Okay, this is just a little something I thought up while working on
my Cyclops story and listening to Loreena McKennit. I went ahead
and wrote this story because I was afraid I'd lose the idea if I didn't
commit to putting it down on paper as soon as possible. I hope you
And, just for the record, I'm not a Rennie
(though I have a lot of friends who are), but I am a live action
role-player, which means I normally end up going to Ren Fests in full
costume anyway. I'm not slamming on Rennies or role-players in the
least in this fictive, so please don't take it that way.
The Highwayman is a traditional ballad
and is not owned or copyrighted by anyone, no matter what they may
claim. Iceman, Rogue, Gambit, and
the rest of the X-Men are the property of Marvel Comics and are used
without permission. Hopefully they'll
continue to be as nice as they have been in the past and not ask me
for money. I'm not making any off of this, so I wouldn't have any
to give them anyway.
The red-coats are the property of the Queen
of England and themselves, but property laws get all muddled when
venturing across the drink, so even if they had a problem with me
using their likeness, they probably couldn't do anything about it
anyway. At least not without UN backing.
It was a warm spring Saturday and the various members of the X-Men
found themselves longing to be outside, enjoying the gorgeous weather.
Over breakfast Hank mentioned that the New York Renaissance Festival
had recently started its spring season, and politely suggested that
the X-Men might want to attend. Surprisingly, his proposal was met
with cheerful approval, as most of his teammates felt that such a
magnificent day would be a shame to waste.
However, Bobby Drake was considerably less enthusiastic about the
outing than his friends. He had recently returned from an extended
road trip with Rogue, during the course of which they both opened
up to one another about personal issues and private opinions. He
thought that the trip had brought them closer. He even thought that
perhaps she might even have feelings for him that were similar to
the feelings he had for her.
No such luck. They had barely been back a week when Rogue suddenly
decided that maybe the secret she glimpsed in Gambit's mind when he
kissed her was redeemable. Maybe she should give him the benefit
of the doubt until he felt ready to confess the truth to her, and
maybe when he did, she'd be able to handle it herself.
Bobby couldn't fault the maturity in Rogue's decision, but it meant
Rogue and the Cajun were an item again, while Bobby's relationship
with Rogue had been pushed to the back burner.
This, of course, displeased him. But instead of spending the day
at home brooding, Bobby decided that maybe the flash and color of
the Renaissance Festival would serve as a suitable distraction from
his romantic woes.
Or, if that didn't work, he could always find a beer tent and drink
until it didn't matter anymore.
So Bobby found himself shuffled along with the rest of his teammates
into various vehicles for the long drive to the site of the Festival.
By some stroke of luck he ended up in the same car as Scott and Jean,
with Hank next to him in the back seat. The happy couple, along with
the ever-verbose Hank, supplied enough cheerful banter of their own
for Bobby to feel he was safe in silence, occasionally adding the
Scott and Jean didn't seem to notice how pensive Bobby was; though
Hank intermittently shot him worried glances which Bobby shrugged
off until they reached the Festival. Once free from the car and Hank's
inquiring eyes, Bobby purchased a ticket and lost himself in the crowds
of people who had turned out for the Renaissance Festival.
Most of them were families, or couples, in T-shirts and shorts, though
there were occasionally groups and individuals wandering around in
full costume who he knew weren't members of the Festival's cast. He
thought it a little odd that those people would put so much time and
effort into costuming they could only wear a few times a year, but
he had to admit that they looked comfortable in their garb, and that
they seemed to blend in with their surroundings better than the majority
of the mundane masses.
Eventually his meandering through the Festival grounds caused Bobby
to forget his brooding, and focus on the interesting booths and exciting
activities going on around him. Here a woman manned a booth of hand-blown
glass, and Bobby watched, fascinated as she quickly and skillfully
formed tiny animals, bottles, and pendants.
There a young man stood, behind the low counter to the ax-throwing
booth, and enticed passers-by to attempt his game by demonstrating
how easy the axes were to throw.
The Kissing Wenches were out in full force, charming and bawdy, and
even Bobby paused to laugh uproariously as the Professional Insulter
affronted a giggling victim.
However his cheerful mood ended a few moments later as he rounded
a corner and spied Rogue and Gambit staring blissfully into one another's
eyes. Bobby stopped dead in his tracks and stepped to one side to
lean against a booth to watch the oblivious couple.
Gambit held something in his outstretched hand, which appeared to
be a small, open cardboard box, and Rogue was busy removing an item
from the folds of tissue inside. From the depths of the tissue, Rogue's
delicate gloved hand returned with a fragile gold necklace, its links
glinting in the sunlight. As she fastened it around her neck, she
rewarded Gambit with a dazzling smile, and Bobby punched the wall
of the booth he'd been leaning on.
"Aye," shouted the man running the booth, "Don't take
th' wall down m'lord."
"Sorry," Bobby muttered, and strode off to find a beer
Half an hour later, Bobby was seated at a wooden picnic table in
a beer tent nursing his fourth brew and his sorrows. Why couldn't
Rogue feel the same way about him as he did about her? Why did she
seem so unaware of his affections? And why on earth would she choose
Gambit over him?!
He groaned inwardly as a small troupe of musicians took the stage
at one end of the tent. Couldn't they let him be miserable in peace
instead of forcing him to listen to what was sure to be some cheery,
vulgar song that included audience participation? Bobby sighed as
they began their set, but to his surprise the first song wasn't at
all bubbly or bawdy. Instead it began as a low, gentle thrum that
increased in tempo only slightly before the vocals began.
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding,
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
The woman singing had a precise, cool voice that had a calming effect
on Bobby. He nodded to himself while drumming his fingertips on the
tabletop in time to the music.
He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace
at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle.
His boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jeweled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilts a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky.
Bobby closed his eyes and let the music wash over him….
Elsewhere: Another World in Another Time
In the dark old inn-yard, a stable-wicket creaked where Robert the
ostler lay hidden, listening. He heard the clattering of horse's
hooves over cobblestones and the sound of someone tapping on the inn's
There would be no one to answer this time of night, as every respectable
man and woman should be in bed.
The next thing Robert heard was a clear, low whistle in a tune he
recognized, but could not quite place, then the sound of whispered
voices. That would be the landlord's daughter, Rogue, and the scoundrel
who was her lover. Robert hadn't a name for the man, but he knew
that Rogue's lover was a highwayman and a wanted criminal.
Robert shifted in his hiding-place to obtain a better look.
There was Rogue, clad only in her nightdress, leaning from the open
window to speak to her lover, who was mounted on horseback. Robert's
heart twisted to see her so shameless and yet so beautiful. Her long
black hair was plaited, starting at the nape of her neck, a dark red
love-knot lacing its way through the inky strands. The white streak
toward the front glowed softly in the moonlight, and her large dark
eyes were wide with love and trust as she gazed at her lover.
A pang of longing grew inside Robert but was quickly burned away
by jealousy as soon as he heard her lover speak.
"One kiss ma cherie, I be after a prize t'night. But I be back
wit' de gold when de morning come. If dey press me sharply, an harry
me all de day, den look fo' me by de moonlight."
"But what if they catch you, m'love," Rogue whispered,
fear flickering in her face.
"Don' you worry none cherie," her lover replied, "I
come for de by de moonlight, even if Hell do bar de way."
He rose upright in the stirrups and reached for her hand, but the
window was too high. Thinking quickly, Rogue loosened her hair from
its braid and let the long waves fall over his face. Her lover kissed
her perfumed hair in the moonlight, then reigned his horse and galloped
away to the west.
As her lover sped from the inn-yard, Robert heard Rogue say, "Be
careful Remy, m'love." Then she shuttered the window and returned
It was then Robert knew what to do. He hurried from the inn-yard
in the direction of town and the soldiers' barracks.
Rogue's lover did not return with gold in the morning as he had promised,
and Robert noticed the landlord's daughter was easily distracted throughout
the day, a faintly worried look marring her lovely features.
Night fell, and with still no word from her lover, Rogue retired
early to bed. It was shortly after dusk that Robert noticed a small
battalion of men, clad in the red coats that marked them as the King's
soldiers, come marching over the hill and down the road toward the
He frowned and hid himself again. They weren't supposed to come
From his hiding place Robert watched King George's men enter the
inn. All was quiet for a few moments, then a shrill scream shattered
Rogue! Robert ached to leap from his hiding place and rescue
her, but fear made him remain where he was. All he could do was watch.
A few moments later Robert saw the shutters to Rogue's bedroom swing
open, and in the darkness there he could barely make out several of
the King's men tying his beloved to her bedpost! His face burned
with outrage, but he knew there was nothing he could do.
They bound Rogue's hands in to her sides, and placed a gag in her
mouth. With the same rope with which she was bound to the bedpost,
they bound a musket beneath her breast, perhaps to threaten her lover
with her death once he arrived. Then they lay in wait in the darkness
of Rogue's bedroom for the highwayman to come.
The hours seemed to creep by like years, as Robert lay hidden, watching
his beloved's face like a light in the window. Rogue seemed to be
quietly struggling against her bonds, and Robert hoped she wouldn't
do anything foolish. Eventually she stopped struggling, though it
was too dark for Robert to see if she'd accomplished what she'd intended
… whatever that might have been.
Then, in the distance, the sound of horse's hooves.
Robert glanced at the window to see if the redcoats were noticing.
They seemed to be oblivious to the increasing sound, but Robert saw
Rogue's eyes widen in fear. Obviously she could hear the horse's
hooves clear as day.
The sound grew nearer and nearer, and Robert hoped that the entire
mess would be over quickly. The redcoats would either capture or
kill the highwayman, and then they would release Rogue unharmed.
Of course the lovely young woman would be sick with grief at the loss
of her lover, and Robert would be there to provide a steady shoulder
to cry on…
Closer and closer the rider came, and the redcoats finally stirred.
They readied their muskets just above the windowpane.
Robert held his breath. This was it.
Then suddenly, the sound of a musket firing shattered the night.
The rider's horse whinnied loudly, and there was the sound of retreating
Puzzled, Robert looked to the window to see Rogue slumped over the
musket bound to her breast, her nightdress stained wet with blood.
One finger had managed to work itself loose from the ropes and hung
limply from the trigger.
Robert strangled a scream of horror as the redcoats swarmed out of
the inn and gave chase to the retreating rider. The figure of his
beloved remained bound to her bedpost by rope and blood, most certainly
dead. As the redcoats vanished into the night, Robert took his head
in his hands and wept.
The dawn had come and Robert had not slept. Instead he had assisted
the sobbing landlord and his equally tearful wife, clean and dress
their lovely daughter's corpse for her funeral later that day. Once
the task had been completed, Robert retired to the stable to weep
Then, in the distance, he heard the sound of a horse's galloping
hooves and wild shouting.
Robert crept from the stable and inn-yard, and up the road to the
brow of the hill where the sounds were coming from the vale below.
He lay low to the ground and peered into the vale. There, on the
highway below, mounted on horseback was the highwayman.
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished
Surrounding the criminal were several redcoat soldiers, also mounted
on horseback, pistols drawn and ready to shoot.
Blood-red were his spurs in' the golden noon; wine-red was
his velvet coat;
Shrieking like a madman, the highwayman tore into the soldiers, rapier
swinging wildly. The sounds of gunfire echoed in the surrounding
air, as did the angry screams of the dying man.
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
The highwayman slumped from his horse and tumbled to the ground,
staining the dirt with blood, his screams reduced to choking gurgles
as he died.
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of
lace at his throat…
In the Present:
Bobby shook himself and sat upright on the bench. He must have fallen
asleep. He'd had such an odd dream. As he grew increasingly aware
of his surroundings he noticed that the musicians were nearing the
end of their song.
Still of a winter's night, they say, when the wind is
in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding,
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old in-door.
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
And he taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting
But the landlord's black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord's daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.'
The singer finished with a flourish and the audience clapped enthusiastically.
Bobby found himself applauding with just as much vigor as he rose
to make his way from the tent. Glancing at his watch, he noticed
it was getting late, and decided he should probably try to meet up
with the rest of his teammates.
As he walked away from the beer tent, the memory of seeing Gambit
and Rogue together etched itself into his mind. Sighing, Bobby felt
no better about the situation, but realized that he had no right to
dictate the nuances of Rogue's life. Neither was he justified in
abolishing what might truly be love.
This did not solve his dilemma, but it did make him feel better about
himself. Even if he couldn't have Rogue for himself, he at least
could allow her the chance to find happiness.
Bobby shrugged in response to his thoughts and disappeared into the
crowd to find his friends.
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