To Love Thy Neighbour

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Lady Alainn, Oct 30, 2014.

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  1. ~*~

    Standing slightly taller than the average male, Eadmund Berkeley had no bulk to boast of nor anything in his features to distinguish him from another and he quite preferred it that way. The noble's son sought none of the honours due to him eagerly, but instead put up with the homage and deference with a practiced grace even as he extended the same lip service and regimented obedience towards his father. In fact, the only thing that set him apart from the serfs who laboured his father's lands could be said to be his excellent posture, inquisitive mind, and inherently commanding presence.

    Though not scrawny, he was lean and his toned muscles shone bronzed in the light of day and pale in the darkness of night. Sandy brown hair lay thatched over his forehead and tucked around his ears, framing his angular jaw and softening the grey eyes that peered out from slightly brooding brows.

    Right now it was the heat of the sun that beat upon his back, tickling sweat beneath his chainmail and giving him no shade but for the visor of his helmet. Eadmund sat up straighter in his saddle, swaying gently with each step of the sleek brown roan beneath him as it trudged down the winding road toward the tavern where he would eventually join up with King Richard and his cavalry of knights on their way to the Holy Land.

    It was a foolish move on the part of the king to agree so easily to the Saxon advisors who had whispered promises of fame and glory while the Pope stood atop his altar and screamed down blessings upon the man who freed the Jewish homeland from the Arabs. But how was the monarch to know that this scheme of supposedly ultimate triumph would end up being his own undoing? Untrusting of the Norman blood upon the throne, the Saxon nobles had gathered their wits about them in a coup that would wrest the throne of England from the Norman invaders and settle it upon the rightful shoulders of a Saxon king.

    Who they would place upon that throne when the Normans were gone, Eadmund had no idea. There would likely be bickering, fighting, chaos and confusion until one noble proved himself the most powerful of his neighbours. The dishonesty and back-stabbing left a bitter taste in his mouth. And now, whether he liked it or not, he had been placed into the fray of things by order of his father.

    Ah, how many nights Eadmund had prayed fervently for the Lord to move His hand and prevent him from departing on this quest! Though truly he was a knight in the service of the king and truly he respected that loyalty to the crown and the loyalty to his father to see this task complete, there was nothing he detested more than vain bloodshed and mock glory. Of both of those he would be sick of before too long, he knew.

    If only he had been able to wriggle his way out of this journey, if only he could keep his head out of the politics and conspiracies that abounded. But as a noble's son, it was his place to be in the business of his father, and so his father's---

    Eadmund had no time to finish that thought as a heavy wooden object crashed onto his skull and dropped him from his horse. He had only moments to gasp, to raise a trembling hand to the warm substance oozing from the side of his head, before his sluggish mind registered the sole of a worn boot coming quickly to his face. Then, his world went utterly and completely dark.
    #1 Lady Alainn, Oct 30, 2014
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2016
  2. On the road to the bustling town of Maldon stood a middle-aged man, whose rather stern expression, although slightly softened by his round face was reinforced by a pair of steely black eyes and thin lips. He was on his way back to home, riding a hackney, discomfort etched on his wrinkled face rendered even more obvious by the stiffness of his hold on his mount’s reins. At his side walked a young girl. Her jade, unadorned linen dress conservatively tied close at the neck, fastened by a golden belt, hugged the curves of her petite body. Her silky, wavy ebony hair was unbound, concealed under an untied wimple, framing her honey skinned face, adorned with a button nose and thin lips.

    As always when in each other’s company, a thick silence had settled between them, only disrupted by the clattering of the horse's hooves and the soft panting of the Molosser at her side. Rachel was trundling along, absorbed by her thoughts, unaware of her father’s furtive glances, her tapering fingers stroking at the amber necklace adorning her neck, worn as an early token of her commitment to her betrothed.
    Her betrothed. The word was familiar, but it sounded almost foreign when applied to her, and her mind was grappling with its very idea. She was to be married to a man she barely knew, and judging by her father's content smile earlier, as he concluded the debate he had shared with the future groom's father over the terms of the impeding Tenaim ceremony where the betrothal agreement would be finally settled, along with the dowry and other financial arrangements, it would probably be sooner rather than later.
    She ought to be excited about it, ought she not? Everyone else seemed excited at the prospect, and for good reasons. At 17, it was time for her to marry. He was a reputable suitor who could provide her with a comfortable life, he wasn't displeasing to the eye, and more importantly, they shared the same faith. Yet, she couldn’t shake off this apprehensive feeling, the remembrance of the uneasiness she had felt while the weight of his invasive gaze roamed over her, causing a crease on her forehead.
    The sound of a sharp, single bark from Talbot, the black mastiff following on her heels, drew their attention. He wasn’t an excitable puppy. Despite his intimidating stature, he was a calm and docile dog who very seldom barked, in addition to being well-trained, and Rachel immediately recognized his stance. He was on alert. She exchanged a worried glance with her father before turning back to the dog, who gave another low bark and rushed forward, ignoring the commanding voice of Rachel shouting after him "Talbot! Heel!".
    Her dad, stood there, disconcerted at the dog’s behavior before suddenly acknowledging the imminent danger they possibly faced. But as he opened his mouth to exhort his daughter to hush in order to avoid attracting attention from who-know-what the dog ran after, she had already taken off, chasing after him and quickly faded out of his sight.
    But as soon as she turned the corner, she stopped in her tracks and gasped, her hazel eyes widening as she surveyed the scene before her, barely registering the anguished voice of her father growing louder as he neared her. A man was lying on the ground, a few feet away from her, a thick blood escaping the gash on his head. The dark-haired girl blinked, dismay twisting her delicate features, and having recovered from the initial shock, sprung into action, rushing toward him to attend to his wounds, hoping he was still alive. Without delay, she tore her veil off and swiftly wrapped it around his head, temporarily staunching the blood flowing from his open wound to the head.
    "Rachel!", she flinched as the booming voice of her father rang out right behind her. She ventured an apologetic glance at the old man before returning her attention to the unknown man, and bent forward, pressing her ear against the cool metal of his chainmail, looking for a heartbeat, no matter how faint. Nothing. Biting her lips nervously, she leaned closer to his mouth, trying to detect a sign of breathing and sighed a silent prayer of gratitude in relief as she felt his breath brushing her cheek.
    And pushing back Talbot, who was back at her side and had begun licking the blood off his body, she finally turned back to her father. Taking in the mixture of fear, disbelief and anger in his expression, she swallowed and breathed out "I-I’m sorry… I…" Her voice broke into a gasp as a slap stung her cheek, silencing her. "Don't you ever do that again!" he said, voice shaking.
    She hung her head in shame, holding back the tears that she felt forming in her eyes, before resolutely cocking her head up as she met once more his gaze, which had lost its intensity and repeated, her pleading voice cracking under the emotional strain:
    "I’m sorry… but, he’s still alive, and he needs our help"
    The sun had begun to set before the horizon, glowing dimly through the window, tinting the sheets of the bed where the bandaged form of the wounded man rested, and sitting on the bed beside him on her bloodstained dress was Rachel, her brown eyes darker than usual, betraying her weariness. She forced them open, as she dipped a cloth in the bowl.
    "How is he?", asked her father, the sound of his familiar voice coming from the door frame making her freeze in mid-step.
    "He's still fighting a high fever, but at least he’s not bleeding anymore… from what I can tell anyway", she sighed and gently pressed it against the forehead of the feverish man, a short silence following her words. Sensing her father’s gaze upon her, she raised a questioning gaze at him. And after looking intently at her for a moment, regret glimmering in his dark eyes, he murmured hesitantly "You did all you could. You should rest now". But no matter how tempting the comfort of a warm bed was, she couldn't bring herself to let go. What if he worsened while she was sleeping? No. She couldn't take the risk. "I can’t", she answered softly.
    The old man shrugged wearily and withdrew, closing the door behind him.
    #2 Lanawint, Nov 2, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2014
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  3. Delirium claimed Eadmund early on, spiking his fever and tossing him from side to side in the bed as intense shivers overtook his body and nightmares displayed themselves in his jerking limbs and intermittent moans. The sheets were soaked with his sweat; his flushed, damp skin gleaming in the candlelight. Sometimes the gentle touch upon his forehead would calm his agitated state while at other times it would induce a flurry of fitfulness that shredded the linens wrapped about his body.

    Occasionally the young nobleman's eyelids would flutter open, revealing glazed, unseeing pupils. During such times, his chapped lips would open just enough to let sound croak out in unintelligible noises. But this feigned consciousness never lasted for long and he would lose the fight, slipping back into the murky waters of an unnatural sleep.

    Eadmund had no conception of time passing, no definition of thought in the void of darkness that consumed him. His fever resisted the gallant efforts of the mysterious, soft hand as long as it could and his condition continued much in the same way well into the night. It wasn't until the sun's rays poked above the horizon that Eadmund's restlessness abated and his breath softened into a normal tempo. The fever broken, his body relaxed into a peaceful slumber.

    A few hours later, after the midday meal, Eadmund awoke in confusion. He couldn't move, his whole body stiff and sore from the beating he had taken at the hands of the robbers, and panic began building in his chest at the unfamiliar surroundings. Where was he? What had happened? Why did his whole body ache? And his head... Eadmund winced as he tried to roll it onto its side. Well, it seemed like he was stuck staring at the ceiling.

    His tongue felt swollen and dry. His throat was parched. How long had he been laying here? Taking a painful breath, he tried to speak, to call for anyone to come to him. At this point he felt miserable enough not to care if he was with friend or foe.

    "So...thirsty..." he finally rasped.
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  4. The sound of light steps echoed through the halls as a dainty figure moved swiftly through the narrow corridors. Halting her course before a heavy door, she pushed it open, revealing the large kitchen area. In the center of the room stood imposingly a sturdy wooden table, an old oak bench and disparate stools situated around it. The massive fireplace in the back end of the room, illuminated by the timid rays of the early sun cracking through the small aperture of the window covered with oiled parchment, held a large stew-pot. Leaning over it was a shriveled hairy man, the savory aroma of the frumenty permeating the room as he stirred it, Talbot comfortably lying near his feet. Rachel stood there, inhaling the pleasant smell of her favorite food before making her way toward the table.

    "Mornin'" she offered as she eased herself into a seat, her greeting acknowledged with a grunt coming from the man she called affectionately Bear, for its eerie resemblance to the beast itself, while Talbot strolled leisurely over to her to rest its head on her lap. Berel wordlessly filled a bowl with the porridge and placed it on the table in front of her, eyes squinting as they inspected the dark circles under her puffy eyes and mussed up hair as she wolfed down her meal, enjoying the warm food.

    "I hear you brought back another stray", he growled.

    Disregarding the obvious quip at an old habit she picked up from childhood, the young girl’s mind went back to the room where she left the mysterious stranger sleeping, soundly still, she hoped. She spent the whole night watching over him, absorbed in prayers, fighting against the need for sleep for as long as she could before drifting to the state between sleep and consciousness, only to be yanked out of it as he experienced another fever outbreak, going back to caring for him to the best of her ability, hoping it would be enough. If Bear heard about him, that probably meant that…

    "Father’s awake?" she inquired.

    "Yeah," he answered laconically before blurting out "I told him y’know..." Rachel cocked an eyebrow in question, soon answered as the older man launched into a rant "…what I thought about you bringing that fellow back here. Foolish… That’s what it was… What if he died huh? What did you think would happen?"

    "I…" Rachel’s face scrunched up at his words that held an uncomfortable truth that she couldn't just whisk away, one that was tied to their very own identity. As a Jewess, daughter of a moneylender, she had been treated with more or less hidden contempt and mistrust for as long as she could remember. His death in their house could certainly have had dire consequences, consequences that she was, however, unwilling to weigh any further. There was no sense of lingering on what could have happened, he was doing better, and she would make sure that it stayed that way. That was what mattered now.

    "He’s not going to die," she assured. And putting down her spoon on the table, she stood up, adding, a hint of an impish smile stretching her lips "and I know you would have done the same" before escaping the room with Talbot at her heels as Berel muttered "I would certainly not!" to the closing door. That girl would be the end of him. A heavy sigh escaped as he began stoking the fire to keep the food warm. If the fellow upstairs ever woke up, he might need something warm to fill his stomach.


    The morning meal was long gone and Rachel was once more sitting at the stranger’s bedside, occupying herself with needlework. The empty bowl of the midday meal that Berel had brought over when he realized that she wouldn't come down was at her feet, next to a sleeping Talbot. The sound of Eadmund stirring interrupted this peaceful scene and she raised her eyes from her embroidery anxiously, hoping that it wasn't the start of another fever spike.


    The sound of his voice momentarily stung her. He was awake. No, he was not just awake, he was conscious! She leapt to his side and leaned over him. "Hey", her voice came out soft and uncertain, her walnut eyes tinted with concern boring into his, before averting them self-consciously, her gaze drifting to the bowl of water and the cloth lying near it. She had to find another source of water. And redirecting her gaze to him, she uttered, offering him a reassuring smile, "I’m going to look for water. Hold on".

    A few minutes later, she had made her way back to the room with a goblet of water and looked at him hesitantly, unsure if he would be able to get upright and drink without help. Probably not. She sat on the bed at his side and reaching out to him, said tentatively "I have the water, but I-I need to lift you up for that, and it might hurt", sliding her arm under his neck, waiting for his agreement to hold him up higher so she could bring the goblet to his lips.
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  5. At first there was no reply to his whispered query and Eadmund figured he must have been left alone. He supposed he should be grateful at that for it meant he had no enemy guarding his bed. Perhaps he was with friends after all? Memories of a gentle touch stirred in his head. Would a foe take such care? But again, the unfamiliar surroundings could give him no answers. Closing his eyes he concentrated on swallowing, feeling as if a wool stocking had been rammed down his throat . The rustling of skirts echoed then in the small room and begged his eyelids to flutter open again. Upon opening them, he found himself face to face with the most beautiful creature he'd ever beheld. If he had breath to spare, he would have found it snatched away in an instant.

    His vision, blurry as it was, did not stop him from struggling to focus on the soft brown eyes, like a fawn's, and the delicate structure of the woman's face. When her distant voice fell upon his ears, Eadmund swore he must be dead for such melodious tones belonged only in the court of Heaven. However, there were several key factors that throbbed like a sore thumb. If he were dead, his body would not ache so, nor was it bright and gilded enough to be the Holy Place. Thirdly, angels were often men and never did they wear common frocks. Her words didn't quite register in his head and a pang of disappointment flared in his breast as the image of the maiden disappeared. Perhaps she had only been an illusion. He would not, however, give up on a drink of water quite yet. What could he do, anyway? Besides wait.

    An eternity passed before the sweet face returned bearing a goblet. Eadmund sighed in relief and in his eagerness he attempted to sit up. Fire burned in his gut at the motion and his entire face twisted into a grimace. An arm slipped behind his neck, steadying him, supporting him, and he allowed her to help sit him up just enough to bring the cup to his lips. Once the cool liquid wet his tongue, Eadmund gulped it eagerly, not caring how much of it might dribble down his chin in the process.

    "Thank you... my lady," he gasped when the water was gone, falling back against the cushion with a grunt despite the woman's support under his head. Light exploded, sending shooting pains throughout his skull and eliciting a louder groan of pain from his throat. Stricken grey eyes implored her compassionate brown. "Where am I? What happened?"
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  6. Rachel slid out the arm that had been used to stabilize the wounded man only flinching mildly at the unpleasant feeling of the damp fabric clinging to her bare skin as he flopped limply back onto the cushion, her eyes tracing the now familiar features, the sharp curve of his jaw, his wet chin, his dry, squeezed lips who opened slightly to let another groan escape as the pain peaked, her own eyebrows twitching in worry, before eventually going back up to those ashen eyes of his, who were now wide open, and boring into hers in such a way that made it hard for her to break away from it.

    "Where am I? What happened?" he asked, echoing one of the unanswered questions she had been asking herself while tending to him, her eyes freely roaming over his features, what had been first concern about his health turning eventually into unabashed curiosity, taking in every dip of his sleeping form in search of a clue as to who he was. A missing son to someone, of a higher status. That much was clear. He was a knight, as indicated by his coat of arms, one that she wasn't familiar with. The duties befitting someone of her station didn't include heraldry, and she therefore found herself unable to draw nothing other than these simple facts leaving the mystery of his identity largely unsolved.

    As to what happened, the young maiden wasn't sure if he meant what happened after being presumably attacked, or if he had no idea of what happened even beforehand? After all, she wasn't sure of just how much damage the blow to his head had inflicted. Not that she would be the best source of information on the latter if asked. After all, while the disappearance of his purse suggested that he had been the victim of a random mugging, it might have been a not-so-random aggression for god-knows-what reason.

    "I'm afraid I can only partially answer your question, my lord, as I wasn't there when it happened", she answered, and reminding herself of his status managed to tear her gaze away from his, lowering her hazel eyes, showing him the deference he was due. "You were on the side of the road, unconscious when my father and I found you. The men who wronged you left you there. We brought you back to our humble house, in Maldon."
  7. "Maldon," Eadmund repeated thickly, his heavy eyelids drooping close in a prolonged blink. That bit of information did not give him any pointers, unfortunately, as to what had happened or why he'd been on the road in the first place. It had been ages since his father had any business in Maldon, but Eadmund knew instinctively that he must have been going somewhere on business. The only question was where? For what reason? Upon opening once more, his gaze reluctantly travelled down from the woman's face to take in his condition to see if it could give him any more clues. An unfamiliar robe, frayed with age and use but clean, donned his body. His left arm hung in a linen sling about his neck and though he could not see his torso, he knew it to be black and blue from a bruised or broken rib or two with the way it pained him to even so much as take a breath. Such injuries suggested he may have fallen off his horse, but why? Again, where had he been going?

    All he could conclude in his foggy, groggy state was that he'd been going somewhere on horseback and probably on an errand for his father. Perhaps there was yet more the warm eyes and smiling red lips could tell him. His horse, had his horse been found with him? Any parchments or letters on his person? In the saddle? Had he packed saddlebags? What had he been dressed in before this woman had cleaned him up and dressed him in her father's robe? His sallow cheeks reddened a bit with more than just the remnants of fever as he drew in the implications of his lack of familiar clothes. Best not to dwell on that; he was grateful and entirely in this family's debt and it mattered not how he came about in this bed freshly dressed.

    Questioning grey eyes rose with great effort to focus on the angelic face again in pursuit of the answers to his many queries. It was then that he noticed the dip of the lady's head in a show of respect. A subtle frown tugged the corners of his mouth downwards and he feebly waved his good hand. "No, no," came his quiet groan, this time from displeasure instead of pain, "I owe you... too much to even consider... formalities." My lord, she'd called him. He'd soon right that.

    "I'm Eadmund. Eadmund... Berkeley... of..." A hacking fit assailed him then, cutting him off and making him cry out in agony as his ribs protested against the strain. After it passed he asked once more for a sip of water before settling back on the bed. One thing was infinitely more clear now: he had not simply fallen off his horse. Nothing could have induced his roan, Chester, to kick him so viciously.

    "Whom do I have the pleasure of owing my life to?"

    It was the first of many inquiries that would follow, but to Eadmund it seemed the most important at the moment. What was the name of the lovely vision before him? The second question that sprang to mind followed closely in the same vein: If she lived with her father, did that mean she was unspoken for? However, that one had to wait. Eadmund did not want to make the mistake of forming an attachment solely out of his gratitude to her and her father. But if those soft fawn-browns kept looking upon him so... he abruptly cut off that flow of thought and turned upon her with rapt attention.
    #7 Lady Alainn, Jan 1, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
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  8. "I-" Rachel stammered, her gaze drifting off to the side as his words echoed in her head, flustered by his unexpected and heartfelt show of gratitude, "-I fear I am undeserving of such credit" she countered, disinclined to let him think that he owed her anything when all she did was being at the right place at the right time, and doing everything in her power to help him. Which, as she realized last night, was not as much as she'd hoped.

    She was no stranger to the art of healing, treasured knowledge passed on from one generation to another, and had learned at a young age how to make ointments, stitch minor wounds and the such under the watchful eye of her mother, as her own mother did with her. But that was before. A before that almost felt like another life, now. And he hadn't been suffering from a minor wound or a simple stomach-ache. He had been seriously injured.

    And during that trying night, there had been times when, despite her best effort and constant caring, the fever prevailed, chipping at her natural assertiveness and juvenile optimism. Times when she had felt alone. Scared. Overwhelmed. But she wasn't alone. The Lord placed him in their path for a reason, and she had to put her trust in Him, and believe that she could do it. And maybe in the end, how it happened didn't matter, the fact that it happened was what mattered. Because she actually did it, didn't she? She saved him. An unrestrained smile had crept stealthily across her face at the thought as she answered, returning her gaze to his :

    "I'm Rachel. Rachel Weschler. I'm glad to make your acquaintance, my... " the word -lord- staid caught in her throat as she recalled his earlier protests against such calling, "...Eadmund," she instantly corrected herself, almost regretting it as soon as the words spilled out of her lips. That was maybe too familiar, now, wasn't it? She swiftly carried on: "Although I wish it were in better circumstances".
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  9. Something clicked inside him at the woman's-- Rachel's-- words and it brought a warmth to his breast and whispered his eyelids to close. "My... Eadmund," she'd said, though by the hesitancy in her speech he knew she hadn't meant so possessive a phrase. A slip of the tongue, a change of direction in how she addressed him, that was all it was and he could recognize it instantly. Completely innocent. Yet so intimate. But however intimate it may be, he gladly welcomed the memories that fluttered around him now. They flapped their showy wings to wrest his attention and darted from one part of his memory to another, alighting on the petals of the past just long enough to illuminate a scene on the back of his eyelids before springing up to find another to land on.

    The only other person who had ever addressed him like that had been his mother. Flickers of memory produced a hand, gentle and cooling, against his cheek, lips as soft as silk placing kisses on his forehead. Laughter shrieked in his ears as those hands curled into tickling fingers and chased him down the manor halls. The lips turned upwards in a smile, eliciting one on his own face. Ah, it'd been a long time since he'd thought of his mother. He couldn't remember her face in full, just a flicker of a soft eye or the pressure of soft lips. She'd been gentle, though, at least he liked to remember her as being gentle, and it wasn't often that he had cause to remember her at all.

    Rachel's touch had not been unlike the touches in his memory. Perhaps that was why everything continued to be so hazy. Maybe he was living halfway in a memory dream right now and hadn't actually woken up yet. Could he be close to the gates of death? Eadmund forced his heavy eyelids open once more, but the brown eyes still hovered overhead, keeping him tied to his bloodied body on earth. Those bandits be damned! His eyes widened with a hint of panic.

    "Rachel, did you see my horse? My shield? My sword" Eadmund struggled to sit up on his elbow in his excitement, his features twisting in a grimace as the pounding in his head worsened and his rib screamed its torment. "How long have I lain here?"

    It all came crashing back to him-- his errand, his urgent prayers, the mugging. He'd failed to show up to serve his liege. Had he just inadvertently committed treason?
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  10. "Rachel, did you see my horse? My shield? My sword" Rachel recoiled reflexively at the wounded man's sudden trepidation as, seemingly struck with realization, he bolted upward in his bed. "How long have I lain here?"

    Her brows furrowed in concern as she registered the look of pain etched across his face at the sudden effort. The last thing he needed was to over exhaust himself and risk aggravating his injuries. She reached out, lightly resting one hand on his arm in a soothing gesture.

    "It's only been a day, " she answered softly, the words ringing false to her own ears. Only a day. It may have been the truth, but it certainly felt longer than that. The lines around her mouth relaxed into a gentle smile as she added, "so, please, do not strain yourself so soon".

    She paused there as she leaned back, racking her tired brain in order to answer his question as she tried to get a clear recollection of last day's events: his body lying on the ground. Motionless. The sword and the shield, next to him. How heavy he had felt when they hauled him in the horse's back. The strenuous ride back home, her father's constant fussing on how his good clothes were stained, how uncomfortable it was riding while carrying such a heavy load and how it wasn't safe. They definitely brought back his shield. Wait, what about the sword? Did they pick it up? They didn't leave it there, did they? Oh! Right! How could she forget that damn thing banging against her leg with each sway, obviously poorly strapped to the side on the saddle bags by her father. Both the shield and the sword were probably still in the stables, unless Berel took care of it, and it would have to be stored somewhere in the house. Her gaze fell back to his as she answered:

    "Your horse is safe. He is in our stables with The Baroness. She's a bit high-strung but very lovable and I'm sure she's keeping him good company. We brought back your sword and shield, so they must be... "

    She squeezed her eyes ever so slightly as she finally took in his words. His shield and his sword? Wait... He didn't ask about his purse. Why wouldn't he worry about his purse first? Wasn't it a mugging? Although asking about his horse was sweet. Well, unless it was because he was worried about getting back to wherever he was supposed to go before he was attacked, which would be less sweet but practical. But why would he inquire about his sword and his shield and not his personal belongings? She went-on somewhat absently:

    "... somewhere in here"

    He wasn't thinking about using any of it soon, right? Was he in a hurry to go somewhere? Surely he must have realized by now that he was in no shape to ride, let alone fight. The pain he put himself through just by lifting himself up should have made that clear if it wasn't already.

    She bit her lip, unsure if she should be prying into this, and cutting herself from her train of thought before drifting off completely asked hesitantly :

    "Is everything all right? "
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  11. His ragged breathing caught in the back of his throat from his exertion and he realized once again that he was in far worse condition than his muddied head could comprehend. Even the thought of trying to stand up now sent his head reeling with dizziness. Quickly shutting his eyes, he waited until he could feel the firm mattress beneath him once more before he could focus on the woman's fawn browns. Eadmund reluctantly let the gentle pressure of her hand guide his head back down to the pillow, trusting in the concerned light of her gaze.

    Slowly, the wild look in his eye dissipated as the soothing tones of the woman reassured him that what was most important had been salvaged and brought here. Not that his sword and shield had been of utmost importance to himself, but his father would be outraged if the family heirlooms had been lost on his watch. Besides, he did have a fondness for the heavy blade and the comfortable way the hilt fit in his palm. He would be sad to lose it. Money, clothes, food, he knew most of what the servants had packed for his journey would be gone and not worth tracking down.

    "Your horse is safe. He is in our stables with The Baroness. She's a bit high-strung but very lovable and I'm sure she's keeping him good company. We brought back your sword and shield, so they must be... "

    He relaxed further at this news. At least Chester had not bolted or been taken by whomever had attacked him. The roan's breeding was second to none and though it was a little embarrassing to admit, he was also one of Eadmund's few friends. The young man would trust that horse well before any other member of the nobility. A small smile worked its way up through the lines of panic at the thought of Chester in a stable with only a mare for company. If anyone deserved a lady-friend, it was his beloved roan. Father would be furious at such lodgings, claiming that the hosts were trying to take advantage of this situation by breeding their mare with his illustrious horse. Eadmund could not care less. It was the least he could do to repay the family for their kindness if they did take advantage. But in the forthright manner of Rachel's claims, he doubted the thought had even crossed her mind.

    Just then her soft voice spoke up again, "Is everything all right?"

    Eadmund rolled his gaze back to meet hers, the darkness of his reality banishing the smile he'd mustered earlier. "No, no it isn't," his voice croaked. He coughed, groaned, and licked his chapped lips. "I am supposed to meet the company... today, I think. Supposed to meet them, but I will not be at the tavern. They'll be expecting me. Word will get back...that I'm a coward. Father..." He closed his eyes and rolled his head as far away from Rachel as he could muster without running into the wound. "I can't make it there like this. I can't even get up from the bed, can I? Father will be ashamed. I need... I need to meet the company... but I cannot, can I?"

    How much could he trust his hostess? How much could he tell her? Though not concerned about his belongings, he did need to go through them to see what had been taken, to know what his attacker-- or attackers-- had been after. Something in his gut told him it hadn't been a simple mugging. It had to be something more than money to encourage a thief to attack on the road in broad daylight.

    Eadmund laid there for a quiet moment and then asked in a barely audible voice, "Which side do you support? The Normans? Or the Saxons?"
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  12. "I need to meet the company... but I cannot, can I?"

    Eadmund's question was answered by an uncomfortable silence, as the lady of the house tilted her head in thought, debating internally whether she should opt for brutal honesty or false reassurance. But no answer crossed her pressed lips as she disregarded them both. As much as she wished she could alleviate his worries, it would help no one in the long run. It was far better to face the truth now. Silence was often more eloquent than words, and her absence of denial made it unequivocal.

    But as much as she empathized with Eadmund's obvious distress upon hearing the predicament he was in, the young woman failed to see its seriousness. Not that she didn't consider the matter as not serious per se. After all, she was acutely aware that men of lower birth had been summarily hung before for only the suspicion of being a potential deserter. But he was a lord, and as such, wasn't subject to the same rules as them common folks, and she found it highly doubtful that he would run the risk of being harshly punished or even suffering the same fate, because he was delayed, ambushed as he was on his way to report to duty. While his absence would certainly raise unpleasant questions, it should be quite easily rectified now, shouldn't it?

    As the silence lingered, she ventured a look in his direction noting his evasive gaze and posture, his words replaying in her head, before averting it back. No, that was not it. He wasn't alarmed or anything of the sort. Word will get back that I'm a coward. Father will be ashamed. He was... embarrassed. Was he more mortified at the thought of being wrongly branded a coward or at the idea that his own father would think of him as such? She leaned toward the latter. Admittedly, she was still young, and inexperienced in many ways, but she knew of men and their misguided pride and prompt judgment. Sadly, members of the nobility, despite their stated idealism were not exempt from it, some disguising as honor what was nothing more than vain pride. Hopefully his father was not one of these. Someone who would care more about his own reputation than his son's well-being.

    "Which side do you support? The Normans? Or the Saxons?" asked Eadmund, his voice resonating faintly in the thick silence of the room.

    "I- ", Rachel began to answer, disconcerted by the question, her widened eyes searching his, not only unsure of what motivated such a question, but also, and more importantly, unsure of the actual answer to that question. The underlying reasoning behind this question didn't escape her. He was wary of her potential allegiance with whatever side he wasn't on, and if she had to venture a guess, Eadmund Berkeley of the house of Lanchester sounded more Saxon than Normand to her ears. But why would it even matter to him? She was no one important. Did he ... not trust her?

    " -both," her words came slow and hesitant, as she considered his question while answering it. The conquest of England by the Normans had left the country in internal turmoil and it saw its fair share of revolts led by Saxons lords and their followers to protest against the confiscation of their lands. But while Rachel had been affected by the unrest, she never cared to question or give a thought about the legitimacy of either side's claim before. Her people had always been dependant of the whims of the powerful, their last resort when faced with the hatred of an angry mob. And whether her liege was Saxon or Norman made little to no difference in her eyes. "...and neither, I guess, for neither stands for my people".

    But as soon as the words left her lips, she realized the weight her words could carry and froze. She had been answering him candidly, as if he was one of her peers, but he was no simple man, and it wasn't some innocuous question. There were clearly a right and a wrong answer. and instead of answering it truthfully, she probably should have been more concerned about answering appropriately. It was too late now anyway.

    She stuttered "I...", a sigh escaped her thin lips, "I realize that this is probably not what you wished to hear but... my allegiance lies with my country and those that lead it, regardless of who they are"
    #12 Lanawint, Mar 22, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2015
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  13. As Rachel stammered her way through an answer to what Eadmund thought had been a simple question, puzzle pieces began fitting together. Their location, her last name, the hesitancy in declaring one side over the other, it all pointed to one thing: his hostess was a Jew. He should have known it based on her name alone. Weschler was not a Saxon name, that he knew of, and it did not sound particularly Norman either. Though Jews were generally despised by all, Eadmund could not help but be reminded of the tale of the Good Neighbour from the Holy Texts and felt a sense of relief. Her family would neither condemn him, sell him out, nor mistreat him. They had no allies, but did not view anyone as their enemies either. They simply were, and for all intents and purposes it meant he rested among friends.

    Eadmund's entire body sagged in one collective sigh as his fears alleviated. He did not bother opening his eyes to seek if hers spoke with ill-intent, for he knew from her honest tones he would find none. How many of his kinfolk would stop for a wounded Jew on the side of the road? Would they do so out of the goodness of their heart? No, he was safe here with Rachel's gentle hands and genuine, warm eyes. He would recover, and eventually, all would work itself out. For the first time since waking up, he truly believed it.

    Up until this point, he'd been so focused on piecing together what had happened to him and where he was that his mental faculties had been overriding his screaming nerves. Now, however, his consciousness began receding once more into the inky depths as his agitated muscles spasmed with a pain he'd not felt since the time he'd taken a lance in his side at his first jousting tournament. But even that memory felt tame in comparison to the anguish now present in his bones. Eadmund managed another shuddery breath. A feeble groan, almost a squeak, escaped as his lungs pressed against his ribcage. Sleep, oh how sweet that word sounded at this very moment-- his only escape from this torment!

    "It is... it's enough," he rasped, his voice drowsy in its yearning to follow his body into the ignorance of rest. "I am... I am... content." Completely unaware of his actions as he slipped into the dream realm again, his non-bandaged hand reached out in Rachel's direction, seeking her comfort.
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  14. Rachel stiffened at his audible sigh and threw an inquiring glance at Eadmund, but his eyes remained steadily closed, making it impossible for her to read them. Was it a sigh of disappointment over her answer? Unless... Her breath shortened as a familiar feeling of uneasiness started gnawing at her. My people. He had to know. She didn't spell it out but it had to be enough for him to know what she meant by that. And even if he didn't, he would soon ask, and she would answer.

    She momentarily averted her gaze to the floor. She knew what would inevitably follow and she was dreading it. That moment. The moment when he would know. The moment when she would see the shift in his eyes. Their warmth giving way to more or less concealed mistrust, active contempt or even undisguised hostility. She had seen it so many time before, she didn't need to see it again. Or, to be accurate, she just didn't want to see it again.

    Her mind wandered back to her childhood, to her mother and her perfect mask of polite indifference. How she wished she could be like her! Her precepts remained strongly etched in her mind. Always remember who you are. Be proud of it. They will judge you. Be above reproach. Answer hate with dignity, insults with forgiveness. She knew them by heart yet it didn't prevent her to often fall short of the expectations her mother had placed upon her; to let herself be ruled by her emotions.

    But the moment never came.

    Instead of the judgment or questioning Rachel was expecting, she received words of acceptance. Blinking in surprise, she looked up, his words soothing her worry as easily as they had instigated it a moment ago, her lips curving into an appreciative smile that withered before his pained expression and wavering voice, and she leaned toward him in worry, ready to assist him if needed. But her smile soon reappeared as she took in the steady rise and fall of his chest. He was falling asleep.

    Her gaze drifted from his chest, as she became aware of his outstretched hand reaching out to her, her brown eyes darting hesitantly at his sleeping face, then back at his hand before extending her own hand to meet his, tentatively wrapping her slender fingers around his hand. It was such a simple gesture. A gesture of comfort, of care. A gesture that had made her feel so safe, her small hand enclosed into the strong hold of her father's hand. But it somehow felt different, and she couldn't help but grow self-conscious, acutely aware of the warmth of his skin against hers. She snickered at herself - Duh, of course he was warm, he was probably still feverish - shaking herself out of these thoughts but made no attempt to withdraw her hand. And standing still so as not to awaken him in the now silent room, Rachel felt all the tension gradually fading from her body, replaced by a wave of undeniable exhaustion washing over her, becoming increasingly evident as a deep yawn that she lazily covered with her free hand stretched her lips wide. And after a short struggle, she finally allowed her eyes to close, soon sinking into darkness as she slumped down on the bed, her head resting on her arms, over their linked hands.
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  15. Slowly but surely, Eadmund regained his strength and his consciousness. After a couple days he stayed awake more than he slept and was able to engage fully in conversations. By the end of the week he could prop himself up by his uninjured hand to feed himself, but still he felt he could not recover quickly enough. Although Eadmund wasn't necessarily a man of constant action, he had never been one for sitting around when something needed to be done. He felt badly that his presence cost his gracious hosts so much extra work and there was very little he could do but lie still and sleep. Over and over again, Rachel proved to be the much needed balm for his sanity as he transitioned from a dying man to a restless invalid. Her ready smile and consoling little pressures of her hand made some of this ordeal worth it. He soon came to the realization that he would do anything to tease a smile across those slender lips or see her scrunch her adorably round nose. Her laugh became the highlight of his day.

    Still, he wanted to be doing. As much as he wanted to allow Rachel's soft words to persuade him to remain resting, he knew it was time to think about what had to be done. His thoughts were lucid and his stamina [at least his emotional stamina] had returned. Word had to be sent to his father, but not yet, not until he knew what word to send. Therefore, the first order of business he addressed was that of his belongings.

    Saddlebags and his dented armour were brought in to his bedside so he could rifle through them at his leisure. Most of his money had been taken, but the few coins sewn into his pack were there. In fact, he was surprised to find that the majority of his belongings were present except for what he deemed most important-- his letter of nobility, his signet ring, and his family crest had been carefully pried from the center of his shield. In short, whoever had attacked him had taken everything he needed to assume the identity of Eadmund of Lanchester. His brow furrowed even as the adrenaline bubbled in his blood. He tugged the bag closer to him and frantically dug through it for the third or fourth time. He'd already lost count. No, his parchment was nowhere to be found. The ring hadn't fallen off into his belongings, either. And the crest... it was obvious that was gone.

    Who would have done such a thing? Why target him? There were plenty of richer nobles involved in this escapade. There were other sons who would have gladly paid to give their position to someone else in the king's company. Eadmund was a nobody, a noble who did not bother in the ways of the court or dabble in the politics of money and power. Who had even heard of him to be able to plan such a deliberate act? Something well beyond his control was afoot here and it sent a thin trail of shivers down his spine. There was an imposter among the ranks of the king, someone using his name. He needed to get word to his father immediately! Or would that only make things worse? Perhaps he should investigate before saying anything. Or should he ride after the company anyway and expose whomever had stolen his seal? Honour demanded some kind of action! But which was the right way to deal with this? What would Father expect of him?

    Flopping back against his pillow with an inward groan, Eadmund covered his eyes with his free hand and waited for the whirling frustrations to cease so he could coherently think again. How long he stayed in that position he couldn't say. Eventually light footsteps signaled the return of his sweet-tempered hostess and he struggled to sit up. She came like the stillness after a storm, his thoughts swiftly hushing into the recesses of his mind. His gaze followed her petite form as she approached and a warmth of appreciation for the girl filled his breast. Saying nothing yet, he merely watched her, a small smile appearing without any prompting.

    "Thank you," came his quiet words at last.
    #15 Lady Alainn, Apr 2, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2015
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  16. He should have been already on his way. Instead, the grizzled man was standing there, lulled by the sound of a familiar tune. Still. Silent. Seconds - or was it minutes? - drifting away, his ebony eyes staring vacantly ahead at his daughter's back. He remained in the stables doorway motionless, while the young girl, unaware of his presence, hummed contentedly, diligently working on brushing out the dust from the roan's coat in what could have been an utterly charming moment, if she wasn't singing slightly out-of-tune. Not that he minded, too absorbed in his own thoughts to even acknowledge it.

    He would walk over to her, and she would look up at him, her big, childish eyes shiny with elation. He would patiently answer each of her endless questions until he would have to leave. And she would throw herself at him, begging him to take her with him, small chubby hands clinging to his leg to make sure that he could not leave without her. He would pretend not to see her, swinging her around to hear the sound of her laugh ringing out.

    But the child she once was no longer existed, and the woman in front of him, now made aware of his presence hadn't moved and was calmly staring at him with questioning eyes, her free hand mechanically stroking the horse's neck, relishing in the comfort of the silky fur against her skin. He opened his mouth, closed it before finally breaking the silence :

    "You’re in a jolly mood..." he grumbled.

    She raised an eyebrow bemusedly at his question, her easy disposition being the last thing she would expect him to pick at - should she start whining and bickering then? - before retorting : "Why wouldn't I be?" As sarcastic as her answer may have sounded, it was actually a genuine one. While it was undeniable that her workload had increased since Eadmund's arrival, it actually proved a welcome respite from the monotony of her daily routine. More and more, he occupied her thoughts, far more than she would care to admit, even to herself, easing the quiet loneliness of her new life by his only presence at her side. How long had it been since she had asked Berel to help bring his belongings over to his side? Probably long enough now. And turning her head to hide the grin that threatened to spill over her features at the thought of him, she added, patting the horse's nose "I’m in excellent company!".

    "It's certainly a fine horse" came his father's response after some hesitation. "I'm going to Beeleigh Abbey. It's not far, so I should be back in time for diner. Do you..." he scratched his nose "... well ... nevermind" not without uttering as he was already receding from the room: "Be good while I'm gone".

    "I will", she said to his retreating back.

    It didn't take long for her to finish her task, and putting the brush back on the hooks outside the stall, she swiftly went upstairs and opened the door to his room to find Eadmund sitting in bed. Her eyes roamed around the cluttered bed before rising to meet his eyes. Unlike her father's dim and elusive gaze, fading, withheld by the memories of their former selves, his gaze was direct, without restraint. Soft and comforting yet so bright and soon her lips quirked up into a smile matching his own.

    "Thank you"

    Rachel tilted her head, surprised by his sudden gratitude.

    "What are you thanking me for?" she inquired. "I don't remember doing anything special today. Well, apart from lunch, but I doubt any of us should be thankful for that," she jested, fighting the blush creeping up over her cheeks.
    #16 Lanawint, Apr 10, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
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  17. Eadmund chuckled at her quip, ignoring the slight pang in his side at the pressure it placed on his tender ribs, and shook his head. Despite her modest protests, lunch had been thoroughly enjoyed and devoured with gusto. Even if the food had been as barely tolerable as she seemed to make it out to be, the fact that she was the one who brought it had made it a holiday feast. Eadmund's brow furrowed. Just what had they eaten for the noon meal? Eggs? It was safe to rule out anything pork, considering who his hosts were. Had there been bread? He was ashamed to say he couldn't remember, other than the fact that it hadn't been the usual weak soup force-fed down his throat. Though, he honestly hadn't minded having Rachel that close after he'd gained enough strength back to be able to process the fact that a pretty woman was holding his head up. But it did feel good to be enough in control of himself to be able to feed himself again.

    His gaze lowered to the satchel gripped in his good hand in a semi-embarrassment of his own. Though his laughter faded into a sigh, the smile refused to leave his lips. Rachel's good nature was contagious, as always. Whether the only shutters in his small room were drawn or open, she never ceased to bring the sun's rays in with her. In everything, she was the epitome of the term "sunny disposition;" a pleasant contrast to his cool shade. He'd never met someone like her before, nor dreamed such a person could exist. He felt comfortable in her presence like no other, could confide in her. But maybe that was simply his gratitude talking again. Eadmund played with the brass clasp of the leather bag for a moment before mustering an equally jovial tone:

    "Even charcoal would be a welcome change in diet after a week of water and broth. Regardless, it was quite tasty and even if you're not thankful, I am." His cloudy grey eyes raised to meet hers once more and he found himself admiring them for the thousandth time. They were such a warm brown, large and innocent, as if they were begging whomever beheld them to be friends. How could any man be stubborn and heartless enough to resist such a sweet plea? Certainly not he.

    "Now," he continued lightly, "you will accept my thanks like the gracious hostess you are and say no more about it. I have a great many things to be thankful for and since I am cooped up here, you will just have to bear the burden."

    Shifting his weight to relieve the stress on his side and also mysteriously free some space on the mattress beside his legs, Eadmund's expression grew more serious and he let go of his satchel to pat the bed. "Right now I am grateful that you took the trouble of bringing my belongings here." He exhaled as heavily as he dared without disturbing his sore ribs. "...It doesn't look good. My scroll is missing, as well as my father's ring, and I don't really know what to do about it. Sometimes I wish I was nothing more than a common serf with nothing to worry about except keeping a roof over my head and food in my belly."
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  18. Rachel couldn't help but chuckle at Eadmund's playful command. Such a burden may be undeserved, but it was not an unpleasant one to bear. Far from it. The smile lingered on her lips as she moved closer and plopped next to him on the bed.

    His expression darkened, successfully restraining her from the playful comment that was about to cross her lips, and concern flashing in her eyes, her hand moved instinctively to find the hand next to her and give it a light squeeze, as she had done so often already. His scroll and his parchment missing? That was... not good indeed. And she was as unsure as he seemed to be as to what he should do about it, or what she could do about it.

    "...Sometimes I wish I was nothing more than a common serf with nothing to worry about except keeping a roof over my head and food in my belly."

    " Don't" she said softly, both his words and her immediate answer coming as a surprise.

    How many of these common people he wished he was, were looking at him with envy, wishing they were him? Wishing they wouldn't have to work themselves to death for a meager meal and a hovel they could call home? But, like him, she couldn't know either, could she? After all, both food and lodgings never were a worry. In that moment, it hit her just how much of a child she still was. A spoiled child. She was the common serf he was talking about, wasn't she? Yet, all those years she never had to worry about any of those things. All thanks to her father. He had been the one providing her with all those things all these years, working tirelessly in one of the most ungrateful work there was, making sure that she would always have her belly full, a place to call home, ensuring her education... Her free hand strayed to the amber necklace around her neck as her thoughts drifted to the man who was soon to be her husband... and her future. All things considered, she was not just a common serf. She had... other worries. And he was not just a noble. He was...


    His demeanor time and again emphasized how different he was from what she had envisioned, as he was lying unconscious on his -well, her- bed, still an unknown, when all she knew about him was that he was a stranger that had just been attacked. A noble. And that title carried with it a lot of expectations. Unwarranted expectations, considering the fact that she never really knew anyone of his status. Her only encounter with someone from the upper-class had been brief and inconsequential, really. Some armored figure with a thick accent, curtly asking for directions, and departing as soon as he got them, not without letting his displeasure at having to backtrack known. But there were stories, stories that, even if she knew better than to take them as well-founded truth - after all there were stories about her people too - had been tainting her view of what a "typical" noble was. None matching with what Eadmund proved to be.

    " I know... " she started hesitantly, searching for the right words. He wished he had another life, a simpler life. She knew the feeling all too well. But then, how arrogant of her to presume knowing anything about his life, "... well", she chuckled disparagingly, correcting herself "I don't know much". She paused thoughtfully. She did know something though. She knew that had he had another life, he would be another man. Her brown earnest eyes regained their focus as they once more locked steadily with his. "But, what I know is that you should be proud of who you are" That she.... That she liked the man he was. Her gaze fluttered away from his at the thought. She also knew she wasn't supposed to like it... or him... to be as painfully aware of her hand on his hand as she was at this exact moment... all of it! Her brows furrowed. And there was yet another thing she knew, she knew that if her face felt hot, it meant that her cheeks were probably red.

    "But, you know..." she promptly added as she tried to think of something light to say. Should she let go of his hand? She couldn't help but cast a furtive glance at their linked hands. The sight of the small scar on her hand provided her with an unexpected inspiration, and she beamed "... life as a serf is not as easy as it seems. We have to wrestle with weeds, and chickens. It can be quite perilous for the uninitiated". She playfully displayed her hand before his eyes, "I still have the scars to prove it".

    She dropped her hand back to her side. Perilous. Right. Being left for dead in a forest. That was perilous. Her expression switched from complete seriousness to determination as her thoughts went back to the matter at hand. There had to be something she could do. What about...

    "Someone might know something about what happened to you... or your ring," she offered, "I could ask around?"
    #18 Lanawint, Apr 12, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
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  19. "Don't."

    Her hushed word punctuated Eadmund's last thought, barely giving it room to breathe before halting the conversation into an impregnable silence. Eadmund had to admit, he'd been speaking his thoughts aloud and it took him a moment to register just what he'd said to her. His eyes widened just a little, blinked, and earnestly flitted back and forth across her gaze in an attempt to interpret her surprised confusion. He knew his own expression must be mirroring it, for the subtle vehemence in her whisper caught him off guard and had him second-guessing everything he'd uttered. Don't what? Don't talk? Don't trouble himself now with what he could not remedy while confined in bed? Or don't make light of the plight of the serfs? Or had she meant all of them combined? Or none of them? Was she scolding him as a nursemaid or a friend? On top of all of that, why did it matter so much that she had scolded him? It made him feel less, somehow. Less than what, he didn't know, but Eadmund felt it all the same.

    Rachel's opinion had come to mean something to him these past few days. Her quiet wisdom. Her laughter. Her easy friendship. Whenever she offered a piece of advice, it had always been done in light of his best interest. No, he should not try to sit up just yet on account of his rib. Or, no, he shouldn't be talking when he so desperately needed sleep. Going through his belongings could wait until he had the stamina to deal with them. And so, because he'd quickly learned to trust her in the little things, he took anything serious she said to heart. Which was why this short reprimand had him momentarily baffled.

    "Don't," she'd said. So he didn't.

    Eadmund gingerly propped his head against the headboard, his focus still on the woman who held his hand captive, waiting for his hostess to surface from her own thoughts so she could explain herself. Boldness had never been a strong point of his, especially when women were concerned, but cooped up in this bed with only a woman for good company had forced him to stretch his comfort zone. The young noble found himself studying her freely on many an occasion, drinking in her body, mind, and soul with fresh eyes that had never beheld another woman as they beheld her. All while she was occupied with doing something or looking somewhere else, of course. Such as now. Her hair glinted in the dim lighting-- like candied walnuts ornamenting a garland-- and framed her temples in soft waves before tucking out of the way, and out of his sight, behind her head. He found himself dreaming, not for the first time, how it might kiss her dark neck in curls before tumbling down her back and over her shoulders if it were left completely unbound and free.

    A sigh slipped out as Rachel's voice finally broke through his thoughts, and after a brief flit down to her parted lips to make certain she'd actually said something, he worked to bring all of her back into view.

    "I know..." she began, "well, I don't know much." Eadmund couldn't help but smile at her honest correction and the little chuckle that followed. "But, what I know is that you should be proud of who you are. ... life as a serf is not as easy as it seems."

    Ah, so it was his remark about the serfs. His own face reddened a bit in embarrassment at being called out on his own ignorance. His opinion hadn't been formed on mere supposition, though. It was true he didn't know their life from a first-hand experience; however, he did know that any time he visited his father's vassals in the evenings there was almost always a hut or two alive with laughter. And their celebrations! Once, and only once, he'd sneaked out of his father's house as a young lad and followed one of the stable hands to a small gathering. Rather than the stiffness and formalities in feasts thrown by his own father, this one had been filled with life. The dancing was heartfelt rather than practiced, and the food savoured rather than wasted in extravagance. And again, the laughter. The warmth. The same kind of warmth Rachel exuded.

    A vassal could get away with attending, and even throwing, such a party with their workers-- in fact, the vassal had been in attendance and discovered young Eadmund hiding behind the ale keg-- but not a noble. A noble was far too above such a commonplace, vulgar event. He took it back. Maybe he didn't want the sweat and grind of a voiceless serf, but he could content himself with the responsibilities of a vassal. True, he would still be owned by a lord, but it sounded less taxing than being a lord himself. Eadmund was about to say as much to Rachel when his eyes were arrested by the tiny scar marring her perfect skin.

    Dear Rachel, how she could always turn a situation around to make him smile! It crossed his mind then just how long she'd been sitting there holding his hand. It felt cold now, without her heat. A pang of disappointment hit him when her hand settled down by her side instead of resuming its hold. He hoped it didn't have anything to do with their current conversation. He would never forgive himself if he drove his only friend away. Then, just as her hand had been abruptly removed, she changed topics as well. Or rather, picked up the original. He still needed to figure out what to do about his mysterious thief. Eadmund quickly switched back into that train of thought and glanced down at the satchel on his lap. His stories and change of opinion would have to wait for another time.

    "Information would be good, yes. If anyone knows what my assailant looked like, or what he was carrying. Which way he went afterwards. How many there were. I only remember the one, but then I blanked out almost immediately." Afraid of sounding weak he quickly added, "He came from behind and caught me completely off guard, but I didn't see anything other than his boot. I think I'll have a scar or two of my own from that encounter with a 'chicken.'"

    The corners of his mouth pulled downwards as he grew thoughtful. If there was something more sinister at work here than just a mere highway robbery... "Did the king's envoy get away safely? Have you heard if he passed through without mishap or not? And who did he appoint in his place?"
    #19 Lady Alainn, Apr 22, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2015
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  20. Without even waiting for his answer, the growing idea that had germinated in Rachel's wishful mind was already a full-fledged plan. There were actually a reasonable amount of people that she could appeal to in the hope of yielding some insight into this matter. First, she would ask Cundrie, the town busybody. She may not be the most reliable source of information, but if anyone knew anything related to the mugging, it had to be her, especially if the misdeed had been committed by locals. Of course, there was also Ralf. Rumors had reached her ears that he was - despite the heavy punishment that would await him if exposed - an irredeemable poacher as well as a drunkard, and chances were that he was in the forest at the time of the mugging, and if so, he might have seen something that could help. If nothing came of it, then she would have to visit two more places, the local tavern, just in case, and most importantly, the local pawnbroker. If the ones responsible for the theft were intent on selling the stolen items, in all likelihood, they would have tried to sell them there. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that a stolen object would eventually find itself into his covetous hands. And if that was the case, she could even buy it back!

    It was going to work one hundred percent!...if they had the answers. And if they were willing to share them, as well as the will to share them with her. It was probably only the beginning of a long list of "ifs", but it had potential. Or, at the very least, the potential to work out. And all things considered, all that mattered to her was that bringing his stolen belongings back to him was within the realms of possibility, and that alone was better than resigning herself to their loss.

    She would have to be blind, deaf and thick not to acknowledge how valuable they were to him. And after everything he had been through. After all the pain she saw him enduring, all the times her efforts proved insufficient, and all she could to provide him with was nothing more than her mere presence at his side. All the times, when the encouraging smile plastered on her face had broadened into a gleeful grin, and she marveled at how his eyes tingled with warmth, and how he managed once more to cheer her up when she was supposed to be the one caring for him. He made her laugh. He helped her forget all the cares of the day. And there was actually something she was sure of: it was that if there was anything she could do to alleviate his worries, if for only for a moment, she would do it in a heartbeat.

    The sound of Eadmund's voice resurfaced, cutting short any further thought as he gave her his assent to her offer of help, prompting her to listen intently to his words, making mental notes of every bit of information he held, and every bit of information he needed her to gather.

    "...I think I'll have a scar or two of my own from that encounter with a 'chicken."

    There was no doubt that this had been a scarring experience for him, quite literally. And while the physical scars would fade in time, the emotional scars, if any, could prove more tenacious. As the silence lingered, she shot him a questioning look. There was no mistaking the concern in his eyes in his thoughtful eyes, and she started to regret having withdrawn her hand in a fit of self-awareness. No matter how it had felt at the time, it was also her way of letting him know that she was there for him and there was nothing wrong with that. Could he be worried about his scars? For what must have been the hundredth time, she let her eyes roam over his face, etched with a few barely visible scars - a small one perched on his eyebrow right above those compelling gray eyes, the other one mostly hidden beneath his hair - that did nothing to alter his attractiveness as far as Rachel was concerned and she was pretty sure that she wouldn't be the only one of that opinion. But before she had time to formulate a question, he was already asking ones of his own:

    "Did the king's envoy get away safely? Have you heard if he passed through without mishap or not? And who did he appoint in his place?"

    Failing to see the immediate connection between his mugging and subsequent loss of belongings and the king's appointed regent, Rachel nonetheless answered, studying his reaction with curiosity:

    "Prince John is ruling in his stead, and as far as I know, I haven't heard any report of trouble. King Richard's envoy is safe and sound."
    #20 Lanawint, Apr 27, 2015
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2015
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