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Lady Evaine

Short story By: apepper

This is a story of how a rich lord's daughter was kidnapped.

Submitted:May 17, 2013    Reads: 66    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   

Lady Evaine
It happened while she was off on a ride one beautiful morning. She had just entered down her usual forest path on her gleaming white stallion when a large man jumped from behind a tree. Her horse shied away in fright and reared up on its hind legs. Catching her off guard, she fell to the ground landing hard on her back. The fall knocked the air from her lungs and she gasped for breath. Several large, dark-clothed figures surrounded her. Still in shock from the fall, she lay helpless as they grabbed her roughly, bound her hands and tied a cloth tight around her mouth. She was not able to get a good look at any of them because their faces were covered, except for one quick glimpse of the bluest set of eyes she had ever seen. At that moment a warning cry from the lookout man announced that they've been caught, but when they looked up they spied a young boy running back the way he had come having seen the attack. A few men scrambled to their horses, but a voice called them off.
"Leave him! We don't have the time!"
Everything went dark when they finally blind-folded her and hoisted her back up onto her horse, followed by one of her kidnappers who jumped up into the saddle behind her. She knew there was no escape now.
They rode for a long time; so long that she began to grow extremely sore and tired from trying to keep hold of the saddle. It was much more difficult when blind-folded, and she began to slip. She felt a firm arm grasp her around the middle and hold her in place. They rode for a little longer when her captor, who rode behind her, spoke with a concerned voice,
"We should stop to rest a few hours, Vince. The girl is exhausted".
His voice was that of a younger man's, but the voice answering back was distinctively older.
"Stick to the plan, Griff. We don't want to risk stopping. I'd remember whose neck is at stake if I was you. Her father would skewer us if we were caught."
So they continued on, and from that short conversation she could easily recognize who was in charge, and it seems like this Vince-character was not one to be taken for a fool.
In response to Vince's reply, Griff slowed the pace and held her more firmly so there was no way for her to fall. He leaned forward, brought his lips to her ear and whispered,
"Don't worry, I've got you. We're almost there."
She didn't understand why he was being kind to her. Is he not still one of her captors or was he only half-heartedly a part of this job? The reason for her kidnapping was obvious: being the daughter of a rich lord has its downsides because her father, Lord Benjamin, treasured her above anything else, even his land and especially his gold. Now here she was, young and beautiful Evaine, named after her mother who had died when she was only just five years old, being taken to an unknown and far away place.
Several hours later, she finally felt the pull on the reins to slow the horse and heard the others dismounting around her. The young man, who she now knew as Griff, leapt down off the saddle and helped her down. Evaine's blindfold was removed, but it didn't do much good, as it was the middle of the night. The only light came from the full moon, high up in the sky, that shown through the branches of the surrounding trees. They were in the middle of a forest and a large, two-story cabin lay before her or rather an old, abandoned tavern. The others had already entered the cabin. Evaine could see the faint glow of fire coming from the windows. Griff grabbed her arm and escorted her toward the cabin. Now that the journey part of the kidnapping was over a new wave of fear crept over her.
Once the door was thrust open, Evaine was pushed into the room and stumbled forward. The men in the room let out an amused triumphant laugh. One man in particular stood up from his chair to speak and began to approach her. When she saw his face Evaine knew he was the one she had heard earlier when Griff spoke up for her sake.
"Well done boys. I think it's safe to say in a very short time we will all be rich men! You all played your parts well, especially this one," gesturing towards Evaine and letting out a deep chortle, "It seems that what my men say are true. Your beauty is beyond compare, but then there is only one way beauty can be truly appreciated."
Her heart was racing as he stood only inches from her, and she flinched as he reached for a strand of her hair. He smirked at her reaction, satisfied with her fear of him. She was even too afraid to meet his gaze.
"Nervous are we? Why shouldn't you be? No one knows where you are so no one can come to rescue you. I'm surprised your father would let you wander so far on your own. It seems he has become arrogant and ignorant alike towards anyone, but him and his precious daughter. Perhaps we should just have our way with you, and send you back in ruin. We'll see how he feels towards you then. No man with a lord's status wants a daughter who has been spoiled. No suitors would ever want you, and that is a blow I would love to give to that rich bastard."
The other men were nodding and grunting their approval and smiling with greedy eyes. At this moment Griff stepped from the corner of the room where he had been standing silently.
"Vince, if we harm her we would be in more trouble than we already are. We should demand the money in promising that no harm would come to her. It would ensure that we will get the ransom even sooner. We already know how much Lord Benjamin loves his daughter. Don't forget we had a deal. We are all wanted men now. That boy we let go could easily match the description of any one of us, not to mention they could find us even if they have a tracker half as good as me. Would it really be worth it if we didn't ransom her?"
"Your not beginning to fall in love with her I hope, Griff."
"Of course not, I just wanted to remind you of why we did this in the first place."
"Ah right, the gold. I suppose it's a bit more substantial, but I never want to pass up a moment of torment and fear. It makes these jobs much more enjoyable." Vince let out a disappointed sigh, "Well then, why don't you be the one to escort her ladyship to her room. Be sure to lock the door tight. I don't want to have to go chasing after her when we caught her so easily."
With a satisfied grin Vince tossed the key into Griff's hand, and turned back to his chair by the fire. Griff turned his attention to Evaine, and their eyes finally met. The striking blue eyes Evaine had seen before were now gazing into her own. He stood as one of the tallest men in the room with light sandy colored hair that hung down in waves just past his strongly set jaw. Wordlessly, Griff took her by the arm once more, and led her up the stairs to her room or more like her prison. The room was very small, and the only window was boarded up tight. There was a small cot in one corner and an old wax candle for light. He left her hands bound, and before Griff shut the door he met her gaze for one short moment, and in seeing her looking so small and so helpless, Griff's doubts began to grow.
What Evaine or any of the other men did not know, was how much Griff really knew about her. He first saw her walking through the streets holding onto her father's hand. Lady Evaine was just 8 years old. She was already very pretty at that age, and Griff was simply fascinated by her. As she grew up she grew into certain habits. Every day in the early afternoon she would walk past his family's shop looking at the goods for sale and talking with the different shopkeepers along the lane. He loved everything about her. He loved the way she walked and smiled and how she took the time to speak with people under her station. She didn't care about protocol or listening to the gossip of the other high-born ladies. She was always very kind to everyone she met. He loved the dark brown color of her long flowing hair that was very often adorn with sweet smelling flowers. He could even guess her favorite colors because she would wear them most every day: a dark forest green or a sky blue, or really any shade of blue.
As soon as she heard the lock snap into place, Evaine sat up, bending her knees so she was able to touch her feet. She reached down and grabbed the hem of her dress, pulling it up to reveal a tiny dagger hidden in her right boot. She wedged the knife between her feet and began to slice through the rope that bound her wrists. All the while she thought, "Men," Evaine scoffed, "just because I am a woman they wouldn't think I would carry a knife." She smirked. Now that her hands were free she wasn't sure what to do next. She examined the boards on the window and knew they would take time to pry off and she wouldn't be able to fight her way out of the cabin with only a small blade. So she decided to get some rest and figure out what to do in the morning, but first, she retied the rope together loosely to give the appearance that her hands were still bound.
Several days went by and not a word was heard from Lord Benjamin. He would have, of course, gone out and searched for her first before giving into a ransom, but it seemed to take longer than the men expected. They began to grow restless. One night, Vince paid Evaine a visit, and began questioning her. He mocked her by asking how her father could delay the return of his precious brat of a daughter. He kept asking her questions she could not answer, and every answer she did give, Vince responded with a stinging smack across her face. He left her with both eyes swollen and bruised with tears running down her cheeks that made the cuts he had inflicted upon her face ache. Griff was gone at the time, but when he returned in the evening, and brought her food he knew something was wrong when she did not turn to look at him when he opened the door. He stepped forward laying the plate of food on the floor, and crouched in front of her.
"Look at me," Griff demanded softly.
When she didn't respond he reached his hand forward, and lifted her chin, turning her face towards him, and he brushed her hair aside. She looked up at him, and saw a mixture of horror and anger in his eyes. Evaine could see he already knew who had beaten her because all he said was,
"I'm gonna kill him." He rose to his feet. "I'll be back later, I promise."
Evaine heard his footsteps receding down the hall, and after a few minutes she heard arguing coming from below her. She couldn't make out any words, but she knew it was about her. She had to escape tonight, but she still had several nails to pry out of the wood. Evaine worked faster than she had before, and she didn't care how many cuts or slivers she got. After several more hours she finally worked the last nail loose, but then she noticed how the light trickle of rain had become a full raging storm. Now she could see the lightning flashing every few seconds, and the wind was beginning to howl even louder. When she pulled down all of the boards sprays of rain blew in through the opening.
Now was her chance, she quickly took up the piece of bread she had saved and stuffed it down her dress. She looked down at the ground that was a good twenty foot drop onto hard ground. She sat down on the sill and twisted her legs around so they hung over the side. Her body was poised and ready to jump when she heard the door open suddenly behind her. Griff was standing in the doorway gaping at her. Evaine just saw his lips forming the word, "No!", as she pushed off, and fell towards the ground. Her feet hit the ground so hard it sent a painful jolt up her entire body. She felt her ankle give under her and a shock of pain went up her leg. She stifled a cry and turned her gaze up to the window. She could see Griff gazing down at her, but she turned her head away and willed herself to stand. She took a quick intake of breath and ran as fast as she could, but with an obvious limp in her stride.
Griff watched her disappear into the darkness before he turned, and walked briskly from the room, and down the stairs to retrieve his pack. He slowed his pace so he wouldn't attract attention as he filled his pack with a few supplies before he went back upstairs. Once he reached the empty room he finally raised the alarm that Evaine had escaped. All the men came running, most of them had been sound asleep and were rubbing their eyes with looks of confusion. Vince pushed his way through to the room where Evaine was kept only to find her gone and the boards torn from the window. Vince went ridged and his eyes turned wild.
He spun around, "Find her!" He shouted. "I don't care how bad the storm is, I want her found!" With a sneer, Vince turned towards Griff, "Dead," he emphasized, "or alive."
The men scrambled for their clothes and weapons. Griff was already prepared so he grabbed his cloak from its peg and pulled his hood up before he plunged into the pouring rain and raging wind.
Evaine ran blindly through the rain holding her hands over her face to shield the sting of the wind whipping water, branches, and leaves at her from all directions. She had slowed down to an agonizingly slow pace as the pain in her ankle became unbearable. She had only gone a few miles before exhaustion overtook her. She was soaked and cold to the bone, and kept stumbling over roots and stones. Evaine knew if she fell once more, she wouldn't have the strength to stand again. She staggered on for several more yards until her legs could carry her no further. She fell to her knees and tried to crawl, but failed to make it another few feet before she collapsed all together and curled into a ball. She closed her eyes to try and shut out the pain and the cold as her body shivered violently.
Griff trudged quickly through the forest; his eyes had adjusted almost immediately in the darkness. Every so often he would spot several footprints, and other marks imprinted deep in the mud from when she had stumbled or fallen to her knees. He knew he was gaining on her.
Evaine was thinking of home and the comfort of her warm bed and a fire crackling in the fireplace and then, she almost thought she could hear her father. He was saying her name, "Evaine!" He whispered lovingly, and he kept saying it over and over again, until she realized it wasn't her father she heard. Evaine felt a hand on her arm, and she forced her eyes open to see a hooded figure crouched in front of her.
"Please, don't take me back. I just want to go home," she pleaded weakly.
"It's alright, it's me, Griff. I'm not here to take you back. I need to get you out of here. Come on."
Griff wrapped his cloak around her, and lifted her into his arms, cradling her to his chest with her head resting against his shoulder. He began to pick his way through the trees while the storm continued to rage. She felt light in his arms despite being soaked from the rain. Her shivering began to subside a little, but he felt her ragged breathing against his chest and it made him press on faster. Finally, after a few more miles he saw a looming wall of darkness ahead of him.
It was an ivy covered stone wall that ran a few miles in each direction, but this was where Griff wanted to be. He recognized the unusually large stump that stood firmly in the ground, and was right up against the stone wall. He climbed up onto the stump and walked to the wall without stopping he carried Evaine through the ivy, brushing it aside. Instead of running into stone he had walked into a narrow passageway that soon ended into a surprisingly large area surrounded by stone. It was no more than the bottom of a giant crevice in the stone which was large enough to hide a small cabin within. It was the same cabin that Griff and his father used to spend time in together. They would spend entire days hunting and fishing, and his father would teach him how to track animals and identify the different tracks. That was how he knew the forest so well and of course, no one else knew about the cabin.
Without stopping, Griff pushed the door of the cabin with a shove of his foot and brought her near the fireplace and laid her on the floor. He grabbed some wood from the corner and took out his flint to start a fire. Once there was a sizeable flame he threw off his cloak that was soaking wet and heavy, and hung it near the fire to dry. His father always taught him to keep the place stocked with supplies so fortunately he had a few extra blankets which he grabbed and laid them over Evaine. Griff went out for more wood and came back as quick as he could in case Evaine would need him, but when he came back he found her asleep and no longer shivering. While she slept he took some meat he had taken before he left and speared it over the fire, and went back out to get a bucket of water. Once he hung the water over the fire to boil he sat next to Evaine as she slept and turned the meat that was slowly roasting.
Evaine woke suddenly to a smell that made her mouth water despite her thirst. She moved to turn her body, and forgot about her ankle and gasped. Then she notice Griff was sitting next to her because he turned towards her when she gasped. He stopped turning the meat he was cooking, and rolled onto his knees.
"How are you feeling?"
Evaine shut her eyes and bowed her head, "I'm fine." she answered, and pressed her lips together to push away the pain. She didn't like feeling weak. When she opened her eyes again she could tell by the look on his face that he didn't believe her, but he didn't press the subject. Instead he stood up and walked over to what was a small wardrobe in the corner of the room and came back with a few garments in his hands.
"Here," Griff said, handing the clothes to Evaine, "These will probably be too big, but you shouldn't keep those wet clothes on or you'll get sick. You can hang your wet things by the fire to dry." Once she took hold of the clothes he turned and left the cabin.
She stared after him for a few more moments, and then quickly changed, and put on the clothes Griff had given her. Evaine then fixed her hair into a thick braid that hung over her shoulder before sitting by the fire once more with a blanket around her shoulders. A few minutes later she heard a knock on the door.
"You can come in." She called.
Griff stepped into the cabin and she followed him with her eyes as he walked back to the fireplace and took the meat from the fire. They sat on the floor together and as they ate Griff finally spoke.
"We should leave at dusk so we can get away undetected. None of the other men have as good of tracking skills as I do."
"But I can't walk." Evaine cut in.
"I've thought of that. Luckily, I was already prepared by bringing my horse here yesterday." Griff rose to his feet, and went over to a shelf full of supplies and retrieved a few strips of cloth. He returned and sat in front of Evaine's feet so he could wrap her ankle to help with the swelling. He gently and carefully lifted her leg and placed it on his lap.
Evaine was puzzled as she stared down at her swollen ankle and then back up at Griff. "I still don't understand. Why are you helping me? I thought you wanted the reward money?"
"I did before, but when I saw what we did to you I couldn't bear it, and when Vince hurt you I was tempted to kill every one of them." Griff avoided her gaze by staying concentrated on the cloth he was wrapping with practiced precision around her ankle.
"But why?"
Griff finally looked up at Evaine with intensity in his icy blue eyes.
"You don't remember me at all do you?" Griff asked unexpectedly.
Evaine was startled by his question. "What do you mean? Have we met before?" Her brow furrowed as she searched and studied his face.
"Yes, actually we have, once, but we were much younger. You would always walk down the market streets with your father. You always carried a small basket with you and when you were passing by my family's shop you dropped your basket, and I retrieved it for you. You looked me right in the eye, and smiled with your cheeks blushing as I handed you your basket. I couldn't seem to find my voice, but then you had shyly whispered, "Thank you." and placed a quick kiss on my cheek before running back to your father."
"I think I remember." Evaine thought for a moment. "Yes, yes, I think I remember you. So you were the boy?" Evaine asked thoughtfully.
Griff could tell by the expression on her face that Evaine was seeing the images of those long forgotten memories flashing across her mind. Her eyes looked unfocused for a moment, but then she brought her attention back to Griff who stared at her with a hint of curiosity showing on his face. Griff only responded with a half smile.
"I, I didn't recognize you. You've changed so much since then, but of course, we were children. I just still don't understand how you would get mixed up in a kidnapping job."
Griff sighed and laced his fingers together. "It was quite simple really. I needed the money because my family business wasn't doing so well, and Vince had asked around and heard from other villagers that I was a good tracker."
"Ah, I see. I'm so sorry."
"Don't be. You can't choose the life you are born into, and I am to blame for letting Vince take advantage of my situation." Griff dropped his gaze as he said this. He fiddled with the knot he had just finished tying. He lifted her leg from his lap and set it back down on the floor.
Evaine bent her legs to the side and drew nearer to him so she could reach up and place her hand softly on his cheek,
"We all make mistakes, Griff. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Griff shut his eyes at the touch of her skin on his, and he reached up and placed his hand over hers.
"Yes?" He asked as he opened his eyes, and raised his head to look at her. He didn't realize how close they were now. Their faces only inches apart.
"Do you love me?" She spoke carefully, but her question was serious as she locked her eyes on his.
He chuckled softly. "Must you even ask?" He lowered his hand, but still kept her hand in his.
"Yes, because I want to hear you say it."
He took a deep breath and swallowed before he spoke. "I won't lie to you or attempt to hide my feelings. I have never loved anyone more, and could never dream of loving anyone else for the rest of my life. So the answer to your question is yes, I do love you and I have always desired your love in return. I know there is no excuse for how you were treated and I wish I would have chosen to stop it from happening. I hope that you can forgive me, and---"
Evaine placed her hand lightly over his mouth with an amused, but loving expression. "It seems I thought you to be a man of few words, but now I was unsure of when you meant to stop." She giggled softly and lowered her head. "Now I suppose it is my turn to be honest with you. You took a great risk in sharing your feelings, and I should feel ashamed if I should not respond in kind." Evaine raised her head and leaned forward to press her lips gently against his. She felt Griff stiffen in surprise for only a moment, but then she felt his hand on her cheek, and she placed her hands flat on his chest as he pulled her closer to him. She could feel his heart beating just as swiftly as her own as their bodies pressed together. Time seemed to stand still as they kissed until Evaine finally pulled away and smiled up at him.
"I hope my feelings are agreeable enough?" She asked with a mischievous grin.
"More than enough." Griff responded by leaning down once more to kiss her. His lips brushed lightly over hers. Even that slightest touch of her lips made his heart race. "You should rest. We'll have to move quickly if we want to make it out without being seen by Vince and the others. I'll wake you when it's time to leave." He rose to his feet and wordlessly left the cabin.
There was nothing else Evaine could do, but take his advice and get some sleep. She laid down on the floor and stared up at the ceiling until her eyes slowly closed and she fell into a deep and dream filled sleep. She found herself stumbling through the storm again, but then she heard a loud echoing laugh. She tried to run, but several pairs of arms wrapped around her, and ripped at her skin and clothing. Evaine screamed and suddenly woke to find Griff crouched over her with his hands holding her arms. He looked at her with concern.
Evaine's heart was racing as she gasped for air. She realized she must have screamed out loud.
"It's alright. It was only a dream." Griff reassured her pulling her into his arms.
She wrapped her arms around him and closed her eyes as she leaned her head against his chest, and her breathing began to slow.
"We should be going." Griff whispered as he pulled away. "I'll let you change so we can leave as soon as possible."
After the door closed behind Griff, Evaine took a deep breath before she struggled to her feet and quickly changed back into her dress that had finally dried. A few minutes later she heard a knock at the door which opened slightly, and she saw Griff's head appear through the crack in the door.
"Are you ready?"
Evaine nodded. Griff stepped into the cabin and came towards her.
"Put your arm around my neck." Griff said as he leaned down to hook one arm under her knees, and one under her arms, and swung her up into his arms.
"You should stay off your ankle for as long as possible." Griff explained as he maneuvered his way out of the cabin to his horse that was saddled and laden with provisions. He lifted Evaine onto his horse, and instead of jumping in the saddle in front of her, Griff grabbed the reins and began leading the horse.
Griff glanced back at Evaine. "I would be too tall for the tunnel if I sat in the saddle so it would be best if you would duck your head." Evaine did as she was advised as they made their way through the dark tunnel. Once they were in open air again Griff jumped up into the saddle, and Evaine wrapped her arms tight around his waist.
"If we move fast we should be able to make it in three days." Griff turned to look at her. "Ready?"
"Ready." Evaine smiled up at him.
He slapped the reins across his horse's neck, and gave a little kick, and the horse broke into a swift, rolling gait. As they weaved through the trees Evaine noticed that the forest seemed to have been transformed over night. There was no longer that feeling of fright and panic, but the rays of sunlight that passed through the trees and the calm, cool air felt refreshing and peaceful. Wherever the sun touched the plants growing in the underbrush they sparkled brilliantly from the water droplets left over from last night's storm.
Griff knew they only had a few hours before it would be too dark to ride so he kept pushing the horse as fast as it would carry them. His goal was for them to reach the Hills of Bollán in two days time. From there it would be only five more leagues separating them from town.
Once dusk had finally faded into night they had stopped to rest for a few hours until it was light enough to continue riding.
Before they even jumped down from the saddle Griff pointed out, "We can't make a fire because it will draw unwanted company so we have to make do." Griff then held out his arm to help Evaine down before he swung down from the saddle. Griff busied himself with removing the saddle and the bags of food while Evaine unrolled the sleeping mat before she sat and rummaged through the saddle bags for something to eat. Griff soon joined Evaine on the ground. She was staring up at the sky as she nibbled a piece of dried fruit.
"At least the moon is bright enough. I'm not sure how I would feel about being in complete darkness and out in the open." Evaine spoke as if talking to herself.
Griff chuckled, "Well you still have me. You shouldn't have to fear the darkness when I am here."
She tore her gaze away from the sky to smile up at Griff. "Now that you reminded me of when we had first met in the marketplace I remember wanting to know what your laugh sounded like. I hadn't even heard you speak, but I just wanted to see how your face would light up, and how that expression would compliment your bright, blue eyes. It was your eyes that I recognized when I first saw you on the day I was kidnapped. I knew I had seen them before, but I just couldn't remember where." Evaine reached up and brushed her fingers softly across his cheek as they sat and held each other's gaze in their own. Then Evaine slowly closed her eyes, and realized how heavy they were and she took a deep breath and sighed. It was obvious Griff had heard her because he rose to his feet before saying, "I'll keep watch while you rest.
We'll leave as soon as it is bright enough."
"You're sure you do not need rest for yourself?" Evaine asked with concern.
"I don't necessarily need sleep to get rest. I'll be fine, I promise."
Without waiting for a reply, Griff turned and walked away, disappearing in the direction where he had tied up his horse. His horse whickered as he approached, and Griff gave him a light pat on the shoulder as he walked over and leaned up against the tree. He could just make out Evaine's figure lying on the ground a few feet away and kept his eyes on her as the hours sped by. Griff eventually sat down with his back propped up against the tree when his legs began to ache. He had a feeling of unease the entire night, which was partially why he couldn't sleep, but didn't want Evaine to worry. She had already gone through too much, and he didn't wish to burden her any further. Now Griff couldn't wait any longer and he decided it was bright enough to continue riding. He walked over quietly and knelt beside Evaine. It was hard for him to wake her. She looked so peaceful and beautiful as she slept, but it was time they had left.
He gently placed his hand on her shoulder, and whispered, "Evaine, wake up."
"What time is it?" Evaine groaned softly.
Griff smiled down at her, and spoke softly, "It's nearly dawn, come on."
Evaine blinked her eyes open several times, sleepily. She yawned as she sat up, and rubbed a hand across her face as if she could wipe the tiredness off her face. Griff gave her a hand up, and helped her walk over to where his horse was waiting. Her ankle felt so much better from when she had first landed on it, but she still limped slightly as she walked.
They were galloping through the trees once more, but at a slower pace because the trees began to grow closer together which prevented them from traveling in a straight line. They weaved back and forth between the trees with a rhythmic grace. They continued the pace until it was close to noon when they finally stopped to rest the horse, and to have a short meal. The sooner they stopped to rest the sooner they were off again.
They were making good time, and according to Griff, they would be at Bollán by late afternoon. "The size of the rocks at Bollán should give us good enough protection so we can both get enough rest. We should be close enough to town where we should be safe. I do not think Vince would come that close, and risk being caught."
"I hope you're right."
The ground began to tilt upward and steepened as they continued. An hour had passed and Evaine thought she could hear the rush of water. Soon after she was proved right as they came over a ridge and below the view was breathtaking. A small river of water tumbled over giant rocks and disappeared around a bend. Every where there weren't the colossal rocks there was an abundance of trees, flowers, and berry bushes.
"Oh!" Evaine exclaimed, "It's beautiful!"
"I'm glad you like it." Griff had turned to see her delighted reaction. "We'll camp right next to the river down where it is flattest." Griff pointed towards a large flat span of stone. "We'll have to go slowly. It can be a bit treacherous."
Griff helped her down off the horse, and she kept hold of his arm as they descended towards the river. It took longer than Evaine thought, but they finally made it down without injury. The flat stone was covered with a thick layer of emerald green moss which cushioned the hardness of the stone beneath it, and made it more pleasant to lay on. Griff deemed it safe enough to light a small fire so they could have a hot meal instead of stale bread and dried fruit. After they had eaten they laid side by side by the edge of the river and starred up at the night sky. They were lucky enough to have a clear night. The stars sparkled like precious gems. As Evaine's gaze swept back and forth she saw a streak of light flash across the sky.
"Oh, look!" Evaine pointed in the direction the star had fallen. "I think that is the first falling star I've ever seen."
"Did you make a wish?" Griff turned his head to look at her.
"A wish?" Evaine looked over at Griff and saw him staring at her in kind.
"When you see a falling star you're supposed to make a wish. It's just a superstitious, but it couldn't hurt."
Evaine turned her face back towards the sky and closed her eyes for just a moment, and when she opened her eyes she smiled and turned back towards Griff. "There I made my wish."
"What did you wish for?"
"Well why should tell you?" Evaine asked as she chuckled.
"I was only curious." Griff said innocently.
"Well you will just have to wait, and see if it will come true." Evaine was staring up at the sky again, but she saw Griff roll onto his side so he was leaning over her with his arm bent up to support his head, and she looked up at him smiling. He paused only to stare into her eyes as if he could see into the depths of her heart and soul. It made her shiver with delight. He slowly bent his head down and his lips met hers, and she had closed her eyes just before he kissed her. The sensation was electrifying and made her feel alive and Evaine was certain that Griff felt the same for he had brought his hand over to caress her face, and she could feel his fingers running through her hair.
All of a sudden they heard a loud splash and they sprang apart and Griff was on his feet, but as they looked toward the noise all they saw was a small group of deer who had crossed over the river and were already disappearing into the trees. Evaine was the first to laugh, and she heard Griff give a sigh of relief and he turned back toward her with a huge grin on his face.
"I think that was our cue to get some rest now." Griff said as he stepped toward her so they were almost touching. He looked down and took her hands in his. "I love you."
"And I love you."
Griff was already leaning down for one last kiss before they returned to their beds they had laid out upon the moss covered stone. It did not take long for Evaine to drift off to sleep, but Griff laid there for a moment looking up at the sky once more before his eyelids slowly drooped, and he welcomed the coming rest.
Before Evaine even opened her eyes she heard the chirping of birds and rushing water from the river. She felt the warmth of the morning sun on her face and she turned her face towards Griff only to find his blanket empty. She sat up and found Griff crouched next to the river with his back to her. She watched him as he ran a wet hand through his hair and when he shook his head she half expected flecks of gold to scatter.
"Good morning." she called. Griff turned towards her and smiled.
"Good morning. Did you sleep well?" He rose to his feet, and walked over to sit next to her.
"Yes, I did." Evaine said as she gave a little yawn.
"I was about to go hunt down some lunch for us if you are alright with staying here alone for an hour."
"Yes, I'm sure I'll be fine."
Griff got to his feet and walked over to his pack to retrieve his bow. He also removed his sword from his belt before he came back to stand in front of Evaine. He held out the sword to her.
"Here, take this. I don't want you to be unprotected while I'm gone." Griff said as he handed her the sword.
Evaine held the sword in both of her hands and felt its weight. It was definitely not what she was used to, but it still felt somewhat familiar. She looked back up at Griff and smiled reassuringly.
Griff returned her smile before he turned and disappeared into the trees. After he had gone Evaine turned her attention back to Griff's sword. She got to her feet, and pulled the blade from its sheath to examine it. It was carefully sharpened, and the sun made the steel shine. She spun it once in her hand, and then returned the sword to its sheath.
Evaine made her way to the edge of the river where she sat, and let her feet dangle over the edge of the rock. She could feel the cool, rushing water on her toes as she sat staring into the water and her mind began to wandered.
It had to have been more than an hour when Griff had left, and there had been no sign of him. Evaine hadn't realized how quiet it had gotten. She gripped the sword tightly in her hands as she scanned the surroundings. She began to grow suspicious, and as her nervousness grew she had gotten to her feet to stop from fidgeting. She was still facing the river when she heard rustling in the bushes behind her. She spun on her heels and drew her sword. Evaine's eyes widened as a familiar figure stood several feet in front of her, it was Vince. He was just as she remembered him, with his nasty grin and hateful eyes.
"Well, well, well. What have we here? Did you honestly think you could escape from me?" Vince said as more men
emerged from the bushes with a struggling body in tow. Griff with his hands tied and mouth gagged he fell to his knees and looked up at her with panicked and apologetic eyes. Evaine stood her ground, but couldn't hide the moment of fear that passed over her. She heard Vince chuckle as he turned his attention to Griff.
"And you!" Vince spat as he swung his arm back, and brought his hand across Griff's face with enough force that knocked him on his side. Vince's men grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. "I knew I shouldn't have trusted you with her. Any fool could have seen that you were in love with her."
He looked back towards Evaine who hadn't moved an inch from where she stood gripping the sword in front of her until her knuckles had turned white.
"Now, if you don't mind handing over that sword of yours, and coming along quietly I will consider lowering your punishment and giving this scum," Vince gestured toward Griff, "a clean and quick death."
She stood up tall and squared her shoulders as she stared him down and with all the courage she could muster she declared, "I will be bullied by you no longer, and will fight for my freedom whilst I have a sword in my hand."
The smile on Vince's face disappeared and his eyes turned dark. "I've had enough of this." He turned towards his men and gestured towards Evaine. Two of the three men advanced on Evaine and drew their swords. They approached her has if she wouldn't put up a fight. They saw her as a inexperienced woman, and because she was a woman that meant she was weak. The thought just angered her even more, and she stepped forward to meet them. She swung her sword at the first man before he had the chance to raise his sword. A wide slash opened across his chest and it bloomed red, and he looked down in confusion. He fell to his knees as Evaine was already advancing towards the second man with blood dripping from her sword. This time the second man was ready for her attack, but he still underestimated her. Both men lay dead at her feet and she stood leaning on her sword and breathing heavily. She felt her ankle had started to throb.
Before Vince could say anything, his third man was already storming towards her. She could see the anger and frustration on his face as he approached. She raised her sword with both hands to block the oncoming strike. The man first came with brute strength which forced Evaine back towards the river, but she still held her own as she blocked each swing of his sword. After another minute she was able to slice open his leg which caused his knees to buckle, and in one smooth motion Evaine swept the blade across his neck.
Evaine felt exhausted as she limped forward towards Vince. She heard him curse.
"I should never rely on anyone who isn't me. It's time I dealt with you myself, you spoiled, little whore!"
Vince drew his own sword, and pushed Griff to the ground as he stepped down towards Evaine. Evaine raised her sword more slowly than before, and willed her hands to stop shaking. Vince proved to be very good with a sword as she slowly began to lose ground. As Evaine was backing up she stumbled over a rock. As soon as she lost concentration, Vince took the opportunity to shove his foot into her gut which sent her sprawling to the ground, and gasping for air. She tried to reach for her sword, but it lay a few feet away, and Vince was upon her. He knelt next to her with a smile on his face again. He grabbed her hair, and pulled which made her cry out in pain. It made Vince laugh as he brought his sword up to her throat. She knew he could see the fear in her eyes.
"Beg!" He whispered hoarsely, "I want to hear you beg for your worthless, little life!" He was an inch from her face, and
she could smell his foul breath. Evaine turned her face away, and her eyes searched for Griff, but she couldn't see him.
"Look at me, little whore!" Vince tightened his grip on her hair, and she looked up at him with a mixture of fear and hatred.
Evaine struggled to speak, but in one breath she declared, "I will never give you that satisfaction, so just kill me now." She spit in his face.
"Have it your way!" Vince drew back his arm, but before the sword descended a jolt went through his body. He looked down at his chest, and saw the point of a sword protruding from it. He looked up with wide eyes before they rolled up into his head, and was kicked to the ground by Griff. While Vince and Evaine had fought, Griff had managed to work his hands out of the rope that bound them. Kneeling down next to Evaine, Griff gently lifted her head onto his lap, and pushed her sweat-soaked hair from her face. She smiled up at him and reached up to touch his face. He closed his eyes at the feel of her fingers on his cheek and he smiled.
"I'm so sorry." Griff finally said. "I shouldn't have left you alone..."
Evaine moved her hand over his mouth. "You couldn't have known they would be so close. It was an honest mistake, and you have done so many remarkable things already. I couldn't have asked for more. There will be no more apologizing."
Griff smirked and then gave her a curious look.
"What?" Evaine asked.
"Where did you learn to fight like that?"
Evaine laughed, "My father had me taught after he found me fighting with the kitchen boy instead of attending to my etiquette lessons. I guess he saw more of him in me than my mother, and didn't think it was worth dealing with my stubbornness."
Griff shook his head and smiled, "You truly amaze me."
Half the day had gone by, by the time they had ridden over the high ridge that overlooked the town. The sight made them both give a sigh of relief, and with Evaine's arms around Griff's waist she clung tightly to him as she smiled up at him.
Not even an hour had passed, and they were riding over the causeway and through the gate. People in the street stopped what they were doing to turn and stare. Surprise and shock swept over their faces as they recognized Evaine.
They rode all the way to the gate that led to her home and was stopped by a guard who asked, "Who are you and what is your business?"
"It is I, Lady Evaine. I was kidnapped by a band of ruffians, but was rescued by this man. I returned as soon as I could, but the journey was long. I'm sure my father has been very worried for my safety."
The guard stood astonished, and gave a hasty bow. "Forgive me, my lady. I did not see you. I shall give you entrance immediately, and inform his lordship that you have returned safely."
"Thank you."
The guard quickly ran to the gatehouse, and Griff gave his horse a kick and they jogged into the courtyard, and were met by a stable boy who hurried forward to take hold of the horse's bridle. Griff jumped from the saddle and helped Evaine down just as a cry rose up from behind them.
It was her father, Lord Benjamin. He was already hurrying towards them with his arms outstretched. Evaine was caught up in her father's embrace, and he spun her around in a circle and when they had stopped spinning she realized he was crying. Lord Benjamin held her face in his hands, and just looked at her with the biggest smile on his face she had ever seen with tears streaming from his eyes.
"I never stopped searching for you, and I kept hoping you were safe, and you would return to me. You are the only thing I care about in this world." He wrapped his arms around her once more.
"Yes, my dear, Evaine?"
"I would like you to meet someone. He saved my life many times over." Evaine broke apart from her father, and turned towards Griff who had been standing, and watching her and her father reunite. Griff stepped forward as Evaine beckoned him to her.
"This is Griff."
Lord Benjamin immediately held his hand out to Griff, and Griff took it.
"Thank you, sir. For returning my daughter to me. What ever you wish for it is yours. You only have to name it."
Griff was speechless, and he looked over at Evaine with uncertainty. She returned his gaze with a reassuring smile and nod.
"My lord, I know I may not be at a high enough station for your daughter, but I feel that when two people are in love, it should not matter who your family is. I know you do not know me at all, but I would wish to prove myself to you so that I may be worthy of your approval to court your daughter. I ask for nothing else, but for the love that I know I already have. I only have the highest respect for you, my lord, and most importantly, for your daughter, lady Evaine."
When Griff had finished there was a moment of silence as Evaine and Griff both held their breath as they waited for Lord
Benjamin to give his answer. He first turned curiously towards Evaine.
Lord Benjamin took both of Evaine's hands in his before asking, "Is this what you want as well, Evaine? Do you love this man?"
Evaine couldn't help but smile. "Yes, father. I do. With all my heart."
Her father's face immediately lit up, and he laughed, "Then who am I to stop you. You know, you remind me of someone."
"Your mother of course."
Evaine laughed with joy as she threw her arms around her father. Lord Benjamin brought his lips to her ear as they embraced, "I love you, Evaine. My only goal in this world is to make you happy, and to wish you joy. You've grown into a fine young woman, and I am so proud of you."
"I love you too, father. Thank you!" Evaine whispered, and she kissed his cheek before she turned, and ran into Griff's arms.
She felt his warm breath upon her neck as she heard him whisper,
"My lady Evaine."


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