Foremen yelling: G’tk yv laz sbs. People conversed while
waiting for their Queen, yet also aware they were in the presence of a King. A hearty slap on Tristan’s
back, while silently reciting what to say to their Queen. Tristan greeted people, pumping hands. Moving
along the dock. Playing the politician as he had played at king all these years.
Upon breathing, McLean observed changes in both men immediately. These changes were
different from ones observed upon returning from the New World, both at the time still boys; they all
had been, boys waiting their turn at men. It was as if he was their chronicler, having witnessed their
youths march into manhood. They both wore black silk. They had worn silk before but this was tailored
to their bodies. Also, both carried a samurai sword sheathed over their backs. They were hardened men
before, but not sculptured hardened men. Men who, simply by aura, drove other men off the sidewalk
seeking shelter. What Red Hawk had started sculpting, Japan had completed. They were now a work of
art: a fatal disease or a cure... your choice. But the change went much deeper. Thomas. He had known
Thomas for over twenty years. He had not changed much upon returning from Red Hawk’s. But Japan?
He had changed form from every angle. Thomas’s dark eyes telling you right off: no excuses at all. His
gait, far beyond a total economy of movement, every step marked before the next. It was as if Japan had
rebuilt him, returning a new Thomas. Tristan always gaunt, thin, now even thinner. Turn him sideways,
you missed him. But it was the unknown, unknown to those who had not known him since a boy. The
way he carried his carriage, movement almost mystical, eyes, those deep blue goodbye eyes, now were
deeper, bluer, and more penetrating. McGregor, he appeared the same. A love of drink, tall tales and a
self assumed insatiable thirst for pussy. Not just wet the noodle and lightning flash gone. No. Lying
there talking. Laughing. Playful. Embracing pussy and it contents, respecting it, honoring it, fucking it.
Be McGregor.
All took a half second “Tris...” to nowhere.
“Take the men to the island. I shall follow along shortly.
McLean’s beginning protest, Tristan cutting him sharply off, “She is the Queen.”
At the castle, Tristan, McGregor, and McDonald.
“In two days Mary will be queen. But remember you have the power. Do not abuse it. Do not
allow her to do so.”
“Tristan McLeod,” a voice, young, shouted.
The three caught the voice riding a horse. Prince James of England. A lad, eighteen years old,
maybe. Well known as a loudmouth. A lad seeking a reason for life. “Death to heathens.” And just as
swiftly past them. Gone.
Ignore him. Time enough later. Tristan. Conveying it wordlessly.
“Tristan?” Thomas. Saying it all: we should kill him.
“We can take Scotland,” McGregor, “Save a lot of grief down the road.”
“Let him go,” to Thomas, to McGregor. “Yes, I know. But I gave my oath.”
“So she can have her Coronation, afterwards we kill her. Oath kept.”
“Appreciate it. But I have had enough of this king thing.”
To a man, despair went into the castle. Each for a different reason.
Tristan wrote a note for his final day as king. A sparsely written note. He began simply and thus
ended such:
May, 1509. A cold chilly day. Both the people and the weather. The lords are awaiting for your
arrival, Mary Stewart. You will by right passed though birth, be given the title: Queen Mary of
Scotland. I am not a man to dish out advice, especially when it would be ignored anyway. I assume you
hate me, the man who stole the Crown from your father. So be it. Blood for blood. I can only hope you
rule fairly. The council will maintain a balance for a few years, as it should. As for me, at the ripe old
age of forty-three I find myself seeking something so deceptively simple as peace... the island should
offer as much. As for Scotland, the oath uttered all those years ago kept, she is at peace. So ends the
short, maybe not so short, happy, maybe not so much, Kingship of Tristan McLeod, Crown Prince of
the Proud Clan McLeod.
I beg your forgiveness in not attending the Coronation. But you are Catholic, and I a Druid. sure.
Tristan wrote a copy and left it on the throne for her. Thomas’ diary.

Book 7 ½
There be Dragons. xßß

Life continued, as Tristan predicted the Scottish people lived life, Tristan the caretaker,
now a Scot Lander. Mary now the queen. She was loved by all. Such a warm woman. Astute. She,
although herself Catholic, married a Scottish Protestant. The land celebrated. To many, Scotland was
now back to normal. No more of this Highland nonsense. Land levies were raised. But it was only fair.
The nobles, honorable men all, provided food and shelter and safety. Sir Thomas’ diary.

Chapter 1
Writer’s notes. Retirement?

Europe. Old now. Older than the Roman Empire had been before a Caesar to appease a small
segment of the population, decreed Christianity the state’s official religion. (He needed the votes.) Old
enough to really have nothing left to fight over... the land boundaries drawn, pretty much set in stone.
(Although England still maintained France belonged to her.) Old enough to not only produce great
engineers, as the Romans had, but also great artists such as da Vinci (who alone, stood alone, despite
Michelangelo’s superior artist eye.) Old enough now to produce great music, old enough to send its lees
and leavings to a new world and watch them produce wealth and also prove Thomas’s theory: change
peasant and noble, placing one in the other’s place and they become what they had replaced. Old
enough to withstand a great plague which wiped out a third of the population (including King Henry,
who was on his sixth wife yet still no sons) thus opening, since the infrastructure was already in place,
opportunity for many. Old enough to know better. But still far to young to heed better.
Both Tristan and Thomas thought forty-three a good age for retirement. Fifty the norm, that gave
them eight years give or take to enjoy life without old age hampering them. Thomas had endless da
Vinci boxes to sort through, Why da Vinci had chosen him would remain a mystery unless da Vinci
pulled a Jesus and poof, resurrected himself. Not likely. Tristan had his quotes, almost twenty year’s
worth. He also had the island, although McLean oversaw most, there were little things here and there
requiring attention. And Marlow had his imaginations: Viva imagination! Mary also enjoyed their
retirement. She had all her men all the time. A house full who each loved her in his own way. No
woman, queen or peasant, possessed greater riches. She also read and wrote and spoke four languages.
Thomas had spent time here and there teaching her. So had Marlow. So had Tristan. When they
discovered they all had tutored her, they asked the inevitable question, “Which one...” Mary, “Marlow.”
Without hesitation. Late at night snuggled against Thomas, feeling his feeling, desiring his feeling,
whispered, “Cruel to hurt Marlow’s feelings. You, my love.” Plucking the goose, she plucked the final
feather, Tristan. “You of course, Tristan, Thomas, well, j'amour, j'amour!”
Me Amore. Marlow...well.”
Ah, Mary thought, to be French.
All in all retirement a peaceful happy time. Nether one missed the castle or the council. They did
miss a few friends like Duncan, Ion, and several others. But they could always ride in and spend a day
which they did every now and again. Aside from the occasional day trip to Glasgow, they had a sort of
non routine which closely resembled: after breakfast joining McLean and whatever warriors in
practicing for about an hour. Next a bath followed by several hours working at their desks, pausing
every now and again to engage in conversation. Marlow, he rose about lunch and they all sat around
small talking for at least an hour; Mary joined them at this time. After lunch, a ride, to exercise Trouble
and Au revoir, yes, but also to relax, enjoy the island... nothing set in stone. Just shy of a year into
retirement, they, a nice day, went for such a ride and found themselves in woods that perplexed Tristan.
He knew every inch of the island, and these woods were...just no answer. They had not ridden so far as
to, no, what!
“The old man,” Thomas ventured. “More of his nonsense.”
“What nonsense?” the old man. Speaking over, under, atop Thomas, “Tea?”
“Old man,” Tristan, “What in the gods’ name are you doing!” Angry.
“Oh the woods. The forest. Its mine. But I grant you leave to visit.”
“Trickery. Magic. Go to a fair, earn coin, make some kid smile. But I have had enough of you.”
“Tea and a little conversation.” A quiet invite.
“Where are we?”
“Sherwood forest.”
“It is a fable.”
“Course. Dismount and partake tea in a fable.”
We shrugged and dismounted, China cups, sterling silver tea pot and serving tray. Just a few
men enjoying tea in a forest that never really existed. An everyday occurrence...not. Thomas’ diary
“Why do you continue troubling us?” Tristan.
“Maybe I enjoy.”
“Why us?” Thomas.
“Because I am at a loss. I fear the near future, but cannot deny the present.”
“Poet. A poet magician.” Tristan. “Great.”
“No. I am not a magician. I am far more. Far far far more.... I am an ant crawling up a hill to see
what is on the other side only to discover a zillion ants.”
“Why do you fear the future and cannot deny the present?” Thomas, curious.
Ah questions. The very things I seek answers to.”
“As do we all old man,” Tristan.
“What color toad would you like to be? Dark brown, light, perhaps white... an anomaly of
nature, if you will.”
Tristan, a weary hand wave, saying: such an old joke. Saying this while lazily watching Trouble
graze, now a toad. A happy toad, hopping, squawking, almost dancing, a young toad.
“Quite a trick, Magician, “Thomas, not willing to admit he was stunned, “Do such at a fair and
you hang for about a week the crows pecking out your eyes.”
“Bah, I shall turn him back.”
“No,” Tristan shook his head, “Trouble is old. This toad is young. Leave him. He looks happy.
Now, Magician, who are you?”
“Merlin. You might have heard tell of me. Sometimes in conjunction with King Arthur. A fable,
much like said forest.”
Tristan. “Merlin is long dead, old man.”
“You are just dying to be a toad. O’Well. It is a very long story. About five hundred years long.”
Thomas. “The question?”
“Ah yes. I fear the near future because I do not know it, and at present at a loss because I cannot
change it. Which means I must develop a decision based on little knowledge.”
Tristan. “Join the club called man.”
“I rather, well, not.”
“A more simple question. If you are Merlin, then you are five hundred years or so old. Which
either explains your elderly appearance or you are lying.” Thomas theorized. “Why spend eternity in
such an old body?”
“Yes indeed.” A long sigh, one of remembrance, “I stumbled across the spell for immortality
rather late in life. I, ah, a young wizard, and, well pussy distracted me when, well needless to say I
fucked when I should have been studying. Do you really believe I would have chosen such an old body
to spend eternity in?”
“Seems foolish to me,” Thomas foolishly commented.
“Let us say you are Merlin,” Tristan, “what do you want with us?”
“I wish,” pausing to scratch an ear lobe, “I knew. All I know is what that old wizard Odenton
bleated and a little more.”
“You do...”
“Before doth proffer further questions, stand.”
So there they stood, feeling rather awkward. Sherwood forest, they had to confess: a beautiful
forest indeed. Trees miles high, branches lush and thick, ground soft, not hard, shimmering sun shafting
through the trees, wildlife seeming happy by its vibrant songs, including Trouble the frog who joyfully
hopped about...or maybe in anger; difficult to tell with Trouble. Marlin pointed toward the sky, which
for the most part obscured by the trees and branches. But as he pointed, the tree tops themselves
separated apart, exposing the sky, the sun, endless amounts. They both watched, for what, they had no
clue. But they heard Merlin utter a few words and suddenly the sky darkened, no, it troubled, as if
troubled to be troubled, a loud rolling rumble, and the sky itself folded back revealing space. And
dragons. Magnificent in their majestic shimmering coloring. The wings as large and wide as those on a
windmill. They swooped in a loop, diving, playing; hundreds, perhaps thousands. For a mini-second a
dragon eye spotted them, all red, every inch, the eyes snarled and Merlin fell to the earth, the sky once
again obscured by trees and their branches.
Tristan thought: if one of those dragons were let loose the world would shudder, Atlas would not
only shrug, but tremble, and if smart, run. Those were his first thoughts, his next: ‘What was in that
“Just wormwood bark,” Merlin muttered, as if reading his thoughts which were also
Thomas’s...Although the dragons were so beautiful, he considered taking another sip.
What they just witnessed needed a name to it, if only to appease their thoughts. After all, the
unnamable was the most frightening of all.
“Dragons,” Merlin stated the obvious, “Guarding what? A question I have been chasing for five
centuries. You two have paused my quest. The goings on of men, mere men, of no consequence to me.”
“Why us?” Tristan.
“Because that foolish old half wizard Odenton...Him I should have turned into a toad years
ago...was almost correct. You are immortal. Sort of.”
The unexpected answer caused Tristan to blink several times, more a means to regroup his
thoughts than anything else. “How can a man be sort of immortal?” He, feeling foolish, inquired.
“Here it is in an acorn,” which Merlin held in his hand. “Tristan, your Da, Uncle and Mother had
approached Odenton inquiring if there were a Druid spell of immortality. The fool knew he did not
know, but greedily desired the gold offered. So he set in motion an elaborate hoax. Unfortunately, it
went half correct. At your birth, he offered up a newborn baby as sacrifice to the gods; the fool could
have used a goat, but he wanted his half-magic to appear real. And this is where I was drawn
unwillingly into the hoax. I was reading the sky, the reasons are my own, when the air itself
became dangerously static, as if touching it would kill you. I knew right away there was something
amiss. Which flabbergasted me because there had not been a wizard worth his salt for centuries, and
there before me unfolded an immortality spell. So I reacted instead of acting, I reacted without
knowledge of the events unfolding. By the way I am apologizing ahead to you Thomas.”
I really did want to return to the house and my desk. I never wanted anything so badly in my
entire life. Thomas’ diary.
“I did something so very stupid. I countered the spell now take shape before me, sending out one
of my own in the hopes of balancing off the other spell. I dispatched my crow, Poe, to deliver it to the
first newborn near. Poe needed to act swiftly, seconds at best....”
Thomas recited, “And the crow flew in the open window crashing to death against the birthing
woman’s forehead, and died. They both died. As one was born.”
Tristan, concerned, “Thomas!”
“I am fine Tristan. Yes I know the story well. My father called it the devil’s work and I the
devil’s child. He was a very superstitious man. But you said only half worked?”
“Yes. The ancient ones never imagined migration. In the time the old wizards lived in, they,
humans, lived their entire life in the same village. So the spell was ancient, outdated, granting
immortality to the land the child born onto. For you, Tristan, the island only. “
“And me?”
“England only.”
“So you have tracked us all these years, why? Why?” Tristan. Pressing. Hazarding a guess.
“Druidism? Religion?”
“No, Druidism is magic, not religion. Although, I do seek out ancient Druid spell books to learn
new spells. As for religion, the masses require a religion. If there were not gods, it would be necessary
to create one or two just to appease the wad. I traced you all these years to see what I had done. The
gods do not play dice with the universe, an old friend told me such. So there has to be a reason for you
two. Despite Odenton’s greed and my hastiness.”
“The reason is simple,” Tristan angrily tossed out. “The fool wanted gold. You became caught
up in it, admitted so yourself. You were fooled along with my parents and uncle.”
“Perhaps. Thomas, think back, when you were in Pope Innocent’s chamber, you felt something,
“Be so.”
“I was there. Thomas you whispered: carpe diem, so low not even Tristan heard you. Whatever
filled Pope Innocent fled, and fled the moment I entered. I also fled, fled so hard and fast I ended up in
the year 1984, which is as far as I had been able to travel forward in time at that time. Whatever
possessed the Pope... evil.”
“Hold on,” Tristan broke in, ”you travel to the future? Come on now, how dumb do you think
we are. Cut us a break. Vanishing is one thing. Tea out of thin air another. Even showing us dragons,
well, I admit different, but...all those are tricks, magic, explained in some way. I witnessed much as a
child, and held a child’s awe, but as an adult such awe is washed clean by years and years of witnessing
events once thought the longitude and latitude of wizards, now known to be mere superstitiousions ”
“And you Thomas?”
“I am with Tristan. Especially now.”
“We shall continue this discussion. Allow you both time to absorb what you have seen here.
Later. Oh yes Thomas, here.” He pointed at the grass and annoyingly vanishing, forest and all. Even
Trouble was Trouble. But there amongst the lush grass that Au revoir feasted upon lay a sword.
Thomas, furious, shook his fist at what he knew not. “I wish he would not do that.” He picked up
the sword. Gold inlaid lettering: Excalibur. Tristan also noticed. The sword confused Thomas. Swords
were not his forte, but Tristan’s. So he did the natural thing and handed it over. Tristan inspected it. Just
a sword. He handed it back. “Well Arthur, it is yours.” Chuckling, “A very good imitation.”
A moment spent storing Excalibur away aside Au revoir. “You suppose he is who he says?”
“I do, I do not. As for the rest? No. He wants something. What? We will discover in time as we
always have. But it is those dragons. The old maps, always ended: out there be dragons. Up there be
dragons. Or a magical illusion.”
Just wrapping his head around the vanishing act was enough for Thomas and had been for a
while now. The dragons, well, time enough later. Although the red eye... nightmares. Good thing he
slept little. “Can not be. When you strip away the possible you are left with the impossible. Maybe
illusion. Magicians are masters at illusions.”
Tristan. “He knew about Pope Innocent.”
“Yes. I did whisper such. So he can render himself invisible. A neat trick, but a trick. He is a
master magician and if he is who he claims, has had five hundred years to perfect his craft. Give me five
hundred years and I would be perfect at everything.”
“I will investigate those Druid books in my uncle’s library. The answer may lie within.”
“Indeed. Maybe an answer lies in da Vinci’s notes. I will pour though them.”
“Or maybe he is simply an old man.” Tristan.
“Yes. Maybe.”
“Carpe diem,” Tristan.
A grim head shake, “Caesar. He talked too much. That Pope never shut up.”

Chapter 2

A month of weeks since their encounter with the elderly man who called himself Merlin. During
this time they both tackled the mystery from different perspectives. Tristan sailed into a storm, a word
storm, strange words, old, ancient, every tenth word made sense before meaningless words won the day.
Frustration, such as he had never known. He attacked it from a different direction. He spread open the
Druid books and wrote down all the words he knew for sure and nailed them to the wall. He poured
through the books, searching for words repeated many times, deciding these were rejoinders. On the
wall they went. Next on the wall went all the words repeated in a paragraph. He did this methodically,
until words covered the entire wall facing his desk. Also sentences, paragraphs, but maintained in a
reference section format. At last he leaned back in the chair and examined all from a distance. “Okay,
now we will see what brews.”
Frustration brewed.
On the other side of him, Thomas poured through da Vinci’s notes. He discovered one thing
immediately. da Vinci wrote over almost everything, almost each page contained two sets of notes. He
set up a series of oil lamps, four to a row and held a page above, high enough as to not burn or singe,
and had Marlow write what he recited. Marlow sunk himself into the project and both spent long hours
squinting at da Vinci’s scrawl until their eyes itched. At last he too now had a wall of words. Only,
unlike Tristan, he make sense of it all. The problem: da Vinci never once mentioned Merlin. The other
problem: da Vinci was a prolific writer and he and Marlow had only gone through fifty notes. There
were thousands. Would take years. Years for what?
They had not explained what they were doing to Marlow or Mary, seeing no need to frighten
them. Marlow shrugged at Thomas, as if saying: We can continue but. Thomas suggested he return to
his play. He and Tristan went outside to talk.
“We need more info.” Thomas.
“Lots.” Tristan.
Lots meant waiting for Merlin, which could take an hour or twenty years, they both knew. So
they turned their attention to other endeavors. A month was enough time to spend on mere slights of the
hand. From there they pursued different projects. Tristan re-read the entire works of Aristotle, and Plato.
Thomas continued examining da Vinci’s notes, discovering little things at first blush missed. He
marveled at the mind behind the notes. He came across a drawing. The attached note said if built this
would fly. Curious, he enlisted Tristan and McLean and a few warriors and built the design. Marlow
insisted on watching and Mary wheeled him out. The day, the sea tossing wind about as if spare
change, appeared a good omen, or so said Marlow, “The wind, maybe it will grab it and who knows.”
Not wanting to jinx the project by uttering: It will fly.
Because they all knew it would not fly.
They had constructed the contraption out of oak, and it resembled a stiff dead dragon, long
fuselage, wide wings. Which Tristan commented, “If that thing flies...”
They are thought the same.
They and Mclean and several warriors hefted it above their heads and from a good two hundred
yards sprinted to the edge of the cliff and heaved it off into air. Marlow, who sat at the cliff’s edge,
watched it sink like a stone, splintering into a thousand pieces on the rocks below. “Well,” he said,
“Well.” Adding for posterity, “Doth many slivers flay the air, yet none glide it.”
“Never a boring moment,” Mary added, and wheeled Marlow back inside who unfailingly tried
to hide snickering.
Blasé about the project, Thomas returned da Vinci’s notes.
Tristan continued to read philosophy.
And Marlow went on a sonnet writing spree, working on sonnet after sonnet. Yet success, at
least comical and commercial success, continued to elude him, or as the case were: Shakespeare.
Marlow laughed at the critics, finding their comments rather hilarious. He read one such to Thomas.
“Few men, even the head master at my school, scribe so poorly a stray cat refuses its parchment
Shakespeare, on the other quill, sent a scathing letter threatening to write his own material if
Marlow continued to churn out garbage, which propelled Marlow to rage against the man’s lack of
talent, “Garbage.” Crumbling up the letter and tossing it into the hearth, “Garbage.” Flinging his quill at
the wall in front of him, quill bouncing back, striking his forehead. “OUCH (for effect. Mary sat sewing
and grinning, failing to bite.) GARBAGE! I SO DO NOT WRITE GARBAGE! I WRITE FLUFF!”
His last word on the matter. He retrieved the quill and wrote a sonnet. Yonder kitchen
nourishment lay, if per chance...peeking at Mary...You find way yourself. Please tea fetch thee.
Setting sewing aside, she complied happily, poetizing as she went, “If yonder tea hath brawn,
per chance it hath mouth to sip, ears to gurgle, and eyes to drink teas valor.
They were each in their own way happy. The encounter with the man who claimed to be Merlin,
if not forgotten and those dragon’s were difficult to ever forget, they both managed to place it in a place
in their mind reserved for a locked box. Mary managed to juggle a dozen things at the same time,
including learning how to speak Japanese. During which time Marlow furiously wrote sonnets, refusing
to utter a word for months. He lasted a week.
“Ah Mary? Tea?”

Chapter 3

Six months to the day and Merlin appeared. Right in their main room. Bringing his own chair.
Puffing on a pipe, a flower printed shirt and pink shorts, his bandy legs egg shell white. He had dyed
his hair green. Marlow, penning an outline for a new play, came close to experiencing a seizure. The
shock of a man appearing out of nowhere chair and all was so great adrenalin rushed throughout his
body, bringing him straight up for about a second. He managed a half step in a vain attempt to run
before collapsing back down in the chair, hand clutching chest. A Catholic, although lapsed, Marlow
managed to mutter, “An aspiration. A vision. But why a green haired old man?”
“That is Merlin, Marlow. He is a myth and you are dead. You two should get along.” Thomas
“He is real?”
“Almost,” This from Tristan.
“Thank God. I thought I was seeing God. A very strange God.”
“Indeed!” Merlin seemed offended.
At the commotion Mary walked in and inspected Merlin, traveling from his pale legs to his
green hair, muttering, “First a wooden dragon that could not fly, now an old man with green hair. What
is next for entertainment?” She was not really surprised to find an old man there, but a chair? Well a bit
odd. “Tea?” she inquired. I and Maria are going riding.
“All around,” Thomas, thinking it best not to drink Merlin’s tea.
Marlow wheeled over, touched Merlin, just to be sure. “Still,” he muttered, “I think I shall go to
bed. Sleep this one off. Ghosts in my plays are one thing, but in real life. No thanks. Oh Tristan, you
will explain in the morning, no?”
Thomas. “One of us will, Marlow. Goodnight,”
“We have, strange as it may seem, been waiting for you.” Tristan furnished. The statement
matched the chair Merlin had brought, both begging explaining.
“Busy. Very busy.”
“What do you want Merlin?”
“Want. Nothing. Well from you two.”
“And we fail to believe you?”
“Because you are suspicious, paranoid, mistrusting, et al.”
The conversation paused while Mary served the tea, and resumed at her departure out the door.
“Man shows me dragons and I am all that and more,” they both agreed.
“Dragons are nothing. They an illusion...”
Thomas almost screamed out: I knew...!
Cutting him off. “Everything in this room is.”
Tristan. “You are crazy old man.”
“Merlin.” Merlin.
“For sure. But I am given to believe by one who studies such.”
Tristan. “He too is crazy. Touch that chair you brought. No, belay that. Touch the floor. It is
“I cannot explain it. I ask questions and receive answers.”
“So all this is an illusion.”
“Yes. But whatever is beyond those dragons is real. I have managed once to peel back behind
“The force blew me two thousand years in the past. Found myself next to Aristotle. We engaged
in quite a conversation.”
“What was behind those dragons?”
“I will not say.”
Thomas. “I repeat, why us?”
“You both are connected to whatever I am seeking. I failed to realize that until a few years ago.”
“We wait. Patience.”
“Leave the chair.”
“It is a Michael Cone. An original.”
Merlin waved, “Meaningless.”
And disappeared. But the chair remained.
Tristan deadpanned, “What is a Michael Cone?”.
Thomas deadpanned back, “A chair.”
They examined what they knew long into the night. Tossed out all the pieces. Turning Trouble
into a toad. The dragons. Talking to Aristotle. The statement: everything an illusion. Vanishing.
Immortality. Lots of Lamb, no wool, is how Tristan phrased it.
Waiting & time. Funny how they go together. Thomas’ diary.
Chapter 4
Writer’s note: an accurate recounting of the legendary battle at Erger clearing.

While they waited, over a year’s worth, a mistake came to hunt, haunt, and attempt to capture
Tristan. The mistake was Prince James, now twenty-one years of age, and ambitious. Queen Mary,
sickly, sought a King who could replace her. She was Catholic, like James. He figured that was in his
favor. More than a dozen Lords were on his side. The Vatican championed him. The house of Philip
gone, France, although publicly neutral, backed him. But James needed something big, big enough to
enlist the nobles and merchants on the fence to his side. He decided to capture Tristan and present him
to the Vatican, a thing the Vatican beastly did not want... in fact had Prince James consulted the Pope
and cardinals the uniform response would be: McLeod is gone. Let gone be gone.
But he was young, and his first cousin Mary, Queen of England, promised in secret were he to
bring McLeod to justice, The Last Pagan Warrior....
The rest left unsaid to a young mind who filled in the blanks, thus firing his imagination. He saw
himself as King. Ah, King. Had a ring to it. King James. Yes.
“I did not kill him that day. Never give a man a second chance at you.” Tristan, upon learning
the news which was grim. Prince James led a thousand men and was encamped at the border demanding
Tristan McLeod be tried for murder. Scotland had three days to comply.
“A thousand men,” McLean, “The warriors as old as they are can handle them.”
“Easily,” Tristan agreed, “But not their purpose.”
“Watch over the island. Kill anyone who crosses the water leeway. I will ride to the castle.”
“Waste. Most of the nobles hate you. Their moment is here. No help from them.” McLean.
“Not asking.”
Uneasy, McLean followed orders and watched them ride away. He knew the Crown would never
support Tristan. Nor the nobles and there was not enough time to gather the Highlanders. He wondered
what Tristan had in mind.
Which was nothing. He simply went right up to Mary. He noticed the Great Hall was almost
quiet, the commoners gone. The hall reeked of perfume, as if bucketfuls had been splashed on the walls.
The council, in session, greeted him. McGregor stood at his side. McDonald followed suit. The other
Highlanders on the council did likewise. Queen Mary sitting high and mighty on the throne addressed
him, “You come begging McLeod.” First time he had heard her speak. A tiny voice, no iron in it, a
girl’s voice, a fuck, a throwaway fuck.
“I came,” moving closer to her, “to inform you never allow the English on your border. It is an
act of war. I shall handle the matter. Once. After that I will kill you. Is there any part of that you do not
Ashen, speechless. A Queen alone, only acting her role.
Outside now, McGregor and the other Highlanders. To McDonald, “Ride, gather a force, about 2
thousand. You others stay here, handle the council.”
But McGregor would not be denied. He rode along, and when almost at the border inquired,
“Tristan, what is the plan?”
“Not a clue,” he confessed.
Well just what he did not want to hear, and about to voice as much when he noticed Thomas
wearing a sword, “A sword, Thomas?”
“Yes, right, sure, and I am king Arthur. And...” Distracted now by the sight of a thousand men
lined up in a row, each holding a Musket. A little surprised James’ men carried Muskets and not swords.
Tristan paused less than a 100 hundred yards from the men and waited, reining Trouble. The
wait, short as Prince James’ mount pranced out to greet them. To, no doubt, accept Tristan’s surrender.
To die, Tristan thought.
Legends have been written about this battle. Marlow/Shakespeare wrote about it. Almost the
entire population of Europe swore they were present. The battle did not need lyrical breeding as the
years flew bye, mythically bred it all by itself. Prince James, all the youthful arrogance of an
Alexander, but none of his skill, spoke first. Only four men were there to hear the words, counting
“Tristan, Sir Thomas, McGregor.”
“Before you begin,” Tristan interrupting, “I have a question for you when you are finished.”
“Fine. You are my prisoner. I will escort you to the Vatican for trial. I personally vouch for your
“You guarantee,” McGregor angry, “Why...”
But James droned on, terms so on, only wanted Tristan so on, If Tristan a man so on. So. So. So.
S. S. S. So many S’s that Tristan thought: If I had a pence for every S.
And Thomas half listened while studying the sky. The sun had shone brightly a few minutes
ago. Now the sky, dark, stormy, loud thunderclaps careened. Curious, he withdrew Excalibur, which
startled Prince James who had paused, waiting for Tristan to surrender. Thomas heard Tristan say, ”My
question is this. How do you intend to get off the field alive?”
“This is a field of honor,” in disbelief. After all, the pence stories about knights said so.
“You have read to many pence novels. This is a field of war. A field of honor is two men facing
off, or maybe a dozen at most.”
Right then Thomas heaved Excalibur high in the air. They were all mesmerized by its assent.
Excalibur twirled up and up, up, up, up, up....higher until...
“Impossible,” James mumbled.
...a speck in the stormy sky. Lighting screamed across the sky as a thunderbolt struck Excalibur
which sparked a brilliant neon azure streak that raced downward on an elasticizing angle, striking a
single man holding a rifle, the strike setting off a chain reaction, the neon azures brilliance dancing
from rifle to rifle until every man went down, screaming, some dying, others stunned, yet others
severely burned. The horses acted accordingly. Badly frightened, they reared straight up on hind legs
like an up-right man. Tristan barely managed to hang on. Thomas had Au revoir under control.
McGregor slid off and lay splayed on the ground. Prince James lost his mount and was kneeling,
praying. “Please God, grace your humble servant, a horse, a horse is all I ask. My future kingdom for a
A shadow darkened. “Your god is not listening.”
James screamed visions of brave knights. He died in tears.
Mary and twelve nobles flanking arrived minutes later. Surveying the carnage, she proclaimed to
one and all. “Jesus, Our Savior.”
Tristan. “No Merlin,” and prodded Trouble toward the island.
McGregor grinned at her, a ‘I can not wait to kill you’ grin. And followed Tristan and Thomas,
Thomas pausing to retrieve Excalibur.
The rumors began circulating. We retired to the Island, paying none any mind. Our task
completed. Thomas’ diary.

Book 7 99/99
The Mona Lisa Chapters.
Chapter Mon
Writer’s notes: An unblemished account of the Mona Lisa.

I have discovered that the task of writing to be a most peculiar task indeed and the most difficult
task I had ever undertaken. Thomas’ diary.
For months there after, Thomas worked studiously on da Vinci’s notes, so much so some nights
Mary took to rubbing his cramped fingers, leaving to ponder how Marlow managed to write eight
hours a day, day in day out. As usual, he felt the Mona Lisa weigh on him. Years had passed, and he
still had not had it copied. Mostly because he had no idea what to do. The only artists he briefly knew
were portrait artists, not artists per say, and the Mona Lisa was a da Vinci. He often complained, and did
so now, “Why does da Vinci want that damn picture copied anyway?”
Marlow, adding the finishing touches to Richard, the Third always muttered, “Because there is a
picture under it.” But tonight he lay the quill down and gave Thomas a pitiful head shake.
Unsure if the ‘pitiful’ was for him or because Marlow felt dejected, which he often did when
finishing a work, he exclaimed, “What?”
“You are completely illiterate concerning art, art you. (notice that play on words there, huh huh,
did you, he jived.) An old starving artist trick is to wash over a canvas, thus able to use the canvas
again. Since da Vinci was not starving, then whatever is underneath he wanted to hide it. Perhaps, well,
could be a controversial picture involving the Vatican. They always differed. Sometimes to the point of
Thomas had engaged in this meaningless conversation far too many times for his taste. So
tonight he retrieved the Mona Lisa out. Over the years the Mona Lisa had been sort of discarded and
buried under stuff, clothes, rags, stuff. He spent a good twenty minutes digging it out. Once out, he held
it up to the light. Nothing. Except that perplexing smile as if she knew something you needed to know.
“Thomas, the canvas is washed over. You can not discern in such a way. Have you never been
around artists?”
“Give me.”
Taking a small pocket dagger from a drawer in his desk, Marlow chose a corner and gently
scrapped. They were all interested now, not just Thomas, and all watched on. Anticipating? Mary had
no idea. Tristan hoped it was a scene involving the Dominicans torturing people. Marlow worked at it
for a solid ten minutes before muttering, “Ah hah!” Aside from that perplexing smile, they each failed
to discern a thing. “Look,” Marlow encouraged. Nope, they each said, nothing. “See, look!” Ah, they
murmured, yes there... a tip of what resembled a finger, or?
“Who is it?” Thomas.
Marlow, “You would have to scrape away at least a good 25 percent to discover that.”
Da Vinci had left instructions. Thomas felt honor bound to follow them. “We will never know.”
Marlow, “Thomas. I am curious now.”.
“Curiosity killed the cat.”
“You just make that up?” Marlow playing.
“Sure. Cats are always getting into things.”
“Thomas, I am not a cat. A playwright. Which is similar since both mine their curiosity. The cat
to catch the mouse. The playwright to catch the rats, the audience. There is a forger in Edinburgh. The
best, so I heard. I better send for him before duty gets a grip on your better angels.”
What better angels? Thomas thought.
I consented, despite misgivings. I consoled myself or maybe justified is a better word, by telling
myself the painting would be destroyed and its destruction Leonardo’s only stated wish. I remain torn
to this day. Thomas’ diary.
Tristan dispatched a warrior to retrieve the art forger who returned, not one but two. And not a
man but women. One a strikingly beautiful woman in the classic sense, in her thirties, Clair, English.
The other a dark haired, eyed girl about eighteen, Daniela, still too young to be beautiful but cute, pixie
like. Also English. To get acquainted and break the ice, they, over tea and sweet bread, discussed art. A
subject both Thomas and Tristan and Mary admitted knowing little about.
”Thomas’s and Tristan’s lone weakness,” joked Marlow who had introduced himself as ‘Lord
Earl.” A play on words. Both signifying titles.
To say Clair and Daniela were honored to be in Tristan’s and Thomas’s house would be an
understatement. But both woman held back fawning or saying, gosh, gee, The Last Pagan Warrior.
Much to their credit. Clair did inquire as to how Lord Earl had met them.
Marlow had a blanket over his legs to hide the disfigurement that had over the years set in. “I
was riding through these parts one summer about, oh twenty years ago. My horse, ghastly beast,
stumbled, and by sheer chance both were riding past. Lucky me. I say lucky me over and over, for at
precisely that moment my mount panicked and started what to me seemed eternity slipping off the cliff
into Dante’s inferno. Thomas, splendid, reacted... a second spending eternity’s purse, and just as said
ghastly beast slid over, grabbed an out-stretched hand and sought me freedom’s way. Tristan, glory
personified, rescued us both. I fell in love. And have stayed so forever.” Straying far from the truth, but
a truth.
The story enthralled Clair and Daniela, and they sat transfixed on the chair’s edge. They sat that
way a good ten minutes before Clair coughed lightly into a closed fist, “Lord Earl, you are a wonderful
spinner of pence stories.”
“Yes, I dare say I spin a yarn or two every now and again. But enough of me. Thomas requires
your services, or one of you.”
“Yes Clair,” Thomas, “Any woman who can outwit Lord Earl. Well let us see. We can always
change horses in mid-stream. A gold piece sufficient?”
“I feel I could hold out for more but I fear your anger in such matters already, not the gold, but
the fairness. Besides, a gold coin is very generous. And after all, we are copying a da Vinci. But I want
to stay and see what is underneath. Deal?”
Thomas. “Sure,”
Tristan. “So you grew up.” A statement.
Only Daniela had heard him speak. Thomas had already known, and ignored them. Clair and
Marlow and Mary were doing busy work, planning on how to proceed as if planning a military
campaign... not too far a stretch, as copying an original, as Clair pointed out, was more difficult than
painting from scratch because every little detail, even what may appear an almost invisible dirt speck,
but in reality a piece of the painting, had to be spotted for what it was. So they examined the original,
Marlow jotting down notes, completely unaware of the scene playing out between Tristan and Daniela.
But in truth, the others failed to exist for them.
A person can hide even when surrounded by others in a small space, or crowded together. Such
it were that day. Attention is everything. And often times nowhere in one’s self. Thomas’ diary.
“I was what, 9. How could you.” Not a question, more amazement.
Tristan, “The,”
“Eyes,” Thomas, not bothering to glance up from what he was doing. “The person living there-
And their chatter encircled them, and them only, while everybody else continued preparing for
the task, anticipating what lay underneath.
Tristan led Daniela outside.

Chapter a
Writer’s notes: An accurate recounting of the conversation between Daniela and Tristan.

“It was the priest. You do know. The Vatican, starving us.”
“We thought. We thought. Oh.” Now all blustery, hands catching at air, grasping it for a second,
the next... poof, gone. ”Hundreds of us. All to see the one man who could save us. The Last Pagan
“You are...” Tristan stopped speaking.
“You are tongue tied.” Daniela.
“So appears.”
“The Last Pagan Warrior.”
“Has his moments. What did you do with the gold piece?”
“I hid it.” She paused, and stared in him, “I had nine brothers and sisters and your words echoed
a truism. Besides, one coin, twelve people. The coin would not have gone very far. An extra slice of
bread each, a sweet... and that is if Da allowed. So I hid it. Then at sixteen left.”
Tristan: or maybe your da could have bought his land. Or drank it, or lost it gambling. Or
maybes are so endlessly tiring. “And became an artist?”
“You disapprove?”
“Not at all. Far better than a doctor or a lawyer. An artist is as honorable a profession as there is.
More so because he works on hope. Where even a, never mind a barrister, a clerk receives a pay
envelope. But I have troubled your story. Continue. You became an artist.”
“Oh not at first. Many men used me. Or perhaps I used them. A night’s lodging for a fuck. Fair
trade.” The last a question.
“Only you can answer such.”
“It is. But it should not have to be.”
“Hung at twenty.” Joking.
She laughed. Real. Clean. “I am no radical. I did always want to see you again.”
“Oh!” flustered again.
“Kindness is its own reward, Daniela.”
“Still.” Wanting to badly.
“You are welcome.”
“Thank.” Crying now.
“We better return otherwise your Clair will think I am beating you.”
Arm in arm, strolling step for step, matching smile for smile.

Chapter lisa

Over the days, Clair copied the Mona Lisa. Daniela painted. Flowers, trees and sketched the
house and the grounds and each of them. Tristan watched every now and again. Evenings they all
strolled hand, enjoying the island. Marlow sometimes wheeled along, Mary or Thomas taking turns
pushing the chair. Mostly they talked art and Thomas and Tristan and Mary and even Marlow learned a
great deal about the colors, their mixing, different ingredients used, etc. Clair insisting that Daniela had
talent. She, Clair, her skill lay in copying. At night Clair and Daniela slept in Tristan’s room. On the
fourth day Clair screamed delightfully: FINISHED! All rushed to see. Side by side the two paintings
could not be told apart. The copy finished, Thomas hung it to dry. A few days later he wrapped the
Mona Lisa and dispatched to France where the French hung it in their new museum for art: the Louvre.
Marlow had set to work, scraping gently as to not disturb whatever lay underneath. He spent a
week scraping, working mostly in his bedroom. He also screamed: finished. Everybody crowded into
his room. He smiled as he showed them the painting: A portrait of a much younger Thomas...nude. His
cock elongated and wrapped around his left thigh. Written in Latin on the bottom read: YUM.
Clair said, “YUM!” More a question.
But Mary said it best: YUMMY I HAVE LOVE IN MY PUSSY. And blushed. She was French
after all.
For the second time Tristan saw Thomas blush. (He also was French). He was happy for him.
For the first time the word ‘love’ had been spoken in the house. Tristan honored that.
That night they held a bonfire and burned the painting.
I felt the fire served duty. Thomas’ diary.

Book 8
The God Chapters: Part I
Chapter Merlin.
Writer’s notes: Merlin.

But all that happened weeks ago. They were admittedly growing a bit bored when Merlin
popped right into the Michael Cone leather chair he had left behind. Marlow felt a little twitch, no more.
Tristan had long ago explained the trick to him, saying: a magician, tricks, explainable, just not by him.
Marlow accepted this and had decided to use it in what he referred to as: the Witches’ play.
“Hello everyone.” Merlin cheerfully greeted.
They had agreed to ignore him and everyone did so, including Mary who felt bad ignoring an
old man. Which angered him. After all he was the wizard of wizards. “It is best never to anger a wizard,
for they are quick to take action,” He warned.
His warning caught nobody.
“I will tell you a well-kept secret.” He teased
“You have a minute,” Tristan, curiosity catching him.
“Those dragons?”
“What dragons!” Marlow. Hand at racing heart.
Tristan, “Later.”
“The collective energy, all, every human on the planet blocks them from entering the sky.”
Thomas. “Merlin, that is lame.”
“So said da Vinci. It is in those papers somewhere.”
Asking for a minute, taking twenty, Thomas came across the paper in question. It read: “I am of
the opinion that every fable, myth, is based in reality, not on. As man evolves, the reality changes. Man
himself blocks out the old reality and inserts in its place a new one. Therefore everything we see is an
illusion. I have conducted experiments but so far have remained unsuccessful. I remain optimistic.”
Under that was a drawing: a dragon.
“I also remain unconvinced,” Thomas.
“As do I,” Merlin granted. “So an experiment. Outside.”
“Help me wheel out.” Marlow.
Merlin, “Sorry but this is dangerous. You must stay. Respectfully.”
Pouting. But he took it well. He threw a quill at Merlin who waved a hand. The quill disappeared
in mid-air.
“My favorite quill!” He cried.
Chapter: Dragons. And?

The night sky clear, cloudless and bearing a ten pence moon. Merlin spent an hour choosing the
right tree, as if any old tree would not do. At last from his lips: “AH! The perfect tree.” Hmm, thought
Tristan. The tree, the only one in a large open field away from the sea, although the crashing of waves
still resonated. An old large elm, its thick trunk gnarled and twisted, snake-like roots crawling across the
ground ever reaching outward, all in all configured as if a mad designer created it.
“I have a confession. I did not give you Excalibur to defeat James. Bah, him and humans in
general. I seek a single answer. To that end, we will use Excalibur. I have no idea its powers. Some yes,
but there extent, none. My plan, tie you two to the tree. I will fold back the sky. You both will grasp
Excalibur and direct its power upward toward the dragons and beyond. Hopefully we will open what is
beyond. Perhaps there lies what religions have failed to explain. This will only last a second if that. And
we may all die. You game?”
Sure why not, if only to see how real Merlin was.
Merlin conjured up a heavily knotted rope and wrapped the rope around both their waists, then
double wrapped the rope around the tree, then drove a stake into the earth and anchored them to the
stack. They held Excalibur up, arms outstretched. Both waiting, feeling a bit foolish. Merlin uttered a
few words, six by Thomas’ count, and the sky opened, no that is incorrect, the sky peeled as if peeling
an orange, exposing dragons who took no notice of them such delight they took in their flight; loops,
backward flips, side-roles. As the dragons played, Excalibur began to glow the same neon azure as on
the battle-field. Merlin, in himself, not paying the least bit of attention to them, chanted in a language
unknown to them. More like tongues, Thomas thought. As he pondered, suddenly the rip in the
blackness above the dragons opened, exposing a clear view of beyond: a young man his back to them
facing an elderly man. They were arguing; that much evident by their bodies’ angry movements. For
Thomas and Tristan the force, holding Excalibur, too much, dangerously close to ripping from their
grasp, forcing Thomas to holler, “Excalibur is slipping.”
As if heard, the elderly man glanced down at them and the entire tree uprooted and went flying.
Merlin desperately chanted, knowing the rip had to be closed, otherwise dragons would be unleashed.
Milliseconds counted. He could feel himself almost collapsing. Had to hurry now. The rip sealed. The
moon lit the land. All was well, but Merlin was drained. No magic left in him. He fell back, embracing
earth in a faint.
Some time later, and how much anybody’s guess, Tristan and Thomas shook Merlin, who
startled to consciousness. They too had been unconscious for a time and how much was anybody’s
guess. “You both saw?” Merlin’s first utterance.
“An elderly man and a young man,” Thomas oath witnessed.
“You saw!”
“We saw raw power, Merlin. Almost like Atlas shrugged.” Tristan oathed.
“You saw.”
“We saw the end of the universe.” Thomas did not deny.
“You saw.”
“We saw time stand still.” Tristan foretold.
“You saw Tristan!”
“No!” Both defiant in their denouncement.
Deflated from inside, Merlin slumped down, only to be livened by a presence bringing him
upright. “Expose yourself!” He commanded.
In the silvery moon-light slowly a man marbleized until all of him stood there. He resembled
the frozen man they had stumbled across on Thunder Road all those years ago. A very high forehead
that cowed over the eyes, ears not coming to a point but close, and even through the clothes, mounds of
hair were evident. The arms were unusually long, matching very long fingers. When he moved, muscles
flexed, rippling along his entire body, as if a big cat.
“So it is you,” Merlin, drawing on a picture in his head
“I is I.”
“A Neanderthal.” Merlin named.
“What is that?” The man inquired.
Not knowing told Merlin a great deal, “Never mind. What do you call yourself?”
“Many names over the years. Originally, God.”
Tristan and Thomas, a leery nod at what they considered to be an old joke: God. Right.
Merlin. “How many years old?”
“Thirty thousand.”
Way, way, way out there, both Tristan and Thomas thought.
To Tristan. “I possess something you want.”
“I want nothing.” Tristan, confused yes, but in command.
“Except knowing.”
“You keep glancing at Excalibur.” Thomas, who tracked the man’s every glance, movement.
“Yes. Its power is unknown.”
Merlin. “You are the last?”
“Yes. Humans hunted us for food. We were vegetable eaters. I was toying with becoming
invisible when they struck our little gathering. They slaughtered all, including my woman and child.
They were vicious.”
Tristan. “The strong survive.”
“The vicious survive.”
Merlin. “You want something?”
“Everybody wants something. Let us go inside out of the wind. There is nothing to fear. You are
Merlin and you, Thomas, hold Excalibur.”
The front room empty. Very late. Marlow and Mary in bed sleeping. Merlin offered to serve tea,
and as if a showman, an ‘over the top’ performance out of it, which involved ten minutes of muttering
before the tray and tea appeared. God smiled, as if he had seen it all before. And probably had.
“So what do you want, God?” Tristan. “Or whatever your name is and whoever you really are.
First Merlin, and his little magic tricks, now you... own a circus do you?” The last not a question but
testing, the man’s temper, or lack of, which in itself told something about him.
“Permit me to explain a little. As I already stated. I am thirty thousand years old....”
“Hold on,” Thomas declared, “Stop. Stop all this ‘thirty thousand years old’ and ‘five hundred
years old.’ You two want something from us. What? We possess nothing you could not possibly obtain.
So what? Hmm? Why us?”
Tristan had rarely seen Thomas so animated and so speakeasy. He, amused, chimed in. “I am
with Thomas.”
“Allow me a few minutes and we may arrive at those questions answered,” God responded. He
waited a second, checking each before continuing, “Fine. I am from a different tribe than you. My
name, God, a common name amongst my people. Although an inside joke on man, the name holds a
certain panache today, would you not agree. That much is obvious. Also you both know I am not lying
about springing from a different tribe, as you two were present when one of my tribe was brought down
from the Italian Alps. So may I continue.” Seeing no objections, he went on, “We were more peaceful, I
am not inferring anything, merely stating events. We never even argued. I suppose anger, uh, not part of
us.” A soft smile fell over the harshness of his features. ”Seems odd to say out loud after all this time.”
blushing. “People had disagreements. But we shrugged them off, one or both sometimes shouldering the
blame.” Talking now as if talking to his wife, “Learning from it.” A wistfulness in his eyes. “Humans,
as I said, savage. We were easy game, unlike other game who tended to eat them. You would be very
surprised at the large cats and other animals around then. None of us, Humans or other tribes, were a
match for our environment. Over the years I have always found it incredible Humans survived at all; but
I suppose, in retrospect dining on my race kept them going. Yes, kept them from, from... extinction! As
I look around me, their extinction would have been a far better ending for both my tribe and the earth
itself. Have you taken a really good look around you? Your race’s viciousness. Your race’s use of the
planet, as if it were their very own garbage dump. No, extinction! Best for all.” A coldness here in
remembrance. ”So very possible back then. You should bear in mind, both races were few compared to
today... a, less, less than five thousand each. Plus there were other tribes, several in fact. They died out,
or were probably hunted out also.” Stated as if stating a certainly. “That, a, that is all of it. My people.
As for what I go home. I am tired. Merlin can create such. He has solved time travel. Merlin
probably has already explained to you how every tribe practiced sorcery, wizards, voodoo, shaman,
witch doctors, others. I was the tribe Eibib, which is similar to a wizard. Talk it over. Think about it.
Like I said. I have a few things to trade. You, Merlin, the ability to enter a human’s mind, You, Tristan,
how Christianity began. You, Thomas, who you are. Think it over. We can help each other. I will return
in a few days.”
The air where he sat swirled dust. Gone.
Thomas. “I must ask. How do you two do that?”
“Time, space, it is almost transparent, almost. You have to know where to look, then slide in. It
is all around you.”
“An entire race gone, wiped out. That is cold.” Tristan, thoughts nails.
“I agree.” Thomas. “Remind me to ask where God, or whatever, lived? What part of the world.
Funny he should choose that name.”
“Does it...” Tristan.
“Not now. I have to go. I realize it annoys you Thomas. TOO BAD!” and gone before Thomas
could respond.
“Joke is on Merlin, I am too stunned by the past few hours to be annoyed.”
“Mmm.” Tristan responded, “Add all this to our growing list. Immortal men, one thirty
thousand, time travel, taking over another’s body, and on and on and also we are immortal if we stay in
Scotland and England.”
“If you stay on the island.”
”Right, my island, my dungeon. Well. Thomas, we either believe it all or none. One thing
leaning toward believing is God was an exact twin for that man encased in ice all those years ago. He
certainly is not human, or if so a circus freak. Pay a pence, watch the hairy man rip a sheep apart.”
More and more the evidence leaned to both telling the truth or a version of it. Which, either
way, strained belief’s bounds. No. Shattered them. I am convinced that only our extensive travels
shielded us from burning both at the stake. Thomas’ diary.

Book 8 ½ God Chapters II

It is the gods who should be in fear, not man,
For I am convinced, for, for man to survive, the gods must perish.
Thomas’ diary.
Chapter Elizabeth.
Writer’s notes: A true recounting of Tristan’s first meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

Night, an enemy refusing both of them sleep. Several times Tristan stepped outside and sought
Thomas’s advice, only to return to his bedroom and stare at the ceiling, thinking. At last around dawn
he drifted off and awoke some hours later to a sea-gull perched on the window-sill. He stared at it for a
few minutes before hearing McGregor shout at the door. He also smelled hot cross bun’s cooking in the
kitchen. The moment he rolled out of bed, the sea-gull darted up and away...its flight momentarily
filling the sky outside the window. He went to answer the door but Thomas had already let a very
cheerful McGregor in.
Two hot cross buns later, married to three very hot teas, and McGregor was filled enough to
explain what he was doing there. “I was bored. And so brought the news myself. Elizabeth is Queen of
England. Mary died. I fail to see where that changes anything.”
‘As do I,” Tristan, “I know little about her. But she is Protestant. Which means England will
have Spanish at their eyes. Which also means England leaves Scotland alone. So all in all a good move.
Our Queen Mary will need to adjust, but she is young.”
“Young enough to be with child.”
“Already. She is a child.”
McGregor. “A fuckable child.”
Thomas. “Twenty, twenty-one, around there.. More than fuckable. The mind of eight. Less than
“Be all true. But I was thinking we all ride into London. Me wife, lovely lass, who I still fuck
twice a day, needs a break from me. So how about it. You can welcome the new Queen. I doubt Queen
Mary will. They cousins or something.”
“Something,“ Tristan in thought. “There are, or were four: Mary, Mary, Jane, Elizabeth.
Cousins, half-sisters I think. Not sure. Henry killed four wives, or five, six even. Before dying sonless. I
forget. I am surprised Mary appointed Elizabeth queen, Mary Catholic, the other Protestant. The nobles,
I am sure, forced her. All that coin.”
“And you killed James, forcing her to chose quickly, as she was dying.”
“There is that.”
“Why not. Good day for it.” Thomas to Duncan. “After last night we could use the distraction.”
“I could.” Tristan.
Duncan, “What happened last night?” curious.
“Bad moon,” Tristan, “falling.”
Morning dew covered the grass. They traveled at a leisurely pace. From the quiet, the island to
the country, they all too quickly arrived in London, is usual noisily hustling, dirty, stank of rotten
garbage and human waste, self. McGregor mentioned he had a woman to see. Of course, Tristan
thought and continued to the Palace, the area clean, smelled like flowers. Two men-at-arms in full dress
uniforms standing at attention at the Palace gates. Something new, Tristan thought. When Henry or
Edwards were king, there was always a casual atmosphere. One of the guards, a Lt. Fallen greeted them,
“I am of the Queen’s guards. Who should I say is calling?”
“Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.”
The Lt. was young, about 20, and Tristan noticed his eyes jump at the mention of his name, and
could not resist a little tickle smile while thinking about Thor. The young. So easily impressed. So
easy to read. He seemed to recall Thor saying much the same about twenty something years ago. Oh
A few minutes later, the Lt. ushered them to the queen’s drawing room. Tea was at ready. Queen
Elizabeth, wearing a French hood dress, greeted, first Tristan followed by Thomas. She was so
stunningly beautiful, petite to a joyful-fault, barely touching five feet, long kissable neck, both sides of
face met at a tiny chin. Tristan could easily imagine slipping that silly dress off her. And silly it was.
Closed at the neck, wale boned looped at the floor. Silk Monarch butterflies embroidered from the
shoulder up, giving the appearance: flying butterflies. From the neck down azure blue, silk. All in all
designed to please the eye.
Then there was the broach. Used to clasp the folds joined across her neckline. It raised a soft
remembrance smile upon Tristan’s lips. All those years ago. Her hands touched it. “I had imagined a
much taller man, by about ten feet. Disappointing.” Playfully spoken.
“Always,” Tristan in his gravely whisper. “happy to disappoint rumors.” Playing right back.
“Oh sit!” Flustered.
“In finishing school,” Thomas, “they failed to teach you manners like: please.”
“I flunked finishing school Sir Thomas, the only class I flocked, I fluked.” Red faced now.
“Fluked?” Tristan, teasing.
Now they all laughed at her miscue and sat. The tea cart arrived. Elizabeth herself poured the
tea. “Milk?”
“No. An English custom.”
“Ah. Yes. So, Tristan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.”
“Yes, Elizabeth.”
“I i i i i i i...” a giggle, a hand covered her mouth, she spoke though fingers, ”I am pleased to
make your acquaintance.”
The impeccable Thomas nod. “Likewise for both of us.” Tristan.
“Yes,” she removed the hand, “A confession may explain my actions. I have been waiting my
whole life to meet you two.”
“That is quite a long wait considering you are, what, 20, 21, and I am 44,” Tristan could not
resist temptation and pantomimed his words by swatting at the air.
A giggle. “True. But young years are impressionable years, thus waiting for anything of want
long indeed.
“Well said.”
“Is Sir Thomas sleeping?”
“You should ask Thomas. Not I. We have this belief that information should be obtained first
hand, not second, or third or gods forbid fourth.”
Elizabeth, “But he could be sleeping,” in a whisper.
“Yes he could be,” Thomas, speaking of himself in the second person, “but he, being Thomas,
is not.”
“An apology. He he he. It is Sir Thomas. And you were not sleeping. I shall not make that
mistake again. To sleep as a guest is rude. Sir Thomas, so far I do not find you a rude man.”
“Thank you.” Back to eyes closed, feet out. “But give me time.”
“As you were saying,” a whisper, “I am whispering. So silly. As I said: years... well, I already
uttered. So to continue, now I have met you both.”
“But we disappoint. We are not nineteen feet tall.”
“To a seven year old girl you are. I would hide beneath the dining table and listen to the big
people talk. Always they talked about you and Thomas. Had it just been once, I would as a child have
forgotten. But at every dinner event or ball. Some new tale or adventure, or nasty business, or threat
against the nobles and royals. You both became my heroes because I had no other playmates but the
servants. You see, I created in my mind how you resembled, talked, walked, et al. We sailed the seas,
we did, fighting all who stood in our way and there were many... of course all battles resulted in victory.
Although close calls, my, MY, MY... some were close. My full confession.”
“I am honored to be of service to what must have been a sweet girl. I only hope I lived up to
“Oh my, yes!”
“I am going to look around,” Thomas, standing.
“The Ghost. Do not harm my guards. They are such sweet young men.”
“They should be ‘ready to kill’ young men. So maybe I will kill one just to show them how it is
Elizabeth, ‘b...” he was gone. “Will he?”
“Ask him.”
”I forget,” hand covering mouth, giggling.
Searching for conversation now, ah yes, her half sister, Mary. “How is Queen Mary?”
“I have no clue.”
Pausing, blushing, as Tristan traced a finger around the outline of her right breast. He pressed a
palm against the broach. “Sorry but I am no anti-hero.”
And stood.
“But you shall return.”
“O’yes. I find you delightful. I am certain my bad intentions shall trample my good intentions.
After all, there are no hundred percent anti-heroes. Only heroes laying in the minds of the young.”
A few hours later, they hunted down McGregor and headed into the impending night and drifted
home. No hurry. Dark, chilly, yet joyful mood, laughing loudly between themselves, suddenly ahead
roadmen blocking their way demanded their coin. Hilarious. They laughed harder and continued on...
not noticing the perplexed puzzled frown on the bandits’ faces.
At home on the island they found Merlin enchanting Mary and Marlow. Merlin had served up
dinner, roast duck, potatoes, and cherry pie. Merlin also cleaned the plates; they vanished. On the way
to bed Mary tossed out, “Wish I could do that.”

Chapter: The Last Neanderthal.

An hour’s lateness is told by its inherent conventions: A drunk has drank for hours and speaks
loud, and boasts; this is usually a late hour. Women sigh at day’s ending hour, tired, ready for bed
where for some one last chore awaits, for others the last chore a reward for the long hard day; both
husband and wife enjoying the candy. Two men plotting treason know no hour, just fear. Three men
attempting to unravel a thirty thousand year old mystery...they knock on the dusk to dawn hour. Merlin,
Thomas, Tristan were attempting the latter, while McGregor snored on the floor next to the fireplace .
Mary and Marlow were respectfully in their bedrooms, or bedroom as this night Mary slept with
Marlow, held him, comforted him. And he her. Marlow had once joked to Thomas that if he had a
useable cock, Thomas would have competition. Thomas smiled a cryptic sentence, フランス語ではな
い, in Japanese. Marlow cried foul, then ordered a Japanese dictionary from Japan.
It had yet to arrive.

Merlin. “For the umpteenth time, for the sake of the argument, say you two believe all this. Is
God for real? Telling the truth?”
“You are the wizard, what do you think?” Thomas questioned.
“I do not need to enter a man’s mind.” Head shaking for emphasis.
“Not what I asked.”
“I know. I tend to believe him. thirty thousand years. A long time. He is tired. Wants to go
Yes and what was he doing in Pope Innocent’s mind, Thomas did not say.
Tristan. “Thirty thousand years is forever, believe me. ”
“You have no idea. Five hundred years is a long time.”
“So say ‘God’ three times and maybe he will appear.” Thomas instructed.
“Or even once,” God joked. And sat. “Studying the air itself now are you?”
“Yes. Where did your clan live?”
“My race began in Africa. Died out in what is now Portugal.”
”How many in a tribe?”
“Remember, this is a trade.”
“I do. And I remember half truths. You see, whatever your name is, we live with a playwright.
Sometimes we act out a scene or two. You gave a fine performance, but shy of whole truth.”
“Tried to spare you the gory details. But fine. I am a man of wealth and taste. I have had thirty
thousand years to cultivate both. I live in a palace in India, I hire three boys of various ages, each
portraying me at said age before dying. This way, the villagers ask no questions. And you Merlin?”
“I prefer my own company. Bedsides, I dislike killing.”
“There are so many, what is one or two more or less. My tribal name really is God. Really. Just a
name thirty thousand years ago, a rather popular name. Had no meaning to it. My mother, she must
have liked it. Also my woman. She named our first born, who was a girl, God.”
“Explains a lot.”
“Yes. I gave the first ‘ALL KNOWING BEING’S name: God. Irony? Sure, especially since that
was my cradle name. Anyway, I raged at the slaughter of my family and set out for total vengeance.
Only to discover that one man against many, even invisible, is hopeless when using crude weapons.
When Alexander came along, I realized man could be slaughtered in mass numbers even using crude
weapons. Oddly, I could not enter his mind. He accomplished everything on his own. But his generals, I
manipulated them, crumbing his empire and killing untold thousands. But the more I manipulability
slaughtered, the more were seemed the death of one universally ordained the birth of two. It
appeared hopeless. Years later Jesus arrived on the scene. At the time his name was not Jesus, but John,
after John the Baptist. You need to understand the time and place a little better than histories limited
testimonial to keenly grasp its subtleties. You see, there were thousands of little cults, deities reserved
for the favored upper class, deities for the middle class, deities for the lower class, deities for slaves; all
in all Christianity just one of many. But I tinkered with all of them, playing one off against the other. I
had set in motion a slaughter fest. Humans, Man, really kills big time in its deities name, BIG TIME!
But boredom set in and I left for India for a few years to rest. Upon my return and much to my surprise,
Christianity had flourished. John had about seventy-five followers. Seems small by today’s standards,
but much coin lay in seventy-five pockets. So I entered John’s mind. The first thing I did: change his
name. Almost ten percent of the population was named John after John the Baptist. Jesus not only had a
better ring to it, but original. And ‘Christ’ a masterstroke because the best selling bread was named:
Christ, and the general public uttered Christ when ordering bread and as an frequent expletive;
consequently the word was already set in their mind: making the connection between Jesus and Christ
almost automatic. Then Pilot had him on trial for some petty crime, loitering, something petty, I forget.
I gleaned a golden opportunity. Crucify the bastard. So I arranged it, had him crucified along with, I, ah,
I am unsure, about fifty people. Paul attended and the Romans gave him the body. Christ, they did not
want it... hundreds were crucified weekly. So I got into Paul, and hatched a masterpiece. Strange thing
about masterpieces. You do not know they are such until long after the fact. Be the case here. I had
John, Jesus now, resurrected, seen only by Paul and his whore Mary. Amazing, the news spread like
fire. A man dying and resurrected. But there were doubters, lot of suicides that month. I had Paul adopt
the fish as a Christian symbol. Another masterstroke, people loved it. Everybody secretly desires to be
members of a secret society. So it grew. But I did not see Christianity going anywhere, and returned
home to India and started a few Indian civil wars... thousands died. I returned to Rome in the year four
hundred. Stunning, the only word. The Christian’s had not only created a bible, but three afterlives.
Hell, the worst. They also created redemption. It was perfect. A man could sin and seek redemption. A
no lose proposition. Nobody asked the obvious questions. If there was a God, and a devil, by whose
whim, which was which? Which truly led mankind? Constantine rose to power. I got to him quickly and
declared Christianity the official state religion. I was on a roll and stuck around through all the crusades,
influenced Mohammad, the Jews, even the Buddha. I had found my way... religion. I was avenging my
family daily. I led the Popes by their noses. All of a sudden it grew boring, old, stale. So here I am.”
“Quite a story,” Merlin, scratching a leg, confessed.
“A beauty,” Tristan agreed. “But now you have nothing to trade. You gave me Christianity’s
“No, I promised you its beginning.” Almost as an afterthought, he shrugged, “Fine. Why not.
Merlin is who I need to trade with. You are going to love this, Tristan. Jesus, John for the sake of the
tale. A hapless lad. Failed at everything. Dumb. So his father took him on as an apprentice carpenter.
One morning, Mary had a headache and he went off to his father’s shop. After there, he went to his
second job at the nail factory. He stole a few nails and after his shift traded one to a whore for a quickie
behind a Roman Legion post, then traded two for a loaf of Christ bread and a jug of cheap Roman wine
and went home only to find his good friend Judas there entertaining Mary who laughed at some joke.
The moment he walked in, Judas jumped up and stated, “John, I have this great idea.” You with me
here, huh?. So John smiled at Mary, who returned the smile. They all sat down to eat and discuss Judas’
idea. Which turned out to be... ta da, that is right. So that is how it began. Judas fucking Mary and to
cover up concocted John becoming a holy man. Absurd is it not? Like, man! What is really ironic, the
nail factory where he worked down-sized because business had slacked off. Turns out their nails were
too quality made and cost too much. So John took a job at a competitor whose nails were of inferior
quality. A riot, just love it. I nailed him by using cheap nails. Must have really hurt! Oh I just love it,
man! Great, just great.” This part last God uttered hellishly, pumping an energetic fist in the air.
It appeared Thomas had fallen asleep during the story.
“But you have nothing to trade me.” Merlin, sounding dejected.
He sputtered out laughing words. “I have four Druid spell books.”
If anything perked Merlin’s interest, it was Druid spell books. “Prove it.”
“Easy,” and magnanimously produced them out of thin air. “Tea and reading. Such a delightful
combination, no?”
No one in the room noticed Thomas’s left index finger twitch except Tristan and he paid zero
outward notice, not revealing a thing. He bent forward, as if examining the books, accidentally on
purpose knocked over the tea cup, never ceasing movement, adjusted to catch the falling cup. God
raised a hand as if to say it is only a cup. The raised hand momentarily blocked Thomas from his view.
But not the blur. God or whatever his name had not lived thirty thousand years by being foolish. He did
die by being too slick, expecting Thomas to leap at him. No, Thomas, as if a spear, flung Excalibur
through the air, spearing God, catching him at the moment of fleeing. He shimmered brightly, thinking:
But how. Thomas is an archer not a swordsmen. Tristan...
The thought faded away, as he now understood all. Excalibur protruding from him, the shimmer
grew increasingly weak, dimming by degrees, the degrees life leaking out of him until there was only
him, slumped back, dead.
Quite frankly Merlin, well, stunned, body rigid, as if nailed to the chair. “Why!”
Calm, precise, Thomas, “You do not hate for thirty thousand years and just stop. Hate consumes,
like fire, all. You said the future had weapons of mass destruction that made today’s weapons pale in
comparison. You teach him time travel, and he goes forward not back.”
“I thought you did not believe me.”
“I do and do not. But if there truly is evil in this world, God is it.”
“Besides,” Tristan. “He is now one with his family.”
“Those books?”
“Take them. Your problem. We shall burn the body.” Tristan.
Merlin for once, so startled at seeing an immortal killed, left by the front door. Or perhaps he
was learning. Disappearing and appearing not a thing people understood at all. In any case, he was
gone. Until the next time. And we both knew there would be a next time. Thomas’ diary.
Interlude 3: Writer’s notes: the sad true story of Mary Queen of Scots.
Legends surround Mary, Queen of Scots. Legend portray her as a Scottish martyr. Fact is, she
was a tool used by those around her. She was raised in France, well educated, spoke 4 languages, and
was, intelligently speaking, despite all her plain and simple as salt. She was fucked at
twelve by a French prince who promised to marry her. She was fucked at fourteen by a French prince
who promised to marry her. She was fucked at sixteen by a French prince who promised to marry her.
Mary, one would think, after three times would be rather doubtful of such promises, but no, on her
seventeenth birthday she was fucked by a French prince who promised to marry her. She was not the
problem. She was an attractive young woman. Nor was her breeding the problem. She was a queen in
waiting. No, the problem was Scotland. The Princes could not imagine spending their lives in Scotland,
deeming Scotland, despite its prosperity, a primitive’s country. She, upon ascending to the Scottish
throne, quickly married a man 3 times her age and promptly popped out a son. She had married nuts,
not a man, as in what squirrels eat. His family had inbred so much, they all were a little off center. He
himself had a habit of sitting for endless hours in an empty room staring at what was in the room,
which were the walls. So she, out of desperation, turned to an Italian diplomat as a lover. Somebody,
maybe the Italian, maybe not, murdered Mary’s husband. To show allegiance, she, along with four
Catholic Lords, amassed an army of six thousand. The Protestant Lords amassed an army of eight
thousand and defeated her army. Both armies kept a wary eye out for McLeod, but Tristan figured this
was an internal affair and decided to stay on the sidelines. After such a humiliating defeat, she ran
away or was kidnapped, or had willingly gone into hiding and history falls on both sides here.
Whatever, kidnapped or willingly, she wound up imprisoned (or not) at Lord McSwoon’s castle for a
year where McSwoon allegedly and repeatedly shafted her until she birthed twin still born boys. All
this is recorded, and stands as history.
What is not recorded is Tristan’s reaction. He rode to McSwoon’s castle and confronted him.
McSwoon, an arrogant man, angered Tristan by threatening him, boasting, “See those four men. I tell
them, you die.” So Thomas killed all four. McSwoon faced Tristan alone, now experiencing a huge
attitude adjustment.
Tristan “Bring Mary out now.”
“This is not a conversation and you do not have any options.”
Suddenly, as if Merlin, she appeared. She had not been kidnapped. She wanted to stay. Please.
Voice whiny, tiny, as before. Still a little girl playing at womanhood.
Tristan exhaled, as if making a tough decision. “You are no longer Queen of Scotland. Leave for
England within a fortnight or die. The son you bore a few years ago is the Stewart heir and king. Leave
Her eyes blinked water, no salt. They were taking away a toy. Both her son and Scotland. But
they were the parents and she did as instructed and visited her cousin Elizabeth, who welcomed her
with open arms. Mary immediately plotted against her, the prize: the English throne. But all that is
another story, as them say.
Lord McSwoon also left Scotland and settled in Paris. Tristan terrified him. He saw him
everywhere, his shadow dogging him, his dreams, upon waking. The constant fear drove him mad. He
died sure Tristan but a few feet away. He died penniless, alone, powerless.

Book 9. Queen...
Tristan once observed: There is more to the heavens and earth. For that matter, there is more to
my left thumb. Tristan and I once examined our fingers and discovered there were lines in each tip. We
determined, after experimenting, ink, dirt, and smearing our thumb and pressing down on parchment
that we both had the exact symmetrical lines. I harbor no idea why, or if the entire human race has the
same etchings on their fingertips. I note this only to illustrate a point. Or perhaps da Vinci’s thirst for
experimentation which is ever evident in his papers is passing on to me. Thomas’ diary.

Chapter: The Oldest King in Europe.

An early spring morning found McGregor knocking at their door bearing, as he put it, great
news. First off, he was tired of the council and all its shenanigans and just tired in general and had
retired and nominated his eldest son in his stead. But the shocker was the council wanted Tristan to
serve as King for a two year period. Ever since Queen Mary’s departure, the infighting between the
Catholics and the Protestants hampered progress, and earnings were suffering. The council’s wish:
McLeod would provide leadership balance while Mary’s son James grew, affording the boy and
Scotland both time and peace. (And did the council know about Tristan’s vow all those years ago: a
Scotland at peace. You know it). So for Scotland they beseeched him and to a man humbly (humbly,
Duncan jested) urged him to accept.
Reading in-between the lines: Banks lent money for projects on the basis of a strong economy,
from both a merchant and a military standpoint. A strong king at the helm assuaged the bankers. A
weak king made the bankers nervous. No king, or a young king in waiting? Bankers would not touch
you. Thomas’ diary.
He considered for about a second, considered the oath all those years ago to his uncle and
dispatched a rider, agreeing providing he governed from the island.
The council dispatched a swift rider bearing a wax letter, in it was written: “Absolute. Anything!
Tristan once again found himself King.
“The more things change,” Thomas repeated the phrase.
Tristan aspersed his feelings on the council and its members by muttering, fools, and returned
to reading the ‘Art Of War’.’
As King, there was nothing to do except be a figurehead to the bankers. Tristan did mention
more than a few times in the coming weeks, “Remember that pose you assumed when I first became
king all those years ago.”
Thomas grinned the memories youthfulness. “Yes.”
To which Marlow always bit, “What was it?”
To which Tristan hid a knowing grin behind a book.
To which Marlow beseeched by grumbling under his breath, to no avail.
To which Thomas sang out in a mock high coughing baritone, “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus
To which Marlow finally shouted, “CHRIST!”
To which Tristan confirmed Thomas’s thoughts, “God was right.”
“Waaaaaa,” Marlow stuttered, knowing how Tristan felt about God.
So the weeks frittered away, until several weeks after delivering the news, Duncan returned,
and almost begged them to partake in a ride to London, as if London were merely a few hours away.
Marlow said he had to beseech them, and “Even that may not prevail.”
So Duncan beseeched, adding, after all Tristan was king now and he should pay a royal visit to
Queen Elizabeth. “Kings did pay such courtesy visits to other Kings? Right?” Duncan urged.
Something amiss here, Tristan sensed, and inquired. Sheepishly Duncan confessed, eyes wide as
if a kid confused by it all: Tatha, his wife, whom he honored dearly, and several times daily, considered
him more underfoot since retiring from the council than before. (A husbandly bitch from him on the
mere idea). He just needed to spend a few days in London. Give Tatha some time to herself. “C’mon,
guys, nice day for a ride.”
No, lousy weather day, they could tell by glancing out, but agreed.
There were two springs that year, good spring, bad spring. Today the weather was windy,
slashing rain, London so foggy a person could not see themselves. Also damp, causing Tristan to shiver.
Also causing Tristan to curse himself for agreeing. But McGregor? In excellent spirits. He stopped at
the Boars’ Head and they rode on to the Palace to see Queen Elizabeth. At the Palace the same two
men-at-arms as before. The same Lt. Fallen greeted them warmly and, ushered them in, mouth a runway
carriage, again causing Tristan to smile at the Lt.’s youthfulness. Elizabeth sat in all her glory in her
day room sipping tea, and sprang up at their entrance, dismissing Lt. Fallen. “Tristan you kept your
word.” Not even considering uttering: it took you a few years.
Class. Thomas’ diary.
“And Sir Thomas.”
”I am still exploring the palace.” As if he were there just yesterday, “So by your leave,”
and departed.
“Thomas is rather abrupt today. Did I say something wrong?”
“Thomas is Thomas.” Tone saying: An untouchable subject... totally. ”But I doubt it.”
“I mea...”
“I know.”
Tracing a finger this time around the mound which was her left breast.
“I thought you were no hero?” Remembering. Every night dreaming of it for, by her count, 700
and forty-two nights.
Correcting her. “Anti-hero. Changed my mind. Kings can do that.” Smiling, joking, playing.
Maybe none. Maybe all three. Hard to read.
A sharp intake, eyes overlying, lips parted. Tristan removed his dagger and starting at the top of
the dress, began cutting cloth and popping buttons. She pressed a hand firmly against her mouth,
knuckles white, emitting squeaking noises. At the dress’s bottom, which looped and rounded out,
Tristan stooped and cut all the way hoop and all, then stood and slipped the dress off her shoulders,
exposing dual corsets. If she expected the corsets to halt his progress she was happily mistaken. He
placed the dagger at the corsets’ top, tracing her skin as he cut. The tension forcing her to hold both
hands against her mouth, pressing hard, certain he would at the very least nick her. He cut all the way
down, drawing no blood, then slid the corsets off, leaving only Elizabeth. She was all woman, and any
man who held her held the world. She was also lousy with fleas. Time for them later. He picked her up
and lay her on the floor. Her overlaid eyelids traced him, watched him undress. She gasped at his bound
cock. Then she gasped as the cock invaded her pussy, while his mouth met hers.
She had just found paradise and heaven no longer mattered.
For you readers who are lost, heaven lay just a ways up Clark Street. Or so the man wearing a
bright red lettered shouting wooden sign standing on Clark and Foster proclaimed: Heaven. Fortunes
told. Ten guild. An elderly woman was having her fortune told. This has absolutely nothing to do with
the Palace and Tristan and Elizabeth, but they need some private time. So here it is. Besides, both
women were in bliss. Only one paid coin, while the other entered free of charge...payment perhaps to be
extracted later.
“You will stay the night,” Elizabeth, glowing inside, outside, toenails, fingernails, eye sockets.
“Good. I will alert the guards. This way Thomas will not kill one.”
“Yes, would be helpful.”
“No, Thomas and I will dine out.”
“Anything for later?”
Yes? So formal, not knowing how to act. Elizabeth spoke six languages, a decent poet, could
handle a sword, read every night before bed, but when it came to men she knew nothing. And Tristan
McLeod, well, not any man, in her mind the only man.
“Take a bath please. Twice.”
‘Yes.” Right then he could have said jump off the London bridge and the answer: yes. (Ah, yes,
some of us have visited there. A few lucky enough even stayed.)
Standing, kissing her, walking out, door closing, already missing. ‘I am either in deep trouble or
the luckiest woman on the planet,’ she thought.
Thomas found Tristan or vice versa, and they left the palace and headed for the Boars’ Head.
McGregor stood at the bar drinking grog, a lopsided grin on his face.
“Pussy agrees with you,” Thomas joked.
“Pussy, Thomas, is the one thing on earth that always pleases... at least until after, then the
mouth opens, both mouths, and words spoil it.”
“Well,” Tristan added, “we are spending the night so enjoy.”
“I had already planned on spending the night and the next and the next.”
Thomas. “We all are in agreement.”
“I can assume you and Elizabeth. But you Thomas? We need to find you pussy.”
“I am sure I will find it. After all, McGregor, half the world is pussy and is everywhere.”
And so it was. Bar wenches, street girls, room girls, wives, all, if not beautiful, at least cute.
Thomas passed on all. They ate dinner, something passable, but not bearing close inspection. McGregor
bid them goodnight. They retired to the Palace where again Lt. Fallen greeted them and escorted them
to the Queen’s sitting room. Tea was at ready. Elizabeth’s chamber girl, Beth, comely, smiled lively.
Thomas immediately engaged her hand and led her to the bed chamber next door. “Thomas is is...”
She wore a new dress. “How many of those dress you have?”
“Dozens. They cost a fortune.”
He stood over her and helped her up. “Well, I hope England can afford it.”
Again he removed his dagger, and cut the dress hoop and all. Elizabeth thought she would be
calm, accustomed to it. But no way, not even close. If anything, the tension beyond description, and
clamped both hands over her mouth, knuckle strained white, uttering, “Tristan,” over and over until
only Elizabeth existed.
Scooping her up, he carried her through the sitting room to the bed chamber and lay her down.
She had bathed and smelled clean, that clean airy smell only a fresh bath offers, not a bottle of perfume.
The night stretched endlessly before them. He slowly caressed her body, then fucked her. Their heavy
breathing barely had time to subside, when he rolled her over and gently probed her ass, then eased
himself in slow, real slow, matching rhythm to rhythm, easing his way guided by her sounds. After they
spooned for about an hour, they coupled using their mouths, her gasping as he came. Exhausted now,
they fell asleep. Before morning, Elizabeth awoke to Tristan inside her. The sensation akin to razors
sensually caressing her body. Awake now, she held him, and said, “In this room you are king, out there
I am.”
Tristan. “Out there you better be.”
Tea and crumpets. Elizabeth always had such a breakfast. She was sipping on tea when Thomas
and Beth waked/walked in. Right off, Beth exclaimed, “Thomas can do it ten...” before Thomas
clamped a firm hand over her mouth. “Hush.”
Elizabeth stood and pointed a finger, beckoning for Beth to follow to her bed chamber.
Tristan shook his head in mock despair, “You have been waiting 300 pages to use that line,
“I am an innocent man.”
“Yes in your innocence I will have to fuck Elizabeth ten times in one night. I am not sixteen.”
“Just cum together,” Thomas, thoroughly having fun.
And Tristan’s off color comment lost as both women entered. “I have had a talk with Beth,”
Elizabeth announced, “And have impressed upon her the severity of gossip. Is there anything you two
might wish to add?”
“Remember, Beth,” Thomas reminded, “Those gold coins I gifted you, well, your fiancé would
never understand what you are doing is for him and you. So silence is the better part of grace.”
“I will, Sir Thomas. But what he never will know will not hurt the poor boy.”
“Good.” Elizabeth directed right at Tristan, “Ten times?”
“A very, very, very, very long story. I will tell you later.”
“Many ‘very’s’. Now I have duties, nobles, royalty, who want my hand in marriage. What ever
should I say?”
“Say whatever,” Tristan, nonchalant.
“Yes. And?”
“A picnic. Noon.”
“The weather?”
“I have an in there.”
“At noon.”
Formal. Just so. They left the palace and hooked up with McGregor at the Boars’ Head where
they hung around for about an hour before hitting the streets to see what London had to offer. The sky,
overcast, impending rain. They walked for hours. Discovered that London, although large in size,
merely held the same things repeated every ten blocks. They spent the most time at the docks inspecting
the various ships, the cargo, and the men. This, McGregor stated, was a port well laid out not only for
cargo but for defense. They each agreed. By then it was almost time to eat. McGregor announced he
was eating pussy. And intended to dine alone, well sort of.
The sky was now sunny, bright, warm. So Merlin, McLeod thought, you can control the weather.
A unseen voice, “I do not do tricks. By the way I am staying at the Boars’ Head. Stop later.”
“Whaaaaaaaaa!” McGregor, thinking: sunstroke.
A swift message between them, its gist: We need to put an end to this.
Thomas quipped away the voice, “Too much pussy, McGregor. Perhaps you should settle for
roast duck.”
Sunstroke, McGregor, thought, a man can never have too much pussy.
Chapter A ‘d’sehabill’ee’ picnic.

They made arrangements to meet McGregor later and headed for the Palace. Lt. Fallen met them
and started right in, this time fawning over Thomas. Could he really hide in shadows? Is the story about
this or that true. Thomas and his silence suffered dearly. At Elizabeth’s sitting room, Fallen’s tongue
arrested. She dismissed him.
“You married,” Tristan to Elizabeth, sitting.
“Not hardly. They do not want me, they want England.”
“Give them England, I will take you.”
“And where?”
“The Royal Guards?”
“Are staying here. Most are worthless anyway.”
“Yes Sir, after all I have McLeod and the Sir Thomas to protect me,” a sly smile. And impishly,
because such tis not a planned happening, she shed all her dress, no corset, exposing just Elizabeth.
“And what should I wear?”
Spoken above Beth’s astounded gasp.
“Riding pants, it be me.” Thomas marveled at her beauty, “Although, as you wish me lady, as
you wish. You could just bring Elizabeth.”
“Sir Thomas! Tristan is your friend.”
“Cocks betray, and pussies lie.” Tristan, falling back on poetry.
“Poets both,” Elizabeth. “Do not forget yourself Beth, but you may do so this moment.”
“Yes mum,” uttered quietly, unsure, a bit embarrassed, wanting to, but actually doing so? Well?
Not that she had not imagined. She harbored an active imagination and imagined much. But the distance
between imagination and acting on same were miles apart. She bridged those mental miles in a single
movement, shedding her dress and panties, leaving Beth. An embarrassed Beth. A shy Beth, glancing
over her shoulder at unseen, yet imaginary voyeurs. A Beth hearing Tristan utter, “Exquisite.” Or was
that Thomas. Or perhaps both. It pleased her to think: both.
“Milady, I own not riding pants.” Almost a whisper. Almost
“If you fetch mine, you may also borrow a set, provided you burn them after.”
For they all understood, a handmaiden to possess riding pants, rode gossip.
Now riding gaily through London’s streets, those second quick ‘is that?’ looks by pedestrians
who were sure it was not THEIR QUEEN on that horse. And with her, The, no, impossible, Tristan
McLeod, and, and, whispering: Sir Thomas. I saw them once, O’h did. Shhh, they might hear. Inside.
Tell me. Shhh, now. Quiet. Tell me! Oh, tell me. O’yes, do that too.
Now in the country away from prying eyes, alone, joking, laughing, Beth realizing no food
packed, Thomas hushing her, Beth understanding, understanding, following Thomas. Tristan and
Elizabeth now alone, under a tree, in their all together, Elizabeth hungry, feasting, satisfied for a
moment, now really hungry. Now stuffed. For now.
“Can I speak?” chin on his chest. “I do not know how this works.”
In her eyes, a chestnut brown, Tristan thinking: a man could poke around in there forever finding
treasures. “It works, or not. A thing works or not. Simple. Always.”
“You are only the second man. I killed the first.”
A bad joke slipped out. “Make your father proud.”
“I!...” propping up on a elbow, “He was an Earl. I was twelve. The whole thing was terribly
exciting and short.” she laughed in memory, “O’so very short, both his cock and his loving.”
“Fuck, so harsh a word. The hard F, of course. Of course, what he did was just fucking. I,
smitten, sure, only a child. He made a mistake. He assumed I would shout my love to the trees and
beyond, and swear promise to not tell a soul. I would not dare share such joy amongst lesser jewels, so
the words cut deep, exposing shame’s chambers. He only fucked me once. After, never uttered a word
at me, ignored me... leaving shameful feelings. So I killed him one night. Had he spoken a word, a
farewell, anything...”
“You acted correctly. He, not.”
“Yes but I have never shared this. My father being who he was...”
A slight laugh, a ‘I honor you’ laugh, “No...your father killing six wives, well, killing a man
rather makes other men cast a wary eye your way.”
“But not you?”
“You, nor your men could kill me.”
“No. I could not. But you could kill me.”
“Yes. I would not. I do not kill that which owns my honor, only that which serves to control
“As any man?”
“No... not without reason.”
“And such is how you ruled?”
“You rule by providence. The ruler who rules by his own hand, dies by his own hand.”
“I am so young. So much to learn.”
“You learn by watching the ones who say they want nothing for themselves.”
“They are who I trust?”
“No, they are who you kill. The others you buy; land, coin, titles, they want something, and are
generally happy to receive a little something doled out bit by bit.”
“McLeod’s general rule on rule.” A gentle laughter.
“Tristan’s dumb mouth tossing out dumb words.”
And so to shut up, they fucked. Which always worked for Tristan.
Dressed now, laughing, walking, bumping each other‘s bodies, leading their mounts up to
Thomas and Beth who were laughing.
“Elizabeth, out here.”
“Elizabeth, mum.”
“Darkness is barking at the light,” Tristan, poetically, “So we should let them fight it out and
ride like the wind.”
“A slow wind,” Thomas carried along
“Easy wind, carefree wind, a poet’s wind.” Elizabeth added
“A candle’s wind,” Beth, not sure, but giving it a try.
Tristan,“Finishes that poem.”
And off into a poem they rode, laughing the easy laugh of those whose troubles were too afraid
to venture near for fear happiness would devour them. At one point Elizabeth, arms stretched out,
laughed gaily, her hair down, body jouncing, up, down to saddle, up, down, laughing at it all. Tristan
and Thomas, each riding by her side, each holding a hand, reins dangling, she merrily, all of her,
gleefully raised her arms and waved at the wind. All of her slid backwards off the saddle, her horse
riding on, carefree, rider or none, so what. Tristan and Thomas each still held a hand and there she
dangled, laughing out loud enough to frighten sparrows roosting in trees. A laugh Thomas last
remembered hearing from Tristan years ago. A real laugh that infected each. They all roared so, they
dropped Elizabeth. She landed on her ass, still laughing.
“Milady.” Beth started but Thomas silenced her with a kiss.
And they rode on, as if through fun Elizabeth had disappeared.
“Tristan,” she yelled, running along after them, legs pumping.
Tristan. “Did someone call me?”
“My horse.”
Tristan, “You better catch him or you are walking to London”.
“O’you!” but ran, legs pumps, up, down, finally catching in her mount by the reins. She mounted
and turned on Tristan. “YOU!”
“Watch yourself.”
“Do not let your mouth.”
“Bad...” a whisper.
“Utter what your heart hides.”
“Very bad.”
“Unless you trust the man to not use your words against you.”
“So bad. A dissolute man.”
“What is dissolute?” Beth.
“A man who renders other men into jellies.” Thomas.
“Oh.” not understanding. But observing, “Like you.”
“Tristan.” Elizabeth.
Tristan, “Elizabeth.” Innocent of all.
“Dinner?” accepting ‘Innocent of All’ as a title for her next book of poems.
“Why yes. I do believe I am hungry for food. Give me an hour. I have a man to visit.”
After leaving the girls at the Palace, they rode on to the Boars’ Head. McGregor was no where
in sight. Tristan inquired at the bar. An old man, white beard, which room? Room 2. They just walked
in, closing the door behind them. Merlin levitating above the bed. “Fleas,” he said by way of
“So why rent the room?” Thomas.
“See what it is like, how the other 99 percent live.”
Tristan, “That be 99.9999.9.”
“Math. My poor suit. For the past five hundred years. So you still maintain that was not you the
dragons were protecting?”
“What do you want,” Tristan demanded.
“I am on my way else-where and stopped by to confess God’s death rattled
me. An immortal dying. Why, why it is a contradiction in terms. Excalibur? I.... Its
powers extent eluded me.”
“You popped in to tell us this,” Tristan, forcing his hand away from his sword,
“We were just beginning to feel like it was all a dream.”

“It is not.”

“We want it to be.” Thomas savagely shot out.


“Why! You tell us we are immortal. You show us dragons, a man whose
power uproots a tree. Why! A thirty thousand year old man from an extinct tribe.

“Calm down.”

”I am calm, otherwise you would be sliced in half.”

“I can take Excalibur back.”

Thomas, whispering, “No, no you can not. If you could it would already be
gone. Whoever possesses it owns it until he relinquishes.” He shook his head
dismissively at himself. “So tell me Merlin, for curiosity’s sake, what happened to
King Arthur. He have enough of you and commit suicide?”

A pause, a, ‘fine, alright, if we must do this’ nod, “He married Greediness.

Gave the sword up. End of story.”

“Arthur threw away Excalibur for a woman!” Thomas. Incredulous.

“Yes. He loved her. She, well, a, a strong woman. She loved luxury.”

“Love is crazy,” Tristan observed. “I will rephrase my first question. Merlin,

what do you want from us?”

“I already told you, nothing.”

“How come we do not believe you?”

“Because, only because.”

Thomas. “That tis correct, only because.”

“Arguing is not getting us anywhere.”

“Where we going?” Tristan. “Because I am not going anywhere with you. Try
and I will find some way to kill you.”

Merlin burped a hand at the air, “I do not know. All I know is you two are
involved. Against your wishes perhaps, but you are.”

“Fine. We are. Now what do you want?” Thomas.

“All I want is to know why you two are involved. Aside from that, I want

“How can you find out?”

“Wait. Time. No more pulling back the sky. Far to dangerous.”

“I be telling you.” Thomas. “And no more conjuring up thirty thousand year

old men. Understand!”

“I did not conjure him up, Thomas. You killed him yourself. Forget it.

“We do not believe you.”

“So we are at an impasse. You both do not believe, and I cannot convince.”
“You said everything is an illusion. These walls, that bed. Me. You. So why not what you
showed us. All just tricks, cheap gypsy magic.”
“A leap of faith.”
“That is what the Christians say: a leap of faith. All the unexplainable throughout history
requires a leap of faith. The first words out of a preacher’s mouth: leap of faith. Followed by: and some
“You are so cynical. I ask for not coin. I ask for nothing. I bring you both knowledge. The
offering begs for nothing in return.”
“But you want something? What Merlin?”
“I want nothing. I repeat myself.”
“A bit too much.” Thomas. “For the sake of the discussion, say I believe I am immortal in
England, and Tristan also in Scotland. So what? We live forever? So what? Doing what? Tristan’s da
and uncle, well-intentioned, failed to see the seed grown, see its future, see that one man can not alter
destiny. And you in your haste created a solution that solved nothing. Chance brought us together. Not
you. Not Tristan’s uncle. We live by fate’s leave, and will die by her leave!” Angry.
“Otherwise,” Tristan, “what Merlin? I live on the island forever. People will begin to wonder.
How come McLeod never ages, how come two hundred years later McLeod still lives. You and my
uncle, if true, solved nothing. We are not wizards. We are warriors. We cannot travel through time. We
cannot occupy another’s body. We cannot wave a hand and utter a word and tea appears. We have one
trade: to fight. The best we can do is conquer the world.”
A very long pause, so much so Merlin lost grip on levitating and fell to the bed. He quickly
scampered off, fearing fleas.
“Ridiculous.” Tristan. “Conquer the world. A ruler rules by the leave of other men who
administer, laws, ships, schools, land, food, grain. A ruler is like a pyramid. He is at the top. All those
blocks under him carry out his whims. But they also carry them out in such a manner, a way, a means,
that betrays their own inner souls, hates, likes, dislikes, all the way down to the man who sells dung to
the farmers. No one man more important over the other, no man more important or less, even the ruler
himself. Man requires a strong ruler, who in turn requires strong men to see his vision is carried out.
The island, small, less than two thousand, still petty squabbles, lies, stealing, murder, rare, but there.
The entire world, never. Not possible unless you make men into a da Vinci machine, mindless, men
whose only day is to silently work, eat, fuck, sleep, and do all over again until death; his only real pause
in the fucking to repackage himself. Perhaps one man can rule... but rule over what? A dead society!”
Anger at the end. True anger.
“Is that not what we have now” Merlin. “Peasants, nobles, each spending their 24 hours
acquiring pretty little things, peasants a small coin, nobles clothes, perfume, each replacing themselves,
each squirting time, yet desperately desiring time, time, time?”
“Maybe in the future,” Thomas.
Talking under him, “No. The future, why it is, it is absurd. People wear clothes, pay much coin,
for clothes that have the name of the person who designed the clothes on them.”
“What?” Tristan.
“Yes. You stitch Tristan on that shirt you are wearing and can sell it for ten times its worth.”
“Silly Merlin. Silly. Your vision is just too silly for even a leap of faith to cover.”
“Remember that flying machine you built Thomas?”
“Move the wings forward and it would fly, The future has such things.”
Thomas, “da Vinci,” shaking his head, “was not silly. That was you in the blacksmith’s shop in
Italy, the, what did you call God, a Neanderthal man, the man in ice.”
“Of course.”
“We heard da Vince talking and wondered to whom.”
“da Vinci wanted a way to date the body. He removed certain organs. You will discover his
conclusions in his notes. No, my warrior friends, the future is not silly. Stupid, perhaps.”
Both Thomas and Tristan thinking, weighing, holding back. “Whatever the future holds, you
want something. My uncle wanted a Scotland at peace. He has such. What do you want? If all you say
and do is true, what would our immorality serve you?”
“I repeat. I want nothing. I know not what or how you two can serve my purpose since they are
separate. Your purpose is a Scotland at peace. Mine is to find an answer to a question. And find a
question to the answer. I laid bare the truth to you both because you both are innocent victims. And
should know, leaving you both a choice.”
Dinner awaited. They both nodded at Merlin, a ‘we will see’ nod, and bid him farewell. At the
door Thomas inquired, “Why not wizard the fleas away?”
Because he had not really considered such an easy solution. And did so and lay back, muttering,
“Ahhhhh, so comfortable.”

Death goes to work.

This was an old timers’ winter, a winter where old timers sat bundled up together around fires
and started each sentence: I remember the winter of ‘99. This winter intended to be remembered.
There would be no: going gently into that goodnight. A harsh, harsher yet winter tended busyness all
day and night. The poor cat’s feet froze to the ground, baiting the dogs, who’s paws also froze to the
ground, snout inches away from its enemy. Snow, more snow. Enough snow to store some away for
next winter. Death. Ahhh, death, deaths warm breath harking: Here be warmth. Such a sweet death, so
delicious. First Marlow, he just lay his head down while writing and died. He had been working on a
sonnet, and death finished the unfinished:

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,—and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings.
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

The old timers say, I remember the winter of 1501, now that was the winter McLeay froze. A
day later Mary, only forty-one, lay in bed. Feeling tired. Just a little nap. Fine soon. Thomas checked in
on her. Saw death standing there. Held up a finger, pausing death. Thomas stood there allowing his
silence to cover her, embrace her, love her. At last he bent over and kissed her lips, folded her arms
across her breast. Saw death depart. Pain. Racking pain.
Who wants to live forever! Thomas’ diary.
As the jug is passed about, the old timers comment, I remember the winter of ot’16, now that
was the winter. A day after Mary’s death, death sweet-talked Porch. The housekeep called for Tristan
who arrived at once. Porch joked, “I told her not to call you.”
“She is Maureen. A fourth cousin. How are you?”
“Dying. I am a doctor; I know nothing about such things.”
“No thanks, I have enough of my own.”
Silence covered him.
“A joke. You are supposed to laugh that silly high pitched laugh I loved so much. After all I am
“Sorry I stopped that laugh years ago.”
“Yes I know. Why?”
“Scotland. A king should not have such a high pitched laugh. Makes him appear silly.” A small
painful smile.
“You gave up so much for Scotland. She will never appreciate it.”
“Of no matter.”
“Yes. When a person is dying they think of life. I only see us when young. We were two
wonderful beasts. Such energy.”
“Well spent.”
“O’yes. And no guilt. Not like Catholics.”
“True. Jews. How come?”
”I do not know. We just love to fuck. And love.”
“You still do not understand love. Honor, yes. Love, no.”
“Love is four letters. So is hate. I have noticed those in love often hate. Whereas honor is
“Yes. You honored me. I loved you. Then I hated you. Yet through it all you honored me. I was
not worth it.”
“My decision.” Forcing back tears, a new feeling for him.
“Was I?”
“Every moment. Your were, are, will always be. “
“Just Tristan.”
A bottle on the bed stand. Brown. Skull and cross bones painted in white on it. Tristan picked it
up. “What is this?”
“Opium. For pain. I take little because it fogs the mind, and too much you sleep, and way too
much and you sleep forever. Except Catholics consider suicide a sin. As do Jews. Most religions.
Strange. We kill an animal in pain, but not a person.”
“Ah doctors.”
“We know nothing. We soothe the people. They want a person whom they think knows, we
serve the purpose. What is odd is we are respected so, so much more than say a blacksmith, who
provides a more valuable service.”
“Like religion.”
“People need reassuring. They are frightened of the unknown.”
“But not you?”
“The unknown is around the bend. We will all see it soon enough. Whatever, the gods had better
have explanations or we are matching swords.”
“Somehow I would not wager against you.”
Sleepy, in pain, both written on her face. She drifted off at his silence. She had aged well. He
remembered a young girl. Her brown hair, now gray, hands, fingers, bony. Her face age’s art work. He
picked up a pillow and covered her face and held it. There was no resistance, only a final sigh, a thank
you sigh.
He stood, and fell/stooped almost to his knees, and hung his head, his blond hair obscuring his
long goodbye blue eyes. Helpless for the first time in his life.
A shadow slipped out the door. Minutes, nobody counting, Tristan emerged, “Hey you.”
“Hey you.”
There would be no rest. McGregor arrived. The news. His wife of thirty years gone.
While announcing the news, Maria rode up, “Mohammed had died.”
But death still had a few to kill before leaving the island and choose four warriors.
Enough already. Tristan disbanded the warriors. He consulted with McLean about how many
people remained on his half of the Island and learned that all the people had been relocated to the other
side except for the warriors and their families. And of course, Maria. He explained to Mclean what he
had in mind all those years ago when he had started relocating people. He wanted the Island to be clear
of people and placed in a blind trust as a nature reserve. Although Scotland, the Crown, would
administer the land, the Island was never to officially become part of Scotland. Never. That had been
his uncles wish. The other half of the Island, he would someday gift to his sister and her husband.
As King, he granted himself land off the Island and deeded each warrior fifty acres, and fifty
gold coins. Twenty stayed, by his leave, each saying they were not farmers. He understood.
Tristan understood that all our time was reaching a conclusion. Thomas’ diary.
Winters seven course meal complete. Wine optional, Tristan served it by throwing a feast, a
‘laughing at death’, feast. Telling death: go not fucking yourself. (Because to say: go fuck yourself, that
was a good thing). All the warriors attended the feast.
Death watched from a far. Afraid.
Merlin also. He watched all this. Such arrogance, the same arrogance Tristan displayed as a
youth. He had to be the one.

Chapter: The land of the rising sun: Redux.

Spring always brings gifts, the normal, flowers, trees budding, et al, but spring also brought a
ship anchored off the island. The flag, Japanese rising sun. Tristan, Thomas, McLean and the 20
warriors awaited a very small craft heading their way, the vessel deftly dodging the jagged waters.
Ashore, Ito helped Akio off the boat.
“Tristan McLeod and Sir Thomas.” Akio formal, bowed.
In return, they bowed. Tristan. “Akio, Admiral Ito.”
“Ah so,” Akio, “The weather, the chill. I am old. Can we go inside?”
Settled, each man holding a steaming cup of tea, “So long a journey Akio,” Tristan, “I am
“Ah so, Tristan San you should be.”
Thomas. “And you have rehearsed that line.”
“Ah so, for months. I wanted to see how it would feel to be a rude European.”
“Rudeness. Such a thing. Rude men should be killed.”
“Would leave few people left.” Thomas.
“Yes, Thomas San, and who decides on what is rude? No, too much power in one hand.”
“And not enough in the other,” Tristan.
“Ah so. Haiku. You remember.”
“It was only yesterday.”
“Not even.” Ito.
Akio, “Your house. It is beautiful. Small. Almost Japanese in design. Not at all what I expected.
But you had it built before visiting Japan, no?”
”Yes. An Arab. Mohammad. I wanted it small. Smallness instills a sense of closeness, yet not so
small as to be claustrophobic. Mohammed succeeded.”
“Yes, Tristan San. So you wonder why I travel three months.”
“No, Akio. But you want to explain.”
“Ah so, I fool no one. Old men, young men, they only fool themselves. I visit to visit. I visit
because I am dying and want to hear two old friends speak one last time... such is no small matter. The
nobles dress up, clothes, gold, huge houses, buy, buy, buy, they buy dishonor. They are merchants. A
man cannot buy another’s clean word. Such a thing can only be given freely.”
In agreement, “It is we who are honored,” Tristan.
“He speaks for himself,” Thomas, “But I am with Tristan.”
“Ah, Sir Thomas San. Yamamoto saw in you a soul so fresh, a soul stainless, a soul clean. He
told me you are the only man he envied and feared. I tell you this because he gave me leave to do so
before dying.”
“He died in gentle’s arms?”
“Ah so. He had created a pact, him and death. He would not deal in death’s business in return for
death not dealing in his.”
“And you, Ito old friend?” Tristan.
“I am becoming.” Ito.
“And you shall,” Thomas. “So Akio, how is Japan?”
“Becoming. By coming apart. My death will engineer civil war. Each generation suffers through
their own war.”
“History,” Thomas recited, “those who forget it are doomed to repeat it. But that statement is
unreliable. A generation may read history, mentally mark histories flaws, lay the book down and go
right out and repeat them, leaving me to believe that: every generation must experience their own
historic flaws...only feasting on history’s leavings, which by history’s leave, they, the new generation,
grow at a faster rate impeding the old and therefore create history as they live it and thus improve upon
Each digested his words, Akio addressed them, “So man must make the same mistake over and
over until it is made so often a generation arrives who weaves the same old same old but changes the
pattern, thus creating a new history.”
Thomas, “Yes,” being philosophical.
Ito. “The Buddha would agree.”
“Yes,” Akio. “I wish there were a smoother path, a barefoot path. My son must fight this war.”
“The other chiefs oaths?”
“To me. Not him. Besides, he must earn it, otherwise it is a worthless thing and he will rule
“Suzuki’s son?”
“Yes. Blood for blood. He must now avenge his father and also win the Shogunate.”
“I wish him luck.”
“No matter. How is Scotland?”
Tristan. “She is becoming. We had a Queen. A fool. I have a last Go piece to play, a final move,
end game. After, the future will rule over events.”
“Yes, the future. Whatever we as men do the future will decide.”
Tristan, “So Akio, How long can you stay?” mood bright.
“A few suns. I must return by fall. Suzuki will not attack while I am alive, and if I am here he
will not know, and in the fall, winter will set in. So I buy my son a year.”
“You seem resigned, why?”
“He is a scholar, not a warrior. He cannot lead men into battle. He can lead men into working,
building. Japan needs this, yes, but Japan is still run by the samurai code. He is not.”
“He may surprise.”
Akio, “Yes. I do honor him so.”
McLean bent over and whispered to Tristan, ”English flagship.”
“Elizabeth.” Tristan to all, “Respectfully, I shall greet her.”
Akio and Ito stood and bowed. Tristan showed both to a bedroom.
A longboat navigated the tricky waters, barely skirting jagged rocks. To row a longboat amongst
those waters took sheer luck, bad you died, good you lived. Further up shore lay an easer landing, one
that appeared at first glance impossible... only the locals knew about it. Tristan smiled, thinking: let us
see what she is made of. The two nobles aboard sat clutching the longboat’s rails. Elizabeth and Beth
stood upright, the sea air brushing them, tinting their cheeks a crimson red. They both, alone, unafraid,
dared the sea to defy. The sea deferred. This time.
“They are a sight,” McLean.
“Elizabeth cannot be English.”
“Mostly German.”
“Ah, explains it.”
She will place James on the English throne, he thought. If she was not assassinated, or James
turned out to be a fool. Two big ifs.
“Elizabeth, Beth,” he said, offering both a hand.
“Tristan McLeod,” she announced formally for the two Lords aboard, “I am told to see Scotland
once should begin with the islands. Why befuddles. I see few houses. A small castle. If this be Scotland,
why, explain why all those long dead English kings wanted her so badly.”
“My sentiments sexually, ah, exactly.”
Forcing inward a smile at the spoken miscue. “Well take me to someplace warm. Now my man.
I am a Queen.”
Tristan, “McLean, put the Lords up in the castle, Thomas and I will show Elizabeth and Beth to
their quarters.” About to depart.
Lt. Fallen. “I stay with the Queen,”
“Lt. You are now on McLeod Island. Not England. Nor Scotland. You stay where I say or die.
Make no mistake, the wrong foot will kill you.”
Elizabeth, “Lt.” An unspoken command. She had learned that from her father.
“Yes your Highness.”
Tristan, “Go with McLean.” To McLean. “This is Lt. Fallen. Once a McFallen. See what you
can do to re-Scotch him.” A playful twinkle in his eyes, “Lords. The castle is yours. Enjoy. McLean,
ask Maria if she will be kind enough to bleed out two sheep for dinner. Maria can choose amongst the
warriors wives for assistance. The warriors and their families are welcome to join in. Maria is also to
attend. Send for my sister and her husband. At the castle at seven. Have the table set outside. Also get
that longboat back to the ship. We will ferry Elizabeth, Beth and the others to her ship. The route you
took is treacherous if you do not know the waters.”
Later now. “Was I queenly enough bitchy?”
In bed, her body covering his, a few inches under the top.
“Maybe a little over the top.” A double entendre there, learned from Philip and Thomas.
Now naked in the main room, running a hand across Marlow’s desk “All those years. Was he a
happy man?”
“You would have to ask him.”
“I forget. Never speak for another. Well Shakespeare is wealthy and happy. What happens when
he runs out of plays.”
“Maybe Shakespeare will have learned to write his own. About five left.”
“Only you know, and a few other writers and us of course. Marlow was a very private man.”
“God chose wisely for him. And King Charles paid dearly.”
Tristan, “He paid nothing. He stole a man’s right to live anyway he chooses, the price his life.
Nothing.” Anger.
“What would be just?”
“A life spent in a chair, helpless, dependent upon others for your slightest itch. Your cock stolen,
useless except to piss. That is a fair price.”
“You can be cruel Tristan.”
“Of course. I am huge...I contain multitudes.” Anger gone.
“A poem. Nice.”
“A fact.”
“Man cannot control his destiny... the gods do so, but he can control how he arrives at said
stopping point.”
“And you?”
“I never plan that far ahead. A thing may catch curiosity’s glance, causing delay, causing
lateness, destiny may grow impatient and move on.”
Tristan had neglected to inform Elizabeth of A