A thin winter’s moon cast its watery light across the pool beneath the Tower gate. A pair of boatmen rowed the prisoner with muffled oars. Beneath the stinking burlap hood, the chained man was also gagged, lest he attempt to bribe the rowers. He was known to be a silken-tongued devil, and Cromwell was taking no chances.
The oarsmen backed water as they waited for the portcullis to be raised, the boat rocking in the turning tide. The prisoner sat erect as a statue on his thwart.
Bow Oar leaned around and spat into the black water. “Bloody hell. They must have an ancient bugger on guard tonight. Sleeping his watch, like as not.” He called through the gate. “Ho! Gatekeeper! Open up! We ain’t got all night.”
Stern Oar hissed, shook his head. “We was told to stay quiet.”
“What, you think anyone is listening?” bawled Bow Oar. “Not bloody likely. Them high blown sods needs their sleep.” He cupped his hand to his mouth. “For the love of Christ, open the goddamned gate!” he yelled. “You’ll make us miss the ebb.”
The gate creaked and began inching upward, chains rattling behind the walls.
“Finally,” muttered Bow Oar, and resumed his rowing. “Even so, it will be a hard pull home.”