However, one day, something was rumoured about the manor which shook him out of his singled-minded focus of finding the Avenger.
Warren Thackery's roar was that of an enraged bull. His grip on the arms of his chair as he rose was so firm that his knuckles shown white.
“That is what they say, Sir,” the rough scoundrel standing unquakingly before his master responded, “that his Lordship William Gage lives.”
The uproar in Thackery's household was unprecedented. So enraged was he that, throwing all caution to the wind, he immediately armed his men and marched them out, wither he cared not. He did not have to for it was now fully apparent to him that things had been going on while he slumped over his pots. Setting out for the nearest village, he knew that instinctively that the time had come and his attack would launch his enemy out of hiding.
What he did not know however, was that the rumour had been planted. He had been played...and as he and his remaining ruffians crested the hill towards the small, wall-less village just beyond, he pulled his horse up sharply. Unaccustomed to the amount of pressure put on his reins, the steed reared, waving his forefeet in the air. It was an impressive sight, the little giant lifted high on the lordly animal, but it was nothing compared to the scene before him.
Laid out in the little valley was a small army. Pikes and pitchforks glinted in the sun. The Gage banner snapped in the breeze...and in well ordered form, stood every peasant from the territory.
Front and center were three men on horseback. One was beyond middle-age, stately of bearing; dignity and authority cascading from him like the ripples of a gentle brook. Beside him on one had sat a towering man with shoulders broad as a beam. On the other side, a slim one-armed man.
Even as Warren Thackery cursed his strapping son for joining with his enemy, he focused all his attention on the figure with the flapping black cape. With a roar, he charged down the hill, throwing himself like an arrow at the Avenger.
His men streamed behind him, not waiting for any commands, but throwing themselves on the peasantry who stood waiting, steadied by their leader's motionlessness. Governor Gage waited...and waited...until the people began to fidget with apprehension and eagerness. Then, down dropped his arm, unleashing a storm of arrows. Men fell right and left and then broke as the peasants roared as one man and charged them. As the charge swept towards them, Thackery's men broke and began to run, only to find themselves stymied by the appearance of a group of gallant mounted men cresting the very same hill they had so recently descended. Leading the way, the young Lord Timborne rode with brave determination.
Caught between the two forces, some of the Thackey men determined to die bravely, while others threw down their weapons, or broke for the flanks in heedless flight.
Meanwhile, Warren Thackery, oblivious to the actions and plight of his men, had borne down on Philip Gage. His single thought was to kill...kill this fresh-faced boy who had slain his son! Who had brought shame on him by allying with his other son (traitor!)
William threw his heir a look of fatherly love and pride and fear before dropping his arm, signaling the fight to begin, and throwing himself into the fray at the head of his subjects.
Philip prayed wordlessly, breathed deeply one last time, and spurred his black toward this man before him.
The lone combat of these two was unobserved by any but the sisters of the younger man, a cluster of nuns, and a merchant's daughter. Thad, Master Simms, and the merchant Humpheries had all joined battle behind the stalwart Governor Gage.
Warren Thackery and Philip Gage struck, paried, whirled, ducked, twisted, writhed. Blood was soon seeping from wounds both given and received. Warren, surprised at the speed and skill of the one-armed youth before him, was doubly enraged, though grimly impressed. Philip, unsurprised at the strength of his opponent tried to pace the fight to his advantage.
Suddenly, Warren struck low, skewering Philip's faithful mare. As she screamed her dying scream, Philip was flung from her back. When he crashed into the ground, his sword was lost to him, trampled under the grinding hooves of Warren's beast. Half-stunned, Philip lay motionless, staring through bleary eyes up into the cruel, sharp blue eyes of his mortal enemy. The man laughed, much as he had done those many years before, and leaped from his steed, prepared to plunge his weapon through the helpless figure before him.
Philip braced, praying, knowing that he had no hope of gaining his feet and fleeing before the massive man struck him down far more permanently than in that previous, distant day.
He gasped then in surprise when the face before him changed from evil glee to shock, pain, and fear. The big man's weapon fell useless by his intended victim's side and, as Philip groped for it blindly, he crumpled and fell.
A sword was pulled from his fallen body and a hand reached down and seized Philip by his doublet. Staggering, Philip was soon on his feet, staring at his rescuer.
The man who had struck down Warren Thackery stood very still, looking down at the body. His brawny arms were stained red and his hay-coloured thatch was flecked with mire and gore. His face bore a look of co-mingled grief, relief, and satisfaction.
Philip gasped, “Justin!”
Justin lifted his head and he gave his brother-in-law a crooked smile.
“You'll not be taking all the glory, Avenger. Look around you.”
Philip looked and the sight was one to invoke somber rejoicing.
Thackery's men were dead, dying, flying, or surrendered. A number of the peasants had been killed and wounded, but it was a comparatively small number. None of the gentry or their men-at-arms were killed, though a smear of blood was to be seen here and there amongst them. Thad, it must be confessed, had lost a finger, but he grinned from ear-to-ear as he caught sight of his beloved friend standing alive alongside Justin.
The settling of the governorship question was duly dealt with and within a month, Governor Gage was fully reinstated as King's Governor; along with just policies and reduced taxation rates. Life slipped into a peaceful rut and a great many soon forgot the trials of former years.
One at least never forgot and seldom did a day pass that a one-armed man did not remember and recall and praise God for the deliverance accomplished.
To God be the Glory!