Going Home: Part 2/2

“My lady…” she ticked her tongue to scold me, “Apologies. Sarah, may I ask where you were traveling from?”

“Well, Sir Alexander…” It was my turn to tick my tongue. “Apologies. Alexander, I was returning from a hunting expedition. My brothers stayed behind as they were certain to be on the trail of the white stag.”

“Ha! Do they believe that legend?”

“But of course! My father regaled us with his many excursions for the beast. My mother accidentally broke the spell early on with me though, which crushed my father’s heart. But he made good on his promise to tell me of his real adventures as compensation.”

“Is that why you love the hunt so much?”

“Oh yes. And it doesn’t hurt that I show my brothers up every time.”

“I wager the would-be suitors didn’t appreciate it either?”

“Oh, they didn’t know. My father knows I would have to compete with them, so I have to pretend that I don’t care for it.”

“I’m so sorry that you have to go through that. I imagine you’d have to conceal it for years after you married as well.”

“Such is the life of a maiden. But perhaps someday, some young man will not be threatened by the totality of my being?”

“Oh, I’m certain of it.” I knew my every waking moment would be consumed with that thought. The Baron would want to marry his daughter up in society if possible. I would offer no strategic advantages nor be able to offer a dowry worthy enough. Perhaps when I return I could seek guidance from Sir Carter? I was certain others had come across this problem in all his years.

“Are you ok?”

“Hmm? What do you mean?”

“You went silent on me.”

Did I want to confess my thoughts to her? Perhaps it’s too soon? “I thought I heard something, but I believe it was just a deer.” My heart dropped with that lie. I could feel her eyes on me, seeing through my desperate attempt to conceal my feelings for her.

“Perhaps it would be best to keep quiet for a bit then?”

We proceeded through the woods in silence, although it would have been better to engage in some distracting conversation. The never-ending scenarios of how our courtship could begin, and whether or not she felt as I, plagued my every step. The first hint of daylight fading away brought me back to our predicament. “Are we close to a place we can camp for the night?”

“You think it’s safe?”

“I would wager that we lost the bandits some time ago. And given the creatures that roam at night, it would be best to try and find a safe place.”

She stopped for a moment, turning slowly to get her bearings. “There should be a shallow cave due south from here, give or take, that will allow a modicum of protection.” We proceeded on, making course adjustments based on landmarks. “Here we are.”

“Well, it’s definitely cozy.” I ducked down a bit and stuck my head into the small opening and could just see the back of the cave. “There’s no room to build a fire in here.”

“Well, my bedroll is still on my horse. I guess we’ll just have to keep each other warm.” 

“Yes…” I felt like I was bright red from head to toe if one were to check. “I believe that would be the case.” I sat my bags down and unpacked my bedding. “If you could set up the inside, I will retrieve some branches to conceal the entrance.” I also wanted to plan on what I’d tell Father Richard at my next confession.

“I’ll come help once I’m done here.”

I set out a short distance and selected random leafy branches. The cave was set into a small hillside facing west, so we would be able to blend it in fairly well and it should still be concealed by the shade when the sun comes up in the morning. I made a few trips before Sarah was able to join me. We were able to work much faster as she cut down branches while I dragged them back and set them up. Our task was lit by moonlight towards the end.

“We should still have time for a good night’s sleep.” She said as she handed my small hatchet back to me. “Let’s go ahead and eat a bit first. I’m starving.”

We stepped in and I set the last branches in place behind us. Both of us were worn out and most of the meal was in silence. I told her about the knighting ceremony and the upcoming tournament.

“I haven’t been to a tournament in so long, do you think I could come and watch?”

“Of course! I would love nothing more than to have you there.”

“You’d love to have me there?”

“Well, I don’t think I’ve hidden very well how much I’ve enjoyed your company. You are truly fascinating and I would like to get to know you better, if I’m not being too forward.”

“Not at all. I’ve grown rather fond of you as well. Perhaps we could even go on a hunt when I visit? I’ve never been able to hunt on the Duke’s land before.”

“I’m sure I could convince the huntsman to take us out. I can’t promise he will be happy if you show him up.” We both laughed at the prospect. It was hard to keep my eyes open at this point and I could see the stress of the day in her eyes as well. “I don’t think I can stay awake another moment.”

She stretched out, yawning, “I agree. I’m trusting you’ll be the perfect gentleman tonight?”

Somewhat taken aback, “But of course!” I laid down on the bedding and faced the cave wall. A moment later she laid down behind me, snuggling close. “Goodnight, m’lady.”

“Goodnight, Alexander.”

Light broke through the branches, hitting my eyes. In the course of the night, we had changed positions. My arm was draped over her, holding her close. I sat up slightly and studied her face, hoping she wouldn’t wake yet. I knew my life would be complete if I could be greeted by this angel for the remainder of my days. 

My daze was broken by a noise from outside the cave. I slowly got up and peaked between the leaves. How did they know where we were heading? I gently nudged Sarah awake, placed my finger over her lips, and gestured to the cave opening.

She nodded her understanding and whispered, “Can we hide out here?”

“Not for long. Once it’s bright enough, our branches will be too obvious. We need to get moving and hope not too many of them are around yet.” I surveyed my equipment, knowing we’d need to pack lightly. I handed her my bow, “Can you draw it?” 

She stood and took her stance, but I could see the strain in her face as she pulled it back. “This is close to my oldest brother’s bow. I can fire off a few shots before I’d tire.”

“It will have to do. We’ll need to focus on taking out only those in our most direct path. I’ll leave the cave and set off to the treeline, about 20 odd feet out, so I can get a good measure of the area. I’ll motion for you to come and cover you with the bow. I’ll hand it back before we set out properly.”

I peeked through the leaves again, looking for the man I saw earlier. He must have moved on and I stepped out from the cave. I knelt and looked both ways, but as I stood back up a massive weight bore down on me from above. I managed to get on to my back only to be greeted by the bandit I saw earlier. I struggled against him, but he had gotten the upper hand. Suddenly he went limp and I saw a dagger sticking out of his neck.

“It was a good plan while it lasted.” She whispered as she drew it out. We both heard the sound of others yelling, “But it sounds like his friends heard us.” 

She lent me her hand to help me up and I immediately felt a pain in my side as I stood. “This isn’t good.”

“No!” She examined the dagger in my side and tore her dress for a makeshift bandage. “You need to pull it out when I say.” I nodded. “Ready, steady, pull.” I removed the blade with a sharp intake of air. The makeshift bandage started turning red and my head felt light. She tied it off, took my quiver and bow, and looked me in the eye, “Put your arm around me, we need to get moving.”

We slowly made our way through the forest, trying to stay in the thicker parts. I couldn’t tell how much time had passed, but it seemed like moments before we stopped, she propped me against a tree, and I slumped down against it. She drew back an arrow and a small scream escaped in the distance a moment later. I couldn’t discern if any further attention was drawn. I hoped they withdrew from the perimeter earlier and this man was merely a remnant. As she came back to me, I knew what had to be done. “Sarah, help hide me behind those bushes. You must carry on without me.”

“I will do no such…”

“Now listen,” my breath was labored, “You can quickly reach your keep and come back with help.”

“They will kill you if they find you…” her voice strained, fighting back tears, “and I won’t risk that.”

“They’ll catch us both if you don’t go.”

“You’re both right.” Our heads whipped around to see the bandit leader and a few of his men. “If you had gone off like I said, none of this would have happened. We weren’t going to hurt her, just hold her until dear old daddy paid up.” 

Sarah glared at him, “So you know who I am?”

“Of course we do, sweetheart. I was hoping we’d have your brothers as well, but you’ll still fetch a tidy sum on your own.” He motioned for his men to move in and tie us up.

Sarah grabbed my falchion and stood guard, “Which of you wishes to forfeit their life first?” The men laughed as one of them drew his sword and moved closer. Sarah struck out at him as soon as he was close, he blocked and countered, but she was too quick. She deflected his sword to the right and swept in from the other side, driving her blade through his heart. “Who wants to be next?” The remaining men drew their swords and began to surround us. 

“I’m sure daddy will pay up, even if you’re a bit worse for…” He stopped suddenly and collapsed to the ground. His men broke rank and I saw several arrows flying past us as they retreated. My grasp of the surroundings was weak, but I could hear men coming our way, calling for Lady Sarah.

“Alexander!” She knelt down to me, “It’s my father’s men!” I could feel her shaking me. “Oh no you don’t! Stay with me!”

“Stay with you? But what would your father say?”

She batted me on the arm again, “Don’t you start with that, but I don’t think he would object to your request…” She caressed my cheek, “I just need you to hold on a little while longer.”

I could feel several hands lifting me up onto a horse as I continued to fight sleep. I heard them speak as we rode, “Your brothers made it back last night and we’ve been looking for you. Luckily the huntsman was out this morning and saw bandits in the forest. Your father thought it best to search the woods immediately. I’m only glad we found you in time.” Knowing she was safe filled me with peace. I’m sure it would be alright if I rested my eyes until we reached the doctor…

* * * *

This story is going to be my next novella/novel project! It will be rewritten to a 3rd person POV and converted over to a fantasy from a historical fiction. I’m not exactly sure when it will launch, but it won’t be too long after “Small Town Problems” wraps up. I hope you have enjoyed it and will continue reading in its future evolved form.


One thought on “Going Home: Part 2/2

  1. Where will they go from here??? Only the writer knows. Good story line and it left a path forward for the reader. The writing and phrasing is so good!


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