Portal to Arandor Ch. 03bymistress_diana©
The fire burned brightly and I was glad for the warmth. We had made camp on the edge of a small meadow. Although somewhat in the open, we were against a low hill which provided shelter from the wind. One of the men provided me with a rough blanket and I pulled it close around me and nibbled on my trail food.
We had walked the horses for a few miles before making camp. During that time I kept my mouth closed. I had no idea what these men were about. They were stranger than strange with their medieval clothes and speech. I thought that perhaps they were part of some weird survivalist sect that was so far removed from civilization that they truly believed they were living in King Arthur's time or some weird shit like that. I figured it was best to go along with them and look to escape once it was daylight. At least they did not seem like they meant any harm to me.
As I dug through my pack before settling down, all three of them watched me closely and frowned when I pulled my water bottle and other implements from my bag. They whispered amongst themselves but did not ask any questions of me directly. I couldn't believe how crazy they were acting. Surely they had seen a plastic water bottle!
There was little talk as we huddled around the fire. The men made a few comments about the fire or the horses but I could tell they were uneasy about something and it wasn't strictly about me. But I worried myself no longer as sleep was overtaking me. I was so tired from the long trek and the stress of being lost that I finally gave in and curled up on the ground with the blanket over me and my pack for a pillow. Before I shut my eyes I prayed that none of them would try anything. Being raped on top of everything was not how I wished to end my day.
I woke once during the night to relieve myself. Robert stayed close by as I hid in the bushes and warned me not to run. He said there were worse things than him chasing me. I was too tired to even think of it. When we returned to circle he woke Bryce to be relieved of his watch. As I wrapped the blanket around me again I heard snatches of conversation in my drowsy state. Things like: "they said it was back the way we came" and "we don't have enough men". I had no idea what they were talking about, but I really didn't care and fell back asleep.
The rest of the night was plagued with strange dreams about Dennis that I could not decipher. When I woke to the bright sunlight I felt out of sorts and still very tired. But by the looks of things, it was time to be moving on. I gathered my things, ate an energy bar and stretched my sore muscles. I looked longingly at the horses and hoped that we would be riding. I was too tired to trek again at this altitude.
"May I ask how far we are going today?" I asked in rather timid voice.
Brom looked at me and pushed back his long hair. In daylight I could really see how rough these men were. Brom's hair was tangled and dirty and he needed a bath badly. His clothes were dusty from riding and torn in a few places.
"Home," was all he said.
"Aye," Bryce added softly. "It's been nigh on a fortnight now."
Well that explained the dirtiness, I thought. Whatever they had been doing, they hadn't been home for showers, a good meal and the Broncos home opener. I hoped that 'home' had a phone so I could call for a ride.
"Then we'll be riding out of the mountains then?" I ventured.
"After a time, yes," Bryce answered.
Brom looked at me again. "What is your name, miss? You never said."
"Oh, um...it is Rebecca."
Brom nodded and held out the reigns to a beautiful chestnut mare. "Alright then Rebecca, please mount up and we will be on our way. We have many leagues to cover."
I pulled myself up on the horse grateful for not having to walk that day and also grateful for all the riding lessons I took as a kid.
"Let us ride," Brom commanded and we were on our way.
The day was bright and sunny and the wind calmed enough so that I could feel warmth. It was actually pleasant riding through the hills and valleys. We cut through aspen groves, crossed streams and went above and below tree line. Of course I didn't see any trails I recognized, but I had to trust these guys to get us back to civilization. I still wondered how long they were going to stay in character. Probably until we reached the nearest road where no doubt their buddies were waiting to bring them home.
About midday we stopped to rest just above tree line. Brom had said that we would begin our descent along a trail that would bring us most of the way down. I slid off my saddle feeling a bit sore and walked around my horse to stretch my legs. Bryce climbed a small hill and looked off to the west from where we came.
The wind changed and suddenly the horses became nervous. I went over to the mare and talked to her in soothing tones but her eyes widened.
"Grab her reigns tightly," said Brom through clenched teeth.
He directed Robert to do the same with his horse and the spare that they were using as a pack horse.
"What is it?" I asked fearfully. "A storm?"
Brom ignored me and ran up to Bryce. Bryce was pointing at something off in the distance but I was too low to see it. I looked at Robert.
"Please...what is it?" I asked.
The look on his face told me that whatever it was, it was going to be unpleasant.
"It's the dragon my lady," he whispered.
"A what?!?!? A bloody dragon???"
I was furious. This was going too far. I dropped the reigns of my horse and strode purposely up the hill to Bryce and Brom.
"Ok you two. Game is up ok? Let's just ride home and-"
I stopped dead in my tracks. What I saw was something I had seen in countless movies and read about in many books. There was no doubt that what I was seeing was indeed a dragon but my brain did not register it.
"Holy shit," I whispered.
Brom turned around to gape at me but I ignored him. A large, black form was flying low over the hills. It wasn't heading for us, but rather circling over a small patch of trees. But still...it was close enough that I could make out its features -- spiny skin, yellow eyes, long tail, claws, fire...
And that was all I saw because at that moment because I passed out.
"My lady?" said a voice very far away. "Are you unwell?"
My eyes fluttered open and Brom's face came into focus. His breath was so bad it brought me out of my stupor.
"What...what happened?" I asked, rubbing my head which pounded unmercifully.
"Oh." I sat there a minute. "Why did I faint?"
"Perhaps of the dragon?"
Panic rose in my throat. I could feel my breakfast rising. I stood up and ran about 20 feet and puked my breakfast up in long gasps that felt like my stomach lining was about to come out. Robert, ever the kind one, came to me and pulled my hair back and offered me his wineskin.
"It's ok my lady. Dragons often strike fear in even the bravest of men's hearts. But there is nothing to fear as this one found an elk and made off with it."
I took a long drink from the wineskin and sunk down to my knees. Tears began to stream from my eyes onto the sparse grass of the hillside. Something horrible had happened to me. At the time my brain could not comprehend it, but I knew that indeed I was lost more than imagined. Lost beyond the world I lived in.
Somehow I entered a different realm all together.
"My lady Rebecca?" Robert asked quietly. "Can you stand?"
The tears came along with loud sobs that wracked my body. The world got blurry and I was only vaguely aware of gentle hands lifting me, guiding me and setting me on my horse.
I suppose I went into shock. The rest of day I cannot recall no matter how hard I try. Eventually I guess we got to whatever it was they called home for when I awoke the next day I lay on a straw filled mattress in a warm and cozy stone house. The smell of bread baking was overpowering and my mouth watered. I pulled the covers from my body. I was still in my clothes but someone had removed my boots and set them down next to my pack. Rising from my bed, I put my feet on the floor and stood up. I was a bit wobbly from probably not enough food and the trauma I had been through but the smell of bread was making my mouth water.
The bedroom was upstairs so I carefully descended the wooden stairs to the floor below. It was basically one very large room dominated by a fireplace in the center. I saw Brom, Robert and a woman sitting at the table talking quietly. The men had cleaned up, shaved and changed clothes. The woman was dressed in typical medieval clothing.
"Hello", I said timidly.
All three turned to look at me and Robert stood up and came over.
"My lady, how are you feeling?" he asked in an anxious voice.
I looked at his now clean shaven face and saw that he was younger than I thought.
I smiled at him. "Very hungry, actually. The smell of bread woke me."
He smiled back and I saw that he was definitely easy on the eyes.
"Come, sit down and we shall eat."
He led me to a long wooden table and I sat on a bench. Brom peered at me curiously.
"My lady Rebecca it is good to see you awake and alert. We feared for you yesterday after you collapsed."
I swallowed air and tried not to think about the dragon. "Thank you, Brom. I...I wish to thank you and your men for helping me and bringing me here. Is this your home?"
I glanced at the woman beside Brom. She was very pretty with fair skin and light brown hair.
"Yes it is. And this is my wife, Alani."
I smiled at Alani. "Thank you for your hospitality."
"You are welcome, my lady," she said demurely but I noticed she kept staring at my clothes. I supposed I was sticking out like a sore thumb.
There were so many questions on my mind, but all I could think about was food. Alani stood up and prepared a dish for me filled with ham steaks, eggs and slices of warm bread with fresh-churned butter. I forgot my manners and dug in. The only thing I wished for was a strong cup of coffee. But when Alani brought me a steaming cup of herbal tea, I was extremely grateful.
"So what happens now?" I asked when my plate was almost clear.
"I am told Lord Giles will not be home for another three days," Brom said. "So for now, you are our guest but I trust you will not try to leave us, yes?"
I nodded. In the light of day I realized it would be foolish to run. Where would I go? I had not given any serious thought to how I found myself in this new world. I was too overwhelmed by the concept of it all.
"My wife will tend to your needs and provide some, er, more fitting clothes for you."
"Thank you. I could use a bath as well," I said as I mopped up the last of the egg with the bread.
"Yes my lady," said Alani. "I will prepare one this moment."
She scurried off to an adjoining room to make preparations. I looked at Brom and Robert and felt tears come to my eyes.
"Thank you both," I said, trying to keep my voice steady. "I don't know what would have happened to me. I am sorry I tried to run at first -- I did not know where I was or who you were."
Robert looked at me with concern in his eyes.
"You will be safe here, my lady. In time we shall help you return to your homeland," he said.
I doubted that would ever happen, but I nodded my thanks. Brom cleared his throat and stood up.
"We must take our leave. There are chores to do as we have been away some days now."
"Yes, of course. I have no doubt your wife will take care of me."
"Aye, she will," said Brom and they went out the door.
Alani returned to the room.
"My lady?" she asked softly. "Your bath is ready...please come with me."
I followed Alani to a small room off the kitchen area. A fire was crackling and there was a large wooden tub filled with steaming hot water. It looked very inviting.
"Thank you Alani. And please...just call me Rebecca?"
She nodded. "I will return shortly to help you with your hair. I have some clothes for you as well."
After she left, I stripped off my clothes and slid into the hot water. I let out a long sigh of pleasure as the water closed over me. Not only was I dirty, but my joints ached from walking and horseback riding. I slid down so the water went up to my neck and just soaked my body. Any thoughts of my predicament would have to wait.
Alani returned some time later with a bundle of clothes. I wondered how I was going to manage shifts and bodices and stockings. I was never one for dresses, preferring a well worn pair of jeans and my western boots. She set the clothing down and grabbed a bucket.
"Let me do your hair," she said.
I nodded and allowed her to pour clean warm water over my head. It felt wonderful. Then she poured a sweet smelling mixture of soap and herbs into my hair and began to work it into my scalp.
"You have very pretty hair. It's so long and full!"
I supposed I did. My hair was very dark and thick. I had let it grow longer since my divorce. It now reached to halfway down my back.
"Thank you Alani, and thank you so much for helping me."
"When my husband and Robert brought you in last night, I did not know what to think. You were in a state of shock, I fear. Robert said he had to ride behind you on your horse and hold you so you would not slip away."
"Oh...I had no idea..." I said.
She nodded. "And your clothes...forgive me, but I had never seen clothes such as yours. You must be from a land very far away."
I said nothing and concentrated on Alani's hands as they worked the lather throughout my hair. She began to hum softly while she worked and we passed some time like that.
"Please close your eyes now, Rebecca. I will dump another bucket of water on you."
This bucket was a little cooler and I shivered a bit as the water ran over my hair rinsing the soap from it. But the smell of the herbs was heavenly. Again I was so grateful.
"There, now you are clean," she said with a smile. "I will leave you."
"Wait," I said, feeling a bit nervous. "I think I am going to need help with these clothes."
Alani raised an eyebrow at me.
"I...I am not accustomed to wearing such..." I stammered.
She nodded and handed me a towel. I stepped out of the tub and dried myself. Alani kept her eyes focused somewhere else until I was done. She handed me the chemise first which I had no trouble with, but I vaguely wished for a bra. Next I put on some sort of undergarment that I supposed was like a pair of panties but much larger.
"This gown should fit you," she said.
Alani held up a pretty blue gown that was fairly plain and not too "poofy". The bra issue was solved when I pulled it on and felt the tight bodice around my midsection. Alani showed me how to lace and tie it. Once it was done, my breasts had some support and were covered enough. I didn't want to have them spilling out the top. They were a generous C-cup and it wouldn't do to be bouncing all over the place. The outfit was finished when I pulled on some linen stockings and wedged my feet into surprisingly well made boots. Alani stood back and admired me.
"You look a right maiden now!" she said, beaming.
I cleared my throat. "I am not a maiden, Alani. I was married once..."
She blushed furiously.
"Oh, I am so sorry my lady! I thought....oh..."
"It's fine, really."
"Well then we need to bind your hair. It would not be fitting to be seen with it loose like that."
She grabbed a brush and brushed out my thick hair and braided it. While she was doing that I ventured some questions.
"Do you have any children, Alani?"
"Nay, not yet. Brom and I have been married barely a few months. But I hope to be with child soon!"
"Oh, well congratulations. I hope I am not intruding in your house."
"Oh, you are no trouble at all. Robert insisted you have his room."
"Robert lives here as well?" I asked.
"Aye. He is Brom's brother, did you not know?"
"No...I hadn't seen the resemblance. Not that I really looked closely."
She nodded as her fingers flew through my hair. "Yes, Robert is the younger of the two. Until he weds and builds a house of his own, he is welcome to stay with us."
"Then where is he sleeping now?" I asked, feeling guilty.
"Oh, he's in the barn," Alani said, giggling.
Once I was presentable, I decided it was time to venture outside. I stepped outside the front door into a small yard filled with flowers, herbs and other assorted plants. The sun shown brilliantly and I missed my sunglasses but I supposed that wouldn't do wearing them. Brom's house was a neat stone structure with a roof made of thatch not unlike houses I had seen when exploring the English countryside with Dennis during our honeymoon. The house itself was set on a slight hill and farmland stretched in every direction. I could not see any other structures except for the large barn and a few other buildings such as the outhouse, or whatever they called it. I sighed -- I was going to miss showers and toilets and all the other comforts of home.
But I pushed those aside as I saw Robert striding up the path from the fields. He was a big, handsome devil, I thought. When he crested the hill to find me standing there, he stopped and gazed at me with wonder.
"My lady! I did not recognize you!"
"Robert, please call me Rebecca...I am not nobility."
He nodded but continued to gape at me.
"Might I say, you look very different."
"Thank you. Your sister-in-law has made a proper lady out of me," I said laughing.
"Aye, she did," he said softly.
I noticed his eyes appraising me and they strayed a bit on my breasts. I coughed and turned to look at the barn.
"So that is where you are sleeping?" I asked.
"Oh aye, for now..."
"Thank you for giving me your room. I am sorry to be such trouble."
He shook his head and I watched his long hair. "No worries, Rebecca. The barn is comfortable. I have never been truly comfortable in houses with proper beds. So many years on the road and sleeping rough." He took a step down to the path. "Come, let's visit the horses. Perhaps you wish to greet Brownie, she was the mare who got you safely here."
I followed Robert along the path to the barn and we went inside. It was the largest barn I had even been in. I was greeted with the smell of horses and a few whickered at us as we entered.
"I am afraid I forgot what Brownie looks like, Robert. I was not exactly myself yesterday..."
He led me over to a stall at the end of the row. A large chestnut mare with a white spot on her forehead stepped to the front of the stall.
"There now, Brownie. Your mistress wishes to thank you," Robert said in a soothing voice.
I reached out and stroked Brownie's muzzle. The horse was bigger than I remembered but very gentle. Large brown eyes gazed at me impassively.
"Thank you Brownie," I said softly, feeling the tears again.
Robert watched us for a moment before speaking.
"Aye, she is a right good horse. Dependable, she is."
I turned to face Robert and looked up into his green eyes.
"And thank you too," I said. "Alani told me you had to ride with me all the way home."
"I had to. Or you would have slipped from your saddle, as you were rigid with shock."
I nodded and brushed the tears from my eyes. I didn't want to lose it again in front of this man. He noticed and cleared his throat again.
"Let's take a walk outside. It will do you good to get some air."
"Yes, let's do that," I said and followed him outside.
I spent the rest of the day getting used to farm life. I supposed if I was on vacation and knew I was going back to Denver, it would have been an amusing few days. But I had no idea if I was ever returning (I hadn't given it much thought yet). It was a hard life these people led and I wondered if I could get accustomed to it.
Alani and I did chores around the house such as cleaning and baking. I did what I could but she could tell I wasn't used to it. A few times she would find me standing there at a loss, but she was patient and guided me through tasks that even a child could perform. Keeping busy was a good idea at the time. There was too much to think about.