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Escort Duty – Part 14

The trio spent the next few weeks languishing in quarantine. Food was bland, monotonous, and enough to keep them from starving, although Greta complained on occasion that her ribs were showing. Simon spent the days singing to the ladies or telling stories, and occasionally Erika would sing along in a high voice which rang like a silver bell across the yard.

They kept count of the days by watching the moon as it rose across the gorge behind the hut. They had come to the bridge the morning after the new moon, so when the moon was full again, they knew their ordeal was half over. In celebration, Simon talked one of the guards into bringing them a couple of apples, which the ladies enjoyed as if they were the finest delicacy they had ever eaten.

Several days later, as the first heat of early summer was baking them and even the breeze from the window seemed hot and steamy, their patience wore thin.

Simon sat upon the bare floor at his usual spot in front of the door. In his hand, he held a small stick, which he used to beat a rhythm on the leather of his boots as he sang.

In Nottingham there lives a jolly tanner,

With a hey down down a down down

His name is Arthur a Bland;

There is nere a squire in Nottinghamshire

Dare bid bold Arthur stand.

 

With a long pike-staff upon his shoulder,

So well he can clear his way;

By two and by three he makes them to flee,

For he hath no list to stay.

 

And as he went forth, in a summer’s morning,

Into the forrest of merry Sherwood,

To view the red deer, that range here and there,

There met he with bold Robin Hood.

 

Erika glared at the half-elf from her bedroll, where Greta was fussing at her hair. The maid had neither comb nor brush, so she used her fingers to untangle her mistress’ long hair, then braid it back together. Her own hair was as neat as she could get it, but she was continually pushing it back into place.

“Must you sing that again?” the princess said crossly, “I’ve heard that one enough that I can hear it in my sleep!”

“Is there another song you’d prefer, my lady?” Simon replied.

“I swear, I’ve heard every poem, tale, and ode ever jabbered by drunk minstrels!” Erika cried, bringing her hands to her face and rubbing her eyes.

“It’s only a few more days, mistress,” Greta said, “Then we’ll be on our way.”

“I would sacrifice either of you to the darkest gods of the wood to feel a cool breeze and have something better than bread and water to eat!”

Simon shrugged, then returned to his singing.

As soon as bold Robin Hood did him espy,

He thought some sport he would make;

Therefore out of hand he bid him to stand,

And thus to him he spake:

 

Why, what art thou, thou bold fellow,

That ranges so boldly here?

In sooth, to be brief, thou lookst like a thief,

That comes to steal our king’s deer.

 

For I am a keeper in this forrest;

The king puts me in trust

To look to his deer, that range here and there,

Therefore stay thee I must.

 

Erika made a face at Simon, then turned away from Greta and lay upon her blanket.

“Awaken me when it’s time to eat again. I’m going to sleep until then,” she said petulantly. Above them, a crow cawed from the roof’s peak. “And if that damned bird gets close enough, wring its neck and feed it to me raw!”

Greta looked at her mistress with worry in her eyes, then looked to Simon, who had stopped singing, but continued to beat a rhythm on his boots.

“It’s only a bit longer, Greta,” he said gently, “Then we’ll be on our way.”


Other episodes can be found here.  The entire anthology can be purchased at Amazon.

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