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BY nightfall, they were still only traversing the foothills of the mountains and the women were complaining.

Fortunately they found a hospitable inn and racked up for the night.

Nick was still chafing at the slow progress, but Tobias shrugged and proceeded to win sums of money from the traders and artisans drinking and gambling in the alehouse.

Nick rolled himself in his blanket and wrote to Kate.

The next day was better; the weather was kind and the scenery magnificent. The inn at their next resting-place was more than adequate and Nick began to relax. He had discovered that Tobias Fletcher had in fact commanded a small troop, twenty men, and his forebears had been bowmen at Crcy.

For his part, Tobias had known someone who had fought alongside Nick's father. Both familiar with army life, they got on with making the journey as easy as possible, and things went smoothly as a result, if not very fast.

The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith So on into the mountains. The altitude began to tell on man and beast alike, and Nick continued to fidget at the leisurely pace.

They were climbing to the saddle between two high peaks when the weather suddenly shut down.

A thick mist rolled down from the heights above and in an instant they were half blind.

The path was narrow, with a downward slope on one side and as one man Nick and Tobias called a halt.

Nick dismounted, gave his reins to Fletcher and walked forward, feeling his way.

He had almost reached the head of the column when the mists parted in a gust of freezing wind and the thing Nick had been dreading was upon them.

The robbers were a tatterdemalion crew, but well organised.

They had been watching as the travellers idled along admiring the view.

The mist had given them their chance and now they swept down, yelling and screaming, heading straight for the most vulnerable, the merchants who had insisted on riding at the head of the cavalcade.

Nick cursed and ran for his horse. Fletcher tossed him the reins and grabbed Nick's two pistols, cocking and discharging them to good effect, giving himself a chance to draw his sword which was slung across his back.

* The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith is published by Honno at pounds 8.99 > CONTINUES TOMORROW


* The Great Lie by Myrrha Stanford-Smith
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 31, 2012
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