I have chapter two of my recently launched book for you to read:
I got married and I don’t even know her name
100 years later
“You can do this, Tuck! You. Can. Do. This!” The young man stood against a boulder, clutching his broad sword and sweating running down his face into his eyes as the sun beat down relentlessly against his shiny silver armor, making him feel like he was being cooked alive.
His boulder was part of a larger ring of boulders, set in a ring around a clearing in front of the cave that smoke was puffing out of at regular intervals. It was unlike any campfire Tucker had ever witnessed.
Nervously he shifted his grip on his sword, flexing a sweaty hand in his hot leather and iron glove, wishing he was already done with this horrid quest.
Why did it have to in the summer? Couldn’t he have found this cave during the fall? Or even earlier this spring, he could have been home by now, enjoying court life.
It had taken him nearly six months of crisscrossing the kingdom, chasing down leads before he had finally arrived here, in front of this cave located on the very edge of the impassible mountains separating them from the elves and their wars.
The area around the cave was surprisingly well taken care of and clean. Well lit and not at all what Tucker had been expecting.
Still, he firmed his resolve, he must take the beasts head and present it to the High Council, otherwise, he might never be able to go home with his head high.
Stupid seer, sending him, out of all the new knights being sent out on their first quests, he got stuck with this one.
The rest of his year mates got easy quests. Get a flower from the Veil, the mountain range on the other side of the kingdom or bring back a shell from some beach. No, he got to bring back the dragons head.
Everybody knew dragons had been extinct for hundreds of years, he had tried to point that out to the blind girl, the seeress, who had told him how he was supposed to achieve knightly recognition.
Her attendants had all gasped at his question, the very audacity he showed to question their beloved prophetess’s visions.
She had smiled and stood up, her crimson dress flowing around her as she had parted the sheer curtain placing first one pale barefoot then another, down on the steps leading up to the throne she sat upon to receive her visions.
Gently she floated down the three steps that separated her from her supplicants, coming to kneel in front of him.
Her dress pooling around her like blood, her hair so long and pale, it looked like a soft cloud floating on top of the pools surrounding her, creating a grisly vision of a blood-soaked countryside.
She grasped both of his hands in hers, her grip strong and dry, her hands cool and soft. A hush falling upon the hall they were in, voices falling away to nothing at she claimed his total undivided attention.
Dust motes danced in the multicolored lights coming through the stained glass scenes around them, disturbed only by the invisible air currents that swirled here and there.
Looking up from where she gripped his hands, he looked into her face. She might have been pretty at one point but now it was mutilated, crossed back and forth with thick roping scars. Her eyes completely gone, the patchwork of her face starting below her eyebrows and ending across her nose and cheeks, making it difficult for him to look at her.
It was this damage that made this girl the strongest seer in the kingdom, doomed to tell young knights and council members their fates.
Yet he stayed kneeling in front of her, mesmerized along with the rest of her attendants at her out of character behavior. Nobody had ever seen her do this, to reach out and touch a supplicant, it was unheard of.
“Tucker Wheitenhall, son of Sir Mark the Brave, Son of Sir Kane the Peacemaker, from a long line of heroes you think you come from, yet it is you who has the greatest part yet to be played. Of this near-impossible quest you have been sent, find a dragon true and the head you must present. For you know not the trouble your kingdom faces, the danger from with-in. Bring back the dragon’s daughter, for the dragons are what you shall face and the dragon’s daughter will lead the way, claiming victory and her kingdom restored. If you find her, dear sweet Tucker, when the wave crashes, it is you who we will all look too. Only she can hold the hoard back. Have faith, Sweet knight, for she will save not just you but us all, true and fair of heart the two of you shall be.” The seeress who gave all the Knights their first quests reached out and unerringly brushed the hair from his eyes, pressing it behind his ear. “We have all been waiting for more than one hundred years for you to do this.”
With last sentence she stood up, unsteady on her feet as she left Tucker reeling on the floor in a daze of information.
As she turned and fumbled her way up the steps back to her dias, her assistants sprung to life once more, racing towards her and hustling her back behind her curtain, gone for the day.
The room roared back to life with the seer’s retreat, resuming noise and motion as if she had placed a spell on just the to of them.
He stood up and left, leaving as quietly as he came in, nobody bothering him as he went about his business.
He had left the next morning on the hunt for any information about dragons.
Here he stood, at last, he had his sword ready, pumping himself up for the confrontation that was sure to ensue as he took the beasts head and brought home the hatchling.
Although how a baby dragon would save the kingdom was beyond him.
He just needed the damn thing to show its face so he could ride home triumphantly back to the castle, a hero equal to his legacy.
“Soo, are you just gonna stand there all day, sweating buckets in the sun or what?” A voice behind him made him jump so hard he nearly peed himself in fright.
“Whose there? Show yourself, ruffian.” Tucker swung his sword back and forth threateningly, putting his back against the boulder looking around him wildly.
“Oh please, not another case of more muscles than brains,” the voice dropped out a tree a few paces away.
The girl stood before him, slender and on the short side with clear pale skin, no farmers tan that he could see sporting a frizzy red braid staring at him with sparkling green eyes eating an apple.
She was dressed simply, a bodice and skirt in brown and blue with a white apron tied around her waist, not unlike a milkmaid, Tucker placed her as a curious villager whose father was overly indulgent.
“Fear not fair maiden for I, Tucker Whitenhall, am here to slay the wicked beast plaguing your village!” He stood up straight and brandished his mighty sword, giving her his best hero speech.
To which she broke out in peels of laughter, tears running down her face as she dropped her apple and had to hold her sides bent over from mirth.
“You can’t be serious?” She gasped, breaking out in unladylike gaffs of laughter at his face.
“Of course I am!” He shouted at her, turning red.
“Okay, okay, keep your knickers on,” She stood up, still grinning ear to ear. “Thanks, I haven’t laughed that hard in ages.”
Breathing heavily and smiling at him as if he was the butt of a joke he didn’t understand she walked up to him.
He stood there, staring at her and wondering if she hadn’t been kicked in the head as a child.
“You going to stand there all day or shall we go?” She shook out her skirts and walked around him and his trusty boulder into the dragons clearing.
“What? No, wait!” Tucker couldn’t keep up with her, sword drooping he watched as she approached the cave entrance.
Turning she looked at him, hands propped up on her hips, “you wanted to slay the terrible dragon didn’t you? You should at least come in for tea first, you do drink tea don’t you?”
“Shhh! Girl are you crazy? You’ll wake the beast!” He hissed at her urgently, leaping around his boulder with the intent of grabbing the silly milkmaid by the arm and dragging her back to safety.
“Oh he’s not asleep, he’s heard everything we’ve said just now, he’s just smoking,” She shrugged, pointing up at the puffs of smoke leaving the cave.
“Look here, um…girl, obviously your father has lost track of you and is most likely worried sick about you, why don’t you come with me, away from the beast’s lair and we can go back to the village together,” He tried to coax her towards him, waving his hand in a come to me motion.
“My father knows right where I’m at, thank you very much.” She told him before spinning on her heel and walking directly into the cave before he could stop her. He could hear faint giggling even from where he stood outside the circle of stones.
Oh Goddess, now he had to rescue a crazy village girl and slay a vicious dragon. This was turning out to be a classic disaster, he groaned.
Well, Tuck, my man, he thought to himself, you might as well pull your belt up and march on in there.
Bringing his dropping sword back up in the stabby position he felt as ready as he was ever going to be and walked around his trusty, steady and protective boulder, slinking across the open ground and flattening himself against the outside of the cave, sword held upright and close to his face before peering around the lip and getting the shock of his life.
It took a moment for his brain to comprehend what his eyes were seeing. It was dimmer inside than outside, his eyes needing a second to clear.
The crazy girl was busy heating water at a modern-looking stove, feeding wood into the belly and choosing from a variety of teas on a shelf over the top of the stove.
Next to the cooking surface were shelves carved into the walls of the cave holding all manner of domestic items from mugs to sealed jars.
Across the open space was another set of shelves holding more books than Tucker had seen outside the Castles library. A small wooden framed bed sat against the wall, neatly made with a homey patchwork quilt and a wooden set of drawers.
In the middle of the room was a round wooden table with three chairs set around it, patchwork place mats sat four place settings waiting to be set for dinner.
Everything was neat and clean-swept, not a speck of dirt to be found.
“I thought the dragon lived here?” He asked her, taking a few steps in, heading towards her.
“Indeed I do,” A deep voice rumbled from further in the cave, “whom might you be, a knight?”
Slowly, he turned his head to focus on the source of the voice, standing calmly was a green-scaled dragon, complete with fangs, wings and a long neck.
A real, living breathing dragon.
“You can talk?” Tucker asked the first thing that popped into his poor rattled brain.
It was just too much to take in, suddenly overwhelmed and unprepared for all this, see’s prophecies, talking dragons and crazy milkmaids making tea the long trips to nowhere that he had made was all just a swirl going around and around in his head.
His feet hurt damn it, and this armor was hot and heavy and itchy, he felt his eyes cross and his ears start to ring, it was all making him feel so dizzy, the whole carve started to spin around him as his vision went dark.
“Rue I believe the boys going to collapse,” The scaled beast addressed the girl who looked over her shoulder at him and nodded in agreement.
Tuckers arms felt too weak to hold his sword, falling out of his limp fingers he could hear it clang as if from a distance against the hard-packed floor of the cave. He moaned in despair, the cave spinning faster and faster around him, “How am I supposed to kill you now?” before toppling over, falling to the floor at the dragon’s feet, passed out cold.
Bob nudged the kid with a clawed finger.
Yup, the kid had passed out, seems kids these days weren’t made like they use to be, Bob thought to himself.
Heaving a put up sigh, he turned his head to the girl, “Could you bring the smelling salts, Rue.”
Wanting to gauge her reaction to their uninvited visitor he kept an eye on her seeing her hiding a smile as she searched the shelves for smelling salts, finding them and pulling them down off of the shelf she hurried over kneeling on the floor next to the collapsed knight, his armor having gouged holes in the floor when he fell.
“Can you roll him over, Father,” She looked up at him, as she asked, knowing he would help her.
Hooking a couple of claws in the boy’s suit he rolled him over with a clang of metal scraping against metal.
Popping the cork off of the vial, she waved the strong-smelling stuff under his nose.
Far faster than either of them could have anticipated Tucker pulled a dagger from his hip and stabbed his attacker, not fully conscious of what he was doing yet.
Rue only had time to gasp, as she stared into his wide frightened eyes, both of them looking down at the weapon sticking out of her belly in a mortal wound. The vial fell out of her fingers, rolling across the floor and spilling its contents as it rolled away.
Eyes wide, Tucker tried to scramble to his feet, letting go of the dagger as Rue sank down to her side where he had just been, unable to coordinate his limbs enough he ended up scootching across the floor backward, staring in horror as blood pooled around her under the dragons unflinching gaze.
Both her hands had wrapped around the handle of his dagger, crimson staining her white apron and spreading across her waist. Looking up at the dragon, blood foaming past her lips, she whispered “Father” before letting out her final breath and closing her eyes for good.
Finally able to get to his feet Tucker rushed to her side, rolling her over on her back, “Oh Goddess, what have I don’t to you?” he cried, frantically fluttering his hands uselessly around her middle and his dagger. “I don’t even know your name,” He mourned, dropping his face into his hands, tears leaking from between his fingers.
“Rue, quit teasing the boy,” The dragon had taken a few steps back, giving them room and getting the tea ready, using a breath of his magic to pick up everything without using his awkward clawed hands.
To Tucker, it looked like the teapot and teacups were preforming an intricate dance in mid-air, without hands to guide them.
Three cups danced their way to the table while the teapot poured steaming hot water into them followed by a spoonful of loose tea leaves, stirred in before some honey was added and the cups sat steeping waiting to be drunk on the table.
“You ruin all of my fun, father.” Whipping his head around so fast Tucker felt his brain bounce around in his skull, he saw the girl, Rue the dragon had called her, pull the dagger still dripping with her blood out of her stomach and stand up gracefully.
His jaw dropped.
“Wha…whats going on?” He whispered licking his suddenly dry lips, coming to his feet slowly, taking care with his armor.
“Come and sit down, drink some tea and we can explain.” Rue grimaced at her now stained apron and dress. “What a mess.”
With a wave of her hand a frown the whole ensemble changed to a pretty light green kirtle and dress in a light blue chemise. A new spotless white apron tied neatly at her back in a large bow. Her frizzy red braid now a neat bun at the back of her head.
“Much better, please, I’m sorry I never caught your name, I’m Rue and this is my father Osmabobdact, or Bob, it’s easier to pronounce.” She told him with a wink and took a seat next to the dragon at the round table, blowing on her steaming tea as she did.
“I’m Sir Tucker Whitenhall, son of Sir Mark the Brave, grandson of Sir Kane the Peacemaker.” He responded rattling off his parentage from habit.
Pulling out a chair opposite the girl he took a seat at their table in a daze, grabbing at the cup of fragrant water and blowing on it to cool down enough for him to drink.
“Hm, yes, Kane, he was a near decent chap. He only tried to kill me a few times and nearly succeeded a couple of those times. See this scar here,” Bob pointed to a small dent in his neck scales, “this is from Kane’s sword. I wasn’t paying attention, I took his threat seriously after that.” He chortled picking up his teacup, oversized to fit his hand.
So much was rolling around inside of poor Tucker’s overloaded mind for him to process what was going on. He sipped his tea mechanically, staring at the pretty girl sitting across from sipping her tea and staring back at him with a secret smile.
“Any chance your grandfather is still around?” The dragon asked Tucker.
“Hmm, uh, no he’s not. He died after the King and Queen went missing with the princess. My father has held the position of Head of the Royal Council since.” He answered, eyes cloudy and far off.
“Ah what a pity, he was a heroic man. Tell me, young man, what has brought you to land on our humble doorstep today?” The dragon asked him, taking another sip of his tea.
“The Seer told me that to earn my legacy as a knight I needed to bring back the head of a dragon and to find the dragon’s daughter to save the kingdom.” His eyes snapped to where Rue was sitting, her cup poised midway to her mouth.
“It’s my 100th birthday today, I was minding my own business and you stabbed me, Sir Tucker, I think that’s enough swordplay for one day.” She answered hotly pointing a finger in his direction.
“Happy Birth-…wait, how many years again?” He asked in shock.
“One hundred years old, today, as far as we can tell,” she frowned a bit, red-eyebrows knitting together on her forehead. “Although its more like 100 years since my father found me and oh well its the same difference, it’s my birthday and I got stabbed.” She pouted, slumping some in her seat.
“How- how is this possible?” He stuttered.
“Rue is a wizard,” Bob told him.
“Surely this is a joke,” He scoffed, “there are no female wizards, just like there are no dragons and there are no seer’s prophecies. I’m going to go wake up now.” He pushed his chair back and jumped to his feet, knocking the chair over with a clatter.
“Calm down, just calm down,” Bob tried to soothe the distraught knight, holding up a clawed hand and making a settling motion at him.
“NO! No, I will not calm down how am I suppose to Kill You! You are not a beast, and you!” He turned to Rue, running his hands through his sandy blonde hair and tugging it, “You are ancient, older than my great grandfather. I would swear you’re younger than me from the way you look but this…is….impossible!” He shouted turning and running out of the cave, grabbing his sword on his way out.
Sheathing it at his him, Tucker felt somewhat better, taking a deep breath he turned at the cave entrance and faced the table where the odd pair sat and blinked calmly back at him as if this was just another everyday occurrence.
Feeling sheepish for his outburst, he reddened, staring down at his metal-covered feet. “I’m sorry for that, if you would, erm…excuse me, I feel I need to go clear my head.” He bowed to Rue, remembering his manners and quickly left, heading across the clearing to the well-maintained path that he didn’t question until now that lead back down to the village.
He walked straight into the village tavern, oddly enough called the sleeping dragon. Snorting at the ironic name, Tucker thought it should have been more obvious now.
He took a seat at the bar, sitting on a round wooden stool warn down by many others sitting in this exact seat, possibly even his famous grandfather.
“You found him, did ya?” The barkeep a portly gentleman with a bushy beard streaked with white and huge muscled arms walked up, a cleaning rag over his shoulder and a fresh wooden tankard of ale in his hand, foaming over as he set it down in front of the Knight.
“Yup,” He picked up his ale and chugged back half of it.
“How’d it go?” The barkeep asked, wiping off the counter and the excess foam from the tankard.
“I stabbed the girl in the stomach and she died,” He finished the other half of the cup before bringing it down on the bar with a dramatic thump. Looking around when he realized all eyes were on him, the room staring silently.
“Ya killed, we Rue!” Someone from the back shouted irritably.
“I thought I did, believe you me I had thought I did.” Tucker nodded his head, signaling for another tankard.
“Better drink this quick boy, ya be do’n yer self no favors talking this way about sweet Rue to this crowd.”
“Oh she’s fit as a fiddle, she is,” Tucker answered before quaffing down more ale, trying to numb his aching head. “She just popped up like a daisy in springtime. Like nothing ever happened and her father, he was laughing at me as he invited me to tea and announced it was 100th birthday like it was just some commonplace number.” He grumped, setting the now empty tankard down in front of him again, waiting for another.
Every person in the room visibly relaxed and went back to their conversations, the room quickly getting loud again.
“Aye, we know how old she be, the feast tomorrow it to celebrate her 100 years with our village. She’s been a great blessing to us. She saved my life as a wee boy she did. Near every person here has a story about her helping them.” The barkeeper told the now tipsy Tucker, placing a third pint in front of the young knight.
“This is not how I thought my day was going to turn out.” He muttered, complaining into his new pint, thinking he should have stopped for lunch before he started drinking.
“Yes well, all sorts of things never start the way we expect.” A female voice answered him.
Turning his head, Tucker nearly jumped off of his stool, there sat Rue, frizzy red bun and clean white apron, holding her pint, calmly staring at him.
“Rue!” He yelled, “why are you here?” He gestured widely at the room.
“It’s my birthday Tucker, I have been part of this village my whole long life. I think if I wanted to get a drink with my friends, I’m damn well going to too!” She answered him angrily, face turning red.
“Here! Here!” answered the room, seconding her statement.
Tucker sunk lower in his seat, he just couldn’t get anything right could he?
He didn’t know what else to do, downing the third pint he signaled for another with a loud belch, wiping the foam off of his face with the back of his hand.
“My, my, aren’t you serious about drowning yourself tonight,” Rue commented, taking large sips from her wooden cup.
“What about you, not taking your time with that pint, I see.” He told her, pointing unsteadily at her cup.
“That’s the difference between up, among several others, is that I cant get drunk. My body just burns the alcohol off as fuel. Hurrah for me. Can’t get drunk, not allowed to fall in love and I can’t die.” She said bitterly, exchanging her empty tankard for a fresh one.
“That’s terrible, what do you do with yourself?” He asked her, getting wobbly on his stool after finishing his fourth pint and now starting on his sixth.
“Village life keeps me busy, somebody’s always getting hurt or the crops won’t grow or the live stocks in mortal danger from some sort of something and I come and fix it. I learn from my father how to control my powers in-between crisis. We manage.” She shrugged with a grimace.
“You sound bored.” He stated in his drunken wisdom.
“Yes and your drunk. Come on let’s get you up the stairs to your room where you can sleep it off.” She started to get up to help him.
“Rue, lass, why don’t you sing us a song before you go, we got us a harp tonight.” One of the villagers asked her, eyes wide and excited thinking about the rare treat her singing was for them.
A tavern girl was sitting down next to the giant fireplace, gently strumming the harp, tuning it expertly.
“All right, you know I can’t resist a harp,” She sighed giving in without a fight, looking over at her drunken drinking partner. “Stay here, I’ll be right back.”
He shrugged, already drinking the seventh tankard, propping an elbow on the bar to watch her walk off through the crowd with smiles and greeting for people as she went.
Taking a seat on the hearth next to the girl behind the harp she looked up at the crowd, “What am I going to be singing tonight?”
A chorus of suggestions instantly drowned out anything that might have been understood as the villagers vied over each other shouting out their favorite songs.
“Okay, okay,” Rue laughed holding up her hands to quiet the crowd, before turning to the girl at her side. “How about the princess and the fish. Margret, you think you can do that one?”
The dark-haired girl was the great-granddaughter of Maude, Rue missed that woman every day. Margret was born in early hours of the morning, after causing her mother two long painful days of back labor and decided to greet the world feet first.
“Yes, Mistress Rue, I’m well versed with this one,” Margret smiled at the other woman fondly, skillfully beginning the song playing the melody to the song.
Then Rue began to sing.
Tucker sat back against the bar, tankard forgotten on the bar behind him as he propped both elbows on the wood behind him, listening in awe with rest of the room spellbound as she sang about a princess who fell in love with a magical golden fish who would only retrieve a lost item is she agreed to marry him. Back and forth they would argue until finally, she agreed to marry him and he transformed into a handsome prince who had been under a spell and missing from his kingdom for several years.
Tucker was blown away by the performance, she had the most beautiful voice he had ever heard.
As the last of the notes faded into the silent room, Rue gave the villagers a short bow before making her way back to Tucker at the bar.
“Now Sir Knight, let’s get you into bed before you fall asleep here at the bar.” He lifted one of his heavy arms and draped it limply across her shoulders, wrapping her other arm around his armored waist and heaving him up off the stool, far stronger than she looked. Rue guided the Knight towards the stairs to the upper levels where rooms could be rented for the night.
“You mind your manners with this girl,” The barkeeper yelled at him, “No funny business you hear.”
Blushing fiercely, Tucker ducked his head, as if he was in any condition to contemplate funny business with this intimidating woman.
“Come on Clemmins, it’s not like he’s in any condition to be a threat to my virtue anyway,” Rue echoed Tuckers thought, shouting over her shoulder to the barkeep. They could both hear the catcalls and whistles as the got further up the steep staircase.
Man, he really couldn’t get anything right today, could he, Tucker thought again for the hundredth time tonight.
“I could have done this myself you know,” He told belligerently, embarrassed by everything at this point.
“I’m sure you could have managed just fine but I don’t need you breaking your neck on my birthday,” she answered him jovially. “I didn’t want to get called down from the mountain in the middle of the night just find out they thought you were dead but now you will never walk again or some equally dramatic thing like that.”
“If I didn’t know any better I would say you were enjoying this,” He accused.
“Maybe I am, maybe I’m not,” she answered, “either way we are here.” she opened a door and helped him to the bed, sitting him on the edge so she could help him with his armor easier.
“I can do my own armor,” He groused at, pulling his arm out of her grasp.
“Stop that, let me help you so we can both get to bed faster,” She chided him, quickly letting her fingers fly across all of the buckles and straps, divesting him of the hard outer shell before lifting the chain mail shirt off, leaving the sweat-stained padding under that.
Reaching down she unlaced his boots and tugged those off as well. “I think you can handle the rest. You’re all set, Sir Knight, sweet sleep. I will see you tomorrow for the feast.”
She stood up brushing her hands off and walking out the door closing it softly behind her.
Tucker sat there quietly, after she left, amazed that such a pretty girl and a powerfully scary woman at that would do something so menial as helping his get all of his armor off.
To chocked up to think about much he pulled the padded armor off and stripped out of his small cloth before laying down and falling instantly asleep.
It was midafternoon by the time he woke up next.
Startling awake all at once, the smell of food coming in thick through his room.
Without warning his stomach rebelled at the very smell of food from outside. He barely made it to the chamber pot int the corner of his room on time, heaving up an ungodly amount of stale ale.
That was how Rue found him, slumped in the corner, hugging the chamber pot like it was his long lost friend.
Wrinkling her nose at the smell of stomach bile and ale she quietly walked up to where he was slumped, held up only by the corner where the two walls meet.
“Wow, you did drink a lot last night,” she commented, nudging his outstretched leg with the toe of her boot.
“I’ve never drunk before and now I know why!” he complained as he heaved some more into his new best friend the chamber pot.
“Is that so,” She arched an eyebrow at him. “Cause I could have sworn I saw you drink seven or pints to your head last night.”
“Uhhhngghn.” He groaned and retched some more. “Don’t remind me.”
“Good news Sir Knight, I’ve come to retrieve you for the festivities but you honestly can’t be seen in the condition you’re currently in.” She told him, squatting down next to him and looking him in the eyes, enjoying his misery a tad too much.
“Oh forget you! I look fabulous!” Retching, “and I know it.” more retching, “who wouldn’t” retching some more, “want to be around: lots of dry heaving now, “Me!”
“Yeah I know, you’re so charming, what with all the stabby stabby and running out on tea. Sir, you smell rather bad right now and from your inability to complete a sentence for heaving you guts up it doesn’t look like your going to be able to get far from that chamber pot.” She pointed out reasonably.
“This here chamber pot is my new best friend, don’t talk down about him.” Tucker hugged it closer yet.
“Yes, definitely a bit of a social problem there, the villagers here really enjoy their hygiene and your new friend there isn’t going to fit in.”
“Then I shall not go.” He announced belligerently.
“That won’t work either, I’m afraid, it’s no small thing to be in one place for 100 years and the feast for just such an honor is just about ready Now add a living breathing Kings City Knight into the mix and I’m sorry Sir but you are required to make a reasonable appearance.” She told him cheerfully.
“So?” he jutted his jaw out stubbornly. He didn’t want to be there.
“Be that is it may, I propose you let me help a bit so you don’t feel like you’re about to perish from ale sickness, and I’ve brought some nice fresh clean cloths so we can launder what you’ve already worn for far too long. Maybe the full tub of hot water down the hall won’t go to waste.” She placed a small hand on his arm, already gently pushing some much needed green healing energy into his abused system.
“A hot bath you say?” He asked her skeptically
“And clean clothes.” She told him with a straight face.
“Maybe I could bring myself to at least make a brief appearance.” He set the chamber pot down next to him on the floor.
“Great, how are you feeling now?” She asked, removing her hand and standing up briskly shaking out her skirts to resettle them.
“Good, really good,” He stood up with no dizziness or his stomach revolting against him. His head wasn’t hurting him either.
“That’s all good then, I’ve left the clothes in the washroom, its the last door to the right at the end of the hall. You can leave your dirty things on the shelf in there and a maid will them cleaned and ready for you tonight.” She took a step back and then another one as she started to turn and head out the door and back outside.
Quickly he took a step forward and caught her arm before she could leave.
“Thank you, Rue, I deserved to suffer from a foul headache and a vile stomach for what I did to you and you’ve been nothing but kindness to me. I don’t deserve it, but thank you.” He told her sincerely, still holding her arm, her body turned away from him.
He felt like he was thanking her frizzy red hair, the curls cascading down her back to her hips.
“It’s what I do,” she told the door, waiting for him to let go of her arm.
Letting go of her quickly, after realizing he was keeping her trapped in his room and he was in an embarrassing state of undress, she bolted out the door. By the time Tucker had pulled on his dirty breaches from the day before and got out the door to find the promised bath she was long gone. With a shrug, he walked down the hall looking forward to getting clean and dressing int he clean cloths.
Both were heavenly when he was finally able to scrub all the dirt and grime from his long treck to this town. The clothes left for him were simple homespun, soft and well worn.
He pulled the light brown trews up his hips before pulling the light green undershirt on and then the darker green vest, buttoning up the three horn buttons in the front.
Walking back to his room he finger-combed his wet hair back from his face and retrieved his knee-high boots, lacing them up on the inside of his calves before standing back up, feeling like a new man.
He sauntered out of his room and down the stairs, leaving the tavern to explore the feast set up outside, the whole town was out and milling around, dressed in their best clothes and chatting with each other, enjoying a rare holiday.
The sun was setting in the late afternoon, young boys were running around lighting the torches stuck in the ground all around the wide flat grassy area that served as the village square.
The food smelled so good he couldn’t help his mouth-watering or his stomach protesting having not eaten since the morning before last. Walking up to the nearest table he swiped some sliced meat and a hunk of cheese, munching as he walked around greeting those he knew and introducing himself to those he didn’t.
The villagers turned and creating a ripple effect the square fell silent, catching Tucker’s attention as he was able to hear the whooshing of Bob’s breath as he quietly smoked away, staring back at the people assembled in front of him.
Seeing Bob standing out so prominently from everyone else gathered and being the only person..er…dragon…that he did know, Tucker raised his hand in greeting to the great green-scaled creature.
“Bob, what a wonderful day for Rue’s birthday feast, don’t you think?” Tucker shouted at the surprised dragon.
“Yes, young knight it is indeed,” Bob replied, smoke curling out of his mouth and dissipating into the dark air. “By any chance have you seen my daughter? This feast is in her honor after all.”
“I saw her about an hour ago when she left my room,” Tucker answered blithely.
Hearing that the villagers around him turned all eyes to him before coming back to life, and not in a good way.
Rough hands grabbed Tucker holding him while they surrounded him, sullen angry faces brought him up sharply in front of Bob, who looked down his nose at the poor sap with some amusement.
“Wait, what’s going on? Take your hands off of me, I demand an explanation.” Rue shouted, fighting the people pulling and pushing her into the circle cleared in front of her father.
You could see the steam rising off of Rue’s red curls as came to stop, crossing her arms and glaring threateningly at those around her.
Seeing Tucker she rounded on him, “ooooooh! I should have known it was you!”
“I don’t even know what just happened,” He answered, flustered by all of the commotions.
“I’m here, whew, I’m here.” A chubby red-faced priest broke the circle wheezing.
“Wait, just wait a minute now,” Tucker’s eyes grew big with comprehension. “Just slow down, I don’t think you understand.”
“I agree with Tucker, I don’t think any of you understand.” Rue chimed in, her face nearly as red as the priests.
“Rue, it seems clear to me,” Bob told her, “this man admitted that you were in his room, alone, until an hour ago.”
“Oh! Ho!Ho! Hold your horses right there you meddlesome beast, I see right through your little plot and let me tell you it’s not going to fly very far with me.” She crossed her arms in front of her, taking a wide-legged stance to better yell at the dragon smirking in front of her.
“Wait! What about me?” Tucker wailed feeling like whatever was going on was going over his head.
“You’ve done enough damage here, hero, just pipe down and let the adults work this out. I might still be able to get us out of this mess.” Rue snarled at him, causing him to shut his mouth with a snap.
“Damages now, really children this just settles it, there is only one way to mend what the son of man has taken from our poor innocent Rue’s reputation. Although child, I would have preferred you have chosen a strapping village man from around here.” the Priest interrupted.
“Oh. My. Goddess, father,” was all she said to that comment, rolling her eyes at the theatrics of the priest.
“Rue, were you or were you not, in Tucker’s room last night?” Bob asked her, cocking his head to one side and looking down at her with one eye.
“I helped him to his room after he drank too many pints last night,” She answered him, glaring up at the dragon.
“What happened last night, Tucker,” The priest turned towards the knight.
“Rue told you, she helped me to my room, just like she said.” He answered, rubbing the back of his neck nervously.
“See this is all unnecessary,” she was getting frustrated with the circling subject. Her hair was beginning to blow in a breeze that was confined to her person.
Mesmerized, Tucker could only watch the strands as they moved back and forth.
“Then what happened?” Bob asked Tucker, noticing he seemed to be dazing out watching Rues hair.
“She helped me take off my armor and then my boots, helping me to bed.” He answered absently, wondering if her hair felt as soft as it looked.
“That’s quite enough, young man, as a Kings Knight I fully expect you to step up and do the right thing by our dear girl, right now.” the priest demanded, indignant on Rue’s behalf.
“What? This isn’t-” She began before getting cut off.
“I expected more out of you Rue, you have always been above reproach with your actions and now this? How could you?” The priest chided her.
“It’s not-” SHe was trying to answer, getting more and more angry every time she was interrupted.
“Tucker, do you take this woman, whom you’ve ruined, to be your lawful wife? And repair the damage you’ve done to her delicate reputation,” the priest intoned, holding is a holy book open, addressing Tucker.
“Wait, what?” Tucker snapped out of his daze staring at the holy man in question.
“The good priest here-” Rue snapped at Tucker, attempting to explain the situation to him.
“Rue were you or weren’t you in this man’s room last night?” Bob snapped at her catching her attention.
“Young man, don’t you want to get married, ever?” The Priest asked him.
“Yes of course I do,” Tucker answered him.
“Wonderful, Rue, do you take Tucker to be your lawfully wedded husband?” He turned towards the furious woman who was still distracted by her father.
“Yes! Damn it, Yes!” she yelled back, intending to answer her father and not the priest.
“By the power vested in me by the Holy Goddess herself I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may now kiss your bride!” He announced, earning himself two very shocked stares.
Every last villager present cheered as loud as they could, Bob just looked down and smirked at the new couple.
“What?” Tucker and Rue said at the same time, looking at each other in horror.
“Its a birthday gift for the ages, dear, what a day.” Bob laughed, sending puffs of smoke up to disappear on into the night air.
“This cant be binding,” She hissed between her clenched teeth.
“As a wizard, you have agreed to this oath. You can’t break it, or suffer the rule of three,” Bob told her, “You should really watch what you agree too, you could end up in serious trouble.”
“Oh Goddess, Father, Why?” She wailed, both hands fisted in the hair on her scalp, she was so angry she felt like pulling clumps of the red stuff out.
“A lesson in paying attention. You will thank me later,” He answered with a shrug, his large wings moving forward and back with the gesture.
“He’s barely more than a child,” She pointed out
“That’s not fair, I’ve seen twenty summers and completed the extensive training at the Castle to become a Knight.” He placed a hand across his chest with a wounded expression.
“So at best you’re a fifth of my 100 summers.” She replied scathingly.
“Rue, you’re a new bride and this is your birthday feast. You need to eat up since we are leaving tomorrow.” Her father chided, doing his best not to laugh at her expression, puffs of smoke escaping his nostrils giving him away.
“You think this is funny now,” She snarled at him, “what about Tucker, he doesn’t even know what just happened to him.”
“I know we are now lawfully married since there seems to be some sort of trickery about it I sure it won’t stand in court. If you want an annulment I won’t stop you, it could be easily obtained.” He told her, rubbing the back of his neck.
“You see, young Knight-” Bob started to explain.
“No, dad, no. I can’t do this right now. I can tell him later. We’ve already put on such a great show.” She stopped him, gesturing to the now silent people watching them.
“Oh, my Alice is that your famous gooseberry cobbler I see?” Rue turned around, plastering a smile on her face and pointing to her favorite treat on one of the long tables overburdened with food.
“Aye, Rue, I’m aware it’s yer favorite,” She blushed at the attention. “Me and my sisters spent all week collecting them off the mountain for today.”
“Butcher Mathis, you didn’t go a slaughter than nice black bull of your just for today did you?” She asked the girl’s father with a giggle.
“I would never, Rue, but he would have tasted just as good if this one hadn’t been twice as fat and a year younger.” He gauffed with the other men of the village.
They had a hard time cornering the beast for slaughter, it took quite a few of the men to bring the bull down and not before they thought they might have to pick an easier target for the dinner tonight.
Good thing it all worked out, Mathis thought to himself, wiping his forehead off with his sleeve.
“Everything looks so good I don’t know where to start,” Rue told them sincerely, smiling as the village came to life once more, everybody talking at once and throwing suggestion out as they converged on the table, taking Rue and Tucker with them and Seating them at a special table brought out just for them.
Nobody would let either of them get up, insisting on bringing choice morsels for them to try and keeping their tankards full of the best ale.
In two’s and threes, they would come and sit down with the newlyweds offering them congratulations and bits of wisdom if they had some to give.
Finally, it seemed like the evening would never end, Rue had a pounding headache and Tucker was drunk, the feast was winding down, several of the younger children and elders had already retired for the night.
Empty kegs lay on their sides and the bonfires had died down, most of the food was eaten leaving a large carcass on the spit over the coals, no longer being turned by the young boys of the village.
“I’m going to go home and pack Tucker, you should do the same in your room tonight.” She stood up with a pained groan, her backside having gone numb several hours ago. “We will be leaving at first light, you better be ready.”
“Home? To your cave? Not back to my room?” He asked her, eyes cloudy and mind befuddled from too much ale. “Where are we going, I still have to figure out how to complete my mission.”
Turning to look down at him she just stared, temporarily at a loss for words.
Tucker stood up next to her, fumbling with his chair before it fell back behind him.
“Now you listen to me, and listen to me well,” She snarled, jabbing her finger into his chest, “there will never be a wedding night, not now, not ever. Any touching, or sleeping together is strictly forbidden, do you understand. We leave in the morning, be ready or you will be heading out with just the clothes on your back.”
Rubbing his chest where she had jabbed him, leaving it sore he backed away from her cautiously.
“Alright, I will be ready in the morning, you don’t have to yell at me,” He told her, feeling sad.
He could see what he had said only made her angrier, instead of responding to him she spun on her heel, hair flying around her shoulders in a beautiful red wave before marching towards the path leading out the village and back to her cave.
Sighing desolately Tucker hung his heavy head, his heart hurting, and made his way back to the tavern and up the dimly lit stairs to his room.
He picked up the few possessions he had brought with him and put them back in his saddlebag, buttoning the flap down and with a last look at his armor, set in the corner and waiting for him to put it back on in the morning he fell across his bed and fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
“Come on!” An indignant female voice woke Tucker up abruptly.
“It couldn’t have been that bad,” He muttered, rolling over with a groan and sitting up, still in the clothes he had worn last night.
“I wouldn’t know, Sir philanderer, I spent my wedding night packing for this trip, while you were willing to spend it with any willing female.” Rue shrieked, the sound piercing right through his skull.
“Come off it, I’m still dressed and I didn’t want to marry you either, you damn wizard.” He yelled back at her, standing up and coming nose to nose with her.
“What’s wrong with marrying me?” She asked him, turning even redder with anger, unused to be talked to like that.
“You not the catch of the year that’s for sure, who wants their wife to be stronger and meaner than their husband?” He answered her, trying to get around her and get his armor on.
Before he could get very far she shoved him with both hands, sending him sprawling back on the bed with a whump, and marched out of the room fuming, making as much noise going down the stairs as she was capable of.
Pulling himself up he jumped off the bed for a second time that morning and began going through the process of getting his armor on before he was able to snag his saddlebag off the ground and tossing it over his shoulder ran out the door and down the stairs.
Stopping to make sure his tab would be sent to the Kings Castle, all Knights traveling expenses were covered by the Castle stewards.
He rushed out of the tavern to find standing in front of three horses holding their leads and tapping her foot impatiently.
She was dressed in a pair of black tight-fitting pants and a light blue chemise laced up to her neck, her torso held in by a tightly laced kirtle. She wore dark brown knee-high boots laced up the front and tied in neat bows, her hair was braided down her back, curls already springing out around her head forming a frizzy red halo.
Walking up to his gray mare he took his reins out of Rue’s hand and scratched his faithful mount under her chin, running a loving hand up her face and down her neck before stopping at the saddle.
“Mount up, my father is already waiting for us on the road to the King’s City.” She told him briskly, placing one foot on the white geldings stirrup and swinging up into the saddle gracefully, pulling his head away from her leg before he could bite it mean-tempered.
“The King’s City is a three-week journey from here, how am I going to find another dragon’s head to present to the council much less a female dragonette?” He asked her, swinging up on to his horse before taking the lead for the packhorse and tying the sweet looking brown mare to the back of his saddle under his saddlebag.
Rue kicked her horse into a quick walk, leading them out of the still sleepy town, waving with a smile to those how wished her safe travels and a swift return.
Ignoring his comment about murder and kidnapping, she faced forward, looking forward to getting this ridiculous trip over with and being able to come home to her bed and a nice hot cup of tea with her father.
Tuckers stomach growled loudly, blushing and pressing a hand to metal over his stomach, he was hoping she hadn’t heard it make such an embarrassing sound.
No luck, her hearing was superb, “There’s meat and bread in the pack under your saddlebag,” she told him, not looking back.
Turning even redder, he reached behind him, hands lax on the reins knowing his mare would continue to follow Rue’s gelding down the road whether he was guiding her or not.
Munching his breakfast he watched the trees pass by, swaying in his saddle to the rhythm of his horse’s gait. Content to let the road pass under his mare’s hooves, he didn’t try to engage his surly new wife in conversation. What would they talk about?
She was already in a bad mood from their fight in his room, he watched her ride her horse, back ramrod straight and her jaw clenched.
Around mid-morning, the sun was temporarily blocked out by Bob’s shadow, flying over the surrounding trees and landing on the path ahead of them, the horses snorting in fear at first as dust and debris flew around them from the dragons back winged landing.
“It has been ages, and longer since I’ve been outside of that village,” Bob told them, excited to be on this journey. “Seeing how the world has changed will be a nice change of scenery, what do you thing, Rue?”
“ Father, you know I was never interested in traveling, ever.” She answered in a low voice. “I feel like its to big of a risk with you being out in the open, words going to get around and the hunters will flock to us in droves.”
“Humor you old father, Rue.” The soft skin around the dragon’s eyes crinkled, making it look like he was smiling down at his cantankerous daughter.
Turning to Tucker “How was your night Tucker, peaceful?”
Tucker stared at the dragon, walking beside their horse, longer than both of them put together. How was this beast even alive, he pondered, staring up at the larger than life reptile, his wings tucked in tightly down his back, his tail swishing gently behind the pack mare.
Puff’s of humor leaked from between his teeth in humor as he read the boy’s facial expression, staring back at him silently.
“Let’s get on down the road then, kids,” Bob gestured with a clawed hand to the road leading south, heading off to the King’s City.
Rue clicked her tongue at her horse, smacking him with the reins lightly on the neck to get it going again, shooting daggers at her father as he easily kept pace with the horse’s quick steps.
The dragon watched the two tense newlyweds and laughed to himself, in a far better humor than either of them as they all continued down the road in silence, lost in their thoughts.
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