Summary: Daniel is in trouble and is saved by his knight in shining armour
Info: This is definitely an AU story. I say this because it is set during the period of medieval England! The story is based on Ivanhoe, written by Walter Scott and published in 1814. Huge thanks to Cherubino for inspiring me to write this and for her beta job. Thanks also to Jude and her brain, Annie for supporting me in this project and to Imagine for cheerleading
A while later Baal met up with Harry de Bracy in the dining hall.
"How goes it Harry?" Baal asked feeling somewhat out of sorts. He hadn't expected that Daniel would have the effect on him that he did. He was rather at a loss to know quite how to react.
"By the bones of Thomas à Becket," muttered Harry, "the Lady Samantha must have heard that I cannot endure the sight and sound of a woman crying."
"Surely a few teardrops on the flame of love makes it burn brighter, Bracy. You give up too easily."
"Really? And how was yours, Baal?"
"I think the devil got to my prize first," the Templar responded with a depressed air.
Just then they were joined by a very disgruntled Cronus Front de Boeuf, whose inquisition of Nick had been interrupted before he could get started. He was waving a piece of paper in his hand and frowning.
"I have tried to read this but when I was a boy my letters were shaped like spearheads and sword blades so my teacher gave up," he said with every ounce of bad temper he could summon.
"Let me see," Baal demanded virtually snatching the message from the knight's hand. It seemed that the day had been unproductive for all of them. "It says there is a small army at the door."
"Is this a joke? Read it, Sir Knight and be quick about it!" Cronus growled.
Baal straightened the piece of paper and cleared his throat, like a herald announcing some great episode of history. "I Charles Kawalski, joker to a noble and free-born man, Jacob Carter of the Saxon Great Court and I Teal'c the son of Beowulf, the swineherd..."
"Have you lost your mind?" snapped Cronus.
"By my honour, this is what is written," Baal said irritated by his companion's lack of patience and unreasonable temper. Continuing with his task, he snapped the paper as if to demand silence while he read. "I Teal'c son of Beowulf, swineherd of the said Jacob have the assistance of our allies and confederates to support our cause. The good knight called Le Noir Fainéant is one of our worthiest friends and stands with us this day. You, Cronus Front de Boeuf and your allies and accomplices stand accused of wrongfully seizing upon the person of our lord and master the said Jacob, the noble and free-born damsel the Lady Samantha, a noble and free-born man Athelstane of Coningsburgh, certain other free-born men known as the Diggers and the serfs of Jacob, his born bondsmen and certain horses and mules.
We demand the return of all of those you have taken, untouched and unharmed within the hour. If you do not do this you shall be held as robbers and traitors and we shall declare war on you and engage you in battle until the day is won."
The three knights leaned in to study the signatures given at the bottom of the very wordy message underneath the legend naming the person who had written it on behalf of those who signed it. The letter was written by a holy man, Clerk to God in the Chapel of Copmanhurst. Underneath was the spidery scrawl of Kawalski, a cross as the mark of Teal'c, the rough bold characters of Le Noir Fainéant and a perfectly drawn arrow with the name of Locksley underneath it.
The three then stared at each other in silent disbelief that such a document should be served on them. De Bracy broke the hush with a bout of hoarse laughter, almost like the braying of a donkey which then sent the Templar into gales of laughter too. Only Cronus did not laugh.
"What's the matter, Cronus?" asked Harry, "Can't you take a joke? A joker and a swineherd declaring war on us? I haven't had such a good laugh for a long while."
"This is not a laughing matter," grunted Front de Boeuf. "Don't you see that a clown and a pig minder wouldn't have written this unless they had powerful allies and the strength to follow through their threat? I knew I shouldn't have let you use my castle for this preposterous charade."
Turning to his attendant, the man who was charged with delivering the message, Cronus enquired about the size of the force waiting outside his gates.
"There are at least two hundred men assembled in the woods, my lord."
"See! I said I shouldn't have let you borrow my castle for such a ridiculous plot! Now you've brought a nest of hornets around my ears."
"Oh pshaw, Cronus," retorted Bracy. "They are nothing but stingless drones; a band of lazy knaves who would rather steal the venison out of your forest than labour to look after it."
"Why don't we go out and give them a taste of real knighthood?" suggested Baal, "except I would be ashamed to tilt my lance at such a crowd of ne'er do wells."
"They are not frightened members of Salaadin's army or a group of snivelling French peasants! They're stout English yeomen who, in the East, fought alongside us. You know they could be a force to be reckoned with and we are only twenty against their two hundred," Front de Boeuf said, his voice rising in tone and volume with frustration at his companions' apparent lack of seriousness. "I could lose my castle because of you!" he stormed, "and there is no one else to call on. Ra Malvoisin is in York for a start."
"Well, we'll send a message and get him back, along with my supporters," de Bracy said.
"And who will take the message, Harry? All the routes away from here will be watched but if we were to send a cleric he might get out without being suspected. Baal, you can write. Find something to make a message."
"My lord, I believe old Catherine Langford has writing materials," the attendant offered.
"Good, go and get them and hurry," responded Cronus regaining his equilibrium, "and Baal, you compose a strong message to be delivered to these dogs."
"I'd rather use the point of my sword than the point of a pen," muttered Baal, "but I'll do as you wish, Cronus."
A little while later, Baal sat at a table with a large piece of paper and a quill pen while the other two stood looking over his shoulder as he wrote.
"Cronus Front de Boeuf with his noble and knightly allies and confederates, receive no defiances at the hands of slaves, bondsmen or fugitives. If the person calling himself the Black Knight has indeed a claim to the honours of chivalry, he ought to know that he stands degraded by his present association and has no right to ask reckoning at the hands of good men of noble blood. Regarding the prisoners we have made, we do in Christian charity require you to send a man of religion, to receive their confession and reconcile them with God; since it is our fixed intention to execute them today before dusk, so that their heads being placed on the battlements, shall show to all men how lightly we esteem those who have bestirred themselves in their rescue. Wherefore, as above, we require you to send a priest to reconcile them to God, in doing which you shall render them the last earthly service."
When the letter had been folded it was given to a squire to deliver to the waiting army.
Kawalski, Teal'c, Locksley, the Black Knight and Urgo were gathered by an ancient elm and along with their force, waited impatiently for Front de Boeuf's answer. The army was made up of skilled yeoman archers, local townsmen from the neighbouring surrounds and bondsmen from Jacob's estate.
When the message arrived the only person able to read the language of the Normans was the Black Knight. After he had finished reading it aloud, all within earshot were shocked that the people they had come to rescue were under threat of execution.
"We should attack now and tear down the castle," Teal'c said darkly.
"We have nothing to tear it with," Kawalski quipped, "but we could undermine its foundations from the inside," he grinned.
"You mean go inside disguised as the priest they have requested?" asked the Black Knight, warming to the idea immediately.
"Yes," nodded the joker enthusiastically. "I was nearly a monk before I was a comedian. I'm sure I can get away with it," he smiled reaching out to take a suitable garment offered to him by someone at the rear of their makeshift army.
When he was dressed and with the large heavy cowl over his head Teal'c took him to one side. "My friend, I hope your head is as hard as a piece of rock but that your brain is as fertile as a politician's. I wish you luck."
"Thanks, T. Save me a piece of roasted venison. I'll be back," Kawalski said flippantly and waved to his friend as he set off.
Arriving at the gates, Kawalski tried to assume the bearing of a priest and muttering phrases of broken Latin, gained entry to the castle. He was ushered into the large hall and came face to face with Cronus. Feigning reverent fear the Norman's suspicions remained dormant and after, Kawalski was led to the room containing Jacob and Athelstane.
When Charlie was shown in, the Saxons were surprised to see a priest. They were unaware of the threat to their lives at this point until the joker explained his mission.
"I'm here to swap places with you, Jacob and get you out of here," Kawalski hissed, afraid their conversation might be over heard.
"You would do this for me, Charlie? Even after all my bad tempered outbursts?"
"I have always been loyal to you, Jacob because I love you as my master and as a father. Now go, take my place and be as priestly as you can. The others are relying on you to give them information about the layout of the castle and where Front de Boeuf's forces are and how many."
Once they had swapped clothes, Kawalski and Jacob smiled at each other before embracing. Jacob knew that he might not see his trusty joker again and for Charlie the feeling was mutual.
Glancing over his shoulder, Jacob rapped on the door and was escorted out of the room by a waiting soldier. Now he was left to his own devices Jacob tried to work out his route through the castle to the courtyard and gates but before he had gone very far he was met by an old woman who pulled him into an empty room, closing the door quickly behind her.
Fetching some wine from a cupboard she placed it on the table in front of the man and bade him quench his thirst.
"Please, sir," she began her voice tremulous. "I believe you are Saxon."
"I am, dear lady," Jacob replied as he drank. "Why do you ask?"
"It's good to hear my native tongue again after so long," she said, her eyes fixed on him with curiosity.
"Do you never seen a Saxon priest?" Jacob asked surprised by the woman's interest in him.
"No. No one ever comes here," she said her voice trailing off.
"I must go, I have other confessions to hear," Jacob said quickly, with the feeling that there was more to this woman than met the eye and he suspected staying any longer in her company could attract attention to him or worse still, attract trouble.
"Please stay just a little longer," she begged, "for I have a story to tell you that might give you the means to end my suffering."
"Lady?" Jacob started. Was she going to ask him to help her commit suicide? That was something completely unacceptable to such a god-fearing and superstitious society.
"Once I was honoured, happy, loved and beloved. I have not always been the wretch you see now," she said. "I am Catherine Langford, daughter of the noble Thane of Torquilstone."
"You are the daughter of Torquil Wolfganger?"
"I understood that there were no survivors from Torquil's family," commented Jacob, "but you managed it?"
"I did by becoming Carl Front de Boeuf's slave and lover, the partaker of his pleasures," the woman sobbed, "and every breath I have taken since has been a crime and a curse." She buried her face in her hands and wept uncontrollably.
"You hated him yet you chose life? Could you find nothing with which to end it?" the Saxon pressed, shocked that his kinswoman would have chosen this dreadful life with the murderer of her family rather than end her own and atone for the sin of such an unholy alliance.
"I waited in vain for my fellow Saxons to save me but none came," she retorted accusingly. "I could have killed myself but I would have brought dishonour to the name of Torquil. You have given me the chance of seeking true justice for my cause at last," she said gripping Jacob's arm tightly.
"What? How do you mean?" he asked suspiciously. What was the poor woman ranting about?
"I know about the army that waits outside the gates and I know you have changed places with your serf in order to escape and aid the rescue of the others. I can help you win your battle, Jacob."
Carter looked at Catherine and judged by her steady gaze and her firm mouth that she truly meant to help.
"What have you got in mind, Catherine?" he asked gently. "Tell me your plan."
"Just look for my signal and be ready," she told him breathlessly.
"What signal?" he asked becoming a little irritated by the woman's enigmatic statements.
"You will know," she said showing him to the door of the little room. "You will know my signal as it reaches to the sky," she smiled. "God speed to you and yours, Jacob."
As the Saxon made his way through the dark apartments of the castle, his cowl pulled well down over his head, he considered that he had one more chamber to pass through before he reached the courtyard gate. In doing so Jacob came upon Cronus Front de Boeuf and he was forced to assume a respectful almost grovelling attitude to the man whose anxiety about the situation was obvious.
"Friar," he said stopping Jacob from getting out into the courtyard. "Take this message to Ra Malvoisin in York. Tell him it's from me and written by Baal de Bois Guilbert. I need Ra to send me aid as soon as he can."
"I will make sure your message is known, Sir Knight," Jacob replied, "and God strike down those who would do injury to Torquilstone," he added keeping his little speech as ambiguous as possible.
Cronus, distracted by the forthcoming hostilities and the current threat to his position virtually pushed Jacob out of the door and led him to a small postern gate through which he would gain his freedom.
"Take this for your pains, friar," Front de Boeuf said giving Jacob a single gold coin, "and mark me well. If you fail me I will flay both the cowl and skin from your body."
"I give you leave to do so," Jacob replied as he left the knight at the gate, "if when we meet again I do not acquit myself successfully." Turning back to the Norman, Jacob threw the coin at him. "You are false and base in your values, Cronus. I hope your money chokes you." With that Jacob hurried to the shelter and protection of the wood on the other side of the moat.
Cronus blinked as he processed what the monk had said and realised that whoever he was he was not to be trusted. Quickly Front de Boeuf ordered his archers to shower the disguised Saxon with arrows. Incensed by this insult to his very person, Cronus bellowed for his jailor.
"Bring me Carter and Athelstane!"
Within in a few minutes both men were bundled before Front de Boeuf for his inspection.
"How are you enjoying your entertainment at Torquilstone?" the Norman began jovially but neither Saxon deigned to answer. It was clear that the knight's temper was just an inch away from exploding with anger and frustration and at this moment, silence was the better part of valour for both of them. "Have you forgotten the lavish reception at which you were so well received?" he went on, "You dined well at the expense of Robert Kinsey and now you will not pay the ransom that is paltry by comparison! Speak up Saxon dogs before I hang you from the window there," he demanded, his face flushed with fury. "What do you say, Jacob?"
Kawalski was pushed forward to speak. "Thanks for the offer of hanging me and if that's what you intend to do, please hang me by my feet, Sir Knight so that I may get back my brains."
"Saint Genevieve! What have we here?" Cronus smiled without humour, striking Jacob's cap from the back of his head. "Jailor! What have you brought me?" the Norman spluttered, his face now reddened with indignation.
"I think I can tell you," Bracy said as he entered the room. "You have been duped, my friend. The monk that gained entry to their souls was a ringer. He must have changed places with the real Jacob. This is Jacob's joker," Harry announced trying not to laugh. The famous Cronus Front de Boeuf, known for his strategic mind had been caught out by a serf with a reputation for being a comedian.
"So Jacob has escaped donned in the monk's habit..." Front de Boeuf murmured.
"Indeed he has. Just remind me, Cronus, who led him to the postern gate and opened it for him?"
The Norman snorted loudly and glowered at his companion. Turning back to Kawalski, Cronus promised to separate his head from his shoulders and to throw it from the battlements. The serf said nothing but smiled in defiance.
"Let us go and your ransom will be paid," George said speaking up for the first time. "I will do my best to persuade the army at your gate to retreat if you let us out unharmed."
"And I will do what I can to make my master see that this will be the best way for us all to extricate ourselves from this sorry mess," put in Kawalski.
Glancing between the two men, Cronus nodded. Whatever his wishes might have been concerning his now very strong desire for vengeance he knew he was in no position to fight; he had neither the means nor the men and there would be no further chance of getting a message to York.
"The ransom does not include the Lady Samantha," interjected Harry de Bracy quickly. "I won't have it said I was scared out of a fair prize without having lifted my sword for it."
"Our treaty does not include this wretched joker either, Athelstane. "I will keep him to prove that a knave shall keep his jokes to himself."
George straightened himself up and put his steady eye on Bracy. "Lady Samantha is my bride to be. Wild horses can drag me to within an inch of my life before I give her up," he said proudly.
"She's engaged to you!" Bracy cried with disdain. "You're nothing but a country squire of questionable lineage," he scoffed.
"My lineage is older and longer than yours will ever be, Bracy. I am directly related to kings, their exploits sung by minstrels and their laws recorded by Wittenagemotes; their bones are buried in our greatest churches," Athelstane said, his eyes flaring with contempt for the upstart mercenary Frenchman.
"I think the Saxon has argued his corner well," Front de Boeuf said not really caring what George had said but pleased that the idiot Bracy had been found wanting in his argument.
"His words come too easy for someone who is a prisoner," Bracy snapped. "I'd like to see him press his claim in combat."
"I will meet you!" exclaimed George and threw down his glove in challenge.
As Bracy bent to pick it up, Cronus pushed him aside and stamped his boot on the soft leather garment. "I will not take up your challenge, Athelstane and neither will Harry de Bracy. The glove will be hung from that antler on the wall and will stay there until you are free, then the challenge will be met and not before," Front de Boeuf said glaring at his companion.
With that Athelstane and Kawalski were led back to their prison room. As if Cronus didn't have enough to contend with a servant appeared and announced the arrival of yet another churchman.
"Is this one as false as the previous?" cried Front de Boeuf thinking that every single angel in heaven was against him.
"It is Father Ambrose, my lord, brother to the Prior of Jorvaulx."
When the cleric was shown into the chamber, he shook Front de Boeuf's hand quickly. "I have bad news, Sir Knight. My brother the Prior has been kidnapped on his journey through the forest and demands your help," the man panted breathlessly.
Rolling his eyes Cronus could not believe that his day could get any worse. "Well, this is a turn up and no mistake," Front de Boeuf said looking at Bracy and the newly arrived Baal. "Instead of receiving help we are now expected to give it," the Norman growled. "Who has him, Father Ambrose?"
"The outlaws and thieves of the woods, sir, led I am sure by the one who is known as Robin Hood."
"Tell me something, Prior. Why is that we knights are expected to empty our coffers to aid those who have ten times more?" Front de Boeuf ground out.
Somewhat taken aback and frightened by the clear direction of the Norman's barbed remarks the priest suddenly remembered what else he needed to say.
"My lord, I almost forgot. There is a large force assembled directly outside the castle. They are even now mounting an assault."
"To the battlements!" cried de Bracy and flinging open the window he stared at their impending doom. "They've got planks and ladders. They're trying to scale the walls!"
As soon as Front de Boeuf had confirmed Bracy's sighting by looking for himself, he took up his bugle and summoned his defences. "Bracy, take the eastern side and Baal, take the west. I will take the barbican. Don't allow yourselves to get stuck in one place; we will have to be everywhere."
"Sir?" said Ambrose plaintively. "What about my brother the Prior? Will you not aid him?"
"Tell you brother to send his request to Heaven," spat Front de Boeuf as he rounded on the elderly monk, "and get out of my way!"
As the knights readied themselves for the battle Baal watched the opposing forces with narrowed eyes. "Cronus, wait," he snapped. "They are more disciplined than we could have expected," he observed, his analysis correct, for in the thick of the action, a knight in black armour was directing the assault. Front de Boeuf had been too busy and too distracted to take any notice of the tactics being displayed but Baal, who never underestimated the enemy, had seen it immediately.
"Look," Baal called to his companions, "There are men covering every bush and tree. They are swarming to join the rest of their force."
"I can see the Black Knight quite clearly," Harry added. "Remember him, Cronus? He beat you at Ashby."
Throwing his compatriots looks of pure poison Front de Boeuf took up his sword and ran to his position on the barbican. He hated them and cursed that he needed them both.
Meanwhile in a small storage room off the castle kitchens, the other prisoners awaited their fate. Among them were Walter Davis, Jacob's personal attendant and Janet, lady in waiting to Samantha. The room was quiet as most napped or just sat in silent despondency. In a dark corner a tall good looking man shifted and fidgeted to make himself comfortable on a couple of half empty flour sacks. Grimacing he clutched at his flank as he tried to settle. Watching him, Janet frowned. The man was in pain, she could tell from the way he favoured his side that he was nursing an injury and sympathetic to his plight she crossed the compacted dirt floor to inquire.
"Sir," she began, "Are you in need of assistance?"
"Me? No," the man said shaking his head. "I just can't get comfortable on these damned flour bags," he muttered and then checked himself. "I'm sorry, I apologise for my language. I hope I didn't embarrass you."
"It would take more than a single curse to upset me," she smiled in return. "I don't think you are being honest with me though and for that I am embarrassed. Please let me help you if I can," the woman said kindly.
"I've just got a small nick in my side, that's all. It's nothing really," the man said hoping she would leave him alone. He was tired and just wanted to rest, if only he could get comfortable. Irritated he punched the flour bag to try and soften its contents but instead split it, spilling a cloud of white powder to cover his face and hair.
"Damn it!" the man cursed again giving full vent to the volume of his voice.
Giggling Janet tried to clear away the fine floury deposit from the man's hair. "I'm sorry to laugh at you," she said, "but please let me help you now before you empty any more sacks."
Groaning, the man allowed the small built woman to help him to his feet. He had to bend down to let her reach his hair and face and she was immediately smitten by his looks and general attitude. When she'd managed to remove most of the flour she started as she saw his face more plainly.
"You...you're Ivanhoe," she whispered putting her hand over her mouth to stop any other words of comment escaping her lips. "I recognise you from the tournament at Ashby. You collapsed at the feet of my Lady. I saw your face when your helmet was removed."
"You've got it in one, now if you don't mind I'd like to rest," Jack replied, and taking her arm gently he continued. "Please don't say anything about who I am to anyone. Promise me. If I'm found out they'll kill me and probably the rest of you as well just because we happen to be in the same room together."
"I won't say a word," she answered earnestly. "Are you sure there is nothing I can do to help you?"
"You could tell me what's happened to the Diggers," he said.
"I don't know," Janet replied sadly. "I haven't seen either of them since we arrived in the courtyard."
"I might be able to help," came a man's voice from behind the lady in waiting. It was that of Walter Davis. "I believe Nick the Digger was taken below to the dungeon by Front de Boeuf and his grandson to the apartment of Baal de Bois Guilbert.
Jack looked away and he frowned as he thought. Front de Boeuf was known for his avarice, he would try and extract money or valuable goods from the old man. Baal would want something much more renewable from Daniel and with that thought Jack's anger twisted his gut. He had to find a way of getting to the archaeologist but first he had to escape from his prison.
"Is there any way out of here?" he asked Davis.
"No. There are two doors, one leads into the kitchen and that's locked from the other side. The one over there," he went on pointing to a heavy wooden door in the far wall, "must also be locked from the outside. It is solid and won't move. I've tried it. There might be something heavy against it or permanently constructed to stop it opening. Whatever, it's obvious it hasn't been opened for many years."
Jack walked carefully and slowly to the door in question to inspect it for himself. His wound had developed a small but discernable throb and it was tender to the touch. Davis was right; the door was completely solid and unmoving. As his eyes and hands travelled over the surface of the barrier Jack suddenly had a thought. Far too much attention was being paid to the handle and lock and none to the hinges. Rubbing his fingers over the two large metal brackets he noticed that there were holes than nails holding the hinges in place.
"Get me something to try and pry the hinges," hissed Ivanhoe to Davis. Quickly Davis and another man searched the room and came back with the broken hoop from an empty and abandoned beer barrel and a bent but still sound spit used to roast meat over a fire.
Between the men, they managed to pull the hinges from the door. Jack had done his best to help but he really couldn't put too much strain on his side. Janet watched knowing that his wound was probably more serious than he'd let on and she was determined to take a look at it and try to assess what state his health was really in.
Although the rusty hinges had been removed the door still refused to budge and as all the occupants of the room gathered around to inspect the riddle Janet hovered behind Jack.
"What is it?" he asked aware of her presence.
"I'd like to take a look at your wound if you don't mind."
"Well I do mind," O'Neill retorted. "We've got something much more important to try and figure out," he said dragging his fingers through his hair as he stared at the door."
"If I can open the door for you, will you let me look at your side?" Janet asked matter-of-factly.
"You? Open that thing?" Jack retorted as he pointed to the thick and heavy wooden construction.
"Not everything calls for brute strength," she said triumphantly. "A little well placed grease will do the trick."
They all watched as Janet strode over to a small vat of beef fat and plunging her hand into the soft white substance she walked back and spread it around the edge of the door and the frame pushing the fat into the space between with her small fingers.
Smiling broadly Jack dropped his head and laughed as he looked at the floor. "All right, you out thought me on this one and I thank you for your superior brain power," he grinned.
"Good, now while the others finish greasing the door let me look at your wound," the woman insisted.
"Don't you ever give up?" Jack groaned lifting his shirt.
"I have a French cousin called Napoleon. He is a very tenacious man. My mother always said I shared the same trait."
Locksley and the Black Knight welcomed Jacob Carter as he ran as fast as he could across the open space between the castle walls and the woodland. They exchanged news and information quickly and the Saxon was intent on telling the strange story of Catherine Langford and her warning to look out for a sign before they made their charge. As they spoke Locksley noticed a thin spiral of black smoke emanating from the centre of Torquilstone and as he stared at it he also saw a tongue of flame leaping to the sky.
"Look," he said, "I think that must be the lady's sign. The castle is on fire."
As the prisoners from the kitchen area forced open the door enabling them to spill out on the far side of the courtyard, the Black Knight in command of a large part of the force stood ready to take the castle breaching the front gates with a large number of yeomen spreading across the compound. Locksley and his archers remained outside poised to stop any escapee that ventured to cross the drawbridge. Teal'c and Jacob were bent on finding Athelstane and Kawalski.
As the heat of battle burned fiercely throughout the castle, so did the fire. Tracing back the fortunes of our characters by twenty minutes, Front de Boeuf retreated from the barbican to find out what was happening elsewhere around the battlements. He took a short cut through a large bedchamber and as he entered the room, intent on flying through it to get to the other side he heard the door slam behind him and the key turn in the lock. Turning he wrenched at the handle but the door was stuck fast. Not bothering to worry too much about the way that he had already travelled being barred he continued through the room to the exit and found Catherine Langford standing in front of it.
"Get out of the way!" Cronus boomed as he ran headlong for the door.
"No, I will not," the woman retorted proudly and locked the door quickly, throwing the key out of the window beside her.
"What in hell's name are you doing?" the Norman demanded. "If my castle falls because I can't get out of a dismal bedchamber you will not live to see another day," he yelled angrily.
"If I fail to live another day, so will you," Catherine said firmly. "I have waited the whole of my adult life to do this and until now I never really had the courage," she continued quietly. "Your cruelty and complete dismissal of my life has now come back to haunt you, Cronus Front de Boeuf. The sins of the father will now be visited on the son," she laughed and pulling a lighted torch from its holder on the wall she threw it onto the made up bed and watched as the covers sprang into life as the fire spread rapidly through the dry fabric. Next she ran to the heavily draped windows and pulled down the curtains, not throwing them on top of the fire, that might have doused it but pushed just an ample corner into the seat of the flames allowing them to lick and consume their way along the drapes and leaping to catch upholstered furniture and eventually to the wooden panels that lined the room.
Front de Boeuf yelled at Catherine demanding she stop her actions but she just laughed as the fire got established within the room. She knew she would die there but she didn't care. Her time was done and so was that of the Norman's. Choking from the smoke, Cronus dropped to his knees and covered his mouth with his hands in the hope of stopping the hot lung-crushing gas but it was to no avail. As the hoards of yeomanry entered his castle the life of Front de Boeuf was waning and with him, that of the brave and courageous Catherine Langford.
As the fire took hold of the main part of the castle, the battle raged in the courtyard and on top of the battlements. Dodging the rain of arrows from Baal's position, Teal'c made for the room in which George Athelstane and his good friend Charlie Kawalski were being kept and on releasing them, the Saxon unfastened a sword from its decorative place on the wall above the huge stone fireplace and raced through the building to try and find Samantha. As Kawalski and the swineherd made it back to the courtyard, Teal'c spotted Ivanhoe as he tried to wield a sword taken from a dead Norman soldier.
"O'Neill, you are not able to defend yourself properly," the swineherd announced in greeting.
"Teal'c am I glad to see you," gasped Jack. "Have you seen Daniel? He's being held in Baal's chamber. Do you know where it is?"
"I do not, O'Neill but I will look for you. Remain here where it is safe and I will return with Daniel Jackson as soon as I discover his whereabouts."
Before Jack could protest at being left behind, the big man was ducking and weaving between arrows, swordplay and dead and dying combatants. Halting behind a very large water barrel he saw an injured Norman soldier lying nearby.
"Baal de Bois Guilbert wants his prize brought to him, captain," Teal'c said to the wounded man. "Tell me where his apartment is quickly, he is offering a rich reward for your help," the swineherd added.
The Frenchman smiled at the possibility of receiving money and shakily he raised his hand to point at the solitary north tower. "At the top," he gasped and Teal'c made to move again.
"Where's my reward?" called the soldier weakly.
"In heaven," replied the swineherd as he ran for the entrance to the turret.
Jack watched Teal'c's progress anxiously and when he saw his friend heading for the tower he knew that's where Daniel would be. Limping slightly as he favoured his wounded side, O'Neill also made his way towards the turret in the hope of seeing Daniel as soon as possible. If he could wait by the door to the courtyard, he would be able to get the man to safety. However, Teal'c's progress was halted by a flurry of arrows and the swineherd had no choice but to take cover for the time being.
High on the battlements, Baal could see that the tiny force they had was not going to withstand the onslaught led by the Black Knight and abandoning his position he made for the tower and Daniel. He gained the entrance before Teal'c could get there and the Templar bounded up the many flights of steps and unlocked the door of Daniel's room and strode quickly inside.
"The battle is lost, Daniel. You must come with me now. The forces that assault Torquilstone are killing everyone who stands in their way. They will not spare you; hurry before we are overrun!"
Hesitating Daniel wanted to find his grandfather. "What about Nick? We can't leave him," the archaeologist pleaded.
"I'm sorry; it's too late for him. He's dead," Baal replied holding out his hand to encourage Daniel to take it and depart.
"Come on, we have to leave now," the Templar urged. "I have some men waiting below with a spare horse. We can still get out alive if you come now. I will do all that I can to protect you from these dogs, I promise," Baal said and Daniel had no choice but to believe him.
As they flew down the stairs Daniel wondered how this man could be such an enigma. One moment he was cruel and uncaring and the next he seemed genuinely concerned for Daniel's welfare. The man was charming, Daniel had no doubt about that and yet he was a trained killer who showed no mercy at the point of death. The death of Ivanhoe was witness to that.
When they got to the bottom of the spiral staircase, Baal stopped and made Daniel wait inside the door while he peered out to check if the coast was clear. On seeing him, one of his Saracen warriors led two horses to the door for their escape. Teal'c watched but could not get any closer to stop the Templar. Jack also saw what was happening but could not move quick enough to avoid being stuck by an arrow or struck by a flailing sword. Helplessly the Disinherited Knight could only grow more frustrated as he watched.
As Daniel stepped through the doorway he was appalled by the scene of death and destruction surrounding him. The courtyard was littered with bodies and partly obscured by clouds of smoke. Then he saw the large bulky figure of Teal'c some way off and watching him anxiously. The swineherd was not there to kill him but to rescue him and Daniel froze mid step. Baal turned to see what was holding up the archaeologist and when he saw the hesitation in his step and the disbelief on his face the Templar grabbed him roughly and swinging his arms behind his back, tied Daniel by the wrists with the leather belt that held his cloak in place around his waist. Two of the Saracens bodily deposited Daniel into the saddle of the waiting horse and taking the reins, Baal rode out into the courtyard at full tilt, racing for the freedom of the gates. As Daniel looked at Teal'c he shook his head to try and tell him not to follow. The archaeologist knew that the swineherd had no chance of catching them and rescuing him. The man would be risking his life unnecessarily. As his gaze was torn away from Teal'c, Daniel began to turn his head to face the same way as his horse was travelling. As he did so he saw a tall attractive man with silvering hair leaning against a wall and calling to him. Straining to look over his shoulder, Daniel watched as Jack waved at him, his face contorted with distress as he saw the archaeologist being taken away from him.
Daniel's breath hitched as he realised it was Jack but he could do nothing to get near him. If he flung himself from his steed with his hands bound and without the extra balance they gave him, he would risk injury or death given the speed at which Baal was now travelling. He didn't know where he was being taken so he couldn't call out any clue to the knight that might help him track the archaeologist. Daniel could do nothing but struggle to stay on top of the horse. His heart soared with the knowledge that Jack was safe and not dead, though he couldn't think for the life of him how the knight had survived Baal's execution. The fact that Jack was alive was enough for him and he readily accepted his fate with Baal. It didn't matter what happened to him now as long as Jack lived.
During the storm of the battle Harry de Bracy decided that his cause was lost and without a word to anyone, he found a panicked horse that had escaped the blazing wooden stables and rode as fast as he could for the main gates and freedom. He had no compunction in leaving his men or his companions; he only had one plan, to save himself.
As the fire engulfed Torquilstone, Front de Boeuf hammered on the door demanding his escape. No one heard him and Catherine just stood by and watched him panic.
"Accept your fate, Cronus," she said, "You not only killed my father but you killed your own to get possession of this place. Did you think that your act of murder was a secret that only you held? I saw what you did that night and now his ghost will haunt you and taunt you in Purgatory!"
Wailing loudly, Front de Boeuf could not get away from the flames that were burning down his world and as he choked on the smoke, the fire consumed his body. The rein of the cruel and despotic Front de Boeuf family was finally over.
Outside George had liberated Samantha and left her with Kawalski who had by this time, found Nick the Digger and Janet. Together the small group hid by the main gates to try and protect themselves from the fire and from the battle. Athelstane left the Saxon princess to go after Harry de Bracy and demand satisfaction for the Norman's inappropriate proposal of marriage.
He found de Bracy mounting a horse on the edge of the courtyard and raising his sword demanded that Bracy get down and face him. Harry had no such intention and instead smote the Saxon with a mighty blow with his battleaxe and sent George flying backwards and his lifeless body hit the ground, tumbling to a stop in the dirt. With a satisfied smirk, Harry jammed his spurs into the horse's flanks and fled. Jacob witnessed the fall of his cousin and cried out in shock and horror that his kinsman had fallen at the hands of so undeserving a knight.
Kawalski ran to Athelstane's aid but it was too late, the Saxon noble didn't move as Charlie touched him. Seeing the event Malcolm Barrett ran to comfort Samantha now bereft of her husband to be. The Saxon princess was naturally upset to witness the demise of so proud and worthy a man and burying her face in the archer's chest, sobbed for George's loss. It wasn't long though before she stopped crying, aware of the strong arms that surrounded her. His slim lithe body was pressed against hers, protecting her and speaking to her female heart...
Urgo fought bravely on the forest side of the drawbridge, holding it against any who dared to try and leave by that route. Two Norman soldiers who attempted to escape by thinking they could swim the moat drowned in the attempt. He'd cracked a couple of heads with his quarter staff but in general he'd held a solitary vigil especially after most of the archers had followed Malcolm Barrett into the castle compound hot on the heels of the Black Knight.
His awareness was on full alert when he heard the thunderous gallop of horses traversing the drawbridge. Two riders were pounding across the wooden boards and frowning, the monk steadied himself to take the legs from under the animals as they passed by. When he realised the second of the two men was bound by the wrists he signalled to the remaining handful of archers not to release their arrows. He saw that the lead rider was Baal and in tow was another, obviously his prisoner. There was nothing Urgo could do to halt the progress of the escaping Goauld, in doing so he might have caused injury to the captive and so shaking his head, the priest prayed that the hostage would be delivered from his jailor, one way...or another.
Moments later, another rider galloped across the bridge and this time halted beside the churchman.
"What is it, good knight?" Urgo enquired of the man.
"Malcolm Barrett requests your company in the courtyard. He's sent me to get you and the rest of his yeomen. Hurry, he's in need of your good offices," the knight announced breathlessly.
Immediately Urgo shouted to the archers indicating they should leave their posts and go to the aid of their leader. Urgo saw them across the bridge and made to follow when instead of riding back to the fray; the knight gathered up his steed and sped off in the opposite direction into the forest.
Pausing, Urgo watched him leave and then slapped his balding head. "By the hairs on the chin of Saint Ignatius!" he declared. "The man has made good his escape by removing the last barrier. Instead of fighting his way through like any good knight, he befriended me as a fellow soldier and made me think he was against the rest. He is brazen to make such a false confession and by those same chin hairs he is clever! I pray that his cleverness shall be his downfall," the friar concluded and made his way across the bridge to join the others.
Harry de Bracy smiled as he headed for the forest; that had been just too easy.
With the three leaders of the kidnapping plot declared to be missing and dead, resistance crumbled quickly and before long the fighting had ceased. The fire continued burning however but not before Barrett's men had removed what few valuables were left.
As the principals gathered, Jack watched despondently. He'd found a stone seat and sitting down carefully, leaned against the kitchen wall stretching out his long legs in front of him; Teal'c stood nearby, quiet and still.
A few feet away, Jacob Carter joined his daughter and she tried to console him for the loss of Athelstane, whose body had been retrieved from the battlefield and laid to rest in a quiet corner of the courtyard, his corpse covered by his cloak that had now become his shroud.
Barrett and the Black Knight were deep in conversation and Kawalski and Urgo congratulated each other for a campaign expertly executed, exchanging stories about their exploits. Nick Ballard stood alone, sad and confused because Daniel wasn't there
Jack watched and said nothing. He was relieved that so many of them had survived the plot except for Daniel. His abduction had been performed perfectly by the despised and calculating Baal. Jack had already made up his mind to try and find Daniel but because of his injury, he wasn't ready yet, he would still need time to heal. Daniel had said eight days before he could ride again and it had only been three since he had sustained it and just five since he'd first met the archaeologist. So much had changed in that short space of time that the knight found it hard to believe and yet there he was, missing Daniel and aching to see him again, one way...or another.
"Well, Ivanhoe, how are you feeling?"
The question pulled Jack's mind back to the present and the man who asked it. Getting up slowly, O'Neill acknowledged the Black Knight.
"I'm not so bad, sir," he replied with bravado.
"I was concerned when you collapsed at Ashby," the knight commented. "I hope you have received good care since then."
The reference made Jack's stomach clench and all he could do was give a weak smile in return.
"I thought our plan might have been pushed off course by this little adventure but I'm pleased to see that for the most part, we are all intact."
"Yes, sir, everyone played their part and we won the day."
"It seems before we move on to York, we have a funeral to attend. I trust you will accompany us?"
"Of course, sir wouldn't miss it," Jack responded before realising his sarcasm had got the better of him. Even though he was speaking to Henry Hayes, he really didn't feel very reverential and his leader understood.
"Don't worry, Jack. I'm sure you'll find him."
The men exchanged glances, the kind that are forged through adversity and friendship before Hayes moved to speak to Jacob.
Eventually the group readied themselves to set out for Coningsburgh castle, Athelstane's last resting place. Jacob felt honour-bound to meet the champion archer and his men in their own territory and so the Saxon insisted on making a detour to the DHD to say adieu to his newfound friends and allies.
Once there, the SGC party waited while Locksley prepared to oversee the dissemination of the Torquilstone spoils, presiding over the process with complete authority.
Samantha Carter watched the proceedings from behind a pale green wrap. Her blonde hair was covered by the cowl of her cape and most of her face was obscured by the sheer material of the scarf; only her large blue eyes could be seen exposed and they were intent on taking in the figure of the archer as he sat down on one of the large ornately carved chairs saved from the fire. She listened to the man announce the rules for the disposal of the booty and thought them very fair.
Laid out on a flat sward of grass was a considerable pile of valuable objects including silver plate, rich armour and splendid clothing. The collection of goods was left untouched by the gathering of forest dwellers as they waited patiently for the disposal to commence. There were two other chairs placed either side of Locksley's at which the Black Knight and Jacob were invited to sit.
"Pardon me, good sirs," Locksley began, "and fair lady," he added looking directly at the Saxon princess, "but I am the leader of this forest. My subjects dwell as honest and courteous men to those who offer honesty and courtesy in return."
There was much nodding and a little clapping from the assembly at this and some laughter as those that were familiar with the archer knew his band of merry men were all equal and that none stood above or below the other. His use of the words leader and subject were in jest and even the Black Knight of whom only Jack knew the true identity, smiled indulgently at his woodland host.
"Before we begin our proceedings we must say prayers for our departed brethren lost to us this day. Where is Urgo our friar?" Locksley asked.
"He was last seen exploring Front de Boeuf's wine cellars, Master Barrett," called a voice from the crowd. It was the minstrel of the forest, Paul Davis-A-Dale. "He swore by all the saints to sample every vintage."
"And there are so many saints!" cried Barrett. "I'm afraid that our priest may be buried alive under the fallen masonry of Torquilstone. Paul A-Dale, take some men and go and find him. Look for a corpse that snores loudly!"
With that A-Dale and his companions sprinted the half mile back to the castle in search of their lost friar.
"We will proceed while Urgo is retrieved as I'm sure the likes of de Bracy, Malvoisin and the allies of Front de Boeuf will want to return our visit and we should prepare while we have time and opportunity," Barrett explained.
He offered Jacob part of the spoils but the Saxon declined citing that there was no recompense for the loss of Athelstane and that he was wealthy enough not to deprive those with less of their just desserts.
"I know that George will receive his reward in heaven but here is someone who deserves his prize in this life. Kawalski, how can I repay you for your service to me?"
Shrugging, the joker grinned but said nothing.
"I will reward you with your freedom, dear adopted nephew. You shall be a free man," Jacob said, moved to shed a tear.
"Oh no, my lord! I am pleased that you value my freedom so highly but in truth, I do not. I am happy to remain bound to you and would not wish it any other way, uncle, however there is someone who values his liberty beyond riches and would be grateful for your pardon. My good friend is here in the crowd and stands by your adopted son. He has given his loyalty and bravery in the protection of Ivanhoe; he borrowed a week from your service and gave it to your son," Kawalski said proudly.
Overcome by the generosity of those closest to him, Jacob bade Teal'c come forward and in front of the whole congregation he got to his feet.
"Pardon? He seeks pardon does he?" Jacob began sternly though his eyes shone bright for the service Teal'c had given to the Carter family. Then smiling broadly, Jacob embraced the swineherd with enthusiasm.
"Kneel down, Teal'c," Jacob commanded and taking his sword dubbed the man on both shoulders. "Be it known to any who shall enquire, that from this day Teal'c son of Beowulf is a free man, released from his servitude to me. I give him a parcel of land from my estate in Washington. Go forth, Teal'c as a man of free will."
Teal'c stood and bowed his head with great dignity before turning to smile at his friend Charles Kawalski. The first thing he did was to find someone who could take the hated metal collar from him. The assembly cheered loudly at the swineherd's liberation and Jack clapped his hands in delight. As Teal'c stepped away and resumed his place in the crowd, Jack's eyes followed his friend. Teal'c had proved more than once to be a valuable ally and a trusty aid in times of need. As the knight's gaze travelled across the assembly he absently slipped his fingertips inside his shirt and felt for the silver necklace and small talisman that he had given Daniel and that the younger man had returned wishing the knight good luck. For Teal'c at least one good thing had come out of the day, though for the rest of it, Jack saw nothing but disaster.
Then he, along with the gathering heard the sound of loud voices echoing through the trees and making way, the crowd feasted their eyes in disbelief at the party that entered the glade.
The priest, Urgo walked slowly as he led a large horse upon which was seated Harry de Bracy. Walker and rider were accompanied by the minstrel Paul-A-Dale and latecomer Lou 'Scarlet' Ferretti, so named because he always wore a bright red cap. Bracy's wrists were bound together in front of him and his head was bare. The minstrel had the knight's helmet tied to his waist and was tapping out a complex rhythm with a pair of flightless arrow shafts. The strange and faintly comical carnival drew to a halt in front of the three worthies seated like a panel of judges.
"What have we here, Urgo?" asked Locksley, grinning.
"Why, I found a poor lost traveller," the friar returned. "I was carrying a vat of Norman wine on my back and this most noble of knights," he continued his voice dripping with sarcasm," passed by on my path, so after a little introduction to my quarter staff he agreed to carry the cask for me," the monk concluded with great satisfaction, reaching up and patting the wooden barrel slung in front of the saddle that bore the knight.
The assembly again cheered and clapped at Urgo's prize when Barrett left his seat and drew his knife. Bracy cowered away from him, expecting his life to be ended but instead the woodsman cut his bonds and allowed his to dismount.
"It seems that the day can still produce surprises," Locksley observed, "though this one is of less value than that which needs disposal. Sit over there, Sir Knight, under the shade of that horsechestnut tree while I call for three volunteers to guard you."
With that Bracy was escorted to settle under the tree and await his fate. Much to the consternation and deep resentment of Jacob and the jealousy of Barrett, Samantha approached the knight to address him but before she could, Harry wanted to launch the first volley.
"I am surprised but very pleased that you deign to cast your eye on a captive knight, my lady," Bracy said, "even as I am a dishonoured solider."
"Bracy, with an enterprise like yours, the real dishonour is in success, not failure."
"Will you forgive the violence of your captivity, Samantha?" Harry went on. "My only excuse is the passion of love. Forgive me and I will show you how I can serve you in nobler ways."
"I forgive you but as a Christian," the princess confirmed.
"That means she does not forgive him at all," commented Kawalski, nudging Teal'c in the arm.
"I can never forgive the misery and desolation you have caused," Samantha said turning away from him and as she did so she caught the eye of Malcolm Barrett and read in his face that which she thought to find in Ivanhoe. Steadily she made her way back to stand beside her father's chair, deliberately placing herself between him and Locksley. With a gentle movement she rested her hand on the archer's shoulder. She had made her choice for all to see and Jack was glad for her. She had silently and publicly released him from any obligation to her save that which was formed through friendship.
Jacob was aware of his daughter's wordless announcement that as a wealthy landowner in her own right, her choice should be hers alone but he felt that an alliance with the woodsman was totally inappropriate for her. With Athelstane dead his hopes for a Saxon resurgence were gone and as his eyes scanned the crowd for his adopted son he knew that perhaps what Jack had said about the Saxons needing to resolve their differences with the Norman hierarchy seemed more attractive than it had ever done before. He wondered if the notion of matrimony between Ivanhoe and his daughter could be revived. With renewed confidence he stood up to make his own announcement. Facing the Black Knight he held out his hand in friendship.
"I know that men like you spend their lives precariously and quite often without a home to call their own. I welcome you to settle at the Saxon Great Court, not as a guest but as my brother. I will give you a comfortable apartment with attendants and you may come and go as you please."
Immediately the knight was on his feet, most closely watched by Jack O'Neill. How would the disguised leader of the country handle this?
"Thank you for your most generous offer, Jacob but I must decline. I have already taken more from you than you realise."
Jacob raised his eyebrows in surprise and question.
"I will take with me all that I have learned about Saxon values and kinsmanship and one day I hope that Saxons and Normans will live together in harmony and work for a stable and prosperous England."
Everyone nodded with approval and all eyes were on Jacob. What would he do? What would he say?
Smiling, Jacob nodded too. "I will consider your advice, Black Knight."
Now the nods and murmurs became cheers and whistles, clapping and whooping; for Jacob this was almost a lifelong commitment to change.
Jack was pleased and relieved. It was good to see Jacob in such a generous and relaxed mood and his words were significant. Perhaps now he would be less grumpy and bad tempered and more like the man Jack remembered from his youth, well balanced and with a sense of humour.
"Then what will you take as your reward?" Jacob asked.
"I will take de Bracy as my prisoner," the Black Knight announced.
Jacob and Barrett exchanged glances and indicated their agreement.
"He is yours to do with whatever you want," Malcolm smiled.
"Then I will let him go," the knight said, "His reputation is destroyed now and I suspect he will have few friends left after today. If he has any sense at all he'll seek pastures new in some foreign land where his treachery is unknown." With that the Black Knight approached the shamed de Bracy and spoke with him quietly.
Jacob stood now with purpose, he was ready to move on. "I am going to Athelstane's castle to make ready for his funeral. I trust the good fathers of the Lakeside Monastery will look after his body and bring it to Coningsburgh in three days time. Those of you who fought alongside him are welcome to attend the service," he said and glancing at Samantha for her to come too, made for his horse.
As the group made last minute preparations to leave, Samantha and Malcolm took the opportunity to speak to each other for the first time.
"Lady, I know you are an heiress and you might think that I, as a simple woodsman have nothing to offer you but..."
"I know who you are," she smiled. "You are Malcolm Barrett named both Earl of Locksley and Robin Hood. Your lands were taken from you by a greedy Norman akin to Robert Kinsey. You have lived in the forest ever since, robbing the rich and grasping and redistributing their wealth to the poor. You have an exciting life, living on your wits and by your skills as an archer. Your life is also dangerous and unpredictable. See, I know all about you!" she giggled.
"You've been diligent in finding out about me and I know about you too, Samantha. You are indeed a wealthy heiress with lands and forests of your own. You are the independent mistress of your coffers. You are also kind and caring, visiting sick peasants and giving them succour. You have a sharp mind born of quick intelligence and there are times when being the quiet and acquiescent young woman goes against your desire for true freedom. You have an impressible spirit, Samantha. I know I'm asking more than I should and expecting you to give up the comfort of Jacob's hall but will you join me in the greenwood and one day I might regain my title, not just in name but in reality."
She looked at his fine chiselled features, his reddish-chestnut hair and freckles and his firm jaw. She listened to his soft gentle voice and fell for him.
"I must go to Coningsburgh with my father. Besides the sadness of the occasion I have other business to settle, the outcome of which I am unsure at this moment. If I can I will come back to this forest and to you," she said quietly and Barrett took her hand and planted a gentle kiss. Bowing his head he stood aside and watched her leave him.
Jack observed their tryst and knew that he would have to speak to her as well. He couldn't let her think she didn't have a choice because of Jacob's wish for their union. As he made his way around the edge of the glade he was stopped by his stepfather.
"Ivanhoe...son," Jacob began unsure of what he was going to say or how it would be received.
"Jacob," the knight returned quietly.
"I am pleased that you survived Ashby, I was concerned for you."
"Thanks," Jack said and the two fell into an awkward silence.
"About Samantha," they said in unison and the tension was broken as they laughed together.
"Listen, son, I know we haven't always seen eye to eye but things are different now. With Athelstane gone, you can claim Samantha..."
"Jacob," interrupted Jack quickly. "I don't want to marry Samantha and I don't think she really wants to marry me either," O'Neill smiled nodding at Malcolm Barrett who was in the throes of disposing of the cache of goods from Torquilstone.
"Yes, I can see she has taken a shine to the archer," Jacob said, "but he is below her station and unworthy of her."
"I think you need to speak to her about that. You might learn differently."
Pausing, Jacob looked as his daughter anew and realised that he had been too busy arranging her life that he'd never asked her what she wanted. Carter had learned a lot in the last few days and after he'd buried his kinsman, he would take time to consider everything that had happened.
"You will come to Coningsburgh, Jack?" the older man asked.
"Sure, I will, Jacob. I'll come with you now but I can't ride a horse. Daniel said I have to take it easy for a few days," Jack said as they walked to join the Saxon's party.
"Daniel? Who's Daniel?" Jacob asked curiously.
"He's a...friend," Jack said quickly.
"Do you mean the Digger's grandson?" Jacob inquired frowning.
"Yes, that's him," O'Neill replied hoping that Carter wouldn't question him further.
"If you can't ride a horse, we'll arrange a litter for you," Jacob murmured still thinking about this Daniel person.
Jack walked slowly and carefully, his side was still very sore though the throbbing sensation was gone. Whatever the enterprising Janet had put on it, it had worked. She and Daniel should get together and compare notes the knight though absently and then the loss of the archaeologist hit him again.
"Sir Knight," called Nick. "I am glad to see you are recovering from your wound. I helped my grandson treat you, as did Teal'c. I am pleased that you are on the mend," the old man smiled. "Ivanhoe?" he went on, "do you know what has happened to him? No one will tell me anything," the Digger muttered.
"All I can tell you is this," Jack began. "He was taken by Baal during the thick of the battle. I tried to get to him and so did Teal'c but we were not able to. I'm sorry, Nick. They escaped the fighting but I don't know where the Templar might have taken him. As soon as I'm well enough I'll start looking for him."
Thinking, Nick realised that what Daniel had said about the Disinherited Knight was true. He was genuine and cared about the young man's situation.
"I believe Baal will go to the headquarters of his order at Templestowe," Nick said.
"How will he get away with keeping Daniel a prisoner there?" asked Jack anxiously.
"That I don't know but I do know Daniel's...preferences and perhaps Baal shares them," Nick said carefully, "as you do," he ventured and closed his eyes anticipating that Jack might put another layer of bruising on top of that which Front de Boeuf had delivered.
"Say nothing about this, Nick," Jack said kindly," this is not the kind of subject to be discussed in public," he whispered looking around to check for eavesdroppers.
"I understand. Your choice will not be known from my lips," Nick responded.
"Thank you," Jack replied sincerely.
"I will travel to Templestowe and see if he is there. I'll try and get word to you," Nick said firmly. "I'm sure between us we'll get him back, one way...or another."
Patting the old man on the back, Jack turned to leave and then turned back again.
"Nick, do you still have the mule cart?"
"Yes I do, I was going to leave it here for Locksley's men."
"May I have it? It's my only means of comfortable travel at the moment," Jack muttered wishing he felt more able to ride.
"If you can persuade Barrett to give it to you, have it with my blessing, Ivanhoe," Nick smiled as he took the reins of his horse. He rode away leading Daniel's horse, determined to travel to Templestowe as quickly as he could.
As Jack stared at the mule cart he was wondering who he could get to drive it when he was joined by Teal'c.
"Hey, Teal'c," Jack breathed his brow still furrowed by the question of transportation.
"May I be of assistance, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked seeing the perplexed expression on his friend's face.
"I need a ride to Coningsburgh," the knight replied.
"Then I will be your driver," the swineherd announced. "I have free will now."
When the visitors had departed and the spoils of Front de Boeuf distributed, Malcolm Barrett stood by the campfire in the glade and watched Urgo cook supper. The archer was flanked by his good friends and forest associates, Paul-A-Dale and Lou Scarlet.
"It's been quite a day," Malcolm commented as Urgo stirred the pot of vegetables and turned the spit roasting wild boar.
"It has," the friar confirmed, "and as a result, we'll drink a toast to Cronus with his own wine," Urgo grinned with satisfaction.
Just then the little group was joined by another. It was Little John Siler.
"I have news," he announced breathlessly. "We've captured a holy relic!" he said smiling broadly.
"Who?" Barrett enquired with interest.
"The Prior of Jorvaulx," Siler responded proudly.
"Well, well," the archer grinned rubbing his hands. "You'd better set another place at the table, Urgo!"
In the city of York, Robert Kinsey was desperately trying to gather what little support he could muster in anticipation of his half brother's return. Kinsey had invited those who would attend to a vast and expensive feast. He thought that by wining and dining his guests he could impress them how good and able a leader he would make. As he surveyed those who sat at his table he was angry. Where was the stubbornness, daring and brutal courage of Front de Boeuf, the buoyant spirits and bold bearing of de Bracy and the sagacity, martial experience and renowned valour of Baal de Bois Guilbert? Kinsey had put off announcing his reason for this gathering to wait for the cornerstones of his regime but they had not arrived. Had they deserted him in his hour of need? Where were they?"
While Kinsey made small talk with his immediate dinner neighbours, Waldemar Fitzhurse hurried to his master's side.
"My lord," he hissed, "you have been dealt a terrible blow."
Kinsey kept the smiling expression of an indulgent host.
"Sir, I have news that your absent guests have been taken or killed as they chose to attack the returning Ashby train of Jacob Carter the Saxon."
Glancing around Kinsey decided he would take advantage of the event to press his cause. Under other circumstances he would have seen the episode as not much more than a joke and probably would have rewarded the three with a good banquet to celebrate their audacity.
Now he had no choice but to betray their support of him by condemning their actions publicly.
"Were I the leader of England, instead of his brother, I would hang them from the walls of their own castles for their transgressions," he boomed, feigning the insult or injury that Jacob himself had actually experienced. With that Kinsey withdrew to a private apartment with his counsellor in tow.
"To become a leader, your Grace," Fitzhurse said quietly, "you would have needed to have punished these men long before now for prior transgressions and to have distanced yourself from their exploits instead of protecting them against the complaints of their victims. People have very long memories, sir."
Kinsey ignored his counsellor's words and slapped his forehead in frustration. "How could they have done something so stupid and at this precise moment? They've deserted me, Waldemar!"
"Do not concern yourself, my lord. I have taken the liberty, on your behalf of commanding de Bracy's lieutenant, Makepeace to descend on Front de Boeuf's castle and conclude this business."
Robert Kinsey glared at his servant, aghast at the man's forwardness. "I did it for you, my lord. I only want your cause to be a success," Fitzhurse said quickly afraid that his master's unstable personality would send him to his execution.
After a moment, Kinsey calmed, smiled and thanked his lieutenant for his timely intervention.
Another intervention walked into Kinsey's chamber, his armour dulled and dinted by battle; it was Harry de Bracy newly arrived from his captivity in the forest of Malcolm Barrett. Undoing his helmet, Bracy wanted to take a moment before addressing his leader, except that Kinsey wouldn't give it to him.
"Speak, Harry! Are the Saxons rebelling? Where is Front de Boeuf? What about the Templar?"
"The Templar has fled and Front de Boeuf is no more. He's buried in the ruins of his castle, destroyed by fire.
"Fire?" asked Fitzhurse, "There was fire?"
"There's worse news than that, sir," Bracy said ignoring Waldemar's question. "Your brother, Henry Hayes is here in England. I know this because I spoke to him myself and he spoke to me."
Kinsey's tall erect figure slumped and shaking, he sat down. "This can't be true. You're making it up, Harry," the Goauld ranted.
"I was his prisoner in a forest not far from here," Harry went on.
"You were his prisoner?" asked Fitzhurse, "that means he must have a force at his command already," counsellor surmised.
"No, he joined a few yeomen to mount an assault on Torquilstone," Harry confirmed.
"We must recall Makepeace," Fitzhurse interrupted. "My lord...my lord?" Waldemar said to Kinsey, who by now had lost control of his senses and remained seated and unmoving. The only clue to his state of mind were his knuckles, white with a mix of fear and anger as he grasped the arms of his chair. "Sir, you must recall Bracy's men. They were despatched in your name and they will be making war on the Saxons in order to relieve the besieged forces of Torquilstone. They are fighting in your name, your Grace!"
"Fuck you to hell, Fitzhurse!" spat Kinsey as he could see his ambition to take England crumbling. "You didn't ask my permission to despatch Bracy's men and now you're making it sound like the decision was mine!"
"What do you propose now, Bracy?" asked Fitzhurse, his voice quiet and controlled. There was a desperate need to get them all out of this fix and he wanted everyone to focus on the job in hand.
"I...I offered myself to Henry Hayes," Bracy said nervously, "and the service of my free lances but he refused. I will lead them to Hull and sail to Flanders where I know a man of action will find employment. Will you join me, Waldemar?"
"Me? No, I'm too old for that kind of life and in any case I have a daughter," the counsellor explained.
"Is she available?" Harry asked quickly.
"Don't even think about it, Bracy," Waldemar retorted. "We would both take sanctuary with the church of my brother, the Archbishop of Canterbury before I would allow you to get anywhere near her," the man said plainly.
While they were bickering, Kinsey regained his mind from his temporary stupor. "Shut up you two!" he yelled. "Are you saying you are willing to rescind all that my leadership could give you at the point of our success?"
"Sir, your brother will raise an army, I have no doubt of the support that would flock to his banner," Bracy went on. "Why don't you leave now and take refuge in France or seek the protection of the Queen Mother?"
"Waldemar, will the Archbishop give sanctuary to the chief minister of Henry's betrayal when he will need to make friends with the returning leader and his benefactor? Your brother will need to preserve his position. And you, Bracy, if you run from me will you and your forces penetrate the barrier put up by the Earl of Essex and his forces to the port of your choice? There is a way to deal with this situation, Harry before Henry has a chance to establish his support," Kinsey enthused.
Bracy took a step backwards, shocked by what Kinsey appeared to be suggesting. "Henry Hayes could have had me executed in that forest!" he exclaimed pointing in the general direction from whence he'd come, "but he didn't, he let me go and I won't stand against him," flared Harry.
"Then take him when he least expects it," Fitzhurse contended. "You say when you left him he was alone save a few forest dwellers. You could finish him without witness," the counsellor pressed.
"The only time I would take on Henry Hayes would be in battle and even then his skills would be superior to mine. He gave me my life and though he refused my offer of service to him and thus I owe him no allegiance, I will not lift a hand against him," Bracy said loudly, "so stop asking me!"
"Then send Makepeace and some of your lances," Fitzhurse continued.
"You've got enough ruffians of your own, tell them to go and do your dirty work. My men won't follow any of your instructions and I have no intention of forwarding them for you," Bracy retorted.
"Now, now," Kinsey said smoothly. "This won't get us our prize, will it? You know, loyalty has its own rewards. If my brother was indisposed and I took the leadership, I'm going to need a Lord High Chancellor and someone who can command my forces," Kinsey went on in an off hand tone. "Of course, fair weather friends are no good to me, I'd like to see my stalwarts get what they deserve and well, I can be generous," the Goauld went on conversationally. "But it might be all for naught if my brother takes the reins again, I mean he's not going to look kindly on anyone whom he considers a traitor is he?"
Kinsey walked slowly to the window waiting for the desired response and after a few moments he got it.
"I hope, sir you will always remember that I have worked hard for your cause. You would be a fitting and worthwhile leader, something this country desperately needs," Fitzhurse said obsequiously.
And you also think England desperately needs a Lord High Chancellor, Fitzhurse, Bracy thought smiling.
Kinsey turned around to face his counsellor and gripped his arm. "You're right, Waldemar. If only I could be sure of my support," he said pursing his lips and draping his arm around the man's shoulder, drew him in as though he were a personal confidante.
"My father had faithful servants. He just had to say that he was plagued by a fractious priest and the blood of Thomas à Becket, saint though he was," Kinsey added quickly, "stained the steps of his own altar. These men are no more and it's a shame the son of Reginald Fitzhurse, one of their worthiest compatriots, does not have the same courage as his father."
Fitzhurse glanced between his leader and Bracy. He couldn't allow anyone, including Kinsey, to besmirch his family honour. "I will do whatever you ask of me, my lord. I am still my father's son," Waldemar said stiffly. "I will seek out Henry Hayes. I will apprehend him but I will do him no harm. Bracy, I trust you to guard Robert Kinsey with your life. I will go to my lodgings and resurrect my suit of armour.
"Take the knights Steven Rayner, Osiris Smith, Dominic Ashrak, Adrian Conrad, Frank Simmons and Sir Thomas Sokar to accompany you. Make sure that Captain Tanis goes with you. They are trusted knights and associates of mine," Kinsey offered trying to keep a straight face until Fitzhurse left the room. "He goes to make my brother a prisoner," the Goauld said to Bracy "with as little compunction as he might have for the liberty of a Saxon Franklin. I trust he will observe my orders and use our dear Henry's person will all due respect."
Bracy only answered with a smile.
"My orders were very precise but you may not have heard them as I was in deep and quiet conversation with him. I was very clear and said that Henry should be cared for and that Fitzhurse would pay with his life if anything happened to him."
"I will go to Waldemar's lodgings and make sure he heard your message, sir."
"No, no, he heard it alright. In any case, I have a job for you," Kinsey said smiling without humour. "He thinks he will be my Chancellor but how can I trust him if he is so ready to undertake this enterprise against Henry. He cannot be trusted if he refuses my orders to dispose of my brother. Anyway, arresting my brother does not bode well for a High Chancellor of England. You on the other hand, my dear Bracy have shown me constancy with this affair and for that the post of High Marshal shall be yours."
Kinsey was feeling very pleased with himself. He had engineered the capture of his brother and his possible demise. With that he could get rid of Fitzhurse for whom he had no respect, in fact he could get rid of two birds with one stone and still come out of it unpolluted by the episode and ready to slip on the mantle of leadership. It was a very satisfying position to be in and he congratulated himself smugly. Bracy left the chamber quickly but with a mixture of anger and sadness.
"You are a fickle man, Robert Kinsey and bad luck is likely to accompany any who trust you. Fitzhurse can keep his eyes on the Chancellorship; I'll take High Marshal and carve myself a very comfortable and powerful niche. If Kinsey's luck sticks to me I'll brush it off and him with it."
"Page? Get Captain Tanis here as soon as Fitzhurse has spoken to him," Kinsey snapped after Bracy was gone.
Kinsey paced his chamber waiting for his chief man-at-arms to arrive.
"Tanis, what did Waldemar want with you?" Kinsey asked slyly.
"He wanted several knights and trackers that are well skilled in these northern forests, sir."
"And did he get them?"
"Yes sir. Sir Thomas Sokar, Sir Steven Rayner and Sir Frank Simmons are trusty knights. Dominic Ashrak and Osiris Smith are well known for their hunting skills and they do not rest until their quarry is caught. Adrian Conrad is an expert marksman. He can stalk a deer and the animal dies from surprise when he is within a hundred yards. It is almost as though he were two men, one who can track and stalk, the other who uses a cross bow with searing accuracy."
"It's a good choice. Does Waldemar go with them?"
"With what attendants?" Kinsey asked carelessly.
"The serf Bynarr, known for his cruelty and John Seth for his cleverness."
"Good, that's good," Kinsey acknowledged nodding his head quickly. "There is something I need you to do for me, Tanis. Keep a close eye and a careful watch on Harry de Bracy. Let me know what he does, who he speaks to and where he goes."
Bowing, Tanis withdrew and Kinsey stared out of the window again.
"If Harry betrays me," Kinsey muttered aloud, "If he betrays me I'll find time to stick his head on a pike even if Henry were thundering through the gates of York!"
As the mule cart made its way slowly to Coningsburgh, Jack lay down thinking.
If Nick was right and Baal had taken Daniel to the Presbytery at Templestowe it might be almost impossible to get him out.
Templestowe was the headquarters for the England chapter of the order of Knights Templars and it was a virtual fortress. Even more difficult was the bad blood between Bois de Guilbert and Ivanhoe Jack O'Neill. If Jack had been unknown to the Templar he might have been able to sneak in dressed in disguise but he knew he would be recognisable to Baal, they had a history.
Jack thought back to the time he got himself into trouble in the Kasbah. He'd spent most of the evening sat in a small café that specialised in looking after the contingent of European soldiers, mainly with alcohol and more especially supplying sexual services
Jack drank steadily through the evening waiting for an opportunity to find himself a sexual partner, a male sexual partner. It wasn't until he'd left England with the crusading army of Henry Hayes did he realise that it was sex with men that satisfied his desires. This revelation was a breath of fresh air for him; it liberated his body and mind though his heart was impenetrable. He wasn't interested in an emotional relationship with anyone. He had an attachment to his stepfather's daughter, Samantha but even that was something that he'd grown to resent, he felt like he'd been pushed into an informal betrothal to her. That was part of the reason he'd decided to leave England and in particular his adoptive father, Jacob Carter. They'd argued more than once when Jack distanced himself from her in order to pursue a highly inappropriate sexual liaison with his squire.
Jacob was furious with him and sent the young servant away. It didn't stop Jack experimenting and eventually he and the Saxon Franklin stopped speaking to one another altogether. Nevertheless, Jacob still wanted him to marry Samantha in the hope of siring a Saxon revolution that would successfully depose the ruling Norman government.
Jack never believed a revolution would be successful and if it were, it would never be sustainable. He liked Henry Hayes and believed that he had the interests of the country as a whole at the heart of his commitment to a lasting peace. When Jacob refused to consider Jack's request to join the Hayes army destined for Palestine, he went anyway and while he was there he became involved with another young squire. For the first time in his life Jack began to appreciate the joys of an emotional attachment to another man, expressed in sexual love and attraction. Before he could fully commit to the young trainee knight, the man was cut down in the midst of battle by the scimitar of a Saracen fighter. For a while Jack was bereft and sought anonymous and non-committal comfort wherever he could find it. He was angry at the loss of his lover and went on a spree, the consequences of which nearly ended in his death.
That particular evening as he got quietly drunk, he was propositioned by an Arab man. Jack knew what the offer was when the stranger sat beside him at a delicately and beautifully carved table. Without looking at Jack, the man slipped his hand under the table and rested it in the knight's lap. With gentle subtle stroking movements the Arab slowly stimulated Jack's arousal coaxing his cock to erection. The man's signal was plain and Jack responded.
When he got up and left the café, Jack followed, staring at the man's back as he made his way through the narrow streets to number nine, Moon Street. The Arab stopped for a moment to allow Jack to draw level with the door and then he stepped inside and along a dark hallway. As Jack saw his promise of sex disappear around a corner at the end of the passageway, the knight passed an open door, slightly ajar and letting out the flickering lamp light of the illumination within.
Jack wouldn't have taken any notice except for the soft sound of a voice inside the room. O'Neill's interest was captured by the breathy caresses of the sound of sex. Halting he stood beside the gap in the door and listened intently.
He could hear grunts and gasps and the slap of flesh against flesh. With his curiosity peaked, Jack couldn't resist taking a look at whatever was going on in the chamber. His burgeoning erection, lost on his walk from the café, was a strong motivation to fit an image to the sound and carefully he peered around the door to see what was happening.
His eyes were greeted by the sight of a fully nude man grinding his hips against a pair of naked buttocks. Initially Jack's libido soared when he saw rippling muscles animate the man's body, his buttocks clenching and relaxing as he shafted his partner's ass.
Jack could feel his excitement rise as he witnessed what he wanted for himself until, with shock, O'Neill realised that the man's partner wasn't a willing participant in this act of coupling.
Through his alcohol affected sight Jack thought he would find sexual satisfaction in the house at Moon Street. Instead he was caught up in the ugliness and brutality of rape. The perpetrator was Baal de Bois Guilbert and his victim a boy aged no more than fourteen years of age. He was bent over a large wooden chest, his wrists bound by silken ropes, the lengths of which stretched under the base of the box and were attached to his legs around his ankles. His naked flesh showed crimson patches of newly formed bruising probably imprinted on his protesting and struggling body by the Templar. Suddenly the boy cried out in pain and humiliation as Baal forced his flesh further apart.
The rapist paid no attention to the distress of his victim; it seemed to spur him on, exciting him even more. Jack glanced around that part of the room knowing he had to act but trying to work out how. As he looked across the chamber to the other side he saw a large bed, dressed in white linen and on it a young woman restrained at her wrists by a rope attached to the ornately wooden carved bed head. She too was naked, her long dark hair covering her left breast. Her ankles were free from restraints and she lay sobbing quietly. Jack's gaze inspected her body, not for sexual excitement, he wasn't interested but he wanted to check her for obvious injuries. There were none, except a small patch of blood staining the bed sheet between her thighs.
Jack's anger grew in his gut as he reached into his befuddled mind for a solution to end this nightmare scene. Quickly he crept towards the girl and as he read the terror in her face, he cupped his hand over her mouth to silence her. He had good reason to, she would have screamed an unwanted alarm the moment she saw yet another crusader stalk her and drawing a knife from his belt to boot. Hurriedly Jack kept her quiet while he sliced through the ties at her wrists and when she was free he held his fingertip to his lips to indicate she should stay silent. As fast as he could he pulled the sheet from the bed and wrapped her in it, showed her the door and let her go. She ran wildly along the passage and out into the dark street, disappearing as silently as an apparition.
Next Jack turned his sights on Baal and crept towards him, the knife glinting against the lamplight. As he drew close to the Templar the man's body stiffened and with a burst of sound from the back of his throat the Templar came, thrusting into the unwilling body of his victim. As he calmed the Goauld withdrew his limp cock, slapping the boy's buttock in satisfaction. The boy whimpered in response.
Jack bounded across the last few feet and lunged at the completely unaware figure of the Norman knight, throwing him to the floor and winding him as the two toppled and rolled. While Baal was indisposed and unable to fight back, Jack pulled himself to his feet and picking up his knife cut the boy's ropes. He was spluttering and sobbing as he looked at his liberator and embarrassed, tried to cover his groin with shaking hands. Jack unfastened his cloak and billowed it like a bullfighter, covering the boy. Steering him towards the doorway Jack turned to face the perpetrator of these terrible acts. Baal was already on his feet when Jack's eyes met his.
Baal growled something in Arabic which Jack didn't understand but should have done. He suddenly found himself attacked from behind by the black arms of a Saracen warrior. As the strong limbs closed around Jack's neck to constrict his windpipe, O'Neill struggled to break free but to no avail. As he lost consciousness his last view was of Baal still naked and with his charcoal dark eyes flashing the fire of revenge.
When Jack regained his awareness he was at street level in the Kasbah. He didn't move for a few moments, he couldn't. His limbs felt leaden and every inch of him throbbed with pain. Eventually when he knew he couldn't lay there any longer, it was only by sheer will power that he managed to get to his feet, swaying perilously before he found a wall to lean against.
By the time he dragged himself back to the crusaders' camp with the help of a well paid street urchin, he discovered he had two cracked ribs, a broken finger and his body was a mass of cuts and bruises. The dried and caked blood on his face hid a broken nose and a swelling eye socket. Jack had been very badly beaten. It took him nearly a month to recover from the worst of his injuries and while he convalesced he steered clear of Baal de Bois Guilbert, catching glimpses of the arrogant Templar around the encampment. Jack smiled carefully when he saw the scar that the Goauld sported through his eyebrow. Served him right Jack winced when the soreness stretched his aching face as he grinned.
That episode had been a few years ago and even now, Jack couldn't forget the terror in the eyes of those two young people who had suffered at the hands of Baal's unbridled wanton lust and cruelty. The two soldiers had been sworn enemies ever since and when Jack had the chance to unsaddle Baal at that tournament in Palestine, he took it willingly.
Now the man had another victim, this time Daniel and Jack was powerless to help him or save him from the agony of Baal's touch.
Soon after the flight from Torquilstone, Baal stopped the horses for a moment to rendezvous with two of his Saracen attendants and Daniel spurred his mount in the hope of getting away. The Saracens stopped his before he could get very far.
"You need to understand," Baal said," that the only way you'll leave me is if I let you, Daniel. So make up your mind now. You're coming with me to Templestowe where I can accommodate you more comfortably then you'll see that I'm not as bad as you think I am," the Templar smiled.
As they rode on, Daniel's world became a blur as they sped through the countryside. Jackson naively tried to work out why the Templar had taken him and more importantly what the Norman hoped to gain from it...
When Jacob's party had travelled for several hours, Samantha asked to stop and rest for a while. Everyone was exhausted from their exploits at Torquilstone and some refreshment would give them the fortitude to continue.
Nervously Jacob agreed but he would not dismount for fear of a repeat of the events that took them to Front de Boeuf's castle in the first place. Most members of the Saxon caravan were too tired to worry about any impending assault, they were just pleased to ease their aching backs and fill their stomachs.
Jack wanted to get out of the mule cart and stretch his legs. He was bored and depressed. He had been constantly monitoring his body for signs of healing in the hope that he would be fit enough to ride to Daniel's aid. Janet hovered near him, anxious to examine the knight and check his progress.
"What is it, Janet?" O'Neill asked as he walked carefully around the cart. "Are you still trying to be your cousin, Napoleon?"
"I just thought...well I wondered if you were feeling alright, if you were in pain or if you needed anything...at all?" she said trying to stop her fingers twitching. She just wanted to take another look at the knight's injury. Though she was quite an experienced healer in her own right, she'd never seen a wound treated in quite that way before.
"I'm fine, now stop fussing," Jack responded and gave her a look that said 'leave me alone'.
Bobbing a curtsy she ran back to her mistress. Whatever it was that she reported, Samantha's eyes were immediately on Jack as she tried to discern his mood. They hadn't spoken since the SGC when she had taken him for a pilgrim and now with her new found interest in Malcolm Barrett she knew she would have to make some effort to communicate with him.
As Jack patted the nose of his faithful mule he was joined by the Black Knight.
"Jack how goes it?" the man asked jovially.
"I'm healing well enough thank you, sir."
"Just not quick enough, eh?"
"Well, no, sir," Jack said quickly giving the other man a weak smile.
"From the information I've had from Locksley and his men, and the little I could wring out of de Bracy, I think my brother is at York trying to gather support. I will have to face him soon. He has kept the mantle of my leadership warm but it doesn't fit him all that well."
"I'm not sure we'll have time to raise an army, sir," Jack put in, grateful that his commander in chief had given him something else to think about besides Daniel.
"I wasn't planning on doing that, Jack," Hayes smiled. "I want to challenge Robert face to face. Matching one army against another means we don't actually get to talk and besides, I don't want men to die unnecessarily. No, I just need a small force and the opportunity to see Robert alone."
"We know he commands a number of knights who have their own supporters. It might not be that easy to get a one-on-one, sir."
"Who do we know that's likely to support him?" Henry mused.
"Well de Bois Guilbert if off the scene, he's involved in his own one-on-one," Jack commented sourly.
"Possibly," Hayes nodded. "What about Harry de Bracy?"
"He's an idiot," Jack snapped, "and he's more interested in number one than anyone else's one-on-one," O'Neill quipped. "He can't be trusted and it's possible if you make him an offer he'll jump sides."
"We know Front de Boeuf isn't a threat. What about the other Templars though? Baal is only one after all."
"No, the Templars guard their independence pretty much, sir. They won't want to get involved if they can help it," Jack confirmed.
"Then there's Waldemar Fitzhurse. He could be dangerous, he's put in a lot of years with Robert and he's ambitious," Hayes continued.
"He'll want to see a result from his investment. He might be the man you'll have to watch out for." Pursing his lips, Jack frowned. "You should be very careful, sir. If Fitzhurse gets himself a small group of handpicked men they could head off any attempt you make to get to Kinsey."
"You're right, Jack which is why I'm going alone."
"But sir!" Jack protested, "You need reinforcements."
"No, it has to be just me. I can do covert if I have to," Hayes laughed, reprising Jack's favourite phrase from their time in Palestine.
"I'll come with you," Jack said firmly and his stomach lurched at the thought of leaving Daniel to Baal's less than loving charms. "Wait till we get to Coningsburgh and I can get me a horse."
"Definitely not. You're not well enough yet and I think you have your own mission to complete, Jack."
Smiling, Jack dropped his head for a moment.
"To be honest, sir, I want to try and get Daniel before Baal does his worst but as a soldier I owe you my loyalty. As soon as I'm well enough I'll meet you in York. In the meantime, I do have another idea..."
Nodding, Hayes glanced over his shoulder at Charlie Kawalski. "I'm going to leave you now and if I can, I'll be back in time for Athelstane's funeral. I've got Jacob's agreement for Kawalski to accompany me, so you see, Jack, I won't be entirely alone. Goodbye for now and good luck."
"You too, sir," Jack replied and watched with surprise and pleasure as his leader walked away to meet the joker and make ready to leave.
The Black Knight and his comedic companion said their farewells to the rest of Jacob's group and set forth through the forest to join the road to York.
"Sir Knight," Charlie said conversationally, "We are currently travelling through the land of Ra Malvoisin. What will you do if we meet two of his men?"
"Why, I'd pin them with my lance," the knight smiled.
"And what if there were four of them? What would you do then?"
"They'd drink from the same cup, my friend," Hayes replied calmly.
"And if there were six or more? I'm not a knight, sir. The only skill I have is in running, which I can do very quickly when I have to," Charlie said, the tone of his voice only half joking. "Do you still have that bugle that Malcolm Barrett gave you, the horn he won at Ashby? Just make sure you have it to hand. This forest is full of outlaws and they're all Normans," Kawalski warned.
"Relax," the knight said to his companion. "We might seem like bait but believe me, this worm will fight back."
"As long as you're not fed to the fish first," the joker remarked, wondering if the knight was fully prepared for trouble as he ought to be.
Not long after this conversation finished, the travellers turned a bend in the path and the knight drew his steed to a halt.
"What is it?" asked Charlie nervously.
"Sshhh, I think we have at least one fisherman behind that thicket," hissed the solider.
As he finished speaking three arrows whistled through the air directly at the knight and were repelled by his very substantial armour. Dropping his visor over his eyes, Hayes charged at the thicket. Kawalski watched anxiously as his friend was met by a group of men, three of whom ran at him with lances. The knight remained firmly in his saddle as the spears splintered against him. Lashing out with his sword he drove them back until a new assailant appeared wearing blue armour and fully equipped to do battle. With great speed and determination, the Blue Knight drove his lance into the breast of Henry's steed, delivering a mortal blow.
"That was a stroke unworthy of a chivalrous knight!" exclaimed Hayes as the horse folded under him, pulling his rider to the ground.
As fast as he could, Kawalski ran to the unseated knight and grabbing the bugle, blew on it as hard as he could, letting out a ring that scattered the population of birds and animals for some distance around them.
The Blue Knight renewed his murderous effort, taking another lance with which to skewer the flailing Henry Hayes. Charlie drew his wooden sword and struck at the Blue Knight's steed and losing its footing it toppled Hayes's challenger. The Black Knight got to his feet and valiantly continued to defend himself against the half dozen or so men who assailed him from all sides.
Charlie began to panic; he was in no position to aid his comrade. The attackers were dressed in armour or were heavily armed. All he had was his wooden sword and Locksley's horn. He thought to blow the alarm again when he saw an arrow fly to the heart of Bynarr, felling him in a second. Immediately the place was filled with the shouts of voices and the clash of weapons as Locksley, Urgo and twenty worthy yeomen crushed the villains.
Within moments, most of the Black Knight's opposition was dead or dying. Only the Blue Knight was still in reasonable health, grounded at the point of Kawalski's sword.
"I think we should see who's inside this helmet," Charlie announced, unfastening the leather straps. As Kawalski lifted off the metal head protection, Hayes sucked in a breath.
"Waldemar Fitzhurse?" Henry said in astonishment. "What brings you to be involved in something this underhand?"
"Henry, you have no idea what drives a man to ambition and revenge," Fitzhurse choked out as Kawalski stood over him, the point of his sword threatening the knight's Adam's apple.
"Revenge?" asked Hayes. "I've never done anything to hurt you. What reason have you got to threaten me?"
"You refused my daughter in marriage, Henry and by doing so insulted me and my family whose blood is as noble as yours."
"Your daughter?" Hayes laughed and then his expression changed to dead seriousness. "Now tell me what this is really about," he said taking his would-be assassin to one side.
"Robert," Waldemar said quietly.
Nodding, Henry looked at the disgraced baron. "Why aren't you begging for your life, Fitzhurse? You know you've committed treason."
"I can't think of any reason why you would want to grant me my life, Henry," Waldemar said kneeling at the feet of his leader.
"Take you life, Fitzhurse; my quarrel is not with you. However, there is one condition. You have three days to leave England. Take your exile to France and never mention my brother's name again. Say one word about the way my brother has behaved in this matter or come back into the country uninvited and your life will be forfeit. Locksley, give him one of those loose horses and let him go unharmed."
"Let one of my arrows chase him away and save him the effort of a long journey," Locksley retorted, angry that Henry's life had been so severely threatened.
"You bear a good English heart, Locksley and the better for following my order when I say no harm shall come to Fitzhurse. I'm Henry Hayes!"
Barrett's face was a picture when he realised the identity of his friend and comrade in arms. Bowing he acknowledged the presence of the leader of his country and those with him did the same.
"Please don't stand on ceremony. You have been loyal and steadfast in my service and I want to thank you for watching over my life as I rode through the forest today."
"You mean we weren't actually alone?" Kawalski asked incredulously.
"Not today, my friend," Hayes grinned. "I asked Locksley to follow me at a distance. Someone suggested that it might be Fitzhurse who was after my hide and I'm sorry to say it was."
Glancing around him, Hayes saw the contrite figure of Urgo the priest, on his knees and fingering his rosary at the news of who the Black Knight really was. He was obviously embarrassed by the raucous and drunken episode they'd shared the night before Torquilstone and even worse, his initial hostility when the Black Knight first knocked on his door. The expression on his face looked like the down turned tassels of a purse and yet his eyes were still playful.
"Urgo, why the long face?" Henry asked trying not to laugh out loud.
"Sir, I have been rude to you, over indulged with food and wine and even lied to you about the quality of my hospitality," groaned the friar.
"Don't worry, Urgo. Henry Hayes does not betray secrets shared over a flagon or two."
When the priest thought about the plate of parched peas he'd offer Hayes he groaned even louder.
As Jack continued his journey to Coningsburgh and Henry Hayes was fighting the traitorous Fitzhurse, Nick was travelling to Templestowe. After a few hours on horseback the old man's bones had been shaken and jarred enough and he needed to rest. He stopped at a village a few miles short of his destination. He had an old friend there and sought food and refuge for a few hours.
"What brings you to these parts, Nick?" asked his long time friend, Walter Scott.
"I'm looking for my grandson," the Digger said sipping at his drink. "I believe he might have been taken to the Preceptory of Templestowe."
"Well I don't know about that but I've heard that Anubis Beaumanoir, head of the Templars is visiting. There's been a lot of activity in the village to supply the monastery with extra food, firewood and so on. When Anubis comes to call he brings an army of attendants with him," chuckled Walter.
Nick frowned. He'd heard about the reputation of the Grand Master of the Templars. It was common knowledge that many of the knights had moved away from the original concept of the order, tempted by pleasures of the flesh and the accumulation of wealth and that it was Beaumanoir's single mission in life to seek out and punish those who transgressed the vows of the order.
Anubis was made from a different stamp to the monks who were thus tempted, hating sensuality, despising treasure and promoting the stringency of self denial. He believed that anything 'foreign', of any description, was Satan's work. His bigotry was renowned. He hated Eastern medicine with a passion and in hating it, punished those of his order he deemed too closely connected with it. In short, he was short sighted, prejudiced and narrow minded. He was however powerful and the leader of a military order known for its courage, bravery and single mindedness when it came to achieving any mission.
Beaumanoir was truly formidable and was the personification of his order's reputation. His zeal was unmatched and he concentrated it on the soft and indulgent underbelly of his church. He was determined to stamp out the excesses of his men in England hence his visit to Templestowe. This Preceptory was only the English headquarters of the Templar Order; Anubis controlled a large international organisation that stretched to the Mediterranean Sea.
"Anubis might be able to turn de Bois Guilbert away from whatever evil he had in store for Daniel," Nick said hopefully.
"Indeed," nodded Walter in return, wondering who Anubis might see as the victim in all this, Baal or the Digger's grandson.
After a few hours sleep at his friend's house, Nick went on his way to Templestowe. When he got there he was awed by the tall smooth outer walls of the monastery. These were well maintained and the pale sandstone glowed in the sunshine.
Two black-clad halberdiers guarded the drawbridge and others walked the battlements at a funereal pace, resembling dark spectres against the skyline. Their black costumes reflected their lower rank; it was only the knights themselves who wore the white cloak of honour, marked with the small crest of the red crucifix at the shoulder.
As Nick watched the quiet measured activity through the open gate he saw the occasional Templar knight crossing the vast courtyard, arms folded over his chest with his eyes down. If he met a fellow knight, only the acknowledgement of a slight nod was permitted. The licentious indulgence of the order had been exchanged for the rigour of the Temple, suddenly revived at Templestowe under the severe eye of its Grand Master.
In a small private garden adjacent to the Preceptor's apartments, given up to Anubis for the period of his stay, the Grand Master walked in the company of the head of Templestowe, Apophis Malvoisin, brother to Ra.
Though similarly dressed to Anubis, the Preceptor showed great deference to his master, marking out the inequality between them. The Grand Master was a man of advanced years with a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that could not hide the fire of zealousness that burned in his eyes. In his younger days he was known as a formidable warrior and his drawn severe features retained the soldier's fierceness of expression, a reflection of a lifetime of abstinence and the self satisfaction of the spiritual pride of a devotee. Though known as a bigot, the man had a striking appearance and bearing, born of mixing with monarchs and princes. He had carried the supreme responsibility and authority of his order for many years. He was tall and slim, carrying himself as though his spine was made of a metal rod.
"Malvoisin," Anubis said," I am tired of this office and wish that God would take me into heaven," the old man sighed wearily. "Since my arrival in England I have seen nothing that pleases me."
Nodding Apophis, who walked just off his leader's shoulder, had to agree. "It is true, my lord though the irregularities of our brethren in England are even more gross than those in France."
"Indeed, Malvoisin. Perhaps it is time for a younger man to take my place, someone whose courage and commitment can root out the malicious and avaricious practices of our brothers."
"Have you anyone in mind?" Apophis asked carefully, not wanting the Grand Master to think he would be happy to see the old man die.
"Yes, I have. I want to name the noble Baal de Bois Guilbert as my successor," Anubis stated. "He will carry the order to even greater glory," the master of the Temple smiled. "He is a worthy adversary in the fight against the disgusting practices so many of our brothers seem to enjoy."
Apophis did his best to mask his reaction to this piece of news. He knew the real Baal and his demanding appetite for sex. If the Grand Master had any clue at all he would have the knight tried and executed and if Baal went so would Malvoisin. The Preceptor had his own interests, mainly focussing on being tied firmly to another man and being beaten by a third.
"I am ashamed to think of the habits corrupting our order," the old man continued and Apophis turned his head to stare at a lavender plant. He felt his cheeks flush and wanted to avoid the eye of his master, though in doing so he also felt the flare of arousal between his legs; he always found the severity of authority exercised on his mind and body excited him.
Baal looked out of his apartment window, high up in the Templestowe complex. He saw the tall and brittle figure of Anubis in close conversation with the Templar's friend, Malvoisin. Turning he smiled at his 'guest', in reality his captive, Daniel Jackson.
"Daniel, why don't you eat some breakfast?" the Templar asked gently.
In contrast, the archaeologist sat at the table with his arms folded, sullen and resentful.
"I'm not going to poison you," Baal said brightly. "See?" He picked up the plump loaf of bread and pulled a morsel from it, popping it delicately into his mouth. "Please, Daniel. Starving yourself won't help you. Look, there's freshly baked bread, butter and wonderfully sweet and aromatic honey. There's cheese and fruit from the Temple orchards," the knight said sitting down opposite Daniel as he concluded his commentary on the menu.
Daniel couldn't bring himself to eat; if he did it would feel like he was a party to the knight's conspiracy, as though he was in agreement with his own captivity.
"I promise I won't harm you," Baal went on. "Just eat something to keep yourself from fainting. You'll need a full stomach if you're planning to fight me," the knight smiled.
"I don't want to fight you; I just want you to let me go. You have no right to keep me here," Jackson stated defiantly.
"Daniel, Daniel," purred Baal, "I want you to understand something. I am very attracted to you. You are beautiful and every time I look at you my heart aches. I love you and I want to spend my life worshipping you, caring for you and loving you," the Norman confessed sincerely. He really believed that what he was saying was the truth of his feelings.
Blinking, Daniel's emotions recoiled at what the man had told him. He had witnessed the callous act of Jack's murder, even though he wasn't actually dead but that wasn't the point. Baal had shown no hesitation, no thought and no mercy. How could he believe that a man like this could be trusted, let alone have the capacity for true unselfish love?
"Did you think I really killed the man in the cart?" Baal asked contemptuously and Daniel started. Could he read his prisoner's mind? "I knew there wasn't a real person there. I just wanted to frighten the others. The manifestation of power rests as much on perception as it does on reality."
"So, if I think you're powerful then you are," murmured Daniel.
"Exactly," Baal confirmed smugly. "Don't think of me as powerful, Daniel," the Templar said leaving his seat and walking around the table to stand next to him. "Think of me as the tool of your heart. I would do anything you ask of me."
"Then let me go."
Dropping to one knee Baal unfolded Daniel's arms and held one of his hands in both of his own. "I know we can't be happy together here in England. There are too many curious and judgemental eyes to see us. Come with me across the Channel. I have a small force of loyal Saracens. We can live in Palestine or Egypt and we could have our own small castle to live in or in one of those tents used by the nomads. We could become princes of the desert," the Templar said his imagination seeing the two them against the sunset of the Sahara. "Please say you will, Daniel?"
Jackson shook himself clear of the Templar, scraping back his chair and backing away from him.
"No!" the archaeologist exclaimed. "I don't want you. I don't love you and certainly don't trust you," he went on.
"You'll learn to love me and I'll show you that you can trust me," the knight pleaded. "We could be so good together, just let me show you."
As he spoke, Baal crossed the gap between them and pushing Daniel against the far wall, pinning his arms at his sides.
"You excite me so much," Baal whispered, his hot breath stroking Daniel's mouth. His speech was erratic and he was already highly aroused. The strength of his passion momentarily rendered Daniel immobile except for his traitorous cock, which filled and swelled as Baal's body made contact with his own.
"What's that Saxon word, Daniel? Oh I know, yes. Let me fuck you, my love?" the Norman rasped as his body quivered with lust. His hands pawed at Daniel's shirt, desperate to touch him.
Suddenly Daniel remembered what Jack had said to him in the mule cart, using that same Saxon word. The archaeologist knew that when Jack said it, it meant something quite different to how Baal meant it and with strength that surprised even himself, he threw off the grasping knight, making his stagger backwards.
"If you won't let me take you," the Templar pleaded, "then you can take me." He looked imploringly at Daniel and then the knight tore at his shirt revealing his bare chest and dark brown nipples.
Daniel's eyes widened at the fervent nature of the man's desire for him. He was sure that Baal would attempt to rape him and desperately he looked around the room for some means with which to defend himself. Darting his hand to the breakfast table, Daniel grabbed the bread knife, holding it out between himself and the knight.
"I can't jump out of the window to get away from you like I did before," Daniel said, "but I can stop you from getting any closer and don't think I won't use this!" he shouted. "I'll send you to your maker just as quickly as you would have done, if Jack had really been in that cart!"
For a moment Baal froze when he heard Jack's name. His passion and lust suddenly dissipated and he was once again quiet, his body stilled with surprise. For an instant he was rendered speechless.
"Jack?" Baal asked in surprise. "Do you mean Ivanhoe?" the Templar said with a steely voice as he recovered his wit.
"Yes and what about it?" Daniel bit back. "What's he to you?"
"Oh plenty, my dear Daniel," Baal said his voice laced with a sinister tone. "The man you care for is Jack O'Neill," he observed as his mouth twitched with a smile. "Well, well, well...if I can keep you here long enough I might be able to kill two birds with one stone," the knight proclaimed enigmatically. "Take a seat and put that knife down," the Norman ordered, "and eat your breakfast."
He walked to the window again and thought. He realised that he could use Daniel as bait to attract Ivanhoe. At the point at which the Disinherited Knight would come to his rescue Baal would possess Daniel and in crowing triumph, kill his greatest enemy Jack O'Neill. The plan was so simple and so perfect that de Bois Guilbert laughed out loud. Striding back to the table the knight plunged his forefinger into the dish of honey and slowly sucked off the syrup, his black eyes fixed intently on the blue of his prisoner.
Not long after Jacob and his caravan had arrived at Coningsburgh, Jack lay down on a bed in a small chamber at the rear of the castle, exhausted and dispirited. His frustration mounted at what he considered to be the slowness of the healing process and he wondered if he would ever be well again.
He was increasingly worried about Daniel's welfare and though he hoped Baal would exercise the code of chivalry that all knights were supposed to live by, he couldn't help thinking about the streak of lust and cruelty that separated Baal from many of the rest of his order. Added to this was the growing threat to the life of Henry Hayes. The longer he was in the country the more chance there was of his discovery when he was least able to assert his authority. Jack let out a long breath and closed his eyes, resting his arm across them lest the tears of love for Daniel and frustration at his own situation escaped.
Hearing a knock at his door, Jack rubbed his eyes with his knuckles and sat up slowly. His visitor was Henry Hayes.
"What happened to you?" Jack asked as he looked at the blood splattered armour of his leader.
"You were right, Jack. Fitzhurse and a gang of men attacked us not far from where I left you."
"Are you all right?" Ivanhoe asked quickly. "Are you injured?"
"No, really I'm fine. Charlie Kawalski stood by me and Locksley and his men were there in the nick of time. Your plan worked, Jack. Getting the yeomen to follow me at a distance meant that Fitzhurse and his men thought I was easy prey. I've sent him into exile; he won't be troubling me again."
"Or helping you brother," added the knight with satisfaction.
"Now I can give time to Athelstane's funeral and the respect the man deserves," Hayes said. "Join me later, Jack I still have plans to make and I need the advice of my second in command."
Alone again, Jack couldn't allow himself to make plans involving Daniel. He was frightened to give himself hope.
The rest of Coningsburgh castle was busy with activity as arrangements progressed for Athelstane's funeral. A constant parade of callers came to pay their respects and to help themselves to the generous hospitality of tables spread with the banquet of a noble's wake. There were huge roast oxen, fat sheep and numerous hogsheads of ale available to all who attended.
All manner of Saxons crossed the threshold of Coningsburgh from the half naked serf who ate and drank away six months worth of starvation in a single day, their drunkenness waived indulgently away. Yeomen and nobles mixed together enjoying the variety and quality of the provisions on offer. Even the poorer Normans showed up, distinguished by their French fashions and by the fact that they kept together in a tight knit group, believing themselves besieged by the greater number of Saxons present. There were minstrels and jugglers, jesters and poets engaged to entertain the guests. If sorrow was thirsty there was drink and if it was hungry there was food. If sorrow laid heavy on the heart there was amusement to lighten it.
In a small chamber next to the chapel Jacob and his fellow Saxon nobles gathered to pay homage to Athelstane. They were joined by the Black Knight whose identity was still unknown to Jacob but known to Ivanhoe. After the formal exchange of greetings Jacob led his guest and his stepson through to the small rudely constructed chapel where George's body was laid to rest in a sealed casket before his cremation.
Two priests were knelt at the base of the raised plinth upon which the departed Saxon's coffin was placed. They were relieved of their duty by other priests who had already sampled the revels of the funeral goers. In another room nearby, George's elderly mother was mourning to the gently singing of Samantha and several other women of the household.
It was Saxon tradition that the men would present the women with baskets of flowers or garlands and Athelstane's wake was no exception. As each man stepped forward to decorate the woman of his choice, Jack took a garland of sweet smelling roses to adorn the neck of Samantha Carter. Jack couldn't help but stare at her, her beauty was enhanced by soft candlelight and gentle female voices in the background.
For all his thoughts and deeds about sex with men and his feelings for Daniel, at that moment in time he could have fallen for her. She saw the expression in his eyes and her heart faltered. The moment was soon over and it would never return between them ever again.
After the singing and the flower giving was concluded, Jacob led the principals to a side room leaving the monks alone. The women retired to another room close by except for Samantha who accompanied her father. Jacob seated himself among his Saxon kinsmen and in unspoken agreement he took on the mantle as the senior spokesperson and leader of his people, an honour he had always deferred to Athelstane when he was alive. Besides the six or son Saxon elders and Samantha, there was also the Black Knight and Jack.
The Black Knight declined to sit but approached Jacob.
"Sir, you offered me the riches and sanctuary of your home and I, for my own reasons could not accept but now I do have boon to ask of you."
"Whatever it is, good knight, I will do my best to grant it," Jacob replied kindly.
"You know me as the Black Knight but my real name is Henry Hayes, legitimate leader of this country."
"You may have the legitimacy of being born a Norman but to the oppressed Saxons of this land, our land before it was ever yours, you are Henry Hayes of Anjou," Jacob retorted gruffly.
Jack could not remain still and his body tensed as he prepared to get up and defend his friend and leader.
"Hear me out, Jacob," Henry went on. "I consider myself to be English and to lead a nation of Englishmen where neither is Norman or Saxon. My most heartfelt wish and the boon I ask you, is that you will join with me and those Normans who want to see a united country. Please, Jacob set aside whatever distrust and hate you have and move away from what has happened in the past to help me build a future for everyone."
There was an awkward silence as the other Saxon family heads looked to Jacob for their lead. Jack moved from his seat, stood beside his leader and looked directly at his stepfather.
"Please, Jacob if you want things to change for the better you have to make the first move," Jack said.
"And part of that is to forgive Ivanhoe for following me against your will, Jacob," Hayes added with great sincerity.
"Jack," Jacob said standing up, "you have always been wilful and headstrong but you have never knowingly hurt anyone because of it, except me..."
"No, just listen, son," Jacob threw back quickly. "You are a brave and honourable man and you've proved this by the courage of your convictions and I am truly grateful for that," the Saxon smiled. "You are my son again," the older man announced laughing and the two embraced like long lost kin.
Hayes smiled too. He knew that the rift between Jack and his stepfather was hard for the knight and though he'd never said much about it, Henry was aware of how unhappy it had made him. At last, after years of separation the two were now one in their love for each other.
"And now I have an announcement to make," Jacob said excitedly. "Though I am deeply affected by Athelstane's loss, I can say now that the death of my daughter's betrothed brings with it a happy co-incidence, the arrival of Ivanhoe. I am pleased to say that these two will be married once the customary two years of mourning have passed." For Jacob, Samantha's union with Malcolm Barrett was totally unacceptable. Jack's already expressed wish not to wed the Saxon's daughter, Jacob took as something he could conveniently forget at this point in time. The revelation that he should allow Samantha to make her own choices was justified by his act of speaking up on her behalf and sparing her the shyness of making her own announcement.
Everyone glanced between Jack and Samantha and none detected any evidence that Jacob's announcement was a joyous occasion for either of them. In fact, there was a stunned silence in the room and an awkwardness that even Jacob could not fail to notice.
Opening his mouth to say something Jacob felt angry and disappointed. He thought this was what they wanted, it was certainly what he wanted and now there was cold wind blowing between the two most important people in his life.
Suddenly the sounds of consternation and confusion could be heard from the hallway. The heavy wooden door was flung open with a bang and to the shock of all who witnessed it. The figure of George Athelstane filled the doorway. Haggard and pale he looked like someone who had only recently risen from the dead.
"Good God, save us all!" exclaimed Jacob as his colour drained. "Are you the ghost of my cousin Athelstane? Living or dead speak to me," pleaded the Saxon.
"I will, Jacob as soon as I've caught my breath," Athelstane gasped and staggering to Jack's empty chair, sat down heavily. "Though alive, cousin I feel as though I have been dead for the past three days having received nothing but bread and water."
"Tell me, Athelstane," put in Henry Hayes, "I saw you struck down by Harry de Bracy towards the end of the battle at Torquilstone and according to Charlie Kawalski you head was split in two."
"You thought wrong, Sir Knight," George remarked, "and Kawalski was mistaken. I did have a very bad headache though, no thanks to the knight," he muttered. "When he hit me, his sword turned in his hand and he gave me a hard knock with the flat of his blade and if I'd been wearing my helmet he would have done me no harm at all. As it was, I went down stunned by the blow and then to make things worse I was buried by dead and wounded. When I woke up I was already in my coffin!"
The others listening to this gasped with horror. The thought of being buried or cremated alive was something that was always on the mind as the body aged and mortality beckoned ever closer to those who survived to celebrate another birthday.
"I woke, sneezed and coughed and by doing so, frightened the abbot in whose chapel I was to rest before my funeral. He panicked and gave me a sip of wine that must have been heavily medicated because I passed out again."
His audience gasped repeatedly as the details of Athelstane's captivity emerged at the hands of the monks who were charged with looking after his body, providing a vigil at his side and bringing him to Coningsburgh for his funeral.
"I found myself tied and trussed and left in a place that was utterly dark and by the smell of it, somewhere like a dungeon. Two monks visited me and tried to persuade me that I was in purgatory and I might have believed them except I recognised the wheezing nasal tone of the abbot himself."
"Athelstane, how did you escape? Did their hearts relent?" asked Jacob with deep concern at the treatment of his kinsman.
"Did their hearts relent!" exclaimed George. "Do rocks melt in the sun?" he demanded, his eyes bulging with indignation. "The despicable abbot came into my cell and left me a meagre pie crust and a tankard of wine. The man had already indulged in his own liquid supper and was drunk. When he left me he didn't lock the door properly so I escaped. The chains they used to hold me were rusted right through so I pulled them out of the wall. I made my way to the stables and found my horse there. I rode here as quickly as I could, not that anyone recognised me when I did get here, I was taken for a juggler," he complained bitterly. "I swear that once I've eaten some decent food I am going to take those ungrateful and hypocritical clerics and they will die," the rotund Saxon growled.
"But what about the Pope?" Jacob asked, worried that any violence meted out to the monks would lead to some greater punishment for the perpetrator.
"I'm not interested in the Pope," grumbled Athelstane, "it's just those monks I want dead!"
"Wait a minute, George," Jacob intervened again. "There's something more important that needs your attention. Tell this Norman, Henry Hayes of Anjou that you have a stronger claim to the country's leadership than he does. You are directly descended from Alfred the Great. You must challenge him, George," Jacob said, agitated by Athelstane's apparent lack of understanding of the political situation.
"This is Henry Hayes?" George asked in astonishment. "When I last saw him he was the Black Knight."
"And still am, my friend," smiled Hayes.
"I must remind you, Athelstane that he is my guest and he is not to be harmed or held against his will," Jacob added quickly, hoping to take advantage of his cousin's ire against the monks. This way he could promote the perception that George was an invincible soldier, as long as he remembered to wear his helmet. "I am reminding you of your duty, George, in case you lose control of your passion," Jack said giving Hayes a warning glance.
"I know my duty as a subject too," Athelstane replied, "and I give him my allegiance, heart and hand."
"Athelstane!" his cousin retorted, "think about your rights, your situation."
"I've had three days locked in a dungeon on nothing more than bread and water to think about my situation," Athelstane said firmly. "In the last few days I have been battered and bruised, imprisoned and starved and besides, if I were to 'stand' on my rights as you put it, I have no doubt it would end in the murder of many thousands of quiet folk. No, I am perfectly content to be just the leader of my own domain and my first order of business is to hang the abbot!"
"And what about my daughter, Samantha? Are you going to desert her as well?" Jacob demanded to know.
"Be reasonable, Jacob. The Lady Samantha doesn't care for me, she loves another," George remarked smiling.
While all this discussion and debate was going on, Jack was only half listening. By now he was leaning against the wall by the doorway, his arms folded across his chest; he was thinking about Daniel. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder and glancing round, saw Malcolm Barrett just outside in the hall.
"What's up?" Jack asked quietly.
Frowning, Barrett beckoned Jack out of the room to speak to him. "I've got news about Daniel Jackson..."
Nick dismounted and led his horse slowly to the main gate of the Templestowe citadel. Speaking to the guard he asked to see Baal in the hope that he was there and with him, Daniel. The Digger was careful in his choice of words not wanting to make the life of his grandson more vulnerable than it might already be. He only enquired after the knight and made no mention or accusation of a prisoner. A page was summoned to take the message to the Templar but knowing that Anubis would want to know the old man with the strange ideas was requesting an audience with the de Bois Guilbert, the child left quickly to find the head of his order.
Running across the courtyard, the eleven year old Damian had to make a guess as to where the Grand Master was likely to be at that time of the day. Anubis was in the habit of walking in the quiet walled garden near his apartment so the child made that his first port of call. As he entered the green serenity of contemplation he could see ahead of him, the tall poker-straight figure of Anubis Beaumanoir in close discussion with the Preceptor of Templestowe, Apophis Malvoisin.
"I am deeply concerned that our order is toppling under the weight of corruption, Malvoisin," Anubis said looking directly at his companion. "I woke just as the dawn was breaking and unable to sleep I got up and came here. I thought I saw two men together, in an unholy embrace," the Grand Master said planting his hands on his chest to mime the shock he so clearly felt at the time. "I looked up at the glorious edifice of our monastery and thought I saw two men kissing at the window!" Beaumanoir exclaimed, repulsed yet again by the thought of it.
"Perhaps what you saw wasn't real, my lord," Apophis suggested. "Perhaps you saw a premonition of what might happen if our brethren do not mend their ways. Perhaps it was the devil playing his own games to which you were the unfortunate witness," Malvoisin added nervously. He knew Baal was keeping Daniel in his apartment; he'd sanctioned his entry through the gates the previous night under the secrecy of darkness. It was unfortunate that the Grand Master suffered from insomnia.
"My lord," Damian said, out of breath from his run.
"What is it, boy?" Anubis asked irritated by the child's interruption.
Damian dropped his eyes and looked at his hands, he couldn't help it as the old man's bushy eyebrows and piercing eyes frightened him.
"There is a man at the gate asking to see brother de Bois Guilbert, my lord."
"Who is he?" enquired the Grand Master.
"He says his name is Nick Ballard, known as Nick the Digger," the boy replied.
Gasping, Beaumanoir recoiled at the association of this man and his ideas with the argument that undermined the belief system of the church's teachings.
"What does he want with Baal?" Anubis demanded.
"He says brother de Bois Guilbert has something that belongs to him and he respectfully requests its return."
"Tell him to come here," Beaumanoir ordered and dismissed the page to fetch him.
"I remember when Baal joined us as a moody and dissolute young man, carrying so much disappointment with him but over what I am not clear," the old man said reminiscing. "He has applied himself with remarkable single mindedness. He has grown in courage and bravery but somehow I wonder if there is still a grain of dissatisfaction in his heart," muttered Anubis now questioning his original notion of Baal's succession to the weighty role of Grand Master.
Nick approached Beaumanoir and the old men nodded their acknowledgement of one another, recognising the age and growing infirmity they both shared.
"What is your business with Baal de Bois Guilbert?" Anubis asked.
"He has something of great value, sir that belongs to me," Nick answered truthfully.
"And this 'something'...what is it?"
"I can say nothing more, Grand Master. The dispute is between me and the Templar," Nick replied trying to contain the real nature of his accusation; not for Baal's sake but for Daniel's. Beaumanoir wasn't the only observer and critic of the way the Templar Order conducted its business, Nick was also aware of the injustices committed in the name of God and charity.
"What is that in your hand?" demanded Anubis and before Nick could properly conceal the item or reply, the Grand Master had snatched it out of his grip. Unfolding the paper carefully, Beaumanoir studied its contents.
"So you have a letter for de Bois Guilbert and what does it say?" Anubis said his question purely rhetorical. "Ah, it says here that Baal has taken your grandson captive and that you are appealing for his return. What does this mean, Malvoisin? Why would an honoured brother of the Temple be involved in such an action?"
Inwardly Nick shuddered. He hadn't meant for the scrap of paper to be found, he had written it just in case Baal wouldn't see him and now its discovery could jeopardise Daniel's welfare even further. He berated himself for being a stupid old man and not being careful enough with his plan.
"I know not, my lord but I will go now and make enquiries," replied Malvoisin, "With your permission, sir?" the Preceptor said, his body already turning in the direction of Baal's apartment.
"Go and make you enquiries, Malvoisin and report them to me directly," Anubis said through gritted teeth. If there were any grounds for this accusation, his protégé would probably have to pay with his life, apart from the shame and dishonour that would be connected to the Templar Order itself.
Glancing at the rest of Nick's letter, Beaumanoir's eyes widened and his bushy eyebrows rose like hairy platforms on his forehead.
"It says here that your grandson would not harm anyone, that he is student of healing and therefore would have no reason to cause his own captivity. What healing does your grandson practice?" Anubis asked his eyes intent on extracting a reply from the Digger.
Nick winced. This was exactly the kind of detail he had hoped to keep between himself and the Templar and now with his message in the hands of Anubis, his mission had taken a darker path than he had intended.
"My grandson has treated yeomen and nobles, men and women. He has a particular skill when it comes to helping people," Nick said, sure that if he could give Anubis a positive impression of his grandson, Beaumanoir would be more sympathetic to his cause.
"And your grandson is a prisoner of Baal de Bois Guilbert, you say?"
"Yes, I do say," Nick retorted trying hard not to lose his temper.
"And he practices the art of healing? Who is his tutor?"
"Daniel has studied many of the ancient texts, of China and Arabia, sir," the Digger replied proudly. Daniel also had a particular skill with languages.
When Ballard mentioned ancient texts, Anubis visibly stiffened. As far as he was concerned anything foreign was nothing short of witchcraft.
"I cannot and will not accept these practices as anything but ungodly!" and clutching at his breast, Anubis screwed his face up in abhorrence at this newest information.
"But, sir..." Nick began as Anubis' expression darkened. "He has never done any harm to anyone; his potions have worked miracles..."
"Only our Lord God and the Holy Mother can do that!" the Grand Master returned, his voice growing in volume. "It is clear to me that your grandson practices the devil's work, he is Satan incarnate sent here to turn the innocent and the helpless!"
By now Beaumanoir was angry and upset, his zealousness fed by his suspicion and hatred, the fire in his eyes unquenched by his advancing years. He would root out this abomination one way...or another.
Daniel sat slumped over the breakfast table, he was dog-tired and needed to sleep but he was afraid to. He couldn't trust Baal and therefore could not close his eyes for a second. He was alone now and had been for some time and as he glanced at the bed he wanted to sleep. Hauling himself out of his chair he stood over the mattress and looked at it. If he were to put himself into it, Baal might come and try to...come at his expense. If he didn't sleep he would be in no fit state to fight off the Templar's advances. How he wished Jack were there with him to support him and help him overcome this dreadful situation but he wasn't and Daniel would have to deal with it as best he could. Rubbing his eyes he knew he couldn't stay awake much longer and so reluctantly he kicked off his boots and decided to use the bed.
As he started to pull down his trousers he thought for a moment and quickly yanked them back up again. If he slept with his clothes on and Baal got in beside him he would wake as the knight fumbled to get access to him. The problem was it was hot in the room and Daniel liked to sleep naked, he needed to be comfortable. Instead he compromised and kept his trousers on but took off his shirt. Sliding under the blanket he closed his eyes but he now couldn't sleep. He just kept seeing a carnival of images wafting through his brain distracting him from much needed rest.
Eventually his mind settled on just one image, that of a naked Ivanhoe Jack O'Neill wearing the silver chain and talisman that the younger man had returned to him. Daniel was back again in Jack's tent on the morning of the Ashby tournament, his eyes gazing at the man's body. Groaning quietly, Daniel turned over and wished for sleep to overtake his mind and yet by the same token he didn't want to lose the picture of the man he had come to like and admire. A single tear welled up as he knew that his like and admiration for the man was much stronger than that, he was in love with the knight and he would never deny it; he just hoped he would get the chance to show it.
Daniel had been asleep for a while, maybe an hour or so when the door to the chamber was flung open and waking, he saw Apophis Malvoisin standing over him, flushed and agitated.
"Where's Baal?" the Preceptor demanded to know.
"I...I don't know," stammered Daniel only just conscious as he reached for his shirt.
Grunting, Malvoisin stared at the young man as if to accuse him of secreting the Templar in the room that imprisoned him.
"I don't know!" Daniel said again, making it clear that he wasn't hiding the knight and that he didn't genuinely know or care where he was.
Malvoisin grunted a second time and without further conversation, slammed and locked the door behind him. Considering where Baal might be, the Preceptor headed for a tiny, little used chapel just a floor below. Opening the door quietly, Apophis let his vision adjust to the gloom of the chamber to see a figure apparently knelt in prayer in front of the altar.
"Baal?" he whispered, "Is that you?"
The figure straightened and turned; it was the Templar.
"What do you want, Malvoisin? I'm trying to think," Baal complained trying to rub away a pain in his right arm.
De Bois Guilbert was still foaming with indignation from Daniel's latest rejection of him and was doubly angry that his thoughts had been interrupted by the Preceptor.
"I saved him from the flames of Torquilstone," Baal proclaimed, "and in the midst of battle protected him and this is the thanks I get!" the Templar gasped fighting to get his breath. "You see! The man takes my breath away," he declared with a hollow laugh.
"Baal, your little secret is out. Beaumanoir knows," Apophis said loudly, trying to gain the knight's attention.
"Sshhh! Do you want everyone to know?"
"Listen to me," Malvoisin said firmly, "The Grand Master knows you have a prisoner and he's seriously questioning his decision to make you his successor. Try and keep control of your emotions or you will be punished. I suspect Anubis will call for a trial and your prisoner will be the accused. I said I was going to make enquiries about this and when I left, Damian was still there so when I got the chance I grabbed the boy and questioned him about Anubis' intentions. Baal, he's going to put your prize on trial and burn him for his healing skills."
"Then help me, Apophis, help me find a way of escape for Daniel. I can't let anything happen to him, he...he means a great deal to me," breathed Baal his dark eyes flitting from the face of his companion, to the wall, to the ceiling to the floor of the chapel as if the very room would open up a concealed door or tunnel through which he could take flight and drag Daniel along with him. "My heart aches at the thought of him," de Bois Guilbert said clasping his chest.
"There is no chance of escape," Malvoisin said, "the citadel is full of the Grand Master's attendants and anyway I'm not going to risk my own position here," Apophis said perfunctorily. If he could maintain an apparent devotion to the Grand Master's scheme he might be in the running for the succession and that threw a completely different light on the issue now before them. If that was an unlikely conclusion then he would ally himself with Baal as long as he could persuade him to give up this inappropriate and risky venture.
"Think about it, Baal. You are on the verge of great things, don't mess it up now just because of a piece of ass. You can get that anywhere."
Angrily, the Templar grabbed the Preceptor by his robe and pulled his face close in. "Don't talk about Daniel like that, he's not just a piece of ass, he's...he's different and I love him," Baal growled his face contorted with rage and pain at Malvoisin's sleight.
"Love? What do you know about love?" Apophis said sarcastically. "You're only interested in yourself and if you don't listen to me you won't live long enough to love Daniel or anyone else."
"What then? What do you suggest?" Baal said, relaxing slightly and releasing Malvoisin roughly.
"You know how strongly Anubis feels about anything 'foreign'. The fact that your Daniel is known to practice medicine based on other cultures has been enough for the Grand Master to look for his death, by his way of thinking through the means of justice and a trial. If you argue that Daniel has bewitched you, poisoned your mind and captured your heart and that you are the victim in this, it might be enough to secure your freedom and exoneration."
"I can't do that!" yelled the knight. "You're suggesting that I make Daniel the sacrificial lamb to Beaumanoir's hatred. How can I do that?"
"You have no choice, my friend, just look at you. Can't you see the way that sorcerer has affected you? You're sweating, agitated and clearly in pain. Truly, he has woven a spell around you, Baal and it's killing you," Malvoisin replied quietly. "I have contacts of my brother that I can use as witnesses against the Digger. You'll see; the trial will be a foregone conclusion."
"And how can you so sure?" Baal asked knowing that he might have to give up his desire for the archaeologist in order to save his own neck, literally and figuratively. Like Malvoisin said, there would be others.
"Because Anubis has already made up his mind."
When Apophis returned to the Grand Master, now in his apartment picking at a sparse midday meal, Nick the Digger had been dismissed and Anubis was alone save one attendant who stood like a statue at Beaumanoir's elbow.
"My lord, I have made my enquiries and it appears that brother de Bois Guilbert has been bewitched by the man and in fact, it is he who is the prisoner of the other."
"So," Anubis smiled slyly, "It is as I thought, these potions have been used to distract and taint de Bois Guilbert against his will. I knew it!" the old man crowed triumphantly. "There will be a trial and this man, the Digger's grandson, will answer for his crimes. The charges will be thus, that the man has practised the devil's work in taking the will and heart of another. He will be tried for witchcraft. Malvoisin, make the arrangements. It will begin an hour after Matins tomorrow morning."
Nodding, Malvoisin left the chamber and began to organise the trial. He would have to send word to his brother, Ra and make sure he had the witnesses he needed. He would also have to go and tell Daniel Jackson what the charges were; after all he did have the right to defend himself.
"What?" Daniel asked incredulously. "Witchcraft?" He barked out a laugh. "You are not serious about this are you?"
"I'm afraid so," Malvoisin replied. "You are to defend yourself if you have the wit to do so, although anything you say will be treated as the words of Satan but do your best," the Preceptor added helpfully.
"But none of this is true. Baal kidnapped me and has tried to rape me more than once. Can't you see who the victim is and who is the perpetrator in all of this?" Daniel pleaded.
"Yes," Apophis said quietly. "Discrimination is the perpetrator and the Order of the Knights Templar is the victim."
"I cannot help you further so please do not ask me," Malvoisin said as he left the room.
Daniel plunged his head into his hands and then pulled at his hair in frustration. How could this be happening? He had done nothing to cause this ridiculous trial and for all the love that Baal had professed for him he knew perfectly well that the Templar would not help him. If only there was a way of getting word to his grandfather, or to Jack but neither man was in a position to do anything; Nick was too old and Jack was too sick.
As Nick left the monastery he was sure that Daniel would soon be lost to him. He'd loitered outside the citadel gate and picked up news about the sudden activity within. There was going to be a trial and the prisoner was accused of witchcraft. There was a young man being held whose crime was that of bewitching his victim and as a result sodomy had taken place. There would be a burning for sure. Shaking his head, the Digger mounted his steed and rode back to see his friend, Walter Scott. He needed advice and help.
"I don't know what to suggest, Nick except for you to go back to Templestowe in time for the trial and see what happens," Walter stated. "I'm sorry."
The next day Nick was at the gate of the monastery again, this time part of a large crowd that had gathered to witness the trial. As soon as they were allowed, the people filed into the huge central courtyard of the castle, vying and cajoling with each other for a decent view of the proceedings.
Space in the centre of the compound had been carefully arranged to hold a dais at one end for the panel of so-called judges, the central seat being taken by Anubis. Opposite the position of the Grand Master and many yards away on a smaller platform, stood an empty chair ready and waiting for the accused.
On either side of the space in between were raised rows of seating that accommodated the Templar knights, squires and pages of the Order. They were assigned their seats according to their rank. The whole assembly was hushed and wore an aspect of the most profound gravity; dignity and silence being the order of the day. The crowds of ordinary people were squeezed in and around the area, wherever space could be found.
As the rays of the sun pierced the clouds its beams rested on Daniel like a spotlight and the hush of the crowds was interrupted by the ripples of awestruck gasps; it was like God was pointing the finger of accusation directly upon the young man who walked slowly to the empty seat. He was not bound in anyway and was thus free to move unimpeded. As Daniel made the long walk to the seat provided for him, he passed a large unlit bonfire and shuddered when he realised that this was to be his pyre. He would be burned at the stake and there it was; a horrific and terrible reminder of the kind of justice he was likely to receive.
"The sorcerer," the crowd whispered, "Don't let his eyes rest on you; he will do something terrible to you if he gets the chance."
Nick pushed his way to the front in the hope that his grandson would see him and know that there was at least one person present who believed in his innocence and Daniel did see him, smiling back his acknowledgement.
When everyone was assembled a choral chant rose and fell in volume and pitch like a series of waves upon the shore and when it had finished Anubis turned his eyes slowly around the court to observe that one seat among the Preceptors was empty, it was Baal's. He was now standing near the extreme corner of the benches occupied by the lower order of knights. His long mantle was wrapped around his body and with one hand he held it up in front of his face so that it was hardly discernable. His other hand held his cross-handled sword, the point of which, though sheathed, he used to slowly draw lines on the earth at his feet. He felt flushed and uncomfortable in his hot and heavy chain mail and he just wished he could close his eyes and wake up in a pristine white room, cool and quiet next to the satiated and relaxed form of Daniel Jackson. It would be like heaven on earth.
"Unhappy man," said Anubis under his breath. "Now you can see, Malvoisin how all this distresses him. He is a worthy and valiant knight who is tormented by this man's magic," he said pointing to Daniel.
"Reverent and valiant men, Knights, Preceptors and Companions of this Holy Order, my brethren and children, all of you here present know that I have the full power and authority to judge and try any that threaten the order of the Knights Templar. I carry the responsibility and honour bestowed on me to make enquiry of this man and to bring the charge of witchcraft to bear. We therefore summon the Digger, Daniel Jackson to appear before us and this assembly, to answer for his crimes."
All eyes shifted from Beaumanoir to Jackson who, lifting his head, met the glare of the Grand Master. Anubis' eyes flickered under Daniel's constant stare and the old man looked away to stroke an imaginary speck of dust from his robes. Taking a breath Anubis continued with his rhetoric.
"Daniel Jackson, you are infamous for your poisons and other concoctions used to trick and ensnare the innocent and unprepared. You have maddened the blood and besotted the brain, not of an uneducated man or a serf even but that of a noble Templar, a Preceptor of our Order. Our brother Baal de Bois Guilbert is known to be a worthy and honest soul and as a true and zealous champion of the cross. You have betwitched him and tempted him to engage in gross and despicable acts of...of sodomy!"
The crowd gasped at the charges and again rested its collective eye on the archaeologist.
Daniel raised his hand slowly intimating he wanted to say something and Anubis nodded his agreement.
"Your charges are unfounded sir and I repudiate them fully. You have no evidence save that of Baal de Bois Guilbert himself and he has failed to attend," Daniel protested indicating the empty seat in the row of Preceptors.
"There are witnesses that can attest to the charms and spells you have used to obtain dominion over the knight and others," Anubis announced a cunning smile on his face as he indicated to Malvoisin to assemble those would give testimony.
While they were being called Daniel sat back in his seat and glanced quickly at his grandfather. If there was any chance of getting out of this, Daniel was sure the old man would find a way; at least the young man fervently hoped so.
At last four men were shepherded before Anubis. One described how Baal had risked life and limb to save Daniel from the fire at Front de Boeuf's castle. Daniel wanted to stop the questioning and assert that although the circumstances were correct he was not so much saved as kidnapped but he didn't get the chance as the second man was called to the stand.
"That man there," the peasant said as he pulled off his hat, "captured me in the woods. He drank a potion that made him grow to the size of a giant."
The crowd gasped at the possibility.
"Then he tied me up and pulled down my britches," the man continued as his eyes darted to Malvoisin who smiled and nodded at him to proceed. "He pushed a leg up my arse...I mean a log! He pushed a log up my arse," the peasant said not really understanding the implications of his speech or that he was under oath not to lie.
Daniel sprang to his feet to protest yet again but was pushed down in his seat by the two halberdiers who stood either side of him as his guard.
The crowd groaned in shock at this revelation.
The third witness shuffled to take his place in front of the assembly. He only had one leg and stumbled along with the help of a pair of rudimentary crutches. When asked to explain what had happened to his other leg, he coughed and cleared his throat. "As it pleases your worships, I had a pimple on my big toe and the Digger gave me some salve to cure it but when I woke up the next day he had made my leg disappear!"
The crowd shrank back in horror.
Feeling his frustration grow, Daniel found it hard to believe that he would lose his life to such fantastical and preposterous lies.
Anubis next called Baal, making him break cover and walk into the centre of the open air court. "Tell me, brother do you deny you saved the sorcerer from the fire? That you did this under a trance induced by his very presence?"
Baal said nothing and remained morosely silent giving his Grand Master a look of contempt for the ridiculousness of the enquiry. Even the Templar recognised that this court had no meaning and no authority in the realm of truth. The knight turned his head to look at Daniel and saw the plea in his eyes. Speak the truth, Baal and release me.
"Answer, Baal, answer me," commanded Anubis but instead the Templar turned his head to Beaumanoir and stared at him, beads of sweat trickling down his forehead.
"He is possessed by a dumb devil!" declared the old man, his voice quivering with righteous indignation.
At that Baal stepped forward hardly able to suppress his rising scorn at such a farce. "Baal de Bois Guilbert replies not, most Reverend Father to such wild and vague charges. If his honour be impeached, he will defend it with his body and with the sword which has often fought for Christendom."
Daniel's breath hitched when he heard what the Templar had to say and wondered for a moment if Baal really wasn't as bad as he thought he was.
"We forgive you, Brother Baal," said the Grand Master. "You have the pardon of this court and we judge that anything you say at this moment is bound to be compromised by your proximity to the sorcerer."
Baal's fierce dark eyes flashed disdain at the head of his order but he said nothing more.
"I call the final witness," Anubis boomed and then smiled with satisfaction.
A young man was dragged from the crowd and limped towards Beaumanoir; his twisted gait gave him a rolling motion as he walked.
"I understand, young man that the accused treated the sores on your leg with some miraculous balsam that enabled you to walk again. How say you?"
"He did your worship. I had terrible trouble getting rid of them but Master Jackson over there helped me by rubbing some ointment on them," the man said pulling a small wooden box from inside his shirt and showing the assembly. "I have some still," he added.
Two mediciners were called to examine the evidence but they did not recognise any of the ingredients that they could actually smell. Concluding that all they could detect was myrrh and camphor but not the rest, the medicine was beyond their knowledge and therefore must be compounded from a magical and unlawful source.
"But you still limp so the treatment was not wholly successful?" Anubis observed.
"Well sir, I went to a priest who treated me first and he made my leg worse so then I went to the master there and my condition improved."
Beaumanoir's face was like thunder, this was not the testimony he expected to hear and he turned to Malvoisin for an explanation. Apophis bent to his leader and whispered something in his ear.
Nodding, Anubis continued his questioning. "What you mean, peasant is that you went to Jackson first and he failed to help you. It was your priest who in fact healed you."
"Thank you for your statement. You are dismissed," he said sternly raising his eyebrows and daring the poor peasant to contradict him.
The peasant was bundled away and shown the gate.
Daniel looked directly at Baal who refused eye contact with him. He was ashamed at the proceedings and couldn't bring himself to acknowledge the guilt he now felt for Daniel's likely and untimely end. The archaeologist for his part was determined to speak and rose slowly to say his piece.
"I want you to know that I have never done anyone any harm and least of all to Baal de Bois Guilbert. Yes I treat people who come to me in pain and I help them. I have never forced anyone to have sex with me and would consider the hurt and devastation of such an act unacceptable." At this Daniel made a point of looking at Baal again and the Norman quickly dropped his eyes.
"I can only trust that you can tell the difference between the truth and a pack of lies," the archaeologist went on. "I am an honourable man and know the truth of this situation in my heart. I ask you to look into your hearts and find the same truth there."
Anubis stood and raised his hands. "I call on the assembly to be patient while I and my panel of judges decide on the fate of this man," and then he and his three hand picked zealots withdrew from the arena.
While the crowd relaxed a little and moved around the courtyard, Damian the page approached Daniel and tugging at his sleeve shoved a small piece of rolled up parchment into his hand. Almost as soon as the child turned to go back to his seat, Anubis returned to his.
"Before you pass sentence I have one last thing to say," Daniel said quickly hoping that his last resort might change their minds.
Sadly, he knew they had made their decision before this farce of a trial ever started but he had to try one last time.
"I did not entice Baal into anything; he kidnapped me and brought me to this place against my will. He has kept me here, friendless, defenceless and as his prisoner. I can only appeal to him directly and ask him to confirm that these accusations are false and as monstrous as they are deadly."
The crowd turned to look at the Templar but he was silent still.
"If you are a man of honour as someone who respects the truth and fights in its defence, answer me. Do you deny these charges against me?"
Baal remained stationery but the expression on his face told a different story. He was agitated and chewed on his lower lip as though wrestling with a dilemma. At length he looked at Daniel and then at the parchment in his hand. "The scroll," his hissed, "look at the scroll."
Opening up his hand, Daniel stared at the tiny piece of paper that Damian had pressed into it. It read simply, Demand a Champion!
Anubis, apparently oblivious to this latest twist made himself ready to pronounce sentence.
"Daniel Jackson, you have been found guilty of heinous crimes and for those you shall pay with your life. Your flesh shall be burned in the hope that your soul will seek pardon for you actions and be welcomed into heaven."
Daniel stood up and struggled against the two guards that tried to silence him. "Wait, I have one last chance to keep my body and soul together, at least in this life. I maintain my innocence and I call on the privilege of trial by combat. My champion will represent me!"
Beaumanoir's eyes narrowed and with a sneer he returned Daniel's challenge. "And who will you find to represent you, sorcerer?"
"I don't know but please allow me the time it will take to find someone," pleaded the archaeologist and with that he took the small scarf that Baal had used to gag him when he was first brought to Templestowe and let it drop to the ground by way of confirming his challenge.
Anubis opened his mouth to declare his complete astonishment at Daniel's demand as well as his seeming ignorance of who would champion his cause. As he stared at the scarf lying limp on the ground, Beaumanoir shook his head slowly. What was supposed to be a quick and conclusive trial was turning into an event of substance. He felt a pang of guilt; the Digger had proved himself a reasonable man who conducted himself with dignity and self control.
Anubis was not originally a cruel or a severe man but his zealousness over the years had overtaken him, hardening his heart and closing his eyes and ears to any other possibility.
"I feel pity for you, Daniel Jackson because of the arts you practice. In truth you may be caring and compassionate as a man but not as a sorcerer. Confess your sins, confess the sodomy and witchcraft and retire to a monastery and spend your life in prayer and repentance. If you do this, I can recant your sentence and you will live."
"I cannot give up my own belief system to adopt yours, sir," Daniel replied quietly.
Exasperated, the Grand Master took a breath. "Let our chaplain stand forth and tell this obstinate sorcerer..."
"Excuse me for interrupting," Daniel said firmly, "but I think you should answer my request for trial by combat and my demand for a champion."
Daniel clearly understood his rights; Baal wouldn't have risked what he did to make sure the archaeologist knew what to ask for if the information was inaccurate, he had nothing to gain by it.
"You persist in your denial of the charges?"
"I do," Daniel nodded.
"Very well," Beaumanoir accepted and turning to the assembly he held up his hands. "Daniel Jackson has requested trial by combat and as a military order we are duty bound to acquiesce. Who shall be our champion?" he asked loudly to all those who belonged to the Templar Order.
"It should be Baal de Bois Guilbert," someone answered from the ranks. "He best knows the truth in this matter."
"It is a good choice," Beaumanoir confirmed, "for when Baal represents the judgement of God he cannot be influenced by any magic you can impose upon him," the old man said proudly, staring at Daniel. "This is our charge to you, Brother de Bois Guilbert and we know you will do this battle manfully. Be it known that combat will take place, and Daniel Jackson, you have until the third day from the present to find a champion," Anubis announced severely.
"Three days is not very long," Daniel observed, "to find someone willing to defend me with the charges of witchcraft and sodomy in particular."
"It is all I can give you," Anubis replied. "Malvoisin?"
Apophis was in animated conversation with Baal at this point until he was called to attend the Grand Master. He quietly concealed Daniel's scarf inside his cloak, Baal having refused to take it, before he turned, glaring at Baal as he did so.
"Where shall combat take place, Malvoisin?"
"Here, sir. The courtyard is well able to accommodate the battle."
"Then here it shall be," Anubis said. "So that all will know the judgement of this court a clerk will write it for the record that will be posted at the gate," and so the parchment that Nick read a little later was as follows:
"Daniel Jackson, resident of York being charged with sorcery, seduction and other damnable acts, practised on a knight of the most Holy Order of the Temple of Zion, which the said Daniel Jackson denies. He asserts that the testimony given against him is false and being unable to combat on his own behalf, requests his delivery from the pyre through trial by combat and the good offices of a knight who will do battle for him.
His adversary will be the Knight Templar, Baal de Bois Guilbert of the Holy Order of the Temple of Zion, himself the injured party. Anubis Beaumanoir, Grand Master of the Holy Order of the Temple of Zion allows this challenge and expects a conclusion to the trial of Daniel Jackson three days from today at noon and may God have mercy on his soul."
Nick sucked his teeth as he re-read the notice. Daniel would be relying on him to find a champion. Ivanhoe was the obvious choice but he was still injured. Travelling back to his friend Walter Scott, he wondered how he could save his grandson from the unlit pyre that would be his death when it was fired.
"It seems I'm here again asking for your advice, Walter," Nick said sadly. "What can I do to help him?"
"You must spread the word, Nick. Someone might come forward."
"I don't know where to start, my friend," Nick said patting Walter on the arm.
"I have an idea," Scott smiled, "Come with me."
"So, what trouble is Daniel in besides what I'm already guessing?" Jack asked as he and Malcolm Barrett made their way to the small battlements above the courtyard at Coningsburgh so that they could talk in private away from the wake of Athelstane that was fast becoming a welcome home party.
"I've heard that he needs a champion," Locksley replied.
"Daniel was put on trial for witchcraft and some...other stuff. He demanded that a champion go into combat to save his honour and his life."
"Has anyone come forward?" Jack asked.
"I've not heard anything."
"I have to do something; I just can't stay here and do nothing," Jack said as he held his side. "What's this 'other stuff' that he's accused of?"
"Well err...you might not like what you hear, Jack," Malcolm said nervously.
"If you don't tell me I won't know, will I?" Jack retorted testily.
"He's been accused of sodomy."
"You mean...?" O'Neill asked waving his hands about to try and describe what he understood by the word.
"Yes, that," Malcolm said trying not to laugh. What was happening to the archaeologist was serious but for once, Jack just made the archer want to giggle, very unbecoming for Robin Hood but he couldn't help it.
"Well, you can't do anything, Ivanhoe," Malcolm commented.
Jack stared at the yeoman, his gaze steady. "Oh yeah? Just watch me!"
O'Neill went to the stables to check on his horse and to try and find his armour. The last time he saw it, it was stowed in the box that acted as a seat for the mule cart. When he found the wooden container it was empty.
"O'Neill, may I be of some assistance?" Teal'c asked from behind Samantha's white palfrey.
"Hey, Teal'c, I didn't see you there, I was looking for my armour," Jack answered frowning.
"I have it here," the ex-swineherd said showing Jack a corner of the stable where the man had obviously been busy.
"Whoa! That armour is shiny enough to see myself in it," O'Neill laughed.
"I had assumed you might need it, O'Neill," his friend remarked with a ghost of a smile on his otherwise serious countenance.
"Well, I do and thanks to you if I can't unhorse the bastard, I can always gleam him to death," Jack quipped bending to study the silver almost mirrored surface of the metal.
"To which bastard are you referring, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked completely straight-faced.
"Huh? Oh, Baal of course. Remember him? The one that kidnapped Daniel and rode off with him? The one that took him against his will? That one!"
"Indeed," the big man nodded, "And what will you do with the armour, O'Neill?"
"Daniel needs a champion to challenge Baal and that's gonna be me," Jack said with feeling.
"I will accompany you," Teal'c said bowing his head.
"Not this time, big man," Jack said quickly. "I have to go alone; I can't afford to be recognised and if you go with me, my friend they'll put two and two together. Given the trumped up charges they've got Daniel for, anyone associated with his rescue is gonna be a target in his own right. No, you stay here, Teal'c, it's for the best."
It took Teal'c and Jack just over an hour to get ready and at last when O'Neill was mounted on his steed he looked impressive indeed. He was wearing full armour that glinted in the early morning light. He only had six hours to get to Templestowe and it was a long ride. Taking his lance from his friend he grinned. "Wish me luck, Teal'c."
"I do not believe you need it, O'Neill. You still have the chain and talisman that Daniel Jackson returned to you."
"You're right, I'd almost forgotten about that."
"Your shield, Sir Knight," Teal'c said solemnly handing Jack that oblong shaped piece of metal.
"What happened to the Desdichado device?" Jack enquired staring at the entirely blank piece of steel in his hand.
"I assumed that you were no longer the Disinherited Knight, O'Neill as you and Jacob Carter have made up your differences."
"Maybe and maybe not. We'll see when I bring Daniel back to Ivanhoe," he smiled and with that, turned his warhorse to begin the journey to the Temple of Zion.
As Jack rode he could feel his wound throbbing as it was rubbed by the chain mail he wore underneath his armour but somehow it just spurred him on. He carried the mark of Baal and he was determined to deliver his own to the Templar.
When Malcolm Barrett was back in the company of his yeoman in the courtyard at Coningsburgh he sought out the company of Urgo, Kawalski and Little John Siler.
"How goes the party, my fine friends?" he asked with a smile.
"It goes exceedingly well," Urgo announced swaying gently. "These Saxon wakes give a man a chance to stretch out his opportunities," he grinned.
"That's because we Saxons know how to throw a party," Kawalski laughed. "Three days is a good long time to mourn and to celebrate!"
As the men laughed and joked together, Malcolm's attention strayed to a small knot of young women and in the middle of them was Samantha Carter. He caught her eye and she blushed when she saw that he was looking at her. She shooed away her female friends and allowed the yeoman to approach.
"Have you concluded the business that you mentioned when we were gathered at the DHD? Can you give me an answer, Samantha?" Malcolm asked as he slipped his hand into hers.
"I have and I will join you in the greenwood but not as Samantha Carter," she said quietly. "I will have to leave her behind. I will go with you using a new name, Maid Marion," she smiled and squeezed his hand.
Malcolm led the Saxon princess to a quiet corner of the courtyard and stepping under the porch of a doorway the archer pulled her into his arms and kissed her tenderly. As she was consumed by Locksley's contact she wondered how her father would react when she told him she would be leaving his household. After they kissed she lingered in the yeoman's arms and smiled. Her father would be losing a daughter but he was in the process of regaining the adopted son he had missed so much.
As Jack rode away towards Templestowe, Henry Hayes said his farewells to Jacob and George and quietly left Coningsburgh for York and his brother. Still wearing his suit of Black armour Hayes kept up a steady pace until he arrived at the gates of York castle. He was expecting to see an armed force guarding his brother's sanctuary but instead he was met by only two motley soldiers carrying swords and wearing basic round helmets. When they challenged him, he halted his steed but did not dismount.
"I have come with an important message for Robert Kinsey. Let me pass," he commanded.
"How do we know you won't try and kill him?" the first guard asked belligerently.
"I hold his future close to my heart," replied Hayes. "Let me through before I bang your heads together!"
The two guards looked the knight up and down and then glanced at each other. They hadn't been paid for months and their loyalty was wavering. Why should they bother guarding someone who was losing his wealth, power and support?
Eventually after a whispered discussion, the first man waved the knight through; it seemed that disillusionment was setting in fast.
Hayes didn't raise his helmet visor when he found Robert's chamber, he wanted to reserve the element of surprise and needed to make sure that his brother wasn't saving his strongest security for his own inner sanctum. To Henry's surprise when he got to the main door of his brother's apartment there were two boys in attendance outside. One was a page, a boy of about twelve years old and a squire nearing eighteen.
"You...you can't go in there," the child stammered and the squire pushed him to one side to stand between his colleague and the knight.
"You do not have any authority to enter the apartments of Robert Kinsey. State your business," the young man demanded.
"I have an urgent message for him and must deliver it personally," Hayes replied summoning up all his patience.
"You must identify yourself first and then I will take him the message," the squire said, scratching his carrot coloured head.
"Tell him my message is urgent and that it is brought by someone close to him," Hayes continued.
The squire hesitated for a moment suddenly realising that if he left his post to carry the message, the page would be left alone and the knight would easily overpower him. Jabbing the child in the arm he told the boy to take the message; he would remain to guard the knight.
Quickly the page scampered through the doorway in search of his master. There was a long delay before he returned and Henry was definitely running out of patience at this point.
"My lord says you can enter and present yourself," the child's high fluting voice sounded as he stood mid-thigh to the knight.
"Thank you for your courtesy, page," Hayes replied and walked into Kinsey's apartment.
Robert had assumed that his visitor was Harry de Bracy but when he saw the looming figure of the Black Knight with his face obscured he was suddenly afraid, believing that this man had come to assassinate him.
"What do you want?" Kinsey asked, his anxiety making his voice sound shrill.
"I have come to see what you have done to England," Hayes replied, still with his visor down.
"Are you...are you an apparition?" Kinsey asked nervously as he backed away, his hand groping for the dagger he knew was somewhere on the table behind him.
"No, I am very real," Henry replied.
"If you are real then I can do this," Kinsey said quickly, grabbing his knife to plunge it between the steel plates and Henry's helmet.
"I don't think so," Hayes replied lifting his sword to parré his brother's attempt to stab him. "You are too predictable, Robert," he said lifting his visor, "you always were even when we were children."
Kinsey's breath hitched when he saw who was standing just a few feet away from him. "Henry? Is that you?"
"It is. Your long lost brother has returned to take his rightful place as leader of this country. Your temporary position has been rescinded, Robert."
"What are you going to do?" Kinsey asked plaintively.
"Send you back to our mother and then you can tell her all about your little games," Henry said with satisfaction.
"Don't you want to kill me?"
"No, you're my brother and I couldn't do that although I'm sure our mother will!"
It was twilight on the first day of his trial and Daniel was pacing, angry, frustrated and afraid. He had never felt so alone and powerless. He wondered if Nick would be able to help or whether the old man would find himself just as alone and just as friendless. Trying to find someone who would be prepared to defend the honour of a man accused of sodomy must be difficult indeed.
The door opened quietly and Baal slipped inside Daniel's new quarters.
"What are you doing here?" the archaeologist snarled.
"I am sorry for this situation, Daniel," Baal said reaching out his hand to touch his captive.
The archaeologist stepped back quickly to avoid him. "You've done enough damage, stay away," Jackson protested.
"Please, Daniel, I didn't mean any of this to happen," Baal crooned. "I came to help you."
"Really? Why didn't you help me out there," the young man snapped, indicating the vast courtyard far below the window of his room.
"It was difficult," the knight explained, "but I tried."
"Tried to save your own neck you mean," Daniel threw back. "What I don't understand is this. You say you have feelings for me but then when it matters you say nothing."
"Please, Daniel," the knight pleaded moving towards the archaeologist. "Don't be afraid," he said his eyes darkening as he looked at the goal of his desire.
"I'm not afraid of you," Daniel replied, calmer now. "I know there is a guard outside the door, over whom you have no authority. I only have to call out and you'll be gone," he added firmly.
"I wouldn't try to seduce you, unless you wanted me to," Baal said intently.
"I want you to tell the truth," Daniel interjected, "tell the truth and save my life!"
The knight fell silent and dropped his eyes to the floor. "I can still help you to escape," he said hopefully rather than with commitment in his voice.
"Escape with you to be your prisoner somewhere else?"
"You wouldn't be my prisoner, Daniel. You would come to love me as I love you," Baal said quietly and he truly believed in both parts of his statement.
"You know my answer," the archaeologist retorted folding his arms across his chest in defiance.
"If you choose to stay here you won't die quickly like you might have done if you'd jumped from that window at Torquilstone. Do you know what it is to be burned to death?" the knight demanded, his voice full of emotion.
"No," Daniel said," but I can guess."
"It would be long and slow and you would die in agony," de Bois Guilbert added, as though Daniel couldn't imagine it for himself.
"So, what's the difference between being burned at the stake and living with you?" The sarcasm in Daniel's voice cut the knight.
"I could offer you a good life, you would want for nothing."
"Except my freedom," Daniel said starkly.
"And you choose the freedom to die in this way?" Baal choked, pointing in the general direction of the pyre in the courtyard.
"I do have another choice and if you won't tell the truth then a champion might appear to fight my cause."
Baal barked out a laugh. "I am the strongest knight in Christendom. There is no one to beat me," he said giving the archaeologist an arrogant grin.
"There will always be someone else to take your place, Baal. You're dominance won't last forever."
"Maybe but the trial by combat is the day after tomorrow and I am unlikely to lose my skills before then"
There was a long pause in their discussion during which Daniel took the opportunity to sit down on a plain wooden chair. Baal knelt beside him and gazed at his face.
"Let me save you," the knight implored.
"Unless you tell the truth, you have condemned me to death," Daniel said sadly and sighed with the effort of asking the Norman to be honest about the events leading up to this point.
"Let me comfort you at least," Baal went on and tentatively rested his hand on Daniel's thigh, rubbing it slowly.
Daniel watched the man's hand moving and felt a tingling response in his leg and groin. Would it be so bad to take comfort when it was offered? The knight could do nothing more for him now, it was clear he wasn't going to make any confessions to Anubis. Would it be such a dreadful thing to feel his body come alive to forget his situation for just a few moments? Right now, Baal was at his most gentle and most attractive. He was a good looking man; there was no doubt about that. As Baal continued to touch him, Daniel closed his eyes for a moment and concentrated on the light sensual touch of the knight. It felt good; there was no doubt about that either. Would it matter so much? Would it be so wrong?
De Bois Guilbert could feel and hear Daniel relaxing as the man's breathing became lighter and faster. He had made no attempt to stop the knight and Baal took this as a signal to increase his attention to Daniel's firm and inviting body. He tried hard to suppress the ulterior motive he had for seducing the archaeologist. The Templar fully expected that Ivanhoe Jack O'Neill would appear as Daniel's champion and the Norman wanted the satisfaction of taking O'Neill's prize before it was too late. The truth of the matter was that Baal's lust was fuelled as much by his desire for Daniel as it was for the chance of humiliating and then killing his arch rival. Baal now felt he had unlocked the key to Daniel's resistance. The archaeologist needed comfort, slow sensuous and penetrative comfort and Baal was much practiced in the art of gentle seduction even if the climax was one of violence and cruelty. Daniel would be his and so would Ivanhoe.
Baal continued to rub Daniel's leg gently increasing the pressure and moving the angle of his hand so that his fingertips played his victim's inner thigh, travelling imperceptibly higher and higher until he made contact with Daniel's balls. Stroking and manipulating his testes Baal watched the archaeologist's expression and felt a spark of excitement lance through his body when Daniel's mouth fell open and his lips pouted as his arousal grew.
Baal moved his hand to fondle Daniel's hardening cock and he heard the young man's breath hitch. While doing this the knight's brain was already calculating how he could get Daniel on his hands and knees; his plan would only be complete if he could penetrate him. The irony would be sweet indeed.
When Daniel felt the Templar's hand on his cock his desire grew for completion, just as it had when Jack's hand had done the same thing. Jack! Daniel's eyes snapped open at the thought. When Jack had done this he was not looking for his own satisfaction, he had done it for Daniel's. Jack had asked for nothing in return except Daniel's trust in him and without thinking about it, the archaeologist had given it to him, he'd had no reason to question Jack's motives, there weren't any.
Suddenly Daniel pushed Baal's hand away and stood up. "I know what you're trying to do and it won't work. I think you'd better leave!"
With his face flushed, Baal became angry. "Daniel, you are obstinate and stupid! You've turned down the best you'll ever have!" he ranted and dragged in a lungful of air.
"I don't think so, Baal. I've had the best and it isn't you. I know the difference. You don't really have my interests at heart, you never have. Go and do your worst, Baal de Bois Guilbert but remember there will always be someone better than you. You are only as good as your last fight and you failed in that didn't you? You hoped to kill Jack but he survived. You are losing your touch, Baal," Daniel said, his voice dropping to a whisper.
Quivering with rage, the Templar swept his long cloak around his body and stalked away from Daniel's room. If a champion presented himself Baal would be ready. He had right on his side, well at least a strong desire to survive. O'Neill had unseated him once but it wouldn't happen again; he would be waiting and fight to the death, to Ivanhoe's death, one way...or another.
Daniel suffered a fitful night and during the intervening day, spent most of it pacing, staring out of the window, napping or eating. His concentration focused on Jack almost as though by thinking about him he could, by his will alone, contact the knight and draw him to Templestowe. Daniel knew he had to be realistic. Jack's injury would not allow him to be in a combat situation, the archaeologist would just have to hope that his grandfather was able to help. He could take Baal's offer to escape; perhaps he should though there would be a price to pay for that, so for all intents and purposes it wouldn't be real freedom.
The day dragged by and Daniel saw no one but a page or a squire who brought his food. It wasn't until the evening that Daniel's emotions about his impending demise overwhelmed him. He had done nothing to deserve this and yet by this time tomorrow he could be dead, a charred and blackened corpse burned from the outside in.
His breathing increased and he knew he was beginning to panic. He should call for Baal and try and escape, run away from the agonising torture that would be his and his alone. He paced faster and faster, wanting to cry out in frustration, pain and fear.
He didn't sleep at all that night; he didn't want to lose any more time being unconscious. He watched the candle burn down as dawn broke, cool and clear. He felt so alone he was in despair.
As he ate his breakfast Daniel was sure this would be his last meal and every bite took on a new significance. He noticed the warm springy yeast flavoured bread as though for the first time as well as the sweet cloying honey that reminded him of Baal, who was by this time, obvious by his absence. Not even the Templar would spare him any time now. In the last few hours of his life, Daniel had no contact with another human being save the page who had brought him his meal that morning.
Suddenly he needed to write and banged on the door for pen, ink and parchment. Settling at the table he wrote to his grandfather, thanking him for the experiences the old man had made possible for him and for his consistent and constant love.
Daniel's only other letter was to Jack. He wanted to have one last contact with the knight, even if it was to be posthumously. He wasn't quite sure what to say. How do I put emotions, feelings into words?
Jack, if you are reading this, it's because I'm dead, which is something you know all ready. I wanted to write to you and tell you how I feel. I can only describe my own feelings, I can't presume yours, however I write this in the hope that if you are shocked by my confession, you will find a way to forgive me and if you feel the same, that you will not mourn me for too long.
I have always known that my feelings were different to other men, that it was men that I was attracted to. I never lived long enough to really explore these feelings except that I know I could have done with you. You were kind to me when I needed it and looked out for me when you could. I don't know whether what happened in the mule cart was lust or something else but I'm glad it happened.
I don't know if my life has made a difference to anyone else, perhaps I was destined not to but I hope that I might have made an impression on you, albeit a small one. I think I would have enjoyed getting to know you, something that could have taken me a lifetime to do.
I'm sorry now that I will never have the opportunity to do that and I think that is my one regret.
Folding the stiff parchment carefully, Daniel wrote Jack's name on it, dripped what was left of the hot candle wax to seal it and put it to one side on the table next to the letter for his grandfather. Daniel's fingers ran slowly over the folded parchment, at least he would be able to leave something of himself behind for Jack.
Then he had another thought. What he'd written could implicate Jack and there at the Templestowe monastery he would be vulnerable to the same kind of accusations that the archaeologist had been subjected to. If Jack appeared and went into combat to be beaten by Baal but survived the encounter, he would be propelled into standing account for his preferences. Jackson couldn't let that happen, he couldn't leave the letter. He would have to destroy it so taking it, he held it against the dying candle flame and let it burn. He dropped it onto the stone floor and watched the fire consume the last remnants of the paper. Idly, he wondered if his body would look like the burned letter, showing various hues of black and grey, layered and lifeless. He watched as the small leaves scattered into light wisps as the breeze from the opening door disturbed his memorial.
Turning he saw two black-clad halberdiers standing at the open door; it was time for him to go.
Slowly and with as much dignity as he could muster, Daniel walked between the soldiers into the sunlit courtyard. A deep mournful bell tolled to announce the start of the proceedings. Anubis Beaumanoir processed with a train of attendants in his wake to take his throne-like seat at the centre of the lists, the courtyard having been arranged in the same way as the tournament at Ashby. Opposite the Grand Master's stand were two others with a large gap in between. It was here that Daniel was seated, alone except for the halberdiers who flanked him. Behind him was the pile of wood that would be the instrument of his death.
The bell continued to toll, marking the hour of noon and the commencement of combat. At one end of the courtyard Baal sat astride his horse, waiting. He was dressed in armour and the device on his shield showed two knights riding one horse, the sign of poverty so closely associated with the Templar Order. His banner flew from his lance as he sat patiently for his leader to make his pronouncements. Behind his visor, Baal's eyes slid to look at Daniel, stripped of everything except a loose white muslin shirt and black britches that finished halfway down his calves. He wore thin leather sandals on his bare feet. His brown hair lifted gently from his forehead as a soft warm breeze blew across the grassy courtyard.
Staring, Baal wondered what it might have been like to have committed his heart to the archaeologist instead of allowing his lust to dominate his senses. It didn't matter now, the Templar would move on to find another focus for his basest instincts though he still considered it a waste of a fine body and a clever mind that Daniel would choose death over him.
The ordinary people who had come to witness the grizzly spectacle crowded into the stands either side of Jackson's chair. Daniel did his best to ignore them, he couldn't bring himself to look at the throng of the living when he was so close to death; doing so would just be a hollow reminder of what he was about to give up. His attention was drawn though by an insistent hiss and he was slightly irritated by it but turning the archaeologist's curiosity got the better of him. To his relief he saw his grandfather leaning over the end wall of the stand and waving to him.
"Daniel, Daniel!" the old man called. "I have send word throughout the forest for a knight to save you. Don't despair, there is still time."
Smiling weakly, Daniel looked at the other end of the arena nearest the main gate. It was empty; there was no champion for him.
A loud and long flourish of trumpets concentrated the assembly and announced that the court of Templestowe was now in session. Apophis Malvoisin held the scarf that Daniel had thrown down as the mark of his desire for a trial by combat. Walking slowly to his leader, Malvoisin laid the scarf on the ground in front of the Grand Master's feet.
"Valorous Lord and reverend Father," Apophis said, "here is the good knight Baal de Bois Guilbert, Knight Preceptor of the Order of the Temple, who by accepting the gage of battle which I have laid at your reverence's feet, has come to do battle this day, to maintain the right of our church to seek out and destroy the abomination that is Daniel Jackson."
"Has he made an oath that his quarrel is just and honourable?" Beaumanoir asked.
"Sir, our brother made an oath to me earlier," Malvoisin lied, knowing full well that he had failed to persuade Baal to accept the trappings of the challenge. For some reason that the Preceptor could not fathom, the Templar insisted that the trial was a travesty and he couldn't support it.
The Grand Master nodded and with a slight movement of his hand the trumpets blew again and a herald stepped forward. "Here is Baal de Bois Guilbert ready to do battle with any knight of free blood who will defend the honour of Daniel Jackson and try to be champion in his place. The Grand Master has overseen the fairness of this field and calls upon all assembled here to make way for such a knight." The trumpets sounded again and the citadel of Templestowe fell quiet in anticipation of the entry of a champion but none appeared.
After a few minutes of waiting Anubis leaned over to Malvoisin. "No champion appears for the appellant," Beaumanoir observed. "Go, herald and ask him whether he expects any one to do battle on his behalf."
Intrigued to know the answer for himself, Baal turned his horse to walk it to where Daniel was sitting to hear what he would say.
"Sir is this regular and according to the laws of combat?" enquired Apophis nervously. He wanted to Baal to win this contest; he was intending to line himself up with the next Grand Master to gain favour in his order and he didn't want anything happening to de Bois Guilbert now.
Beaumanoir waved his hand to dismiss Malvoisin's concerns and waited for the herald to return.
Meanwhile the herald was asking his question and Daniel considered his response.
"Tell the Grand Master that I maintain my innocence and I will not yield my life willingly. Tell him I welcome any delay he cares to make and as far as I'm concerned I am happy to wait for the rest of my life, however long that might be."
Having passed on the message to his leader, the herald waited to see if there would be a response. Beaumanoir looked up to the sky; the sun was now directly overhead.
"Tell him we will wait until the shadows appear from west to east and when he is in the darkness of the sun's orbit and no champion appears, he will answer for his sins."
With the tall stands either side of him, Daniel had about thirty more minutes to live before the outline of the structure to his left would cast a deep shadow over him, only to be chased away by the flames of his pyre.
The seconds and the minutes slipped by inexorably, as the dark patch on the ground crept towards the archaeologist. He even thought of shifting his chair away from the growing shadow in the hope of stretching out the last few moments.
Baal spoke to Daniel is a harsh tone, quiet enough that Beaumanoir could not hear him but loud enough that the archaeologist could not avoid his words. "Daniel, mount up behind me and we will escape together. Do it now before it's too late!"
"You are tempting me to live my life as a lie and I won't do it! Do what you have to do, Baal but don't expect me to follow you," Daniel retorted, wishing that this whole thing was over and that he was dead. He had no wish to live, not now.
Malvoisin watched their interchange and grew agitated. He needed Baal to be looking to the future and not to be distracted by the man who seemed to be taking all his attention. Quickly he walked to the knight and grabbed the reins of his steed. "Has he admitted his guilt or is he still resolute in his denial? Come brave knight, retake your position and wait it out."
"Take you hand away!" the Templar spat and turned his horse to go back to his place at the head of the arena.
Smiling Malvoisin was satisfied; Baal still had spirit and the fire within him still burned.
As the assembly became impatient, mutterings and fidgeting rippled through the crowd and Daniel bowed his head as he waited. Anubis sighed and decided that there was no further point in waiting any longer.
At this instant a knight appeared through the gates and a hundred voices exclaimed, "A champion! A champion!" Despite all the prejudices of the multitude they shouted unanimously as the knight rode into the arena. His horse, urged for so many miles to its utmost speed appeared to reel with fatigue and the rider undaunted, presented himself to the Anubis as he swayed slightly in the saddle.
Daniel straightened, his eyes glittering bright as his body and mind took strength from the latest turn of events. As the dust settled and the anticipation of the crowds quickened, Baal stared at the stranger, his attention taken by the knight's very appearance. His silvery armour shone in the sunlight and the Templar felt he should know this knight but there was no device of any kind to identify him. His armour shone very brightly and Baal thought he might be a celestial messenger come to tell the Norman to mend his ways. Was the stranger knight there to champion the cause of Daniel Jackson or was he there to challenge the morals and actions of the Templar? In being here, at this time, his intention was probably to do both. Was the archaeologist right? Was there someone better on the battlefield than Baal? Was this the knight who could show up de Bois Guilbert's weaknesses? Shaking his head, Baal was too frightened to answer his own questions as he looked again at the stranger. The silver knight was tall, his armour made him seem huge and atop his warhorse he cut a very impressive figure. Baal wondered if he was an avenging angel, someone who knew that Daniel Jackson was innocent but could die because the Templar had not told the truth.
Daniel too, stared at this knight in shining armour. Who was he? Was he Jack or someone else?
The herald stepped from the ranks of lesser knights, squires and pages to demand that this stranger give his name, rank and purpose, for he remained seated on his horse with his visor down.
"I am a knight of noble lineage and long experience. I have come with my lance and my sword to defend Daniel Jackson of York, a man whose honour has been debased by the wild and false accusations made against him. I defy Baal de Boise Guilbert and call him a traitor, a murderer and a liar and I will prove this with my body against his. I represent the truth while he represents all that is base and worthless."
Apophis Malvoisin stood from his seat, afraid that his own ambition would be thwarted by the words and deeds of this newcomer. "The Temple does not send its best and boldest against nameless men. Show yourself!"
"Trial by combat demands a knight to champion a cause. There are two knights here and two causes, one for truth and one for lies. Let the battle decide who has the stronger right to be here," the stranger said firmly.
Trying as he might, Daniel could not discern the owner of the muffled voice and his conviction that it must be Jack wavered. As the silver knight winced and favoured one side of his body it was clear that he was not entirely fit to clash with the Templar. Perhaps it was Ivanhoe after all.
"I will not fight you," Baal announced. "Get your wounds healed and find a fresh horse. Maybe then I might deign to meet you on the field and if I do, I will beat the bravado from you," the Templar retorted rubbing the armour that covered his right arm as though by doing so, he could ease the ache in it.
"Have you forgotten that twice you have fallen before a lance?" the stranger said, taunting Baal in front of his supporters. "Remember the list at Acre in Palestine and the Passage of Arms at Ashby? Remember the challenge you made at the Saxon Great Court pledging your gold chain against the Pilgrim's artefact from the Holy Land? You are a coward, Templar and I will say so in every court of Europe and in every Preceptory of your Order if you do not meet me in battle, now!"
Daniel glanced between the two knights as they exchanged harsh words and insults. This had to be Jack, who else had beaten the Templar at Acre and Ashby? Wait though, the Black Knight had intervened at Ashby and from his position in the SGC he had only partially heard the conversation and there were several other knights at Acre. Perhaps he was wrong and this wasn't Jack but one of the others who had a grievance against Baal and from Daniel's short experience of the Templar, there could be many.
Baal hesitated for a moment as his gaze fell on the archaeologist. If he couldn't penetrate Jackson with his cock he would damn well penetrate this challenger with his lance and have done with the whole sorry affair.
"Dog of a Saxon sire!" exclaimed the Templar angry and humiliated. "Take you lance and prepare for your death!"
"Does the Grand Master allow combat?" the silver knight asked coolly, knowing that having stirred Baal to a fury he would not allow himself to be goaded and lose all because he had broken the rules.
"You have made the challenge and provided Daniel Jackson accepts you as his champion, then I will allow combat," Anubis said looking at Daniel.
The archaeologist wished he could know for sure who it was that was going to risk his life for someone as unimportant as he.
The stranger approached Daniel and said, with his voice low and still unclear. "Do you accept me as your champion, Daniel Jackson?"
"I do," the young man replied, overwhelmed with emotion. How could one man offer up his life for another, when neither knew the other and had no relationship whatsoever except through time and place? "Are you fit enough to do this?" the archaeologist enquired hoping that the knight's answer would tell him the man's identity.
"I am as fit as I need to be," came the inscrutable reply and so saying, he turned his steed to take his position at the opposite end of the arena from the Templar.
Baal, with the assistance of his squire readied himself, dropping his visor over his flushed and angry face.
The herald took his place in the centre of the field and announced to the crowd that Baal de Bois Guilbert was the champion for the Temple and the knight in silver was the defender of the accused. He stepped back as Anubis made the usual call when knights met on the field of battle. "Laissez allez!" The trumpets sounded and the knights charged.
Daniel was terrified that his champion would be fatally wounded and hardly able to contain himself, he remained seated when all he wanted to do was leap to his feet and cheer on his representative.
As the knights thundered towards each other, Baal's nerve began to crumble, he struggled to catch his breath and he was sweating profusely. Now his rival looked strong in his determination to defend Daniel Jackson. As they drew closer the Templar gritted his teeth and lowered his lance to plant it in the centre of the silver knight's chest plate, propelling him to the ground with great force. Baal was surprised that the crushing pain he felt in his chest did not equate to the light touch of his opponent's lance against him.
Daniel cried out in horror, his champion was down and now it looked as though two men would lose their lives on this fateful day. The silver knight staggered to his feet and drew his sword ready to continue with this fight to the death but his adversary, reeling in his saddle, fell and remained unmoving in the dust of the arena. The challenger waited for a few moments, expecting that Baal was simply stunned and given some time he would recover sufficiently to continue, except he didn't.
Malvoisin got to his feet and stared at the still form of the Templar. Was he feigning this? Was this Baal's way of saving the Digger without having to fight the challenger?
The field was taken up by a number of squires, lower ranked knights and ordinary people from the lists, all crowding around Baal to learn his fate. Damian the squire bent over the fallen Templar and lifted his visor. Anubis declared that the Templar was vanquished and that the silver knight had won the day. Daniel Jackson was declared free and as soon as he could he ran to the knight to see what was wrong. As he pushed his way through the crowd he saw Baal's face, flushed and red and then his pallor lightening as all colour drained away. His skin was now ashen though his eyes were still dark. He looked at Daniel and gave him a weak smile. "I believed it for a while," he said his voice hardly audible now. "You captured me, Daniel and I thought it was true..." A bluish tinge crept over his skin as he lay completely immobile. Daniel placed his cheek next to Baal's mouth but could feel no breath at all.
As all this was going on, the stranger knight recaptured his horse and led it to where Daniel was now standing, next to the lifeless body of the Templar. The silver knight took something from the pommel of his saddle and with his free hand, took Daniel's and lowered a fine silver chain into his palm with a quiet chinking sound as a small silver talisman dropped on top of the metal coil as it sparkled in the sunlight. The medallion showed the glyph of a rising star over a portcullis on one side and a small inverted Vee with a circle punctuating the apex.
At last Daniel had his answer, Jack was his champion.
"Ivanhoe wants you to have this," the knight said.
Staring at the trinket, Daniel moved his thumb across the chain and then looking at the knight he opened his mouth to ask the question that had filled his mind during the last few moments but at that point his attention was drawn to the activity around the prone and still body of Baal.
"You killed him," Daniel said quietly.
"No, I didn't," the knight replied. "The tip of my lance hardly touched him. There was no force behind my contact, he outreached me and pushed me out of my saddle before I could do anything. My lance wouldn't have killed a fly let alone a man," the stranger said, a tone of confusion in his voice.
Thinking for a moment, Daniel pondered. "I think I know why he died. Part of why he was such a strong soldier was because many of his rivals believed he was invincible. Don't you see?"
The stranger shook his head slowly.
"It's about perceived power. If people believe you are powerful, then you are. And that's probably what killed him. He believed you could beat him and you did."
"I have been your champion today, Daniel Jackson but it was Ivanhoe who really saved you."
"Then who are you?" the archaeologist asked but before he could find out the trumpets blew and the herald had an announcement.
"The good knight Baal de Bois Guilbert is dead. The champion of Daniel Jackson prevails and the accused is found innocent of the charges and is free to go."
Daniel turned back to his champion to find him gone, his figure retreating through the gates of Templestowe on his horse.
As Baal's body was being removed from the field of battle, Nick managed to thread his way through the crowds to meet up with his stunned and confused grandson.
"Daniel, are you all right, my boy?" asked the old man smiling broadly.
"Yes, I'm fine," the young man said absently as he stared at the now empty gateway as the stranger knight disappeared through it. "Was that Jack?" Daniel said wearily, tired of asking the question and never getting answer.
"I don't know," the Digger said not really caring very much. His grandson was free and the hated Baal was dead. "All I did was spread the word that you were in need of a champion," Nick added as pleased as he could be. "Let's get you back to York, my boy. Ive got some plans to make."
When they finally made it back to the small house in York, Nick and Daniel were exhausted and after a quick meal they took to their beds to sleep. Except that Daniel couldn't. There were so many questions rolling around in his head laced with such a mix of emotions that after an hour he had to get up again.
As he sat in the small main room of the house, he could only think of Jack. Was he really the silver knight? The stranger must have had contact with Ivanhoe to have brought the necklace to him. Reaching into his shirt Daniel pulled out the chain and talisman and holding it inside his fist he closed his eyes and concentrated on the image of Ivanhoe Jack O'Neill, on his brown eyes and the strands of silvering hair running though brown. He was tall lean and strong and Daniel loved him. "I love him!" the archaeologist exclaimed sitting upright. "That's it! Now I'm clear about my feelings I know what I have to do," he said getting to his feet.
"Who are you talking to?" Nick asked as he entered the room.
"No one," Daniel said quickly, "What are you doing up?"
"I have plans, Daniel. I couldn't sleep," the old man said enthusiastically as he drew up a chair to sit next to his grandson.
"What plans?" the young man asked curious about whatever it was that had captured his grandfather's imagination.
"We're going to sell the house and go to Egypt," the Digger announced proudly.
"What? We?" Daniel asked incredulously, "We?"
"Yes. I had an offer for the house before we set out on that adventure of yours. I was going to tell you but events overtook us."
"And you're planning to go to...Egypt?" Daniel asked slowly.
"Yes, yes now listen," Nick insisted the excitement growing in his voice and demeanour. "I've heard there are some strange and monumentally huge structures that hold the secrets of the ages. I'm getting old Daniel," the Digger chuckled, "and I want to see what's there before I'm very much older."
"I'd really like to go with you," the archaeologist said quietly, "but..."
"You need to find your knight," Nick added gently.
Nodding, Daniel looked at his grandfather. "I'm sorry but I have to do this, can you understand?" he said quickly then dipped his head frowning.
"You must follow your heart, my boy," the old man said, "and I must follow my curiosity." Standing he smiled at his grandson seeing a man of strength and character. "Your path will probably be as difficult as mine but to each his own, my boy. To each his own," and patting the young man on his back, the Digger went back to bed.
Daniel and his grandfather were at a crossroads in their lives and they had chosen different paths and neither could guarantee the outcome of their journeys nor predict if they would be successful. How would Daniel know if he were successful? He wasn't sure except that he would know if he were unhappy, unfulfilled or wronged by another. He'd learned a lot through his contact with Baal and he was now sure about what he didn't want. He also knew what he did want and that was to be able to trust, to feel secure and confident about his life. He didn't know if he could achieve that with Jack but he had to find out.
Jack stretched out on the large wooden settle in what he liked to call his library. It contained just a few items of illuminated manuscripts. As a child he was fascinated by the bright beautiful colours embellished with gold decorating the first letter of the first word on each page. He also liked to look at the illustrations of saints and angels, knights and animals that sometimes covered a narrow strip down the sides of the large velum sheets. Right now, he was just content to relax on the wooden bench and think.
The long narrow room he was in used to be the minstrels' gallery over looking the main dining hall but he'd had it covered in many years ago and it now had a door at either end and could only be reached by a set of simple steps from the hall. At the other end the door led into Jack's bedroom containing a huge ornately carved walnut four poster bed, hung with heavy dark green velvet drapes trimmed with gold thread and tassels.
For Jack, this room meant he could hide himself away from the world and not be disturbed if he didn't want to be. The suite of two rooms was his sanctuary though it had been many years since he'd had the opportunity to be there.
The building was a couple of generations old and presented all the typical features of any small castle of the period. It was built with defence in mind so the few windows that there were punctuated the stone walls as small openings that kept out the worst of the winter weather with shutters and any assault by archers. The structure was built of stone and was a perfect square with a courtyard in the centre. Each corner of the square had a large substantial round tower with circular battlements crowning each top. They were connected to each other by lower stone walls at the centre of which was a square keep.
The entrance to the castle was flanked by two quadrangular towers with a small arched thoroughfare guarded by an iron portcullis gate giving the castle a beautifully proportioned presentation. At its tallest points, the ramparts were at least four storeys high.
Access was gained by two drawbridges, the first from the land at the edge of the moat and connected to a small gatehouse set partway between the land and the castle. The second bridge stretched from the fortified gatehouse to the castle itself.
A besieging army would have to take the gatehouse across the water in order to gain access to both bridges. If this could be accomplished and the castle drawbridge dropped, the invading forces would have to raise the portcullis and face a short narrow covered tunnel-like structure leading to a second iron gate. The distance between the two was probably not more than thirty feet but any unwelcome visitors could be repelled by the use of the devices known as murder holes. These were narrow openings in the arched roof between the two defensive gates through which hot pitch, stones, boiling water, arrows and other nasty offensive materials could be thrown, shot or poured on the heads of those trapped below.
The castle of Ivanhoe stood proudly and exclusively on an island, in fact the fortress was the island, being surrounded by water. It was set at the brow of a low hill affording views over the countryside on all sides. There were small pockets of woodland at the foot of the hill and supplied the Ivanhoe kitchen with fuel. There was no land skirting the perimeter of the castle, not even a pathway as the footings of the building were below the waterline. The only way in was over the bridges and it proved to be an impenetrable building on a relatively small domestic scale. The castle of Ivanhoe was small but perfectly formed and when the weather was kind it took on a fairy-tale quality, its mirror image reflecting in the water of the moat.
When he'd arrived a few days earlier, Jack had to evict the sitting tenant, a Norman who was there at the behest of Robert Kinsey. The first drawbridge was down and the gatehouse was deserted when Jack banged on the door to demand that the heavy wooden gate be opened for him. The only person still there was an old retainer who had been part of the household since before Jack's birth. Dressed in rags with his body covered in sores, Cedric Warner carried the mark of Norman cruelty and neglect. The old man greeted his long lost master with as much excitement as he could command and went through to the back of the lodge to sound the horn for the second bridge to be released from the other side. Waving the knight through, Cedric smiled; at last things were looking up. Ivanhoe had returned to reclaim his inheritance.
O'Neill had calculated that by now, Henry Hayes would have sent his half brother packing and this interloper could be removed with very little opposition. Maurice de Fallon had only a few troops at his disposal, he probably thought he was safe and when Jack arrived wearing his shiny silver armour, the soldiers melted away and de Fallon was uprooted from his dining table to face the knight. He offered no resistance and within an hour, the place was empty save its rightful owner.
Feeling very pleased with himself Jack yawned, he liked this little room, it was relatively light and quiet except for the sound of a small flock of house martins who were bringing up their fledgling chicks in the gaps between several dislodged stones in the outside wall above his room. His home was nothing like the huge castles of the Normans but it still gave a level of protection against the lawlessness of the age; Jack felt good to be home.
The barony of Ivanhoe was quite small, with only a dozen farms making up the estate. Jack's income was from the rents paid by the yeomen who worked the smallholdings. Each farm would pay rent on an annual basis and was expected to produce a surplus from the fields that would be stored in the gigantic thatched barn further down the hill. Supplies were transported up the gentle slope and kept in a series of storage rooms and cellars nearest the kitchen. That way the castle could maintain some semblance of independence should the manor face hostile forces intent of besieging the stronghold.
At the base of the hill the peasants of the estate farmed narrow strip-fields. They lived in the castle and gave over all their produce to the barn. Most of the fields were overgrown and abandoned now and the few remaining peasants struggled to look after the few strips that were left.
Thinking about the general state of his lands, Jack knew he had to try and rejuvenate his estate. In the next few days he would ride out to visit the farms and assess the situation. He could really do with an estate manager, someone who could keep written records, count and keep things in order. He'd learned to read and write as part of his training to be a knight and his skills were more than rudimentary but he was more interested in being a man of action than in literacy and numeracy. Now he would have to take full responsibility for being the Lord of the Manor. He hoped that sooner or later, his leader would call him to service again although with Hayes in control of the leadership there was always the chance that a stable and wealthy country would emerge, in which case, Jack's skills as a soldier would not be needed.
His thoughts returned to his more immediate problems, his estate. He would just have to discipline himself to become a record keeping, rent counting landlord and perhaps his reading and writing skills would improve as a consequence. O'Neill's mind had been full of so many different things in the past few days that taking any time to think about Daniel Jackson had been difficult. It was funny how books and written records went together with thoughts of the archaeologist.
"I bet he can read," murmured Jack aloud.
Now as he lay on the settle he could let his mind wander and pull out of the recesses of his brain, his hopes and fears about the younger man. Jack had learned to be independent at an early age but found that his passionate and all-encompassing affair with the squire in Palestine and his violent and untimely death reminded O'Neill of just how vulnerable such a relationship could make him. For years afterwards Jack resisted that kind of connection to another person, with another man but now there was Daniel. O'Neill knew the archaeologist would affect him for the rest of his life, one way...or another.
There was something about Daniel that he couldn't quite put his finger on, even though he'd like to. The thought made Jack smile.
"Bet he can write as well," Jack said continuing his solo conversation.
"Who can write?"
Startled, Jack leapt to his feet to see the figure of a man filling the doorway behind him; it was Daniel Jackson, dressed in a brown jerkin and trousers and carrying a large full bag slung over his shoulder.
"Daniel," Jack said letting out a sigh of relief.
"How have you been, Jack?"
"I'm good thanks. My wound is healing nicely," Jack smiled patting his side to show that his injury didn't hurt anymore. "And you, what about you?"
"Oh, I've had a bit of an adventure," Jackson said, "and an anonymous knight saved me." Daniel raised his eyebrows and looked straight at Jack.
Jack couldn't help but suppress a grin.
"It was you, wasn't it? Admit it, Jack you were my knight in shining armour. It could only have been you," Daniel stated the tone of his voice brooking no contradiction from the man standing opposite him.
Jack said nothing.
"Don't deny it, just tell my why," the archaeologist demanded.
"You were in trouble, I couldn't stand by and let those Templars roast you alive," Jack replied.
"I guessed that," Jackson said irritated. "Just tell me why you chose to remain anonymous, why you couldn't tell everyone who you were."
Daniel was upset that Jack didn't declare his name and he couldn't understand why the knight wanted to keep his identity a secret. Jackson felt that O'Neill had denied his friendship with the archaeologist.
"I couldn't say who I was, Daniel. Believe me, I wanted to. I wanted you to know it was me that you weren't friendless and abandoned but I couldn't."
"Really? Why not?" Daniel asked, folding his arms across his chest in a self-hug.
"Did you think I didn't care enough to show myself?" Jack asked as irritated as his companion.
"Listen to me," Jack went on, not giving Daniel a chance to respond. "If I'd declared myself given the charges they'd brought, the name of Ivanhoe would have always been associated with sodomy. I couldn't afford for that to happen. I wanted to be able to come back and be left alone to live my life the way I want to, without any interference from those bigots out there," O'Neill said angrily. "In any case, I hoped that you might consider the two of us...I mean, if you wanted to...y'know, you and me...we could..." Floundering, Jack gave up trying to explain himself.
"So what you're saying is this," Daniel said dropping his arms by his side and taking a few steps forward towards the knight. "You wanted to make sure that any future we might have together would be free from the curiosity and suspicion of those who could make life difficult."
"Yes, that's it," Jack grinned and then his expression became serious. "You said any future we might have together, Daniel. Does this mean..."
"I'm not sure what it means, Jack except that there's something I need to ask you," the archaeologist said stepping right up to the knight. "What happened in the mule cart, what you did to me..."
"Oh that," Jack commented nervously. He knew he'd taken a gamble at the time and Daniel had every right to admonish him. He'd taken a liberty with Daniel's body although he seemed to like it and the archaeologist did kiss him full on the lips afterwards.
"Yes, that," Daniel echoed. "Why did you do it and don't tell me it was because you were bored."
"Why did you let me?" Jack retorted hoping to deflect Daniel's line of questioning.
"I asked first," Daniel said his expression unreadable to the knight.
Taking a breath, Jack wound himself up to answer. "I thought you'd like it," O'Neill said carefully.
"And because I knew I'd enjoy it," Jack added.
"And because I was attracted to you," Jack breathed.
"Are you still attracted to me?"
"More than you could possibly know," the knight breathed again feeling exposed and nervous. Daniel had forced him to be honest and now he was afraid that the younger man might not feel the same.
"Well, that's good," Daniel smiled, "because I'm attracted to you too!"
With wide eyes, Jack sat down slowly on the settle.
"There's something else," Daniel ventured.
"There is?" Jack murmured.
"Yes, I owe you my life and I want to repay you."
"You don't owe me anything, Daniel. I went to Templestowe because I wanted to."
"But nothing. I want us to...get to know each other. I want you to be here with me. If you think there's a debt between us it won't work."
Daniel stepped back and pondered Jack's words. He was right of course, except that Jackson still had a point to make and now was as good a time as any.
"Jack," Daniel said his voice deep and sultry, "There's still something I owe you."
The archaeologist held Jack's gaze while he drew his fingers across the knight's chest. Jack took a breath and expanded his chest to accentuate Daniel's contact. His attraction to the Digger overwhelmed him, he never thought he could feel like this about anyone ever again but here it was, passionate anticipation rippling through him.
Leaning in close, Daniel brought his lips to rest against the knight's jaw and Jack widened his legs as the younger man stood between them. Daniel sank to his knees and tentatively brushed his lips against Jack's, teasing the knight with warm huffs of breath and just the slightest touch of his mouth. In response Jack brought his hands up to caress Daniel's hips, his long fingers playing the dips and curves of his partner's buttocks.
Gradually Daniel's mouth became the messenger for his want and need and hungrily his tongue penetrated Jack's mouth, tasting him and occasionally taking Jack's lower lip between his own to run the tip of his tongue lazily along it. Jack's hands began to squeeze and grip Daniel's hips with increasing strength and pressure and both their cocks filled and swelled in answer to their joint actions.
Breaking their kiss for a moment, Daniel panted. "Jack, the floor...my knees..."
"C'mon, we'll go somewhere more comfortable," Jack said helping Daniel to his feet. Holding his hand, O'Neill led the archaeologist along the length of the gallery and opening the door to his bed chamber, ushered Daniel inside, flipping the wooden bolt.
As Daniel admired the huge bed and fondled the soft velvet drapes, Jack was already undressing.
"This thing that you say you still owe me, even though you don't?" Jack said pulling his shirt over his head.
Daniel turned his head to smile at the knight, his fingers still touching the luxurious fabric.
"You did something for me in that mule cart, you made me feel wanted, desired and made me want you even more. I think I should repay the compliment, don't you?"
"If you feel you must," grinned Jack now standing splendidly naked.
Daniel's eyes widened as he took in Jack's nudity, his gaze going straight to the knight's erect cock. Involuntarily he palmed his own hardness as he continued to stare until with a few strides, Jack was standing in front of him and pulling at his clothes to encourage him to strip, revelling in the broad muscular build of his would-be lover.
As they lay together on the bed, Jack took the initiative to kiss Daniel and partially covering his body with his own, planted a trail of fire across Daniel's smooth pale chest, igniting his nipples one at a time.
"This is so much better than Baal," Daniel murmured tracing his hands along the knight's back.
Jack stopped what he was doing and looked at the archaeologist. "What? Did Baal..."
"He didn't touch me where it mattered," Daniel smiled laying his hand over his heart, "I wouldn't let him, even though he kept trying."
"Are you sure you want to do this, Daniel? You mustn't do anything you don't want to," Jack offered suddenly worried he might be pushing Daniel too far too quickly.
"I won't and I'm sure," the younger man breathed. "I never do anything I don't want to," he grinned into Jack's neck.
Relieved, Jack continued to look into Daniel's intense blue eyes, watching them darken as he trailed his fingers over Jackson's firm hot flesh. Without warning, Daniel flipped Jack onto his back and began a slow exquisite exploration of his body. Mapping the many scars and marks on his skin, Daniel drew his mouth and tongue across Jack's fevered flesh making him twitch and flinch with pleasure.
Folding his hand around Jack's cock, Daniel gave it a few tantalising strokes, making the other man groan. He changed his grip and turning his hand upwards, took Jack's cock between his index and middle fingers and drew up the foreskin to almost cover the head. The pearl of seminal fluid, standing full and tense was already seeping from the slit and with his thumb the archaeologist rubbed the fluid over the taut shiny skin making Jack curse out loud. The sensitivity of the tip of his penis suddenly climbed and as Daniel continued to rub gently, manipulating the pliant skin and teasing it with his fingers, slowly Jack crept backwards up the bed to sit against the head, his breath panting and his voice growling.
Daniel used his other hand to draw his fingers over the sensitive skin behind Jack's balls, making him groan even more and as the archaeologist palmed his testes, Jack held his breath for a moment and as he let it out, pleaded with Daniel to squeeze and pull. His arousal rocketed when his balls were roughly handled and he trusted Daniel not to hurt him. His partner pulled and stretched the sac and closed his hand firmly around Jack's balls.
Within moments Jack couldn't stand it any longer, Daniel's sweet torture was more than he could bear and grasping his wrist the knight stilled the archaeologist's actions.
"It's too much, Danny, I'll come if you keep doing that," Jack rasped.
"That's the whole idea," Daniel smirked.
"Well not just yet, all right? I want to be able to drive you crazy as well," O'Neill breathed pulling Daniel towards him so that he could plant a searing kiss on his lover's mouth.
As Daniel lay between Jack's legs the knight turned him and now O'Neill was on top, pulling on Daniel's cock; it was the archaeologist's turn to groan with pleasure. Before long the men were turning and counter turning, enjoying the strength and weight that only a man's body could give. Eventually Daniel had the knight on his side spooning up against him as his fingers explored the cleft between his buttocks, searching for the tight sphincter of muscle. Finding what he was looking for, Daniel rubbed it, dipping just his fingertip inside to make Jack pant and moan as the archaeologist sent shivers through his body.
"I've got something that will make me slippery for you, Jack. It's in my bag in the other room," Daniel whispered.
"What is it?"
"It's rendered beef fat, you know dripping. I can use the lard or the jelly, whichever you prefer."
"Hmmm, I think you'd better keep that for making soup, Danny. I've got something better than that. I picked it up in Palestine. Hang on," Jack said groping for a small stone jar underneath his bed. Uncorking the container Jack held Daniel's hand and let a few drops of clear golden viscous fluid fall onto his fingertips. "Try that," O'Neill grinned and lay down on his side again, arching his back and presenting his backside for Daniel's delectation.
Fascinated by the feel of the liquid, Daniel rubbed his fingers together and smiled at the pleasing silkiness of the texture. Pushing a finger against Jack's ass he was surprised at just how easily he could gain entry and how good O'Neill's inner core felt against his contact. Moaning, Jack gradually turned onto his belly and Daniel and his fingers followed still working his lover slowly and gently.
"I want to see you, Jack," Daniel said softly and withdrew his fingers so that his lover could reposition himself.
Shoving a pillow under his hips Jack opened his legs and held them up behind his knees and taking a little more of the liquid, Daniel lubricated his cock. At last he would penetrate Jack, the man he had grown to admire and love. Sliding into him Daniel could feel the hot tightness of Jack's ass surrounding him and he began to move, thrilling at the amazingly pleasurable sensations racing through him.
Jack sucked in a breath as Daniel filled him, the stinging feeling abating quickly to leave him with waves of pure delight and desire. He'd risked his life for this man and every second had been worth it just for this moment. As Jack felt Daniel thrust inside him, his movements gaining in speed and strength O'Neill closed his eyes then opened them again quickly as Daniel's cock stroked his prostate sending acute pinpoints of heat skittering through him.
It had been many years since Jack had experienced this kind of pleasure and there were times when he wondered if he'd ever feel this good again and now with Daniel, he knew he would feel just as good with him after they had made each other climax, by sharing those everyday things that other people did.
Jack watched Daniel as the archaeologist shafted him with considerable strength and speed. The knight could track Jackson's impending orgasm by the changing expression on his face. His eyes were a deeper blue, his lips parted and the muscles in his neck, shoulders and arms corded and flexed. As he neared completion his eyes glazed slightly and he wasn't really seeing Jack, his mouth tightened and he bit his lower lip. Suddenly his vision cleared and he looked directly into Jack's eyes with a surprised look on his face, his voice making a series of quick clipped grunts; he was very close now.
"Jack, I'm...oh, OH!"
"Do it, Danny," Jack growled, "Come for me, give me everything!"
The words were enough to make Daniel climax hard and having lost all rhythm the archaeologist continued to pump erratically into Jack's body until he was empty. Lowering his legs Jack splayed them sideways to stretch away the ache that had been building through the tension of the last few minutes and Daniel's softened cock slipped out. Lying down on top of his lover, Daniel rested his weight on his forearms as he placed them either side of Jack's head. Kissing him languorously, Daniel smiled and pressed his face next to Jack's.
"Was it good, Jack?" Daniel murmured.
"Oh yeah, you were good, Danny," Jack said in return his body still thrumming with the intense pleasure that his lover had given him. He'd climaxed without even touching himself.
For the next few hours the men napped, caressed and talked. Not a moment went by that they weren't in some kind of physical contact with one another. Daniel was now stretched out on his front asleep while the knight lay beside him propped on an elbow and studying the archaeologist's broad powerful shoulders and the channel of his spine leading to beautifully firm and rounded buttocks. In contrast Jack was of a slimmer build, lean and strong. His body bore the marks of long years on the battlefield that Daniel insisted made him appear even more attractive to his lover and Jack wasn't going to argue with him.
Using the flat of his hand, Jack caressed Daniel's smooth skin, allowing his palm and fingers to shape themselves to the contours of the younger man's body. The late afternoon sun was lowering in the sky and casting acute angles of light across Daniel's skin, highlighting the soft hairs standing out from his skin, made gooseflesh by the cooling breeze from the narrow window slits.
Jack listened to Daniel's sleeping breath as the archaeologist stirred slightly at the knight's gentle touches. Snuffling, Daniel turned his head away from Jack and drew up his knee spreading his buttocks and exposing the small pucker of his ass. Smiling Jack pushed himself up on his straightened arm and reached to secretly feel for Daniel's entrance and then he stopped. It wouldn't be right to go any further while Daniel was unaware of what he was doing, that might be tantamount to rape. The man remained still and sleeping as the knight ceased his exploration the archaeologist's body.
Then Daniel smiled and turned to look at Jack. "Why did you stop?"
"I thought you were asleep and even though I was sorely tempted," O'Neill grinned, "I didn't think it was right to invade you when you didn't know about it."
"Thank you, Jack," Daniel said, kissing the knight with slow sensuous movements. "You can carry on now, I'm awake."
Jack drew a fingertip over the relaxed and giving balls sac enjoying his soft warm skin. Daniel began to rock his hips with slow strokes. Using the oil, Jack began to stimulate Daniel's anus, sliding two fingers in and keeping them there with small almost imperceptible movements.
Daniel loved the gentle waves of pleasure that Jack was creating inside him and lifting his hips just a little he ensured that his lover understood that he wanted him to continue his gentle foreplay. Jack was pleased that Daniel was happy with what he was doing because he'd planned a long slow burn, something easy and far less strenuous than they'd had before.
Continuing to move his fingers Jack lay down beside Daniel placing his face close enough that they could feel each other's breath and with no effort, brush their lips against one another's. The knight had already used the oil to coat his penis and as Daniel's arousal built he shifted to straddle his partner's hips, with his fingers still keeping contact. Leaning his weight on one arm he covered Daniel's back, his lips against the archaeologist's ear. Lowering his hips Jack pulled his fingers out and took his cock, his hand rubbing the head against Daniel's ass. Moaning his need the archaeologist tried to capture Jack's cock and when the knight was ready he pushed all the way into his lover's body, settling his knees and thighs either side of Daniel's buttocks and slowly began to grind his hips, hardly thrusting at all.
Daniel loved the feel of Jack's weight on him, the all-encompassing embrace with which the knight held him and the powerful sensation of Jack's cock penetrating him. Jack maintained this slow grinding movement for some time, letting his excitement build, tantalising, inexorable as he whispered his intentions to Daniel, describing in great detail what he wanted to do and how. Their bodies were moulded together and the sheen of perspiration building on Jack's skin highlighted his muscles and tendons as he worked in and against his lover. Undulating his back he generated a wave of movement that travelled from his lifting hips up through his spine to his shoulders.
Jack revelled in this position, feeling his ass muscles open and close as he ground his cock into the archaeologist. He wished he had something to fill his own ass as he filled Daniel's and perhaps one day he would find a suitable instrument to satisfy this additional desire. Right now though, his orgasm was close and he changed his speed and rhythm, raising himself up on his hands and using his knees to give him purchase he thrust harder and faster into his lover. As Jack lifted his body so did Daniel, enough for him to reach down to stroke and pull at his dick. His hand moved rapidly now pulling the orgasm from him and he yelled his release. Jack's followed soon afterwards, his body shuddering his climax as he lay panting on top of Daniel. For a few moments he was unable to move, his muscles spent and his conscious thoughts stolen by the speed and strength of his completion.
During the next few weeks after the consummation of their relationship, Jack and Daniel rode around the Ivanhoe estate visiting all the farms. Jack made decisions and Daniel recorded them. With his determination to make the estate productive and secure Jack and Daniel worked hard to assess and improve the outbuildings such as the huge barn, the fencing and the strip fields.
As the summer gave way to autumn, getting the harvest in and stored away became the prime objective for the whole estate and Jack joined his peasants in the fields to help gather in the supplies they would all need to get them through the winter. Daniel helped and during the hottest days they both stripped the upper parts of their bodies against the heat and humidity.
When they had the opportunity to be alone they made love wherever they were, in the fields, in the woods and in the enormous thatched barn. The weeks turned into months and they were known by the local populace as the Lord of Ivanhoe and his estate manager, Master Daniel Jackson.
To save appearances, Daniel took over the small guest room over the buttery. Jack had the room panelled in wood with a door that led onto the old minstrels' gallery; that way their bedrooms were connected for convenience and privacy though for most of the time, Daniel slept with Jack in his four poster bed.
One morning early, Daniel woke to find the bed empty and just the dip in the mattress where Jack usually slept. Sliding out of bed and drawing back the drapes from around it, the archaeologist went to the small narrow window. He shivered and grabbed his coat. It was February and cold. Opening the shutters he blinked as the light flooded in and shivered again as the winter air stole his breath. There was no activity outside except for a handful of ducks making their way across the mirror-like surface of the moat. Daniel wished that Jack would consider installing that new-fangled glass material that he'd seen on his travels with Nick. The estate accounts could probably stand it but the knight never seemed to feel the cold unlike the archaeologist who hated the winter ice and snow; he liked to bask naked in the heat of summer.
Dressing quickly, Daniel walked through the silent castle and crept through the halls that served as the living and sleeping quarters of the estate peasantry. Walking slowly across the drawbridge, Daniel stopped for a moment to watch the small flock of mallards bobbing for food. There were thin sheets of ice where the water was in shadow but the sun had melted it where it was in the full light of day. The sky was a clear blue and the light as bright as a diamond. As he observed the water fowl Daniel exhaled little clouds of fog, his moist breath smoking in the frosty air. Looking down the slope the little strip fields at the bottom were in shade and the contours of the soil were highlighted by the white of the frost. Smiling, he walked on down the slope to the great thatched barn, entering it by the stable doors. He was guessing that Jack might be there tending his old warhorse.
Standing by the entrance to the stall, Daniel watched Jack move around the stable, patting his horse and running his hand over the animal's hind quarters. The temperature in this part of the barn was quite a bit warmer than outside, heat from the animals' bodies making the difference. Daniel looked at the sheaves of hay stacked against the wall by the workbench and wondered idly if the coarse yellowy growth helped to insulate the building against the bone-seeking cold.
His attention being drawn by the clink of metal, Daniel observed his lover and held his breath, blinking his eyes to soften the pricking sensation of tears. Jack had pulled out his suit of armour and having placed all the pieces out in front of him, sat down on a three legged milking stool to clean them.
Daniel had never seen the jigsaw puzzle of a suit of armour before, at least not laid out like this. On the day of Jack's injury at Ashby the archaeologist had been too interested in treating him to take much notice and anyway, it was Teal'c who'd taken care of O'Neill's armour. There were dozens of pieces of metal spread out on the stable floor and Jack knew every part intimately.
He picked up the small curved and especially shaped lance rest that would be attached to the right hand breast plate. It was here that the butt end of the lance would fit when he charged an opponent. His nostalgia was obvious as he traced his fingertip over the curve. When he'd wiped it he took one set of the long greave plates that protected his legs below the knee, holding them first side by side then carefully turning them so that the edges fitted together perfectly. He held up the tube of steel and stared through it and as he did he saw through the aperture his lover standing just a few feet away. Clearing his throat Daniel walked into the stall and looked at him.
"Hey," the knight said greeting his lover.
"What are you doing?" Daniel asked conversationally.
"Just checking stuff," Jack replied, immediately feeling guilty.
"You miss it, don't you?" Daniel said nodding in the direction of the armour.
"Of course I don't," the knight declared smiling.
"Don't lie to me, Jack," Daniel said, "I know you miss it and it's my fault."
"How?" Jack asked incredulous.
"I wanted to be with you and that can only happen here at Ivanhoe. I've denied you your real love and I'm sorry, Jack," the archaeologist said sadly, turning to leave.
"Wait! What are you talking about? Sure I miss this," the knight said pointing to the armour, "it's not my whole life...but you are. Don't leave me, Daniel I need you," breathed Jack, reaching out to his lover. "Please."
"What will you do if Henry Hayes recalls you?"
"I'll say no."
"You can't and you won't. I know you, Jack; you're nothing if not loyal."
"Look, Danny," Jack said, his face serious and his dark brown eyes soft and loving. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
They fell into each other's arms, holding one another tight.
"You know I love you, don't you?" Jack whispered into Daniel's hair, "more than anything," and as he spoke he touched the silver chain and talisman. It was their most prized possession and symbolised their love for one another.
"I know you do and I also know you love being an active knight."
Thinking for a moment, Jack drew away from Daniel to look at him. "Maybe we can combine the two, living here and me pulling on the armour every now and again!"
"We could hold a tournament!"
"You mean with mortal combat?"
"No, no, more like a show. Whaddya think?"
"Sounds all right, Jack but it could be very expensive," Daniel replied also thinking that the whole thing could turn into a circus that might somehow belittle Ivanhoe's skill and reputation.
"We could charge an entry fee to the combatants. How about that?"
"And if we offered a prize from the takings then they'll see it's worthwhile."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Ivanhoe grinned.
"Except..." Daniel wanted Jack to use his skills but he didn't want him to get hurt...or worse. He also didn't want Jack to resent the archaeologist for taking away his life's work either; he had to think fast.
"What? Except what?"
"Well, with your skills and experience wouldn't it be better if you trained pages and squires to be knights? You'd be good at it, Jack you know you would."
"Now that is something worth thinking about. I should contact Hayes; his recommendation would help a lot."
"Good that's settled then," Daniel laughed. "Come on, let's go and get some breakfast."
The two strolled back to the castle and knew that they would be making love as an appetiser.
As the months rolled into years, their relationship deepened, they were inseparable and very much in love. Their mutual respect and devotion to one another was a living example of the rules of chivalry. Jack maintained and applied those rules, producing a new generation of very able and skilled knights who swore to uphold the values to respect and protect the weak and less fortunate, to be open to the possibilities in life and to draw courage from each other.
Teal'c worked his small farm in Washington as a freeman. He kept sheep and cattle and refused to have a single pig anywhere on his land.
Samantha and Malcolm were involved in many exploits that righted some of the wrongs of an oppressed generation of Saxon peasantry. As their alter-egos Maid Marion and Robin Hood, their actions would become legendary and history would never forget them.
Jacob settled back into his life at the SGC and wondered what he had ever done to bring up a daughter who lived in the greenwood with a yeoman archer and an adopted son who spent his time with a Digger.
George Athelstane remained at Coningsburgh castle and worked at a leisurely pace to maintain his reputation as a generous host who offered one of the finest tables in his part of the country.
Janet, Samantha's lady in waiting bought a small establishment with some money that the Saxon princess had given her. She was the very competent and popular mistress of the Blue Boar inn, a place that welcomed the ordinary man and eavesdropped on any who threatened to undermine the growing security of the country. One of her most frequent customers was Little John Siler.
Urgo continued to give spiritual guidance to his flock in the forest as well as wielding his trusty staff to keep order during saints' days and festivals.
Harry de Bracy travelled throughout Europe offering his knightly services particularly to those who were not aware of his reputation in England. Eventually he married a rotund and jolly Dutch woman who indulged his penchant for dressing up.
Anubis Beaumanoir returned to the Templar headquarters on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea. On his death Apophis Malvoisin inherited the title and status of Grand Master of the Order of Knights Templar. He oversaw the gradual decline of wealth and influence of the order and eventually retreated to his brother's castle bordering Jacob's land. He spent his time collecting a range of ropes and ties as well as whips and paddles.
Nick the Digger spent the rest of his days wandering the Middle East and mapping the giant pyramids of Egypt.
Paul-A-Dale continued to compose and perform his songs, making the exploits of Robin Hood and his lovely Maid Marion top of the medieval charts.
Charlie Kawalski remained with Jacob as his faithful companion and joker, easing the Saxon into old age and softening the edges of his still volatile temper.
Henry Hayes took back the leadership of the country from his weak and temperamental half brother to become its first real English leader, striving to unite the Norman and Saxon cultures. His death would be premature and in his place, Robert Kinsey would take on the responsibility of steering the nation into history. He did this with selfishness and a complete lack of political integrity. His mother kept a stern eye on him and he lived forever in fear of her.
Ivanhoe Jack O'Neill was no longer the Disinherited Knight. At last he had a strong sense of time, place and purpose and knew that his life belonged to Daniel Jackson, just as the archaeologist's belonged to him.