If you’re reading this chapter, you’re either curious, or you’ve just read my post on medieval prostitution. This is not chapter 1, so you’ll need some background information before reading. Also, please keep in mind that this is not the final draft. I am still in the process of editing, so this chapter will likely change in time.
Beneath the Destined Stone
This book is written from the perspective of Fiona Buchanan, a modern day social worker who is taken back in time (against her will) to 14th century Scotland. The chapter before this ends with Fiona getting shot in the leg with an arrow and then jumping off a cliff into a river, presumably to her death. I won’t go into what leads up to this. You’ll just have to trust me that she has her reasons for jumping 🙂
Without further ado…
Voices danced along the edge of darkness.
“Mortal sin?” came a young male voice.
“Murder,” answered a deeper voice. “See the fletching poking through the water? Help me move her.”
I felt hands wrap around my wrists and ankles, felt pain rip through my body as the two unknown men hoisted me from my watery bed. But I could not tell them to stop. I was trapped inside my own head, useless as a marionette without strings.
“Do ye recognize her?” the young voice asked.
“Here, set her down.”
I felt earth beneath me, cold and hard. A breeze turned my skin to ice, and I wished they’d put me back in the warm water. Was my body even shaking? It didn’t seem to work anymore. A hand wiped wet hair off of my face.
“Nae. I havenae seen her before. And I thought I kent all the noble lassies on the isle.”
“Look at her clothes,” the young voice said. “She isnae a lady. Merchant, I’d say.”
“I’ve much tae teach ye, my young squire. Forget the clothes. Look at her skin, her teeth, her feet.”
“Aye, now ye’ve got it.
“Nae, look at her hand. Have ye ever seen such a ring?”
One of them grabbed my hand and raised it. It felt like they were trying to rip my arm from my body. I tried to scream, but my mouth refused to open. Am I dead? I wondered. Is this my hell?
“God in heaven. She is highborn. Must have run off wi a lover,” the older voice said.
“Gavin, I think she’s breathing!”
I felt hair fall on my face.
“’Tis faint, but she lives.”
“We have tae get her tae a priest before she expires,” the older voice said.
“She’s too bloody fir a church,” the young voice said, cracking on the word bloody.
“No need fir a church. We arenae far from Black Lizzie’s.”
I remember little of being carried by my unknown savior. But I remember clearly the first time I heard Black Lizzie speak. She had the voice of a Disney princess, sing-song and delicate, which made the angry words coming out of her mouth sound very strange.
“Nae. Out. I dinnae care who yer father is, Peacock. Out wi ye.”
“Lizzie. Can ye no see the lass isnae long fir this world? Do ye want tae see her damned?”
“What am I tae do? Do I look like a sarding priest?”
The man who carried me chuckled. “I”ll eat my hat if there arenae three priests in the back wi yer girls right now.”
“They’re disposed,” she said dryly.
“Lizzie, take a good look at the lass.”
A few seconds later she said in a breathy voice, “Oh. That does change things.”
“I imagine there’s a fair amount o’ silver fir the person who saves the girl’s immortal soul.”
A loud sigh. “Bring her tae the back. I’ll fetch Father McDougall once he’s done wi the ol’ up and down.”
I remember chanting, and I remember pain. But the thing I remember most clearly was the moment I realized I was being given my last rites. They’re going to let me die. I thought in a panic. They’re not even going to try and save me. I could hear. I could feel. I could think. Why couldn’t I tell them? Dammit, I’m alive!
“If ye mend her wounds, I can take her wi me tae St. Leonard’s. The abbess will make room at the hospital.”
“Forget it, Priest. She stays here. I dinnae want any misunderstandings aboot who her family should reward…though dressing her wounds isnae a bad idea. They’ll ken I took good care o’ her then.”
I heard shuffling, then Lizzie’s voice yell, “Mary!”
I willed my eyes to open. Come on. Just a crack. Open, goddammit.
“Aye, Miss Lizzie?” a new voice said.
“I need a poultice, a knife, water, and bandages.”
“What aboot a draft fir the pain? Some poppy, mayhap?”
“Dinnae be daft. Look at her.”
I can feel, I tried to scream. Oh God, what are they going to do to me?
Fingers prodded my leg. They might as well have been knives. Stop it, I thought. Oh God, please stop.
“I can push it through,” Black Lizzie announced. “It willnae hit the bone.”
The priest began to chant again. “I’ll be aff then,” came my rescuer’s voice.
“Ye’ll go nowhere, Peacock. Ye brought this tae me, and ye’ll help me see it through. Now cut aff the fletching.”
I felt the arrow in my leg being jostled back and forth. The scent of fresh blood mingled with the smell of smoke and river water in my hair. I didn’t know it was possible to feel that much pain. It was worse than when I stepped on a nail, worse than when I broke my collar bone, worse even than when I had appendicitis. There can’t be pain worse than this, I thought. But I was wrong…
“Mary, my hammer,” Lizzie yelled. Then a minute later, “Watch fir the tip tae come through, Peacock.”
She began to pound on the arrow like it was a nail she was trying to drive through a stubborn piece of oak.
“Careful, Lizzie,” Gavin said, “ye’ll break the shaft.”
“Then call a surgeon,” she snapped.
She hammered and cursed and banged and tugged. The priest kept chanting. Gavin kept silent. And all the time my flesh burned and muscles split. Blood pooled around me, and I could do nothing but endure .
“It’s through,” Gavin called.
The hammering stopped, and the pulling began. I felt the wood sliding through macerated flesh. But it was a relief. Pain, I learned, is a relative thing. And after the crude bludgeoning, this pain barely registered.
“Out!” Gavin shouted.
They packed my leg with something that felt like wet sand and yanked a cloth tight around the wound. As soon as they finished, exhaustion pressed down on me like a weighted vest. At first I resisted. Will I wake if I give in? I wondered. Do I want to? I thought, and then sleep took me.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, that was not my last sleep. I woke on and off, still unable to move or speak or open my eyes. At some point I realized I must be in a coma. I knew that meant I didn’t have long. But days or minutes, I wasn’t sure. Time has no meaning when your body is its own coffin. Muffled voices came and went. I heard moans and grunts and every now and then a smack or a yell. Once I felt someones hands on me.
“How much fir this one?” a man called.
“That one’s not fir sale,” Lizzie snapped.
“I’d give ye double, Lizzie. Let me have a go,” the voice pleaded.
“Touch this one, and I’ll cut off yer cranny hunter. She’s worth more tae me intact than a year o’ yer hae-pennies.”
Later, though I can’t say how much later, a hand worked its way up my dress. “She willnae be the wiser, Hen,” a hot breath whispered in my hear. Hen. The word stirred something in me. Dinnae be so crabbit, Hen, I remembered the bowman say to me. Suddenly, I was back on that cliff, scared and angry. I saw the bowman coming towards me, flashing his black, broken teeth. No! I shouted at the him. I saw him raise his bow. No! I screamed again. He loosed the arrow. “No!” I screamed out loud.
The black veil disappeared like a wisp of smoke, and I found myself face-to-face with a buck-toothed man. He startled back and then lunged to cover my mouth with his hand.
Thread-bare linens formed crude walls around the bed I was lying in. I watched as they tore back, revealing a petite woman with jet-black hair and the face of a porcelain doll.
“I warned ye,” she said in an angry, dainty voice.
Black Lizzie, I knew instantly.
“I’m sorry, Lizzie. Please.”
“Davy!” Lizzie shouted, and a few seconds later a lion of a man appeared by her side. She nodded at him, and he grabbed the buck-toothed man by the throat.
“Nae. Nae!” the buck-toothed man tried to scream, but it came out strangled and weak as the lion dragged him from the make-shift room.
Lizzie sat down next to me on the bed and stroked the hair from my brow. “Well, well, my sweeting,” she said in her doll’s voice. “This is an unexpected blessing. We’ve much tae discuss.”