The Douglas Bastard
(A sequel to The Black Douglas Trilogy)
By J R Tomlin
Publication Date: 26th April 2022
Publisher: Albannach Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction
The Black Douglas is dead. With Scotland's greatest knight no more, the throne is up for grabs as enemies try to devour the kingdom.
An orphaned youth returning from exile, Archibald, the Black Douglas's bastard son, fights for a land being torn apart from within and without. If Archibald is to survive, he must learn to sleep with a claymore in his hand and one eye open because even his closest friend might betray him...
This is an adventure set in the bloody Second Scottish War of Independence when Scotland's very survival is in question.
“Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.” Friar Walter Blantyre crossed himself.
The chamber I shared with my mam smelled of the flux that had drained the life from her. Staring at her, I tried to see in her thin face the mother who had sung to me and told me stories of my father. I choked down the sob that threatened to force its way out. But hot tears dribbled down my cheeks, half-blinding me. I bolted and stumbled into the door jamb. The friar put a hand on my shoulder to steady me, but I jerked free. A madness swept through me, and I ran out the door, down the stairs, and barreled through the side door of the keep into the walled garden.
The garden was quiet in the lazy, late summer afternoon, a tapestry of greens and pinks and yellows with splashes of white and crimson, all bathed in slanting sunlight and purple shade. How could the sun shine and the flowers smell sweet when my mother was dead? I wiped my wet face on my sleeve, ashamed to be weeping, and looked around, wondering what I should do now.
"Archie," a low-pitched voice called to me. I turned.
King David was sitting on the ground propped against the wall, head tilted back to catch the sun, arms resting on his bent knees.
Quickly glancing around to be sure no one was near, I whispered, "Are you hiding, Davie?”
We were not supposed to call him Davie, but he had never cared when we used to play out of earshot of the grownups. But now, the King was fifteen and almost a grown man, too old to join in children's games.
He grinned. "I'm tired of my Latin lessons translating Caesar, so I'm avoiding Abbot William." His voice went squeaky, then deepened again. Blushing, he coughed. "He will look in the stable and the practice yard, but he won't think to look for me here." He was thin and long-legged, a strand of auburn hair falling over his forehead. His face was long, and he had a bit of fuzz for a beard. He cocked his head and looked me over. "Your mother. I heard she was . . . Did she . . . die?”
Cold passed right through me. I bit my lip hard enough to taste blood and said nothing.
"I'm sorry, Archie. That was nae tactful. Sir Malcolm says even a king should be tactful." He frowned. "And now you don't have anyone to look after you, and you a love-bairn.”
I stiffened and lifted my chin. "I will be a great knight like my father. I ken that I will.”
"Mayhap." David smiled as he studied my face. "They say he was dark-haired and dark-skinned like you.”
My chest swelled with pride, but I tried not to let it show on my face.
"It is hard being without parents. I dinnae remember my mother and barely remember my sire. But I can hear his voice sometimes," the King mused. "You will need a foster father like Sir Malcolm is for me, but I don't think there is anyone in my court who can do it. You're old enough to be a page, though. Until we figure something out. I will talk to Sir Malcolm about it.”
In no mood to think about a new parent, even a foster one, I answered, "I dinnae need a foster father.”
"We all need someone to belong to." He favored me with a wry smile. "As I have learned the hard way. I thank the Blessed Mother that the French king was willing to take us in when we had to flee Scotland, and Sir Malcolm came with me." He rose, stretched, patted me on the shoulder, and then strolled back into the keep. He said over his shoulder, "But I will talk to Sir Malcolm anent you, and he will ken what to do. For now, I suppose I should let the abbot find me.”
This was the fourth year of our exile in France. It was the ninth year of my life.
J. R. Tomlin is the author of nineteen historical novels.
She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh while growing up. Her historical novels are set for the most part in Scotland. Her love of that nation is traced from the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read to her when she was small, to hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writing was influenced by Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Nigel Tranter, and Sir Walter Scott.
When JR isn't writing, she enjoys hiking, playing with her Westie, and killing monsters in computer games. In addition to spending time in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.
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