Red Ryder - Chapter 6 by Rtesian ()
Red stood before the iron gate where still cool night breezes brushed against her cheeks. Pre-dawn shadows muffled the sounds of a castle awakening. An excited tension gripped her. Today marked the first day of a journey into the unknown. A slow, deep breath filled her lungs.
The man beside her had become a source of continued confusion. Yes, the Count had carried off Drago's body leaving it miles away on a well-traveled road. Yes, he had escorted her back to the castle to avoid roving bands out hunting Drago's killer. And yes. Under his tutelage, brigands and bandits would not find her a defenseless morsel. But this same man had walked away from his lover and unborn daughter. "Did you love my mother?"
The question hung in the air. Sunbeams chose that moment to pierce the portal and warm their faces. Both enjoyed the sparkling rays and their promise of a new day, a new beginning, a new opportunity. "Come. Walk with me to the West Gate."
Cooks, stable grooms, carpenters, masons, chambermaids, as well as knights, pages, and guards smiled, bowed, and curtsied as they hurried to their appointed posts. Curiously, not once had Red seen the Countess nor had she been summoned to pay respects to the Lady of the House.
They passed the courtyard and ahead the West Gate loomed. "I was not raised for love. I was raised for duty. I did not have the freedom to indulge my whims and desires. I did not have the wisdom and experience to distinguish between love and a whim." He stopped and locked her gaze. "I am still duty bound. The people depend upon me to be so. I failed your mother but wisdom tells me I cannot undo the past. It also has restored me to love. I will not fail my daughter." He turned and resumed his walk. Red followed and curled her arm around his as they continued in silence.
As they crossed the moat bridge, the clop, clop of a horse trundled behind them. A grin spread across Verlon's mouth. "Oh, I almost forgot." He turned, motioning toward an approaching groom. "This is Bayard. He is strong and true. He is not the swiftest but he will charge anything and trample it underfoot. He will keep his hooves and balance during battle and will never leave your side. He is yours." Red gasped with surprise and delight. She turned toward Verlon, her eyes tearing. The two held their gazes, neither willing to end the moment.
"I must be going." Verlon nodded.
"Each morning as the sun greets me, I will wonder if the day will mark your return. I will be eager to hear every detail of your adventure." His head swiveled toward the forest. "Does your friend await you?"
"I am sure he is nearby."
Sword sheathed to her back, Red mounted Bayard. His head and neck bobbed up and down, hooves clopped and danced on the wooden planks. Powerful muscles rippled in eager anticipation. Without another word, Red turned and trotted away. Ahead the dark woods beckoned. Fate's whisper rustled the leaves.
to be continued...