They – the wandering warrior and the wench –|
rode hard all throughout the day to put distance
between themselves and the village. “It’s a cinch
men will be sent after us. I fear their persistence,
“for I am a prized possession of the innkeeper,”
spoke the girl, when once they stopped for the night.
The warrior replies, “They shall find the Grim Reaper
should they find us. My sole purpose now is to fight.
“But, pray tell, how did a lady of your noble demeanor
and grace become an indentured servant?” “My family
fought for the late king in the recent lost war. A meaner
fate could not have befallen us, no worse calamity…
“My father and brothers all killed; our lands and home
seized; my mother, sisters, and I sold into servitude
for unfair taxes newly levied – I could fill quite a tome
listing all the local injustices of such great magnitude,
“for the conquering lords sought plunder with their revenge.
But, what of you, kind sir? You showed yourself to be noble
in helping me escape last night. My presence might infringe
upon your ability to elude pursuers. Alone you’re more mobile,
“and they will be searching for a man and woman together.
You put yourself in danger in my behalf.” The warrior replies,
“You risked your life in warning me last night. So, whether
your presence adds risk to my travels, I know where my duty lies.”
She asks, “What is the nature of your travels? You seem battered
by fate and angry inside.” He stares into her eyes for a long while,
as though deciding whether to reveal his heart – cold and shattered
by past events. “I knew how to be happy, how to laugh and smile,
“but no more. Now I see the world as it is – filled with treachery
and ruled by evil men. The life I led of nobility and chivalrous acts
was a foolish dream. Evil has conquered good. My talent is butchery.
I served the late king as his champion. With sword and with axe,
“I fought on his right hand in many a battle. He was a goodly man
who sought peace and happiness for all peoples in this country.
He had a united kingdom with justice for all right in his hand…
one last battle against the northern warlords to win their fidelity.
“The king had such great plans for a lifetime of harmony and peace
for all -- a wondrous world of nobility and charity never before seen.
But in that battle, treachery carried the day! Where we would have least
expected betrayal – the king’s undoing was his own wife, the queen.
“The vile woman had made a secret deal to win her brother the throne.
Troops loyal to the brother turned upon our army mid-battle and sealed
our fate – the king was slain before my eyes, and our troops were thrown
back in chaos and defeat. That day the true nature of Man was revealed.
“Darkness and despair descended over the kingdom and over my heart
that fateful day. I am dead inside, unfeeling and uncaring for my fellow
man. I travel the earth alone until Fate chooses the place for me to depart
this wicked world. My time is done. Let other men prance and bellow.”
As they speak, they sit around a fire. The dancing flames throw shards
of light across her face, and he notices the great sadness overflowing her
eyes. She gently lays her hand upon his forearm. At first he disregards
her tenderness, but within him long-forgotten feelings begin to stir…