Blood For Blood Chapter 1


Copyright © D S Allen 2014

When you lose yourself, you lose everything.

In the midst of the religious and political fermentation of Cromwell’s Interregnum, Daniel Davenport, a Royalist captain imprisoned in Fisherton Anger Gaol since the battle of Worcester, must act quickly after his sister has been accused of witchcraft and murder. Manfred Hugo’s crusade against brother and sister binds together the fate of many in a tragedy of their times.

 Blood For Blood reflects the struggles of new and old government, true friendship and enmity, great events and the struggles of daily life, the fate of rulers and their subjects, the power and fragility of love and how blind corroding hatred consumes the soul.

Chapter 1 – A Necessary Visit

 

Worcester, September 1st, 1651

 

With his men accounted for and safely billeted outside the city walls alongside the Duke of Buckingham’s other English regiments, Daniel Davenport skipped through the bustling streets. Time was short, and the crammed streets presented only obstacles as he weaved through the crowds. Speechless, he had read the note from Colonel Harrington relating to his sister’s arrival and her request to see him. He hadn’t seen Johanna for months, and now, of all places, she had arrived in Worcester. For months she had pleaded for him to return home, but he had ignored all invitations, vowing to never set foot in father’s home again. Her pleading then gave way to a warning: if he didn’t come home to visit her, then she would come to him. And now Johanna was in Worcester as Cromwell’s Parliamentarian army prepared to do battle.

“Captain, it’s quicker when we make toward High Street,” Private Templeton called from behind him.  

Daniel halted to let his guide catch up, and a white haired ancient stumbled in front of him. Daniel gave the old man his arm and pulled him to his feet.

The old man dusted himself off before eyeing Daniel from head to toe. “I thank you. They’re bloody everywhere. Even climbing the bloody walls.”

Daniel nodded sympathetically.

“I tell ye—” the old man trembled “—these bloody Scots will brings these walls down even before Cromwell arrives. Mark my words.”

“I hope you’re wrong.” Daniel smiled. “For without these walls and those Scots, we’re not going to give Cromwell much of a fight.”

“Mark my words,” he muttered as he hobbled off.

Since King Charles had arrived at the end of August with his Scottish army, the population of Worcester had doubled. Worcester, a strategic gateway with good roads linking London and Wales, also provided the King’s army with strong walls and thriving agricultural land to feed his hungry army.

Daniel swiveled around and took a moment to observe the comings and goings of the tide of humanity rumbling through the streets. The old man was not far wrong: compared to the Scots, Buckingham’s English regiments seemed no more than a drop of water in a deep Highland loch. As soon as the King had left Scotland and made known his intention to gather support in the South West and Wales, small pockets of Royalists all over England converged on Worcester to fight for the King. But overall, the number of English Royalists was insignificant.

“When you count our numbers, Private, Buckingham won’t have much of a say in the matter.”

“I’m sure you’re right, Captain.” 

   “And how have the locals reacted to our Scottish allies?” Daniel enquired as a company of Scottish Foot trudged past.

“Aye, the locals are none too happy, Captain. There’s plenty mutterin’ after the Scot’s last visit when they took all and sundry. But what can we do?”

“Sure as hell, I won’t ask them to move on.”

“There’s just not enough room on the east side of the city. Billetin’ their tents where they can.”

“Has there been much trouble?”

“I think they’re too tired, Captain.”

Close by, exhausted men and women washed their grey rags and mended their shoes after the long march from Scotland. “An army of grey ghosts,” Daniel muttered to Templeton.

 “But see here—” Templeton pointed to the market square “—only three hangings so far. Thievin’, Captain.

Three bloated corpses swayed gently in the breeze. “They’ve been up a few days?”

“Three days,” Templeton replied, screwing up his nose.

 “A stench like that can only bring us disease.” Daniel grimaced at the spectacle.

“Aye, Captain. But it’s not as bad as the stench of the whores.”

Daniel bristled at the comment, but he bit his tongue. The private was still young, and all soldiers masked their fear behind bravado. The women, vulnerable and alone, had arrived in their droves since the Royalist army had reached Worcester. Young women and girls were taken advantage of and abused on street corners. And when the war came to Worcester, heaven help them, for they would be in the mercy of brutalized men, and no hand would be raised to help them. As an officer, wearing the garb of a gentleman, Daniel had been inundated with propositions as soon he’d stepped foot into the city. He’d chatted to a young woman, not more than fifteen, telling her to leave Worcester before it was too late, but she only lamented the fact so many Scots had brought their wives with them.

As he reached High Street, Daniel slowed to regard the commotion before him. Camp wives scrubbed clothes in dirty water; groups of soldiers played at dice, while others lay outside their tents, waiting for officers to tell them which part of the defenses needed bolstering. Carts trundled past, moving supplies through the city. A horde of armories and smithies were busy fixing weapons and molding breastplates, while others melted lead into musket balls and shot. 

“The field hospital is close to St Martin’s Gate, on the north-east, Captain.”

They continued onward past Town Hall, and then made a right toward Cornmarket. Just north of Cornmarket, a group of haphazard tents marked the field hospital.

“I can find my way from here, Templeton,” Daniel said. “No loitering, Private. And stay away from those prostitutes.”

Templeton’s mischievous grin suggested otherwise as he wandered back toward High Street.

A number of Scottish soldiers rested outside the closest tent, their feet wrapped in linen. Daniel skipped past them, ignoring their scowls.

The smell lingering about the field hospital was worse than that on High Street. The heavy air was suffocating; a heady mixture of human waste amid the enduring smell of decay assaulted him as he lifted the flap and peered in. Men lay where they could with little enough space. After his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Daniel spotted his sister, Johanna, assisting a physician with a patient. Her usual lissome movements were cumbersome with the strain of the heavy work weighing upon her.

“I told you not come to Worcester,” Daniel said from the tent flap.

Johanna whirled around, beaming ear to ear. She set her hands on her hips. “And I warned you I was coming.”

His measured steps avoided the injured and dying strewn across the ground. He embraced his younger sister, and then nodded at the soldier, who was slipping in and out of consciousness. “Fever?”

“Typhoid.” Johanna wrung out a rag and dabbed the man’s forehead.

Daniel lowered his voice. “This is nothing but a plague pit, and Cromwell is coming, Johanna. I can’t fight Cromwell and trail after you at the same time.”

She cradled the soldier’s head and helped him drink a little. “I know.”

“Does Father know you’re here?”

“Of course not.”

“You came alone? That was insanity.”

“Don’t worry yourself,” she tutted. “I met soldiers from a General Mass-Mass—”

“Massey.”

“Yes,” she said, “Massey. I was safe with them. It’s your fault. I warned you.”

“I could order my men to take you home.”

“You could, Captain, but I’d never speak to you again. Anyway—” she twirled a length of her fair hair that had escaped her coif “—Colonel Harrington introduced himself to me this morning. He complemented my work.”

“And I have no doubt Colonel Harrington has no sister to worry about. Johanna,” Daniel whispered, “the King is outnumbered. Where are the English armies flocking to his banner?”

“They will come, Daniel.”

“I see my efforts are wasted on you.”

She reached out for his hand and clasped it tight. “I stood with you all those years ago, because I believed in you. I believed in my heart you had the right to choose and to follow your convictions. Father had no right to force you.”

“I know, and you’ve suffered for it ever since.”

“It was worth it. But let me also choose, brother, as you once did. I need to help, to be of some use.”

He fixed her coif back into place. “And now you will suffer all the more for it if you stay here. You do not know what is coming, Johanna.”

 “I sometimes watch Father as he stares at the fire—”

“Changing the subject won’t halt Cromwell’s advance.”

“He will forgive you. It’s time for you to come home. He’s softened. He’s old. He talks about you. After Worcester, come home with me.”

Daniel frowned. “He won’t even forgive you. He tolerates you as his housekeeper—you know it. All my life I did as he asked, but…The price would be too high.”

“We can be a family again. Talk with him. Give him a chance, Daniel.”

“You saw his face. The hatred and shame. There can be no forgiveness from either side.”

She stamped her foot impetuously. “Well, I’m not giving up.”

 Daniel smiled despite himself as the many memories of his sister’s willfulness flooded back to him. “Stay in the city, but don’t get trapped here. If it is in danger of falling, promise me you’ll leave before the end?”

“I’m not leaving unless you promise to take me home.”

“If—when we win, I will take you home. But I will not stay. Promise me you will leave before the city falls?”

“I promise.” She lifted off his hat, smoothed back his fair hair, and then embraced him. “I always pray for you, Daniel. But be careful.”

Daniel laughed at the remark and wiped away the trace of a tear that appeared on her cheek. “Always. And never stop praying for me.”

He stepped out into the air and the faint trace of his smile disappeared. He had already neglected his sister, by leaving her with their father. From day to day, week to week, the bitter old man would set about crushing her spirit—her spark of independence. For that was his way—cold, calculating submission. After Daniel had saved enough money, he would free her from him. He would give Johanna the life she deserved. But first, Cromwell and the New Model Army had to be dealt with.

He wandered back toward High Street without Johanna, weighed down with the dread of Cromwell’s approaching Roundheads.