Word of Honor(6)

By: Alexa Aston


Barrett’s stake was buried deep in the ground.

Geoffrey jumped to his feet as Barrett struggled to free his weapon and thrust the sharp end into his opponent’s side.

The older knight grunted and lost his balance, dropping his pole as he collapsed from exhaustion. Desperate to recover his weapon, Barrett crawled toward it, but he didn’t reach it in time. Geoffrey rained down a steady stream of crippling blows with his pole that knocked his foe away. Barrett landed on his back. He raised his arms protectively over his face.

Knowing he could end this now, Geoffrey let honor prevail and rested the sharp end of his weapon above the traitor’s heart, then paused. Despite his strong desire to end the bastard’s life, trial by battle was not intended to end in death.

Geoffrey looked to the prince, hoping to be declared the winner.

Oxford had already informed him that the French whore had admitted to being a spy. She confirmed that Barrett had accepted payment for providing a map that showed English and Gascon troop movements, especially the tactics that would be employed once the Duke of Lancaster’s forces arrived and joined the Black Prince to march on King Jean.

The prince gave Geoffrey an approving nod.

Geoffrey raised his pole and stepped back when pain shot up his leg. He looked down to see a baselard embedded in his calf. Barrett yanked the knife out. Before he could inflict another stab wound, Geoffrey brought the steel tip to the other man’s unguarded throat.

“Do it,” Barrett hissed. “Kill me.”

“I’d rather see you hang for the traitor you are.”

Suddenly, guards surrounded them. One yanked the dagger from Barrett’s hand. Another gently pushed Geoffrey aside. Two more dragged Barrett to his feet, screaming and cursing as they removed him from the field.

The prince called Geoffrey over.

Bleeding and in pain, he limped to his leader.

“You fought bravely,” the prince praised him. “Unlike your opponent, you are a fair man. I thank you for defeating this traitor, Geoffrey of Kinwick. I won’t forget your courage. You are an honorable knight.”

The prince leaned over and whispered in the ear of a man in dark robes. Then the stranger approached Geoffrey.

“Come with me, good sir. I am Ellis, healer to the king. I will cleanse and stitch your wound. We can’t afford to lose good soldiers like you to those who cheat and betray our cause.”

Geoffrey gladly went with the healer. He wanted the injury cared for quickly since he didn’t want to miss what happened to Barrett.

Sometime later, after his leg was bandaged, the healer released him. “Stay off it as much as you can. Do you have a horse?”

“Aye.”

“Then I won’t worry about you marching on it.” Ellis gripped his shoulder. “You were brave to come forward.”

“I thank you, Ellis.”

Geoffrey left the healer and spotted Sir Lovel, who slapped him on the back.

“You made me proud today,” the knight told him. “You fought with tenacity and skill. Come. Let’s make our way to the traitor’s execution.”

As they walked through the camp, Geoffrey found the number of men present had doubled. That meant the Duke of Lancaster had arrived with the expected reinforcements. Barrett’s father, Lord Berold, had arrived with the duke’s reinforcements. He would witness his son’s execution.

Geoffrey arrived in time to see Barrett being led to a hastily built platform.

Fear showed on the guilty man’s face.

But Geoffrey felt no pity for the criminal. Barrett had betrayed king and country and would suffer a just punishment.

A hush fell as the Black Prince addressed the crowd. “Barrett of Winterbourne, how do you plead to the charge of treason?”

No answer came.

The prince repeated his question and still received no response.

Edward repeated the query a third time, his face reddening in anger.

“I will never admit to guilt. Never!” Barrett spit into the dirt, defiance radiating from his features.

Edward’s murderous glare ended the traitor’s rebellious attitude. Barrett’s body began trembling uncontrollably.

“I find you guilty as charged, you despicable coward,” the Black Prince declared. “I want your blasted head displayed on a stake. Let every man here witness what happens to a Judas who betrays my father and England.”

The prince motioned to the knights that detained Barrett. They marched the prisoner to the block and forced him to his knees.

In the end, the traitor did not go willingly. The guards had to hold him down. The executioner’s ax landed once and Barrett screamed in agony. The second blow silenced him forever. His head rolled from his body, caught in a basket held by a soldier standing guard at the base of the platform.

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