The maid's truth

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Chapter 14: Bad luck week.

KIERAN’S POV

I crumpled the letter I’d received this morning, clenching my fist until my knuckles were white.

My mother was pushing again to pair me with some suitable woman to marry; she’d been doing the same a few times a year since I reached my 23th birthday. So far, I’d been able to avoid her requests and decline every move the noble ladies tried to make on me. This time, however, she was trying to corner me by inviting herself over to help me plan my birthday party. It would’ve been thoughtful of he if I didn’t know this was another scheme to try and pair me up with any willing lady who wanted to catch my attention. But if I refused, rumors would spread like wildfire damaging my public image and my relations with the neighboring lords, endangering my position.

“Get my horse ready! We are going hunting.” I shouted to no one in particular; some bellboy would pass on my orders.

I put on my hunting gear of high boots, leather gloves and a thick leather vest. I looked out the window and decided last minute to put on my green tunic to protect myself from the cold autumn winds. As I was fastening the belt of my sword, my right-hand man stormed in my chambers. If it were anyone else, it would have granted him at least a good scolding, but he was like a brother to me.

“What now?” he bluntly asked, knowing how atypical it was for me to call an unexpected hunting party so near the sunset. His hoarse voice masking his concern with a gruffy intonation. Terrance had been my friend since we entered the academy at the age of fourteen and swore his loyalty to me when we graduated four years later; ever since, he’d proven that loyalty protecting me with his life inside and outside of the battlefield more times that I could count over the last decade.

“See for yourself” I pointed the crumpled piece of paper with my jaw, making sure my sword was securely tied to my waist and heading to get a few daggers and my bow. My blood still boiling from feeling cornered by my mother’s antics.

“Unbelievable” he muttered and crumpled the paper once more, throwing it to the trashcan.

I shrugged it, not wanting to feed my anger anymore, and headed to the main entrance with long strides, where my favorite horse Brandy, a big and athletic bay and brown specimen, was waiting for me next to a handful of mean eager for a late evening hunt.

I was the last to mount, Terrance beating me to it with his longer strides in his enormous jet-black stallion, which was only a few shades darker than he was.

“Best catch gets a free weekend in town” I yelled to my men before heading straight to the forest, cheers erupting at the challenge I set. The hunting season was long gone, all the good prey leaving to warmer lands; but, if we were lucky, we might find some early deer herd coming from further north to spend the winter feeding from our unique cold enduring vegetation.

Several miles and a few hours later, we’d caught a few pheasants, some rabbits and a red fox. I was quietly chatting with Terrance, my interest in the hunt long lost after my third kill, in an attempt not to scare the pray of the men who wanted to overcome the fox catch.

Suddenly, the sound of hoofs quickly approaching had all my men gathering in a defensive stand. I tensed up, fearing an ambush in my own land; but concern soon overpowered when a lone horse came through the vegetation. Terrance, in a swift display of abilities, calmed the beast and brought it to me.

A simple glance told me this wasn’t a war horse, its big frame but short proportions more suited for long travels. The suitcase tied on its rear confirmed my suspicions. “I want you to look for the owner of this horse, they may have been attacked or fell off the horse and need our help. Either way, this person is trespassing and I want them found immediately.”

We head straight to the path the horse came from. After less than a minute we heard a loud scream ahead and l nailed my heels in Brandy’s flank to go faster. The sound of a whine followed by an angry growl reached my ears, my shoulders tensing at the realization we might be facing a pack of wolves.

“Spread so the wolves don’t…” My order was left mid-sentence when a woman appeared in my line of vision. She stumbled her way out of the trees with uncoordinated steps, inevitably tripping and falling face first.

I dismounted and had one foot down when the wolf appeared a few yards behind her laid figure. Without thinking twice l ran, unsheathing my sword at the same time the beast leaped to her. Hot droplets of blood splattered my face and the lifeless body of the beast landed inches from her; a pool of blood forming almost instantly.

Once I made sure it was dead, I turned my attention back to the woman who watched horrified at the animal that had been hunting her through the forest a moment ago.

“Are you all right, miss?” She swiftly turned her head at the sound of my voice. A pair of beautiful and scared bright blue eyes met mine. A glimpse of recognition flashed in her face and she broke eye contact to frantically look for something on my chest, stopping where the Silver Oak crest was.

“It’s you” her voice was barely a whisper, the foreign words filled with relief. Our eyes meet once more before those beautiful blue orbs rolled to the back of her head, falling back to the ground, losing consciousness. Only then I noticed the deep gashes in her back that were bleeding profusely. “Damn it. Help me pull her up, we are leaving now! And I want that fucking wolf skinned!”

I mounted back in my horse, a couple of my men trying to hoist her up without hurting her further. I covered her with my tunic, trying to protect the exposed muscle of her back from my gear. The sliced skin fell like ribbons and I swear I saw a piece of bone from her ribs. I’d not seen such horrible wounds outside the battlefield; her lack of reaction to the movement worried me.

“What did she say, Kieran?” Terrance asked me with a deep frown, not sure if he was worried about her safety or the unexpected presence of a lone woman in the middle of our lands. I grabbed her and seated her unconscious body in front of me; my horse was the fastest even with two people and, if the hot wetness in her back was any indicator, she would need every extra minute I could give her.

“I’m not sure.” I finally answered my second in command before spurring Brandy into a galop. That was a lie, I understood perfectly her words. But that would mean she knew me and I’d never seen her in my life. I’d never forget those blue eyes.

It had to be a mistake, but in order to get answers I needed to keep her alive. “Please, don’t die on me. We are almost there.” I mumbled against her head, tightening my grip and pushing my horse to go faster.

>>>*<<<

Three days had passed and the mysterious woman was still unconscious. I ordered one of my female knights to search through the luggage that was tied to the horse hoping to find answers. Unlucky for me she only had foreign clothing, which I already suspected; some trinkets I didn’t pay much attention to and a bloodied piece of paper that had been in her dressings during the wolf attack that was illegible.

The doctor said she had no mark that branded her as a slave, discarding the option of her being a runaway; nor she had a wedding ring, adding to the mystery. I was running out of possible scenarios; for some reason the mystery behind her was driving me insane.

I was in my office checking the mail when a particular letter caught my attention. As I was finishing reading it Terrance entered without knocking, and I threw it across the room. The armrest of the chair creaked under my grasp, anger creeping up my veins.

“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you have anger issues” Terrance said, picking up the letter. His scowl deepening. “This must be the week of shitty letters. When does he arrive?”

“Considering the date it was sent, I’d say in a little over two weeks.” I sighed.

The lord of Silver Oak was coming back after a year to check up on me. My trial time was almost over and everything had been going smoothly until a few days ago. If he arrived and I still hadn’t solved this mess my inheritance of his lands and title would be at risk.

I pushed back for now and focused my attention in the regular matters. Terrance was reporting on the new border patrol rotations when a hurried knock interrupted us. I growled, leaning back in my chair, tired of all the interruptions and seatbacks; but ordering whoever was outside to come in, resigned at my bad luck and whatever it brought to me.

A nervous servant girl entered hesitantly, fidgeting with her fingers and bouncing in the balls of her feet, not daring to look at me.

“What is it?” I finally asked when it was clear she wasn’t going to talk first.

“M-my lord, t-the gi-girl…” she stuttered, my ears perking in attention to what she was saying. “S-she just… she w-woke u-up…”

I didn’t hear the rest of her sentence before standing up and leaving the room. Terrance hot on my heels. ‘I hope this means my luck is getting better’ I thought.

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I hope you like this new POV. Let me know your thoughts. Should I write more chapters showing different POV or stick with Enid's version of the story?
I'm sorry it's a little shorter, but I didn't want to give that much away just yet.

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