While gathering flowers and herbs for my Mother in the fields just outside the castle gate the hem of my skirt dragged across the top of the grass, carelessly sweeping some flowers to the ground as I walked over them. It was an often traipse for me, wandering through the fields. I always felt safe on my Lord’s lands and as of yet nothing had happened to make me feel otherwise. As I stooped to pick a sweet daisy from the ground, a vibration in the earth caught my attention. Soon to follow was the sound of the thundering steps of horses. I looked up just in time to see the black horses and their riders racing up on me. I was too low for them to see, stooped below the rise of the hill, but recognized them in a glance. There was a flash in their eyes as they glimpsed me, attempting to pull to a stop. Frozen in place, I closed my eyes, ready to meet my death. The horses whinnied and my eyes flashed open, seeing one rear up before me; a wall of muscle and sinew as black as night rising up to block out the sun.
I raised my hands to hide my face, letting out a scream as I dropped my basket of gatherings to the ground. My heart pulsed in my ears, time standing still in a flurry of movement when I was suddenly pushed to the ground. I watched in horror as the horses jumped over me, missing me by mere inches. They stopped a few yards away, turning and coming back as I was lifted in a cradled embrace. My eyes fluttered open as I heard him speak, “Mary, are you alright?” Shaken by what had almost happened, I wrapped my arms around my Lord’s neck feeling his hand stroke down my hair, “Please answer me,” he whispered near my ear, close enough that I could feel the heat of his breath.
Remembering myself I backed away apologizing, “Of course I’m alright. Why should I be any different?” Rising to my feet I brushed off my skirts, trying as best I could to hide the tears that were trying to betray me.
Chuckling, Lord Devareax, or Richard as I had come to know him, breathed a healthy sigh of relief. “It is good to know that our horses did not harm you Mary.” Calling to the others he informed them that I was alright. I half waved, embarrassed to have caused such a display, and turned to pick up my basket. There was a strange glint in the group’s eyes as they chuckled and rode off to the castle leaving Richard to stay behind with me.
Frantically trying to pick up my afternoon’s work, I couldn’t bear to turn and face Richard’s gaze. Walking silently up behind me, he grasped my hand, knocking the basket back to the ground. Pulling me up to stand, he placed a knuckle under my chin to raise my gaze to him. I was still looking at the ground, trying hard not to be emotional. I couldn’t do that in front of him, not now, not ever. “Look at me Mary.” Raising my eyes to his, my tears betrayed me as I knew they would, and he wrapped his arms around me, holding me tightly as he ran his fingers over my hair. “It’s alright, I have got you now.”
I grasped hold of his tunic that was peeking out from under his leather vest, “Oh Richard I was so frightened. Everyone must think me such a fool.”
“Never,” he said gently with a firm assurance to his voice, “but I think it was you that frightened me.” I backed up beginning to speak when he pressed a finger to my lips, “For now I think it is best that we get you home.”
I nodded, not wanting to separate myself from his arms. Beginning to back away he stopped me again, scooping me up into his arms and settling me onto his horse. “Wouldn’t walking be more proper Milord?”
“Really?” he cocked an eyebrow at me with a twisted mirth, “questioning the decision of a Lord are you Mary?” he chuckled.
“Oh I am sorry,” I pressed my fingertips to my lips.
Richard smiled, “Mary, you should know by now that I will doff all decorum when it comes to you, just so I can be near you.”
I blushed, holding onto the saddle of his horse as he got on behind me. Wrapping his arms tightly about my waist he grasped the reins as I leant my head against his shoulder, “Now this I like,” he smiled, turning his horse to take me back home.