I was getting close to the village of Eye, I could see the houses, the shops and the church steeple up ahead. As I came close to the gates, I heard Merek telling me to wait for him. I listened to him, because I heard concern in his voice. When he approached me, he
dismounted from Ulysses and stood next to me.
“There have been many revolts in this town. If you let me, I would like to accompany you.”
I thought about it, nothing would make me happier than to have him by my side, but I didn’t want him to know. I simply nodded and we went on our way. Soon after, we passed by a local bakery, I slowed down when I saw the sign and Merek noticed.
“We can get something to eat here.”
He pointed to the bakery, I smiled and nodded.
We found a place to sit by a small pond along the way. We sat against a tree and ate our mince pies while the sun warmed our cheeks. It was a beautiful day and the company was good.
''Are you on a journey back home?''
I asked the question as I took my last bite of the pie. He nodded, yet didn’t answer with any words. Maybe he was getting used to not talking when he was around me. I would often catch him looking my way as I would turn to look at something. He seemed to find me very interesting, I couldn't imagine why. I was not beautiful like many women I had come across on my journeys. I was pretty plain, except for my blasted hair. I hated my hair with a passion. Merek finished his food, stood up and looked at the water.
“I think I will swim for a moment or two, do you want to join me?”
I really wanted to join him more than anything, but it was improper even if he had seen me more often without clothes than with.
“I will take a rest while you bathe.”
He took off his boots and walked closer to the pond. I closed my eyes and waited to hear the splashing of water before opening them again. I didn’t want him to think that I was trying to see him unclothed. He probably had a beautiful body underneath his fine
clothes, but I didn’t need to be staring at it. I heard the water but decided to keep my eyes closed and I fell fast asleep.
I opened my eyes and was disoriented for a moment by the blaring sun. My eyes adjusted and I saw Derek putting on his boots and holding his shirt and cloak in his hands.
“You need to hide, quick.”
He pointed to some bushes beyond the pond. I looked around, but didn’t see a threat, however, I listened to him because of the fear I heard in his voice. I took my things and followed him quickly. I could not help but admire his sculpted back as we made our way to hide. When we were hidden to his satisfaction, he put on his
shirt and started putting on his cloak as we heard,
“What a beautiful white horse. Where is your master?”
I saw Merek's eyes change, he did not want to confront whoever it was. He took me by the elbows and made me promise that I would stay hidden no matter what. I couldn’t make the promise, I knew that if they would try to hurt him, I would try to help. He
tried in vain to convince me and walked out of the hiding place.
“What’re ye doing so far from home your highness?”
The voice I heard was a low mocking one, whoever it was, he did not sound like he approved of Merek.
“I can ask you the same thing Rowan.”
I heard a few other voices and decided that they must be a gang of ruffians. Not many people travelled in gangs and when they did, it was usually to steal from the rich who passed along the way.
“Good King Ulric needs you by his side. They say he will go insane soon. Don’t want your beautiful mother to be left without protection. Who knows what men might do to her.”
How could he be such a brute? The insult would have sent me over the edge if it was directed at me. I would have not withheld my rage. I did not hear Merek respond, yet I did hear some muffled sounds and then a loud growl. I lifted my head up a bit to see if I could figure out what was happening. All I could see was Ulysses walking back towards me, his eyes scared but determined. After what seemed like a lifetime, I finally saw and heard Merek talk to Ulysses.
“Good job Ulysses, good job.”
He patted the horse lovingly on his side and came to find me. He reached out his hand, I took it and he helped me out of the hiding place. When I came out, I finally saw what had happened. The men were all tied to the tree where we had been sitting, each one had a bruise somewhere on their face. It seemed like one of them
even had a hoof mark on his cheek. I was relieved, yet my reaction was laughter. I laughed and laughed and laughed until Merek joined in.
“It isn’t the first time Ulysses has conquered my foes. Probably won’t be the last.”
I stopped laughing and gave Ulysses a huge hug.
“Thank you for protecting my protector.”
I turned to see Merek looking at me with a different look in his eyes than usual. He said nothing, but I could tell that he wanted to.
“We should be on our way.”
He took Ulysses by the reins and we all walked side by side towards our next destination.