Drewin tried to speak through his gag but only surprised, muffled sounds came through. His eyes were wide with surprise, anger, and possibly even fear. He was caught.
Sir Larkin could read the mixed thoughts in his eyes, but he loosed the gag anyway. “Speak boy, but not too loudly. There are enemies following you who are worse than you imagine me to be.”
Drewin let out his breath through his teeth and let his anger well up. “How did you find me, and why do you have me here?”
“You are very easy to follow and even easier to find. You were sleeping two miles from an enemy camp, and whether you like it or not I did rescue you. They are still out there looking for us and may even be gaining on us now,” the young knight said, looking anxiously down the trail behind them.
“So…I made a mistake. I am not an infant that you, a man not many years older than I, should take charge of me.” Drewin’s voice grew louder. “Leave me, and go fight a war or something!”
“Your father gave you instructions. If you cannot follow them, you need someone to watch you like a child,” Sir Larkin said with an edge to his voice and his eyes glinting. He was not very angry, or at least not as angry as the boy he was confronting. “Come, we must put many miles between us and them before daybreak. You are traveling with me now. He also gave me instructions.” His voice had calmed.
“Will you not untie my hands?” Drewin asked with irritation.
“Can you follow your father’s instructions now?” Without waiting for an answer, Sir Larkin mounted his horse; and they started forward on their journey again.
As the days passed, Ryla saw many different skies. Some days it was overcast with a cold drizzling rain that penetrated even oilcloth. Other times, it was as clear as a sparkling lake, and only a few clouds dared to drift across the sky like plump ducks sailing serenely back and forth.
It was under a threateningly gray sky with angry black storm clouds, that they paused in a thicket for a rest. Sir Wystan slid from the horse and looked around the woods. “From now on, little one, we are in a dangerous place. If we are stopped, you must never speak, but be ready to use your arrow at a moment’s notice. Numerous enemies would stop us from reaching the border. There are not many of noble blood left in this country.”
Ryla shook, whether it was from fear or the cold it would be hard to say.
Sir Wystan looked at her keenly and said, “No need to be frightened. We have One better than an army looking after us.”
She nodded and swallowed. It was a matter of trust again, wasn’t it?
The old knight mounted the horse a little stiffly and kicked it to a start. The girl sucked in her breath. They were going to ride in the storm! The situation was more dangerous than she had thought.
The rain reached them not an hour later. Ryla hid her face in the old man’s cloak and pulled her veil down so she could only see a little. The cold rain drops stung her face and blurred her vision so that the forest was like a wet painting where the colors had run together. She prayed that the horse would keep his footing, prayed that the lightning would stay far away, and prayed that the rain would wash out the muddy trail they were leaving for everyone to see.
And she clung to the horse and prayed that, wherever he was, Drewin was safe.
Sir Larkin stopped the horses only long enough to hand his charge a piece of hard bread and a strip of salty jerky before urging them on through the woods. Many times, Drewin asked if they were still being followed, but the young knight would only tell him that he didn’t know for certain and that they must ride on.
In the daylight, Drewin could see that although the man was close to his age, he looked much older. At first he had supposed that it was his armor that did it, but after a while he decided it was the grave look he wore that made him much older than a boy.
They soon came upon a piece of forest that was very well kept. The boy guessed that it was private property, but he was sure the knight would not tell him. They still weren’t quite to the point of talking freely. Riding a little faster through this part of the woods, they glanced anxiously at the nearby lights of a castle.
“We must keep silence. There are enemies and impostors about,” Sir Larkin said, looking up to the tops of the trees as if he would catch a glimpse of them there. “Keep your prayers silent, but pray all you can.”
Drewin was very sure God would not want to hear from him just yet, but he asked anyway—not for himself but for Sir Larkin. His petition was interrupted by something skittering by at high speed. His horse shied in alarm and strained at the rope that held the two horses together then galloped at breakneck speed through the woods and into a private garden attached to the keep. A lady screamed in alarm at the strange parade, and several castle guards rushed forward to catch both frightened horses by their reins and surround the riders.
“Who are you?” The head guard asked with an angry look on his round face.
Drewin wisely held his tongue as did Sir Larkin.
“Fools! What sort of a man would take an ‘asty ride through ‘is master’s forest and come crashing into ‘is garden withou’ preparing a defense of some sort!” The guard said this more as an insult than a question, and Drewin strained at the ropes that still held his hands.
“A man runnin’ from the law would,” one of the more common soldiers spoke up, glancing at the armor the knight wore and the ropes tying their horses together.
“Kidnapped or your accomplice?” the head guard said, looking at Sir Larkin and nodding his head towards Drewin.
The muscles in Sir Larkin’s jaw began to work back and forth making the cleft in his chin a little deeper. He said not a word but flicked his eyes over to Drewin in a warning look.
“Accomplice to be,” the head guard decided, and then commanded his men to pull them from their horses. Twisting the boy’s arm behind him, he pushed Drewin towards the castle. The other men followed with Sir Larkin and the horses, leaving the astonished lady to wonder at the scene that had just taken place before her.
The guards clanked down the stone corridor pushing their captives before them into the Great Hall. A fire crackled in the grate at one end of the room, and the lord of the castle sat with his back towards them and his face towards the fire. The head guard motioned to the other soldiers to leave then spoke in a low tone, “We have them, my lord.”
The man rose a little unsteadily from his chair to look directly at the captives. With a pleased smile he greeted them. “Drewin of Arcella, Sir Larkin, I’m glad you’ve come; I’ve wanted so much to meet you. I never imagined that it would be from a foolish ride into my very own new garden.” He laughed. “Oh, no, I was prepared to hunt you!”
Drewin had never met this man before in his life; but from the moment he turned around, he could tell he was evil. He and Sir Larkin stared back at their captor impassively.
“Guard,” the lord of the castle said imperiously, but never turning his eyes from their faces, “take these men to the dungeon and give the knight a good scourging. Leave the boy alone—the leaders of the revolution will be glad to meet him safe and sound in the morning.”
The guard obediently jerked him away and forced both of them towards the door. Drewin looked back in time to see the impostor lord’s face twist into a cruel smile. His blood ran cold.
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis
Is Sir Larkin too angry? Is it strange that the guard speaks differently in his master’s presence? Is the impostor lord realistic?