Goodwin Prescott
Martyrs!
1651...
1. The Double...

Larkin McRae was enjoying himself, despite the fact that he knew he was going to die shortly, a pretty grim thing for a healthy, hard-living twenty-two year old to contemplate. He was going to go out with style.
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Just now he was standing stark naked in one of the battlements of Kilbairn Castle, staring with scorn at the enemy troops besieging the ancient stone fortress, stroking his hardened cock with one hand and making a crude gesture with the other. He assumed they knew what it meant ... the English, he heard, issued the same message with an arm movement but he wasn't sure how they did it. His dark hair, usually long and wavy, was short-cropped to a stubble in the style of the nobility, to accommodate the powered wigs that they usually wore.

An arrow hissed up and slammed into the stone wall to one side, shattering and sending chips of stone flying.
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One of the older, grizzled Scottish loyalists unceremoniously grabbed the boy and pulled his nude form from its exposed posture, shaking his head at the lad's silliness.
"C'mon, Angus," Larkin protested, laughing. "He weren't tryin' ta hit me. Ye know they wan me live, na dead. Twas just a warnin' cause I pissed 'em off."
His low-class speech was the reason he had refrained from screaming insults down at the English. If they heard him speak the jig would be up! It was one more reason too why Larkin soon would have to die.
"Accidents happen, laddie," Angus shook his head. "And ye'd be just as dead if ye took a roundhead arrow up yer arse by accident as if on purpose."
Not that it really mattered, the elder warrior sighed sadly. They were all likely to be dead soon enough. The terrible difference was that they were going to kill Larkin McRae themselves. The damned roundheads couldn't be allowed to get their hands on the boy alive, but it just was a bit too soon for the youth to die. They needed to continue the ruse as long they could.

It was 165l in a remote valley of southern Scotland. Two years before, the puritan republicans, under Oliver Cromwell, had beheaded King Charles I at Whitehall in far-off London. His son had soon thereafter been recognized by the Scots as King Charles II to continue the Scottish, Stuart dynasty. When the erstwhile king landed and marched south, Cromwell's "roundheads" -- so-called because of their austere, short bowl-cut hair style -- had quickly defeated him near York and sent him into flight. An all-out search was underway for him and the English had also invaded Scotland and routed the erstwhile king's supporters there.

The English commander of the Scottish invasion, Lord Proudhain, an aristocrat turned republican, believed that he had Charles' cousin, twenty year old Prince David, trapped in Kilbairn. Cromwell, enraged at the royalist uprising, was known to want at least one Stuart captive, likely to use for a public example on a scaffold in London. Further, David would likely know where the fugitive pretender-king was hidden and, under torture, might lead them to him. What a prize that would be!

And, in truth, he had nearly trapped the prince, but just before the siege line closed off his forces at Kilbairn, David and two retainers had managed to slip through. He was in flight on foot towards the distant coast to seek a boat to take him to refuge in France. He had a long, dangerous trek through occupied terrain as it was, but if the English discovered his flight, he would be hounded to earth in a great hue and cry.

And the prince did indeed know his cousin's wherabouts, or at least thought he did. The king had fled south from York, not north, so the English search was going on in entirely the wrong direction! Unsure he might not betray that secret under torture, and determined to avoid the shameful public execution he was sure awaited him at Cromwell's grim hands, David had vowed to die rather than be captured.

As it happened, Charles II was already safely on a boat in the English channel heading for France, but there was no way for the young prince to know that. Nor could David know that if he was captured, Cromwell would simply hold him as a potentially useful hostage rather than execute him. The royalists at Kilbairn thus firmly believed that both David's and Charles' lives were at stake and that it was vital that the English believe the prince was still there for as long as possible.

That was where Larkin McRae came in. He was a stunning look-alike for the fugitive David! All his life he had repeatedly been mistaken for the Stuart prince and had even been brought to meet David once in the palace at Edinburgh. His royal clone had gotten a great deal of amusement from the existence of his startling, farmboy double. Now he was playing the role of the prince and succeeding in keeping Proudhain tied down at Kilbairn, impatiently but steadily wearing down the castle's defenses.

The place could not hold out more than another day or so. When it finally fell, if they discovered the false David, the all-out search would explode across the countryside. But if they believed David was indeed there ... but had been put to death to prevent his capture ... more precious time would be bought for the prince's flight to safety.

Thus Larkin McRae was going to be killed. And he had agree that it was necessary that he die, a martyr for the royal cause in which he fervently believed.

Following Larkin's lewd lead, others of the muscular young bucks among the small defense garrison left in the castle recklessly taunted the enemy. Marcus McIver stripped and took a long, disdainful piss down onto the furious English prudes below, studiously ignoring the arrows that were sent whistling his way. He'd been grazed by a shaft earlier and the blood-stained bandage on his arm was a proud badge of courage as he hurled foul curses on his despised enemy.
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The English were, for the most part, poor shots, the roundheads coming from the ranks of city workmen and poor farmers and not well trained.

Bruce Langtries went him one further. Stripped and squatting in the opening of a battlement, he slowly masturbated himself in plain view. He was not as lucky as Marcus. Just as he ejaculated a bolt caught him in the left thigh midway between knee and groin and pierced through with a thick spray of blood and tissue.

The lad screamed and collapsed backwards into the arms of his comrades.

Not five minutes later, Brendan Kildougen, a brawny, sultry-dark lad, took about the most unlucky fluke hit imaginable. As he stood jerking off his huge cock, the arrow that drilled him came up at a sharp angle almost directly between his parted thighs. It entered his ass-hole and spitted up through his guts to jut out of his belly. With a scream he collapsed backwards into the fortress. He clutched at the shaft of the arrow jutting from his anus and broke it.
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There was little to be done. He was made as comfortable as possible but was dead within the hour, suffering horribly all the while.

After that, such inane idiocy was banned and Larkin felt badly that, following his lead, poor Bruce had been so severely wounded and Brendan killed, though he was deeply proud of their pluck.

Bruce, moaning and writhing in agony as the arrow was removed and his wound cauterized and bandaged, claimed it was well worth it to show his contempt for the men surrounding the castle. Not only were the brutes English but regicides. The had killed poor Charles I, chopping his head right off in the king's own palace.

That evening, as Larkin prepared to get a few hours of restless sleep before facing the dawn of his final day the door to the small sleeping chamber creaked open. Holding a candle, Andrew Connarky slipped in. He was clad just in his leather pants and Larkin smiled when he saw him. Andrew sat the candle on a table and stripped. Larkin was already naked and in a moment their arms were locked around each other in a tight embrace.
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The two handsome youths had been lovers for some months now. Andrew was Larkin's only regret about the fate awaiting him. He knew Andrew was dying inside and wished there was some way to ease the grief his much loved friend was experiencing.

"It'll be tomorrow, Larkin. Ye know that, don't ye?"

"It'd have ta be, Andy. The roundheads will take the place before nightfall. There's so pitiful few left ta defend it. They'll burn the main gate until its weak enough for the ram."

"It seems so wrong, Larkin! Ta die by the hands of our own...."

Larkin put a finger to Andrew's mouth.
"'Tis going ta happen so makin' a fuss does nothin'. Let's na waste this last night."
They began to make love, relishing the feel of each other, swooning at the delicious warmth and throbbing strength, luxuriating in the intoxicating, musky male scent filling their nostrils. Eventually Larkin fed Andrew his cock and shuddered in deep pleasure at the sensation as his lover sucked him with devoted enthusiasm.
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They got little sleep that night ... a few minutes of peaceful, half-slumbering afterglow, then another heated round of love-making.

2. The Execution...

Shortly after dawn, the final assaults began. It might still take a few hours but the castle was going to fall. Sadly, Gregor McLendon, the handsome, buff young lieutenant who was the only surviving officer in the garrison, came to Larkin.

"I'm afraid it's time, lad."

"Who's to do it?"

Larkin was calm and composed. He'd had a lot of time to prepare emotionally and was ready.
"Myself. I want it clean and swift and don't trust anyone else with the sword. Most would balk anyway. I can tell you it will be the saddest, most difficult thing I've ever had to do to lop that fine head from your shoulders."

"Thank you, sir. I understand that and I hope it's easier with ye understanding that I volunteered for this. The prince's men made it clear that it was not required. Yer doin' me a favor anyhow! Kin ye just imagine what those straight-laced roundheads would do if they got their hands on me alive and found I wasn't Prince David!"

The boy has a point, Gregor conceded, but it made it no easier. He hoped he truly had the guts to go through with the awful deed.

Since they had none of the prince's clothing on hand, Larkin would go naked to his death to make it harder for the English to evaluate his identity. He stripped and then followed Gregor onto the exposed outer ledge of the battlements high above the melee. The various warlike activities in and out of the castle slowly stilled and a grim, expectant silence moved over the scene. As Larkin, naked, knelt and tilted his head forward to expose the back of his neck to the gleaming sword in Gregor's hand, there were gasps from the watching English troops below.

They had heard that Prince David had vowed to die rather than be captured and it was apparently true. The young royalist was about to be executed before their eyes, apparently to make absolutely certain he did not fall into their hands.

Gregor drew back the blade. Tears welling into his eyes as he prepared to strike, he gasped through tense lips,

"Forgive me, Larkin...."
Lord Proudhain had expected something like this and had other ideas. Beside him on the hillock to one side of the castle his prime archer, Peter Longstreet, was already sighting over his longbow. Proudhain nodded.
"Whenever you wish, Longstreet."
There was a soft whoosh in the air and the arrow flew with deadly accuracy and power. It knifed into bare-chested Gregor just below his left pec, piercing him completely and ripping his heart on the way. He was slammed backwards against the stone wall of the battlement, the sword flying from his fingers.
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He teetered there for a moment, his handsome face a mixture of shocked surprise and pain. Then he pitched forward and fell over the edge to plummet to the ground below. A horde of whooping roundheads converged on his corpse with pikes, swords and axes to mutilate and dismember him.

Stunned and horrified, Larkin staggered back through the nearest crenelation in the wall behind him. Several wide-eyed loyalist soldiers were staring at him. He grabbed the nearest.

"Come out with me and use your sword. Strike quickly and retreat to cover."

"Larkin...."

Tears welled in the young man's eyes,
"I ... I can't."
He glanced at the others. One by one they shook their heads.

He glanced around in increasing desperation and fury. His eyes froze on a small torch in a metal sconce on the inner wall used to ignite flaming arrows. A small earthenware jug of whale oil sat to one side to soak the thatching bound to the arrows.

Fine, he decided, his mouth grim, we'll give the goddam English a show they'll long remember about Scottishgrit!

He seized the oil and torch, stepped outside and swiftly doused his muscular, naked body, pouring the fuel over his chest and letting it swirl down over his flesh, saturating his crotch and thighs.
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He hurled the jug away and as he brought the torch sweeping down towards his crotch he screamed with all his might.
"God save King Charles and curse ye roundhead bastards to hell!"
He burst into crackling flame and as he was enveloped, the searing wave of excruciating agony hit with full force. Despite himself, he began to scream.

He leapt out over the edge of the stone wall and plummeted down towards the enemy below. The air current whipped the fire to a fury.
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By the time he hit the ground he was engulfed in a furious fire. The roundhead troops scurried to smother the blaze even as a furious Lord Proudhain raced to the site where Larkin's broken, blackened body lay still and lifeless.

Until now he had been convinced he had Prince David trapped. He had even sent a victorious dispatch to Cromwell crowing at the fact that the boyish Stuart would soon either be a prisoner or dead. But Larkin had made a mistake. In his rage, he forgot that his silence was important. Proudhain had once met and spoken with David and as soon as he heard the coarse speech of the boy up on the wall he was filled with foreboding, then fury.

He gazed at the corpse and realized that he had no way to know if this was the prince, but he was now fairly certain it was not. As he thought about it, he even realized that the behaviour of this dead fool for the past few days, with his crudity and nudity, had been less than regal. He doubted a royal prince, even of the detested Stuart family, would conduct himself with so little dignity. But war and anger breed things in some men, especially the impetuous young, and the youth lying at his feet certainly looked so like the prince that it was hard to have doubt.

Still, he thought with grim determination. When we take this miserable mound of stone we'll get to the bottom of this.

3. Martyrs...

Lord Proudhain pointed to the blackened, broken corpse laid out at the foot of the small scaffold erected in the courtyard of the wrecked castle.

"I ask you Robert Dundee and you Thomas McLaughlin, is this the body of the Stuart prince, David."

The two men, younger sons of old Scottish noble houses, had been identified among the twenty survivors of the garrison following the fall of Kilbairn. Their unusually short hair had given them away. They were bound and kneeling on the scaffold, an executioner standing beside them with a ready axe. But it was not their own deaths that were haunting them.

Trusting their words as noblemen but disdaining those of the captured common rebels, Proudhain had ordered the two upon their oaths to identify the ruined body. They had steadfastly refused to speak. Two of the prisoners, stripped naked, were now standing on barrels with nooses around their throats. Both were not much more than boys. One was the wounded Brian Langtries who had been dragged from his sickbed for execution, standing unsteadily on one straining leg, his wounded one tucked behind him, unable to bear weight.

Proudhain had offered to spare all of the survivors of the garrison if the two youthful nobles would cooperate in the matter of Prince David. If not, starting with these first two, the eighteen commoners would be hanged, in pairs, until they did speak.
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Their silence weighed like lead in the silent courtyard, ringed by watching roundhead soldiers, many crossing themselves and muttering prayers. They did not like what was being done here. It was clear-out murder, but they were bound to follow the orders of their officers upon pain of death and none of them felt like being hanged that day.

"Very well...."
Proudhain turned and nodded,
"So be it."
The barrels were kicked away and the two captives dropped a few inches to dangle by their necks. They were being slow-hanged, to be strangled at length rather than having a quick broken neck. They kicked and thrashed as they fought desperately for air. As often happens, their cocks became aroused from the erotic effect of strangulation upon a human male. Even as they finally hung limp and still, the organs jutted up for a brief time before wilting.
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Then the next two prisoners were brought forward. In this duo was Larkin's lover, Andrew Connarky. He did not seem to quite understand what as being done to him. He had meant to die fighting but had been struck over the head and dazed. When Robert and Thomas, tears in their anguished eyes, maintained their silence, the barrels were again kicked away and two more bodies fell, but this round one at a time. Only after the young bull to one side of him was nearly strangled did Andrew drop to begin his own slow, excruciating death.
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Proudhain had expected his captive nobles to break by now and, furious, the next men to die were given a hideous extra touch of agony to speed them on their way. Once they were hanging, he ordered guards to apply red-hot pokers to their genitals.
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The gurgling, constricted screams of the writhing men as their manhood was roasted was dreadful to hear. Kneeling by the block, Robert Dundee had to look away, tears streaming down his cheeks.

In pairs, all of the remaining young commoners were executed, tortured with hot irons and knives while strangling on the dreadful ropes.

Proudhain then offered the pair their own lives if they would but cooperate. Robert Dundee spat in his face.

Wiping the spittle away with a silken handkerchief, the furious English commander ordered the bound youth forced to his knees. He took up a broadsword and positioned behind him. Robert hovered there for but a few dreadful, terrifying seconds as he waited.

Then the sword hissed viciously through the air towards the back of his neck.
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Proudhain looked at his last prisoner,
"So it comes down just to us, young Master McLaughlin."

"The others are all dead. You can now cooperate and spare your own life. There will be no loyalists to bear witness to your actions. I will allow you to 'escape' and invent a myth of your bravery."

"I'll see you in hell, My Lord," Thomas answered at once. "When Charles returns to the throne you shall pay for this, mark my words."

Thomas then was made to kneel and place his neck over the wooden block. At Proudhain's signal, the brawny roundhead trooper with the axe raised it high ... then it fell with a loud, final THUNK and spray of bright crimson.

The heads of the two noblemen were mounted on pikes and displayed on the castle wall over the gate before the English army withdrew and left Scotland.
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EPILOGUE...

1661...

The crowd fell silent and as one bowed respectfully at the waist, doffing their hats. The Duke of Edinburgh was one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. He was, after all, a Stuart prince, cousin to the king. David, now a handsome man in his early thirties, stepped forward to pull the drape from the stone marker in the weed-choked courtyard of the hulking ruins of Kilbairn Castle. It read simply:

At this place from August 12 through 17, 1651, one hundred-eighty loyal subjects of H.R.M. King Charles II gave their lives in defense of Castle Kilbairn while besieged by regicide forces under the traitor Geoffrey Proudhain. On August 17, the hero Larkin McRae took his own life in defense of the House of Stuart. That same date Lords Robert Dundee and Thomas McLaughlin and eighteen others were foully murdered in this courtyard, dying martyrs' deaths for the cause in which they believed.
After a few moments of contemplation, the duke turned towards the far side of the courtyard for the rest of what was to be done this day. The crowd murmured in expectation.

A small scaffold had been erected and once again a prisoner was kneeling, trembling, before the block.

Geoffrey Proudhain, former Earl of Norwich, had at first expected to escape serious retribution when the monarchy was promptly restored following Cromwell's sudden death in 1658. Charles II had shown wise restraint, concentrating his vengeance primarily on those members of parliament foolish enough to have actually signed his father's death warrant. Lord Proudhain had not been one of those.

He had even spared Oliver Cromwell's son who had briefly succeeded his father as Lord Protector of England before the republic ended.

But the easy-going king owed favors to his cousin David and one of those had been repaid. Proudhain had been tried, convicted and sentenced. His property confiscated, his family thrown into poverty, his titles revoked, he had been returned to Kilbairn for David's final retribution.

He tried one last plea, even as his head was forced over the block,

"Please, Your Highness, I have regretted what we did here every day since it happened. We acted in hot blood. I have begged forgiveness of God and believe he has granted it in his infinite wisdom. I am a ruined old man. Cannot you show mercy?"

"I have given you mercy, you bloody old traitor!" David sneered in contempt, the image of Larkin McRae in his mind. "In recognition of your once-noble status, I am having you beheaded rather than slow-hanged as the commoner you have become. You deserve to be soaked in whale oil and set ablaze before being tumbled from the parapets of this castle!"

And just before the axe fell, Proudhain could swear he heard a strong, youthful male voice in the wind blowing across the Scottish heath around the castle....
"You shall pay for this ... I'll see you in Hell...."
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I worked on the final drawing for about ten hours ... including this variant I thourght you might enjoy ... a black and a white head ... it doesn't fit the story, but you may want it anyway, so I'm including it here, at the end of the story.
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