It took four sturdy men-at-arms to hold the bellowing prisoner while they manacled his wrists. Sir James Delaware leaned against the dungeon door and laughed derisively. This was his greatest triumph.
“Thou’rt full welcome to my donjon, my lord Cobham! We pray thou shalt find wondrous refreshment and rest ere thou standest before my lord sheriff on the morrow.”
Cobham’s bloodstained black whiskers stood out starkly and his eyes blazed red.
“Treacherous dog! Dastard! Thou wert too cowardly to face my challenge to single combat! As treacherous as thy thrice-cursed king Richard art thou! I own him as king no more!”
Delaware’s leer never wavered.
“’Ware lest thine unruly tongue be cut off ere justice be served, my lord malapert! High treason it is - and mayhap heresy also if thou recant not! Death in torment shall be thy portion if thou be not treatable! Seek counsel of the rats if thou heedest none else. In especial the Lollard rat yonder – thy father confessor!”
Cobham’s eyes widened as he saw the unobtrusive figure in the ragged russet gown in the corner.
Cobham’s head snapped back toward his enemy.
“Rood of God!” he growled through gritted teeth. “Not content with mine head art thou, but would burn godly men also? One who sued for thy life? O, bravely done, valiant Sir James Delaware!”
Sir James’ mocking smirk soured.
“I keep no bargains with cursed heretics! Faugh! ‘Tis sleeveless to have speech with such a losel! I misdoubt me thou shalt boast as heartily at the gallows, or the stake! Farewell!”
He stormed out, followed by his soldiers, and by strident curses from his prisoner.
“Thou shalt burn, treacherous swine - in Hell!! One day thy king shall fall, and thou and all thy like shall know God’s justice…! Nithings all are ye!”
After a while, his tirade gave way to angry mutterings, then he fell silent, exhausted.
He stopped straining on his chains and slumped wearily against the filthy wall. The furious momentum that had carried him through the last two years was draining away.
Where were his cheering followers now? Dead or captured, after their abortive attempt at the most ambitious kidnapping plot in history. And was Eleanor safe?
At the thought of his wife and family, he wept as he had not done for a long time.
“My lord, suffer me..”
A kindly hand washed away the blood and grime from his face.
“Blessings upon thee, good father. Thou’rt mine only friend in this evil hour. Yea, even God hath forsaken me.”
“Say not so, my lord. Did we not speak of this five years gone?”
“Yea, verily thou didst show me the way to God’s heart but .. Nay, I can no longer deceive myself. I lost Him in my mindless fury and tumults. This demon of rage conquered me, hence have I not known peace, God forgive me!”
The old fire flared up momentarily.
“But Richard betrayed me! His friend!”
The flame died down again, to be replaced by anguish of heart. He shook his bowed head in frustration.
“I have failed, grievously! Yea, ‘tis true that bitter vengeance hath been my goad, but …..I had deemed that change would come if we were but bold and valiant …. that God would aid us in our cause…”
Lawrence said as gently as he could.
“God will not aid the arm of flesh, Sir John…”
Cobham was forced to concede the truth of this, although it took a while to sink in. He dropped his head on his knees and whispered.
“…Then, my life hath been naught but folly …vanity..?”
“Say not so! Do not thy folk call thee ‘the Good Lord Cobham’? Thine open-handedness … thou’rt of the blessed company of Lollard Knights. I, and many of my brethren preachers owe thee our very lives!”
“Thy words bring comfort, father.” He looked up. “Thine own fate? It is sure…?”
Lawrence nodded, bright-eyed but solemn. He’d known it was coming for quite a while, but he was ready. His present concern was to shepherd the troubled nobleman into the same state of readiness for eternity.
“My lord, drink no longer the cup of bitterness. It shall poison none but thee.”
In 1413 Sir John Oldcastle, later Lord Cobham led a rebellion to impose Lollard reforms upon church and state. He died at the stake, firm in his faith. Other characters here are fictitious.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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