Aldric and Gwendolyn ride throughout the morning|
until they come to the Great Forest. Herein lies their
safety, for they can hide with a moment’s warning
and remain undetected despite how many search there.
They travel for days, now at a more leisurely pace,
and get to know one another as only two traveling
companions can. Gwendolyn’s beauty and grace
remind Aldric of happier times before the unraveling
of his world of honor and chivalry by betrayal of his
beloved king. “ If only we had met back then…” fills
his thoughts. Traveling in Gwendolyn’s company is
a tonic for his wounded soul, and his heart soon reveals
itself not to be cold and dead but to beat with renewed
feelings of love and passion. After several more days
of riding, Lady Gwendolyn insists on bathing, to include
Aldric as well. She will bathe here, he downstream aways.
Aldric unclothes and wades waist-deep into the river
to wash. Suddenly, Gwendolyn’s scream reaches his ears.
He runs ashore, grabs his sword, and charges upriver.
Gwendolyn stands near shore, fighting back her tears.
“I saw a bear on the other bank. It scared me,” she explains.
She stands soaking wet, with her chemise clinging tightly
to her body, displaying her womanly charms. She remains
composed, even as she sees Aldric is dressed most unknightly.
She wades ashore and into his arms. Aldric drops the sword
and kisses her with a passion unlike any he has ever known.
Gwendolyn melts against him. “I do love you so, my lord,”
she breathes into his ear. Aldric responds with a low moan.
Then, he stiffens and pushes her away. “This must not be.
There is no possible future for us, and, just as long as I draw
a breath, no man shall besmirch your honor, not even me.”
He walks away…but his frozen heart has completed its thaw.
The rest of the day is spent in silence. That night by the fire
Gwendolyn asks, “What plans do you have for us?” Aldric
answers, “In this black world we cannot do as we might desire.
I know what our future must be…and it isn’t what I would pick,
“but the world has made our choices for us. You can live
in safety and comfort at the nunnery nearby, where the nuns
will grant you asylum and protection only the Church can give.
I shall continue my wanderings and see where my luck runs.
“I will try to make my way to France. The king there shares
royal blood with our slain King Edmund and should have no
satisfaction at having seen his throne usurped. If he cares
to have me, I will join in service to his court, for they know
“of me there. I once accompanied King Edmund on a royal
visit and bested all their champions in a tournament. My sword
should provide my future. My lady, to you I shall remain loyal.
I swear not to touch another woman from this day forward.”
The next day they arrive at the nunnery, where Gwendolyn
is granted asylum. Aldric prepares to leave. “I would rather
live one month with you hiding in the woods than spend
a lifetime without you here in safety. We love one another.
“That is all that counts to me. Take me with you,” she sobs.
“No, I’ll not see you dead like everything else good in my world.”
Aldric knows he must leave quickly as each of her tears robs
him of his conviction. He rides away to meet whatever Fate unfurls…