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Author Topic: The Highwayman: Legacy  (Read 16453 times)

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Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #30 on: March 12, 2009, 01:48:49 PM »
Jack held his little boy closely, silently thanking all and sunder that his son was safe. His own throat nearly closed with the emotion of having his child back he gently rocked the boy in his arms, patting the small back softly.

“Hush now, Son.” He whispered. “Da is here, and none will harm you again.”

“B-but, Da!” Jeremy began when the door to the room opening cut him off.

“Saints preserve us!” The tavern owner exclaimed. “Me inn be haunted!”

Jack had leapt to his feet, simultaneously drawing one of his pistols, and pulling Jeremy behind him. Only the sight of Cecily behind the innkeeper had saved the man’s life.

“If ye don’t wish to add to the ghosts ye seem to think ye have, ye’ll be lowerin’ yer voice, Barman!” Jack growled, and then as if he had just noticed Cecily he added. “Ah, Mrs. Johnson. Ye’ll be happy ta know yer husband has paid me the ransom, and though for a time I lost possession ‘a the lad, I am a man ‘a me word.”

Jack drew his son in front of him. “Go ta yer mum, lad.”

Jeremy ran across the floor into his mother’s arms as the dark figure made it’s way to the window. “Now, if’n ye’ll all be kind enough ta remain nice and quiet while I make me exit, we’ll all be a bit happier. And let Malcolm Dagget know that if he ever interferes in my affairs again, I’ll be more’n glad ta run the bugger through!”

Within the space of a few moments the highwayman was out the window and they heard the sound of a horse’s hoof beats fade into the distance. Cecily clung to her son desperately as tears of joy flowed down her face, gently kissing him over and over again. The innkeeper mopped his pale brow with his bar rag.

“Dear God in heaven, Mum!” The elder man exclaimed. “I thought Black Jack Roberts were dead!”

Cecily quickly regained control of herself and picked up on the clue Jack had left her. “As did we, kind sir, until he kidnapped my son.” she lied. “Malcolm tried to help my husband and I. It would seem that he succeeded for a time, and Roberts came to try and steal my child back.”

“But why would Lord Dagget leave the boy alone?” The bar keep pondered.

“Perhaps he thought my son safe, and has gone in search of me?” Cecily offered.

“Could very well be, Mum? Anyway, alls well that ends well, eh” The man beamed. “Come lets go downstairs and I’ll fetch ye both something to eat. The missus is never going to believe this.”

An hour later Cecily heard the familiar whistles, and returned it with the signal that all was well. The ghostly figure of her husband, still in costume emerged from the trees ahead and galloped up to trot beside her and Jeremy.

“Well, that was an adventure.” Jack laughed, elated to have his son back.

The small boy grinned at his father. “Da! Why didn’t you tell us you were Black Jack?!”

“Shhhh!” Cecily cautioned her son. “No one can ever know that, Jeremy!”

“I know, Mum.” The ash blonde child grinned. “That’s why Jamie and I…” His voice trailed off with the realization that Malcolm Dagget was far ahead of them and now knew where the papers were.

“Oh Da!” He began to cry. “Those papers that prove you are Black Jack Roberts! That bad man tricked me into telling him where they are! He’s gone to find them!”

Jack and his wife exchanged a quick glance. “It’s alright, Son.” Jack said gently. “Where did you hide them?”

“Under a crate of carrots outside Uncle Geoff’s window.” The boy sniffed.

Jack lifted his hood high enough to kiss his son’s forehead. “You stay with your mother and protect her.” He said, winking to Cecily. “Take her to Uncle Andrew’s. I’ll get to the papers before they do.”

The little boy straightened up as high as he could on his new Bay. “I will, Da. I promise!”

Black Jack grinned with pride beneath his mask. “I know you will, son.”

Patting the boy’s shoulder the ebony figure turned Raven to the wood and vanished from sight.

Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #31 on: March 20, 2009, 06:39:55 PM »
Black Jack rode through the wood as if the hounds of Hell were hot on his heels. Though he knew that cutting across country would shave time off of his desperate bid to catch up with Malcolm Dagget, he still held no illusions that the man was far ahead of him by now. At least his son was safely in the hands of his mother. Heaven help the fool who would dare to try and take the boy from her.

Raven felt the urgency of his master and wove his way through the trees as if he followed some well laid path that only he could sense. The midnight hued stallion’s hooves sent sod and bracken flying behind as it dug harder into the soft forest floor.



“Goin’ somewhere, Mate?” Geoff broke from his reverie over the damning documents that he held in his briefcase and cursed himself for not realizing that until they were accounted for he and George would have been watched. Fortunately, there was only one of them, and he reached for the pistol hidden inside his coat.

“Just a quick jaunt to my favorite tavern, my good man.” Geoff smiled, drawing on his old training from his days with Jack to sound as nonchalant as possible. Perhaps he could bluff his way past this ruffian. “Perchance you would like to accompany me? The ale there is the finest in the whole of England.”

“I’m afraid not, Barrister.” The man drew a sword. “But I will be taken’ that case ye have under yer arm.”

In a flash Geoff pulled his flintlock, pointing it straight at the villain’s head. “These are confidential papers and documents, of use to none save my clients, Sir.” Geoff made sure to sound as much the outraged official as he could. “If it is gold you seek, I can assure you there is none in here.”

Geoff’s assailant reluctantly dropped his sword and raised both hands to his chest as he backed away from the enraged lawyer. “We both know better than that, Mate.” He hissed just before he ducked down an alley. “Ye could have done this easy. Now we’ll do it hard. Either way those papers will be ours!”

Geoff looked all about himself, but to all intents and purposes he was alone on the streets of Devonshire. For a moment he considered returning to the office to enlist George’s help, but thought better of it. By the time he would have gotten George his unknown foe could return with reinforcements. His best chance would be to make a dash for The Crossbow and the safety of their own friends.

Within minutes Geoff had made it to the livery, saddled his horse, and bolted down the northeastern road for the inn. Followed moments later by no less than three shadowy figures on horseback.



“There, you see, Mr. Worthington?” Malcolm was feeling more than pleased with himself. “There are times when cunning produces far more satisfying results than brutality.”

“Aye, Lord Dagget.” Henry Worthington nodded in agreement. “The loss of Hammel is nothing. The man was far more an embarrassment than a service. I dare say he deserved his fate more than poor Lucas did.”

“The shame of it all was the need to waste the price of a lead ball on the lout.” Malcolm scowled. Having found the two men he had sent to guard the road against intruders he had lost his temper at not only finding one of his best men shot, but Martin Hammel both horseless and trussed up like a Christmas Goose. He promptly shot the man.

“At any rate, we avoided running into the ones who were seeking young Mr. Johnson. By now we have a good head start, and the documents will again be in our hands.” Dagget grinned. Sir Terrance would be well pleased.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2009, 10:22:56 AM by Blackjack Roberts »

Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #32 on: March 20, 2009, 09:56:27 PM »
Cecily listened to the retreating hoofbeats as Jack galloped off. She gave a deep sigh as she said to herself, 'I thought all this was behind us, Jack Roberts.'
"Mama?"
She turned her attention to her son. "Yes, my love?"
"I'm cold."
She looked at Jeremy who was shivering. She reached in her saddlebag and said, "Mummy thought of everything. Here is a cloak to wrap yourself in."
She draped it across his shoulders and then placed her hands on his. "Jeremy, you are alright? They didn't hurt you?"
He shook his head. "No. Mr. Daggett made sure. He wasn't very nice but he got me something to eat. I did a bad thing though."
"What did you do?"
"I kicked the coachman in the leg."
Cecily put her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh.
"I wouldn't worry about it, sweetheart."
 
Jeremy rode on the bay that was now his very own.
"Mummy, where did you get the horse?"
Cecily hesitated. She didn't really want to tell Jeremy how Hermes was acquired.
"We found him in the woods. And we knew you needed a horse of your very own to ride back. Raven and Aphrodite liked him. So your father took a rope and Raven so graciously led him."
"Does he have a name?"
"I think Hermes is a good name. The name of the Greek god who delivered messages. What do you think, Jeremy? Of course you are free to name him what you like. Anything but Petey or Bucky. You know I can't stand those names."
Jeremy laughed. "Hermes is nice. But I think there will be a problem."
"And what is that, dear?"
"Do you have one for Jaimie too?"
Cecily laughed lightly, "I think your father can get her a horse too. I know young Jack has one and the two of you have been asking your father for a horse or two."

Jeremy yawned. Cecily looked at her son with tenderness.
"Sleepy, Jeremy?"
He shook his head. "No. I told Da I would take care of you, Mama." He yawned again.
She felt her eyes tear up for the lad who went through so much to protect his father.
Cecily said, "Well, my brave young man, you may not be sleepy. But I am. And my back aches. We have a new little brother or sister to look out for so I am getting us a room for the night. I hope you don't mind."
He yawned again and said, "I think that would be a grand idea, Mama."
 
Cecily sat Jeremy on the bed in the room she procured. She lifted his arms as he started to fall asleep and took his shirt off. Gently she put his legs up on the bed and drew the coverlet over him. She pushed the hair off his face as she looked at her exhausted child. She could feel the rage coming over her for his kidnapping but she willed it away for the time being. Time enough to exact vengeance on the perpetrators.
 
Padding softly over to the casement window, she gazed up at the indigo night with the moon shining bright. A gentle smile came to her lips as she remembered that night oh so long ago where she first unraveled the mysteries of love in Jack Roberts' arms. She put her hand on the window and whispered to the heavens above, 'Watch over my beloved. Let's put this nightmare behind us.'
She walked over to the bed and drew the covers back, sliding into bed next to her son.
And before too long, she had joined him in deep slumber.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2009, 06:55:45 PM by Welsh Wench »
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Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #33 on: April 04, 2009, 10:43:41 AM »
Geoff stumbled into the Crossbow, bringing both Josiah running from behind the bar and an immediate silence to the pleasant buzz of conversation that had previously filled the room.

“Dear God, Man! What on Earth happened to ye?” Josiah lent his support to the exhausted and more than slightly ruffled lawyer.

“Robbers!” Geoff’s eyes locked with his friends. They carried both the look of failure and grim determination.

Molly soon appeared from the kitchen with some clean linen and hot water she had been preparing for tea. “Come set here, Geoff and let us have a look at you.” She pulled a chair from an empty table as the tavern’s clientele began to gather around, their interest peaked. “That be a right nasty blow to the head you have.”

“Not nearly as bad as at least one of my assailants suffered, I assure you, Molly.” Geoff smiled grimly. “Unless his friends returned for him, one of the blackguards still lies on the Devonshire road.”

Josiah pointed to two of the new stable hands. “Bill, John! Saddle two horses and fetch the Brigadier. Smartly now, Lads!”

As the two young men bolted from the Crossbow Josiah tuned his consern to his old friend. “What happened, Lad?”

Geoff’s eyes shot to the crowd for a moment, letting Josiah know that there was something’s he would only be able to reveal in private. Josiah winked his acknowledgement.

“Well, Josiah.” Geoff began, wincing slightly as Molly ministered to his wounds. “ I had intended to come here and finish some work in more pleasant surroundings. As I walked to the stable I was accosted by a rather unpleasant fellow. I succeeded in dissuading him in his thoughts of robbery, or so I thought, and promptly left town.”

“Ye should’a known better, Lad.” One of the gathered, news hungry, onlookers interjected.

“Aye, Good sir, I should have.” Geoff continued. “About a mile away he and his two friends caught me unawares. I immediately took cover in the wood, yet they pursued me. Thankfully, the thick trees provided cover from any gunplay and we soon found ourselves on foot and engaged in close quarter combat.”

“Without trying to sound the braggart, I will say I gave a good accounting of myself and we crossed steel until we found ourselves back on the open road. One of the villains lunged for my chest with his sword, and I was forced to move to my right, running the brigand through as he stumbled past me.  That was when their leader threw one of his empty pistols at me. I saw the missile a tad too late and was struck. I stumbled backward, loosing my grip on my case. The leader snatched it up and took to his heels with his surviving companion.”

Geoff sighed as Molly finished her ministrations. “As quick as I could I found my horse and rode here with all haste.”

Josiah grunted, thinking hard on the tale. After a moment he spoke. “A good thing they decided to flee, and not press their advantage. Come Geoff, I’ve just the thing for ye in me office.” Geoff nodded and followed him into the back of the tavern.

Josiah poured Geoff and himself a crystal of the fine French brandy that Cecily and Jack had brought back for him from a trip to Europe. Handing the glass to Geoff they sat down in the two leather upholstered chairs that he and Jack had often shared together.

After a few sips he looked up at Geoff. “Now, Geoff. What is the entire truth of the matter?”

“You might want to pour yourself another brandy, Josiah.” Geoff frowned. “This tale is bound to send you to the bottle at least that much.”
« Last Edit: April 05, 2009, 10:49:02 AM by Blackjack Roberts »

Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #34 on: April 19, 2009, 09:37:10 PM »
Jeremy's face broke out in a grin.
"There it is, Mama! Uncle Andrew's place! Are you sure Jaimie is there?"
"Yes, my darling. I left her with Uncle Andrew and Aunt Jane for safekeeping."
The horses stood impatiently at the edge of the woods. Moreland Hall stood across the meadow, its white stone walls beckoning to Cecily.
"And I protected you and brought you to Uncle Andrew just like I promised Da, "
Jeremy said proudly.
"Yes, you did, my son. I imagine all the King's footmen could not do as well."
Jeremy sat a little straighter on his horse, the pride of a job well done reflected on his face.
He looked over at his mother, a devilish gleam in his eye.
"Oh, no, Jeremy--NO!"
"Please, Mama?" He looked at her expectantly.
She sighed. "Alright. You say the words."
"And the winner gets a cherry tart?"
She laughed, "So like Uncle Andrew you are sometimes!"
"Ready? Set? GO!"
The two of them, mother and son, raced across the meadow, dirt clods flying from the hoofs of their horses.
 
"Mama! JEREMY!" Jaimie ran out the door.
"Jaimie, you come back here! You don't even have your shoes on!" Aunt Jane called out.
The two travelers reined their horses in.
"JAIMIE!"
Jaimie came to a halt, put her hands on her hips and glared, "Where is MY horse, Mama?"
Cecily threw her reins over Aphrodite as Benson, the stable groom, took the mare.
She laughed, "Well, hello to you to, Miss Jaimie! Do I not get a hug?"
Jaimie ran to her mother and hugged her.
The twins looked at each other and grinned. Jaimie ran to her brother, hugging him fiercely.
"I knew you would get away! Now tell me all about it!"
"Mama? May I take Hermes to the stable myself?"
"Of course you may, Jeremy."
Jaimie was heard to say, "So, Jeremy, why do you have a horse and I don't have one.....?"
 
Andrew came out of the house.
"Well, Sis, did you bring a  horse for me, too?"
They laughed. Andrew asked, "Where is Jack?"
Cecily said cautiously, "I really would like a scone and tea, Andrew. We can talk in the library."
Jane hugged her sister in law. "I'm happy to see you, Cecily. Jaimie has been a perfect angel."
Cecily looked at her brother and raised an eyebrow. Jane saw it and smiled,
"Well, she did cry at night for Jeremy."
Andrew said, "Those two remind me so much of us, Sis. Right down to playing 'highwayman'!"
Jane linked arms with Cecily and retorted to Andrew, "You have two women with child on their feet, Andrew. We need to go inside."
Cecily turned, astonished, to Jane. "You are....?"
Jane nodded happily. Cecily saw the look of pride on Andrew's face.
Cecily murmured, "And so the Morley dynasty continues."
 
« Last Edit: April 23, 2009, 04:47:50 PM by Welsh Wench »
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Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #35 on: April 19, 2009, 09:37:56 PM »
"...and Jack climbed to the window and found Jeremy.  He was a bit ragged emotionally. But otherwise, he was fine."
Andrew and Jane exchanged glances.
"Does Jeremy know that his father is Black Jack Roberts?"
Cecily sat her teacup down and gave a sigh.
"I'm afraid so."
Andrew cleared his throat. "It was bound to happen, Cecily. You can't keep a secret like that indefinitely. Jack's friends all knew."
"Does Jaimie know for sure?"
Jane nodded. "She told me. She and Jeremy heard you and Jack talking the night before. Jeremy swore her to secrecy. But being a girl, she had to let it out.  Jeremy was not there to confide in."
"Did you confirm it for her?"
Andrew nodded. "She already knew and if I denied it, she would never have trusted her Uncle Andrew to tell her the truth."
"How did she take it?"
"How would you have reacted, Sis, to finding out your father was the largest legend in merry old England since Robin Hood?"
Cecily squeezed her brother's hand.
"Thank you."
"For what?"
"For doing what Jack and I should have done and for being there for my children. And now, Jane--when may I expect my niece or nephew?"
"Around Michelmas, I do believe."
Cecily hugged Jane. "I'm so happy!"
Jane stood up. "And now I should let you have some brother-sister time together. I have to see the cook about dinner, after all."
 
Cecily and Andrew walked in the garden. "I'm so pleased Jane is giving you an heir, Andrew."
He nodded.  "We were concerned because we have been married two years."
"Have you told Mother?"
He shook his head no. "She is in Venice. And no, I don't intend to inform her yet, seeing how she made a poor attempt to be a grandmother to Jeremy and Jaimie."
Cecily's mouth set in a firm line.
"To say they didn't take to her is an understatement. After a while, she gave up."
Andrew looked over at Cecily and repeated, "And just where is MY horse, Sis?"
Cecily laughed and they continued to walk in the sunshine.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
"Did you really kick the coachman, Jeremy?" Jaimie's eyes were wide.
"I sure did! Right in the shins! Boy, Jaimie, you should have seen him hop around!"
Jaimie laughed, "Serves him right! No one does that to a Johnson!"
She then frowned. "Are we Johnson or Roberts, Jeremy?"
He thought. "I think we are really Roberts. But we need to ask Da."
Jeremy took the curry brush to Hermes. Jaimie petted the horse's nose.
"Jeremy, would you let me ride him sometimes?
"Da will get you a horse, Jaimie. Whatever he gets me, he gets you. Even the bow and arrows."
 
Jaimie looked off in the distance.
"See that grey stone castle over there? I heard it belonged to the meanest man in the shire. In all of England!"
"Who is that?"
"A Lord Cul--something.  Cul-salt? But not salt--PEPPER! Lord Culpepper!"
"Really! But doesn't someone else live there now?"
"Some old man named Raymond, I think."
Jeremy looked at Jaimie.
"You know, when you get your horse I say we do some 'sploring."
"Whatever happened to Lord Culpepper, do you think?"
"I heard Uncle Andrew and Aunt Jane talking and Uncle Andrew said,  'The old sod got what he deserved and by the best person.' And then he said, 'He made Cecily's life miserable and he deserved to die.' "
Jaimie hopped up and down on one foot.
"Then I say we find out about the old sod ourselves, Jeremy. But we won't tell anyone."
They spit on their hands and sealed the promise.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2009, 04:52:46 PM by Welsh Wench »
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Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #36 on: April 27, 2009, 01:08:28 PM »
Jack had just begun to wonder if he had indeed made it in front of his quarry when he heard the sound of horses traveling at a leisurely pace on the road. He smiled wryly beneath his hood. Of course, Dagget would have not felt the need for haste once the boy was discovered safe. He would have considered that the end of the matter as he would assume Jeremy to be the reason for the pursuit. Now the question was if Roberts should stop him now, or allow the fox to lead him to the prize.

Even in the gloom of the darkened roadway he could make out the form of Malcolm. That garish red velvet coat gave his position away as easily as it did the king’s men so long ago. You would think that they would have learned by now that bright colors, even in the darkness were more easily seen. Jack couldn’t count the number of times that fact had made the difference between freedom and the gallows in his own life.

Lifting an edge of his cloak he tested the direction of the wind. Good. It was the breeze was coming from the road and made it impossible for their horses to scent him, or Raven. That would leave the element of surprise with Jack and made the decision for him. As long as the wind did not change direction he would shadow Dagget and allow him to lead Roberts to the documents in question. For a moment he even considered keeping them for himself. They would prove a powerful weapon if he needed it in the future. Only the thought of his friendship with Barclay and the honor of his word changed his mind.

Raven had been trained long ago to pick his way through the forest. Picking out the quietest path available before setting his full weight onto his hoof. Slow going it was, but it did allow Jack to trail a target with as little noise as possible to give him away. Allowing Malcolm and his crony to pass his hiding place bay several yards he gently urged the dark stallion forward through the trees.



“The strangest part to this whole affair was the appearance of the deceased Black Jack Roberts.” Malcolm mused in small talk.

“Aye, Lord Dagget.” Henry Worthington returned. “Perhaps they thought the man’s reputation would provide them with an advantage?”

“Perhaps. Strange though that they would choose that particular identity. Thanks to that fool Culpepper the man proved to be a thorn in our sides. Stranger still that Culpepper was murdered but a short while after he had the man hung. Only the complete disappearance of him from public scrutiny convinced anyone that Culpepper had indeed got his man.”

“Jolly good thing, too!” Worthington nodded. “Where half the tales about him true the man were just short of the devil himself.”

Malcolm Dagget chuckled. “Be that as it may, whoever the man I encountered was, he was easily taken. Far from the formidable opponent one would expect of Black Jack.”

The thunder of hoof beats ahead of them caused the two men to reign in their mounts and reach for their weapons. Two seedy looking riders barreled out of the gloom almost skidding to a halt in front of them.

“Lord Dagget! Is that you, Sir?” The leader half shouted into the badly lit twilight that separated them.

“Aye, Roger. It is.” Malcolm returned before holstering his flintlock back into his belt.

White paper shone in the gloom as the man raised his catch for his master to see. “Success, Lord Dagget! The documents are once again in our possession!”

Two slight thuds were almost immediately followed by smoke filled explosions in the few short yards that separated them. Their horses reared in panic as the men struggled to control the terror stricken animals. From the wood to the left of Malcolm a shadowy figure burst into view and bore down on the newcomers. It’s black cloak billowing behind like a dark, ever-changing cloud  of shadow. Within the space of a few moments it had flown past his men and was galloping down the road before Roger’s body had hit the ground.



Jack Roberts jammed the documents deep into his coat as he urged Raven to greater feats of speed. The moment he had seen the papers in the lackey’s hand he had pulled two small bags filled with gunpowder and a mixture his old magician friend had shown him to create large billows of thick smoke.

Jack knew the breeze would only give him a few moments of cover, but it was a chance he would have to take. Lighting the fuses he threw the two diversions and bolted for the man who held his prize. Guiding Raven with his knee signals Jack grabbed the documents with one hand, the other plowed into the man’s jaw in a gloved fist.

As he raced for the safety of Devonshire he prayed he had gained enough of a head start to lose his pursuers once he had made it back to familiar territory.

Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #37 on: May 23, 2009, 11:06:28 AM »
Jack’s ploy had worked as best as could be expected and gained several yards of distance between him and Dagget’s pursuit. Though still safely out of pistol shot range a few backward glances let him know that the gap between them was steadily shrinking. The effort of catching up with the blackguard had taxed Raven’s considerable strength, and Jack knew it would be only a matter of time until the great stallion would be exhausted. They would still be miles from the Devonshire wood when the gap finally closed. Time and distance where what he needed the most, and for a moment he nearly regretted abandoning the spike trick.

Long ago, years before he had met Cecily, and lost his heart to the young blonde woman, he had been hard pressed by a small platoon of redcoats. Within the small leather pouch slung across his shoulder, opposite his sword and hidden within the folds of his cloak, he had kept a particularly nasty surprise. A handful of rectangular metal bits that had been cut partially through at the ends, then bent and sharpened. Thrown to the ground they scattered, leaving at least one razor point jutting into the air. He had used them then, but at a cost that had made him regret the device and put it away forever.

Although the spikes had insured his escape, he later learned as Robert Johnson that he had lamed the horses badly and at least two of them enough to warrant their being put down immediately. He removed that weapon from his arsenal without a second thought and destroyed the remaining supply. Never again would he make the mount suffer for the sake of the rider. Not if he could help it.

Jack’s mind raced franticly. He could not keep Raven traveling at such a pace and he could not have his pursuers catching up with him. Or could he? In a flash of desperate inspiration Jack drew one of his twin pistols under his cloak and deliberately slowed Raven’s pace slightly more. Then he began to count to himself.

“Ha! The villain’s horse is losing ground quickly now!” Henry Worthington exclaimed as the distance between them and the barely discernable black form fleeing them closed rapidly.

“Aye, he’s worn his horse down in his bid to catch up with us, I’d say.” Malcolm grinned. “That is why we kept our mounts to a leisurely pace. As I said before, the true Roberts would not make such mistakes. As soon as we are in range, prepare to open fire!”

Soon the thundering posse drew within the outside range of small arms fire and the group pulled their pistols as one. In little more than the space of a few short yards they would be well inside the killing range.

Wrapping the reins around his wrist Jack suddenly tapped his heels into Raven’s flanks and whirled about taking deadly aim. As the coal black stallion surged to greater speed Jack pulled the trigger sending one of the shadows trailing him recoiling backwards from his horse. The remaining men split off to the left and right nearly reigning in their steeds in the process. By the time they regrouped Black Jack had all but regained his original distance from them, and their frustrated return fire posed him no threat at all.

The sound of gunplay had not gone unnoticed. The troop of redcoats burst into view over the next rise. For a moment Jack breathed easier, then he heard the shouts of thief, highwayman, and help coming from behind him. In response several of the king’s men fired too soon on him, kicking dust from the road a few feet in front of Raven’s hooves. There was nothing for it now, and Jack turned the black stallion to the forest.

“In the name of King George, halt where you are!” Sergeant Merewether barked as soon as his group closed with Malcolm’s. Several of his men had leveled their muskets and Malcolm raised his hands with the others. “Explain yourself, Sir! Why were you shooting at that man?!”

It was obvious to Dagget that the shouts of thief he had instigated were too far off for the redcoats to make out. “That man was a highwayman, you imbecile!” He shouted.

Merewether motioned to three of his men, who immediately set off in pursuit of Jack. “So you say, Sir, but I’ll have the truth of the matter once he has been brought back. Until we get this sorted out, you will remain as you are.”

“Do you know who that was, Dolt?” Malcolm sneered. “That was Black Jack Roberts whom you allowed to escape!”

The sergeant laughed. “So, ‘tis fairytales we’re dealing in then? Black Jack’s been dead near six years now, but never mind, we’ll have him back soon enough. No matter who he is.”

Malcolm Dagget dropped his voice as he turned. “They’ll never catch him now. Yet, mark my words Mr. Worthington, we will have those documents back. The key lies in the true identity of that man, whoever he is. Discover that, and we will have this ‘Roberts’ in the palm of our hands.”
« Last Edit: May 23, 2009, 11:18:27 AM by Blackjack Roberts »

Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #38 on: May 29, 2009, 06:39:41 AM »
"Cecily Morley, you are out of your mind!"  Andrew  shouted.
Cecily retorted, "It's Roberts. Or Johnson."
"I don't care WHAT you are calling yourself! As your brother I forbid you to go!"
Cecily continued to pack a duffel bag.  She kissed Andrew on the cheek and said quickly, "Please, Andrew. I know what I am doing. I feel it in my heart that this is what I need to do. I know what route Jack will take. Now, if you can just do your part and watch the children. Jack and I will be back as quick as we can and we can put this nightmare behind us."
Andrew frowned. "You will stick to the main roads?"
Cecily crossed her fingers behind her back. "I promise."
 
She rode silently through the Devonshire woods.  Patting her mare on the neck she said softly, 'They will be home soon, Aphrodite. I just feel it.'
The mare whinnied and shook her mane in agreement.
'When did my stomach pop out all of a sudden?'
As if in answer, the babe within her gave her a swift kick. Cecily arched her back and rubbed her abdomen. "Thanks for letting me know you are here, little one. Now we just have to get your Da back, we can do nothing more than to sit back and wait for your arrival. And there had better be only one of you in there! I can't do that again!"
But she knew she didn't mean it. She would give the world to pepper the cottage with babies as long as that was what Jack wanted.
 
In the distance, the sound of a horse and rider was approaching. Cecily immediately reined her horse and trotted over to a copse of trees. From the clearing, a welcome sight met her eyes.
Jack and Raven.
 
Raven tossed his head and picked up his pace. His nostrils flared and he started to break into a gallop. Jack pulled back on the reins but Raven kept on.
Aphrodite danced in place and Cecily leaned forward and whispered, 'Shall we go get our bad boys, dear?'
Aphrodite gave a little leap and started bounding towards the meadow.
 
"CECILY! What are you doing in this neck of the woods?"
She grinned. "Oh, just thought I would see what excitement the shire has to offer."
Jack frowned. "This was not a wise thing for you to do, my love. The redcoats AND Malcolm's men are both out there."
She looked him over.
"And they are looking for Black Jack Roberts, are they not?"
"They are."
"A single rider dressed in black?"
"That's about it."
"Then you will be glad I brought this."
 
She reached into the duffel bag and brought out a white silk shirt. He looked at her questionably.
"Inside you will find doeskin breeches and a wine-coloured frock coat. A cavalier hat with burgundy and white feathers. And all the trimmings that a good country squire might wear if he was coming back from Cornwall with his wife."
He accepted the duffel bag and laughed.
"Have I ever told you how much I adore you?"
She smiled wickedly and patted her stomach. "No, but you have showed me!"
He gave a hearty laugh and looked inside the bag.
"You thought of everything!"
 
Jack went over to a cluster of trees and stripped off his highwayman clothes.
"No fair peeking, sweetheart."
She giggled, "Nothing I haven't seen before, Mr. Roberts."
"What made you decide to look for me?"
She said quietly, "Jack, how many times have I instinctively known what you needed?"
"More than I can count."
"With documents that sensitive, I knew the enemy wouldn't let it go gently into that good night. They were important enough for Malcolm Daggett to kidnap a small boy."
"And for that I am not done with him yet."
Cecily admired Jack's fine physique while he changed his clothes.
"You never fail to make my heart race, Jack."
He grinned and looked up at the sky.
"Damn! No stars!"
She laughed. "And we can take the main road for a leisurely trot back to Andrew's house. The redcoats and Daggett will be looking for a man in a black disguise riding alone, yes?"
"Without a doubt."
"So they won't be looking for a man wearing different clothes and riding with his pregnant wife, will they?"
He kissed her hand and said, "You thought of everything, didn't you, darling?"
She brought out a bottle of wine and grinned, "Are you in the mood for a picnic, my love?"
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Jack spread the blanket down in the meadow as Cecily unpacked the cheese and bread and fruit that she had insisted to Andrew that she would take. After all, who know when Jack would have stopped to eat.
He cut the cheese deftly with his dagger and popped a piece in Cecily's mouth.
"Mmm! That is divine!"
He cut a piece of bread and slathered it with the butter. "I didn't realize how hungry I was."
Pouring the wine, they entwined their arms and drank.
From the far off distance, the pounding of horse hoofs were heard.
Cecily sighed, "I do believe our company has arrived. Shall we rise to greet them, darling?"
Jack shook his head. "No. Let them come to us if they want any answers to their questions. I'm not interrupting my lunch for the likes of them."
Cecily laughed. "So sad for them."
"Why, love?"
"Because I didn't bring enough food for everyone!"
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Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #39 on: June 21, 2009, 12:58:03 PM »
Considering the time of the evening the last thing that Sergeant Percy Merewether had expected to encounter on this eventful night was a couple picnicking in the dead of it. It was bad enough that the man who had made for the wood had simply vanished under the very noses of his men, but now to find another pair about at this ungodly hour was unthinkable. He raised his hand for his redcoats to follow with their “guests” and made for the lounging figures.

“You there!” He shouted as they neared the couple. “Stand and give account of yourselves!”

The man stood and lightly dusted at his britches. “I say, Sergeant Merewether, good morning to you.”

“Mr. Johnson?” Merewether squinted into the gloom as the rest of the contingent rode up. “Is that you, Sir?”

“One and the same, Sergeant.” Jack grinned, holding out his hand to help Cecily up. For a moment he looked over the group, his eyes resting for a second on Malcolm Daggett’s. “Out rounding up Highwaymen, are we?”

“To be honest, Mr. Johnson, I’m not at all sure what they are.” The Sergeant shot a quick glance towards the red faced Malcolm. “We came upon them shooting at a lone figure whom they claim robbed them. We seem to have lost that scoundrel.”

“I see, Sergeant Merewether.” Cecily coyly batted her eyes and looked for all the world like a bored lady of means. “Surely you must be out of practice with the lack of such villains about these last five years.”

“No doubt, Lady Johnson.” The flabbergasted official bowed and tipped his hat to her. “But perhaps you might be able to explain why you and your husband are about at this hour of the night?”

“I fear it is you who are mistaken, Sergeant. It is early morning.” Cecily motioned with her fan to the forested horizon at the faintly purple color which proceeded the arrival of the sun.

“Indeed, Percy.” Jack broke in. “We arose early this morning and since the children are visiting with their uncle, decided to make a day of it before we collected them. We only just arrived a few moments before you came along leading these nere-do-wells.”

“I, sir, am no nere-do-well!” Malcolm’s temper broke at the last jibe. “I am the personal retainer of Sir Terrance Blackwood, and I resent your implications!”

“You, sir, will hold your tongue until that fact can be verified!” Merewether snapped over his shoulder.

“My apologies, Mr. Johnson.” The official smiled. “Then you would not have encountered a figure dressed darkly riding by?”

“None necessary, my good man.” Jack grinned back. “With the exception of these supposed roust abouts, I’m afraid you and your men are all we have seen.”

“Yes.” Cecily interjected. “And from the look of them I would exercise extreme care in their handling were I you, Sergeant Merewether.”

“I most certainly shall, Mum.” Percy bowed again. “Now if you will excuse me, we must return to the barracks until we can sort all this out.”

“Before you go, Sergeant.” Jack spoke up. “Would you be kind enough to have Brigadier Barclay come around? I believe I may have some information about that new horse he asked me to look into.”

“I’m sorry, Sir.” Percy returned. “ The Brigadier has been called to London and shan’t be back for at least a fortnight. I shall, however, let him know the moment he arrives.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.” Jack said as the troop rode off towards Devonshire.



Malcolm leaned close to Henry Worthington. “This Johnson may prove interesting.”

“Sir?” Henry whispered back.

“Did you not notice? His black mount was lathered, and his last name was the same as the boy. I do believe this Mr. Johnson warrants a closer look once we settle this matter with the footmen. A much closer look.”

Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #40 on: July 07, 2009, 09:05:40 AM »
Josiah and Molly were preparing the kitchen for the mornings breakfast at The Crossbow when they heard the front door of the tavern open. The guests, travelers either on the way to Devonshire, or returning from there, had not yet stirred and it was indeed rare that any of the regular patrons would be calling this soon in the morn. Josiah walked for the door, wiping his hands on the ever present bar towel that hung from his side, prepared to explain that it would be a few more moments until the first meal of the day would be ready.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” the tavern keep exclaimed. “You I’d be expectin’, Jack, but what on Earth is Cecily doing’ about this time of the day? Last I’d heard she were at Moreland with the wee ones.”

“You don’t think I would allow him to return home without a proper welcome do you, Josiah?” Cecily teased.

“Nay. I suppose not.” Josiah laughed.

Molly emerged from the back, drying her own hands on her apron. “The two of you must be half starved, what with gallivanting about the countryside at all hours.”

“I’m afraid not, Molly.” Jack smiled. “Cecily brought a picnic with her as well. I do believe she is determined to keep me home by insuring that I’ll no longer fit into my old clothing.”

Cecily’s folded fan playfully rapped the back of his skull. “Were that true, Mr. Roberts, I would have force fed you half the livestock of England. However, I saw no need to force poor Raven to carry an unbearable weight for your sins!”

The sound of a horse’s whinny punctuated the jibe, sending the foursome into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

“Well said, Raven.” Cecily snickered breathlessly. “Still, I could use a nice cup of tea, if you don’t mind Molly.”

“Not at all, Dear.” Molly wiped her eyes with the corner of the apron. “The water’s hot already. Come, and we’ll leave these two to their business.”

As the two men watched their respective wives vanish into the kitchen Jack murmured. “There, Josiah, goes all the treasure a man needs in this life.”

Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #41 on: July 11, 2009, 10:04:07 PM »
Josiah nodded, "And if they can make an apple tart, all the much better!"
Jack laughed and patted his best friend on the stomach. "I can tell you are not deprived, old friend!"
The men walked into the tavern, the sound of feminine laughter punctuated the silence of the early morning.
Jack put his hand on his friend's shoulder and said, "I have something to do up in my old room."
"What is it?"
Jack shook his head. "Best that I don't tell you, Josiah. Ignorance is bliss."
He nodded. If Jack told him something, he was then a party to the event.
"I'll stay down here while you do whatever it is you need to do."
 
Jack opened the door to the safe room. How many times he had used it to lay low or when 'Robert Johnson' needed to disappear out of town for a while. It was a wonderful place to spend his time with Cecily too. She made the day less lonely.
He also felt a twinge of guilt as he remembered the one unexpected guest who stayed a few days--and nights.
Molly.
 
'All before I met Cecily,' Jack reasoned.
Cecily never knew. Jack and Molly had never given her any reason to suspect. And it would stay that way.
 
Jack lined his feet up under the single small casement window and counted off, one foot in front of the other.  One....two...three....fifteen...sixteen.
He lifted up the floorboard and carefully opened a small cedar chest. Rolling the documents up, he placed the chest back under the board and tapped it back in place gently.
No one could ever tell that the board had been pried loose.
 
Jack dusted off his hands and went downstairs to join his friend Josiah by the fireside for a splash of morning brandy.
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
Cecily arched her back to get the kinks out of it, rubbing the small of her back.
"I will be so glad when this nightmare is behind us. Why won't they let us live in peace, Molly?"
Molly set two cups of hot tea on the table and set a plate with buttered scones in front of Cecily.
She frowned, "Am I not getting plump enough, Molly?"
Molly laughed, "Only with baby. I have never seen a woman go right back to the same size right away! I should have been so fortunate!"
"Molly, you just had little Rose a few months ago! Don't be so harsh on yourself."
The buxom redhead tossed her copper curls. "Aye, well, Josiah likes me with a little meat on my bones. So I guess I am alright."
Cecily rubbed her stomach gently. "And I will be glad when this one makes his or her appearance. I have about four months to go."
"Annabelle will attend you again, yes?"
"I would have no one but her. I think only she could have delivered the twins."
Molly chuckled, "You should have seen Jack pacing back and forth. Geoff and George practically had to sit on him to keep him downstairs. And then he got two in the bargain!"
 
"Two of what bargain, Molly?"
Jack came into the kitchen, taking a scone off the table.
"Two babes for the price of one lying-in, Jack. Think lightning will strike twice in the same place, as it were?"
Molly gave Cecily a wink as she blushed.
"Wouldn't mind it, Molly. Wouldn't mind it at all."
Cecily retorted, 'Well, I would!"
They both looked at her and Cecily laughed, "It was like pushing a wagon out the window. Twice over."
Jack laughed and pulled his wife up to a standing position.
"And I say we go to Andrew's and see our little hay-wagons. What say you?"
Cecily linked her arm with Jack's and nodded.
"And I think we need to stay at Andrew's for a few days just to throw the redcoats off the track. After all, the Morleys are a force to be reckoned with in Cornwall," Jack mused.
Cecily yawned, "Sounds good to me."
"Then let's get going. Molly--Josiah--dinner at our place next Sunday?"
"We will see you then, Laddie," Josiah clapped him on the shoulder.

As they were going out the door, "Twins, Jack? If that happens again, you just may be bedding down with Raven until I forget the pain...."
« Last Edit: July 14, 2009, 04:18:09 PM by Welsh Wench »
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Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #42 on: August 03, 2009, 09:58:14 AM »
“Well, now.” Jack deliberately raised his voice while attempting to keep a nonchalant tone. “I wonder just where my two rapscallions could be at this hour?”

Cecily placed one hand over her lips to stifle the rising giggle. They had stopped at a breeder Jack had known just outside of Devonshire. Jack knew well horseflesh and had soon selected a beautiful white Welsh pony. At only six years old, the twelve hands high mare had the well-laid back shoulder, deep chest, short back, well-sprung rib cage indicative of the hardy breed. The spirited yet calm nature of the pony only added to his choice. As if impatient to meet her new owner the pony snorted and shook her long white mane.

Suddenly the double doors of Moreland Manor burst open and two small sets of legs began to race down the marble stone steps, only to be brought to a skidding halt by the sight of the animal Jack held the reigns to. Cecily had chosen a shining black saddle with silver trim accents that seemed to gleam all the more for the contrast of the horse’s coat.

“Oh, Da!” Little Jamie gasped, her little hands held to her mouth in an uncanny imitation of her mother. “Is she mine?!…She is a she, isn’t she?!”

Jack Roberts chuckled and dropped to one knee in front of his daughter. “In deed she is, but you’ll have to name her, my little Jamie.”

Suddenly Jack found his neck seized in an ever tightening bear hug from the girl’s tiny arms. “Oh thank you, Da! Thank you!”

“Only, Da?” Cecily teased. The lovely blonde mother found herself struggling to hold her balance as a twin of the hug pinned her knees together.

“Of course you, too, Mama!” The little girl squealed in delight. “Can Jeremy and me go riding now?!!”

“Only after you change your clothing.” Cecily beamed warmly. “That pretty dress isn’t made for riding. And the two of you must take one of the stable hands with you.”

Jamie clapped her small hands together in delight. “Come on Jeremy! We’re going riding!” The twins raced past Andrew and Jane as they disappeared into the doorway.

"My horse is bigger." Jeremy teased as they rushed off.

Andrew laughed as they walked down the steps to greet his sister and brother-in law. Jack straightened his caviler hat and lightly rubbed the back of his neck in mock discomfort as he reached for Andrew’s hand. “That is twice today your sister has saved my neck.” He grinned.

Andrew motioned for a porter to take Jamie’s new horse to the stable. “No doubt, Robert. Come inside and we’ll hear the tale over a brandy.”

“Now that, Dear brother, is one of the best offers we’ve had today.” Cecily smiled, planting a quick peck on Andrew’s cheek.



Malcolm sealed the envelope with the red wax and pressed his seal deeply into the rapidly cooling liquid. Rising from the small table in the guest quarters he crossed to the door and rapped it sharply. A youthful corporal swung the heavy oak door open in response.

“Yes, Sir?”

Malcolm handed the closed parchment and two gold sovereigns to the man. “The letter is ready. Do you remember the address of my man in Devon shire?”

“That I do, Sir.”

“Very good.” Malcolm smiled. As soon as the courier arrives dispatch him to that address, my man will see to the rest.” The young guard nodded and closed the door gently. A click let Malcolm know that it was once again locked.

“Now, Mr. Worthington, should all go well we shall find ourselves free of this gilded prison in less than a fortnight.”

“And then, Lord Dagget?”

“Then, my good man, we shall begin to make some serious inquiries into the life of one Robert Johnson.”
« Last Edit: August 03, 2009, 10:05:29 AM by Blackjack Roberts »

Offline Blackjack Roberts

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #43 on: August 15, 2009, 10:28:46 AM »
“And I must say, Sir Maxwell, I fear this rising discontent in the colonies will strain the royal coffers to…” The timid knock at the study’s ornate oak doors reverberated much louder in the large room none the less. Lord Terrance Blackwood allowed himself a slight, momentary frown of irritation before rising from the well upholstered lounging chair seated at an angle before the lazily burning fireplace. Placing the brandy glass on the small mahogany serving table between him and Sir John Maxwell relaxing in the chair’s twin, he half bowed.

“Forgive the interruption, Sir Maxwell. I left orders not to be disturbed.”

“Think nothing of it, Lord Blackwood.” The aging Parliament member waved his empty hand languidly. “I’m sure it must be important if your servants see fit to disobey your orders. We shall continue our conversation on your return.”

“My thanks and apologies, Sir.”

Terrance Blackwood strode to the door, his temper barely under control. At the least the servant who had dared to ignore his wishes would earn the tongue lashing of their lives. To start. Gripping the fancy polished brass door latch his fist tightened into a bloodless knot around the hapless metal. Pushing down he opened the door no more than a foots width.

“I left strict orders not to be disturbed, you motherless lout!” Terrance’s whisper hissed with venom between his teeth.

“P-please forgive me, My Lord!” The quaking, well dressed youth bowed quickly. “I would never have disturbed my lord were it not for this.” The sealed letter quivered in the air as the frightened houseboy offered it to his master. “It were sent a week ago from Devonshire by the date, and bears the mark of Lord Dagget.”

Blackwood’s mood changed with a startling quickness. “Well done, Tobias.” He whispered softly. “You have served me well. Forgive my temper and take yourself to the kitchen. Tell the cook to allow you whatever pastry you desire.”

“Thank you, My Lord. Thank you!” The boy whispered back bowing several times before Blackwood closed the door quietly. Returning to the fireplace he slipped the letter inside his blue satin overcoat, retrieved his brandy and sat down.

Whatever Malcolm had to report could wait a few moments longer. He had invested too much time in having several key seats in the House of Lords visit with him to allow this one to pass untainted. Politics demanded subtlety if he were ever to claim his rightful place.

“Nothing too upsetting I trust, Lord Blackwood?” Maxwell offered nonchalantly.

“Nay, Lord Maxwell. Just a mare of mine coming into foal.” Sir Terrance lied. “I properly reprimanded the servant and sent him on his way.”

Blackwood sipped his brandy before continuing. “Now, where were we? Ah, yes! The colonies. Please understand, Sir Maxwell, my concern is for both the crown and England.”

“Of course, Lord Blackwood.”

Offline Welsh Wench

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Re: The Highwayman: Legacy
« Reply #44 on: August 17, 2009, 08:58:58 PM »
Jack stretched his legs out as he sat on the couch in Andrew's study. Cecily curled next to him, his arm around her.
"Andrew, I don't mind admitting it was a bit dicey for a bit. But your sister is one of the best little actresses I know. Cool as a cucumber, too."
Andrew handed Jack his brandy.
"Sis? Can I get you one?"
She shook her head no. "I'll just have this sherry. Where is Jane?"
"She and her mother went calling. She should be home in a few hours."
Cecily yawned. "I am exhausted. Andrew, Jack and I would like to stay here a few days if you don't mind. We need a few days to relax. And Moreland is a virtual fortress."
"Cecily, you know this is always your home. You and Jack always are welcome in your old room. Jaimie and Jeremy have been using it but they can move down to the nursery."
 
Andrew walked over to the window and looked out.
"The item--is it in a safe place?"
Jack answered, "It is."
Andrew said softly,"Who would have ever thought such a piece of paper could wreak such havoc on a kingdom?"
"Only if it gets out, Andrew. Malcolm Daggett is going to extremes. But he's not working alone. There is a network out there. And it goes higher than we know. Just who is the question."
Jack looked pensive. Cecily grew alarmed.
"Jack, please! Please tell me this is the end of it."
He and Andrew exchanged glances.
"I wish I could say it was, my sweet. But as long as that paper exists, the monarchy is in a precarious position."
"So burn it! Toss it into a million pieces and burn it to ashes! Jack, your allegiance is not to England. It is to me and the children."
She unconsciously rubbed her stomach as if to soothe the child within.
She added where it would prick him the most. "And need I remind you that your mother was Irish? That you are half Irish and your children carry that blood within them? Do you think your grand-da--who lost his land and his life to the English--would not champion your right to a quiet, peaceful life for you and his descendants?"
Jack could sense the creeping hysteria in her voice.
He reached over and grasped her hand, looking her fully in the eyes. "Need I remind you, my love, that you are English? That your lands have been held by Morleys since the Domesday book?"
She looked over at Andrew and he nodded solemnly.
"Jack is right, Cecily."
She looked from one to the other, the look of fear in her eyes.
Jack held her close and whispered, "I shall not take any unnecessary chances, darling. If it looks like it is getting too hot, I shall step back."
"And if they try to blame you? And try to hang Blackjack Roberts on you? What then?"
He looked over to Andrew with a knowing look.
"Then we move to the Colonies."
Andrew said grimly, "And I won't be far behind, Cec."
She gave a shuddering sigh.
"Alright for now. But I want to be informed of every single move, Jack. No more sheltering me."
He kissed her and said, "I swear on my life, Cecily. No more secrets."
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