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Started by Welsh Wench, May 10, 2008, 12:41:08 PM

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Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/15/2006 14:51:02

Peter Culpepper had stormed into his study on Culpepper Estates and promptly downed three straight glasses of scotch, then hurled the crystal to shatter in the fireplace. His soul burned with the humiliation of it. To be thrown out of his own future lands by a whelp did not sit well with him. Neither did the revelation that Robert Johnson and Black Jack Roberts were two different men........or were they?

Now that he'd had time to think about it, yes. Yes, it did seem to be too much of a coincidence for the outlaw to suddenly show up at Morland just then. Far too convenient. Even if it were true perhaps there was some connection between the two. Even that could be used to his advantage.

Besides, Alice would be returning soon with the signed wedding license. Even though Cecily had fled she could be found again, and those papers gave only him the right to marry her. He fully expected for Alice to send for him as soon as they returned with them. They could sort out the rest later. And rest assured he would be straitening Andrew and Cecily out soon enough.

Filling a fresh crystal with Brandy this time Peter sat down in his favorite leather chair. Staring at the flames in the fireplace he smiled and sipped the brandy, waiting.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/15/2006 16:17:52

Magistrate Hammond was in a state of near rage when Geoffrey and Josiah walked through the door of the Crossbow. In violent argument with his colleague over some slanderous remarks the other denied ever saying. It was obvious that the two officials were about to come to blows over the matter when Josiah separated the two men. Much to the disappointment of the onlookers.

"Here now!" Josiah boomed. "We'll be having none a' this at the Crossbow, gentlemen! Now what seems to be the problem here?"

"Awwww! They been a arguein' like that fer near a good two hours now, Josiah." A voice came from the crowd. "We was a taken bets on how long it would take fer one a them at actually hit the other!"

"Well all bets are off now!" Josiah yelled back. "If ye wants entertainment wait for the next dim bulb fight, not the next Punch and Judy show!"

The two Magistrates turned a bright shade crimson as the onlookers roared with laughter. "Now, Molley, ye been working' all night haven't ye?"

"Aye, Sir." The barmaid replied.

"Has anything been said about Magistrate Hammond what you would consider slander?"

"Nay, Sir. Why until he came barging in here a shouting, no one had even mentioned his name."

"There! Ye see? It were no more than a misunderstanding." Josiah grinned. " Now let me get the two a' ye something to drink and we'll be forgettin' this nonsense."

As the two officials sat down to huge tankards of Ale, Josiah called Geoffrey over. "Spread the word. Keep those two fools cups full, and keep an extra room open for them to sleep it off in. I know for sure Jack doesn't want Hammond to get back home afore morning."

Geoff nodded his head, then whispered the instructions to Molley. Taking time to add something that made the shapely red head blush and giggle.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/15/2006 20:08:49

Lady Alice Morley stared straight ahead as the carriage bounced over the roads. Between clenched teeth, she said, "I should think that Magistrate Hammond could keep the roads up. But I expect that would be too much, since he can't keep his word for appointments!"
Sir Wallace patted her hand. "Dear, there is no problem. I can go back tomorrow and get the license. But Cecily----"
She turned to her husband. "We are doing what is best for Cecily! Wallace, she is seventeen. How would she know what is best for herself? If we let her decide in matters of love, for all we know she could run off with an outlaw! No! Sir Peter Culpepper is the best match for her!"
"But, my dear---"
"Wallace, who would know more about Cecily? Her own mother! She is a flighty girl and if we let her make her own decisions, she could end up with a merchant or a pirate or a highwayman! You know how she always had fanciful and romantic ideas. Sitting on the bluffs sketching and writing poetry. She's a dreamer. She always has been and she needs a good solid practical man."
Sir Wallace leaned back and looked out into the black night. He knew his daughter was not empty-headed like his wife painted her to be. Cecily was just a highly creative young woman who knew her own mind. No, not flighty. Not at all...

The carriage pulled into the portico. Sir Wallace got out and extended his hand to his wife.
Lady Alice sat in the carriage and said, "Wallace, I am going over to talk to Sir Peter."
"Can't it wait until morning? Surely nothing will have changed by then."
"It is better that I explain to him the slight delay. He has been anxiously awaiting the papers. He said he wouldn't have a good night's rest until he knew that legally Cecily would be bound to him. I feel he does need to be aware of the slight delay. Please don't wait up. I know you are tired. I'll be home as soon as possible."
Before Sir Wallace could voice any protest, Lady Alice closed the door. As the coachman started to pull away, all was heard was, "To Sir Culpepper's estate. As soon as possible!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/15/2006 21:51:48

"Show her in."
Sir Peter Culpepper poured himself another brandy. Lady Alice handed her cloak to the manservant and said, "Hello, Sir Culpepper."
Peter nodded curtly to Raymond and said, "That will be all, Raymond. Close the door and see we are not disturbed."
"Brandy, Lady Alice?"
She gratefully accepted the snifter of Cognac. Peter always had the best of everything. And my little girl will have it, too,. she thought. And then when our plans come to fruition, it will all be mine.
He sat in the leather chair again, Alice perching on the armrest, her finger tracing around his ear.
Peter said, "Hand me the license, Alice, and I shall put it in my safe."
She took a deep drink of her brandy. "There's a slight problem, Peter. It seems that---AAAHHH!"
Peter had stood up and Alice fell off the armrest. He didn't even extend a hand to help her up. He stalked over to the sideboard and poured another brandy. Downing that in one gulp, he whirled on her.
"What do you mean, 'a slight problem'? Where are the papers?"
Alice scrambled from the floor and said, "Now, my love, Magistrate Hammond stood us up. He had an emergency and the papers were not ready."
"Alice, I can't get you to do a simple thing like get a damned piece of paper filled out and notarized with the magistrate's seal? Good Lord, I can't do it! I'm not her parent!"
Alice attempted to put her arms around Peter's neck but he shook her off.
"I'll have them first thing in the morning. I promise! Then we can have the wedding in the chapel."
Peter said derisively, "Do you not know what has happened?"
Alice's eyes grew wide. "What do you mean?"
Peter practically spat out, "Your son threw me out of the house and your daughter has run off with that--that---that rogue that rescued her from the pirates. IF there ever was such a story!"
Alice's hand flew to her mouth. "Run off? As in--gone?"
Peter snarled, "Do I stutter, Alice? She is GONE! While you were on your useless misson, the gentleman in question appeared at your door. We had an altercation. I gave him a slash he will not soon forget! But somewhere in the course, someone---and I don't know who but I have my suspicions---knocked me unconscious and when I revived, the front door was open and she was nowhere to be found."
Alice attempted to defuse the situation. "She can't have gone far. She would never leave her brother."
"Well, she CAN and she DID! You know what that means, Alice?"
Alice shook her head.
"Without that license, Cecily is free to marry whoever she pleases. They could be headed for Gretna Green for all we know. Unless they find a magistrate in England who is in his cups and doesn't bother to ask for the license. She could always lie about her age, too. And you had better hope that doesn't happen. Because if it does, there will be hell to pay!"
Peter turned around and punctuated his words by throwing another cut-glass snifter into the fire.
As he strode out of the study, he said over his shoulder, "You know the way out, Alice. Don't expect you are staying in my bed!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/17/2006 18:13:33

Sir Wallace entered his home just as the servants were cleaning up the last of the remains from the brawl. Andrew stood in the study doorway overseeing the work. To his surprise most of the chatter between the servants seemed to do with the outlaw Black Jack Roberts.

"Andrew!" He spoke. "What on Earth has happened here?"

"Father," Andrew looked up. "come into the study and I will explain all. Is Mother with you?"

"I'm afraid not, she went to give Sir Culpepper some rather disturbing news about the license." Sir Wallace sighed.

Father and son entered the study. Andrew had already made up his mind to withhold certain information from his father as it would do little more than upset the kindly lord, perhaps beyond his capacity to bear.

"Cecily has left, Father." He began.

"Left? What on Earth for?" Sir Wallace's face was a mask of confusion as he took the glass of Brandy Andrew held out to him. "Why would she wish to leave with the wedding so close?"

"She does not love Lord Culpepper, Sir." Andrew sat down in the chair opposite of his father. "This evening we had a visit from the man who came to her aid in London. He was inquiring as to her condition. Lord Culpepper made an weed puller of himself so I asked the gentleman to return later that we might talk alone."

Sir Wallace raised an eyebrow. "And did this gentleman return?"

Yes Sir, a few moments after the three of you left. However, so did Sir Culpepper and he was in a terrible state. He attacked Mr. Johnson, in a jealous rage. He kept accusing the man of being Black Jack Roberts. I was knocked out trying to separate them. When I came to the real Black Jack Roberts was here to attempt to kidnap Cecily. Saying that he had heard the rumors and might as well be guilty of the crime."

"Mr. Johnson then wounded the outlaw, who then took to his heels. Culpepper then grabbed Cecily by the wrists, demanding she marry him. Fearing for Cecily I broke the Ming Vase over the man's head. Cecily by then had seen enough of the man's violent and irrational behavior. I'm afraid his show of temper has put her off of the man for good."

"That is all well and good, Son," The elder Morley almost grinned. "but why would she leave? Neither your mother nor I would force her to marry against her will."

"I'm afraid Mother would. When I went up to check on her I found she had been locked within her room. She said by mother to keep her here until the wedding." Andrew scowled. "You know how Mother can get when she has made up her mind about things."

"Yes, Lad. I'm afraid I do." Wallace nodded. "Still, my signature is needed as well as your Mother's, and if Cecily does not wish to wed Sir Culpepper she knows I would not force her regardless of what my wife thinks."

Andrew blushed slightly. "She left with Robert Johnson, Father."

"She did what?!" The older man near came off his chair. "And you did nothing to stop her?!!"

"She left with the man she loves, Father. I could not in good conscience deny her. Besides, short of tying her down I could think of no way to keep her here." The young man spread his hands in futility.

Wallace chuckled beneath his breath. "No I suppose not. Her stubbornness is as legendary as your mother. It seems to be a trait she has well inherited."

"I pray it is the only one." Andrew whispered to himself.

"What was that, My Boy? I couldn't quite hear you from here." Sir Morley raised one hand to his ear.

"Nothing, Father, merely thinking aloud."

Sir Wallace eyed his son for a long moment before continuing. "Then I take it you approve of this Robert Johnson?"

"Yes, Sir." Andrew looked his father in the eye. "I do."

"Well then," Sir Wallace stretched as he stood up, "Although I think it rather unladylike for you sister to "run off" with this man. I can say that she will not be forced into marriage with Sir Peter Culpepper. Though I do wish it was you instead of me who breaks the news to your mother."

Andrew sat in the chair staring at the fire as his father left the study. Secretly glad that the head of the house had that duty, and pitying his father every second of it. At least Cecily could not be forced to marry Peter Culpepper any time soon.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/18/2006 21:00:51

It was late when Cecily and Jack finally rode into the stableyard of the Crossbow. Jack's shoulder began to throb something fierce. Only his adrenalin from his encounter with Lord Culpepper kept the pain at bay. Now that it was past, he tried to focus on something else.
He winced as he got down off Raven.
Cecily alighted and touched Jack's shoulder.
"You need medical attention, Jack. It's been bleeding and now the cloth is stuck to the wound.
He nodded, grimacing. She took his arm and together they walked into the Crossbow.
There sat Magistrate Hammond, blearily looking in her direction.
"Dear God!" Cecily breathed. "Magistrate Hammond!"
The magistrate looked up through his ale-affected eyes and said, "Cecily? Is that little Cecily Morley?"
She quickly put the hood up on her cloak and began to speak in a French accent. "Mais non, Monsieur! Je m'appele...umm...en anglais!--ummm..My name is Monique. Je suis..I am..from Brittany. You must have me confused with another mademoiselle, Monsieur!"
Hammond tried to focus his eyes. "May I be damned! But ye be a dead ringer for a lass from Cornwall. Mayhaps your father has been abroad!"
He and several of his friend laughed. Cecily thought inwardly, 'All Jack and I need to do is get to a room.'
Jack threw his cloak over his shoulder with the wound. No sense in calling attention to it. A sword wound is always a fascinating subject among the tavern crowd. The who-what-why-and-wherefores.
He motioned to Josiah who came over to him. In a low voice, he said, "It may be a good idea if you sent for Doc Cooper. I sustained a knife wound in my shoulder. Don't let on and don't upset Cecily unduly. She knows about it but I need to make light of it."
Josiah motioned to one of the men and within five minutes, the man lit out of there.

Cecily and Jack cliimbed the stairs to his room. Magistrate Hammond brooded, "I could have sworn that was the Morley daughter..*hic* ANOTHER ROUND, MOLLY MY GIRL! AND KEEP THEM COMING!" He yelled out.

Cecily threw off her cloak and exclaimed, "That was close! Do you think he will remember in the morning and tell anyone?"
Jack flinched as he sat down on the edge of the bed. "Doubtful. He was too full of himself and his ale to even remember who he IS tomorrow!"
She tenderly lifted his chin to meet her lips and then she said, "Let me take a look at your wound."
"It's nothing, really. At least he didn't hit any vital organs."
Her temper flared. "I shall hate Peter Culpepper until the day I die!"
Just then, Doc Cooper came in.
" 'allo, Jack! In need of my services again, I see! Seem to remember a little incident like this at Gilbert's last year."
He looked over and saw Cecily hovering near. "Young miss, wouild you please get me a basin of warm water and some clean cloths?"
Jack nodded to her. "Down the hall and to the left you will see stairs, darling. They lead to the kitchen and you can call Molly from there. She will get you what we need."

Cecily went downstairs and came back with what the doctor had asked for. The doctor took out a scalpel and commenced slicing Jack's shirt from the wound.
"Well, now that IS a nasty one!" He took the cloths and soaked them in the water, applying them to the wound until the cloth could peel away easily from the clotted blood.
"Aaaaah!" Jack let out a moan. Cecily rushed forward. Doc Cooper said, "Ah, tis to be expected, young miss. Now, Jack. Let me take a look...oh, dear!"
The wound was not deep but had been jagged. "Looks like you shall require a stitch or two."
Cecily paled. Jack looked over at her and said quickly, "My love, why don't you go back down the stairs and see if Molly has any of the venison stew. Hers is exceptional."
"I can't leave you, Jack."
Doc Cooper laughed and said, "He'd rather you go, lass. And so would I. Won't be too pretty!"
She left reluctantly.
Doc Cooper turned to Jack and said, "Alright, let me clean it out and do some sewing. Then apply this salve....I see you have taken up with Sir Wallace Morley's youngster."
"You know her?"
"I birthed her! Wrapped her father around her finger since the day she was born and looks like she still has an effect on men. And highwaymen! I left Cornwall for Devonshire due to my wife's family right after."
"She is really only nineteen, Doc?"
Doc snorted with laughter. "Of course not!"
"Didn't think so."
"She's seventeen!"

Jack sat there in disbelief. "Seventeen? She's but a babe! You sure?"
"Aye. Because I delivered her on my first anniversary!"

Cecily came upstairs with three bowls of stew and some bread on a tray along with three ales. "Doctor? I took the liberty of getting you a bowl. Would you care for some?"
"Ah, wonderful! Molly's is the best."
Cecily glanced over anxiously at Jack. "Will he be alright, Doctor?"
"Right as rain. I cleaned it out and gave him a few stitches. That be all!"
Doctor Cooper never let on to Cecily that he had delivered her and Cecily did not recognize his name. Within the hour he left with instructions to change the bandage twice a day and put salve on it four times daily.

As Cecily turned down the sheets, she gazed at Jack and smiled wistfully. "I missed you so much but it looks like I will be missing you another night as well."
Jack yawned and reached for her.
"As long as I have you by my side, my love, I can wait another night."
Before they both knew it, they were sound asleep, wrapped in each other's arms.
As it should be.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/19/2006 12:38:45

The sunlight pouring through the open window told Jack the time was well past morning. A soft breeze lifted the curtains. His shoulder burned and felt hot. His head as well. Never had he felt so much trouble from a single wound before. Cecily must have woken sooner and was probably down stairs. Soon he knew they would have to travel. The delays he had put in the way of Culpepper and Alice Morley would detain them for a while, but if the doctor had been correct about her age they could come at any moment and force her from him.

He sat up at the edge of the bed, a slight dizziness made his head swim for a moment. Probably sat up too quick. Still this was no time to be lazing around. He could not stomach the thought of Cecily being forced to do anything. Even less the thought of living life without her.

Slipping on his pants and boots he stood to go to the door and call for Josiah. Within three steps the dizziness returned. Slight at first it grew into a more demanding presence which he was unable to shake. The room began to move on it's own as if seen through a lens of being underwater. Images swirled and swam before his eyes and he found it hard to think.

He vaguely saw the door open, Cecily stood in the opening with a tray in her hands, Josiah just behind her. A look of shock and concern on her lovely face she spoke, but he couldn't understand what she was saying. He tried to move closer.

"Cecily......." Was all he could manage as the hardwood floor rushed up to meet him.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/19/2006 13:50:36

"Jack!!!" Cecily screamed and the platter of food crashed to the floor forgotten as she rushed to his prostate form. "My God, Josiah!! He's burning up with fever!!" Her soft cool hand gently stroked the sweating brow.

Josiah knelt down on the opposite side of the unconscious bandit. "Aye, Lass, that he is. This is not good, Not good at all. Were I to hazard a guess, I would say that Peter Culpepper's blade were poisoned!"

"Poisoned?" Her eyes grew wide with fear. "What can we do, Josiah? I can not lose him now!!"

"Calm yourself, Lass. I know of one who might be able to tell us what this is, and may know a way to counter it. She be a witch some say, but she may be the only chance Jack has at life right now. Help me get him back into bed and while ye keep watch I'll send for her."

With Josiah's help they lifted Jack's limp form back to the bed, and pulled off his boots, leaving him in his trousers Cecily tenderly covered him with the goose down quilt. Josiah called at the door for Molley to bring a basin of cool water and a clean linen.

The tavern maid froze momentarily in the open doorway. There on the bed lay Jack Roberts almost as pale as the pillow that cradled his head. Dark circles as purple blue as bruises highlighted the underside of his closed eyes. Though his face gleamed with rivulets of sweat he shivered and his teeth chattered. "My God." She whispered.

"Well just don't stand there with your mouth gapping, Girl! Bring that basin over here!" Josiah barked, bringing Molly back to herself.

He watched Cecily as she stroked Jack's sweating brow. Murmuring low to him, softly as a mother with a sick child. He allowed his gaze to follow her as she soaked the linen with water, wrung it out, then gently washed the sweat from his face. The gentile smile that would momentarily replace her concern when he would murmur her name in his delirium. Then he touched her shoulder.

"Don't ye worry none, Miss." He smiled reassuringly to her. "We won't be losing him that easy. Ye keep watch over him, and I'll get a message off to Gilbert."

She looked up at him, hope gleaming behind the withheld tears that filled them. Josiah looked steadily into her sapphire eyes. "If anyone can save his life Annabelle Peterson can. Ye may have met her son while ye were at Gilbert's. Young Tim."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/20/2006 13:21:33

Annabelle Peterson shuffled the oversized cards, then began laying them out upon her small kitchen table in a particular pattern. The knight of cups upside down. Followed by the Lovers, and the Tower which was also reversed. A friend, fair of hair and in love with another, in dire danger. The candle flame guttered casting strange shadows over the cards.

Annabelle Peterson was a middle aged woman of around forty five years of age. Her raven hair just beginning to streak with silver. She had bore only one child, a son, and her figure was still the same as it had been before child birth. She dressed as her mother had in the traditional Gypsy garb of her mother's tribe.

Most of the folk who lived in the village of Whitehall Downs considered her a witch. Many came to her for luck charms, herbal healings, and fortune telling. Secretly of course so as not to upset the congregations they attended on Sundays. Of course they could be quite right about her.

"Ki shan i Romani, Adoi san' i chov'hani." As her mother used to say. "Wherever the Romani go there witches may be found."

Her black and white long haired cat leapt up to the table top, sniffed the spread cards then mewed in a concerned tone. She reached over to stroke Dafar's head. "Yes, I know little one. This is not good at all. I suspect we will be having company soon. May as well be prepared for when they arrive."

She stood, snuffing the candle out with moistened fingers and put her mother's cards back into the little wooden box they were kept in. Then she moved about her small cottage amongst the shelves of bottles and jars, examining the contents of different ones. Some she placed into a fabric traveling bag, others she rejected. The cat followed.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/20/2006 21:49:58

As the dawn broke, Sir Peter Culpepper walked into his stable. He knocked on the stablemaster's quarters and barked, "Saddle up Romulus and be right quick about it!"
Lucas jumped, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. 'Damn, doesn't he ever sleep?'
he thought.
Pulling on his breeches and pulling on a shirt, he came out of his quarters.
" Good mornin' to ye, Lord Culpepper. Where ye be headin' on this fine---" he looked to see the sun barely up "--morning?"
Sir Peter paced back and forth, his cloak swirling behind him.
"I'm hunting. For vixen."
The stable master looked over at him. He had known Sir Peter for over twenty years. In fact, he had worked for Sir Peter's father. Sir Peter was always a ruthless, spoiled lad and the years hadn't changed him. Sometimes Lucas wondered if there was tainted blood in his ancestry.
Sir Peter tapped the crop against his leg. He was an imposing figure of a man. He was over six foot, broad of shoulder and slim of hip. Dark brown hair, and dark smoldering eyes. Eyes that missed nothing.
Gypsy eyes.

Lucas saddled up Romulus in record time. Without so much as a thank you or a goodbye, he climbed up on his steed. Digging his heels in, he cantered out of the barn, the stable cat very nearly meeting its maker.
Lucas shook his head slowly. 'I pity the poor creature once he finds his quarry....'


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/21/2006 10:49:44

Gilbert was in the midst of serving ale to several of the local farmhands, enjoying the banter of their tales of well ending mishaps when Timothy Peterson burst through the door. The eighteen year old's face was pale and his eyes had the look of a spooked horse. Something had frightened the lad, and badly.

"Mister Dawson, sir!" The blond boy spoke as though he had run from town instead of the courtyard. "It's terrible bad news, Sir! Terrible bad! It's Ja..."

Gilbert cut Tim off immediately. "Bad news is best told in privet, Tim. Get ye into me rooms and I'll be in shortly. Gentlemen If ye'll be excusing' me?"

Gilbert Dawson called out to his tavern maid. "Elisabeth! Something has young Tim all spooked. Ye mind the tavern whilst I see to the lad."

"Aye, Mr. Dawson." The shapely brunette curtsied.

Gilbert walked with a measured pace toward the side door behind the bar which led to his living quarters. His mind turning over possibilities in the short span of floor. That Tim was flustered enough to have almost said Jack's name aloud again he was certain. Had he been captured? Worse had Culpepper, or the young lass's father put some new holes in him? His gut twisted with apprehension.

Opening the door he found the boy pacing in front of the fireplace, and his fear worsened. "Now, Tim, what's all this about?"

The young man broke into a near jumble of words, spouting out like a fountain suddenly gone awry. "I was tending the lodger's horses when a pigeon from Josiah came in! Normally, Sir I would have sent for you, but my curiosity got the better of me and I read the message! It's Jack, Sir!! He's dieing!! Josiah needs Mother there right away!!!"

The tavern owner took the small scrap of paper from the boy's trembling hand and read. "G, need Ann immediately. Swordfight. He's wounded. Blade poisoned. Fear he is dieing. J."

"Lad! Get out to the stable and saddle up Samson! Then bring your mother here! Tell her to bring her best potions and ointments for poison! While you are gone I'll get the carriage ready! Go, Lad! Now!."

Tim shot from the room as if fired from a cannon. Gilbert looked again at the short note before tossing it into the fire. "Damn it, Jack Roberts!" He cursed to himself. "I knew if Peter Culpepper were involved in this ye'd be coming to trouble! Now I can only hope we'll not be too late!" Shaking his head sadly he left as the little parchment burst into flame and shriveled away to ash.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/22/2006 21:53:56

By ten o'clock in the morning, Sir Peter Culpepper had worked his way from the first tavern in Cornwall and finally reached the Crossbow.
Molly was tending the tavern, her face etched with concern for Jack Roberts who was fighting for his life upstairs.
As Culpepper strode up to her, he demanded, "I'm looking for a young woman who is traveling in the company of a a man named Robert Johnson."
Molly was well aware of who this man was and her heart dropped. She fought to keep her voice even.
"Can you describe the young lass?" she asked as she wiped down a table.
Sir Peter tapped his riding crop on the table, inches away from the cloth and her hand.
He said impatiently, "She is of a petite stature, light frame but shapely. Blonde hair, deep blue eyes. She may have been kidnapped."
He added, "There is a reward for her safe return. One hundred gold crowns." He thought that would sway the loyalty of anyone who may be shielding them.
Molly bit her tongue to tell Culpepper what she thought he could do with his reward but before she could answer, a voice called out as a rotund figure came from the upstairs.
"Sir Peter! What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"
Culpepper looked and saw Magistrate Hammond coming down the stairs, trying to straighten his wig.
"I might ask you the same thing, Hammond. Are you not supposed to be getting my marriage license issued?"
Hammond rubbed his temples and smiled ruefully, "Aye, and that I shall. I seem to have over indulged and was unable to steer my horse towards my own home. Josiah was kind enough to offer me lodging for the night. And what, may I ask, is the reason you are here?"
"I'm looking for Cecily Morley."
Molly dropped her tray with a clatter and her hands started sweating. She hastily bent to pick it up and mumbled, "Sorry!"
Somehow, someway, I need to get up there and let them know what is going on!
Trying to appear calm, Molly asked, "May I get you gentlemen anything?"
Both shook their heads no.
Hammond rubbed his hand on his chin and mused, "Funny you should mention that! A lass came in here last night and for a minute, I DID mistake her for Sir Wallace's daughter."
Sir Culpepper listened eagerly. "Where is she?"
"Calm down, sir. T'wasn't her. It was a lass from France. Had an accent and trouble remembering English words. Nice looking, but not a Morley. She had brown eyes, come to think of it."

Molly couldn't help but interrupt. She said, "Don't mean to be eavesdropping, but that couple--she was from France and the man with her was her older brother. Name was---" she tapped her finger on her chin and looked up at the ceiling as if the answer were written there, "---Monique. That's it! Monique Dubois and her brother Etienne. They were here on holiday and heading back to Dover to catch a boat back to Calais. Left early this morning."
God help me for lying, Molly thought. But I have to, Lord.

She hastily went up the back steps and knocked on the door. Josiah answered, his face showing the grief he was holding back. Cecily was constantly wetting the linen and cooling Jack's brow with it, all the time speaking softly to him of things they planned to do in the future. Whether he heard her or not was uncertain as he was delirious.
Molly tried not to look at Jack as she knew she would lose her composure. She said in a low voice, "We have trouble. Sir Peter Culpepper is downstairs and is asking the whereabouts of yon lassie. What is so burning to him that he is searching her down?"
Josiah stepped out into the hall with Molly.

"Seems there was trouble out at Moreland. An altercation and that is why Jack is the way he is. If I am not mistaken--and I seldom am--the blade was poisoned. And most likely with horse dung. This is a bacterial infection and is spreading rapidly. Known as septicemia.
Annabelle Peterson had better get here fast. I worry not only for Jack--but what will happen to the little lassie there if she loses him. Her life won't be worth a farthing. Not what they have planned for her future..."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/27/2006 14:25:49

Gilbert snapped the reigns of the two horses pulling the carriage toward the Crossbow desperately trying to coach more speed from the animals. Glancing back toward Annabelle and her son he let his mind drift back to only a few hours back. Young Tim had arrived back at the tavern within an hour of leaving his mother on the back of the second horse he had taken with him to fetch her.

"I should have known ye'd be ready afore Tim arrived, Ann." He had smiled as he reached up a hand to help the Gypsy dismount.

I knew that I was needed by a friend, Master Gilbert." Her near black eyes belied her light tone. "Yet I did not know it was Jack until my son came for me. Now we must make haste, a second reading of the cards tell me that a new danger has entered. A dark man, one who is cruel and evil is near to him."

A graveyard chill rose along Gilbert's spine at the news. He had long ago learned to take Annabelle's words seriously when it came to foreseeing the future, or things that were happening. "The carriage is ready to go, Ann. As it is we won't be at the Crossbow till sometime tomorrow morn. Let's be wasting no more time. I only pray we're not too late."

Now here almost halfway to their destination he felt the pit of his stomach roll with apprehension. How long could Jack hold on? Josiah's message was urgent. A cruel and evil man? Though he had a fair idea just who it was, he still hoped not, for the one he thought of would not hesitate to speed a helpless man on his way to perdition.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/27/2006 16:24:11

Magistrate Hammond and Peter Culpepper sat at a table near the corner of the room, far removed from the comradeship of the rest of the patrons who filled the Crossbow. Culpepper, though one to rarely fraternize with those who he felt were his inferiors, was in far too foul a mood to be bothered with the pleasantries of much company. Far better to pump this fool of a magistrate for as much information as he could glean.

"I tell you Magistrate Hammond, it has been a trying month for me." He continued to grumble. "First I find that my intended has vanished right in the heart of London. Then for six long days I have almost every footman available searching the whole of the city for her. With no luck what have so ever, I might add."

"Then I get word that they have found three dead seamen in the West End, and nothing more than a lace handkerchief with the initials BJR embroidered in the corner as a clue. A tavern wench, for a few gold pieces, comes forward with a tale of a girl who she left with a paramour she had been coddling the night with in the same vicinity. She couldn't remember the man's name, but when showed the handkerchief she comes up with the name of the most infamous outlaw in Christendom, Black Jack Roberts!"

"The next bit of news I receive from a messenger boy is that Roberts had killed three of the king's men on the......"

"Three?!" The portly Magistrate interrupted. "I had heard it was ten!"

"Don't be a fool, Hammond!" Culpepper snapped. "The exploits of that cur are far too exaggerated as it is!! He is a common thief, nothing more! The way the common folk go on about him you would think him some kind of wizard!!"

"Terribly sorry, Sir Peter." Hammond interjected. " I was merely caught up in your tale. Pray continue."

"As I was saying," Culpepper huffed, "the next word I have is the brigand has killed three of the king's footmen on the outskirts of London, and made off with my fiancé headed toward York. Let me tell you, I spared no expense to have him tracked down and rescue my Cecily from the beast's clutches. I even killed one of my poor horses trying to reach Alice and Sir Morley."

"No sooner had I set out for York myself than I receive word from one of my men that she was seen headed back to Cornwall in the company of a man. I race back to find that she wants to call off the wedding and leave with this commoner! Well lady Alice soon put an end to that!"

"I, however, did not trust the man, and well I did not! No sooner had they left to get the marriage certificate from you than the bastard showed up again to spirit Cecily away with him. I, thinking him Roberts in disguise, engaged him in a duel. Then the real Roberts shows up, from what I was told for the coward had hit me from behind when I turned to protect Cecily."

Fortunately, I was able to regain my senses and ran the blackguard off before he could spirit Cecily away for real. The coward she claims saved her shook in terror of Roberts, and hid behind her like a dog! Ha! Then her brother Andrew has me leave, because she still wants to choose him over me!"

"Tsk, tsk!" Hammond shook his head. "Why on Earth would she choose such a cowardly dastard over you, Sir Peter?"

"How should I know?! This is why we are so desperate for you to get the necessary papers in order!" Culpepper fumed. "Still I dare say that during our duel I gave Mr. Robert Johnson a cut he'll not forget in this life!"

"Robert Johnson, you say!!" Magistrate Hammond nearly leapt form his chair. "Are you sure that was the man's name?!"

"Aye." Peter Culpepper almost grinned with his cleverness. Now the old fool would spill all he knew. "I am as certain as I am of my own name."

"My dear Sir Culpepper!" The official's face flushed with the news. "You set in the tavern that belongs to the man himself! The Crossbow is the property of Robert Johnson, and I believe he is upstairs in his rooms now!"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/27/2006 21:43:16

Andrew and Sir Wallace were sitting at the table, having their breakfast.
Andrew said, "How did Mother take the news Cecily is gone?"
Sir Wallace took a sip of his tea and said, "I didn't get a chance to tell her. She didn't come home until after I was asleep."
Lady Alice came into the room. Andrew picked up his toast and marmalade and took it with him.
"I'll be at the stables, that mare is due to foal and--"
Lady Alice's eyes blazed. "You will stay right where you are, Andrew! What do you know about your sister leaving?"
Andrew feigned suprise. "Cecily is gone?"
"You know perfectly well she is gone."
Sir Wallace put down his teacup and said, "Alice, how did you know already?"
"Because Sir Culpepper told me. He also told me that Andrew threw him out of the house. How could you be so inhospitable, Andrew? HOW COULD YOU?"
Andrew flared up at his mother. "And you approve of him bursting in here, sword drawn and slashing at an innocent man who came to check on my sister? The very man who saved her life?"
Alice said tightly, "The very man she says she is in love with. The very man she ran off with. The very man---"
"That my daughter is in love with." Sir Wallace said firmly.
Alice stated matter-of-factly, "Wallace, she doesn't know what she wants. She's just turned seventeen. Sir Peter is offering her a home and a title and prestige."
"And she is not in love with him. For pity's sake, Alice, maybe Cecily knows better of what she wants than we do."
She stood up suddenly. "What are you trying to say, Wallace?"
"That I will not sign the marriage license. I'll not force Cecily to marry a man she--"
"Loathes." That came from Andrew. He continued. "Mother, Cecily was getting sick to her stomach and headaches just thinking about that arse."
"ANDREW! Your language is no better than a stablehand!"
Andrew threw his napkin down. "I for one applaud her for her courage to run off with Bl---"
He caugh himself.
Alice's eyebrows shot up. "Run off with who?"
He thought fast. "With a bloke that she loves. Mother, let her be. Why are you so hot to get her married off to him? What have you to gain?"
Andrew looked at her with narrowed eyes. He knew the answer, he just wanted to hear her say it.
Her face flamed. "Sir Peter Culpepper could have his choice of any woman in the duchy. But he chose Cecily because---'
"Because she is young and beautiful and landed and well-bred." Andrew said hotly.
"Nonsense! He is in love with her."
"And what about you, Mother? What do you hope to gain?"
"A daughter who made a good match."
Andrew looked at her and sighed deeply. "Right. Well, I saw her with Robert Johnson. A fine man. And she DID make a good match. So leave her be, Mother. Live your dreams through someone else. I have an idea! Why don't you get yourself a couple of dogs. Breed them. Sell them. Because that is what you are trying to do to Cecily."
He slammed the dining room doors on his way out.

Sir Wallace looked at his wife and said, "He has a point, dear. He most likely knows Cecily better than the rest of us. I'll not be a party to making my daughter miserable."
"What are you saying, Wallace?"
"That I won't be signing the marriage license. For once, I am not giving in to you."
He sighed deeply and said, "I am sorry, my dear. But right is right. Now I must go to the stable with Andrew to check on the mare."

After he left, Alice Morley sat deep in thought. There HAS to be a way to get that marriage license. I can't let all my plans slip away from me. Cecily will beget an heir if it is the last thing she ever does.....


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/28/2006 20:21:17

"Upstairs!!!" The shout brought the entire tavern to a standstill. Men and women turned in the direction of the discrete little corner table. Hands held darts in mid-throw, tankards half raised to gapping mouths as all eyes turned to a livid and standing Sir Peter Culpepper. "Why did you not say so in the first place!!"

Molly frozen in her tracks watched the scene play out as if in slow motion. Peter Culpepper whirled from the table, striding for the narrow white walled stairwell that led to the upstairs rooms. Her eyes widened as one of the young stable hands stood to attempt to stop the charge. A fist beneath the lad's chin sent him tumbling into a near by table sending contents and patrons to the floor.

She stared on in disbelief as the man redoubled his effort, shoving aside those not swift enough to clear a path for him. Just as she thought all would be lost George and Geoffrey stepped in front of the stairwell entrance. Their arms crossed in front of their chests, leaving no doubt they were not about to allow Culpepper one step further.

Sir Peter came to an abrupt halt as the two burly men materialized before him. His face flushed red as his hand flew to the hilt of his rapier. His voice was almost a low growl as he measured out each word. "!"

Culpepper's mind raced. He knew he could run at least one of these miscreants through, but the other would be atop of him in a moment. This was the time for a slightly more subtle approach. As the two shook their heads slowly he willed his face to drop all expression of anger. With a resigned sigh he let his hand drop from the hilt of the weapon and turned as if to go.

In a flash he snatched a half full tankard from a nearby table shattering the crockery against the side of Geoffrey's skull. Bits of white glazed pottery and amber colored liquid sprayed in all directions. Geoffrey's limp form stumbled into George. George grabbed his falling friend looking up just in time to get a close look at Culpepper's fist. George instinctively jerked his head to one side blunting the attack. He dropped Geoffrey and raised both fists, prepared to fight, only to find the other's rapier blade inches from his face.

Sir Peter grinned broadly as he circled around George until he had reached the other side. With his goal now behind him and no other to stand in the way he allowed himself a low chuckle. "Now, Lout! I should happily run your miserable carcass through. However, I have far bigger fish to fry at the moment. So, if you will excuse me I'll....."

"Be dropping that there blade.....NOW!" Josiah's gruff voice finished the sentence, punctuating it by pulling the hammer back on the flintlock he placed at the base of Sir Culpepper's head. The blade clattered noisily to the wood floor and Peter's hands raised to his shoulders. Josiah could almost feel the rage radiate from the frustrated noble. "Now, Sir Culpepper, I'll be thanking ye to leave the premises. Mr. Johnson is ill and I'll not have ye makin' matters worse. If you please, Sir."

At the nudge from the muzzle of the pistol to his head Culpepper walked slowly away and turned around, his hands still raised before him. Josiah's pistol was still raised, at arms length now, and aimed directly between his eyes. Smiling he slowly backed his way to the entry door of the Crossbow. Once he had the door open he looked up still smiling. "I promise you, Tavern keep, I shall return......and I will not be alone." Then turning he slammed the door behind him. Silence filled the inn as the sound of horse's hooves faded into the distance.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/29/2006 18:27:09

Cecily stood near the head of the bed directly across from the door, a notched arrow in the bow she held loosely at her side. She stared intently at the oak willing her sight to see through it, only occasionally glancing in Jack's direction when his breathing became slightly more ragged. Holding her tears back by sheer strength of will, she felt her hatred of one man boil in her veins. Should Sir Peter Culpepper open that door she vowed to make him a corpse before his second step.

The door handle rattled. With practiced smoothness she drew the bow back, aiming for the center of where a man's chest would be. Strangely all emotion fled her and a cold calculating thought filled her being as she fully prepared to kill Culpepper. Either now, or should the unthinkable happen very soon after.

"Well, Lass. He's gon...Whoa!! Hold yer fire there, Milady!!" Josiah nearly fell onto his backside vacating the doorway and taking shelter in the hall. "Culpepper be gone for now, Lass!"

A sigh of relief filled then deflated her lungs as the bow fell to the floor and she sat down heavily on the edge of the bed. Then and only then did she put her face in her hands and allow her dammed up emotions to spill forth. Sobs that were a bitter sweet mixture of grief and gratitude wracked her petite frame.

"Molly! Bring our lady a bottle of Mr. Johnson's best wine, and a fresh basin!" Josiah shouted down the steps. Without waiting for an answer he strode quickly into the room to where the distraught girl sat. Gently he knealed down in front of her placing a fatherly hand onto her shoulder.

"Now don't ye be frettin' so, Milady. Culpepper be long gone, and Jack be a fighter from way back. It will all be fine."

Cecily dropped her hands and looked with tear stained eyes into his. Suddenly she threw her arms across Josiah's neck, hugging him close. "Oh, Josiah!" She sobbed once as he patted her back, rocking her as he would a stricken child.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/29/2006 20:29:34

Josiah let Cecily cry her heart out until she was spent. She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked at Josiah. "I--I'm seem to have gotten you all wet. I'm so sorry."
Josiah smiled kindly at her. He handed her a glass of wine and said, "Drink this, lass. It will help fortify you."
Molly had placed the wine on the table and had poured a glass. Already she liked Cecily. She could see how devoted she was to Jack. And even though Molly had entertained romantic notions of her and the highwayman, she could see that the young girl loved him. For that she could not blame her. She handed Josiah the basin of water.
Cecily tried to smile at Molly. "Thank you. I'll be taking care of Jack now."
Josiah shook his head. "Not till you are tended to, Miss."
He took a clean cloth and washed her face down like she was a four-year-old. She touched his hand and said simply, "Thank you for being so nice to me."
He tilted her chin up to face him. "Ye be Jack's love. Ne'er seen him affected like this b'fore . Ye be good fer him, Miss Cecily. Maybe reel him in a bit and settle him down."
She looked over at Jack lying still on the bed.
"If it is not too late, " she whispered. She walked over to him and held his hand and whispered to him, "I love you, Jack. You can't leave me. I won't let you."

Molly took the cloth and said, "Darlin', I'll take over while you catch your second wind. Get something to eat. You can't let yourself go downhill."
Josiah nodded. "Ye may be needin' yer strength for both you and Jack. Ye need to rein in yer temper, lass. Could have dangerous consequences."
She said steely, "I owe Sir Peter Culpepper. I owe him for what he did. And I shall get even if it is the last thing I ever do."
Josiah cleared his throat. "Miss, if umm..well, if circumstances change here, what will ye do? Go back to Cornwall?"
She stood up and practically shouted, "I won't let Jack die. I won't! He can't! He promised he would see I never regretted it if I went with him."
She then looked off in the distance and tears traced down her cheeks once again. She chose her next words carefully, "If it is that Jack is not able to keep that promise to me, I swear, I will hunt Culpepper down and make him pay. And pay. And pay. And then I will make hims still pay. And when I am done, I shall ruin him. And then kill him."
Josiah poured her another glass of wine. "Plans like that may get yer head in the noose, lass."
She lifted her head high and said, "Not if they don't find me. I woud change my name and disappear. Become a new person! And no one would ever hear from me again!"
She took the basin from Molly and said, "I'll do that now, Molly. Thank you."

After she was done bathing his face, she held his hand.
Josiah's heart almost broke as he heard her whisper, "You can't do this to me, Jack Roberts. You promised me you would take care of me. You promised me a life together. You said we would be a family and I would give you children. And you promised you would love me till the end of time."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/30/2006 10:29:27

A loud knock at the door brought Josiah's hand back to the pistol he had shoved into his belt. Placing the finger of his free hand across his lips he quietly walked over to the door. Cecily's bow was already back in her hands, though aimed temporarily at the floor. From somewhere within her skirts Molly had produced a lethal looking dagger.

"Who's there?" Josiah inquired.

"It's Gilbert, Josiah! Annabelle and Tim are out here with me!" The door muffled reply brought a look of relief and hope to the tavern keeper's face as he hastily replaced the pistol and swung the door wide. Annabelle Peterson fairly flowed into the room first. Cecily took in the measure of the woman.

Her dark cloak flared out from her shoulders as she strode with purpose to the bed Jack lay on. A waterfall cascade of black curls streaked with sliver tumbled about her shoulders from under the calico scarf tied about her brow. Huge gold hoops pierced her lobes and multiple circlets of silver and gold clinked pleasantly on her arms as she reached up to feel the sweat soaked forehead of the bandit. A faint odor of cinnamon and frankincense seemed to permeate the air around her.

The gypsy witch ignored all and sundry as she lifted Jack's eyelids, looking intently at the whites of his eyes. She gently pressed three fingers against his neck, then turned to Cecily. "Do not worry, Young one," she smiled confidently, "You will have him back with you soon."

"Molly, be a dear and fetch me some boiling water. Josiah I need several more quilts for Jack." She spoke as she began examining several bottles and jars she pulled from the cloth traveling bag she had placed next to the small table.

"Mum." Molly curtsied and raced to the back stairs which led to the kitchen. Josiah motioned to Tim and Gilbert. The three left to acquire the quilts from the other unoccupied rooms shutting the door behind them.

"What shall I do?" Cecily inquired breathlessly.

Annabelle met her gaze with eyes that Cecily could swear looked deeply into her soul, then smiled. "Just as you were doing before I arrived, Dear. Hold onto his hand and speak your love to him. This has been the only thing that has held him here this long. Your love gives him the strength to continue."

Molly arrived with a pitcher of steaming water, followed quickly by the men bearing the quilts. As Cecily sat near the top of the bed holding Jack's hand and whispering her love into his ear Annabelle ground the contents of several bottles in a white marble mortar, mumbling strange sounding words. Josiah and Gilbert laid quilt after quilt over the stricken man.

Anne poured the contents of the mortar into the pitcher of water and stirred them with a long black stick she produced from the bag. Her chanting rose in volume and she rocked slightly back and forth her eyes rolled backwards reviling only the whites behind her fluttering lashes. Pouring the contents of the pitcher through a fresh cheese cloth into an empty tankard she gently raised Jack's head from the pillow and coaxed the nearly unconscious outlaw to drink.

The setting sun turned the white walls of the room a glowing orange as the gypsy sank down wearily into a cushioned chair. "Now we wait." She sighed. "We shall know Jack's fate by morn. Tim be a dear and fetch Mommy a little wine."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/30/2006 11:10:31

The walls of the room turned a bright yellow with the rising of the morning sun. A soft midsummer breeze billowed out the curtains occasionally. The twittering melody of songbirds awakened to meet the new day filled the air.

Jack Roberts eyes fluttered open. "Cecily?"

Her golden haired head flew upward from the sound of his voice. "Jack!! Oh my dear Jack!" She repeated over and over as she buried her face in the crook of his neck, kissing him there again and again. "Your alive!"

"Of course I am, My Love. I seem to have gotten a tad dizzy and fallen to the floor, but that's nothing to worry over."

Cecily raised her joyfully tear stained face to look into his eyes. "Jack, Peter's blade was poisoned! You nearly died!!"

"Indeed you did, Black Jack Roberts." Annabelle's melodic voice came from above them. She stood smiling down at the overjoyed couple.

"Anne!" he smiled and tried to sit up falling weakly back onto the pillow.

"You stay put, Mr. Roberts!" Anne chided him gently. "The fever is broken and the poison purged, but you will need to rest for a few days to regain your strength."

"Aye! That he will. Even if I have to sit in him!" Josiah's gruff voice came from across the room.

Jack looked up to see Josiah, Gilbert, Tim, Molly, George, and Geoffrey with a linen bandage around his head, standing all around the bed they lay on. Smiling faces with tears running down cheeks surrounded him, as his friends hugged each other in relief. Cecily curled next to him, entwining him in her arms.

"I owe you all so much." He spoke lowly. "But I would ask one more favor of you, my friends."

"Anything you wish, Laddie Buck." Josiah beamed.

"Would someone please remove a few of these blankets? It's bloody hot under here!"

The chorus of laughter drifted out of the upstairs window to mingle with the songs of the birds.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 10/31/2006 13:27:25

Stewart Chambers sat at his favorite table in the Herron, eyeing potential victims. Dressed in a fine wool coat, wool knee britches, and reasonably new silver buckled shoes he gave all of the impression of being a stable man of some means. Perfect for a man who made his living as a kidnapper.

A disappointing lot, he thought as his green eyes scanned the handful of customers taking their leisure around him. Hardly a one of them that would fetch more than a few Pounds, much less the gold he craved. His pockets were getting a bit empty of late.

Brushing a stray lock of dark brown hair from his eyes he made his choice. A fair to do lass in her mid twenties. Probably the wife of a well off landowner here about Somerset. Her jewelry was sparse, but of decent quality. He could maybe get a few hundred for her, if he squeezed hard enough.

Finishing the ale he tossed a silver piece onto the table, retrieved his leather tri-corn hat and turned to wait outside for his target. Just as he reached for the knob the door opened reviling Bill Turnbull a man he knew well.

"Well as I live and breathe, just the bloke I've been looking' for!" Bill grinned. "I've a message for you Stewart. Straight from the man himself."

"And?" Chambers asked.

"He has a job for ye, but it's not something we want to be discussing out here in the open." Bill winked. "Let's make for my digs and I'll tell ye all about it there.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 10/31/2006 23:41:07

Annabelle took over the nursing duties at that point. She lifted the bandage that was on the blade wound that Jack had received. She shook her head in disgust.
"It is a low man that gives a poisoned blade."
She motioned to Josiah and took him aside.
"I have looked in the cards. I see a dark and evil man. The danger has not abated. And this one will not rest until he has rendered what he considers judgment and taken back what he believes is rightfully his. I do not wish to frighten the lass, I can see she is smitten with Jack. But she is a smart lass, I see she has intelligence to rival his. A perfect match, as the Lovers card has revealed to me."
Cecily looked over and said, "I cannot thank you enough, Miss--Mrs.--Peterson--Annabelle--"
Annabelle laughed and said, "Annabelle will be fine, my dear. Jack must rest a few days but I know he is in good hands."
Cecily's eyes shone in gratitude for what she has done.
Josiah told Molly, "Go fix some beef broth for Jack. He will be needing nourishment but light foods."

Cecily curled up on the bed next to Jack, her arms encircling him and touching his cheek. With a deep shuddering sigh, she whispered, "I was so afraid I would lose you, Jack. Oh, I was so frightened!"
Jack looked at her and stroked her hair. "You shall never lose me, my love. We shall always be together."
Molly brought the broth and a few slices of buttered bread. "I brought some for you, too, Miss Cecily. Lord knows you need to keep your strength up too."
She turned to Jack and said, "She never left your side, you know. Never even stopped to eat, thought she would pass out on us. Although she almost skewered poor Josiah!"
Josiah laughed. "Aye! T'was almost perforated, I was! She drew her bow when she heard Culpepper try to burst up the stairs. That is how poor Geoff got a knock on the noggin. Culpepper smashed a tankard alongside his head."
Jack turned to Cecily. "You really were aiming your arrow at him? Love, you need to be very careful. You are deadly with that."
She said vehemently, "I wish I had. I wish I had pinned him against the wall. I want him DEAD! Dead, do you hear me?"
Jack took her in his arms. "Hush, darling. This sort of malice--it hurts no one but the bearer of it like acid in a vessel. He shall get what is coming to him. I shall make sure of that."

Josiah motioned to the rest of them to take their leave. As they filed out, Josiah closed the door but not before he stuck his head back in and said, "Now, lass, the man needs his rest so don't ye be puttin' yer designs on him. Not just yet!"
He closed the door again and Cecily made sure Jack finished every drop of the broth and drank the healing tea that Annabelle had brewed for him.
As they settled back in the bed, Cecily curled up under Jack's good arm and fit her body alongside his. Like it was always meant to be.
"Hmmmm?" he responded drowsily.
"Jack, you have to marry me."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/01/2006 12:28:51

"Why, Lady Morley. Is this a proposal? It's so sudden." His eyes twinkled with his teasing. "Very well, I accept."

His laughter filled the room as she pulled the pillow from beneath his head and promptly swatted him over the head with it. "I will give you a proposal, Beast!" she giggled. As they wrestled for possession of the fluffy weapon.

Suddenly He began to cough, bringing an abrupt end to their play. Concern leapt into Cecily's eyes, and she quickly held him close until the fit passed. Gently she guided his head back to the pillow.

"My Love." Jack whispered, gently stroking her cheek. "Nothing within this world will make me happier than to name you my wife." His smile radiated the joy of a man who has been granted his fondest wish. "Has soon as I can stand I will propose to you properly, Cecily Morley. I know of a place where we may be wed without signature from either parent, though methinks having some approval would stand us good."

"Oh, Jack!" She threw her arms around his neck. "If it means so much to you, as soon as you are ready we can ask Father. I know he will approve!"

"It is settled then." Jack grinned. "As soon as I can properly propose to you we will ask your father for his blessing."

Their arms entwined each other and soft breezes from the window caressed them as they fell asleep in their lover's embrace. There Annabelle found them, smiling softly as she pulled a cover over their slumbering forms. She stood over them for a few moments a wistful expression pulled at her olive features.

"I still owe you much, Jack" She thought to herself. "Enough to never let you know that although the cards told me you have found joy beyond most men with your union, they also told me that it will end in tragedy and death."

A lone tear slid down the Gypsy's face. "A long and joyful love to you both, My Dears. For once I pray the cards be wrong." She whispered. Turning she wiped the tear from her cheek, closing the door soundlessly behind her.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/02/2006 09:45:37

Stewart Chambers dismounted his horse in front of the foreboding mansion overlooking the churning sea. Handing the reigns to the stable boy he took in the massive structure. Once a place of gaiety and social gathering the towering structure was now gray and ominous. Reflecting the true manner of the lone heir to the Culpepper name.

A twisted sneer, which usually passed for a smile, pulled at his face. Turnbull had told him little. Peter Culpepper wanted him to kidnap a girl of prominence and bring her here. A thousand gold Sovereigns the price. Yes this would be much more profitable than the farmer's wife he had first set his sights on.

Mounting the drab cement steps to the mahogany doors he raised the lion's head knocker and rapped it loudly. Within a few moments the aged butler swung the door wide. "This way, Mr. Chambers." he wheezed, leading the kidnapper to the doors that shut the study off from the rest of the house. Within the chamber sat Peter Culpepper and three rough looking brigands.

"Stewart." The master of Culpepper estates rose motioning him to an empty chair in front of the desk. "I see you got my message. Have a seat and I will bring you up to date on the details of my little plan."

Chambers sat down in the velvet cushioned chair, a wicked grin appearing on his lips.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/02/2006 23:05:11

Lady Alice rang for the house servant.
"Barnabas--I need the carriage. Please tell Ferguson to get one ready."
Barnabas nodded and left. Lady Alice grabbed her cloak and went outside just as the carriage pulled up. She turned to Barnabas and said, "Lady Stafford is ailing and I am taking some of Maud's scones and herbal tea to her. Please tell Sir Wallace not to worry, I shall be back by the afternoon."

As she got in the carriage, she opened the little window and said, "Ferguson, I have changed my mind. Please take me to Magistrate Hammond's house."
Ferguson knew better than to question Lady Alice. He just nodded and took the road that lead into town.

Within a half hour, Lady Alice was standing at the door of Magistrate Hammond's house.
A house servant admitted her and she sat in the parlor. Within a few minutes, Magistrate Errol Hammond came in. His wig was askew and his cravat was untied. Hastily he tried to straighten his attire.
"Ah, my dear Lady Alice! To what do I owe this visit? Collecting clothing for the orphans? The vicar is trying to raise funds for the steeple?"
Lady Alice cooly removed her gloves. "Errol, you stood us up last night and I want an explanation."
The magistrate's eyes shifted and he harummphed. "Not that it is any of your affair, Lady Alice, but I was detained in Devonshire."
She said crossly, "More likely detained in a pub there. I was here with Sir Wallace to have the marriage license of our daughter and Sir Culpepper filled out and granted."
Errol Hammond was not used to women who stood there ground. His wife was the soul of meekness.
"Now, now, Alice. We can take care of that now. Where is Sir Wallace?"
"He is indisposed. I am here to get the license. I want it and I want it TODAY."
"You know I have to have his signature on it. If both parents are alive, both have to be in agreement. After all, how old is the lass?"
"She just turned seventeen three weeks ago."
"And you are marrying her off to Sir Culpepper? The man is almost twice her age. He's---what? Thirty-seven?"
Alice snapped, "Errol, it is none of your concern. My Cecily will be making the match of the duchy and shall be taken care of for the rest of her life. And when she produces an heir, she will be giving Sir Peter what he always has wanted. Someone to pass his estates on to."
"But, Alice, the law says--"
"Errol, what does the law say about adultery?"

The house servant came in with tea and cakes. Magistrate Hammond wiped his brow which he had started perspiring heavily on.
"That will be all, Sanders."
Lady Alice took the teacup and deicately sipped. "What were we talking about? Oh, yes! What is the word I want?"
She tapped her finger to her lips and then smiled as if she just figured out the secret of the sun rising in the east. "I think the word is 'cuckoldry'!"
Magistrate Hammond mopped his face and blustered, "You have no such proof, Lady Alice, and you know it!"
"I may not have proof positive but the thought and the rumours of it alone are enough to cause people to look sideways at you. Oh, they can forgive the act, they just can't forgive the self-righteousness that accompanies it. The best doors of Cornwall society will then be closed to you. Your wife is very popular with the masses. Charitable works and all that. Now, if she can't hold her head up high, who's fault is that?"
Lady Alice took the marriage license papers out and said, "What will it be, Errol? Your signature on this license in exchange for my silence."
He grabbed the papers and put his signature on it.
"There! You have it! The papers will be filed by tomorrow morning."
"Not good enough. It has to be today."
"What? I did what you asked!"
"And if you hadn't been deep in your cups, you would have taken care of this last night and we wouldn't be having this conversation."
Magistrate Hammond signed four copies. One for the Morleys, one for Culpepper, one for himself and one for the Crown.

Lady Alice took two copies. "I will hand-deliver Sir Culpepper's to him. That way he will know that the deed has been done."
Magistrate Hammond winced that he was blackmailed by a woman.
"One question, Lady Alice--how did you get your husband to sign it?"
She turned and smiled at him. "Who said he did?"
But it was too late. Hammond couldn't do a thing about it.

Lady Alice entered her coach, tapped the driver through the window and said, "To Sir Culpepper's house. As soon as possible!"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/04/2006 11:15:08

Jack awoke before Cecily, her lengthy vigil at his bed side had left her exhausted. Some of his former strength had returned and he quietly slipped from her embrace. Crossing the room he unlocked the top drawer of a bureau next to the far wall. The inside of the drawer was partitioned into various size compartments. He removed the contents of each.

Reaching for the center back panel of one compartment he lifted it free with a soft click. This allowed each of the other panels to move in a particular pattern. Much like a Chinese wood puzzle, only if you knew the pattern would any of the other panels budge. In the end the last three panels revealed a small hidden panel in the floor of the drawer. Pushing on the left side of the small door lifted it about a quarter inch.

There in a shallow compartment it lay. The necklace was an ornate drapery of diamonds with three large Emeralds. The center one pear cut and as large as a man's thumb, flanked on either side by two more the size of the thumb's nail. He had lifted it from the neck of the elderly Duchess of York, dead now these three years. He would have Josiah forge the necessary bill of sale showing he had purchased it from one Jacques Robert, but he doubted any would claim it. The poor woman was rumored to have been living off of her jewelry after her husband's bad investments in the end.

Grinning like a school child he slid the trinket back into it's hiding place. It will make her the best wedding present he could think of. Silently he slid the panels back into place relocking the key panel into place. He couldn't wait to see her sapphire eyes sparkling next to those gems.

He would also have to send someone to the Jewelers in Plymouth. He knew the betrothal ring he wished to give her, and had a fair idea for something special for the wedding rings. The tricky part would be getting all of this past her to Josiah, but that is what made it fun. Life held more than enough unpleasant surprises, pleasant ones needed coaxing.

Weaker than he thought he slipped reentering the bed and her soft eyelashes fluttered open. "Jack?" she yawned daintily. "Is everything alright, Dearest?"

"Better than alright, My Love." he grinned roguishly. "Sorry I awoke you, but you know the call of nature." He nodded toward the privy closet as her arms encircled his neck. Their lips met tenderly.

"Jack?" She looked into his blue green eyes. "Do you realize I know almost nothing about you? Not even your age."

He looked down for a moment. "I'm afraid I may not be much better than our friend Culpepper, Luv. I hadn't told ye my age, knowing your thoughts on near as I know, I am twenty seven years of age."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/06/2006 13:40:55

For a moment Cecily was taken aback, then she remembered her words at the boarding house when they had first met. Gently she lifted his face in her soft hands until her eyes met with his. "Jack, I truly don't care that you are twenty seven. I would love you regardless. Even if you were as ancient as Peter.......Well perhaps not that old." She teased slightly, enjoying the faint blush that momentarily colored his cheeks and the tender smile that graced his face.

"What of your parents?" She deftly turned the subject away from age. Ten years was not enough of a distance between them to dim the fire she felt in her heart for him. "Are they aware of your activities?"

Jack shrugged attempting to belittle the sorrow their memory still brought up in him. He was not successful and Cecily realized that he was the type of man that held those he loved forever in his heart. The thought of their passing still evoked grief that had barely faded with the passage of time. If at all.

"They died when I was just a lad, the pox." Jack's eyes stared into the past. "We were street poor and stole to survive so I have lived my profession all of my life. The day they were buried in Potter's Field was the day Black Jack Roberts was born."

She thought back to the days she would play Highwayman with Andrew and watching him teases her as he devoured sweets she no longer had money for. How much worse was it when this extended to an entire life? When even the daily meals were beyond your reach? Many would turn greedy and grasping by such circumstances. Yet she had seen with her own eyes this was not true with Jack.

A soft knock came from the door and Annabelle flowed into the room, a cup of steaming liquid in her hands. "I'm glad to see you awake." She smiled.

Handing the cup to Jack she placed a hand briefly to his forehead, looking intently at the whites of his eyes. "The tonic will return your strength faster, Dear. You should be your old self in a couple of days."

Jack drank down the hot tonic with a sour face. "Just once I wish you could make one of those things so it didn't taste like soured milk." He groused, then smiled. "It would seem I owe you my life Annie."

"Nonsense!" The Gypsy witch waved one jangling hand backward in the air as if shooing away an insect. "Without your kindness I would have lost my son. That is a debt I can never repay." She smiled retrieving the empty cup, then walking to the door. "I'll let Josiah know you two are awake. He should have a meal sent up to you in about an hour."

After the door shut Jack pulled Cecily gently into his arms. "Annie doesn't know just how well her tonics work." He grinned roguishly as his hand slowly unbuttoned the back of her dress. "They work very well indeed." Her arms encircled his neck as their kisses grew in length and passion.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/06/2006 22:40:45

Cecily laid on Jack's chest, her blonde hair brushing his cheek. She smiled contentedly.
"Annabelle could make a fortune...!"
He kissed the top of her head and smiled to himself. A week ago he never even knew of her existence. Now she was his betrothed. Amazing how turning a corner can turn your life.

She lifted her head to kiss him gently on the lips and trace her fingers down his cheek.
Softly she said, "I am so sorry about your parents, Jack. I would have loved to have known the people that produced such a fine man for me."
He said nothing, lost in his own memories of the sadness he felt as he watched their burial. Not even a marker to remember them by.
He sighed heavily. "And they would have loved to have known you."
She propped herself up on one elbow and looked into his eyes. "And here I was a lass who was handed everything yet I was still not complete. I have both parents and yet I have never known joy and love up until now. I love you, Jack Roberts. Or Robert Johnson. Or whoever you are. What really IS your name?"
He smiled, "Jack Roberts. I was thinking, love, that it may be best if no one except Annabelle and Josiah know of our betrothal. If the redcoats know of it or that we are married, they may be inclined to kidnap you or harm you as a way to get to me. If they think--and God forgive me for using this word---you a doxy, they will let ye be as doxies are a dime a dozen and they will guess ye are of no consequence to me."
"Jack, have you ever thought of leaving England for somewhere else?"
"Not really. I guess because I am half-Irish and half-English, this island is the only one I thought of as home."
"You are Irish? I am bedding with an Irishman? How wonderfully exotic and wicked of me!" she giggled.
He gave her cheek a playful pinch. "As I am bedding a lass from Cornwall, no less!"
She held him close and said, "Aye, what a rare and strange breed our children shall be, Jack. I do so want to give you what you lack. A family."
He felt an odd glow of contentment. "Cecily, my love, are you....?"
She laughed and shook her head. "Not to my knowledge, my love. After all, 'tis only been a week that I have known the ways of carnal love!"
He pretended a shocked look on his face. "Miss Cecily, I do believe you have a bawdy side to you that you keep hidden!"
She gave him a look and whispered, "Not hidden well enough! Now..let us see just how long-lasting that tonic is..."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/07/2006 11:48:45

Josiah mounted the stairs that led up from the kitchen, a tray of food held in front of him. Molly followed with ale and wine. Annabelle had said the two lovers were awake now and that the infection was all but gone from Jack. If nothing else the man had been blessed with the constitution of a Clydesdale and the stubbornness of an weed puller.

He rapped lightly upon the door. His brow furrowed slightly when he heard no reply. Balancing the tray in one hand he turned the knob. Cecily and Jack lay embraced beneath the cover dead asleep again. The pile of clothing at the side of the bed allowed him to guess why.

Glancing over his shoulder he glimpsed the blush and shock on Molly's face. "Aye, Lass." He whispered teasingly. "If it weren't fer the foul taste of the brew I'd be 'a drinkin' Annie's potions ever day." Josiah winked, increasing the strength of her coloring. Chuckling he motioned for her to quietly leave her tray next to his on the bedside table. "If it be cold when they awake 'tis their own fault."

As an after thought he opened the drawer Jack had previously visited and removed a sheet of parchment. Dipping a quill from the top of the bureau he hastily wrote out a note. Folding it he then placed it leaning against the bottle of wine. Motioning the Tavern maid to follow he tiptoed out of the room and gently closed the door behind him.

"Josiah." Molly whispered once the door had shut. "Just last night he was at the door of death its self. How could....?" She let her voice trail off.

"Damned if I know the how of it, Lass." Josiah grinned wickedly. "But I know the why." He winked. Molly covered her mouth blushing anew and giggling.

"Tell you what, though. I've seen him take punishment that would have killed another. Annabelle says his spirit is nailed to his spine." He stared at the closed door for a moment more, then shook his head wistfully. "If that's what it means, then I need to find the carpenter and get a bit 'a nailin' down meself!"

"You are a wicked man, Master Josiah!" Molly giggled starting down the stairs toward the main tavern. "And I have customers waiting." As she reached the bottom she glanced for a moment behind her. Smiling she tossed her mane of copper curls she marched into the tavern with just a slight more sway to her hips than usual.

"Taste be damned!" Josiah thought. "Annie has to make one of those tonics fer me!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/07/2006 20:26:24

Cecily stirred as the soft breeze blew in, signaling the afternoon had grown late. She drowsily glanced over at the clock on the mantle and saw that it was approaching the fifth hour past noon. Jack was sleeping soundly, his arm flung around her and she was formed against him. She closed her eyes once again but the smell of food brough her around again.
She opened one eye and spied the trays of food and ale.
She let out a scream.

Jack sat up, fumbling for his sword. She clutched the blanket up around her chin.
"WHAT?? WHO?" he shouted.
Cecily could only point, wide-eyed. "H-how did that get here?"
Jack breathed a sigh of relief. "Cecily, you scared me to death, love. It's obvious Josiah or Molly left it."
Cecily's face grew red. "B-But it means they were in here!"
Jack ran his hand through his hair and said bewilderedly, "Yes, that would be the only way to get it in here."
Cecily dove under the blanket and mumbled from under there.
Jack flipped the blanket down. "What did you say?"
She grabbed it again and her face was crimson. "But they saw us! I mean..look at the clothes...and look at us....and THEY KNOW!"
He shook his head. "You are not making any sense, darling."
She whispered, "They know what we were DOING!!"
Jack let out a howl of laughter. She said indignantly, "It isn't funny! I can never--EVER--show my face to them!"
Jack tried to straighten up and kept breaking into laughter.
He gathered her in his arms as she buried her face in his chest.
He tried to keep the mirth out of his voice but was failing miserably at it.
"My love, we are not the first. We did not invent this. And we most certainly will not be the last. The ability to make love frivolously is the chief characteristic which distinguishes human beings from the beasts."
She looked up at him. "Frivolous?"
He yawned. "Well, maybe that wasn't the right word. It just means we are in it for the enjoyment."
He looked her in the eyes and saw she was embarrassed. He said gently, "Nothing new under the sun, love. It's been going on since the dawn of time."

He kissed her and reached over for the bottle of wine. The parchment lay against the bottle.
Jack took the note, read it and burst out laughing.
He shook his head, still chuckling.
"That devil Josiah...!"

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/12/2006 10:53:51

"What, My Love?" Cecily ponders stretching around to see the note, her coloring deepening. "What did he say?"

"Nothing to embarrass us too much, Dearest." Jack laughs, handing her the note and rising naked from the bed. "He merely suggests that we cover our 'crime' before Annie finds out and calls Lucifer himself down on our heads."

Cecily read the note and in spite of herself began to laugh uncontrollably.

"You two need to get yer clothes back on before Annie comes to check on Jack.

If she finds out God knows what part a' him she'll put a hex on!


"Actually, My Love, he seems to suggest that your manhood would be the target of her ire should we be discovered." She chided, still giggling at the thought.

"Aye!" Jack hastily pulled on his breeches as he spoke. "And I, for one, am not anxious to find the truth of the matter. It could bring a whole new light to the term being belittled by one's friends!"

Cecily fell back onto the pillow, howling with laughter, tears of mirth streaming down her cheeks. "I'm not sure who would suffer more from the curse, you, or me!"

"What curse? And just what are you doing out of bed, Young Man?!" The strong feminine voice came from the open door. Jack froze with his pants undone. Cecily had pulled the bed clothes to her chin. Both staring open mouthed at Annabelle Peterson standing sternly in the doorway with her hands firmly on her hips, tapping her foot against the floor. "Or perhaps I should inquire as to what you have been doing in bed?"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/12/2006 11:42:40

"Why, Annie, my dear, we...uh we were just getting start...." Jack hastily mumbled as he struggled to fasten his breeches. Her raised hand cutting his excuses short.

"None of your charm and tricks on me, Jack Roberts!" Her tone that of a mother who has caught a child red handed in wrong doing. Winking to Cecily as soon as his eyes were looking elsewhere. "Now you get those pants off, and climb back into bed. And wipe that silly grin off of your face! I need Cecily's help elsewhere so you will be quite alone!"

Jack groaned as he turned his back and began unfastening the breeches he had so quickly fastened a moment before. Annabelle grinned to Cecily and placed one finger to her lips before continuing with mock seriousness. "Now, Young Lady, get dressed and follow me!"

Cecily turned her head to hide her smile from him as she climbed out of bed and began dressing. Jack protested. "It's not her fault, Annie. If anything I am to blame."

"Of that I have no doubt, you scoundrel!" Anne continued the charade. "This poor girl is unused to your whiles. I on the other hand know them well and shall remove any further temptation." So saying Anne left the room with Cecily in tow.

Placing his hands behind his head Jack sighed wistfully. "Once, just once, Josiah, I wish you would prove wrong." He mumbled aloud to the room. He knew Annie would cool off soon enough. Sighing again he turned to the food Josiah had brought, suddenly ravenous.

Once out in the hallway Annabelle embraced Cecily and they both giggled softly. "Child, I could not have asked for a better sign that he is well on his way to recovery." She smiled.

"Then you are not upset" Cecily found herself still to embarrassed to give voice to their actions.

"Certainly not, Dear." Anne smiled softly, hugging her again. "Make no mistake, his love and desire for you was all that saved his life this time. However, too much of a good thing could do more harm. You needn't look so embarrassed, Dear, men and women have been engaged in lovemaking for many years before the two of you, and I dare say shall for many years after."

She gently lifted Cecily's chin to look into her eyes. "Come now, though, I wish to show you how to prepare the tonic I gave to him. Soon Gilbert must return to the Hare and Hound and I must return with him. His health will be in your care then."

Together they turned to the back stairs that led to the kitchen. Cecily comforted in the thought that she had made another good friend and she would be the one to look after her lover.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/12/2006 12:20:36

The carriage turned up the lane leading to Culpepper mansion. A smile of smugness graced Lady Alice's features as she thought of the cleverness of her plan. By forging her husband's signature and bullying the magistrate into sealing the document she now had the means to force Cecily to marry Peter. By the time anyone could question the authenticity of the license it would be far too late to do anything about it.

At that moment she was distracted by a group of three horsemen galloping past them leaving the estate. Rather rough looking characters she wondered what they could have been doing there. Perhaps Sir Culpepper had found out the location of her wayward daughter? If so he may be in better spirits than when last she saw him. She certainly hoped so, as it had been some time since she was last in his arms.

She called out to her driver. "Hurry now, Markham! We have kept Sir Culpepper waiting long enough!" Sitting back comfortably in the coach she allowed herself the luxury of imagining her day with the man.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/12/2006 19:24:55

"...and you add a pinch of this."
Cecily stood at Annabelle's side, watching as she made a healing potion. Cecily was writing down the ingredients and proportions on a piece of foolscap.
"So...where do I find all these ingredients?"
Annabelle measured and answered, "A good apothecary. If you don't know what to look for in herbs in the woods, steer clear of it because alot of them look alike, my dear. The results could be fatal."
"How did you learn this? I mean..did you have any um...mistakes? That you had to bury?"
Annabelle looked over at the innocence of this woman-child. She was totally unlike the women Jack usually kept company with.
Annabelle laughed quietly and said, "No, never made a mistake. I learned this from my gypsy mother. She taught me herbs and healing potions and spells and fortune-telling and card-reading..."
Cecily clapped her hands. "How exciting! Gypsies used to camp in Cornwall on the bluffs when they were passing through. Andrew---that's my brother--used to go down to see a young boy named Tas. Until my mother found out and put a stop to it. She said..."
Cecily stopped abrupty. Annabelle said gently, "No need, sweet. I have heard it all before."

Cecily looked at the ingredients. "Mandrake root?"
Annabelle tried to keep a smile from her face. "The Greek doctor Theophrastus wrote 2,300 years ago that for mandrake root to be effective as an aphrodisiac, one must cut three concentric circles around the root. Before actually cutting the root one should face west and recite as much as one can remember from the 'Mysteries of Love' an ancient guide to physical love."
Cecily found her face colouriing but since her mother never got around to talking about it with her, she felt she could confide in Annabelle. As a surrogate mother. Or at least as beloved aunt.

She hesitated and plunged right in. "Annabelle, how can I keep Jack Roberts interested in me? I mean..we have been together a week."
She rushed her words together. "What if he grows tired of me? What if he ceases to love me? What if he finds someone he likes better?"
Annabelle took both Cecily's hands in hers and looked into her face. She said, "My dear, I have known Jack Roberts for over ten years. He is the finest man I have ever known. He grew up poor but grew up a gentleman. His parents instilled fine qualities in him. Yet he was never content. Always holding something back. Something has changed in him. His face reflects true happiness. A contentment and a sense of belonging. I have seen it in his face and in the cards and..."
Cecily said shyly, "Annabelle? You seem to know the future. Would you tell mine? Please? Will I always be as happy as I am now?"
Annabelle looked at her and said carefully, "I believe while you and Jack are together, you will know bliss such as rare among two people."
Cecily smiled broadly, "I knew it! I shall love him to the end of time and the depth of my soul!"
She found the next a little harder to put into words. "Annabelle, will I give him what he wants? A family? Babies?"
Annabelle put her hands lightly on Cecily's abdomen and said soberly, "Aye, that you shall, my dear girl. You shall have at least one child from your union."
Cecily smiled broadly, "Then I think it best that Jack and I get married right away! I don't want the baby to be a bastard."
Annabelle laughed, "I wouldn't worry about that just yet, Cecily. Children are alot of work. Just enjoy each other, for now, my dear girl."
Cecily laughed and said, "Then I can tell Jack it is alright know..well...."
She found herself turning red. Annabelle pretended to be stern. "Don't over-do. The man needs his rest!"
Cecily turned to go but before she did, she turned seriously to Annabelle. "One question, Annabelle. If you please. My mother did not tell me anything in the ways of love. Is there...anything I need to know?"
Annabelle nodded. "Let Jack teach you. Who better to learn from than the master?"
Cecily blushed and turned and ran up the stairs in her haste.
Annabelle shook her head and laughed and continued to make her potions.

Cecily came back into the room. Jack was sitting in the chair cleaning his flintlocks. He said anxiously, "Is everything alright? Was Annabelle really upset with me?"
Cecily shook her head. "She's a wonderful person and gave me some potions to restore you to complete health."
"Anything I need to know or do, then?"
Cecily lowered her chemise and whispered, "Yes. The lessons shall now begin...."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/12/2006 20:28:45

Peter Culpepper sat next to the fireplace chuckling to himself. His plans were well laid and he had gathered enough men now to pull it off. By tomorrow morning Cecily would be back under his control and Mr. Robert Johnson would be quite dead. Then whether or not he was indeed Black Jack Roberts would not matter one bit. His reverie was interrupted by a knock on the door.

"I said I did not want to be disturbed!" he barked.

"Not even for this?" Alice Morley smiled sweetly as she entered the study and handed the rolled parchment to him.

Slightly perturbed he untied the ribbon and began to read. Slowly his expression began to soften, then a smile of devious intent spread across his face. "Well done, My Dear!" He beamed. "With this document Cecily is now and forever mine!"

Lady Alice poured herself a Brandy from the crystal decanter, smiling as she raised the glass to her lips. "I take it you approve then?"

"I more than approve! Now all that remains is to retrieve her!" Peter nearly danced with glee.

"Then I am correct to conclude you know where she is?" Lady Alice asked in her most nonchalant voice.

"Aye, that I do. She is no more than three hours from here in that little tavern just outside of Devonshire, the Crossbow." He nearly spat the word. "I've made arraignments to deliver her from there tonight."

"Yes," Alice's eyes gleamed, "I believe we passed your arrangements on our way here. Are you certain she is there?"

"Quite certain. I learned as much from that drunken fool, Hammond. The tavern keep and a few of his ruffians kept me from taking her out of there last night, but this time I am more than prepared for them." Culpepper grinned. "I don't think you will have to worry about her new love after tonight either."

"All the better," Lady Alice moved closer to him, her voice dropping to a husky whisper, "but at the moment Cecily's love matters are not exactly what I am worrying about, Peter." Slowly she undid the laces of her dress as she moved ever closer to him.

"I can see that, Alice." He grinned wickedly as he gathered her into his arms.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/15/2006 19:01:14

The Crossbow had closed it's doors to the public early. The main room had been prepared for a party. Gilbert, Annabelle, and Josiah sat near the head of the pushed together tables next to Cecily and Jack. The musicians played softly, and laughter spaced with pleasant conversation filled the room.

As twilight fell they pushed the tables to the far wall making room for themselves, and the twenty some guests to dance. Molly curtsied to Josiah's offered hand and they whirled away across the floor. Jack leaned close to Cecily's ear and whispered something that made her laugh aloud while slightly changing her color.

Gilbert leaned back in his chair patting his overfilled belly. "Ah, Annie," he sighed, "if nothing else Jack sets the finest table in all of western England."

"Indeed, Master Gilbert, seeing how you had to unbuckle your belt to find room for that last helping of pudding." Anne jovially chided.

"T'was only me forth!" Gilbert laughed. "It's good to see you've not lost your touch, Annie. Why old Jack there looks to be more his self than when last I saw him. Small wonder he insisted on this party for us before we must take our leave"

"I would say young Cecily Morley has more to do with that than I" Annabelle sniffed.

"Be that as it may, Lass, without ye I doubt he'd be on the dance floor now." The master of the Hare and Hound continued. "Speaking of which, as soon as me stomach lessens of it's burden, would ye care to dance?"

"My pleasure, kind sir." She replied, he dark eyes twinkled.

Jack held Cecily close to him as the next tune turned to a more romantic style. Unaware that certain eyes followed their every move. Thomas Banks leaned against the far wall in idle banter with George and Geoffrey. While he was grateful to Jack for providing him with both employment, and getting him out of a tight spot with the king's men, still he could not help but feel a little jealous. She was after all a lovely girl. Maybe she would consent to at least speak with him for a moment or two later. Jack was indeed a lucky man.

Outside other eyes watched the tavern with more than a little malicious intent. Stewart Chambers sat his horse within the thick woodland across from the courtyard. A band of no less that eight other ruffians behind him and the other two henchmen of Peter Culpepper waited patiently.

"I says we takes 'em now, Stewart, while they be off guard." The evil looking fellow to his right hissed in the gloom.

"And I say different, Helmsley!" He shot back in low tones. "Culpepper hired me to lead this little job, and we'll do things my way! There be no less than twenty seven witnesses in there, and I'll be damned if I let you muck it up!"

"Fine then!" The other growled. "Just as long as you remember that Johnson be mine!"

"All I'm after is the girl and me money." Chambers grinned. "Why are ye so set on this dandy Johnson anyway?"

That's my affair, Kidnapper!" Vincent Helmsley spat. "I've an old score to settle with that one, and I'll be damned if'n you, or anyone else, will have him before I do!"

"As you wish then, Mate." Stewart relented. "You just remember no harm is to come to the prize, Sir Peter wants her whole and healthy. As soon as the crowd starts to thin we'll set the plan into motion. Once we get the witch out of there I'll breathe easier. Hanged if I want to face her black magic."

"Aye," Helmsley nodded. "I hadn't counted on her being a part 'o this. Good thing we had a couple of the boys check things out fer us afore we went bustin' in."

"Well she won't be there long." Stewart chuckled. "As soon as the guests start to leave we'll send Bert in with our message. That'll be sure to get her out of the way in a hurry."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/15/2006 20:47:46

Alice reached over and accepted the goblet of wine that Peter had offered her. She laid there languid and glowing. He sat back down on the bed, wrapped in his dressing gown and she was wrapped in....sheets.
He looked over at her. A beauty indeed but a pale reflection of the daughter. Lady Alice Morley had a hardness and a plumpness to her in contrast to the softness and sleekness of Cecily Morley.
"Thank you, love, " Alice practically purred. "I shall have to be leaving soon. It wouldn't do for Cecily to see her mother in such a situation."

Sir Peter laid back on the pillow, his hands clasped behind his head. "And after tonight, Cecily will be here. I'll keep her lodged here because to tell you the truth, Alice, that son of yours will only foil our plans. He would abet Cecily in another escape."
She ran her fingers up and down his arm. "Do you think that is wise? Keeping your future bride under the same roof?"
He looked at her sharply. "And what is THAT supposed to mean?"
"Only that...well, you want to be properly wed and..."
Sir Peter got up and walked over to his safe. Opening it, he pulled out the marriage license.
"This paper here is the legal documents. She is as good as my wife, Alice. The formal ceremony is just that..a formality."
Alice sat there with pursed lips. Sir Peter raised his eyebrow. "Problem, dear?"
She shrugged. "'s just a little strange, that's all."
"Strange? How so?"
Alice blurted out, "Don't you find it a tad odd to bed both mother and daughter?"
He said, "Jealous, Alice?"
"Of course not!" she lied. She knew that youth was the edge that Cecily had. On the other hand, Alice had the experience. One balanced the other.
Alice took a deep drink of her wine. "Peter, you WILL keep Cecily safe, won't you?"
He was exasperated. "Of course, Alice. After all, she will be my bride. And she's better shape up quickly. I won't put up with a rebellious nature."
Alice shook her head. "That is not what I mean. I meant she won't come to any harm as your wife. Promise me. She is my daughter."
Peter explained as carefully as he would to a child. "Alice, it is like this. The sooner she can produce an heir--and it had better be a son--the sooner we can get this behind us and build a life together."
"And if it is a daughter?"
"Then we keep trying until the heir to the Culpeppers is secure."
Alice pouted. "You sound just like Henry the Eighth. I don't want my daughter to be another Anne Boleyn."
"Don't worry, my dear. I shan't have her head severed from her lovely body. No, as we planned before, I shall have one of my men seduce her. Then I can put her aside and marry you."
"And Wallace?"
"Wallace can be dealt with. When he loses Moreland, he will have lost you, too. Oh, I shall see he has a pittance. Andrew is another matter. Mayhaps he will be hired on as a stablehand!"
Sir Peter relished the thought of that upstart son of Alice's cleaning manure. How Peter would enjoy the arrogance of the young man brought down!
Alice was annoyed by that. "Peter, regardless of how you feel, he IS my son and he will be your stepson."
Alice moved closer to Peter and said, "I don't want any harm to come to Cecily. When she gives you an heir, I want you to promise me she shall never want for anything. Mayhaps the best thing to do would be to send her abroad. To Italy. Or France. She speaks flawless french, you know."
"Or maybe even to the Colonies."
Alice put her finger to his lips and whispered, "Let's just forget about all of them for now..."


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/16/2006 12:51:34

The evening had worn well into the night and many of the party had been trickling out of the door, returning to their respective homes. Josiah and Molly sat at one of the far tables lost in a conversation that, from the occasional blush of her features and tinkling laughter, turned bawdy more than once.

The trio of George, Geoffrey, and Tom sat across the room exchanging jokes with a few of the local farm girls who frequented the tavern in their off hours. Jack, Cecily, and the rest were seated near the center of the room speaking of the events of the last few days. The musicians had been well paid and fed. Soon they also took their leave.

A sharp urgent rap on the main door drew Josiah, reluctant and grumbling to it. A young man in shabby attire fairly fell through the door in a stumbling rush. "I seek Annabelle Peterson!" He all but shouted to the surprised faces of the remaining revelers.

"I am Annabelle." The Gypsy stood, her bracelets clinking softly in the silence.

"If you please, Mum," the stranger huffed as if he had run all the way from Cornwall, "a child has been poisoned. She were out in the wood gathering berries when we found her. A strange plant was found in her mouth. Her father sent me to find ye."

"Where is the child now?!" Concern etched itself deep into Anne's features.

"At the Hare and Hound with her parents, Mum." Bert slumped into a chair. "Her father sent me to find ye."

"Tom, ready Gilbert's carriage as quickly as you can!" Jack directed. "George, Geoffrey, Molly. Help Annie and Gilbert to collect their things!"

Soon Annabelle, Gilbert, and Tim, roused from a deep sleep, were outside the Crossbow. Quickly saying farewell Gilbert snapped the reigns and the trio all but flew from the courtyard. Jack stood with his arm around Cecly's waist watching his friends race from sight before returning to the main room.

"Molly, would you kindly fetch....? Jack began before realizing he had not yet gained the name of the emissary.

"They calls me Bert, Sir." The young ruffian extended his hand.

Jack took the offer of friendship in a firm grasp. "Bert here something to eat and a bottle of wine?"

"I thank ye kindly." the spy smiled to himself. Congratulating himself on the ease with which he had pulled off his ruse.

"If you will excuse me, there is a matter that I must attend to, Master Bert." Jack grinned. He had wished to make his formal proposal to Cecily while Anne and Gilbert were still there, but now that they had left on a errand of mercy he saw no reason to postpone it any longer. "Cecily, my love, if you will excuse me but a moment, I have a surprise for you."

Cecily's eyes sparkled in the soft light of the many candles of the room. "A surprise, Dearest? Please tell me, what is it?"

He smiled tenderly, gently stroking her cheek. "Now if I did that it wouldn't be much of a surprise, would it? I won't be but a moment, my dear one." Turning toward the steps she watched with excitement as Jack vanished up them to their rooms.

"Begging your pardon, Miss." The voice of Tom Banks started her from her reverie. "I would like to apologize for my abruptness in the stable, My Lady. I had no idea that you and Jack...." His voice trailed off.

Cecily studied the young stableman for a moment. Though she still felt uncomfortable near him, unlike George, or Geoffrey, still he was one of Jack's men and she felt it at least prudent to accept the sudden apology. "Think nothing more of it." She managed a smile.

"Perhaps you will speak with me for a moment then?" Tom asked, unable to keep his eyes from roaming her body.

Before she could muster an answer Bert had moved to the door unobserved. Suddenly he flung the door wide and no less than eleven men in dark garb, their faces covered to the eyes with black cloth stormed into the Crossbow, their swords drawn.

"He's upstairs!" Bert shouted, pulling his own rapier free of it's scabbard.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/16/2006 13:53:49

A melee of chaos quickly followed the intrusion of the kidnappers. One of the leaders made for the stairs, followed by two others. Josiah flipped the table he and Molly sat at onto it's side and pulled the red tressed barmaid to safety behind it. Firing his flintlock from behind the makeshift barricade one of the intruders running for the stairs stiffened with a bullet between his shoulder blades.

George fired his pistol dropping another near the door before he and Geoffrey followed Josiah's lead in making a shield of their tables. Wood splintered around them all as a split second later the gunfire was returned. The milkmaids screamed covering their heads.

Tom had leapt to his feet as the men had rushed into the room. Figuring himself to be a dead man as the shots flew all around he bravely put himself in front of Cecily. A look of astonishment graced his face as he suddenly realized none of the shots were directed to him or her. Quickly he hurled his tankard at the lone figure making his way towards them. As the man ducked the projectile he grabbed Cecily's wrist and ran for the cover of Josiah's table.

"C'mon, Lads!" Josiah shouted. "Before they have time to reload!"

Josiah and Tom jumped over the edge of the overturned table, swords in hand. Molly pulled Cecily down to safety with her, as Geoffrey fired his pistol felling another of the invaders before leaping into the fray himself.

"Molly! Let me go! Their after Jack!" Cecily screamed struggling to free herself from the tavern girl's terrified grip.

"Nay, Lady!" Molly's eyes were wide with fear. "Jack can take care of himself! He would never forgive me if you were hurt! Let the men handle these villains!"

Upstairs Jack Roberts spun around to the sound of gunfire, his rapier leaping into his hand as he ran for the door. Suddenly it flew open and two men wearing masks quickly entered, as he backed away a few steps. His unanswered concern for Cecily's well being filled him with dread.

"At last I have you, Mr. Johnson, or perhaps you prefer Jack Roberts?!" The first man spoke with a voice of pure malice.

"Jack Roberts!!! Black Jack Roberts?!!" His compatriot exclaimed.

"Aye!" The first grinned beneath his mask, waving his sword tantalizingly in front of him. "None other! Isn't that right, Jack?"

Jack held his sword at the ready in front of him. "And just who am I addressing?"

"Why, Jack, have ye forgotten an old friend so quickly, or did ye think you would never lay eyes on me again?" The ruffian laughed pulling his mask down.

"Helmsley!" Jack's look of shock quickly replaced with one of absolute disgust. "Aye, you piece of filth, I would have figured you to still be rotting away in the king's geol!"

Vincent Helmsley's laugh was both bitter and venomous. "Not likely, Mate, and no thanks to you! I swore if I ever got free of that pit of Hell I'd make ye pay, and by God I will!" The maddened brigand launched himself forward stabbing at Jack's middle.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/16/2006 16:36:22

The ringing clash of steel filling her ears Molly ventured a look above the edge of the table. Holding firmly to Cecily's shoulders she gazed out onto a scene of sweat and bloodshed. Two more of the bandits lay dead on the floor of the Crossbow evening the odds to one on one.

Josiah was deep in heated swordplay with the leader of the intruders, neither giving, nor asking for quarter. Silently she prayed for his victory. She saw Tom duck beneath the swing of his opponent and ram his blade home into the man's gut. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as he turned to help Josiah.

Stewart Chambers could barely believe the turn of events. Nearly all of his men lay dead around him and he found himself no closer to his goal than if he had still been sitting out in the woods waiting. Desperation began to fuel his movements as he caught the second defender coming at him from the left. The old man in front of him fought like an expert. These were no ordinary folk, they were too well trained for that.

As Tom lunged forward Stewart suddenly jumped backward grabbing the cloth of Tom's shirt with his free hand and pulling his unbalanced attacker into the path of Josiah's blade. Josiah, unable to stop the momentum of his thrust diverted the path of the lunge as much as he could, slicing open the back of Tom's leather vest.

Stewart brought the pommel of his rapier down on the back of Tom's head knocking the young stable keep senseless to the floor as the diverted thrust from Josiah's rapier grazed his side. Fire flooded Chamber's ribs and he staggered backward clutching the wound. Josiah jumped the unconscious boy determined to press his advantage.

In a rage of blind fury and luck Stewart parried the swinging stroke aimed for his neck. Allowing the his blade to slide down the length of Josiah's he suddenly twisted his arm downward, then up catching the tavern keeper beneath the chin sending him stumbling over Tom's body. The back of Josiah's skull landed on the edge of the table with a sickening thud and he slumped into a heap next to Tom.

Molly's cry of anguish brought his attention to the table his prize hid behind. Checking his hand for a moment to see how much blood he may be losing he marched unopposed toward the shaken girl. Molly under the cover of the table slipped the dagger hidden in her bodice into her hand and threw it with all of her might at the advancing kidnapper.

Barely ducking the lethal projectile Stewart's hat flew from his head with the dagger buried in the top edge of the crown. Angered by the affront he quickly closed the distance between them, knocking the shapely red head out with a well aimed blow from the basket hilt of his weapon to her jaw. He then reached for Cecily.

A sharp burning sensation brought his head back as his mask was pulled off by the raking fingernails of his victim. He reached up cursing to gingerly touch the four deep furrows that ran from the edge of his left eye to chin. Cecily swung her fist around, screaming madly as she rained blow after blow onto the retreating Chambers.

Initially staggered by the ferocity of Cecily's attack Stewart's shock soon found itself replaced by anger. Orders be damned this child needed to be taught a lesson. Dropping his sword Chambers suddenly grabbed both of Cecily's wrists in a vise like grip. Ignoring several kicks to his shins as best he could he spun her around until her back was to his and clamped one arm around her neck. Stewart smiled as he squeezed the crook of his arm tightly, shutting off both wind and blood flow. Soon he felt the girl's body relax against his as her struggles ceased.

Glancing about the room quickly he realized that the remaining men would not last much longer. He stooped down to retrieve his weapon, sheathing it in one fluid motion he then threw Cecily's limp form over one shoulder. Helmsley could fend for himself it was defiantly time to flee with the prize. As fast as he could Stewart bolted for the door with nary a backward glance. Once outside he quickly tied the girl face down over the saddle of one of the waiting horses, grabbed the reigns, then leaping into the saddle of his own mount galloped off to the rendezvous.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/17/2006 12:21:06

Jack side stepped the vicious lunge, crashing his left fist into Helmsley's nose sending his attacker sprawling across the floor into the closed door. Turning he locked swords with the second man. A flurry of thrusts and parries followed in a staccato rhythm. His mind momentarily distracted from his concern for his love, Jack increased his efforts to defeat his foe before Vincent regained his senses and attacked anew.

Swinging his blade downward Jack sent his foe's sword wide to his right. A well placed boot to the man's midsection doubled him over, groaning. Jack's rapier pierced the villain's ribcage a second later, running him through both heart and lungs. The rogue gave a wheezing rattle, falling to the floor.

"Well done, Jack." The gruff voice of Helmsley brought him around in a defensive stance. "Had poor Bert there succeeded in killing ye, I'd have murdered him meself."

Jack's brow furrowed with anger. "Ye got no more than ye earned, Dog!" He shot back, nearly shaking with rage. "And far less than ye deserved! No man who works with me takes a woman against her will, much less a child of fourteen!"

"That were none of your affair, Roberts!" Helmsley growled, blood from his broken nose flying from his lips. "Ye hit me from behind and left me trussed up for the Redcoats! I'd thought about turning ye in then and there, but I knew I'd have me chance at ye! Ye won't be catching me off guard this time, Mate. I always figured I could take ye! Tonight the legend of Black Jack Roberts comes to an end!"

The two violent men circled each other cautiously around the room. Helmsley was not about to repeat his mistake of rushing in again. Tentatively the two bitter enemies exchanged glancing blows, each searching for a weakness in the other's defense. Their eyes burning with hatred they attacked in earnest.

Time and again the deadly lengths of steel rebounded off of each other with a ringing clash. Parry followed parry, thrust and swing blocked it soon became apparent that the two antagonists were evenly matched. Neither able to gain an advantage over the other. Both men began to sweat, their breathing growing more an more labored with Helmsley at a slight disadvantage from his injured nose.

Slowly Jack began to give way, Helmsley grinned, his ragged breath hissing between his clenched teeth. Jack was tiring, his strength seeming to fade from his recent illness, and this was what Vincent had been waiting for. Redoubling his efforts he pressed Jack back towards the bed.

When Jack had backed as far as he could Helmsley's grin turned completely malicious. "Ye've run out of room and time Jack." He hissed as he unexpectedly back away. "I've proven I'm the better man, so now be the time to end this little game and be on me way. It's been me pleasure."

Helmsley's hand darted beneath his coat for his pistol. Jack's hand flew beneath the pillow. Just has the flintlock cleared Helmsley's coat Jack pulled Old Hob from it's hiding place. The braided coil of black leather sang thru the air ending in a loud crack that sent the flintlock clattering to the floor. Helmsley's eyes grew wide with shock as he realized Jack's ploy had been to gain possession of the whip all along.

Lunging at the stunned man Jack thrust his rapier forward with blinding speed, aimed directly at his enemy's heart. Vincent parried to late and felt the burning pain of the blade pierce his right lung. His sword fell from his nerveless fingers and he fell backward against the door.

The rapist lay propped against the door coughing blood, then suddenly laughed. " It would seem I underestimated ye, Jack, but ye haven't won." another chuckle ended in a violent coughing fit has life ebbed from Helmsley's body. "By now she's gone! Ye'll never see that girl again! I...I've...wonnnn....." With a gurgling cough Vincent Helmsley stiffened, then lay still.

Jack's face went white as new parchment as he heard the sound of rapid hoof beats fade into the night outside. Grabbing the dead man's coat he hurled the body from the door and raced downstairs.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/19/2006 12:21:56

The old abandoned mill's boards creaked in the fierce wind that had blown up outside. Stewart Chambers sat in a chair next to a small table, an open bottle of whiskey next to his arm. Flickering light from the single candle cast deep shadows onto the left side of his face. "Looks like a storm be a brewin' out there, Lass." He chuckled to the lovely blonde girl securely tied to the chair across from him.

Cecily's azure blue eye's burned hotly at the kidnapper. Stony silence her only reply. Her only wish was to have this monster in her bow sights. If Jack had been harmed she vowed to herself to hunt this man down like the dog he was, and make his death both long and painful.

"Not much fer conversation, are ye?" Stewart smiled, wincing slightly from the injury of his cheek. Despite herself Cecily smiled at the man's pain. An action that did not go unnoticed by Chambers.

"Aye," he scowled, "a bit tender, I'll grant ye. Just be glad the boss doesn't want any permanent damage done to ye. Otherwise I'd be a payin' ye back fer these beauty marks with interest." Unable to stand the sight of the outlaw any longer She turned her head haughtily to one side staring at the dusty far wall.

"Oh, not to worry, Lass. I've known yer benefactor many a year. Once he has possession of ye he'll more'n make up for this." He pointed to the deep scratches. Reaching for the bottle he tipped it back before continuing to gloat over his captive. "Provided this storm don't delay him. If that be the case ye just may have to spend the night trussed up in that rather uncomfortable position.

Cecily fought down her emotions, determined not to shed a single tear for the pleasure of this pig. Instead she shut out his taunting words and let her imagination perform acts of crulity to him that she longed to bring into reality.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/19/2006 12:55:41

Jack Roberts bolted from the stairs into the main room. A wreck of carnage greeted his eyes. Josiah was just coming to, his head cradled in the fretting Molly's lap. George and Geoffrey tended the young Tom. From one of the downed invaders came a low moan of pain and he strode purposefully over to the dying man.

Grabbing him by the lapels he lifted him to within inches of his rage filled face. "Where is she??!!" He shouted. "Where have they taken Cecily??!! Answer me, Dog, or by Heaven I'll make you wish you could die!!!!"

The man grimaced from the pain as Jack shook him like a terrier shaking a rat. "I...I don't know! We were never...never told! Only Stewart and Sir P..Peter knew!" A hacking cough shook the body in Jack's grip and the villain wheezed his last.

In disgust he threw the body back to the floor, then strode for Josiah's room. Stripping off the white shirt he wore he threw open the door of a wardrobe against the far wall. Pushing violently onto one side of the back it swung open to reveal a hidden closet in the wall. Jerking out a black shirt with black lace at the cuffs and collar, a black frock coat, satin hood, and black plumed caviler hat he quickly dressed.

Now garbed completely as Black Jack Roberts he strode back into the main hall, making for the door. Only Josiah tried to get up to stand in his way, his head still swimming from the table blow. "Jack! Ye can't do this!! If ye go after her like that ye'll be found out for sure!!" Ignoring his old friend Jack slammed open the door and vanished into the gloom. Moments later the sound of Raven's hooves thundered past the door and into the night.

"Hellfire and damnation, ye bloody twits!" Josiah cursed at George and Geoffrey. "Why didn't ye stop him!!"

George and Geoffrey exchanged worried looks, the Geoffrey spoke quietly. "Ye didn't see the look on his face before he put on the hood, Josiah. God help the man what stands between him and the lass. Jack Roberts be out for blood tonight."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/19/2006 22:34:38

Lightning split the sky turning the road ahead of Jack into a blue-white character of day for a few split seconds. The staccato rhythm of Raven's hoof beats keeping time with pounding of blood he felt in his temples. A few seconds later the sharp retort of thunder boomed thru the forest.

Behind his mask he gritted his teeth. "Damn you, Culpepper!" he hissed to the wind, grateful for the amazing empathy his mount shared with him. Without any urging from his rider Raven ran like the devil himself were chasing them. The miles flew beneath the night hued stallion as the gates to Culpepper Estates came into view in the distance.

As the first large drops of rain began to fall Jack leapt from the snorting horse's back and raced up the granite stairs toward the twin doors of the grim mansion. Drawing his sword and one pistol he planted one boot solidly against them exactly between the handles. Wood splintered into the hall as the huge doors ricocheted off the walls to shudder half open.

Marching into the wide hallway he bellowed Peter Culpepper's name into the half lit gloom. Lightning split the sky again the boom of its thunder a mere second behind the flash. From the corner of his eye Jack caught the movement of a figure running down the hall and fired in front of it.

Raymond gave a shriek of terror and fell to his knees pleading. "Please, Mr. Roberts! Spare a poor old manservant with few enough years left him!"

"Aye that I will, Old Man! If you will but tell me where to find your master!!" Jack growled. "If not......." He let the threat hang in the thick air.

"The old mill on the old oak road, Sir!!" the frightened butler babbled out in a rush. "I over heard him tell the gentlemen here this afternoon!! Please, Sir!!"

Jack turned violently to the ruined doors, his cloak billowing around him, to mount the Black horse a third stroke of lightning revealed. The rain began to come down in earnest as he vanished into the dark. Raymond slumped to the floor as his senses fled him in relief.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/20/2006 22:09:27

Sir Peter Culpepper rode in fury, cursing the abominable weather that rained down upon him.
It only added to his already malevolent mood. Damn that little wench! Making more trouble almost than she is worth!

Ahead he saw the dim light in the window of the old mill. So he was successful, Lord Culpepper thought. He always was worth his weight in gold as a henchman. As he drew up, he dismounted and strode up to the door. Opening it, he saw his bride-to-be.
She was sitting in a chair all tied up. Stewart Chambers was tipping back whiskey from a bottle.
Cecily looked up. A bewildered look crossed her face.
"Y-you? YOU??"

Sir Culpepper took off his hat, a torrent of water cascading to the floor and making a puddle. He turned to Chambers and said, "And what is the meaning of this? I told you no harm is to come to the young lady."
Chambers took a deep pull on the whiskey bottle and wiped his mouth on his sleeve, setting the bottle back on the table.
"Beggin' yer pardon, Lord, but that be the only way I could control this wildcat. Ye didn't tell me she be a feisty one. Look what she did to me face! Not only that, but look here!"
He rolled up the leg of his breeches and showed off several dozen purple bruises.
Culpepper gave it a perfunctionary wave of his hand.
"Yes, yes...well, you will heal."

Cecily's mind was racing. Sir Peter Culpepper was behind this whole thing?
Her mind frantically went to her beloved. Is he hurt? Does he need me? Is he...? The thought was too horrid for her to contemplate.
Peter looked over at his bride-to-be and gave her a smile. "Well, my little dove has come back to roost."
He grabbed a chair, placed it backwards in front of her and straddled it. He reached out to stroke her cheek.
"My dear, dear Cecily. It seems you have been consorting with outlaws."
Cecily tried to keep her voice even. "Where do you hear such lies?"
"Did you not know that Robert Johnson and BlackJack Roberts are one and the same?"
Cecily forced herself to focus. "That is not true!"
"Aye, my dear, I am willing to accept that you have been led astray and lied to. That is why I had to affect a rescue for you. And now you are safe and secure."
He tucked his fingers under her chin to lift it in a lover's kiss but she instinctively turned her head.
"Not even a kiss for your husband-to-be?"
Cecily drew herself up and said, "Your wife I never shall be! I shall marry whom I choose."
Sir Peter looked down on her. So insolent! Soon that shall be gone. And what a pleasure to teach her respect! Oh, the challenge of it all!

"According to the law, my sweet, an Englishwoman has no legal standing, no rights over her own person, property or even children. I could beat and rape you at will, confine you to the house, or to a room."
"I shall never stay with you! I--I'll run away!"
He took off his gloves and said, "A husband can have a wife hunted down and brought back to him to be punished as he pleases."
"I'll get a divorce!"
Sir Culpepper was enjoying this immensely. Such a sharp and calculating mind she has!
"No, I think not. You can't get a divorce on the grounds of adultery, battery or any other so-called 'mistreatment'. In fact, it is considered meritorious for a wife to forgive her husband's adultery but for him to return the favor would be degrading and dishonorable. Husbands have the sole rights over communal property and over their wives. That means I have the right to say to you, 'Lady, you belong to me body and soul... Lady, you will not go out. You will not go to the theater. You will not see this or that person..."
"That's not fair!" Cecily practically screamed at him.
He leaned over and said softly, "It is my pleasure to inform you, Miss Morley, that it is a fait accompli."
"What do you mean?"
He reached into his coat and withdrew papers. He waved them in front of her face.
"Here is the marriage license. The names on it read Sir Peter Thomas Culpepper and Lady Cecily Elizabeth Morley. Marriage to take place May 1st. That is in less than a week, love."
"B-But I am not of the legal age of consent!"
Sir Peter continued, "And it is signed by Sir Wallace Morley and Lady Alice Morley. On behalf of their daughter."
Cecily's head was swimming. Father? Father would do that to me?

"They can't! They wouldn't!"
"Seems they can and they did."
All she knew was that she needed to get out of the ropes that were now cutting into her wrists. She tried another approach.
She hung her head in pretend submission. "It appears you won, Peter. Would you please be so kind as to release these bonds?"
"Chambers? Hand me that knife, please."
Chambers reluctantly got up. "Don't know, Sire, may be a good idea to teach the little vixen a lesson...."
The brigand handed it over and Sir Peter cut the ropes.
As soon as Cecily was free, she chafed her wrists. Peter reached over and rubbed them for her. Then he grabbed her hair roughly and kissed her.
Cecily pulled away and said, with a deadly calm, "That is as much as you shall get from me. Touch me again and I shall kill you. I don't love you. I never shall."
Sir Peter backhanded her across the face. Cecily flew back and fell against the wall, sliding down. She could taste the blood in her mouth.
"You shall learn. And learn fast. Or it shall be long and hard lessons, my sweet wife."
He leaned forward and put his face close to hers.
"Now....what is it going to be?"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/21/2006 10:58:04

The rotten wood of the mill door splintered from its hinges to thud solidly to the dusty floor raising small gray clouds around it's circumference. Stewart Chambers jumped to his feet sending his chair tumbling backward to the floor. His hand reached for his flintlock as the dark cloaked figure stood inside the open doorway.

Barely had the weapon cleared his body than when the black silhouette fired sending the pistol flying into the far wall a twisted ruin of wood and steel. The guttering candle light gleamed off nearly three feet of thin sliver extending from it's right side. It was as if the devil himself had burst in out of the raging storm outside.

"Lay another hand on me prize, Culpepper, and I'll cut it off!" The figure stepped from the shadows, blue-green eyes blazed like a cat in the night behind the holes in the dark satin hood. "I warned ye I'd return fer me prize! Now, stand and deliver, Mate!"

"Black Jack Roberts!" Stewart pulled his sword. "Ye should have stuck to robbery, Jack, kidnappin' be my side a' the street."

Peter Culpepper grinned as he stood, pulling his own pistol from the belt of his coat and taking deadly aim. Cecily screamed as the hammer fell. Time for her slowed to a crawl as she watched, it seem to take forever to strike the pan. With crystal clarity she saw the sparks slowly form a small glittering bush of flame, then nothing.

Peter cursed throwing the useless pistol at the figure. The torrent outside had soaked his coat and wet the powder. Pulling his own rapier, he held it defensively in front of himself as he tactfully edged his way over to Chambers. Jack unfastened the collar and let his own rain soaked cloak fall to the floor.

"Just another flash in the pan, Sir Peter?" Jack chuckled as he unfastened Old Hob from his belt leaving it coiled in his left hand.

"You won't think it so humorous when I cut your heart from your chest, Thief!" Culpepper shouted as he started forward in unison with Stewart..

Cecily's right leg flew out in an arc, her instep catching Peter Culpepper just behind the knee. Thrown off balance as the limb buckled beneath him he fell forward. His hands instinctively thrust out to catch himself and his rapier flew from his grasp to land several feet away.

Jack's left hand snapped forward, the twelve foot length of the bullwhip snaked out like a black piece of lightning cut from the storm itself. Stewart chambers howled as he lost the sight in his left eye. Momentarily stunned by the searing pain he stumbled backward slashing the air randomly in front of him.

Cecily screamed incoherently as she threw herself on Culpepper's back. Her fists rained down a succession of blows about his head and shoulders. Peter covered his head with his arms, stunned by the fury of her attack.

The dark outlaw jumped down the small set of stairs that led to the ledge which encircled the mill to press his attack on Chambers. Stewart pulled his hand from his face. Blood and a clear serum stained his fingers and he knew he had lost the eye. "By God!! I'll kill ye fer that!!!" He screamed throwing himself at Roberts with fury.

Cecily cursed as she felt Culpepper strain to turn over and grab her. She knew it would only be a short time before his upper body strength would gain him the advantage. In desperation she filled her small hands with his hair and pulled upward, thinking to ram the villain's head into the granite floor. Shock filled her being as the wig came easily free in her hands, revealing the shining, gray rimmed pate of Sir Culpepper's balding head.

Jack easily parried Chambers attack. As angry as Stewart was over the loss of his eye, his rage paled in comparison to Jack's. Only once before had Black Jack Roberts felt rage like this course through his body. When he had nearly beaten the imposter who had threatened Cecily to death. Though he saw clearly, with unnatural definition, the entire world was colored in shades of red.

Stewart paled as the realization struck him that he fought a madman. His arm began to tire from the heavy, almost sword shattering blows the living shadow rained down upon him. It was taking all of his concentration just to defend himself from the blinding speed at which they came. He felt the ledge connect with the back of his legs as he gave way. Leaping backward and up he jumped to the low walkway still parrying thrust after thrust from Roberts.

Sir Peter took advantage of Cecily's pause from the revealing of his vanity. Red faced with embarrassment he swung his elbow backward to strike her firmly on the jaw. Cecily tumbled over with a loud moan as he scrambled free from beneath her to claw for his sword.

From the corner of his eye Jack saw Cecily fall. Hearing the loud crack and her moan of pain he lunged with blind fury at Chamber's middle. The fury and viciousness of the thrust penetrated Stewart's defenses as easily as the razor sharp blade did his body. Grasping the hilt with both hands Jack lifted the stricken kidnapper from the ledge with his sword, then heaved the screaming dying man to the floor.

Just as Culpepper retrieved his blade Jack was upon him, the growl of a maddened animal the only sound to escape his lips. Peter's eyes grew wide with terror as Jack's blade swung for his exposed throat. Quickly he jerked backward, but not quick enough. The black clad outlaw's blade bit deeply into his jaw, laying the flesh of Sir Peter's cheek wide open from jaw to temple.

A shriek of pain and rage exploded from the elder man's lips as Jack hooked the basket hilt of his opponent's sword and flicked it from his hand. Culpepper looked up into eyes of pure ice. So cold was the expression he would have sworn he could see death its self looking out at him.

George and Geoffrey ran into the mill, guns drawn, as Jack pulled his remaining pistol. With slow deliberateness he lowered the deadly pistol until the muzzle pointed between Sir Peter's Eyes. "Wait!! Wait!! I'll give you anything!! Anything you desire!!" Culpepper pleaded his hands held out in front of him.

Jack noticed the corner of a parchment sticking out from the cowering nobleman's coat, bending down he snatched it free. As he read he began to chuckle, then full blown laughter erupted from him. He turned to George and Geoffrey.

"Tell your master he now owes me two thousand gold crowns on top of what he paid me to find the girl!" He growled holding the license in the candle flame he watched it burn to ash in his gloved hand.

"We'll let Mr. Johnson know, Sir" George spoke up parting from Geoffrey to make way for the outlaw to leave.

At the door Jack turned his head to look over his shoulder. "He knows where to deliver me money." Then Jack vanished into the storm. The fading sound of Raven's hooves the only mark of his passing.

A sudden crash brought the two men around fast, their pistols aimed at the near empty interior of the old mill. Peter Culpepper had taken the opportunity to crash through a window in the east wall. A second set of hoof beats fading into the storm, headed in the opposite direction. They looked at each other and shrugged before belting the pistols and seeing to Cecily.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/23/2006 12:44:38

Cecily sat up with the help of George and Geoffrey.
"Are you alright, lass?"
She moved her jaw back and forth. "Yes, I think so. All teeth seem to be accounted for. Except I bit my lip when Peter struck me and I hit the wall." She made a weak attempt to smile.
"Do you think Jack would still love me if I were toothless?"
Geoff and George each took her under the arm and got her to a standing position. Her knees started to buckle under her.
Geoffrey said, "Here, Cecily. Sit down in the chair." He gently lowered her into it.
George produced a flask of brandy. "Take some of this. But slowly."
He held the flask to her lips. As she sipped, she groaned. "Ow. That hurts. The cut, you know."
She rubbed her jaw. Geoffrey looked at it and said, "That will be a right smart bruise ye will have, lass."
She asked, "Where's Jack?" Her bravado was beginning to fail her. "I want Jack!" The tears were beginning to form in her eyes. Geoffrey and George both looked at each other and Geoffrey spoke up.
"Cecily, he found that you were gone and lit out of the tavern like a madman. If Raven were not such a sure-footed mount, it could have disastrous results."
George spoke up. "Aye, we've ne'er seen Jack in such a rage."
Cecily shook her head trying to grasp it all. "Why--why didn't he stay here and take me back?" She grasped Geoff by the arm and said, "Why did he just now run off and leave me?"

Geoffrey put his arms around her as he noted the rising tone in her voice, indicating that hysteria may not be far off and this would not be the proper time for it.
"As soon as he saw you were fine and that we were here, he knew you were in capable hands. Lass, he has a finely crafted veil of secrecy surrounding Robert Johnson and Black Jack Roberts. He was protecting himself so that he would always be there for you. The whole invasion was a planned kidnapping. Now that Jack knows how truly desperate Culpepper is, he will naught let this happen again."
George looked out the frame where the door used to be. He turned to the two of them.
"The storm is letting up and we need to be out of here. We have no idea where Culpepper has gone or when he will call the law down on us all. Cecily, can you ride?"
She nodded wordlessly.
Geoffrey said, "I noticed a fully saddled horse out there. The roan. I am guessing that belongs to Stewart Chambers."
George bent down to look at Chambers. "Looks like he won't be using it anymore. Hey, look, Geoff! His eyeball is gone! Jack really did a number on him."
Cecily grew pale and started to retch.
"Great going, George! Now she's sick!"
Cecily looked up and said weakly, "No, I am alright. I will be able to ride. It will be a cold one but we need out of here."
Geoff produced a wool cloak. "Courtesy of Molly. She made us stop and take a cloak for you."
Cecily felt a warm glow inside and knew she had a friend in Molly. "Bless her. Where shall we go? The Crossbow would be the first place they would look for me."
George shook his head. "Nay, there is something you may not know. The house looks smaller than it is. Jack, in his wisdom, has basically a house in a house. You haven't even seen it. But there are two rooms and a small kitchen in the middle of the house. Accessible only by a push on a panel behind the bar. Jack doesn't like to use it due to the inablility to get out quickly but it has saved his life more than once."
Geoff looked outside. "The rain has stopped. Shall we leave?"
George put the cloak around her. She accepted his help gratefully. Geoff held Chambers' horse as she mounted the steed.
The three of them turned their horses in the direction of the Crossbow as the night enveloped them till they were out of sight.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/23/2006 13:36:56

Jack circled the borders of Moreland cautiously. He suspected the document he had found on Culpepper to be a forgery. Sir Peter certainly knew his share of forgers and often made use of them. He now regretted burning the thing. It would have been better to have something to show Andrew. If anyone would know the truth of the matter it would be the young lord.

Jack grinned at the irony of it. Andrew was perhaps the first highborn man he had ever taken a likening to. Years of abuse from his "betters" had hardened him into thinking of the aristocracy in short sighted terms. Between Cecily and her brother he now knew it to be a lie, at least in their case.

Using the surrounding wood for cover he made his way around to the rear of the mansion. The storm had blown itself out, and only a light drizzle of calm rain now fell from the sky. Good thing too, as it would keep his scent masked from the dogs.

He eyed the field that separated him from the house. Not near enough cover to take Raven across. It would take all of his skill at stealth to make it across unobserved. The one thing he didn't want was anyone other than Andrew knowing that he was even at Moreland.

Cecily. He felt his face burn at the thought of Culpepper hitting her. He had longed to stay, to be the first one she saw giving comfort to her. Had any other but George, or Geoffrey been there he would never have left, Culpepper's suspicions be damned. This, however, was something that must be done for the both of them. If the document were true they would have to leave Devonshire. Scotland would be their best bet. There Cecily could get married because she wished to, not because she had to.

Slowly he mad his way across the rain soaked field, his eyes and ears alert for the slightest sign that his presence was suspected. Lights burned in a few of the downstairs windows. With luck Andrew was still awake, and would be near to one of them.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/23/2006 15:22:02

A frenzied pounding brought the bleary eyed doctor to his door. Grumbleing he wondered who could possibly be pounding at his door this time of the night. He sighed heavily another emergency he guessed. "One moment! One moment! I'm here! No need to beat the door from it's hinges!" Throwing open the door he stared in open mouth shock.

There stood Sir Peter Culpepper with his left cheek laid open nearly to the bone. "Sir Peter!!" He exclaimed. "Whatever happened?!! Where ye beset by bandits?!!"

"A bandit, to be precise!" Culpepper bellowed. "Send a man for the constabulary this minute!! Black Jack Roberts is in the vicinity!! I barely escaped with my life! Then sew this gash shut!! And keep it as even as you can!!"

"Black Jack Roberts??!" The doctor stood in shock.

"Who do you think gave me this, Fool?!!" Culpepper's patience was at an end. The more time they wasted the better of a chance Roberts had of escaping. This time the law of England would be with him, and if his suspicions were true he would be rid of his rival as well.

"Right away, Sir Peter! Right away!" The perplexed Doctor ran to a boy who worked for him, sending him out to find the king's men. He then led the bleeding Culpepper into his surgery, and proceeded to sew the gaping wound together. The night had turned far more exciting than he had at first guessed.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/24/2006 11:41:16

Andrew Morley sat in the study drinking brandy and gazing into the fireplace. Mother had returned that evening in higher than usual spirits, and he could guess why. That and she no longer asked about Cecily. Something was amiss, something he couldn't quite put his finger to. Had Culpepper succeeded in finding her? He prayed not, now that he knew the bastard all too well. Perhaps he should pay a visit to the Crossbow tomorrow, just to be certain.

A light metallic rap on the window pane startled him from his musings. Looking up he saw the silver steel of a whip handle in a black gloved hand gently rap a second time. Andrew stood, pulling a pistol from the wall, and cautiously crossed the room. Carefully lifting the latch he swung the window open, aiming his weapon into the gloom.

"I'm glad I'm not standing where your aiming that thing, Andrew." The low voice seemed to spill from the night its self as Jack moved into the light.

"Jack?!" Andrew whispered back. "Then my suspicions were correct. What's happened? Where is Cecily?!"

"Not here, Lad." Jack cut him off. "There are too many ears in a house. I'll wait for you in the stable and tell you all there." With that Jack vanished into the darkness.

Andrew stood for a moment watching intently, but could find no sign that the infamous rogue had ever been there, nor any clue as to the route he had left by. It was almost as if Jack had been absorbed by the very shadows. Closing the window he marveled at the skill. To think he used to think himself as skillful when he would sneak up on Cecily during their games.

Quickly and silently he left the study, grabbing a cloak from a hook in the foyer. He stopped to look about. No one was near, or watching as he turned the handle and slipped into the night himself. The excitement he had felt as a child playing at intrigue paled compared to the reality.

He made his way down the path leading to the huge stable. All was quiet as he lifted the latch and slipped through the door. A few of the horses snorted and whinnied at his intrusion. He smiled, apparently stealth was rather slow, for the horses had given no warning anyone else had entered. Lighting a lantern he sat down on a hay bale to wait.

"I was beginning to think you had been discovered, Sir Andrew." Jack spoke, walking out of one of the stalls.

"How did you????" The young noble was stunned.

"Trade secret, My Friend." Jack grinned pulling off his hat and hood. "It also pays to have horses like you. Now to the matter at hand."

Jack related the story as quickly as possible to Andrew, noting the flush of anger that filled his face at Culpepper's striking of Cecily. "Would you had killed him, Jack." He rumbled.

"I had intended to, Andrew." Jacks tone was low and thoughtful. "Until I noticed a piece of parchment sticking out from under his coat. I plucked it from him. It was a marriage license for him and Cecily, signed by your parents. Without thinking I burned it."

"As well you should have, Jack." Andrew spat. " Father has not left the house, and he made it more than plain he would never force Cecily to marry a man she did not love. Only Mother left today, and now I know why."

"A forgery, then." The outlaw mused. "I suspected as much. I left two of my men to deal with Sir Peter, and care for Cecily until I could get here to learn the truth of it."

"The truth may not matter, Jack." The nobleman grunted bitterly. "According to English law there are three copies. One for the bride and groom, which I dare say you burned. One for the parents, and one to be filed by the magistrate."

Roberts expression soured. "Aye, that would still give the bastard claim to Cecily." Jack fell into deep thought before continuing. "If Hammond suspects a forgery he will have been reluctant to have filed the document yet. I think it's about time he met with me as I am now. If he has filed it, then I'll have to find another way to gain its possession."

Jack replaced his hood and hat. "First I must see to Cecily, do you think you could get the copy your mother has?"

"I'm certain I could." Andrew smiled.

"Good. Once we have all of the copies we can destroy them and free Cecily from the blackguard's clutches." Jack turned and strode to the stable doors. Stopping for a moment he turned back. "Thank you, Sir Andrew." Silently as a passing shadow he slid through the opening, leaving Andrew to ponder the machinations of his mother.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/24/2006 21:20:36

Cecily, George and Geoffrey dismounted at the Crossbow. Two of the stableboys took the reins of the three horses and led them to be groomed down.
Wearily they entered the tavern to the bumps and bruises of the others. Molly was holding a cold cloth to her jaw.
Cecily and Molly took one look at each other and broke out in hysterical laughter. Because if they didn't, they would have broken out in tears.
Molly took the cloth away and looked at Cecily's matching jaw.
"I guess we are twins, Lady Moreland!"
Cecily took Molly's hands in her own and said softly, "Friends call me Cecily."
Molly gave her a hug and said, "I am so thankful to see you unharmed. As it were."
Cecily wrapped herself in the cloak and said, "And I am thankful for friends like you who had the foresight to send the cloak along. I would be frozen if not for your thoughtfulness."
Josiah rubbed the back of his head. "Aye, the table be dented as ye can see! From me noggin!"
Geoffrey went to the tavern stock and pulled out a bottle of brandy. "Think I can do with a nip of this to warm the chilled blood slowly coursing through my body."
He poured drinks for all.
George asked, "Where's young Tom Banks?"
Josiah said, "He took quite a blow to the head so he is resting in his room. I sent a man to check on him and he is alright, just sound asleep."
Cecily gripped the tankard of brandy like it was the elixir from the gods. She took a small sip and tried not to let the events rule her emotions. She missed Jack something fierce and wondered where he was.
Josiah took a deep drink and asked, "So care to enlighten us what happened?"
Geoff ran down quickly what had transpired in the mill and the fact that there was now a dead man lying there, minus one eyeball.
Cecily started to cover her mouth again and Molly hissed, "Stop it, you too! The child is not well. Here--have some of this bread. It shall settle your stomach."
Cecily took it and bit cautiously into it, afraid to upset her stomach again.
Josiah asked, "Where is Jack now?"
George shrugged and said, "I don't know. He gave us that look that let us know that Cecily was in our charge and we really can't say where he is now."
Cecily's face looked very drawn and she looked like she was ready to cave in.
George spoke up. "I think it be time that we stow young Miss Cecily in Jack's secret quarters. You never know when the King's redcoats will come."
Josiah nodded. "Molly, would you see to Cecily's wants?"
Cecily protested, "Please, I shall be fine."
Molly shook her copper curls. "No, I think for your---and Jack's sake, you should stay there. As soon as Jack comes back, we shall send you to him."
Cecily started again, "But I am such a bother."
Molly turned her around and said, "Not a bother. Josiah, would you please open it?"
Josiah jpushed a button and then pressed on the back wall. A section of it opened up and there was a short corridor. Molly took the lantern and let Cecily to another door. She opened it and lit a candle.
There before Cecily was a small bedroom with a chest of drawers, a bookcase with some books. A washstand stood in a corner against the wall. A small casement window looked out over the courtyard. In a separate room was a table and two chairs with a pantry with dry food.
Molly explained, "Jack would use this room when he needed some peace and quiet. Or when things got too hot and he needed to get out quickly without anyone knowing."
She drew back the quilt and helped Cecily out of her clothes, then handed her a nightdress. Cecily briefly wondered if there were a previous owner to it. Molly pretended not to see the puzzlement on her face and said, "You had best get some rest, my dear. As soon as Jack comes here, we shall send him in."
Cecily nodded, a worried look on her face. Molly hugged her.
"Jack has been in predicaments like this before. He shall be safe. Now, try not to fret and get some sleep."
She closed the door. Cecily changed and opened the casement window for some fresh air. Spring was certainly in the air as the night breeze drifted through. She wrapped the nightdress closer around her and looked up at the moonlit sky.
She whispered, "Please. Keep him safe and return him to me."
She went back to the bed and couldn't help herself.
She cried herself to sleep.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/25/2006 10:35:53

The thunder of many horses brought Josiah's aching head around as they entered the courtyard. Molly quickly shut the secret door as powerful blows rained down on the tavern door followed by a deep commanding voice. "In the name of King George, open up!!"

Josiah walked to the door and opened it. A tall man of about thirty strode into the room, pushing Josiah aside, followed by Sir Peter Culpepper and six more redcoats. Quickly surveying the damage Sergeant Major Rupert Barclay exclaimed. "Stone a crow! What in the name of heaven happened here?!"

"A band of ruffians attempted to rob us, Sergeant!" Josiah assumed the role of an outraged citizen. "We fought them off! Mr. Johnson rode out himself after the survivors! Geoffrey! George! See to the stables lads, and make sure they haven't stolen any of the horses!"

"Not so fast, Lads!" Barclay ordered. "First there are some rather serious charges from Lord Culpepper to answer to, and no one is leaving until I get some answers."

"Ask them where Cecily Morley is!" Culpepper interjected. "And then ask them about Black Jack Roberts and Robert Johnson!"

The Sergeant Major spared Peter a withering look. "I'll handle this, Sir Peter." Though his tone was soft there was no doubt he would brook little interference from the distraught nobleman. "Now would any of you lot care to answer those charges?"

Josiah spread his hands. "Why I've no idea where this Cecily Morley is. True she was here earlier, she as an affection for Mr. Johnson, but she left for the Hare and Hound this evening. Something about a sick child and she wished to help. I've already told you where Mr. Johnson be. As for Black Jack Roberts, I've never met the man, and hope I never will. I've little enough coin to spare as it is."

Unable to contain himself Sir Peter interrupted again. "That is a damnedable lie! Robert Johnson is Black Jack Roberts!!"

Josiah began to chuckle. "Mr. Johnson??!!! Black Jack Roberts!!! Forgive me gentlemen, but if you knew the man! While Mr. Johnson is more than capable a man of commerce he hardly has the sand to be a highwayman!! Why the man can barely hold his own against a good wind, much less the things I've heard of Black Jack Roberts goings on!"

"Sir Peter! Will you please contain yourself?" Barclay scowled. "Never the less, we will search the premises, barkeep! If you've anything to hide, I suggest you tell me now."

"By all means, Sergeant Major." Josiah spread his hands again. "There's naught here but a respectable Inn."

"Corporal!" Rupert Barclay barked, his eyes never leaving Josiah's. "Search the tavern and stables. Smartly now!"

"Aye, Sergeant Major!" The young corporal saluted. "Come on, Lads!" Three of the redcoats headed for the stairs, the rest went outside toward the stables. Rupert Barclay sat down at the center table and waited, watching.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/25/2006 11:03:31

Watching from the wood Jack Roberts cursed himself as he saw yet another small troop of redcoats ride past. He had already encountered one by accident and had given them the slip in the forest. He had left without the usual change of clothing and had no way to return to being Robert Johnson. Still he knew he must find a way back to the Crossbow and Cecily.

The Crossbow. By now he was certain the king's men were there. He prayed that they hadn't yet discovered her there. Josiah would do all he could to keep her safely out of sight, but he had long ago learned that even the best of plans could go awry with ridiculous ease.

Listening to the hoof beats fade into the distance he walked Raven out onto the muddy road. A bit risky he knew, but the woodland was wet and treacherous for traveling by horse, and men rarely searched in places they had already searched. Staying close to the edge of the road, in case he had to vanish again he urged the black stallion into a trot.

A muffled pounding brought Cecily Morley awake. At first she sat up unable to remember where she was, then the events of the night rushed in on her. Picking up the small candle that still burned on the table she made her way quietly down the short hall to the back of the secret door and pressed her ear to it.

She could hear few of the muffled words through the wood. She could make out Josiah's voice, and.....Dear God! Peter Culpepper! She could plainly hear his raised voice accusing Jack! She Bit her fist to stifle a cry, listening to Josiah laugh off the accusation. Then the strange deep voice, and the word corporal! The redcoats were here!

Hearing the dull thud of foot steps above she guessed them to be searching the rooms for her. Thinking quickly Cecily blew out the candle flame and slowly felt her way back to the door. She quietly sat down on the bed, gazing with tear stained eyes at the small window she wished she could look out of.

"Please, Jack." she whispered to herself. Where ever you are, stay there until these men leave."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/25/2006 20:42:50

The redcoats came back in and reported to Sergeant Major Barclay. Barclay was sitting at a table with Josiah sharing a tankard of ale. If anything, Josiah Parker knew how to win friends and influence people.
"Nothing in the stables, Sergeant. Just horses. Oh, and around the back there appears to be a pile of bodies.
Josiah sighed. "We had no chance but to defend ourselves, Sergeant. We shall notify the town by morning if any men did not come home and they can pick up the bodies. Otherwise, we have no choice but to dig a pauper's grave. Health issues, you know. And these men were trespassers."
George spoke up, "Sergeant, Geoffrey and I have stable chores to attend to. May we please go down and take care of the horses?"
Barclay waved his hand, "Yes, yes. By all means."
Josiah gave them a look and they understood the silent communication."Aye, we shall probably stay down there, Josiah. The roan mare is due to foal and we think it shall be tonight. That is, unless the King's men stopped her progress."
Josiah said, " A very good idea, men. See you in the morning."
Geoff said, "Please see that your men leave us alone, Sergeant? This is her first foal, she's a mite nervous."

Geoff and George made their way down to the stables. Geoff said, "I think we need to fix Chambers' horse so it won't be identified."
George replied, "How do you intend to do that, brother?"
Geoff laughed softly, "Annabelle left a bottle here. We just take it and put it on strategic places on the roan. A streak down the nose, a bit of spot on the legs. It will bleach the hair white and he will look like another horse altogether."
George clapped him on the back. "Oh, I DO love the spoils of war!"

Jack rode through the woods and came to the edge of the clearing behind the stables of the Crossbow. He saw eight horses tied up at the posts in front of the tavern. He thought to himself, ' this can't be good. Looks like the tavern has unexpected company.'
He looked over and saw the lanterns lit in the stables. Geoff and George were silhouetted against the light.
Jack put his fingers in his mouth and gave a signal that sounded like the hoot of an owl. But not.
Geoff looked at George and said, "Looks like Mr. Johnson has returned."
George nodded and winked at Geoff. "You know, I think I heard a wolf in the woods. Why not get that shotgun and go see to it?"

Geoff walked to the edge of the woods and whistled back, the signal that danger was about.
"Here, wolf! Ol' Geoff has a surprise for you, " he whispered.
From the cover of the trees, a throaty laugh came, "Woof-woof!"
Geoff said, "Best take care. The place is crawling with redcoats."
"Is Cecily alright?"
"Yes. A bit woozy but she is fine. She's taken rooms elsewhere."
Jack knew exactly what he meant and breathed a quick, 'Thank you!' heavenward.
He said, "How do you and George feel about a little moonlit ride?"
Geoff grinned in the dark. "Aye, and a lovely night it is for it!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/25/2006 22:41:45

The redcoats opened the door to Jack's quarters on the second floor. Everything seemed to be in order. The bed was made, the place was tidied up.
The redcoat sniffed the air. "Smell that, Richard?"
Richard nodded. "Smells like a woman's perfume."
The other one headed over to the bed and picked up the pillow. He held it to his nose.
"Smells like me mum's garden."
Richard came over and smelled it too. A devilish grin crossed his face.
"Unless I be missing me guess, Robert Johnson had female company not long ago."
"Think it be the Moreland lass that we're supposed to be searching for?"
"Don't know. But what are ye going to do, bring bed linens back?"
They looked under the bed. "Oh ho, what do we have here?"
Jacob, the second redcoat, took his bayonet and picked up a lacy petticoat.
"Think ol' Culpepper will recognize it?"
They both broke out in bawdy laughter.

Richard and Jacob came downstairs with the petticoat in hand. Peter Culpepper stood up.
"Find any trace of her?"
Richard said, "Nay, but we did the scent of spring flowers. On the pillow. Jacob here said roses, I say daffodils. As if he would know his rose from a---"
Culpepper cut him off. "And what is this?"
He snatched the petticoat out from Richard's hands.
"This is Cecily's! I'd know that silk."
Molly sprang forward and grabbed it out of Culpepper's hands. "I'll be thanking you not to be touching my underpinnings, you--you pervert!"
Culpepper didn't quite know what to do. Molly had no idea where the garment was found but she had no choice but to play along.
"And where did ye be finding my---my----"
Richard tried to keep the leer off his face. "Why, Miss, we found it under a bed in a room, second from the right There was a book inscribed with the initials 'RJ' inside the cover. So we are presuming it is Mr. Robert Johnson's room."
Molly blushed. Josiah roared with laughter.
"Aye, it appears me tavern wench has been found in places better not mentioned!"
Sargeant Major Barclay asked, "Miss, do you care to explain how that came to be in a bedroom?"
Josiah folded his hands under his chin and asked jovially, "Yes, my dear, explain that one!"
Molly tossed her curls and said, "Isn't it obvious? Mr. Robert Johnson and I have had an...arrangement. And I'll thank you all not to mention it so as to not destroy my fine reputation in this village!"
As she returned to the tavern kegs and drew off some ale for herself, Josiah pinched her bum and whispered, "Well played, my dear! Well played!"
She whispered back without looking at him, "And tell Jack I expect a gold crown for the damage to me reputation, too!"


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/26/2006 11:01:52

Geoff returned to the stables keeping a careful eye on the windows of the tavern. He saw Molly snatch something from the hand of one of the redcoats, and froze. What the hell could they have found? The place had been cleaned to within an inch of it's life. Then the bawdy laugh of Josiah came from inside and he breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well, Brother of mine, did ye beard the wolf?" George grinned as he took a long length of iron bar from the wall and placed it in a small hole at one end of the bin used to store feed.

"Aye," Geoff grinned, "And a big black son of a buck he was. I see ye've anticipated what's to come next."

"Actually," George huffed as he put his shoulder beneath the bar and heaved upward, "I thought we'd be a doin' this anyway, Mate. You could lend a hand, you know. This thing is full."

Geoff led two of the darkest horses from their stables and began to outfit them. "Then just who would be getting the horses ready?" He smirked. "Besides ye be doin' a fine job if you ask me."

"Father always said ye were the lazy one." George grunted as the floor the bin was bolted to lifted to slide free. "So you get to put the bloody thing back afore we leave."

"As ye wish, Georgie." Geoff laughed pulling the belly strap tight against the mare. "Everything still there?"

"Aye." George wiped the sweat from his brow, then lifted the trunk from it's hiding place. Lifting the lid he began changing his clothing. By the time Geoffrey had saddled the second horse Black Jack Roberts stood in his place.

Geoff quickly dressed in a second costume, then removed a wrapped parcel from the chest before replacing trunk and bin, with Georges help. Stuffing the package into a saddle bag they led the horses to the last stall on the end furthest from the Crossbow. George lifted the lantern hook and the back wall swung away on hidden hinges. Closing the false wall they led the horses into the edge of the wood, careful to keep the stable between them and the Inn. There they found Jack awaiting them. George tossed the package to him.

"Well done, Lads." He grinned pulling off his hat and hood. "Now to get ready for the arrival of Robert Johnson."

"What's the game to be, Jack?" George queried leaning forward in his saddle.

"Fox and hounds, lads." Jack grinned. Fox and hounds was one of the first, and perhaps most devious games Jack had come up with to protect himself with. For nearly a five mile radius surrounding the Crossbow they had constructed small hiding spots, just large enough for a horse and rider to vanish into. Should he ever be persued heatedly enough, he would signal George and Geoffrey. One, or both, would then disguise themselves as him and they would lead the pursuers on a merry chase. As one would disappear the other would show themselves far ahead of the redcoats and draw them off toward the next hiding place, giving the last enough time to shortcut ahead. Then Jack could circle back to the tavern to take any further steps from there.

"I get first fox!" George grinned beneath his hood.

"Fair enough," Geoffrey said. "I'll be a waitin' for ye at number one. How far ye want us to lead 'em, Jack?"

"Take them out as far as Biggin's Falls." Jack grinned, now dressed again in his civilian clothing. "George, when you see me enter the Crossbow wait about thirty seconds, then draw them outside. Let them see you at the top of that hill, then head for the first rendezvous."

"Will do, Jack." George Waved as Jack mounted Raven, then trotted off into the wood to circle around to the road leading to the tavern.

"Ye take care, George." Geoff waved to his brother as he turned to head in the opposite direction.

"Ye as well," George put two fingers to the brim of the black cavalier hat. "them what sits in the Crossbow be not the only redcoats out tonight I'll wager."

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/26/2006 12:29:41

Jack tethered Raven to one of the branches of a low hanging Oak about twenty yards from the muddy road. Raven watched with interest as he then began to roll around on the ground. When he finally stood up his clothing and person were quite the mess. Raven snorted tossing his head up and down.

"So you approve, Old Friend?" Jack smiled gently stroking the stallion's nose. "I'm afraid I'll have to tell a lie on you and claim you threw me."

As Jack turned to make for the road Raven lowered his head and pushed his master from behind sending Jack tumbling down the low slope leading to the road. Tossing his head a second time he gave a short series of snorts that Jack thought to be the horse equivalent of a s******ing chuckle.

"Well, that's the last time I'll be telling you my plans." Jack laughed as he stood back up and brushed the excess dirt from himself. Raven pulled some grass from beneath the tree and chewed slowly ignoring him. Jack shook his head as he walked up the road. That horse was far too smart for his own good, he smiled to himself.

The brisk ten minute walk had turned into nearly twenty as the mud from the storm sucked at his boots. At last the lights of the Crossbow came into view.

"So, Sergeant, I take it you'll be on your way then?" Josiah asked his impromptu drinking partner.

"Not quite yet." Sergeant Barclay replied. "We have several divisions out combing the countryside for Black Jack Roberts. I think we will wait here to see if Mr. Johnson returns."

"Damn, but he is a canny one." Josiah thought to himself. Even with a search that turned up no more than a woman's undergarments he was still suspicious enough to see it through. He hoped the lads were well away by now, and that they could find Jack in all of the mire out there.

"If ye wish to, Sergeant Major." Josiah grinned, the perfect host. "Makes no mind to me, though I couldn't say for certain when he might be returning. What with the storm and all. Molly, be a sweet and bring us another round, and some bread and cheese for the good king's men."

After about a half an hour of waiting, interspersed with Josiah's bawdy humor the door of the tavern opened and a very muddy and winded Robert Johnson walked in. Peter Culpepper immediately rose to his feet shouting. "That's him, Sergeant!! That's Black Jack Roberts!! Arrest him immediately!!" The enlisted men stood as one and surrounded Jack on all sides their rifles held at the ready.

Jack raised his hands. "Arrest me? For being thrown from my horse and slogging through the mud to make it home? I can assure you, Sir Culpepper, I am not Black Jack Roberts."

"None the less, Mr. Johnson," Rupert Barclay rose from his chair. "I've several questions to ask of you, and I think it would be better to keep you with us until the outlaw is found."

Just then a shot rang out sending them all rushing outside. There on the top of a hill nearly fifty yards away sat a dark cloaked figure astride a dark horse, the still smoking pistol in it's hand.

"The lady Morley be mine at last!" The moon lit silhouette shouted. "If ye wish her returned unharmed it'll cost ye dear, Mates!" With that the figure vanished down the other side of the hill to several shots from the redcoats.

"Hold your fire, Lads!" Barclay shouted. "He's gone! Mount up quickly! Sir Peter you've been mistaken, but Black Jack Roberts won't be escaping me this night!! Mount up, Sir Peter!"

As the group left Barclay turned to Jack. "My apologies, Sir, but have no fear, we will bring the rogue to justice yet."

Jack watched the redcoats tear across the field in pursuit of George for a moment, then turned to Josiah. "That's what he thinks, Mate."

"Fox and hounds?" Josiah asked.

"Aye." Jack grinned turning back into the tavern. "The lads will run them to Biggin's...." His words trailed off. Having heard the shot Cecily threw caution to the wind, bolting as fast as she could in the dark for the door she now stood in the opened secret door. She ran forward into Jack's muddy arms tears streaming down her face.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/26/2006 18:22:24

He caught her and she held him like she never would let him go. He took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply. Then he looked in her eyes and said, "I've got mud on your face, love."
She hugged him even tighter, the words would not come as tears were choking them back.
Josiah looked off and cleared his throat. "I would suggest we go back into the tavern. The air is chilled, the lady is only in a thin nightdress and the woods may have a straggler redcoat or two. For a kidnapped lass, ye are in the wrong place."
Jack put his arm around her waist and they went inside the tavern.

Molly had filled a bowl with stew and a loaf of bread with fresh butter for Jack. She filled a tankard of ale for all.
Between Cecily and Jack, they traded stories and filled each other in on what had transpired.
Josiah had to bring up the missing eyeball and Cecily covered her mouth again and turned a lovely shade of green.
Josiah noticed and said, "Beggin' yer pardon, Miss Cecily. I forgot that ye grew up kind of sheltered as to the ways of the outlaws."
She nodded and said, "Andrew and I played the sanitized version. He pretended to run me through and I would just collapse on the ground. Then he rifle my pockets and ran off with my coins before I could stop him."
She sighed. "He always was a fast runner!"
Jack took his fill and then stood up. "I think for the night that Cecily and I should stay in the safe rooms. I need my sleep and so does she. Uninterrupted. If I am in the other room, I shall sleep with one eye open and never fully get the rest I so desperately need now. But before I settle in, I need to get Raven. He's about a ten minute walk from here that stretched to twenty with the mud."
Josiah grinned, "I'll give ye a lift, lad. We can get there in less than five minutes."
Cecily looked up and grabbed his hand desperately, "Jack...?"
He kissed the top of her head and said, "I shant but be a half hour after I get Raven put into his stall."
She reluctantly nodded. "I understand."
The men put their cloaks on and Jack clapped Josiah on the back as they went out.
"You wouldn't believe what Raven did to me..." as their laughter was heard outside.

Cecily looked down on the mud-spattered nightdress. She could see that it was a bit too big for her. There was a lingering fragrance about it.
Molly was busy cleaning up the table. "Yes, lass?"
"Molly, whose nightdress is this?"
Molly dropped a tankard.
"Why would I know, Cecily?"
Cecily shrugged. "I just wondered. Maybe Jack just keeps spare ones around in case a guest needs one."
Molly focused on her work. "Aye, miss, A good innkeeper no doubt would be accomodating his guests."
Cecily sat there with her chin cupped in her hand.
"It does seem strange, though..."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/26/2006 20:00:21

Jack climbed behind Josiah on his horse. Jack gave directions to where Raven was. Raven was having a grand old time chewing grass and pawing at the ground.
Jack jumped down and patted Raven, the horse tossing his head as if to say, 'What took so long?'
Feeding Raven a carrot, Jack then mounted his stallion.
Josiah said, "Let's go. The woods make me uncomfortable."
Jack turned Raven in the direction of the Crossbow and said, "What a night!"

Jack had put Raven into his stall and he and Josiah trudged up to the tavern. Cecily broke out in a smile when she saw her man.
He gently rubbed her shoulders. "I think it is time, Cecily, that we retire to our room."
Molly looked at him and said, "Jack Roberts, ye will be taking a hot bath if I have to strip you down and dunk you into the water myself!'
Jack laughed bawdily. "Aye, Miss Molly! I think Cecily will have something to say about that, though."
Cecily was not used to humour of this sort but she just gave them a shy smile.
Molly said, "If you will be so kind as to get the brass tub by your fireplace, Josiah and I shall bring in the hot water."
Jack extended his hand to Cecily and helped her up. Reaching behind the tavern bar top, he pressed a button and opened the back wall. Taking a candle, he led Cecily down the corridor.
Once in their room, he laid a fire and put the tub in front of it. Molly and Josiah filled it with hot water and Molly gave Cecily the towels.
"Put them in front of the fire, they shall be nice and warm. Nothing like it in the world, lass!"
They bid Cecily and Jack goodnight and closed the door.

Jack stripped off his clothes. He held up his shirt and said, "Well, this one is ruined! It must have ripped when Raven decided to roll me down the hill!"
Cecily marvelled at the tautness of his muscles. Jack eased himself into the water with an audible, "AAAAHHHH!"
Cecily took a washcloth and began to wash his back. He closed his eyes and leaned forward.
"I didn't realize how tense my muscles were until this water loosened them up. I'm getting some mileage on this body, love."
She walked to the front of the tub and dropped the nightdress. She whispered, "I think this tub will fit two....."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/26/2006 21:04:16

"The water is starting to lose its heat, Jack," Cecily said. "I'm getting goosebumps."
"Sure it is from the water, my love?" he teased.
She splashed him with water and laughed. "I'm getting out. It's getting cold."
She rose and took a towel from the chair next to the fire. Wrapping herself in it, she sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the fire. She poured some of the brandy into a snifter that Molly had given her. Offering it to him, he took it.
"This is perfect! Brandy, a hot bath, and the woman I love."
He reached over to his coat and lit a cigar. She poured a bit more hot water into the tub for him.
He caught her face in the firelight. He reached over and turned her face towards him.
Softly he said, "For that bruise on your face, I would gladly run him through. Slowly."
She touched his hand and said, "As long as I have you with me, I can endure anything."

She handed him the towel and he wrapped himself in it. They sat quietly by the fireplace, wrapped in their towels and talking of their future plans.
Jack said, "I know that there are two other copies of the marriage license, Cecily. We need to get them or make sure they are never filed. Andrew is supposed to...."
"Andrew? You saw Andrew?"
"Aye, that I did. I stopped by Moreland and we met by the stables."
Cecily's eyes began to fill with tears. "I miss Andrew. He was always there for me, Jack. How is he?"
"Ticked off at your mother. He's going to get the license come hell or high water from your mother. The only problem will be if Magistrate Hammond has filed the papers. I'll have a little chat with him tomorrow."
Cecily pulled back and looked him seriously in the eyes.
"Jack? Will you marry me?"
He looked at her and said, "It is supposed to be the other way around, Miss Morley."
He went down on his knee and took her hand in his.
"Miss Morley, you are a thief. You have stolen my heart and the only way I can reclaim it is to join with you in this venture called--dare I say it?--holy matrimony. So...will you consent to be my wife till death do us part?"
She looked at him with love in her eyes and said softly, "Aye. I shall be your wife, Jack Roberts. As long as we both shall live!"


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/26/2006 21:56:38

Cecily laid contentedly in Jack's arms in the bed. She looked up at him.
"Hmmm?" He kissed her forehead.
She fingered the coverlet on the bed and didn't look him in the eyes.
"May I ask who the owner of the nightdress I wore belongs to?"
There was silence as Jack tried to formulate an answer.
"Cecily, my dear, a gentleman does not speak of such things to another lady. Especially to one he has just proposed to."
There was silence in the room. She said quietly, "Did you love her?"
Jack held her closely. He caressed her hair and said, "I told you once before that I had needs. And surely it is no surprise to you to find that women have the same needs too. The women I spent time with always knew that I was a confirmed bachelor and that a night was all they could expect from me. Most were willing to settle for that."
"There was the occasional tempermental one."
She looked at the garment tossed on the floor.
"This one has a fragrance that is distinct. It seems familiar. But not."
Jack frowned. "It is of no importance, my love. I daresay I can't even remember her name. This was just something left behind. May we consider the subject dropped?"
"Yes. All this was before me and I shouldn't let it bother me."
Jack blew the candle out and held her close. "And now, my dearest, I think we need some sleep."

He laid in the dark. The nightgown. How did that get left behind?
His last thoughts before he drifted off to sleep with Cecily in his arms was that he hoped she never found out who the nightdress really belonged to.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/27/2006 11:14:06

Jack awoke with the first light of dawn coming through the single small window of the hidden rooms. He knew if there were a chance to retrieve the license from Hammond he would have to move swiftly. Lovingly he watched Cecily sleep for a few moments. The thought of leaving her again so soon brought a hard knot to his throat, but there was nothing he could do. As long as that license existed there would be a way for them to take her from him.

Using his skill at stealth he once again slipped from the bed with out disturbing her slumber and walked naked to a picture hanging on the wall. Gently pushing it aside he put his eye to the peephole. Excellent, the tavern was still empty. None would see him leave their hideaway.

Taking some parchment from a desk he sat down at the small table and wrote.

"My Dearest,

Forgive me for leaving you so soon, but I fear I must, for both our sakes.

As long as the license exists there is a chance that you could be forced from my side, and that is something I cannot permit. I go to retrieve the document from Hammond, and pray Andrew was as successful at retrieving the one your mother has.

As soon as I have destroyed the remaining copies I will return and make this all up to you. Then we shall travel to Scotland to be wed.

Please remain here for your safety's sake. Molly, or Josiah will keep watch until my return. If you have need of anything gently knock thrice on the west wall which connects to the kitchen and they will aid you as quickly as possible.

With all the love of my heart,

He folded the parchment wrote her name on the outside, then leaned the letter against the candle where she could see it. After slipping on his breeches he padded over to the bed to gaze once more on her and overcome gently kissed her forehead. Then padded silently down the short hall and unlatched the secret door.

Josiah looked up in surprise. "Damnation, Jack, ye couldn't have slept more than a couple of hours!"

"Aye, Old Friend." Jack yawned, stretching. "I fear the old proverb of no rest for the wicked be catching up with me."

"Humph!" The elder man huffed. "And I know of more than a few who would debate ye about yer wickedness. Molly has started breakfast, if ye be interested."

"Nay, just a tankard of ale and some bread and cheese." Jack scowled. "I'm afraid Black Jack Roberts deeds are unfinished."

Josiah face reddened in outrage. "Lad ye've finally gone daft!! The lads returned just before first light, and even though that lot what was here be chasing yer shadow all the way to Bath, there be plenty more redcoats out there just waitin' fer ye to show yer face!"

Jack looked thoughtful for a few moments. "Aye that's true, but it's something I have to do, Josiah. Last night I saw a marriage license for Cecily and Culpepper. I burnt the thing, but there are two other copies out there. One I have a lead for the other, with luck, is still in the possession of Magistrate Hammond. For the now."

"So your just going to waltz out that door and go tearin' across the countryside as Black Jack for a couple of pieces of parchment?!!" Josiah was incredulous. "Lad, they'll most likely shoot ye on sight!"

"It's a risk I'll have to take, Mate." Jack grinned for a moment, then turned serious. "I proposed to her last night, Josiah, and she accepted. As long as those papers exist any marriage between us can be annulled and she can be taken from me. That is something I cannot allow."

"She'll be taken from ye if ye wind up shot, or worse yet, hangin' from the king's gallows!" Josiah reasoned.

"To be honest, Josiah," Jack's look was one of determination, "I would far rather be dead than to be separated from her. I'm off to dress now. Enough time has been wasted." Jack spun around and mounted the steps to his usual rooms, leaving Josiah to shake his head in bewilderment.

Within a few moments Jack returned fully outfitted in his highwayman's garb carrying his hat and hood in his hand. Taking a few bites of cheese and bread Molly had laid out he downed the tankard, then strode for the door, looking about, to make sure he was unobserved, he dashed across the small courtyard and vanished into the stable. A few moments later Molly and Josiah saw him, astride Raven, disappear into the forest behind.

"Damn!" Josiah swore. "I pray we've not just seen a dead man ride off, Love."

Molly slipped one arm around Josiah's waist. "Aye. The only question I have is which one of us is goin' to be telling' Lady Morley?"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/27/2006 18:59:34

Jack raced as fast as he dared towards Cornwall, keeping to the woodland trails which had served him so well many times before. Though never a dry island at least the worst of the wetness from last night's storm had abated, making Raven's footing far less treacherous.

Unless he had missed his guess Hammond would have to take the papers to London and register them at the General Register's Office for the document to be legal in the eyes of the king's law. He doubted Hammond had taken them last night with the redcoats searching high and low for Jack. Hammond would not risk his skin that easily for anyone, no matter what the price. No, he would wait for the light of day when he thought it safe.

Hammond usually made the trip once a month, or less depending on the amount of births, deaths, or marriages he had to record. Sometimes less, but Jack was fairly certain he would have been either bribed, or threatened into this trip.

Sitting on Raven's back he pulled a spyglass from the saddlebag and aimed it for the front of the magistrate's office. He smiled when he saw the fat magistrate's coach pull up to the front of the office and the overdressed official climb into the back with a satchel. Soon the smile faded when two redcoats on horseback joined the procession. This was not going to be easy, Hammond had gained protection for the journey.

He still had the advantage of being ahead of them, but he would now need a well thought plan to separate Hammond from the documents he carried. As the carriage and guards pulled away from the office, headed for the main road from town he wheeled Raven around. Making for the first stretch of nearly deserted woodland they would have to pass through. They would be more alert to attack there, but the stakes were too high for Jack to let them pass much further.

Two armed soldiers against him, three if you counted the driver. He had faced such odds before, and prevailed, but this time it was he who had something to lose instead of his victim. The irony of the situation was not wasted on him. Perhaps one of his old tricks would gain him an advantage. He hoped the redcoats were more fond of their lives than protecting the rich official. If he could help it he did not want to kill either of them.

Perhaps he could avoid that with a trick he had used once to separate three of the king's guards from a tax shipment they had been bringing from Nottingham. It was worth a try, provided he had enough time to set it up before they arrived at the ambush spot. He quickly checked the saddlebags. Yes, there was just enough with him to do the deed. With luck the hated document would be ashes before noon, and Hammond would be out of the picture for quite a while.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/27/2006 22:36:47

Lady Alice came down to breakfast smiling. Andrew sat there eating his bacon and eggs and he scowled at her cheerfulness.
"Good morning, dear, " as she kissed him on the cheek.
He frowned, "What are you in such a good mood for, Mother?"
She practically sang, "Your sister is at Sir Peter Culpepper's under his care and watch."
Andrew spewed his coffee as he knew that Jack's friends had spirited her away.
"ANDREW! Did your coffee go down the wrong way?"
She patted him on the back. Andrew just muttered, "No, I just found something hard to swallow."
Alice sat down and Maud served her tea."I have a wedding to plan. Your sister will be married in less than a week. We are planning on May 1st."
Andrew threw his napkin down in disgust. "How can you do that?"
"Do what, dear?"
"Sell Cecily away like that. She's underage. How did you get Father to sign the license? He has been home since Magistrate Hammond had stood you up."
"Andrew? Why don't you pay more attention to your own life instead of your sister's. She will have everything a woman can want."
"Except the man she loves."
Lady Alice retorted, "She doesn't know what love is. She's only seventeen."
Andrew stood up and threw his napkin down. "Exactly my point. She's only seventeen."
He stormed out of the room.

Sir Wallace came in. "I passed Andrew and not even a good morning. What is the problem?"
Lady Alice just waved her hand airily, "He's just upset because of Cecily's upcoming wedding."
"But--but she ran off with that Robert Johnson."
Lady Alice took a bite of her eggs. "No, she came to her senses and she is safely staying at Sir Peter's till the wedding."
"Alice, I am not so sure that will be a good match."
Lady Alice said crossly, "Wallace, who knows better, the child or the mother?"
Sir Wallace knew better than to cross his wife so he just poured his tea and kept silent, having problems of his own.

Andrew sneaked into his mother's room. Now where does she keep her papers? He rummaged around in the desk drawers. Each drawer yielded nothing of note. Except one. The bottom one was locked. He took out his penknife and picked around at the lock. Finally it opened up. Shifing papers around, he found what he was looking for. A piece of parchment that may as well have been a condemnation to death for his dear sister.
The marriage license of Sir Peter Thomas Culpepper and Lady Cecily Elizabeth Morley.
Andrew grimaced. Might as well be a bill of sale. One slave. Sold to one monster.

He put the parchment in his shirt and quickly closed the desk drawer. As he ran down the stairs, his mother was finishing up her breakfast.
Andrew grabbed his cloak. She called, "Andrew? Where are you going?"
"Out where?"
"If you must know, James Winslow's mare just foaled and I am going over to see the colt."
He dashed out of the mansion before his mother could question him any further. I can hand-deliver this to Jack Roberts and see my sister at the same time, he thought. For all their squabbling play when they were children, he and Cecily were as close as two siblings could be. He knew Cecily worshiped him and he adored his baby sister. And if she finds love with an outlaw, more power to her! Andrew laughed to himself as he wondered if Blackjack Roberts had a sister.
He saddled up his horse and headed out in the direction of Devonshire and the Crossbow Inn.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/28/2006 17:07:30

Hammond's carriage rolled at a leisurely pace along the semi dry road. The rain had dried to the point that though still moist it was no longer a quagmire of mud. Hammond was grateful that at least he would not have to put up with the dust that usually wafted through the coach windows. Abominable stuff, fouling one's clothing and causing sneezing fits.

The carriage suddenly lurched to a quick stop nearly tumbling him into the opposite seat. He heard the horse whinny in protest, then felt the chill of dread sweep his body as he heard one of his escort shout the name he dreaded to hear. "Black Jack Roberts!!" He kept his head down as he heard shots ring out, followed by the thunder of hooves rushing past the carriage.

Cautiously he lifted his head to peek out of the window, raising no higher than the bridge of his nose, just in time to see the redcoats vanish into the wood. Leaning back into his seat the portly magistrate fanned himself with a handkerchief until his heart rate returned to normal. Sticking his head out the window he berated his driver.

"What in God's name are you waiting for??!! Get me out of here this instant!!!" He shouted trying to keep the quiver out of his voice.

"But, Sir, should we not wait for the guard to return?" The young man asked.

"Fool!!" Shouted Hammond. "That was Black Jack!! The guard can catch up with us later, provided they catch him!! I'll not wait here like a pheasant waiting for the fox!! Drive!!"

"Yes, Sir!!" the driver cracked his whip and the carriage jolted to a start picking up speed as Hammond sat back with a sigh of relief.

Jack Roberts spurred forward into the wood with little doubt his cloak may have a few holes in it. It had been a risky venture to be sure, but he had planed on causing the king's men to waste their shots before following him. He held Raven back from the horse's full speed keeping his pursuers about a dozen yards behind him, weaving between the trees incase one of them might remember they also carried pistols. An explosion behind him and a small branch splintering ahead told him that they had indeed remembered.

Jack allowed himself a backward glance to see the other redcoat taking careful aim with his flintlock. Nudging raven's flanks with his heels he urged a bit more speed from the faithful mount. Rounding a fairly large Maple he reached out his hand grabbing the rope he had left there. Leaves flew up as the braided hemp flew from it's cover across the trail to catch the redcoats across the chest, jerking them both backwards from their saddles. The final shot fired harmlessly into the tree tops.

Releasing the rope, jack rode around the tree. The ebony stallion dug into the forest floor at full gallop, as the men lay gasping for air. Coming to their senses the two grounded soldiers looked up to find Black Jack Roberts pointing both his pistols at them.

"Good morning, Lads." The dark outlaw chuckled. "Now listen very carefully to what I have to say and you'll most likely be dining with your families this night, instead of being measured for coffins."

For once the jostling of the speeding carriage did not bother Magistrate Hammond. If he could make the safety of the Crossbow all would be well, even Jack Roberts would not be fool enough to follow him to a public place. Just as he began to breath easier he felt the carriage lurch heavily to one side. The horse complained bitterly as it tugged hard against the traces, yet the carriage did not move. The driver jumped down to examine the trouble and Hammond began to sweat profusely.

"What is it now, Nicholas?!!" He shouted out the window, not daring to poke his head outside.

"We've stuck in a rather deep mud rut, Sir." Nicholas shook his head. "All covered with leaves it was. I'll find a branch and lever us back out, Sir."

"See that you do! And be quick about it!" Hammond clutched the satchel in front of himself like a shield, listening as his driver made his way into the woods. Long moments crawled by making him more and more uneasy. After what seemed an eternity he heard the man return.

"It's about time, you lazy oaf!!" He growled. "Get us out of here, before I dock you a days wages!" Hammond's eyes grew wide as a black gloved hand gripped the window, flinging the door wide and he found himself looking down the barrel of Jack Roberts pistol.

"Now why would you do that to a poor working lad what's taking a well deserved nap?" The hooded robber asked.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/28/2006 17:54:06

Andrew pulled the reins back on his horse as he came into the Crossbow's courtyard. A stableboy came out and asked, "Help ye, Sir?"
He looked at Andrew's fine horse and the expensive wool used in Andrew's cloak and his high-polished leather boots. Andrew swept his Cavalier hat off and gave the boy a few shillings.
"Aye. Stable the horse, please, I may be a while."

Andrew entered the tavern and sat at a table. Molly looked him over appreciatively. Handsome young man, she thought. Looks kind of familiar.
She gave him her best smile and asked, "What can I get you, traveler? Ale? Stout? Something stronger? Or are you wanting food?"
Andrew smiled in return. " A tankard of ale, if you don't mind, Miss....?"
"Molly. One tankard coming up."
She walked back and filled a tankard from the tap. Laying it on the table, she leaned forward a little more than necessary.
"Anything else, Sir?"
Andrew withdrew his money for the ale and then slid a gold coin towards her. "And information, please."
Molly's eyes grew flinty. "And what makes you think I have any information? I am but a mere tavern wench."
Andrew laughed and said, "I think you have the information I want. I am seeking a young lass that is here. Her name is Cecily Morley and she is...."
Before he knew it, he was yanked out of his chair and thrown against the wall by George and a flintlock was pointed at him by Geoff.
"Best ye be getting out while the going is good, lad. No one here by that name and never heard of her."
"But you don't understand, she is...."
George had picked him up by his collar and the waistband and hurled Andrew out the door.
He picked himself up off the bricks in the courtyard, quite confused.
Geoff threatened, "We don't harbor runaways and if ye know what is good for ye, begone!"

Just then, a voice from the door was heard.
"Andrew? ANDREW!!"
Before Geoff or George could stop her, Cecily ran down the stairs and flung herself into Andrew's arms.

Geoff and George looked on in stunned belief. She KNOWS the man they just threw out?
Molly bustled forth.
"Cecily! Cecily, you were NOT to leave that room! What if Jack finds out?"
Cecily turned to Molly and said, "I checked. Jack showed me how before he left. I am sorry, George and Geoff. But this is my brother Andrew."
Andrew dusted himself off and grinned as George and Geoff grew red.
"Quite allright, lads," Andrew said. "I must admit it is the first time I have been thrown out of a tavern!'
Cecily hugged him again and Josiah said, "Best to get inside, young miss. After all, ye are kidnapped by Blackjack Roberts!"

Once inside, Cecily was able to persuade Josiah to let her stay out in the tavern for a bit. He reluctantly agreed since there were no customers at this time of day.
Molly's face blushed as she recalled the way she spoke to Andrew. But he just shrugged it off.
"You were just protecting my sister and for that I am grateful."

Andrew was introduced all around. Cecily could tell that, try as Andrew did, he was once again that ten-year-old boy wishing he was a highwayman. Andrew seemed to be slightly in awe of the others.
As they sat around the table with ale and Molly's soup, Andrew said, "Oh! The reason I am here...."
He pulled out the parchment marriage license.
A hearty huzzah went up and Cecily hugged his neck.
Andrew grinned and said, "I do think Jack Roberts should have the privilege of burning this himself!"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/29/2006 09:56:23

Jack reached inside and pulled the frightened official from the coach. "Now, Mate, if ye will be so kind as to hand over yer purse and that bag, I'll be on me way."

"My purse, g-g-gladly, but, these are just documents to be registered. They, they are of n-n-no value." Hammond struggled to get out the words, his eyes never leaving the barrel of Jack's flintlock.

Jack threw his head back laughing loudly. "Maybe not to you, Magistrate, but to certain others they have value indeed, and I've been well paid to retrieve one of them in particular." Shakily Hammond placed his heavy purse into Jack's outstretched glove, then tentatively held out the satchel.

"Nay, Official. I wants the marriage license of Sir Peter and Lady Morley." Roberts growled, wondering just how far he dared push the act with Hammond before the man's senses might leave him. The magistrate placed the leather bag on the ground. Snapping it open he began to rifle through the papers with hurried effort, stopping when he felt the cold muzzle of the pistol touch his temple.

"Should yer hand come out of there with anything other than parchment, Mate....." Jack whispered evilly. Hammond blanched and shaking withdrew a rolled scroll with a number written on the outside.

Jack pulled the ribbon from the document and smiled in relief beneath his hood before stuffing the license into his shirt. "Very good. My thanks, Sir." He mockingly rumbled. "Now I've but one more piece of business with ye."

"I've done as you asked!" Hammond's voice rose in pitch. "Please! I'm not but a poor official just doing my job!!"

"Cease with yer whining!" Jack threatened. "Ye make me gut turn! Are ye carrying any delinquent tax deeds in there?" The terrified magistrate shook his head so violently his powdered wig now sat crookedly on his head.

"Excellent!" Jack allowed his tone to soften slightly. "I've a bit of advice for ye, Magistrate. Ye need a holiday. Go to London and file yer papers, then take one! As far from here as ye can get! I would suggest Ireland as I here it be particularly lovely this time a the year."

"I-I-I will, Sir! I will!" Hammond stammered. "F-f-f-f-for how long?"

"A couple of weeks will be good." Jack grinned belting his pistol and swung up into Raven's saddle. "If I see yer face within twenty miles of here before then the next death certificate filed in London will be yours! Do we have an understanding?!!"

Magistrate Hammond nodded quickly.

"Well done! Yer driver should be waking up any second now. If not he sleeps not ten yards over there under yon Ash tree. I suggest ye fetch him and make haste to do yer duties, but remember, I will be watching!" Jack wheeled the ebony stallion about and galloped off into the forest toward Plymouth as magistrate Hammond leaned against the outside of his carriage, breathing heavily, and mopping his sweat soaked brow.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/30/2006 09:57:10

Once out of sight Jack circled to the north, and home. With two of the three documents now in his possession he needed a way to claim the third. Perhaps it was time to make up some pretense to call on Morley Mansion again as Robert Johnson? At least he may get to speak with Andrew before Lady Alice had him thrown off the grounds again.

Within a half an hour he was back in the stable. Pulling Johnson's clothing from the saddlebag he re-dressed, put Raven into his stall beside Aphrodite, and loaded both feed stalls with grain.

"There you are, Old Friend." He stroked the mighty horse's muzzle. "Rest easy, ye more than earned it this day."

Opening the tavern door he stood frozen in shock. There sat Cecily at the table with the others, and a young man who had his back to the door. "My Love, Why are you out in...." Jack's voice trailed off as Andrew turned around grinning. They all burst into laughter as his mouth dropped open, speechless.

"Hello, Jack!" Andrew smiled. "I believe I have something of yours here." Proudly he held up the license between his first two fingers as he stood.

"Andrew!" Jack rushed across the floor grasping the young lord in a bear hug before holding him out at arm's length by the shoulders. "God's teeth! You've done it! And here I've been racking my brain trying to figure out a way to come to Moreland!"

"Saved you the trouble of getting kicked off the grounds again, you mean." Andrew grinned, handing the parchment to Jack. "Besides, I wanted to see my sister again."

"Aye, I can't fault you there." Roberts smiled taking Cecily into his arms. She promptly punched him in the chest playfully.

"And you, Mr. Roberts!" She scowled. "Running off in broad daylight and leaving me here alone while you risk getting captured, or worse! I'll deal with you later! Don't you dare grin at me like that!"

Jack held his hands in front of him, smiling anyway. "Peace, My Darling, peace. Were it not for having to acquire these, I would never have risked it. Will this return me to your good graces?" He asked reaching into a coat pocket and kneeling.

Jack opened the small box in his hand. Inside was a gold band with a pear shaped diamond flanked by two blue sapphires. "As I asked last night, before the interruption, I ask again. Cecily Morley, will you consent to be my wife?"

Cecily's eyes welled to overflowing with joy. "Yes, and again yes, My Love!" As soon as Jack slipped the ring onto her finger she threw her arms around his neck, kissing him repeatedly.

Andrew turned his head and hastily wiped at one eye. George, Geoffrey, and Josiah smiled clapping Jack on the back. Molly let the tears flow unashamedly.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 11/30/2006 11:50:41

The sound of a carriage coming up the lane sent Josiah running to the window to peek out. "Looks like we are about to be graced with the good magistrate's presence, Jack." He said nonchalantly. "It may be a good idea if the young lass were upstairs when he arrives."

With a last kiss Cecily whispered into Jack's ear. "I'm still not done with you, Black Jack Roberts."

"I'm counting on that, Dearest." He smiled warmly as she turned and bolted up the stairs.

At a motion from Jack Andrew and Geoff sat back down at the table. Molly hastily wiped her eyes on her apron running to the kitchen. Josiah and George quickly shut the door to the secret rooms, then went to the ale barrels to begin filling new tankards. No sooner had the first drops touched the bottom of the mugs when the door burst open reviling a very distraught Hammond.

Feigning concern Jack stood. "My dear Hammond, what ever is the matter? You look as if the devil himself was at your heels!" Andrew almost snickered aloud till a gentile warning glance from Geoff stopped him and he also turned to the door with a serious look.

Obviously flustered Hammond mopped his brow with his handkerchief, placing his free hand on Jack's shoulder. "My dear Mr. Roberts! You would not believe what I have just been through!" The portly official huffed before noticing Andrew.

"Lord Morley! What ever are you doing here?" He exclaimed, momentarily forgetting his own ordeal.

Andrew presented the perfect picture of a bored young noble. "Having just met Mr. Johnson a few days ago, I thought to come to his establishment for a visit." He explained half waving one hand in the air. "It gets ever so boring at the estate, what with seeing to the servants and all, but you were saying my good sir?"

"Yes, my good man," Jack spoke, pulling out a chair, "please have a seat with us, and do explain. Josiah, a tankard of my best for Magistrate Hammond."

"I thank you for your kindness, Mr. Johnson, but I fear I am be fret of funds at the moment." Hammond fanned himself. "I was held up and robbed not an hour ago by none other than Black Jack Roberts!"

Jack gave Hammond his best look of shock. "My dear Hammond! Think nothing of it. You have more than paid for anything you wish this day with your friendship." This time it was Geoff who turned his head to hide his mirth. "Was anyone harmed?" Jack continued earnestly.

"My driver has a nasty lump on his head, and God knows what the blackguard did to the four guards who bravely rode after him! I was lucky to escape with my life! Hammond warmed to the topic, pausing to drink deeply from the tankard Josiah sat before him.

"George, Geoff, would you take an ale and some food and see to Magistrate Hammond's driver?" Jack asked, the perfect host.

"Right away, Mr. Johnson." Geoff stood and soon left with George, the meal, and some bandages.

Jack turned attentively to Hammond. "You were saying, Sir?"

"Well, I was making the journey to London to properly file my papers when the carriage came to a sudden stop. I heard several shots and one of my guards shout the rogue's name. Then all four of the lad's raced into the wood, hot on the robber's heels. My driver naturally panicked and we drove off at full speed."

"Were that I was a younger man, Sir, for I would have helped in the chase and that outlaw would have been brought to the king's justice at last!" Hammond paused to drain the tankard. Josiah picked it up to refill it as Molly brought a meal of bread, cheese, and some fruit to set in it's place. "Thank you, My Dear." Hammond breathed.

"It was all a ruse," he spoke between bites, "for we had barely gone a mile when I heard several more shots and the wheel of my carriage became mired in a rut of mud the dastard had laid for us, I am certain."

"My driver went into the wood to search for a branch to lever us free with. Just then the bandit accosted me in the coach! A ruffian of epic proportions he is! He threatened me with my life if I didn't hand over my purse, and the Marriage license at once!" suddenly remembering the license Hammond turned to Andrew.

"Oh my, that's right. I had completely forgotten, My Dear Boy. Would you please give my apologies to your family? The only thing else he took was the marriage license of your sister, and Sir Culpepper. Said he had been paid to take it."

Andrew waved disinterestedly. "I am quite certain they still have their copy, Magistrate. You can file that one, if you wish."

Hammond went dead white. "I fear not, Young Sir! I mean, I'm afraid all of this excitement has made me quite ill. As soon as I finish at London I intend to take a long holiday. Abroad I fear. Perhaps the magistrate here in Devonshire can be of assistance?" He asked hopefully.

"I don't see why not." Andrew yawned. "After all it's just a formality."

Magistrate Hammond breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Now if you good sirs will excuse me, I really must be on my way. Thank you again for you kindness, Robert. I hope to one day repay you."

"Please forget all about it, Mr. Hammond." Jack smiled. "Here, let me see you off." As the two men walked outside Andrew began to chuckle, then broke into fits of uncontrolled laughter.


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 11/30/2006 22:13:05

" 'Would you please give my apologies to your family?' " Andrew could barely get the words out without howling with laughter. "What a coward! The only thing is that he is afraid to face Mother!"
Jack came back in and said, "Yes, Ireland will be the place for him for a while. However, being an Anglican, I hope he can live off his girth. He will be hard pressed to get a decent meal if the tavern is owned by a Papist."
He went to the secret room and opened the door. Cecily sat on the bed, holding out her hand and admiring the ring.
"Darling, this is so perfect! And the size is right."
He took her in his arms and kissed her. "The magistrate has left and he is heading for Ireland. So it is safe to rejoin us."

Jack picked up the two marriage licenses. To Cecily, he asked, "Would you like to do the honours, love?"
Cecily took both copies and walked over to the fireplace. She gently laid them on the burning log. Watching the papers shrivel and curl at the edges, the fire consumed it. The last to go were the names. She sighed deeply and then turned to Jack. He put his arms around her and she leaned against him.
"Why do I just feel like a prisoner who was pardoned?"
Andrew stood beside her and gazed into the fire. Softly, he said, "I can't believe Mother did that."
To Jack, he said, "Knowing my mother, she is relentless. My advice to you is to take my sister, head for Scotland and make her your own."
Jack clapped him on the shoulder and said, "Aye. That I intend to do."

After spending another hour with Jack and Cecily and the rest of them at the Crossbow, he stood up.
"I really must take my leave. I told Mother I was checking on a foal that my friend had. I don't want to raise any suspicions when she finds that marriage license is gone."
Cecily gave her brother a hug. "I miss you already, Andrew!"
He winked at her and said, "Aye, but I turn you over to a man who I never dreamed I'd ever meet. Let alone share an ale with!"
Jack shook his hand and then gave him a brotherly hug. "And we are now family, Andrew. Ye shall be the brother I never had!"
Andrew laughed. "Stranger things have happened. But what, I don't know!"
He put his Cavalier hat back on and said his goodbyes to the tavern folk. When he got to Molly, he swept his hat off and took her in his arms. Dipping her far back, he laid a kiss on her. As he stood her upright, she swayed a bit.
Andrew laughed and winked. "Always leave them wanting a little more, I always say!"

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/01/2006 11:50:20

Raymond tumbled backward from the force of the backhanded blow of Peter Culpepper. "How dare you reveal my plans to that brigand!!" He screamed at the cowering old man. "Just look at my doors!! They are ruined!! The price of their repair will come out of your pocket, I promise you!!"

The aged butler lay propped up on one arm, the other held defensively in front of his face. "Please, Sir Culpepper!! The man would have killed me!! I was afraid!!" He screamed.

"You can thank God, that I do not, you worthless cur!!" Culpepper shot back. "If it were not for needing you to pay for the doors, and this," he pointed to the bandage on his face, "I most certainly would have!! Now remove your disloyal carcass from my sight before I change my mind!!"

The aged man scrambled as fast as his old bones would allow for safety. Peter turned back into the study, seething. Nearly everything had gone horribly wrong. First he is nearly killed by that currish rogue, then the marriage license is taken from him and burned before his eyes. After rousing the local redcoats, and putting up with the insufferable arrogance of the Sergeant Major, who should show up again to make a fool of him in front of them all, but Black Jack himself.

Distaining the short crystal glassed he removed a silver tankard from the mantle and filled it with brandy. Plopping down into his favorite chair he stared into the flames of the fireplace to continue his dark brooding.

Almost until dawn they had chased the blackguard over hill and dale. Every time they had nearly closed with the bastard he would vanish from sight, only to reappear a short time later many yards ahead. He had half a mind to report Barclay's incompetence to his superiors, for all the good it would do. For almost ten years Black Jack had eluded capture by the king's best. One more such failure would do little to ruin the man's reputation.

Nearly halfway to Bath the outlaw had vanished completely, as if the earth itself had swallowed him whole. He thought back. Almost six years ago he had offered the robber a position on his own payroll through his own contacts within England's underworld. The reply that came back was both curt and insulting. He had promptly belted the messenger on the jaw for daring to bring the parchment to him.

Now he carried a permanent insult form him, for he knew the long gash to the unmarked face he was so proud of would leave an ugly scar. That was something he swore Black Jack Roberts would pay for with as much interest as he could manage, damn him to Hell.

Still there was little they could do about the license. By now Hammond was well on his way to London to file it and the harlot Alice Morley had the parents copy. It had been so easy to twist her to his will, easy and at times pleasurable. Therefore regardless of what they did, the law placed young Cecily firmly in his grasp.

That thought caused him to smile grimly, a stab of pain ran through the left side of his face causing him to grimace a second later. God's death! The shapely brat was almost more trouble than she was worth. Still he needed the Morley lands desperately to expand his smuggleing empier. His success had grown far more than his own hidden docks could handle. The added bonus of finally gaining an heir to carry on the Culpepper name to history not withstanding, and there was the pleasure he would take forcing her to his bed.

Later he would call upon Moreland to give Alice the bad news, and secure the parents copy of the license. He chuckled to himself at the thought of the shock he would soon see on the upstart Andrew's face when he discovered that his sister was now Culpepper's property.

After a bath and a quick nap that was. Rising from the chair he drained the tankard then set it on the table beside the nearly empty decanter. Spying one of his rather shapely maids he took the young girl by the arm.

"Come with me, Lass!" He ordered. "You may draw my bath, and then you will be given the privilege of comforting your master."


Reply author: Welsh Wench
Replied on: 12/02/2006 14:13:36

Andrew trotted into the stables of Moreland by early evening. He took his horse into the stables and handed the reins to Kirby, the groom.
"How's the mare?"
"Hmm? Oh! Fine, Kirby. Just fine. Everything worked out well."
He bounded up the steps of the mansion and entered into the parlor.

Lady Alice looked up from her claret. "It's about time you came home, dear."
"I had a good visit. Umm..Winslow's colt is beautiful and I stayed for dinner. A very nice visit."
Lady Alice smiled to herself. Things were going as planned. The wedding dress had been hanging in the closet and Alice had the local seamstress finish it using Cecily's old dresses. The cooks had been given their instructions and food was being baked and set aside. The bride to be was at Sir Peter's safe and sound. And the license was reposing under lock and key in her drawer.
All that was needed was for the bride to say 'I do.'

Sir Peter galloped up the lane and entered Moreland's courtyard. Without a word, he threw the reins of his stallion to the stablehand and pounded on the door. The houseservant Barnabas opened the door and tried not to look surprised at the bandage on Sir Peter's face.
"Lady Morley, if you please."
He didn't wait for the invitation to enter, he just barged in and walked into the parlor. Lady Alice gasped when she saw him.
"Wh-What happened? Y-your face!"
He snarled, "Tell me something I don't know, Alice! That bastard Roberts gave me a slash that he will pay for. I'll have him drawn and quartered, then put back together and drawn into eighths!"
" Is Cecily alright?"
Peter's sarcasm ruled the day. "How the hell should I know? I haven't seen her. She's been offiicially kidnapped by that cur. He hasn't given us a ransom yet so I don't know where or when or how much. That brat of yours, Alice, is coming at a very high price. I just may make her have three kids before I set her aside. I hope she can keep up."
Alice could not help but feel jealous of her own daughter sharing a bed with Peter. Much less giving him children but she put her feelings aside as she would benefit in the end.
She laid a hand on his arm. "Let me look at the wound."
She lifted the bandage and tried not to wince. Lying, she said, "It doesn't look so bad, Peter. Put an herbal salve on it and it will...."
"WILL YOU SHUT UP, YOU SILLY WOMAN? It is not the wound, it is the fact that HE gave it to me. Oh, I shall take great pleasure taking his woman from him. Again and again!"
Alice looked confused. "But--but Robert Johnson is behind this, is he not?"
Peter said darkly, "I'm still not convinced. I still think Robert Johnson is Blackjack Roberts. And you will never convince me otherwise!"

Alice handed him some brandy. "What do you intend to do?"
"Intend to do? I INTEND to pay the ransom and get her back. The hell with the wedding! Just take it to the vicar and marry her. Worry about a wedding feast later. No ceremony, there's no time to waste."
"But, Peter, I have the new dress I want to wear and there are social obligations..."
"We cannot afford to have her out of our clutches. Once she becomes my wife, no other can have her."
"But you have the marriage license. That alone is binding."
"Not anymore. That blackguard Roberts lifted it from me and burned it right before my eyes."
"Not to worry, dear. The magistrate has left for London today and is filing the papers with the registrar. And I have the parents' copy."
Peter said, "I would feel much better if I had that copy, Alice."
"You don't trust me?"
"Alice, I want that in my safe. NOW."
She sighed and said with a sly grin, "It just so happens it is in my bedroom." She took him by the hand and led him upstairs.
When they entered her room, she flung her arms around him and kissed him on the neck. He disengaged her arms and said coldly, "Show me first the license, Alice."
Alice sighed and went to the desk drawer. She opened it and reached in, handing Sir Peter the parchment.
He took it and read it.
"Alice, this is a bill of sale for some dresses you bought back in October."
She looked again and turned to him with a stricken look.


Reply author: Blackjack Roberts
Replied on: 12/04/2006 10:15:46

"Gone?!!" Echoed Culpepper. "What do you mean it's gone??!! Look again!!!"

Alice tore through every paper in the drawer soon emptying the contents all about the floor. "It's not here, Peter! I locked in in the drawer as soon as I returned home!" The mistress of Moreland was frantic as she watched his rage build like the legendary Mount Vesuvius.

"Bloody Hell!" Peter cursed loudly. "Who else knew you had it?!! Could Andrew have taken it to Johnson?!!"

"Peter, please control yourself! Andrew didn't even know about the license! No one did except you and I!" Alice grew pale in the heat of Culpepper's anger.

"Well somebody bloody well knew!!!" He raged loud enough for the entire house to know of his displeasure. "The only one I showed it to was Cecily!! Just before that damned outl....!" A look of shock replaced the rage in his features as the realization dawned on him. "Roberts!! That could be the only explanation!! While I was having my wound tended the bastard stole it!! He crept in here like the snake that he is and made of with it!! That could only mean!"

Sir Culpepper left the thought unfinished as he tore from the room, nearly unhinging the door in the process. Tearing down the stairs two at a time he barley acknowledged Andrew's, "Why Sir Culpepper, what ever is the matter?", with a scowl. Nearly bowling Barnabas over as he left the front doors open. Ripping the reigns of his horse from the stable boy's hand he leapt into the saddle, galloping down the lane as fast as the animal was capable of.

Lady Alice came to the top of the stairs, pale and shaken. Andrew looked up at his mother with distaste. "What ever has gotten into him?" He asked careful to keep his feeling from showing on his face.

"It....It's nothing, Andrew." She breathed collecting herself. "Nothing that need to concern you. Please have Tess bring a hot toddy to my room. I don't feel well."

"Certainly, Mother." Andrew turned away smiling.

Peter Culpepper raced to his own lands in record time, but instead of returning to his mansion he turned aside racing into the wood that bordered the cliff. Traveling down the narrow path that led to the caves at a reckless pace, he disregarded both his and the horse's safety. If what he suspected were true he had precious little time to lose. Luck could still be with him, perhaps Hammond had would make it to London unmolested, but he could not take the chance.

Two of his six ships were moored to the large docks he had built there, one from his legitimate trade ships, the other a smuggler he bought under an assumed name. Workers were busy moving the pirated cargo from one to the other to be taken to London and stored in one of his warehouses. His smuggling operation was a crafty bit of work. The three nondescript ships would purchase the stolen cargos of pirates in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Then off load the gold, silver and jewels here to be secreted into his privet holding places. The rest of the plunder would be shipped to London and other seaports on one of his trading vessels, properly taxed, then sold legitimately at an enormous profit.

His overseer walked over to him as he dismounted. "Sir Culpepper, what ever brings you here?" Darby Abrahams asked. Rarely did his employer bother to come to the cavern himself.

"I have need of the pigeons!" Peter nearly shouted causing more tan one head to turn momentarily in their direction. "I have several messages that must be sent without delay!"

"Is it trouble, Sir? Have we been discovered?!" Abrahams pondered excitedly.

"Nay, fool! This is a privet matter, and none of your concern! Just get the ship ready to sail on the next tide, and mind your business!" Culpepper stalked off to the coops kept near to the cave mouth. Darby watched his back for a moment, made an obscene gesture, then returned to the loading of the trade vessel.

Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....