So who is Evan and what are the Ironsides? Evan is one of the first characters that Shaela Sheowellyn encounters when she after being abducted she finds herself inexplicably in the middle of the wilderness. Evan, an older man with short white hair and a groomed gray moustache arrives to assist Shaela in routing those who would have her hide for the price of a bounty.
It turns out that Evan Edwards is one of the early law men of an emerging colony. Shaela and Evan quickly become friends, Evan knowing her secret life as a Wytch having witnessed the destructive power of her giant Shadow Cat protector. Shaela then separated from her friends Mila, Nelony and Yirfir must overcome a great evil that threatens to eradicate all Wytches. Eventually Shaela and Evan are separated and Evan encounters an embattled Mila, Yirfir, Sato and Barris in a refuge. It is around that time that Mila has time to ask Evan about how he came to be the law man of the colony and he gives her a few details but his story is still vague.
In the book Evan does tell a little bit of his story to Shaela but not much detail is given to his history. I decided that the character who is quite pivotal in the entirety of the story and particularly the outcome that he should have his own back story. So I decided to address this in between writing What Different Eyes See for The Butterfly Dragon.
Keep in mind that this story takes place during the English Civil War and deals with a battle between the forces of the ruling Monarchy and the Parliamentarians in a largely divided and a post Magna Carta England. The story itself does not take sides but instead is about Evan's experience within and how it shaped who he became the only law man of the North American colony, West View. I hope that this story brings a bit of light to the forces of change and so called progress. It certainly not intended as disrespect or disdain for the English Monarchy, so I urge my readers not to assume anything about this story at all in that regard. Give it time and all will become clear.
So if you are interested in finding out who Evan really is, and what the Ironsides are and don't mind getting your boots dirty from horseback then read on. Mostly though, please enjoy.
Brian Joseph Johns
Evan And The Ironsides (First draft)
A chapter from A Lady's Prerogative II: Wounded Aerth
They had stopped for the first time on their hasty trip but only because the horses themselves were parched. Evan's immediate Officer had made the request when he'd noticed that several of the horses had begun wheezing during their breaths. West View still a good twenty hours travel was out of reach within the confines of the remaining daylight and Evan's West View Cavalry had themselves began to long for a rest. The Cree scouts had returned informing Evan that the only signs of travel were of the Cavalry themselves which had made the trip south to the Haven only a day earlier.
Evan made a quick camp and organized the Cavalry to sleep in shifts. Three groups, two would sleep while the other kept a regular watch and foraged for water food for their mounts. Evan planned to stop for six hours at most which would put them back on the road at roughly three thirty in the morning and in West View before nightfall the next day.
Jasmer had remained strangely withdrawn while Mila, Sato and Barris had helped put together a meal for the waking Cavaliers. Evan had been busy setting up guard detail and taking care of the scouts horses which itself was an honor for they would often trust none with their horses. By the time Evan had returned to the fire his body creaked and groaned from ware and tear, but mostly from age. He sighed heavily as he joined Mila, Sato and Barris before the camp fire.
"I presumed that ye'd be catching your night's rest." Evan said as he took a drink of water from his hide canteen.
"We had a lot of rest at the Haven." Mila responded quietly.
"Who could hope to sleep after that battle! I'll be surprised if I ever sleep again!" Barris said still slightly on edge and looking to the shadowy darkness that bordered the fire's light.
"The rest is welcome though I fear for Shaela's safety." Sato said drinking from a cup of herbal tea he'd concocted with the help of the scouts.
"We'd be her death should we show up unable to fend for her. A Cavalry's strength is in it's mounts and an unbroken ride would have crippled them. I am with Shaela in every thought. She's as much a daughter to my Wife and I as she is friend and ally. I've seen many Women in my life and she is none to fall easily. The hunters know this of her and they'll proceed without haste and a measure of care. That will give us the time we need to close ranks with their wretched hive and have done with this madness." Evan took another drink from his canteen.
"You spoke of your time with the Ironsides and the war. Would you care to tell us of yourself?" Mila asked him compassionately wondering if during his time as West View's solitary law man if anyone had ever given him an ear.
He sat thinking. Remembering before he spoke. Mila, Barris and Sato sat listening intently as the camp fire painted their faces with an eerie orange glow.
"Cromwell. He was quite a leader and certainly the fire under the rump of the men who made up the Ironsides, though he was a zealot and brash man. He did not himself fear God but he wanted only men who did. Him and I often conflicted and clashed. Almost as often as we'd taken on the enemy for we saw things very differently. He was at war more so with liberty itself than he was with tyranny. We loathed each other yet held a deep respect for one another. He was the right man to lead the Ironsides but not much more for should he possess the power of rule, he'd rule by terror and fear alone. Perhaps it is that recipe that kept the Ironsides so strong for such a green Company amongst the other veteran Companies of the war. It was a dangerous business to sell the idea publicly of overthrowing the rule a King. I knew this to be the case for from where I hail and the daily coinage I'd pocket, I am fortunate enough to be able to read and write. It is far a sight of the mind to understand by keeping abreast of one's history after all. Being able to read brings with it a great responsibility. Dire it is. Sometimes I'd curse the day that I as a young man became curious seeking out a scribe and tutor for it forced me to withdraw the shackles of my ignorance. From that moment that I could read I could no longer plead ignorance when I chose to give a blind eye to the issues of the day. At that time I kept a stable and was a skilled instructor in both riding and mounted combat. That is precisely why he arrived 'pon my door and step that day. I had been riding as I recall. A horseman's lance in one hand and a shield and coat of arms in the other." Evan began to recall the events in the preceding decade that had brought him to be in West View.
Evan rode pushing his war mount hard and furiously towards the target. Steam could be seen erupting from the nostrils of his steed as if it's innards boiled. Evan's arm held firm the lance as he leaned forward readying himself to brace for impact. His left arm held fast to a medium horseman's shield it's weight tiring him slowly as he bounced in rhythm of his saddle. The lance impacted the target disappearing into it and ripping the lance from his grip. He immediately pulled back on the reigns with his shield hand and with his other drew forth a saber from its scabbard. The horse slowed and turned a hundred and eighty degrees to return to the target barreling once again forward. As Evan passed he swung the saber severing the target's head sending it clean off and into the air where it arced back down disappearing into the field. Evan's horse stopped, sweat soaking both their bodies.
"Dead it is was and will be. Aye as t'were." Evan heard a voice from behind him.
"Dead is a quality given only to those once of the living. My friend 'ere was etched of n'yer." Evan responded his accent hidden behind his heavy breath.
"That may be it, truth. But by God it shall for certain not arise to strike you lest he alone wills it. Do you fear it? Him?" asked the man whom Evan saw was himself perched on the back of a heavy draft horse.
He was accompanied by another man who too was aback a smaller and lighter horse. He wore the attire of a courtesan or bureaucrat or perhaps both.
"I fear neither." Evan responded looking both men over carefully and only seeing trouble in them each.
"In yer death you'll answer to yer maker for yer deeds. Do you not this believe?" asked the man who was now grating on Evan's nerves.
"It shall be a short conversation. Much shorter than this one has been. I bid you a good day." Evan said coaxing his horse in a slow walk towards the stable.
"Of a clean heart are you? No ills that plague ye? Per chance have none inquired as such of ye?" asked the man again pressing his own fortune and Evan's patience.
"How can one corrupted heart uncover the corruption of another?" Evan stopped his horse as he spoke.
"Know ye not? It is the corrupt who carry the sword that cleaves the sin from his innards. None know it as much and better than those who've tasted it." the man answered.
"And none like it's taste as much I suspect. So corrupted are ye and in admission thereof? Then what is your business on this day? Ye'd best dare not make way with my coin or my heart for ye'd be cleaved much like my felled friend 'pon this very field." Evan said turning the horse to face them.
"We have no need of yer coin but we are in need of your heart. It is fact that all of England does so need as much for these are dire times indeed. When a single man can rule in place of God it is a dark day. For whom to you by day conduct your deeds? England? It's people? Or the King?" asked the man.
"I suspect that yer friend must have fallen from his steed many times more than the good health of his head and heart would allow. If I am not mistaken you are speaking aloud in the open day under this very sky words against the Crowned Throne to which I have sworn to protect. Be gone afore I deliver swift justice itself. I suspect that you'll find little pity here or elsewhere for your words smell of trouble, war and most certainly death." Evan spoke with purpose and direction.
"I suspect that fear holds you to oath more so than loyalty or principle." the man replied while the courtesan/bureaucrat remained quiet.
"One could say the same of your loyalty to God. What is the difference between men whose control of others are scepter and crown forged of fear." Evan responded clearly annoyed by the man.
"We 'ave made progress, Cromwell." said the courtesan/bureaucrat encouraging the other man.
"Cromwell? I've heard tell of you. A mad man using the Church to mount his campaign against the throne. You have some nerve coming here to seek me out!" Evan said holding his ground.
"Ye've heard tell? I am honoured by your say. We have the support of the English Mercantile, the Scots and others of this fine land not to mention the law itself of the high land and of God." Oliver Cromwell spoke the veil now lifted on his identity.
"Ye are none so much as a festering parasite seeking to profit from a conflict by absconding with the hole in power that remains after the battlefield has felled the throne and Merchants of England of theirs. You'd be no better and much worse I suspect than the rule of the oligarchy." Evan responded riding a bit closer brandishing his saber.
"We bring law with us and an act of the laws derived from men and principle. Founded upon the ideas of Solomon from the good book." the courtesan/bureaucrat spoke this time looking to Cromwell for approval after he'd delivered his oration.
"I am literate so I'd advise ye not tread with the belief that I am lost amidst the darkness of ignorance. I've read the Magna Carta. No thing from it arose except to entrap the King John to rules of his making and admissions. Those who enacted it never used it to give the people anything except more death under the guise of religious reforms. We are still just off the departed doorstep of the crusades and generations of slaughter. No gathering of men has brought with it justice for the people and the rule of law other than the those using the tyranny of either the Church or the Mercantile whose power yields death the same of a different blade. What bring ye that finds no common ground?" Evan approached them close, his horse looking on just as inquisitively as if the two were one.
"I have but one word that may it find nest amidst the ideas of such an educated and literate man as ye, convinced ye might be to follow and lead with yer brothers in arms. Parliament." Oliver Cromwell replied.
"Parliament? Your word in my ears?" Evan confirmed.
"Parliament." the courtesan/bureaucrat confirmed.
Evan remained silent and all that could be heard was the heavy breathing of his horse which kept it's eyes on them both looking through them.
"You have until nightfall to convince me of yer plans and ideas. If ye are still on my land by the time the sun descends beneath the horizon I shall fell ye both and deliver your bodies into the carriage by morn." Evan said coaxing his horse towards the stable.
"Bring yer steeds afore the stable and we'll get to yer proposal." Evan dismounted leading his horse into the stable to remove it's saddle and for a quick brushing before leading the two men into his home to discuss the matters at hand.
"So what did you discuss in your meeting with Cromwell?" asked Mila nursing Barris' head in her lap as they sat before the fire.
"T'was as I spake. He'd come to discuss the policies of the land and its rule for he was backing the Parliamentarians. He'd heard my reputation as a horseman and man at arms. He'd waint me to whip his Cavalry to prim and to ride with him in battle if deemed be. Those matters were of our discussing at that time." Evan replied taking a sip from his flask.
"What did you decide? I mean it must have been a tall risk, just the six of you riding around bullying the Imperials into submission?" Barris said a bit put off.
"As I'd mentioned, I was not directly in support of the Ironsides as was their nomenclature. I supported the idea of a Governance chosen by the people, but with the advisory and approval of Imperials. The power of the veto if you will. I mean t'would be dangerous to throw to the wolves centuries worth of experience and diplomacy by removing our own head as it'were. England needed their guidance and the confidence of its people. The real motivations for such a move oft are more devious than well thought in advance. More so than most would know or understand." Evan tried to explain the politics of the time.
"So you supported the Imperials?" asked Sato who'd sat quietly listening intently.
"Yay. As did I the formation of a Governance by the people." Evan replied.
"So you wanted both?" Mila asked to be sure.
"Yay again Milady. You see, being the solitary power and rule comes with challenges most could not fathom. After all, you are but one often part of a family to whose heredity one must answer. That bares a weight of choice 'pon the lap that should n'yer be set as there. Your power is absolute and unquestionable. That is a feast unto itself and a temptation for many who'd usurp it by means we know and some not as so much. Play you into the hands of the people's ire whilst shining their own brass and silver before them. Those who make up the closest to the throne might be as puppeteers. The puppet being the throne itself. Working together to suit power to their own ends whilest cultivating the dismay of the people. At the expense of the people. It takes a sturdy and steeled kind in crown to weather such storms and to maintain grace, fairness and justice a'tween. Those who fail this prying of their mettle oft fall to despotic and monstrous measures to maintain their hands on that bridle. Death follows there behind more so than naught. All this while those who steered them through deceit and manipulation shine their brass before the people. So what the people want is an end to the risk of such manipulation and their hand on this bridle. Our finest steed. Our land." Evan paused a moment to take another sip from his flask.
"I agreed to be a part of the Ironsides but not to throw the Imperials from England. To do my part to see that this was not a murderous revolt seeking to place the blame for the ravages of time 'pon their lap. There have and had been many sins in the name of the land and the rule for religion, business and the meritocracy of land. That burden should not fall to the lap of just one. One who'd be cast aside and spat upon so that the hands of the guilty could be cleansed continue from where they left using their vassalage as a vantage point to prey upon another rule and so on. So I agreed to do my part to see that the throne would be a part of what was to come. Working with the people to restore the faith in our good land. T'would be no greater crime than to sacrifice the learned knowledge of the prior years of rule and family. They've weathered challenges few of us would a'yer know or be capable of knowing. There were many as I who'd vested enough time to learn to read. To educate ourselves to the ways of this land and the known world. Business. Politics. Theology. How the three strive for their full grasp around the reigns. Just by the very knowing of it, there's implied duty upon us. Mine was to be a part of Cromwell's Ironsides, and to ensure that the virtues I stood for were preserved. Whilest a rider finds rough and rocky hew 'pon a horse's shoe, must he fall to walk and none too soon. To lead the horse safely forward to steady footing. Upon finding as much they then travel together as one. Horse and rider. I was doing this for our great steed, England. So we, Oliver, his advisor and I spake of what was to come and I became an Ironside 'pon the agreement that I never draw the blood of a Royal." Evan explained.
"And he agreed?" Barris asked sitting up slightly as Mila stroked his hair.
"Of course he did. After all, I was the most trusted horseman and man at arms of the land at that time." Evan said twisting the end of his moustache as he winked at Mila.
"Maybe we should ask the horses first." Sato responded.
They started laughing heartily together for the first time since they'd found themselves in their precarious situation. Evan smiled sitting back slightly worn from the days events.
"You are going to finish this aren't you?" Barris asked enthusiastically.
"There's a bit more to say, so I shall say it." Evan replied as he continued.
To be continued...
Brian Joseph Johns
Copyright © 2014, 2017 Brian Joseph Johns