Authors: Elizabeth Cole
“I thought he had made his goodbyes, my lady,” the maid told Cecily. “With all the commotion, I didn’t think to say.”
“No fault hangs on you,” Cecily assured her. “No doubt Rafe had his reasons for going so early.”
Luc shook his head. “Rafe was ever unpredictable, but—”
A shout interrupted him.
“Sir Alric, Sir Alric!”
They all turned to see Alric’s young squire Edmund riding through the open gate on a pony. The boy was waving excitedly.
The boy sprang down from the pony’s back—he scorned to use a saddle—and faced Alric. “I bear a message from Sir Rafe.”
“Where is he?”
“He’s gone. He made me go with him as far as the Berwick crossroad, so he’d have a lead by the time you got the news.”
“The news of his leaving?” Alric asked dryly.
“Yes, sir. He said to tell you that he’s left by his own choice, and he’ll find you once he’s worthy of his oath.” Edmund paused. “Those are the exact words he told me. Do they make sense? They don’t make sense to me.”
Alric clapped the young boy on the shoulder. “I know what he meant. Thank you for delivering the message. I don’t suppose you marked which road he traveled when he left you?”
“East, but he said he intended to wander and had no destination chosen.”
“Well. No doubt but he means it.” Alric took a deep breath. “If God grants it, we’ll all meet again. And if not, there’s little I can do.” He sent Edmund back to the stables with the tired pony.
“It sounds as if our friend has something in mind,” Luc said quietly.
“I only hope it’s nothing foolish. Rafe thinks he can fight the whole world and win.”
“If I had to choose one man for that role, Rafe might be my choice,” Luc said, only half-joking. Then he shrugged. “Well, I’m for the feast. I’m still healing, you know. I need to eat as much as I can! Come with me, Tav,” he said to Octavian.
Alric laughed. “Go, then. We’ll be along in a while.”
“Come up to the tower with me,” Alric said to Cecily. “I need to get away from all this for a moment.”
“All the revelry and happiness?” she teased him.
He smiled back at her, but answered seriously, “Yes. At the moment what I need is you.”
They climbed the western tower and stepped onto the open walk at the top. The tower was not so very tall, but it was still high enough to give perspective. The whole of the manor’s main grounds was visible, as well as part of the village far down the road.
Alric pulled Cecily closer, and she laid her head on his shoulder with a contented sigh. She looked over the scene she knew, finding the colors to be beautiful and the mellow afternoon light to be beautiful and indeed the whole world to be beautiful.
“What are you thinking of?” she asked. “What’s drawn you all the way up here and away from our people?”
He held her tighter. “I’m not prepared to take on all that’s expected of me,” he said, staring out over the same scene, seeing not the beauty, but all the responsibility of caring for it. “If I’d been born to it, like Luc was…”
Cecily silenced him with a glance. “There is nothing to fear. We have years yet, while my father lives. He’ll teach you what you need to know. He already thinks of you as a son. You’ll be a splendid lord. I have faith in you. You were the knight of my dreams, you’ll be the lord our people need, and you’ll be a father our children will look up to…when we have them, that is.”
Alric smiled at last. “Grand plans, my lady.”
“No,” he said, turning her toward him. “I look forward to making every dream you hold come true.”
Then he kissed her, and Cecily gave herself up to it, knowing she had a life of dreams ahead.
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