SOLARIS

C L I F F O R D B E A L
First published 2014 by Solaris
an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd,
Riverside House, Osney Mead,
Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK
www.solarisbooks.com
ISBN: 978 1 78108 325 3
Copyright © Clifford Beal 2014
The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
copyright owners.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the
British Library.
Designed & typeset by Rebellion Publishing
Printed in the UK
For Hannah, Emma
and Samuel
“You cannot take War across the
countryside in a Sack”
– old German proverb
CLIFFORD BEAL
9
I
Cold Porridge
JULY 1645
Northampton
First of July 1645
YESTERDAY THEY CAME for me.
Five horsemen pounded up the lane at a fast trot, scattering
the squealing pigs that rooted by the roadside. All in buff and
blackened harness, they reined in and dismounted right in front of
me. I had seen their likes before: troopers of Generals Cromwell
and Ireton. And it was their New Model army that had wreaked
havoc among us only days gone by upon the field at Naseby. It was
also plain to me that I was the object of their intent.
They looked at me like I was some base rogue, smugness in their
thin half-smiles. The one who was their sergeant stepped forward,
spurs a-jingle and hand on sword hilt, the visor of his pot thrown
open, revealing to me the face of a man who had seen much war.
THE RAVENS’ BANQUET
10
His right cheek was fiercely scarred, the skin seared red and raw.
And the stink of sweat, wood smoke, and gunpowder preceded
him.
“Be you Richard Treadwell?” he demanded.
I tried to straighten up and put weight on my crutch, the green
wood of the spindly thing bending precariously under my arm.
“I am Colonel Richard Treadwell, of His Majesty’s Army of
Horse. What business do you have with me?”
The sergeant reached into his snapsack without taking his sunken
grey eyes from me and drew out a letter. As he did so, I saw out of
the corner of my eye one of his fellows barge into the house.
“Richard Treadwell,” he said, rasping in the halting tongue
of a rustic newly acquainted with the written word, “You are
hereby taken into the custody of Sir Thomas Fairfax and... by his
authority... thou art to be transported to London, arraigned on
the charge of Treason, and detained at the pleasure of Crown and
Parliament.”
He handed me the warrant, which I read ra pidly even as my ears
began to ring. It said little more.
“I offered my surrender to Sir John Havers at Naseby. It’s
at his pleasure that I’m held here,” I protested. “I see no order
relinquishing that right, and it will take more than this paper to
get me to accompany you.”
The Sergeant’s eyes remained locked onto mine. His reply, when
it came, was delivered in quiet firmness. It was my first taste of the
New Order of things in this world.
“I am under orders to bring you out whether say you yea or nay.
Or would you have me break the other leg to convince you?”
The cold throb deep in my right thigh was no gentle reminder
that I could hardly walk let alone make a run for it. I lowered my
head in recognition that I had now a new warder.
His comrade emerged from the cottage and undid the strap of
his pot helm.
CLIFFORD BEAL
11
“None but a woman and her boy inside. Looks like she’s got a
full larder. What do you say we stay here for the night and make
our return on the morrow?”
The sergeant looked to his companion, then shot me a sideways
glance. He cocked the visor of his pot, turned on his heels, and
removed his gauntlets.
“Listen, Bill,” spoke up the other again, “a good bed lies in the
hall – the first bed I have laid eyes upon in near two month.”
I saw the sergeant look up to spy where the sun hung in the sky
and so calculate the time. That he had even to think about such a
choice when a soldier’s feast awaited, was testament to the discipline
of this enemy. If it were me, I would not have hesitated.
“Aye, well,” he said, tempted by his friend, “we would not make
it back to camp before nightfall even if we left straight away.” He
turned again and looked at me, measuring me up, reckoning whether
I would be a handful or not. He then swung around to his comrade.
“We’ll stay here the night but start all the sooner come morning.”
He called to the remaining three troopers who stood by, holding the
reins of their bedraggled mounts. “Fetch the leg irons!”
When we six entered the cottage, poor Mistress Hayton was
choked full with dread. She had not expected such company when
she had hurriedly accepted to be my warder the week before. Then,
Sir John had given her kind words and silver coin, bidding her to
treat me civilly and to dress my wounds until his return. Her own
husband was off with the same victorious army that now gathered
up the remnants of the King’s shattered host.
It is no natural thing to make war on one’s own countrymen. But,
alas, we all were driven to it. After four stinking years in this hellish
fight I confess I still find it a hard thing to put a sword into another
Englishman. Yet not even me, jaded and corrupted as I am, had
expected things to go on this long.
We had danced a grisly reel these past months; the King’s forces
winning a few, Parliament’s rebels winning a few more. Now, I fear,
THE RAVENS’ BANQUET
12
after Naseby’s dreadful harvest, my cause is at an end. Leastways,
my own part in it is now done.
The goodwife scuttled about the house as the rebels tracked in
a week’s worth of grime. She said not a word, but cooked them a
meal and brought them beer and lit a taper for their pipes. As for
me, I was evicted from the bed in the loft and shackled near the cool
stone of the hearth. One cuff around my good ankle, the other end
set and clamped upon an iron ring in the fireplace. And so we spent
the evening: the three troopers well fed upon the settle and chair,
laughing and cussing; the sergeant and his corporal at the table;
Mistress Hayton perched upon the four-poster bed next to her boy
and awaiting every barked command; and me, sitting in the dust of
the hearth like a dog, far too close to the fire for a summer’s night,
and slurping cold porridge.
Sometime after the sole tallow candle had burned down to just a
thumb-length, the corporal took his leave up the stairs for the bed
he had long dreamt of. The three troopers, no doubt deprived of
good sleep for more days than they could remember, had by now
succumbed to the comfort of their surroundings and all snorted,
snored and gurgled in their slumbers. The sergeant too, his head full
of drink and chin upon chest, drifted off even as he sat in his chair,
elbows propped.
The mistress had barely moved or spoken for some time. I could
just see her white cap and neckcloth in the gloom as she stroked her
son upon the bed. Then I heard her quiet voice speak. And she was
speaking to me.
“It’s not of my doing, sir.”
“I know,” I replied. “Don’t reproach yourself, goodwife. It was
my choice to live to see this fate.”
She was silent for a moment, looking at me where I lay.
“How did they take you?” she whispered.
I wondered why it had taken her a week to ask me. I stared into
the glowing coals at my side.
CLIFFORD BEAL
13
“It was my choice to live. I think my decision was hastened by the
pistol muzzle pressed against my skull and the sound of the lock as
the owner pulled back the hammer.”
“So then, you had no choice, sir. I sorrow for you.”
I shook my head and wagged a finger at her from the floor. “Nay,
goodwife, I could have chosen at that instant to be transported,
delivered from all of my misery. Just one word to that trooper.
I could have dared him to blow my brains out. It would have
ended right there. But I didn’t say a word and I dropped my sword
instead.”
“Any a man would have done the same, sir,” she whispered,
quickly looking over to the sleeping sergeant, fearful that her words
would bring down his wrath. Her face was pale in the fire glow.
“There’s no shame in it. To have done otherwise would have been a
sin in the eyes of God.”
“I remain of two minds on that score, mistress,” I replied.
There was silence between us for a moment or two, and then she
spoke up again.
“Tell me, sir, what is it that you’re writing upon those sheaves
these past few days? Are these letters to gain your liberty?”
Her question took me aback. In truth, I wasn’t even sure myself
why I was scribbling my thoughts down upon paper. “Letters? Nay
goodwife, not letters as such... more like a journal of what has
befallen me.”
But they were letters: letters to myself. Thoughts that bubbled
up like a high-fired cauldron; hissing, spitting, and random. The
contradictions of my uneasy life and recent circumstances could be
contained inside my head no longer.
“But who is it for, sir? Your wife?” she asked.
I blinked in the gloom a few times as her question reached my
ears. My dear wife, poor thing, this would go down hard, I knew.
“It is for no one, no one but me. And it is an idle and desperate
exercise.”
THE RAVENS’ BANQUET
14
I realised that I had confounded the poor woman for she didn’t
reply. Finally, after a long silence, she ventured to speak again. The
whisper that she hissed was near enough swallowed by the heavy
linen curtains of the bed. “What should I tell Sir John when he
returns to claim you?”
And in spite of my sorry condition I found myself laughing.
“Tell him, madam, that I fear he has lost his ransom prize.”
THEY WOKE ME early, stiff as a corpse and in agony of my wound as
the heavy boots of the troopers stamped upon the floorboards. They
unchained me and led me out back for my morning necessary. I had
barely time to lace up my breeches whereupon the sergeant said we
were setting out. Mistress Hayton just looked on, saying nothing
about this hasty change of custody. Full glad of the fact that they
had not raped or beaten her, she was just happy to be rid of all of
us. Without protest she put together a sack with some fresh linen,
my paper, pen and ink, and two loaves of bread. It is all the baggage
I now possess. I pulled off one of my rings and pressed it into the
woman’s hand just before I limped out the door of the cottage that
had been my gentle prison.
“For your trouble, goodwife,” I said.
She nodded in response, “God keep you, sir.”
“Fear not, woman,” grinned the sergeant as he untied the reins of
his horse, “we’ll make sure that he’s safely delivered to the Lord or
the Devil soon enough.”
Her lad and another trooper helped lift me into the saddle of
the spare mount and I must say in shame that I cried out with the
pain. Thank Jesus they were of a mind to ride slowly that day.
Even so, we made Northampton by evening, and I as sick as a dog.
My thigh wound was nearly split open wide again, the heat was
strong enough to make one swoon, and the flies a plague the whole
of the way.
CLIFFORD BEAL
15
* * *
St. Albans
Second of July 1645
IT HAS BEEN a hellish journey thus far; we’re to spend the night
here at the garrison and on the morrow to continue for London, a
destination I have no reason to be thankful for. The remnants of the
King’s army have been marched on the same road as I, only a week
before. Like Caesar, General Fairfax has paraded his four thousand
prisoners in chains through London to make a Triumph for himself
and to prove to that rabble of his Senate that the New Model Army
stands to protect the Republic.
This morning, as I was escorted back into the guardroom
from the privy, I was set upon with taunts from some troopers.
My appearance, by now, is like some harum-scarum fellow: torn
breeches, bloodstained coat, mud-specked and matted hair.
“Poor cavvy!” cried one.
“Papist lickspittle!” said another.
One, a beanpole of a Roundhead, all arms and legs, barred my
passage, stabbing at my chest with a long bony finger. “Romish
bastard! You’re no better than dog shit. Plotting to bring an army of
Catholics to rape and murder our womenfolk and this in your own
country! By Christ, it will be a length of hemp for you!”
I, who had campaigned against the Roman Antichrist himself – the
Hapsburg Emperor! I, who had shed more blood in the Protestant
Cause than this rogue had pissed in his miserable life!
I drove the knee of my good leg into his balls with all my might
and the knave bent over and cast up his accounts on the floor. Two
others were on me in an instant and I lashed out at them both. I
heard one’s nose crack as my fist struck him, then the second hurdled
into me and we both went to the floor. The whole pack of curs was
soon at me, raining blows down. I felt a boot on my neck and was
THE RAVENS’ BANQUET
16
full expecting a knife in the guts when an officer came in and began
beating the louts back with the flat of his sword. The sergeant of the
guard was right behind him and I was hauled up to my feet again.
“By whose leave do you abuse the prisoner?” demanded the
officer, spitting with rage. He was met with silence.
“Arrest the lot!” he said to the sergeant. Then he cast a cold eye
on the troopers. “This man is under protection of Parliament and is
entrusted to my care. I’ll not lose my commission because of your
bear-baiting.”
And I was led out into the street and over to the officer’s chambers.
“I am a gentleman and a Colonel-of-Horse,” I told him as I wiped
blood from my lip. “Those ill-disciplined dog-apes dared call me a
papist. I’ll not suffer such handling by any man.”
A trooper pushed me into a chair.
“I know who you are,” said the officer. “There won’t be any cakes
and ale for you in my custody, sirrah. I’ve undertaken to deliver you
to London in one piece and that I will do. I don’t care a fig whether
you’re a goddamned Catholic or not. Your judgement is not in my
hands.”
“What did they mean by that rimble-ramble about Catholic
plotting?” I asked.
“There have been some revelations since your capture, Colonel. Ill
tidings from the pen of Charles Stuart, that fool who thinks he’s still
king.” And he handed me a newly-printed tract just arrived from
London.
“‘The King’s Cabinet Open’d,’” I read aloud.
“Read on,” said the officer, “It makes for good instruction.”
And so I learned that even as I was offering up my sword to the
enemy, the King had fled the field of Naseby and the entire Royal
Baggage was taken. Also taken was the coach of State and with it a
silken rope to hang our cause for good. All the papers of state had
fallen into Parliament’s hands: the King’s personal correspondence
with his agents abroad and with foreign potentates. And most
CLIFFORD BEAL
17
damning, described in full, a letter wherein his plans to invade
England with an army of Irish Catholics.
Then it struck me why I had been taken and charged. Like some
loyal fool, I had given to the King a small service with my pen a few
months earlier. I had written to Duke Frederick of Denmark (whom
I had served with against the Swedes), asking him to convince his
father, King Christian, to come to the aid of Charles, his blood
relative. Other letters followed. Any one of these would serve as my
death warrant.
At least I know now what I’m up against. And with what time I
have left, I shall write about the path that has led me to this grim
crossroads. I swear that all I have written here is God’s Truth, even
though some may say it is the stuff of lies or the ramblings of a
confused mind. The words that follow tell of what befell me in
Germany when I was a youth. You may call it a confessional.
It was of my own free will that I made Fortune my mistress and
followed her, a captive of her charms. I was given good instruction
in the art of bloodletting many leagues from these shores in rolling
green fields and in shadow-laden forests, grown tall on the dust of
Roman bones. A place where I came to witness things no man ever
should and to do things that no man ought to be asked. A place
where the Devil stood at my side.
So then, you ask, how did I become a soldier? And how did I end
my days in defeat following a losing cause led by an unwise king?
Well, that is the heart of my tale, a tale that I pray I have the time
to tell in full, before Judgement comes. A tale that begins twenty
years ago.
About the Author
Clifford Beal, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, worked
for 20 years as an international journalist and is the former
editor-in-chief of Jane’s Defence Weekly in London. He is the
author of Quelch’s Gold (Praeger Books 2007), the true story
of a little-known but remarkable early 18th century Anglo-
American pirate.

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