Disclaimer: 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 like it.
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
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.
Also, italics denote music, not telepathy. Thanks.
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
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 odd
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
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 tent.
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
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 barred shutters.
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 to bed.
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 inn.
He frowned and hid himself again. They weren't supposed
to come here.
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 the air.
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… what ever that might have
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 hooves.
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 once more.
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
With the white road smoking behind him and
his rapier brandished high.
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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