To my wife
Sonnet, to Beryl.
Sing to the Lord a glad new Song
Ar Lan y Mor
Jesus we have come to honour
The Night that is Different
Lady of Foxdale (extract)
Daughter of the King (Extract)
An Extract from Daughter of the King ©by Malcolm
This story is a sequel to Lady of Foxdale. The complete story is available
Chapter 1 - Mary
In the last week of winter, just after dawn, Mary of Foxdale rode out
with Heveldra, the Lady Duke of Foxmouth. Officially it was to check the
Foxmouth farmlands after the winter's storms. Mary suspected that, more
truthfully, it was because the older woman never tired of looking at the
homeland from which she had been exiled for so many years.
'This is where we came that night we fled the duchy, after my father was
murdered,' Heveldra said to her, remembering as they rode, 'it's the old
imperial road up to the pass to Foxdale and the Ruetli mountains. My family
passed laws forbidding any taking of the stones for building, because
it gives such fast access up towards the mountain passes. That's what
saved us that night, we couldn't be tracked as long as we stayed on the
hard road. Kir Ara had men out after us in every direction after his seizure
of the Duchy.'
'They say the old Duke of Kir Ara was a ruthless killer.' commented Mary.
'If he had been the one I captured six years ago instead of his son, then
I couldn't have released him, even with the freedom of Foxmouth as weregeld.
I'm still not sure I did right to release his son.'
'I don't think that as a Warden you had any choice, it was the best judgement
possible at the time, and he has kept his nose clean so far, at least
for the treaties with us. But I agree, I don't trust him.'
They fell silent again for a few minutes, as they rode on. Past the workshop
where Heveldra's people were building their world's first printing press,
based on Mary's memories of English technology, past the dam that provided
the new piped water for the town and castle of Foxmouth. Finally, under
the shadow of the trees, they turned into the long valley that led up
'It's always good to visit Foxmouth,' said Mary, looking at the lush lowland
woods and the steep slopes beyond, 'but we must be going back up to the
mountains to Foxdale tomorrow. All our people will be starting sowing
soon, and Joni and I need to do our part. I think the children are missing
home as well. Joni-ni was asking me last night when he'd see all his friends
Heveldra smiled at the twenty year old memory of her children as babies.
'Tell them the answer is soon,' she said, as she turned her horse onto
the beginning of the long climb up to Foxdale.
The old imperial roads were usually straight, but in the mountains even
their stubborn builders had been forced to compromise. The road swung
back and forth, and at each turn a new view of the country opened out.
Before them lay the rich level farmland of the Foxmouth lands, with occasional
small woods and villages, stretching out green and fertile to the wide
slow-flowing Ara. The word 'Ara' meant literally river, but when people
said 'The Ara', there was only one river they referred to, the Great River.
Mary gazed out over the view, feeling contentment. It was now over six
years since she had found herself in this world. At first it had been
terrifying to find herself in a strange world, not even knowing how she
had come to be there.
As she had learnt the language she had learnt to love the people, and
to join with them in their struggle to keep their freedom. In the mountain
valley of Foxdale, Mary had found a man she loved and, when in his absence
Foxdale had been attacked, she had led his people to victory. Now Foxdale
and all the Ruetli mountains felt as much home as her old home in England
had ever been. Kirian, the language of the Western Lands, was as familiar
to her as English had once been. She had a home, a husband, a family and
a place she had won for herself. She was satisfied.
Beyond the river lay the duchy of Kir Ara, the first of the lands subject
to the rule of Kir Vor and Moy-Tan, the ruler in all but name of Kir Vor.
The contours of the land were the same, but the richness had gone. Fields
lacked the fertile greenness and the villages were smaller and fewer.
Only in the occasional deep defile could the green on the far side match
the lushness of Foxmouth.
Lower down the river Mary could just make out Kir Ara, the fortress on
the Ara. Crouched high on its rock, the grim shape of Kir Ara castle rose
black and ominous against the skyline, looming over the low buildings
of the town of Kir Ara which huddled at its feet.
After a few switch back bends the road ran straight and level through
trees for a short space. Heveldra turned her horse towards a small shelter
by a muddy side track leading down to one of the smaller settlements and
dismounted. She swung the stump of her left leg across the saddle and
slid down. With casual ease she balanced on her one good leg while she
lifted her crutches from their resting place at the back of her saddle,
but leaving her great longsword in its scabbard. Then she led Mary over
to a stone bench in the shelter, where they could look out over the whole
They sat down together on the cool stone. Behind them the ground dropped
away into a deep cleft. Below, the Fox river crashed noisily over stones
on its way down from the mountains to the Ara but here all was quiet and
still, not even the birds sang.
'I always come here,' Heveldra started to say, 'just for a few moments
to look at all my home, that I never thought I'd see again.' Then her
voice broke off. Mary looked back from the far-away river to see two strange
men emerge from the trees opposite. One carried some kind of bundle, the
other had his sword drawn. Uncertain but wary, Mary's hand automatically
grasped for her sword, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Heveldra
reach down to the sliding knobs at the top of her crutches.
There was a rustle behind them, and Mary's blood ran suddenly cold as
three more came round the sides of the shelter, two holding small crossbows
pointing at the women.
'Hands off the swords, please, ladies.' The older of the first two men
had a strong Kir Vor accent. His words were courteous but his voice was
cold and inhuman. Mary raised her empty hand slowly and helplessly away
from her weapon, the man gestured to the others and the two without crossbows
stepped forward towards Mary.
The unexpected nightmare seemed to slow time down. She watched, her mind
filled with icy horror, as they took her sword and the knife from her
belt. They ran their hands over her body, impersonally like a butcher
handling a piece of meat, to check for other hidden weapons, but as they
did so they came between her and Heveldra.
Like many before them they had seen Heveldra's crutches and viewed her
as a mere cripple, and no threat. If they had remembered the stories of
the Warrior Duke better, then they might have thought twice before making
such an assumption.
Heveldra acted at once. Putting her weight on her leg and her left crutch
she whirled the right crutch up, knocking the weapon out of the hands
of the bowman on her side of the shelter. It flipped into the air, the
bolt making a whirring noise as it shot wild into the trees. Then, as
the others started to turn, alarmed, she brought the crutch down again
in a blow straight at the man's head. He grunted and collapsed, his head
covered in blood.
The men who had frisked Mary were now turned towards Heveldra. Uncertain
how to handle a woman armed only with crutches, the man in front hesitated
for one fatal moment. It was enough. Her fingers slid down the sliding
knobs at the top of her crutches and four rows of sharp spikes clicked
out from the long metal staffs.
Standing one legged, and with a face turned into a mask of fury, she raised
both crutches to shoulder height and smashed them inwards into the cheeks
of the man before her. He staggered back, face ruined and ripped apart.
She leapt one long stride forward to seize him. Her crutches hung loose
from her arms, as with her left hand she grasped him by his belt, while
her right hand snaked to his knife and pressed the point into the man's
kidneys to threaten him. But he was beyond threats. Blood poured from
his ravaged face as, overcome by pain, he pulled out of her hands and
fell to his knees, blinded and screaming in agony.
Mary took her chance, six years of the regular weekly training for all
swordbearers took over, and she acted with a smooth calm that defied the
desperate fear in her heart. Her sword was held by the other man, but
it was still within reach and only held lightly.
She seized the man's arm and swung him in front of her, twisting the wrist
as she did so. It was a move she had practised a hundred times in training,
but never in deadly danger. It worked, with a lifting of her heart she
felt the sword fall into her hand. Then there was a twang, the man jumped
in her grasp, and slumped, with the head of the bolt from the remaining
crossbow sticking out of his back.
Dimly aware of the crossbow man cursing, she dropped the body and spun
round to face him. Her sword flashed, and his crossbow whirled broken
away into the undergrowth, while the man cursed again as grabbed his bruised
That left one. She spun round again to face the remaining attacker But
it was too late, her short-lived victory collapsed as quickly as it had
begun. He had thrown the bundle that he carried, and it spread out into
a net that fell over her and tangled her limbs. He pulled on the ends
of the ropes that he still held, and the net tightened around her, unbalanced
her and she fell, dragged in dreadful helplessness towards him.
That was the end of the fight. Beside the shelter Heveldra still stood,
a frustrated fury, surrounded by three enemies, one unconscious, one dead,
one lying wrapped up in his pain. One of the crossbows lay at her foot,
the other was lost in bushes. Neither of the two men dared to attack her
with just their swords, but she could not walk and defend herself at the
'Get rid of their horses,' the man with the net ordered his last remaining
colleague, 'then tie the brown one up properly. We were paid to get the
one legged biddy alive, but this one will do just as well. Leave the other,
she's too dangerous to take, but she can't move.'
'What about them?' The crossbow man gestured to his colleagues lying on
'Leave them, they're casualties and no use to us now. Get the brown woman
The callousness alone confirmed where they had come from. Only one set
of men in this world would be quite so ruthless to their own fallen. If
she had not guessed before, she now knew beyond all doubt. She was again
in the hands of men sent by Moy-Tan, mayor of the Palace of Kir Vor, and
the knowledge was like a black pit of dread within her.
The ropes tightened round her, binding her arms to her side, making her
utterly immobile and helpless. Resistance was useless.
'Tell Joni,' she shouted to Heveldra as the man reached through the mesh
of rope and took the sword back. Then in case she didn't survive, she
added, 'and tell him I love him and the children.'
Then they picked her up and carried her, still struggling futilely, through
the trees and dropped her onto a cart of the type commonly used by the
local farmers. The last she heard was Heveldra's voice in passionate rage.
'Run back to Moy-Tan then. But I swear that one day you will kneel before
me and weep for my forgiveness. And then I will do justice on you and
your stinking lord.'
The sound of Heveldra's fury faded as they moved away. Now Mary was utterly
alone, and desperately afraid, not just for herself, but for her husband
Joni, twice in his life losing a woman he loved to the Mayor's killers,
for her children losing a mother, especially for Mary-nin, who would have
lost two mothers in turn. Then the men took her mouth and forced it open
and poured something foul-tasting down her throat, and the world swam
away in confusion and nausea.
* * *
When she came to herself, she was in a boat, lying along the bottom,
while her captors sat facing her as they rowed. It had to be the Ara,
she thought, so I must have been out at least an hour while they drove
the cart here. Worse, it meant they were probably already beyond help
and into Kir Ara territory. She tried to take stock. She was sore, suggesting
rough handling but no worse. Her nausea was less, but still bad, and she
had been dumped in a pool of water in the bottom of the boat, which left
the whole of her left side soaked. She was still tied, and couldn't even
move her arms.
There was a bump, as they hit the far bank, and a mumble of voices as
the boat was pulled inshore. Then hands lifted her, pulled back her hair
to inspect her, and a satisfied voice said, 'Excellent. I set my trap
for a little Duchess and I found we've caught the Queen, or do I say netted
As if to strengthen the insult he used the Kirian words for Duke's wife
and King's wife, Dusha and Frenhana, rather than Duxa or Frenna, the words
for a female ruling in her own right.
'She'll do though. You have my reward. Now take her to the castle for
today, but keep her safe and unharmed, and clean her up as well. Then
bring her to me in Kir Vor. I've got plans for her, and I don't want her
to die on me first.'
The voice spoke the common Kirian tongue with a harsh, strong Lowland
accent. She had never heard the speaker before, but she knew the voice.
It was the same combination of smug selfishness coupled with small-minded
nastiness that she had heard in his son, when he had held her prisoner
in a cave high on the Ruetli plateau. Her captor was Moy-Tan himself,
the Mayor and would-be king of Kir Vor, the man whose son she had hanged
for mass murder.
They carried her away to another cart, and loaded her onto it, much as
one would load a sack of potatoes, and with as much care. The cart set
off with a bump and as the jolting hit her, so did her last reserves of
courage run out and she broke down and wept with despair and hopelessness
They rattled through sunlight, then under the shade of leaves, out into
sunlight again, and finally into an empty dark echoing space that led
into an enclosed courtyard. The cart stopped and hands lifted her out
and half dragged, half carried her inside. It had to be Kir Ara, she thought
muzzily, it was the only fortified castle within reach apart from Foxmouth.
Faces passed in a blur. A kitchen maid, her mouth open with surprise and
a touch of pity, a guard gazing curiously, just a young lad really, his
eyes eager to see this fabled enemy with the strange dark skin. Then a
door opened and she was in the Duke's great hall.
They dropped her down in front of him. She fell on carpet, but it still
hurt. She tried to look up defiantly, but her strength was gone and it
was all she could do to raise her head off the floor.
The Duke was much the same as last time they had met, a vain foolish popinjay,
except that this time their roles were reversed. He must have thought
the same thing, as he sneered.
'Welcome to my other castle, my lady, it's the one you didn't steal from
me remember. "Foxmouth for your ransom" you said. No not quite,
it was some mountain word, wasn't it. "Foxmouth for your weregeld"
that was it, such a quaint word - weregeld. What will your ransom be,
I wonder? Sorry, I mean your weregeld of course.'
His mouth smiled, but the eyes behind the face were empty as if the man
who should have lived there had died many years ago.
A soldier stepped forward; it was the man whose net had trapped her. 'My
Lord Duke, the Mayor has given express orders for her. She is for his
use in Kir Vor, not for Kir Ara or its Duke.' His words were apologetic,
but the tone was that of a man who knew he held the power.
The two men's eyes clashed for a brief moment, then the Duke dropped his
gaze and turned away.
'Oh, take her then, Irik. I don't really want her. I just wanted to know
what she would look like grovelling for mercy, like she made me grovel
all those years ago. I might even have been nice to her and given her
a good time, if she had learned properly.'
'My lord, it is the Mayor's order,' the man Irik was adamant, she had
never thought she would feel gratitude to any of Kir Vor, but she did
They took her again, this time down smaller darker passages into the heart
of the castle, till they came to a corridor of small cells. They took
her into the first empty one, laid her face down on the straw covered
bed, and cut her bonds.
She couldn't struggle or stand up, her muscles were too cramped, but she
did manage to roll over onto her side, so that she could watch them.
'Here's food, and water to drink.' They put two bowls on a stone bench
on the side wall of the cell.
She lifted her head with an effort to look at them. 'Thank you for that
at least, not just the food, for not giving me to the Duke.'
Irik gave a cold laugh as he slammed the door shut again. 'Don't thank
me yet. The Mayor wants you taken to Kir Vor in these chains for his own
revenge for his son's death. When you know what he has planned, you may
decide the Duke would have been preferable.'
They left, and Mary looked after them with a cold horror creeping all
through her body.
Somehow she slept, and even forced down some of the food, to keep her
strength in case somehow the chance of escape came. But she knew the reputation
of Kir Ara, no-one had ever taken it against its lord's will, and no-one
had ever escaped from the cells where now she lay.
When she awoke the next time she found a young girl bringing her next
meal, escorted by two guards. More bread and a thin gruel were passed
through the long thin gap in the bars. Mary took the tray, then as the
girl released her side of the tray her hand slipped forward, and a thin
piece of paper was pushed into Mary's hands.
She kept the paper under the tray as she ate, until the guards were gone,
then took it over to the thin shaft of light that filtered down from the
The words were few and scrawled in haste, 'Foxmouth knows, courage.'