King Stephen, the Silver man and Greta the Witch

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Chapter 3 - Eustace

As he lay back on his blankets, he could hear the raucous laughter of Eustace and his cronies as they drank their ale and flirted with the serving wenches. He could smell the delicious aromas of the meat roasting on the cooking fires, and the bread baking in the pit ovens. His stomach rumbled with hunger. He enjoyed this life on the road much more than the endless rituals of the Royal Court. He hated the petty politics and bureaucracy of the monarchy, which he had to endure when he was back at Winchester. He was pleased that he had concocted a plan to delay his return to the Royal Court for a few more days.

He heard the cook ring a small bell, it was a signal that the food was ready. The girl went to fetch his supper, pulling back the flap of the tent, she led in the mini procession of serving wenches who curtsied with difficulty, before placing first a serving table, covered in a royal blue cloth, then dishes of food and jugs of ale on the table. The King took the time to eye each of the serving girls, he took particular note of the third one in line, who had a good figure. She glanced up as she placed a basket of bread and a jug of ale on the table, catching his eye. She flushed red, and quickly lowered her gaze. But in that fleeting moment the King saw what he wanted.

When the food was served and the other serving wenches had left, he watched the girl use her elegant hands to tie the thin leather straps that closed and secured the tent flap. Now they would be alone for the night. Of course, the camp knew they were not to be disturbed. She knelt on the rug beside him, and offered him some bread and roasted meat. The bread was still warm and absolutely delicious, the guinea fowl had been hung in the wagons for 5 days to mature, and was then roasted with honey and wild herbs. It tasted wonderful. There was also a dish of salted swan and a plate of quinces. The cook knew these dishes were his favourite.

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