In the Shadow of Your Wings (Northshire Heritage Book 1)

By: J.P. Robinson

Prologue





Temple Prison, Paris. April 1794.

The flames of flickering torches jerked like spasmodic fingers, casting a ruddy glow on the stone walls of Temple Prison, but did little to dispel the gloom that saturated the dungeon’s atmosphere. Outside the ancient fortress, a torrential spring rain soaked the ground, causing small rivulets of water to seep through cracks in the aged stones and drip with an ominous plop, plop into the puddles of sewage that pooled across the damp floor.

The scene made General Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier—also called the Marquis de La Fayette—feel that he had lost his spiritual connection with the throng of saints for which he had been named and had somehow blundered his way into a waterlogged version of hell. The ragged screams of tormented prisoners completed the illusion.

Covering his nose, Lafayette choked back a cough, repulsed by the stench of putrefying flesh and human waste that filled the stagnant air. Tonight, his mind was not on those who would end their miserable lives inside the fortress, but on the prisoner who would escape. More precisely, the prisoner that he would help escape. For tonight—after more than two decades of loyal service to the government of France— the illustrious General Lafayette would commit treason.

The harsh squeak of a grating rusty bolt alerted him that he was no longer alone. The sound materialized into furtive movement at the far end of the murky hallway, confirming his suspicions. Lafayette melted into the wall, determined to remain unseen until he identified the newcomer.

Although he was a decorated war hero who commanded the Paris militia known as the National Guard, more than one member of France’s radical government had begun to question his loyalty to the revolutionary madness that consumed France. If the wrong people discovered what he had done—or what he was about to do—he would be guillotined before he could say his whole name.

The footsteps came closer and Lafayette’s nose twitched as he recognized Luc, a captain of the Guard who, like himself, secretly harbored loyalty to the murdered King Louis XVI and the surviving members of the royal family. Lafayette hoped that Luc’s allegiance was as strong as the cologne he wore. If not, they were both dead men.

He spoke from the shadows, his voice a hoarse whisper. “Do you have the boy?”

The captain pulled up short, caught off guard by Lafayette’s voice and sudden appearance. Recovering, he knuckled his forehead toward his superior then pulled back the voluminous black cloak that enveloped his body. Extra length had been added to help him smuggle the child into the prison.

Grimacing, the general took in the innocent brown eyes and shaggy hair of a ten-year-old boy. No fear marred the child’s face, but Lafayette felt his own heart tremble. Throughout his career, he had slaughtered hundreds on the battlefields of America and France without a qualm, but this solitary act of desperation repulsed him. His conscience rebelled at the atrocity he was about to commit, but his inner soldier shoved all scruples aside. This was war. A war to save France from the anarchy it had unleashed upon itself. He was prepared to commit any crime—no matter how abominable—to save the country he loved.

He jerked the cloak back over the boy’s frame and retreated a step, lifting his eyes to Luc’s grim face. “Bring him.”



A STEADY RAIN FELL from a morbid predawn sky, sending rivulets of cold water over the brim of Cyrano Durand’s tricorn hat and down the nape of his tanned, stocky neck. Oblivious to the shower, the middle-aged fisherman’s attention remained riveted on the impassive gates that rose before his bleary eyes. These were the gates through which his son had passed.

He pressed drooping shoulders against rough limestone walls that reflected the soft glow of torches from the inner courtyard of Temple prison.

“Jacques?” He made the sign of the cross as he called the boy’s name once more, praying for a miracle that would undo his crime.

“Jacques?”

But his ten-year-old son, Jacques Durand, was gone—a sacrificial victim on the altar of his father’s greed.

A man named Luc, who had worn no uniform but carried himself like a soldier, had approached Cyrano two nights ago as the fisherman drank away the sorrows of a life threaded with disappointment. The stranger had complained in hushed conversation about the revolution’s failure to purge the evil from France. Cyrano had wholeheartedly agreed.