- Virginia Johnson
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 in The King’s Swift Rider, by Mollie Hunter.