The Sceran Walloon

∴ A Spur of the Moment ∴

“There’s neither Swallow, Dove, or Dade
Can soar more high or deeper wade
Nor show a reason from the stars
What causeth peace or civil wars”

Your voice sounds out, high and wavering on the early morning air. Singing comes easy on a day like this, with sunlight dappling through the trees onto the stony road. You feel each stone through the rattling seat, peppering your song with jolted off-notes – but you don’t mind. The rumbling wheels and clattering hooves mean you’re on your way again.

Suddenly you halt your verse, and coax the dun mare to a standstill. Were you only imagining a shape in the bushes? Is the road getting to you already? Then in an instant the man is upon you, small and wiry in an oil-reeking coat and well-worn boots. Hardly the dandy highwayman of tavern songs, you think absurdly as the scene unfolds.

The mare rears and whinnies as the stranger rounds it, making for the driver’s seat step. That dappled sunlight you admired only moments ago now illuminates a sharp needle of steel in his hand. Something tells you he doesn’t mean to bargain.

In an instant, the pistol is in your hand. The brigand’s eyes widen. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake you for a witless farmer’s son. A bang. A jolt. Another whinny from the foaming mare, and the highwayman falls away from the carriage, his mouth agape and ghastly.

Staring through pistol-smoke in mute wonder, your attention is caught by the dead man’s sword. Small, like the brigand himself, but much prettier you think. A pierced plate and swelling black bars; a raised thumb ring with a single cut-out heart. 

Now there’s a sword worth a ballad, you think, snatching it up into your hand. With a fresh tune on your lips, you turn back to the carriage.

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The Baneful Walloon

∴ An Expert Companion∴

Pulling your hood closer, you scowl into the driving rain and trudge on, cold water washing through your worn-out boots. You must still be 20 miles from Inverness, and the deluge shows no sign of slowing. Once again you wonder why you left – at least the bloody barracks had been dry.

Some miles down the road (you stopped counting days ago) you think you catch sight of a figure, barely a shadow through sheets of rain. Your heart leaps and your hand flies to your scabbard, but you steady yourself and peer deeper through the downpour. The shape is small and stooped with age. No threat to you.

As your breathing slows, you find yourself wondering how much coin the old man carries. Your stomach growls like something feral at the thought of a full meal. There’s already a price on your head – and as your mother always said, may as well be hanged for a sheep.

“Halt if you value your life!” you call into the rain. To illustrate your point, you draw the dagger from your belt.

The old man doesn’t stop. As he draws nearer, you make out a heavily scarred face, hair hanging damp and limp across a horrible grin. Without slowing his pace, he casts aside the skirt of his coat and, quick as lightning, draws a sword. The blade gleams bright against matte black steel, a scattering of hearts piercing the plate.

You have a feeling you just made a terrible mistake.

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