Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon

Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon by Christian Cameron Read Free Book Online

Book: Tom Swan and the Head of St George Part One: Castillon by Christian Cameron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christian Cameron
live long.’
    Swan immediately looked around. They were on top of the ridge that ran parallel to the road, and the man had been in the cover of a large rock. He felt foolish. The Greek was right – if the man had had a partner, he’d have been dead.
    He took the man’s purse. It held two French ecus in silver – a decent sum. Swan showed them to his partner and tossed him one. The Greek caught it and grinned.
    ‘Glad I shared my chicken with you,’ he said. He ran his hands over the man. Pinned to the inside of the man’s coat was a lead badge, such as pilgrims wore. He took that. He also took the man’s crossbow and his bolts.
    They rode down to the column carefully, Swan with the crossbowman across his saddle. The count rode out to meet them.
    ‘Who . . . what do you have there?’ He looked angry. ‘Another of the lice?’
    Alessandro was riding towards them, his galloping horse throwing up dust. Swan wondered why he was in such a hurry.
    Two of the count’s archers had the unconscious man.
    Giannis bowed. ‘My lord, he shot at us with his weapon, and my young friend here was too foolish to let him get away.’
    The count glanced at Swan, and Swan didn’t like his look.
    Alessandro arrived. ‘Is that a prisoner?’ he asked.
    Giannis nodded. ‘Yes, boss.’
    The count shrugged. ‘I’ll hang him. I have the right.’
    ‘Let me question him first,’ Alessandro said. ‘My lord count?’
    ‘Why?’ asked the count. ‘Scum like this will say anything. Best rid the world of him and send him to hell.’ He made a motion with his hand, and one of the archers drew a knife.
    ‘I would very much like to question him, my lord—’ Alessandro said, but the man was beyond questioning.
    Alessandro glared at the French knight. ‘I thought you intended to hang him?’
    Swan gave his horse a little knee and turned in between the knight and the Italian man-at-arms. ‘Messires, I feel I should be back at my duty. Do you have any further orders?’
    The count shook his head.
    Swan rode away, all but towing Alessandro. The Italian was angry.
    ‘He did that on purpose,’ he said.
    Swan shrugged. When they were out of sight of the count, he handed over the pilgrim badge.
    Alessandro let out a sigh of pure frustration. ‘When I saw it, I thought it might be a livery badge,’ he said.
    ‘I don’t think of brigands as the kind of men who go on pilgrimages,’ Swan said.
    Giannis handed his boss the crossbow. ‘A fine weapon,’ he said. ‘Well kept.’
    Swan looked down at the column, just coming into sight below them as they climbed. ‘Does the cardinal have . . . an enemy?’
    ‘In Rome? Yes. Here?’ Alessandro shook his head.
    Giannis looked at his capitano . ‘But he has valuable things with him.’
    Swan reined in. ‘You have years of experience. But if it was up to me, I’d guess that the count means the cardinal harm.’ He looked down the column. ‘Or one of these other gentlemen.’
    Alessandro nodded. ‘An interesting thought. One, perhaps, you should not share.’ Alessandro looked at Giannis, who shrugged expressively, despite his breast and backplate. He managed to convey, in a single shrug, that he was interested in the subject, but would not discuss it.
    The rest of the afternoon passed without incident, and Swan was tired and covered in dust when he returned to the convoy at sunset. They were rolling into the courtyard of an inn.
    Peter took his horse, wincing as he reached up for the bridle.
    ‘You should take more time,’ Swan said.
    Peter wagged his head back and forth. ‘I’m bored. Pain is pain. Listen – master – I opened the purses.’
    Swan looked around. He wasn’t comfortable discussing it.
    ‘Well – there’s a charge for straw and another for wash water. I thought as—’ The Fleming raised an eyebrow.
    ‘Tell me,’ said Swan.
    ‘I won’t say as we’re rich. But if you kill one bandit a day and take his purse, we’ll be able to keep eating.’ Peter

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