In the Shadow of Your Wings (Northshire Heritage Book 1)(2)

By: J.P. Robinson

The revolution which had overthrown the tyrant King Louis was supposed to have brought him wealth and dignity. But his life still stank of failure and fish. Nothing had changed... at least not for the better. And so, he had listened as the soldier, who reeked of cologne, spun a web of glittering promises.

His son would be a hero. His uncanny resemblance to the deposed King Louis’s son, Prince Louis-Charles, would be used by those who sought the good of France to break the chains that enslaved the nation. They only needed his son, Jacques, for a few hours. A heavy pouch of silver coins had dissolved Cyrano’s questions. How much brandy could all that money buy?

Cyrano cringed as he remembered the first thought that had crossed his mind. He had agreed, snatched the bag, and led the soldier to his home where he had handed over his son.

Unnoticed, he had followed Luc to the prison, realizing only when outside its gates that he had been tricked. His son would never come home! Just before passing through the gates, a puff of wind had briefly parted the soldier’s cloak allowing a glimmer of light to touch a small tousled head.

At the memory, Cyrano’s heart clenched. “Jacques.”

Fear had turned his feet to roots, preventing him from rushing forward and ripping his son from the clutches of the deceiver. Like a child, he had cowered in the dark, looking on with a rising sense of panic as his only son was secreted past the guard on duty into the black jaws of the Temple.

The heartbroken father’s shoulders now shook with sobs as he cursed his stupidity and the craving for liquor that impaired his ability to think, driving him insane.

“Jacques!” His voice was a guttural cry that echoed off the merciless stones in front of him. Cyrano Durand trembled and pressed himself still further into the shadows, hoping for one more glimpse of the child that had been taken from him.

No. Not taken. He dropped his head and felt for the swollen pouch of silver at his side as shame swelled within his chest. Sold. Dimly, like a thought from another world, his mind registered a rooster’s crow as it announced the impending dawn.

“What have I done?” The brandy. I need the brandy. His fingers twitched as they slid to the pocket of his faded trousers and retrieved a small flask of corn brandy. He thrust the container to his lips, ripped the well-worn cork out with his teeth, spit it to one side and opened his maw wide, guzzling down the dark liquid.

Warmth spread throughout Cyrano’s body, dulling his senses and numbing the guilty ache in his heart. More!

His wife, ignorant of her husband’s scheming, had gone to spend the night with her dying mother but how would he explain what he had done when she returned? What would his daughter say when she learned that her little brother was gone?

Cyrano groaned and tilted the flask again, only to realize it was empty.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” His voice broke under the weight of his remorse. He peered around the corner.

“Identify yourself!” The voice reached his ears as his own tears mingled with the cold rain. He had been seen! Cyrano forced himself to peer around the edge of the wall. An armed guard strode toward him, musket in hand. Only one? Cyrano was no soldier but, even to him, the courtyard seemed empty.

“Come into the light or die where you stand!”

Panic flared in his chest as the soldier raised the gun. Cyrano glanced over his shoulder. The road behind him had no obstructions. If he tried to flee he would be shot in the back. But even as the thought crossed his mind, he realized that death alone could provide the final absolution for his guilt. He had failed his family. His death would be the price of his redemption. He stood to his feet, tossed his hat aside, and stepped into the light.

GENERAL LAFAYETTE’S tall, wiry form framed the doorway of the narrow room into which Luc ushered the boy. A single candle burned on a wooden table. It was the only furniture in the dank, stone cell.

“I am sorry, my Queen, but you must say adieu.”

“You would deny a mother her last moments with her only remaining son?” The voice that spoke from the darkness was low and tight with pain.

“We have only minutes before the guard changes.” Lafayette stepped inside. “I placed only one man at the gate tonight, but more will arrive at any moment. I do not need to tell you what will happen to us all if we are discovered.”