A Man of Value
Book II The Montbryce Legacy
The saga continues. Can our hero come to terms with his newly discovered identity, or will he always be unworthy?
Agneta Kirkthwaite is an orphan sent to a nunnery after the death of her parents. With the help of local villagers, she rescues a wounded warrior from the battlefield at Alnwick in 1093. Norman forces under the Earl of Northumberland decimated the Scots, killing their King, Malcolm Canmore.
The warrior’s iron helmet was badly dented and partly knocked off and she suspected a blow to the head had taken his wits. A livid gash snaked from his right temple down to his chin. It had bled, but wasn’t deep and the blade had missed his eye. The purple bruising made it look worse than it probably was. She couldn’t tell if any bones were broken beneath his heavy, blood-stained hauberk. The worst injury seemed to be a deep, angry wound to the front of his right thigh. It still oozed blood through the slashed leggings.
She held out her hand and Thomas helped her to her feet. “I can’t do much in the field, Thomas. He’s obviously a knight. We must get him back to the nunnery. Carry him over to the haywain. Can you pry his hand from his sword? It might take three of you to lift him. He’s not a small man.”
There was something vaguely familiar about him. An acquaintance of her father’s maybe? Perhaps this one was worth saving? She hoisted her habit, slogged her way back across the field, and stumbled into the oxcart.
“Lay him with his head on my lap,” she instructed. She would be uncomfortable, sitting on the rough planking of the haywain with the knight’s heavy weight on her. The villagers, already exhausted by the difficult expedition across the field, struggled to lift the warrior. His helmet fell to the ground, and Thomas, breathing hard, stooped to retrieve it, tethering the reins of the warrior’s horse to one of the rough-hewn wooden slats. The animal was further alarmed by the proximity of the oxen, and pulled away, jolting the cart and causing Agneta’s hands to fly to her mouth.
The man filled the two-wheeled cart. She felt overwhelmed by his size, pinned against the side by his malodorous body. She pushed against the rough wood, trying to shift her weight, her bottom already feeling numb. A spile of wood pierced her hand. She resolved to deal with it later. “Gilbert, please tell Mother Superior we’re taking a casualty back to the infirmary. Go, Thomas. Quickly.”
Thomas led the beasts along the rutted track at what seemed like an interminably slow pace. The lumbering dragons snorted frozen breaths on the frigid air. Agneta peeled off the hood of the knight’s hauberk. His long black hair was plastered to his head with sweat. There was no blood. She felt a large swelling on the back of his head.
“He has the look of a Norman, though his hair is too long,” she mused, brushing back a strand from across his face. She was calmer now, more in control. Detachment, mantra of the nuns, took over. She assessed the man’s pallor. Careful to keep his head cradled on her lap, she used her other hand to press the linen cloths from the infirmary against his wounded thigh, trying to stem the blood. She shivered as the cold November wind gusted around them, but felt the warmth of the warrior’s head on her thighs. “Looks like rain,” she suddenly shouted to Thomas, who peered at the sky, coughed, spat and grunted.
A deep groan emanated from the man’s throat, reverberating through her, destroying her fledgling confidence and making her sweat despite the cold. Sixteen when she was brought to the nunnery, she had no knowledge of men, except for her darling brothers, brutally slaughtered by the likes of this warrior. She looked down at him and noticed his lips were parched. She licked her own. She had to get his weight off her—soon.
When they arrived at the community, monks and laymen hurried out to assist in carrying the man to the recently constructed infirmary. She breathed a sigh of relief as the weight was lifted from her, but missed the warmth on her legs as the cold trickled back into his sweat on her habit.