Chapter 1: Milady, My Love, My Life
The beautiful Emma Tine walking down the long dusty road alone, further away from home at much too late of an hour than common sense would suggest as a wise course of action.
The spirited and stubborn daughter of this world Serene Primus tries her best to cover the distance in her realm of Tallyhinder Steen, heading towards her village of Tyme. From her frustration and boredom of watching life slip away while she is stuck in her quaint little farming village does she take to the road to run off that pent up energy. She traveled so far and so hard, and the time went by so fast, that she now finds herself alone in a world where darkness is fast approaching and with it comes many dangers.
There are wolves, wild dogs, and wild boars with tusks that will gore you and they are not shy about charging a human. Also now and again a mountain lion or a bear will find their way out of the mountains from the west. More than one human has been turned into a meal, for being foolish enough to get caught out after dark alone and unarmed.
There are also trolls and ogres, but rarely do they interfere with humans unless they are defending themselves or need to feed their families. The competition for food has always been and will always be a savage thing. And then also for a lone beautiful woman, there are predators of the human type she must always stay vigilant against. With every rustling in the wheat fields Emma gets a little more jumpy.
The dusty road is long indeed, and leads to many places, and on it you will always find a mixture of life that can both exhilarate and frighten you. As the dusty road winds in and out, over and around the rolling grasslands, today is no different, as a warrior and his gray-speckled war-horse make their way down the road heading to nowhere particular.
This honored warrior has traveled throughout the nine realms of Serene for many years. He is driven by an unseen, but not unknown, force to uphold the right of people to live without tyranny and fear. A man forged from the very same world he honors. Blessed to have seen many wondrous, majestic and beautiful things.
Out of love for his fellow beings has he been covered in hate's blood. When in need do people welcome him openly, but when peace reigns do many turn away saying, "How could he choose to be that way?" It matters not that he and those like him brought that peace.
A few friends does he claim, many more acquaintances does he know, but nothing in this world, both good and dark, prepared him for a chance encounter with the most beautiful princess the peasant farms ever produced.
They meet under the fading yellow sun that always so graciously shares of itself with no thought of payment in mind. He is riding down just another long and lonely road, or at least that is what he is thinking, when the gods smile upon him. With the memories of the battle of yesterday to send him on his way, and with the gratitude of the villagers, some spoken, some not, to send him on his way, he is heading ... Well he doesn't really know where he is headed, only that his chosen life demands that he seek out and abolish the causes of fear, torment and suppression. It is a life of an endless wandering and oftentimes loneliness.
He is sitting atop his foul tempered but well trained, gray speckled warhorse named Thunderheart, when he rides around a gently rolling hill, and a valley of pure golden wheat fields open up to welcome him to one more majestic sight this world has to offer.
He has ridden many a league with only his thoughts, the sights of the valley and the sounds of birds in the fields and overhead to keep him company. He is gazing off to his right looking at a mountain chain outlining the skyline. The brown, gray and white of the mountains contrast perfectly with the crystal clear fading blue sky.
To his left he then gazes, and all his eyes can see are endless fields that go on for eternity, that undoubtedly only end where the mystical realm of the supreme dragons lay. The things of dreams are real to him. Sighing softly, he lets his eyes wander down the road that he thinks will never end for him until he is cold and forgotten.
Off in the distance he sees a glimmer of gold reflect off the sun of the failing day.
He says to himself, "How can this be?" commenting of course on seeing something even more golden than the golden fields of wheat.
He presses his knees to Thunderheart's ribcage and they pick up speed. As he nears his imagined treasure, he realizes it was not gold, but a woman he saw.
As a man and as a soldier he often worries that he cannot do things justice by trying to put them into words, but as the narrator of this story, I will try and do it for him. I also find myself hoping I do not befuddle the description of the most wondrous of all creatures to be seen.
"My word." She takes his breath away.
She is like a gentle breeze on a warm summer day. Her golden dirty blonde hair reflects back light brown with golden highlights and back again, and is slightly wavy four to six marks past her shoulders, and only give way so that one might be blessed to gaze at the soft curves of her waist and hips. Those very same hips that are tucked away under a plain brown peasant dress that goes down several marks above her feet.
He smiles, "The color of her dress is the same color as my battle leathers I now wear." He laughs because of the way the world has been shown to him, in that in every opposite there is a sameness.
His travels through the kingdoms have shown him many such situations, in that no matter how hard people or creatures try to distance themselves from that which seems different, ultimately, in the end, that effort ties them together.
He guesses he has been too long on the trail, for he gets lost in the sway of her hips, and she chooses that moment to glance back to see who is riding up behind her. His face burns more crimson than the longest day on the battlefield has ever made it do. After he meets her eyes she blushes a little herself, smiles and then turns back around.
He whispers silently, "I curse myself for the disrespect I have just shown this woman. To glare at a woman not your equal is the gravest of disrespects, and one I will not soon forgive myself for."
He nearly rides past her, for he does not want to make her any more uncomfortable than he has already done, but then he notices she is carrying her sandals in her hands and is walking with a minor limp.
"Milady," he says, riding up on her left side and slowing Thunderheart to match her pace. "My apologies for staring. My name is Allan of the Clan Crag, and I notice you walk with a limp." She turns around to look at him with the most beautiful brown eyes, and then stops. He goes on. "Milady, I will ride on if that will please you, but it will be my honor and chosen duty to help you if I may."
"Soldier," she says in a voice that can only be described as the melody of the gods, "You are not the first to stare and make me feel uncomfortable, and I am sure you will not be the last. However, you are wise in your seeing in that I have collected quite a few blisters from these old worn out shoes, and am indeed having trouble making my way home to my village before nightfall, and before the creatures of night come out to take their turn."
Even though he hears every single word she says a millions times in his head, he cannot get over the color of her eyes. They hold him enthralled. They are brown and nearly match his own. Her eyes are so brown and beautiful that they reflect sincerity and truth. And those very same eyes shine from a delicate face of divine grace, with perfect features and milky white skin. Her dirty blonde hair is parted about three or four marks to the left from the center of her perfectly shaped head. Her hairstyle frames her pretty and precious face better than any gilded frame could ever hope to do to the most admired work of art.
"Who is this woman that makes me forget my manners and code of honors to become so school boyish again?"
"Sir knight?" The pretty farm girl inquires.
"Milady, I know it unwise to take rides from unknowns such as me, and my horse smells bad and possibly even I worse, but I will be honored to see you safely home."
She smiles and nods, and goes to pet the nose of his warhorse and he takes a nip at her.
Allan pulls hard on the reins and yells, "No, Thunderhead." He knew he shouldn't have let him hear him say he smelled.
"Your horse's name is Thunderhead?" The lady inquires.
"No, milady, his name is Thunderheart, but he can be a thunderhead sometimes."
Thunderheart flattens his ears and turns and gives his rider a stare that says "Watch your fingers when you feed me tonight."
She laughs prettily, "My name is Emma Tine, and even though my father may have both of our hides for me taking a ride from an unknown, I will gladly do so to make it back before the night's hunters awake and begin to hunt for their prey."
Allan laughs also, and reaches his arm down to her so that she can climb up. She stops and looks puzzled, for she wonders where she can sit, for just behind his saddle is a huge battle ax, a staff, his bedroll, many knives and other supplies.
"My apologies again, milady, but you will have to ride in front of me."
"No matter." is all she says, and accepts his hand gratefully.
"Would you prefer to sit sideward or regular, milady?"
"I will ride regular, Allan. For some reason I feel safe and trusting around you, warrior, and I believe I can lift my dress enough so that I may ride comfortably and you will not take advantage of the situation."
"You may be at ease, milady, for I would sooner die than dishonor one so majestic as you. I mean uh, uh. Yes, milady, of course."
Again Allan hears her musical laughter, and years of torment are lifted from his tainted soul. Then she says, "My knight." and then she smiles a smile that lights her whole face to a divine radiance.
Allan scoots back in the saddle as far as he can, and settles her in safely and comfortably. "Milady, might I wrap my arm around you to maintain our balance?"
"Of course, my knight." They both smile contentedly.
The smell of death and war is not enough to keep her fragrance from him. He thinks even Thunderheart accepts carrying two because of her way.
"Soldier," she says. "My village is but a league or two ahead."
"Please, milady, call me Allan."
"Okay, Allan. How is it you find yourself going my way, and where is your wonderful accent from?" she says, glancing back over her shoulder, as she does that she leans against him warmly. Oh, her soft brown eyes are mesmerizing.
"'Tis my chosen task to travel the lands and see people free from fear and tyranny, milady. As for my accent, milady, I hail from Scotland in the realm of Tera."
"That is a noble task indeed, and the name is Emma."
She sighs softly, but he swears she wears a smile on that delicate face that gazes away from him.
"Milady, is that not a hint of an Irish accent I hear you speaking with?"
"Aye, it is. A good ear you have, sir knight. My father is Irish, though my mom is from Tally. It is true that my father is many years removed from Ireland, but it is amazing to me how much thicker your Scottish brogue is."
"Ah, lady Emma, we Scots can be quite stubborn when it comes to change."
Emma smiles and giggles once more, "So, sir knight, you were about to tell me of your journeys."
"There is a town but sixty leagues from here that was having trouble with their ruling lord." He goes on.
"Did you have to kill him?" Emma asks in a shocked voice that only reminds him of the sacrifices this life he has chosen brings him.
"No, milady, this time I was fortunate, and only had to point out the errors of his ways and to remind him of the beauty and love of the people he rules over. Even so, he will be sore for many days from my effort to make him listen. He is a good man, and only strayed from The Way of things a little, he was not seduced completely to the Sad Way."
The sun is now nearly hidden by the mountains to their right, and only an orange sliver in the sky and the rising moon lights their way to her village. As the rustling in the tall wheat all around them increases, Emma starts to fidget.
"Worry not, Emma Tine, for we are safe enough from all harm."
Now you would have thought that the words from a man she does not know would give her little comfort, but when Allan says that to her, Emma nestles back into him and starts enjoying being out after dark, for the dangers are many.
Allan reaches down and pulls one of his daggers from his belt, "That should be more comfortable for you, milady."
"Thank you, yes, that is much better."
"Might I ask you a question, Emma?"
"I think it would only be fair, sir knight."
"Why were you so far from protection with the light of day fading? There are many things out here that do not care that you are so beautiful." Allan says unashamedly.
Emma takes in a deep breath, and lets it out slowly and sighs at the same time, all the while nestling further back into her savior. Further back into her knight. "I know. I know. Sometimes I just get so frustrated with my mom telling me it is not proper for a girl to do this and that, and always am I stuck in my village watching the world slip away. So I went for a run and time got away from me, and then my sandal broke. I want to experience life and see the world. There has to be more than just this. Do you know what I mean, Allan?"
"I do, Emma, more than I could ever explain, but it will be hard to experience the nine realms of this beautiful world if you are dead."
"I know. I know." Emma says, sighing and wrapping her arms on Allan's right arm, which is holding her securely around her waist.
"So what kinds of things do you like to do, milady?" Allan asks with no hidden meanings.
"I like to make clothes and cook and all kinds of stuff. And ... oh there is my village." she says, pointing.
Emma actually regrets seeing the torchlight on the wall of her village, because she is truly enjoying her night ride. Also she has to admit to herself that when she nestles back into this warrior and she feels his medium length brown hair mixing with hers and sometimes tickling her nose and the warmth the two create, that she is missing aspects to a young life that girls find pleasing. Not just the physical touch, but also somebody who actually wants to listen to her thoughts and ideas. Someone she can be herself around. Plus she thinks he looks strong with his rugged face with a neatly trimmed mustache and a few days removed beard. The heart of Emma Tine allows her to look past his scars and see his own beautiful brown eyes. The smile he flashes her is warm and understated.
Her village, like most in this realm Allan has been graced to see, is surrounded by a rock wall standing nearly two paces tall. There is a gate, but no guards are posted as they enter the quiet little village of thirteen homes. That is mainly because it is widely known that the rock-wolves, ogres and trolls do not like closed in spaces, and will stay away as long as you do not leave food out in the open.
She points to their right, "There, that is my family's home."
As Allan reins Thunderheart in, a man and woman come running out to see if their late daughter has finally arrived. The mother never takes notice of Allan, and is only happy to have her child home. Allan sees the same elation in the father's eyes until he notices a battle hardened stranger sitting atop a huge warhorse. He turns to check one more time that his daughter is fine, and then he turns his attention and death stare at Allan, as if to say, "What's your story, and what pray tell are you doing with my daughter?"
As if Emma herself just remembers that Allan is still there, she turns and says, "Oh, yeah, this is Allan, and he was kind enough to see me safely home. Can he stay for dinner, mother? It is the least we can do for him."
The mother replies, "Of course, child." and then she ushers her daughter through the front door to feed her the nearly cold dinner.
"You know, Thunderheart, I don't think the mother ever actually looked at me, but the father sure is." Allan often talks to Thunderheart.
The father doesn't say a word at first, he just stares Allan down for a minute as if thinking how he should feel about this man, and then he just nods and gruffly says, "The women say you are to have dinner with us, so I guess it is so." Allan can definitely hear the Irish accent.
After he shows Allan a place to put his horse and gives him a little feed, he guides him into his home. A home, as it will turn out, that will be the catalyst for the beginning of a new part of Allan's life.