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The Highwayman

Date: 04-27-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 41

It was the end of another long day of shoveling dog shit.  Muscles no longer ached with that burn but rather with the tiredness that came from working hard.  The pile was nearly gone, leaving Rob thankful and ready to work at the track rather than with this 'therapy'.  Boots were left outside before he took one step into the house.  After a long hot bath to soak aching muscles and the smell from his skin, he trudged down to the kitchen.  Properly dressed of course in case he'd meet family on the way except for bare feet but he doubted that would bother anyone.

It was on that way that one of the maids stopped him to hand him a letter.  Lady Ellison had written.  Rob tucked the letter into his vest pocket while he continued to the kitchen.  Once the cook had fussed enough and made sure a good meal sat in front of him, Robert pulled out the letter.

Ellis's handwriting was exquisite as always and there was the faintest hint of her perfume that delighted his sense of smell after a long day of ...  well, not so pleasant smells.  He broke the seal and began to read.

My dearest Robert,

Once again, dear friend, you have helped me and words can never express my gratitude.  I have learned through mutual friends what happened to you and your brother, and that you were both healed.  I can't begin to explain the horror and fear when the tale was told, and then my relief.  I wept, Rob.  Had you died saving David, my life would have been so empty.  Selfish I know but you have been a friend for so long. The thought of losing you is nearly unbearable.

David is healing well though the mental healing may take longer. He has become reluctant to leave my side, or the side of our daughter.  Yes, I delivered my child early but she is healthy though tiny.  She is beautiful, Rob, like a tiny porcelain doll.  We called her Etienne Magdalena after our mothers.  We are still at the home of my brother but shall return soon. Spring has finally come to Haclymas though reluctantly.

I think when we do, there will be changes.  David has been in correspondence with some of the other nobles and I feel they begin to see the error of a harsh rule.  As you know, if has always been my hope that our land would become more like your home.  Perhaps in time.

I know this letter is far too short, but Etienne is waking and I wish this to be on its way to you.  I miss you, my darling friend. Come see us soon so that you may be introduced to your goddaughter.



The mention that the baby had been named his goddaughter had him smiling warmly as Rob replaced the letter in his vest pocket and continued with his meal.  His thoughts were on all that had happened and he realized, in spite of his regrets, he would not have done anything different. Once again, he felt a touch of envy for what David Ellison had -- a wife, a child, permanence.  And yet, Rob knew if he were able to change places with the man, he would decline.  All that he had, all that he was, was rooted here, in the lands he called home.


Date: 05-05-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 42


His trip north was a brief one for the racetrack was to open soon, and with Danny's focus being elsewhere, Rob knew where his true responsibility was. As the coach pulled to a stop in the courtyard of the Ellison Manor, he turned look at Tomas. "Enjoy your visit with your family and tell Will once planting is done, he can begin lessons." Rob had agreed to take the boy as a second apprentice. Hopefully he wouldn't regret the decision but Will deserved a chance just as Tomas had. After stepping from the coach, he looked up at the driver. "Be back here after the evening meal." He had agreed to stay only that long when answering Elise's letter. She was waiting for him in the foyer and he smiled when he saw her.

"You do not look like a woman who's just given birth." He teased as he hugged her and placed a kiss to her cheek.

"It's been weeks, not days." She laughed as she returned both. Linking her arm through his, she took him into the drawing room where Lord Ellison sat. The man refused to have much to do with healers who did not use what he called natural means, hence his leg was still healing.

"Robert. Come join me for a while. Etienne is sleeping." He seemed different, his arrogance subdued. The threat of death had done what nothing else could do -- it had humbled the man. The afternoon passed quickly and suddenly, Elise was standing there holding the infant. She was wrapped in the blanket that Rob had sent as part of his gifts when he had first received word. Wordlessly, he stood, holding out his arms.

As soon as Elise placed the child into his arms, Robert was lost. It was just as it had been the first time he had met any of his nephews or nieces. As the infant yawned, he smiled and when she opened eyes that were already a bright blue, he felt his heart grow warm. A kiss was pressed gently to her forehead as he sat and a silent pledge given, just as it had been to those of his blood.

"I will protect you for as long as I am able, with my very life if need be." It was a vow that would last his lifetime, for this child, for the children of his kin, and someday, for his own.


Date: 05-24-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 43

Imitation is Not the Finest Form of Flattery

Rob couldn't stay completely away from the northern lands.  He still was a surveyor, still had jobs to complete.  Patrick's accident at the track had taken his younger brother out of commission for a bit, but he'd recover just find under Sinead's attention.  Rob had finished the work and managed to persuade Danny to take over for a few days so he could finish the jobs promised.  He had chuckled when Danny reluctantly agreed but was certain Shiloh could use the few hours to herself without Danny hovering.  Danny was an excellent husband and would be a wonderful father, but he'd be gray before their child was born if he didn't relax.

Rob's thoughts had been on his family as he and Tomas made their way through a spring storm to the inn where Rob usually stayed.  The innkeeper, Efrem, greeted the two men jovially and escorted them himself to a table near the fire so they could dry. 

"Youn' Will be excited abou' his apprenticeship."  Efrem told Rob with a grin.  The innkeeper was a big man, overweight and with a silver tooth in place of one of his front ones. 

"Good.  He'll be starting in the fall after harvest. How are things here?"  Rob would send Tomas off to his family as soon as they both had a good meal and hopefully the rains had stopped.  He glanced at the younger man who was grinning.

"Be guid, better tha' they ev'r hav', Laird Frasier."  He leaned toward Rob, grinning. "Laird Ellison be workin' fer change.  Taxes ha'e been eased some.  There be talk the king plans t' step down an' let his son take over." 

That was surprising but welcomed news and Rob nodded in approval.  "I'm sure the older lords will be unwilling to relinquish their control, but the younger lords will deal with that in time."  As the older ones became too old or died out -- time seemed to be the only factor in their favor at the moment. They exchanged a few more words and then Efrem headed off to tend to customers and make sure a hot meal was delivered to the two. 

"Things feel better, don't they?"  Tomas grinned at Rob as he leaned back in his chair.  "More hopeful."

"Might just be spring." He teased his younger companion then nodded. "I have to agree though.  Much better."  The door swung open and two of the local toughs entered.  They nodded at Rob, greeted Tomas with easy words and laughter and headed for their own table. 

"How're things at the fortress, Lee?"  Both men were loud but not obnoxious, and being close, Rob and Tomas could hear easily. The younger man turned in his chair slightly so he could talk to them if he wanted. 

"Quiet since so many o' us were arrested.  Can't say I'm sorry it happened.  Jencks was nothin' but trouble. Got something new goin' on though."  Tomas cast a grin at Rob, who gave him a warning look.  By then, one of the serving girls had brought their meal.

"What's that?"  The other man sprawled in his chair, his back toward Rob and Tomas' table.

"You remember th' Fox?"  This time it was Robert who took notice, blinking as the name was mentioned. He raised his mug for a drink of ale, more attentive than before.  "Well, folks been figurin' he been hur' or somethin'.  Ain't seen no sign of 'im, until today."  He paused to take a drink, knowing he had an audience.  "Only it ain't 'im."

"Lee, ya just said ...  "

"I know wha' I said, Mark.  It's a woman.  More like a lass.  Them tha' were robbed sai' she couldn' be more'n sixteen.  Thinkin' it's the Fox's daughter."

Rob inhaled suddenly, choking on his drink. Tomas jumped up, pounding on his back and Rob held up his hand for him to stop.  "I'm fine."  He croaked and looked at the two young men who had jumped up when Tomas had.  "It just struck me as funny."  Funny?  He was furious inside.  Who was the lass and what in the nine hells was she thinking?

Lee grinned and nodded. "Sam' here. She had a flintlock an' it was an older driver an' his lady, but still nervy o' th' lass."

"It is. Why do you think it's his daughter?" Tomas sat again, fighting laughter. Rob glared at him then looked at Lee.

"Horse looks th' sam'.  If it's trained, no one else coul' ge' near 'cept kin.  An' she left some cards."  Lee patted his tunic, then handed one over to Tomas.  "Keep it as a souvenir.  She dropped a few."  Tomas tucked the card into one of his pockets as their talk drifted to other things.  He slipped it over to Rob when they said good night and then he joined his two friends in the walk to his home.  Rob waited until he was upstairs to study the card.  It wasn't one of his.  The design had been drawn on thin parchment with some type of ink. Luckily it had been tucked into an inner pocket and the ink hadn't run.  He tossed the paper onto the desk in his room and moved over to the window.  The rain had ended but the village was quiet.  Steam was rising as the moisture evaporated. 

Sixteen.  His daughter.  The conversation went on and on in his head until finally he crawled into bed.  He had a job tomorrow, but as soon as it was completed, he and Tomas were going hunting -- before the girl got herself killed.


Date: 05-24-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 44

The moon hung in the sky, silvery and bright, it's glow giving a ghostly look to the forest.  Shadows seemed deeper, darker, making even the hoot of an owl sound threatening.  Rob watched as the great hunter swooped from a tree, in front of him, diving to catch dinner for her nestlings.  There was a squeak from the captured prey and then silence save for the wind moving through the branches.  Cavalier tossed his head with a soft snort and Rob leaned to pat his neck comfortingly. 

They had been sitting in the shadows for the past two nights, hoping that the girl would show. So far it had been quiet save for the passing of occasional riders, a coach or two, and several patrols.  Rob was beginning to hope that the lass had given up, but he knew he couldn't count on it.  She may have decided to lay low after a close call he had heard about.  So far, Tomas and Will had no likely candidates.  Rob rubbed at his stubbled chin as he considered the families he knew in the area just as Cavalier stirred restlessly.  That usually meant someone was approaching.  Rob dismounted and moved silently to the edge of the road.  He could hear the sound of a single rider.

As he waited, he heard another unmistakable sound.  A coach was nearing as well. Cursing softly under his breath, he pressed his back against a tree.  Just as the coach near the crossroads, the rider came into view, brandishing a flintlock.  Rob's eyes narrowed as he studied the figure on the horse.  Small and slender, it could definitely be a lass or a young lad.  The coachman halted his horses, and put his hands up.

"Don' shoot.  Me lady be elderly. Ye'd pu' her in her grave sure."

"D'en git yerself down from t'ere an' gi'e me her valuables."  The voice was the same, a young lass or lad but impossible to tell from here.  Rob started forward, clicking the hammer of his own flintlock back.

"I bae thinkin' yuir steppin' intae me territory."  He made the hint of a brogue into a full one as he spoke. "Sae, why dinnae ye throw doon yuir weapon and I'll bae lettin' ye ride off."

The false Fox turned, startled and Rob saw the smoke from the flintlock.  He felt a sting along his cheek as he dived to the side.  With the report of the weapon, he heard a shout and cursed again.  A patrol had been close.  He let out a shrill whistle and mounted Cavalier as the horse burst from the woods.  The disguised surveyor drew up beside the girl and spoke quickly.

"Git movin' ye daft bairn.  I'll draw 'em off." Without another word, Rob smacked the rear of her horse causing the stallion to bolt forward.  It would take a few moments for her to get the horse under control and by then, Rob planned to have the patrol after him.  He looked up at the coach driver to make certain the man was all right.  He was pale and shaken but still breathing.  With a nod, Rob urged Cavalier forward just enough that the patrol would see him and not the fleeing lass.  A sharp report and air from a ball whizzing close confirmed that they had seen him. 

Keeping low against Cavalier's neck, Rob led the patrol away from the escaping rider.  Once he hit the thickest part of the forest, he turned the horse off the road and onto an almost hidden path.  After a series of twists and turns, he paused at the top of a hill.  Leaving Cavalier in the shadow of an ancient oak, Rob moved forward, carefully avoiding the pools of silvery light.  He could see the roads below and watched as the patrol gave up their search and made their way back to the crossroads.  A quick glimpse of the girl and her horse heading away had him frowning.  Though he was glad to see her escape, he wasn't pleased that he hadn't been able to scare her off.  He had a feeling it wouldn't be long before they met again.  But now it was time to make his way back to the inn, and avoid any more patrols.

"Next time, lass."  He murmured softly as he and Cavalier faded into the shadows.  "Next time."


Date: 06-02-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 45

Once again, he waited at the crossroads, but this time, he did not intend to chase the girl or even show his face as Fox.  One arm leaning on Cavalier's neck, he watched and waited patiently.  Somewhere near Tomas was hidden as was Will.  All along the roads they had friends hidden, waiting.  The soft call of a whip-o-will had Rob sitting up and watching the road, eyes narrowed slightly.  There was enough light to allow him to see the girl and he grinned.  She came to the crossroads and paused there, looking around.

"I know you're here somewhere, Fox. Show yourself and we'll race again."  She said, in a confident, sassy tone.  He couldn't help but chuckle softly.  Whoever she was, the girl had spirit.  He heard the sound of another horse and grinned.  That would be Tomas, trying to spook her.  Another horse sounded and after a brief hesitation, the girl urged hers on into a run.  Rob urged Cavalier forward at a slower pace.  As she passed each lookout, they'd signal and he could continue to follow her at a safe distance.

He wasn't wearing the mask, hat or cap as he followed. With the increased patrols lately, he didn't think it a wise choice.  Once they cleared the forest, Cavalier kept an easy pace, keeping the girl in sight until she rode around a large rock.  Cursing, Rob urged the horse into a gallop, then slowed as he came in sight of a farm.  If his luck held, tomorrow, he'd find out if there was a young lass there.  As he turned Cavalier, he heard the sound of a flintlock being fired.  Instinctively, Rob ducked, then when he realized it came from the farm itself, he turned the horse back and rode toward where the shot had come from.  He heard a woman wailing as he neared.  Dismounting, he ran toward the house, Cavalier following.  What he saw had him skidding to a stop, his heart skipping a beat.

An elderly woman was kneeling on the ground, her arms wrapped around the still figure of the girl.  Her husband held a lantern and Rob could see blood soaking the ground.  A young guardsman stood near, horror on his face.  His flintlock lay on the ground, smoking.

"I didn't know. I thought she was going to hurt them.  I didn't know she was a lass."  He was sobbing and Rob placed a hand on his shoulder briefly before he turned and walked to the man and woman.  He placed his fingers against the girl's neck, and shook his head.  Gently, he reached up and removed the mask.  The face beneath the mask was as young as he feared, sixteen perhaps, eighteen at most.  She would have grown into a great beauty, with hair the color of summer wheat.  He imagined her eyes had been the blue of cornflowers.  Pale skin still had a touch of pink, her complexion perfect. 

"We didn't know what she was doing. She brought extra money for our taxes."  The older man couldn't bring his voice above a whisper as tears streamed down his face.  "Our granddaughter.  Only reminder of our son and his wife.  We would have stopped her."

"No one need know."  Rob said quietly.  "I don't think he'll tell anyone what happened." He glanced over his shoulder only to find the young soldier was gone, though his horse was still there, and the flintlock was missing as well.  Rob searched for a sign of the youth, spotting him and running after him.  He was at his side as he lifted the flintlock to his temple.  Rob grabbed the weapon, tilting it upward just as the trigger was pulled.  His ears would ring for hours but he glared at the young soldier just as before he swung his fist and knocked him out.  That would keep him from another attempt.

Taking a deep breath, he returned to the yard of the farm.  Tears filled his eyes, as he looked at the elderly couple and then carried the body of their granddaughter inside.  The soldier he took to his family, giving him over to their loving care. It was a very somber Rob who returned to Falkirk when all was done.  He wore black, black trousers, boots, a shirt of black linen under a black leather vest and so it would be for many days to come.


Date: 06-22-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 46


Robert Frasier stood at the window of his bedroom, staring out at the moonlit landscape of Falkirk without seeing.   In his hand, he held one of several glasses of potcheen he had consumed during the course of the night.   His mood of late had been black, even in the company of his family.  He said little of course, keeping busy with the tracks and his own business, though he had not accepted any jobs in the north.  Tomas was taking care of those for now.  Elise had written to him again, a letter he had yet to answer.  Etienne was doing well, her husband was not.  He may have had a change of heart as far as the people of his land, but his tactics had yet to change.  Apparently the other Lords of the Haclymas did not agree with him.   Rob found he feared for Elise and her family.   Fox was noticably missed by the people of the realm but he had no urge to return in that capacity yet.

The empty glass was placed on a table.  Rob stared at his reflection a moment and rubbed both hands over his face.  He looked disreputable, unshaven, scruffy.  It  wouldn't do to appear at Patrick's wedding looking like this.   A wedding, a birth soon.  He chuckled and turned away from the window.  The shave he could let go for tonight.  His hair was pulled back with a rawhide strip as he started out of his room.  Leaving the manor, Rob went to the stable.  Cavalier was brought out a few moments later, and he mounted the stallion.  First they would go for a ride along the lake, then he would leave Cavalier at the Thistle stable and go to the Garden.  And after that,  he would face the wedding with a smile.


Date: 07-29-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 47

Return of the Fox

Robert Frasier had learned caution since the first days of being the Shadow Fox.  Though at times he seemed reckless, he was much less so. There were occasions when it couldn't be helped.  Tonight was not one of those nights.  In face, he almost wished it were.

He had been in Haclymas for a week, hiding and only making appearances as Fox. It was necessary to keep the two from being connected and he had done so before.  The week had been productive and not dangerous at all except for the young guardsman who challenged him. That had been the first night, and a very embarrassed young man had gone back without his trousers when they were through.  Rob left those hanging on the branch of a tree at the fork of the road.  He also left a white rose at another fork -- the one where he had first seen the young girl who had died trying to help her family.  They had become another of his 'wards' though he had yet to mention the death to anyone.  Not even Tomas knew what had happened that night.  He asked Will to have one of his younger brothers do the same when he, Tomas and Will weren't in the north.  The task was accepted without any questions.

As he made his way back to the inn, Rob was almost wishing tonight he would have faced another challenger.  Tomas was waiting at the stable as he rode Cavalier in.  "That bounty hunter is in the inn." He whispered as Rob slid from his horse.  Rob groaned and leaned against the horse a moment. The man was incompetent and he was a braggart.  "I brought your clothing and bags." Tomas continued.  "You said you wanted to have Rob's presence known tonight."

"Tomas, you are a prince among men."  Rob clapped a hand to Tomas' shoulder, before he reached for the clothing.  He started to strip, handing Tomas each item of clothing. It was tucked away in a compartment in the bottom of the bag his surveying equipment was in.

Tomas just grinned as he continued.  "He's been talking up how he's gonna catch these highwaymen that have contempt for the law.  Even mentioned the Fox by name."

Rob chuckled and looked over Cavalier's back.  "And you weren't goading him, were you?" 

"Of course not, Master Rob."  Tomas grinned, dark eyes showing laughter. "Why would I ever do that?"  Rob just snorted and pulled his shirt over his head.  It was made of fine linen, lightweight and perfect for the hot weather.  A vest was added, then Robert combed his hair.  After a few more moments, he and Tomas headed into the Inn.

The bounty hunter had the name of Merritt Truly.  He was thin, wiry, and as far as Rob knew, had only one claim to fame ... he had accidentally shot a dangerous murderer.  "Good evening, Lord Frasier! Will you join me?"

Rob and Tomas exchanged looks before Rob smiled at the man. "I would, Mr. Truly, but the journey here has left me hungry, tired and hot.  I want a bath before my meal."  He looked at the keeper who was barely keeping his laughter contained. "Which I would like served in my room after."

"O' course, Lord Frasier.  Your usual room is waitin'."  The key was handed over. Tomas told Rob good evening, since he stayed with his family.  Once Rob was in his room, he closed the door and leaned against it, sighing with relief.

It wasn't until he was enjoying the bath and a drink of fine wine, that he finally thought about the night.  Closing his eyes, he thought about the first ...  meeting.


Date: 07-30-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 48

He had chosen a fairly well traveled road for his first venture.  One that was patrolled regularly at intervals.  It amused him that they hadn't changed the times but perhaps this would wake them up, though he doubted it.  The men were creatures of habit and didn't like their routine changed.  As he leaned against a tree, arms crossed over his chest, Cavalier nudged him.  The horse heard the carriage before Rob.  With a pat to the stallion's nose, he moved out onto the road.  Knowing he cut an imposing figure, Rob usually added a touch of drama.  He stood sideways, gun hand leading, the flintlock aimed for the head of the coachman.  Most stopped, though a few had caused him to jump out of the way or be run over by galloping horses. 

"Hold."  The gun was held unwavering even when the first horse stopped just inches away.  "Nae tricks, aye?"  The rich baritone carried well.  Rob's eyes narrowed as he studied the coachman.  He was a middle aged man, well fed.  Climbing up and down onto the driver's seat would be a chore for him.  Rob grinned, showing white teeth against tanned skin.  "If'n yae woul', climb doon an' open the door of the coach," He motioned with the flintlock and the man grumbled as he obeyed.  Not quite waddling, he walked along the side of the coach, opening the door. 

"M'lady.  The man says ya got to get out."  Rob could hear an answer and nearly groaned.  An elderly woman usually meant one who would grow ill over parting with her coin.  "It's a robber, m'lady.  A common thief.  Yes, m'lady." He put up his hand to help the woman out and Rob watched as a frail looking woman with hair as white as newly fallen snow stepped out.  She held up a pair of glasses and peered through them at Rob. 

"My, you're a big one, aren't you?  If I were forty years younger, I'd be throwing myself at your feet."  Rob laughed and swept his hat off as he bowed. 

"I thank ye, m'lady.  Ye're a charmin' woman, an' if ye were younger, I'd likely bae flirtin' with ye."

"Oh, aren't you a dear? And Scottish as well."  She laughed then looked serious. "And wouldn't your mother be ashamed of your trade."

"Ah, boot ye see, she brought me up ane the tale o' Robin Hood."  He winked then looked at her closely.  "Migh' I hav' yer name, m'lady?"

"Eloise Moiria Sabine Delacroise."  She managed a pretty curtsey in spite of her age. "And you are the highwayman known as the Shadow Fox."

"I am, an' I bae recognizing yer name, Lady Delacroise. Yer husband was a guid man.  I'll nae bae robbin' his widow."

"You will." Lady Delacroise huffed then motioned Rob closer.  "I know why you take the money, sir, and I'm carrying my taxes to the king." Her blue eyes twinkled. "He's allowing any who have been robbed to forgo paying their taxes."  Rob looked at her in surprise then laughed. 

"Ye bae a delight, m'Lady Delacroise, " He said as he took her hand and placed a kiss to the knuckles.

"There is one stipulation."  She looked serious though her eyes still twinkled.  "I am old, Fox, and have no heirs except one lazy, fat niece.  I wish for you to find four worthy families.  While I will not deprive her entirely of her inheritance, I will also give to those families, and will do so before my time comes.  Will you do that for me?"

Rob was so surprised, he nearly forgot his accent.  His smile would have melted the heart of many a lass as he studied the woman in front of him.  "I woul' dae sae gladly."

"In one month, we'll meet here again, at the same hour.  Does that give you enough time?"

"Aye, it does."  He looked at her a moment and she chuckled.  "I will wait for you to make sure there is no trickery.  Now, kiss my cheek like a good lad, and take the money.  We'll meet again soon."

Rob took a sip of the wine as he considered what he knew of Lady Delacroise.  Kind, and generous to those less fortunate, she did not hide what she thought of the king and his lords.  He would do more investigating of course, but at the same time would find the four families as promised.  Still, that event hadn't been as unpleasant as it could have been.  The second however had been a near fiasco.  He had no sooner mounted Cavalier, intending to move on, when a coach flew by.  For a moment, Rob though perhaps they were being pursued but that wasn't the case and he quickly spurred Cavalier after.  The driver, or so Rob assumed, flew from his seat, landing on the road in a heap.  Cavalier avoided the man without losing a step and Rob urged him into a faster run.


Date: 07-31-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 49

They caught up to the coach as it neared a bridge.  The horses were sweating from their run, nearly out of control.  He didn't wish to see any of them stumbled or end up in the river but that seemed to be their direction. 

"The gods are playing tricks tonight."  Rob muttered with a curse as he came up beside the careening coach.  He didn't dare think about what he was doing; instead he jumped from Cavalier to the side of the coach, nearly losing his footing when the vehicle swayed.  Cursing roundly in Gaelic, Rob managed to get a foot up onto the top.  Ducking branches, he crawled on hands and knees to find a small boy holding the reins and whooping with glee.  With a slide into the driver's seat, Rob took the reins from the lad and managed to bring the horses to a stop a few feet from the river bank.  The boy began screaming with rage and even attacked Rob with his fists as he pulled the brake of the coach on.  Rob picked the boy up by his breeches and held him at arm's length. 

"Calm doon or I'll dump ye in th' river." He growled. To his surprise, the boy obeyed, quieting as Rob jumped down from the coach, the boy still held out. 

"How dare you handle my son in that manner!!"  A shrill, nerve touching voice rang out as the coach door open.  A woman, fairly young, well dressed, with sharp features beneath straw colored hair flounced out followed by a relieved looking maid servant.  "Put him down!"

Rob looked at the woman for a moment, then opened his hand, dropping the boy to the ground where he landed on all fours and began to wail.  The woman scooped him up to comfort him, glaring angrily. 

"Ye nearly ended up in yon river."  Rob said, the accent heavier than usual due to anger.  "An' yer coachman may well be dead because of yer mama's boy."  The boy wiggled to be let down and puffed up his skinny chest as he looked at Rob.

"I'm not a mama's boy.  An'  I chal ...  chal...  I'll fight you!" Rob just stared at the lad, brows coming together in a frown.  His mother sniffed, tossing her head.

"He's a common thief, Terrance.  He'll not fight you because he's a coward."  And that set the boy to screaming again. 

"Be quiet, boy!"  Rob snapped then he glared at his mother.  "Ye be as daft as the village idiot.  Dae ye nae ken that such words coul' get yer lad killed outright befor' he reaches his teens?"  As the woman stepped forward, lifting her hand, Rob caught her by the wrist and brought her close to him, green eyes glinting dangerously.  " Git intae th'coach an' stay still."  He pushed her toward the coach, pulling out the flintlock and aiming it at her.  For a moment, it seemed she would argue but, to Rob's relief, she turned and obeyed.  Rob then crouched down and looked at the boy eye to eye.

"How ol' are ye, lad?"


"Ye bae small fer yer age.  Other lads pick on ye?"  Rob kept his voice soft, the conversation just between them. The boy nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. "Where bae yer da?  Home?"  Another nod given and Rob rubbed at his chin.  "What bae yer name?"

"Daniel Clark."

"William bae yer da?  Or August?"  He didn't think William had any sons but wasn't absolutely certain. 

"August. William is my uncle." The boy rubbed his sleeve under his nose, then stopped and looked toward the coach.  August. That explained quite a bit.  August was a bookish man, and rumor was that he had a harridan for a wife.  The boy would grow up spoiled or worse, under the thumb of his mother.  "Dae ye lik' yer uncle?"  Rob chuckled at the boy's enthusiastic laugh.  "An' ye'd like tae bae a knight lik' him?"  Another nod.  "Guid.  Now then, I bae thinkin' yer ma will let ye dae anythin', if you throw a tantrum, aye?"

"Oh yes."  Daniel grinned, then his eyes lit up. "I could ask to be Uncle William's page. And if she says no, I will scream and cry."

"Aye, but ye dae ken that yer Uncle William will nae likely be the same.  An' that bae a guid thing, aye?"  Daniel nodded again.  "Guid. Yae listen tae him and bae brave and ye'll bae a knight wit' much honor.  Nae, I'm goin' tae go check on yer coachman.  If he bae alive, I'll bring him back.  He may bae hurt.  Ye'll have tae wait here until a patrol comes tae get ye back."

"I'll protect them."  He started for the coach then stopped and ran back, throwing his arms around Rob's neck, nearly knocking him off balance..  "You won't get caught, promise?"

"Aye, I promise, as long as ye promise nae tae bae like me."

"I promise."

The coachman had been injured badly but true to his word, Rob brought him back.  Lady Clark felt so terrible, she insisted the man be placed in the coach though her cold manner toward Fox didn't change.  With a smile that set the woman's teeth on edge, he bowed and mounted Cavalier, riding away.  He didn't go far however, remaining hidden until the guardsmen found the coach and escorted them away.  He was more than ready to head for the inn when another coach caught his eye.


Date: 08-01-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 50

"Should have let that one go."  He chuckled as he stood and dried himself off.  Another glass of wine was poured after he pulled on his trousers.  Barefoot, he walked to the window, sipping the wine as he stared out.

It had been a coach that could only be called ostentatious. Gold leaf covered the rails, and the cherubs that decorated the sides.  Even the hub of the wheels were decorated with leaves of gold.  Amazingly, there were no guards.  Rob even hung back to make sure but there was only the coach, the driver and one coachman.  It may have been curiosity that caused him to intercept it when it came to a stop with a broken wheel.  The coachman and driver both climb down to stare at it as if uncertain what to do.  As Rob drew near, he could see that both were more boys then men, slim and apparently unused to doing much work.  Likely they had been chosen for their looks for both were pretty rather than handsome.  He was surprised they didn't squeal in terror when he brandished his flintlock.

"Easy, uh, lads." His smile was mocking as he studied them.  "Ask whoever bae in there, tae come out." 

"Lady Angelique.  There's a robber out here! Please, m'lady, he's got a flintlock." The two were nearly in tears and Rob barely kept from rubbing his forehead.  Their lady had to be another harridan or worse.  As the door opened, Rob looked up, his mouth nearly dropping open like some country bumpkin.  The woman there was quite beautiful, her gown expensive and in the newest style, her hair held in place with jeweled clips, her neck and wrists dripping in diamonds.  Rob removed his hat, and bowed with a flourish then straightened.  The woman eyed him boldly, her fan fluttering.  She stepped closer, her perfume surrounding Rob. It was an expensive brand, one he recognized from some of the ladies he knew. 

"I am Lady Angelique D'Autry, and you are the infamous Shadow Fox."  She circled him as she spoke, and though Rob didn't move, he did turn his head to keep an eye on her.  Her smile was sultry, as she ran her finger over his back and down his arm.  "Do you plan to rob me of just my jewels, or perhaps more?"  Rob caught her by the wrist, bringing her hand to her lips where he kissed her palm.

"I am nae ravisher of women, if that's wha' ye mean, Lady D'Autry, especially married women."  Rob kept his voice low, gruff.  "Or ones tha' hav' buried three husbands."  She was married to her fourth, another elderly man infatuated with the woman.  For a moment, eyes the color of a winter sky flashed angrily and then she drew near, placing her hand on his chest. 

"Perhaps not a ravisher, but a seducer?"  She whispered the words as her lips brushed over his.  Something odd began to happen.  The forest receded into a smokey appearance, her perfume was the only thing he could smell, and her eyes ... he was lost in those blue depths.  Yearning to kiss her, he began to lean down, and suddenly felt himself being pushed from behind.  Lady Angelique fell on her rear as he made several stumbling steps to avoid falling on her.  When he turned, Cavalier was pawing the ground, snorting as he advanced on the woman.

"Yae ... bae a witch."  Rob hissed the words, furious.  He had nearly been lost to a seductress once before and would not again.  The flintlock was aimed at her but the trigger wasn't pulled.  Instead he leaned over and roughly jerked off the necklace.  "I'll bae takin' this as payment instead of blowin' off yer pretty head.  Bot, remember,  I'll bae watchin' ye."  The right words whispered would have her investigated  and perhaps Lord D'Autry would be saved. 

Without another word, Rob mounted Cavalier and rode off.  He reined to a stop some distance away and dismounted.  Shaken with the encounter, he needed to compose himself before continuing to the Inn.


Date: 08-03-05
Poster: Robert Frasier
Post # 51

Shaking his head, Rob looked at his reflection in the glass of the window before pushing it open.  It had been an odd night in several ways.  Friends made and definitely an enemy.  The sound of a coach caught his attention and he looked down to see the very coach pull into the driveway, escorted by several guardsmen.  As he sipped the wine, Lady D'Autry was helped from the coach.  She looked a little worse for the wear, her gown dirty from her fall, a few of the jeweled clips gone.  She was pretending to be distraught, but he knew she was likely more furious than upset.  He chuckled and she looked up, eyes flashing until she saw him.  She took in his shirtless state and smiled.  When he return her smile with none, she turned away in confusion.  She could enjoy the company of the bounty hunter.  Rob turned away from the window and retreated to the bed where he soon slept.

He was up with the dawn, and in spite of only having a few hours sleep, felt refreshed.  He dressed and headed downstairs where he found Tomas and Will already waiting.  The other guests were still asleep, including Truly much to his relief.  After breaking their fast, the three headed out to work.

There were two elderly gentleman who constantly disagreed over where their borders for their lands began or ended.  It seemed that once a season, Rob was going to settle another argument.  Tomas had tried, but neither would listen to him.  This was the main reason for his journey north.  That, and of course, he wanted to see Elise and his godchild.  There was only one of the men waiting as he and the two younger men rode up to the fence being installed.

Rob groaned when he saw the placement and dismounted.  "Mr. Stanton, you've gone over your boundary," 

"This isn't my fence, it's that, that scoundrel's, Fitz's fence.  You sure it's not on my property?"

"I'm positive, Mr. Stanton."  Rob motioned to the road. "I can show you the marker again, if you want."  He honestly was beginning to think the two men just liked to argue.  "This is beginning to get ridiculous now."

Stanton stammered in protest, but whatever he was about to say was cut off.  Rob heard the telltale sound of a hammer being pulled back.  He looked toward nearby bushes and saw the glint of a barrel.  As a puff of smoke appeared, along with the sound of the flintlock rifle being fired, Rob pushed Stanton out of the way and dived to the side.  Something stung sharply across his cheekbone as he did, and he cursed soundly.

"Master Rob!"  Will yelled as Rob pushed himself up to a sitting position.  Tomas was already diving into the bushes. 

"I'm fine. It's just a graze.  Who the hell...  ?  Mr. Stanton, are you all right?"  Rob pressed the back of his hand to his cheek as he looked toward the older man.  There was an indignant squawk from the bushes as Tomas came out, flintlock in one hand, a young lass in the other.

"Miss Fitz!"  Will was the one who identified the young woman. 

"I didn't mean to hit anyone. I was just trying to scare you away from the fence!"  She was in tears and Tomas shook her.

"You nearly killed Master Rob!"

"Tomas."  Rob pinched the bridge of his nose as he stood. "I think this feud is done and over with now.  It was just a graze. Next time someone could get killed."  He put his hand out for the weapon. "Your grandfather can retrieve this from Jack."  Everyone knew the innkeeper, and the flintlock would be in good hands until the elder Mr. Fitz came for it.  "Now go home, both of you. Tomas, I'm going to go visit the Ellison's.  Have everything packed.  You and Will can take two weeks off for yourselves, then journey to Falkirk." 

"But ...  " Tomas started to protest and Rob put a hand to his shoulder.  "Look at her, Tomas. She's not much older than Will.  Do you want her to go to prison?"  Tomas shook his head and Rob smiled.  "Neither do I.  We'll let her grandfather handle this.  Now, I'm going back to the inn and give this to Jack, and then I'm going to have this wound cleaned up so I don't get lead poisoning.  I'll see you both in two weeks.  Mr. Stanton, I will no longer take part in your feud. Neither will either of my apprentices. You want boundaries checked, find another surveyor."  Rob mounted Cavalier and turned him in the direction of the inn.

By the time he reached the inn, his mood had worsened.  His face stung and so did his shoulder where he had landed.  The stableboy took hold of Cavalier's reins and nodded when Rob instructed him to send someone for the healer.  He would have been happier with one of his sister-in-laws, but Mazie did good enough.  Stalking his way inside, he headed to the bar and laid the rifle on the bartop.

"Mr. Fitz will be coming for that.  The elder one, Jack.  Let no one else take it."

"What happened?"  Jack looked at Rob's face, frowning. 

"His granddaughter tried to scare Stanton by firing the blasted thing.  And I ...  "

There came that horse laugh that Rob hated and Truly was standing behind him.  "Har, har.  You got shot by a wee lass?  Now if I had been there, I would have heard her before she pulled the trigger.  I ...  " The bounty hunter's words were cut off when Rob's fist connected with Truly's mouth.  He went crashing to the floor and Rob turned back to Jack.

"Now I feel better.  Send Mazie up to my room when she gets here.  I'm going to bath and then go visit Lord and Lady Ellison. Tomas will be coming shortly to see to my things."  Everything was packed but he knew Tomas and Will would want to make sure he didn't have any last minute instructions.  He would have them find the worthy families for Lady Delacroise.  He could hear Truly protesting his treatment and turned to look over his shoulder when the man demanded the constable be called. 

"Now Mr. Truly," Jack drawled almost lazily, glancing at Rob and giving a wink.  "We all saw ya drinkin' too much and stumblin' into the bartop.  Look. Ye even left a mark." 

Rob was laughing as he passed Lady D'Autry and her quizzical look had him laughing harder.  A few more hours and he would be returning home.  Yes, he definitely was feeling much, much better.


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