Blood on the Sand

Blood on the Sand by Michael Jecks Page A

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Authors: Michael Jecks
you, Vidame. Where would the world be without trust?’ the other added bitterly.
    ‘It seems certain that the man from Essex knows nothing that could implicate you. I think we may leave him alone. But watch him. At the first sign of danger, let me know and I will have
Bertucat kill him. However, for now I think it is better to leave him to his own devices. We have other things to consider.’
    His voice dropped as he spoke. ‘It is not only the man from Essex. Your vintener is astute – more than I had considered. He saw the fleet and warned his knight; now, I think, he
looks upon our messenger with suspicion. Soon he may cast his suspicions upon you.’
    ‘Fripper? He suspects nothing. He is just worried for the men under him.’
    ‘If he suspects you, he would soon be able to make you talk. I do not want to be implicated,’ the Vidame said.
    ‘You will be safe.’
    ‘And then again, the business on which you are employed would suffer if you were captured. We need your talents. We need to know where the blow should fall.’
    ‘First the army needs to come here. The King must bring his host and attack. I will point to the best place for the assault.’
    ‘Good. But the vintener still troubles me. It would be a good thing, were he to die.’
    ‘How? By me? It would be difficult to insert a knife into his back while the vintaine watches!’
    ‘When he sleeps?’
    ‘You do not know the man. He is wary of everyone, as he should be.’
    ‘I understand. However, our messenger has been noticed by him, and we cannot afford to lose the boy.’
    ‘Very well.’
    ‘The English will send a messenger to the north, to warn them of the French ships taking men and arms to the Scottish. With luck the Scottish will rampage about the North of England and
visit retribution for the damage done by the English over here. The sooner the messenger gets there, the sooner the English will be prepared. We must have the messenger delayed.’
    ‘I do not understand.’
    ‘Your vintaine will be sent to guard the messenger. I will have Bertucat go to speak with certain friends. There are some here who have friends in England who would not be averse to
earning a purse of gold by delaying the embassy, or even killing a man. Look to attacks from other men, and take advantage, if you may.’
    ‘Can you be sure my vintaine will be sent?’
    The Vidame leaned back, chuckling quietly. ‘The vintaine that miraculously survived capture by the French? The vintaine that managed to win over a Genoese mercenary and take a ride on his
ship? The vintener who saw the ships in the estuary and discovered the risk of French ships travelling to Scotland? Which other vintaine would be sent?’
    ‘But the escape was come about by simple good fortune!’
    ‘Yes – but others begin to doubt that. Now many know that the escape of the vintaine was aided by the Genoese. Would it not be amusing if, when I have finished dripping poison into
the right ears, many believe this Fripper to be in league with the French himself? We could use our own crimes against him!’
    The following morning, Berenger woke to find his entire vintaine asleep in the chamber. He rolled onto his back, scratching his armpits and staring at the roof while he
gradually came awake. Last evening they had all gone to an inn over to the east, and some of the men had gone out to watch and gamble on a cock-fight that was held in a little arena by a stable.
Oliver had lost heavily again, and Pardoner too. Not that they got much sympathy from the others. They were late back and Berenger set Clip to take the first watch.
    He had set Clip to the first watch!
    Rising, cursing, he went to the recumbent figure in the corner and gave it a kick, demanding, ‘Did you wake Jack to take over your watch?’
    ‘Jack was asleep,’ Clip yawned. ‘There wasn’t any point, anyway, Frip. What, do you think some Frenchie’s going to sidle up here, half a mile or more into the
English lines, just to

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