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Braveheart and the Forestwife

The King's Swift Rider: A Novel on Robert the Bruce by Mollie Hunter

From where he stood on the hill above the valley, Martin Crawford saw that the leader of the war band was in serious trouble. When a hunting horn sounded from behind, the leader ordered his men to scatter before the onslaught of English soldiers. They were on him in moments, but their numbers broke as they chased the leader's scattered men. In all his sixteen years, Martin had never seen a man fight as this one did, swinging his great sword beside his companions until the last living enemy fled in fear.

 

The leader made his way into the bracken, carrying a wounded man, and trying to elude the next wave of English. But this time the enemy had hounds.

"No one, it seemed to me, however criminal he was, deserved to be so hunted! But this was Scotland, of course, in the year of Our Lord thirteen hundred and seven, and the English forces we had fought against so bitterly for ten years had the whole country in their grip. A grip so brutal, too, that they were merciless against anyone who dared stand against them."

Martin made a decision. He took the brace of rabbits, once destined for his poor family's cooking pot, and led the hounds away from their human prey. The English found Martin soon enough, and beat him until they decided he was only a simpleton and let him go.

The next morning, a battered warrior came to the Crawford's cottage. Martin recognized him immediately as the escaped war leader.

"I am hunted. I seek shelter.... Can you -- will you -- give that to me?"

Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots, who once fought with William Wallace for Scotland's independence, would receive not only shelter from the Crawford family but also the gift of its two sons. He led them away to their secret camp, Sean the elder, with his slain father's spear beside him, and Martin, who bore no weapons and swore he would never fight. But the king's genius with tactics requires more than simple soldiers, and Martin's wits may be more valuable than his brother's steel.

The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson

Mary's uncle was well pleased. Everett de Holt had found a very suitable husband for his niece. Gerard de Broat was a grand match for the fatherless girl. At fifteen years old, she was ready for marriage. An older man would steady her, and she certainly could not afford to be fussy considering the disgraceful circumstances of her birth. Everett and his lady Marjorie had done well by the girl, but she was child no longer!

Mary seemed to accept her sad fate. No one noticed as she wandered the kitchen gardens, apparently aimlessly and with a degree of resignation, that she wore her warmest cloak and had a loaf of fresh bread tucked into its folds. Her eyes followed her uncle as he rode out of the estate, giving her precious time to make her escape, into the sun-warmed forest of Sherwood.

This Maid Marian has more to do than simply be Robin Hood's true love. As an assistant to the legendary Forestwife, she learns the arts of healing and becomes a leader to the many refugees turned from their lands by cruel lords. And, yes, she does find time to help a certain outlaw band and its handsome leader.