(ooc. Shelby + Tea = Sheltea?) Rhys was not a bad man. He was a good man who ran over women with his horse. She seemed to come out of nowhere. One moment, he was stewing in his own misery and the next, his typically mild-mannered mare was rearing, nostrils flared in panic. It took Rhys too long to notice the feminine frame curled up in the middle of the road. In a state of near-shock, he dismounted. Warily eyeing the body (was she trampled? Dead? He knew he had been daydreaming but not half so deeply as to kill someone!), Rhys tied The Lady to a nearby fence post where she pranced nervously, nostrils flared. He walked nearer to his victim cautiously; he couldn’t tell if she was still breathing. “Perfect,” he mumbled under his breath as he finally reached the body. “Just lovely, truly.” His frustration and worry ebbed, however, when he saw the gentle swell and fall of her torso. She didn’t seem bloody, but Rhys’ brow furrowed as he took in her appearance. Her clothing was… strange. He’d never seen anything quite like it. Apprehensively, he reached out and touched the girl’s shoulder. Her hair covered her face, her back to him, so he couldn't tell if she would need to see a healer or clergy but he wasn’t comfortable with touching her much further. Rhys bit down on his lip, chewing on it as he thought, rocking back on his heels with his arms folded over his knees. He should just go on his way but leaving her like this just wouldn't be right, even if he was starting to suspect she was some odd sort of witch. She would have to be, to just appear somewhere where there wasn’t anybody before. He picked absentmindedly at his short auburn hair as he thought. “Why today, of all days?” he wondered aloud, looking to the sky as if the gods would part the clouds with a heavenly chorus to answer him. Rhys heaved a sigh, the chains in his mail clinking lightly in the relative silence. They were far and away from any nearby towns, forest flanked one side of the dilapidated road, a massive field of wheat the other. He couldn’t just leave the girl. It could be days before another rider took the path. Truly, then, would he be unworthy of the paladin’s title; he didn’t need the High Priest Westerfor to tell him that. The memory made him cringe mentally, distracting Rhys momentarily from his current predicament. After years spent as a ward of the church, then a scribe to the High Priest himself, and then years of laborious, grueling training under the Knight-Commander… Unworthy? Impure of heart? Rhys was disgusted. It was hogwash. He was plenty ready to accept the responsibilities that came with being a paladin; it was the only dream he’d ever had. Gray eyes once more laid upon the still girl before him, Rhys’ mind was made up. Leaving her in the middle of the road, unholy witch or no, would be unchivalrous. His will renewed, he gripped her shoulder firmly and shook it once, twice. “Wake up,” he insisted, his voice insistent. “Are you harmed?” He thought he saw her stir, but was diverted from his task by the sound of hoof beats approaching, and quickly by the sound. Rhys frequented this path when traveling between Norbridge and the Holy Church of Eous, preferring its hush and solitude compared to the clamor of the Queen’s road, and never once had he met another traveler. He stood, hand on the hilt of his axe, and watched the dust rising as a group—of one mounted, a few on foot, and a cart, if he could trust his eyes—came into sight. The apparent leader, a curly-haired woman on horseback, spotted him; Rhys met her gaze warily as the band slowed. They appeared to be brigands. “’Allo, fellow,” greeted the stranger, her words thick and slurred. She grinned at him, revealing a missing tooth. Rhys nodded his greeting. “Big and silent, eh? Not the friendly type?” The woman laughed before continuing. “Mind movin’ your woman there out the road? If you beat her silly, well, that’s no business of ours, but we sure would like to get—well, what’s that now?” The rogue’s eyes seemed to spark with interest as they drew down to Rhys’ unconscious casualty. He followed her gaze and it was then that Rhys noticed something glittering in the girl’s clutched hand. “Nothing,” he said quickly, moving to block her from the greedy stare. His protest was unconvincing at best. The woman smirked, motioning to one of her companions who moved towards Rhys and the girl. “Seems to me you owe us for the inconvenience,” she stated as she studied her nails nonchalantly. “A gift, for delaying us.” “We owe you nothing. Move along, you cads.” Rhys unhooked his axe, realizing even as he did so that he was sorely outnumbered. The other scoundrels mimicked his movement and drew their nicked, dull swords and advanced. Beside him, the girl seemed to stir as one of the scoundrels tried to pry the glittering thing from her fingers.