There were six of them to begin with but now there were only five.
“Five is an unlucky number,” Hector of Wales complained as they buried the body.
Thomas Grey, Lord Winter had been a fat man in life and it took three of his friends to lift his body out of the mire of mud and drop him in to the shallow grave.
“We don’t have time to cover him,” said Sir Quirin Wagner. They all knew he was right.
Black Jonas Larsson was the only one of them still on horseback. His stallion wouldn’t settle. Black Jonas stroked its ears and whispered his hard language to sooth it but the horse only grew more restless. The sun was fast vanishing behind a line of ragged hills and soon there would be figures breaking over the horizon.
“Put a blanket over him, make a cross of twigs and let’s be done with this,” said Guido Urrunuela. It was Guido who held the sack and holding the sack made a man nervous.
The sack was of cheesecloth. It was soaked red with the dried blood of a Saracen. To hold the sack it was strangely light and Guido didn’t like that one bit. He, like the rest of them, knew what was inside the sack. It should have been too heavy for one man to hold but Guido stood there with it slung over his shoulder as Hector of Wales threw a cloak over the bloated, naked body of Lord Winter.
“It’s done,” said William Blood.
He was on his knees at the grave side. He whispered a few words and made a sign of the cross. He rose and looked nervously to the hills.
“Will we make it?” he asked Black Jonas.
The Swede shrugged. “We make it or we die. If we make it we die.” He laughed.
They mounted and rode away from the dead man. The rain fell heavier. They avoided the forest road and crossed the wall some way east of the hill fort. As they came down from the highlands, William Blood looked west. There, too many miles away to think he would ever make it, was the village where he was born. He was as close as he had been to home in fifteen years and he knew he would never get closer again.
“Look,” called Guido, reigning in his grey Arabian.
“The bastards,” snarled Sir Quirin.
William Blood turned his steed and pushed his rain drenched hair from his face. It was a dark night but clear enough of the mists that had seem to follow them all the way from the East. He could just make out moonlight shimmering from the tips of spears.
“Do you think he’s there too?” William Blood asked.
No one answered. They urged their horses on and within an hour they came to Lord Winter’s abandoned keep.
In the morning the devil came for them.