The sunlight poured into my room. I stared blankly at my reflection in the mirror. A young woman of eighteen with raven black hair, ivory skin, and red lips. She looked just like her mother. Mother, the word sent shivers down her spine. Her mother had died when she was only 6, a young child not understanding why she had to stand in the cold watching people die. Now she understood and she hated her aunt for that, with every fiber of her being.
A knock sounded at the door. Kathleen turned, “Come in,” she called. Madame Marianna swirled in dressed in the latest French fashion, hideous in Kathleen’s eyes.
“Mon chère, are you ready child? Lord Bordeaux is downstairs with his son.”
“Almost ma tante,” Kathleen replied.
“Well hurry up, we don’t want to keep the men waiting. It’s time you married.” With that Marianna left the room, Kathleen glaring at her all the way.
“Je préfère mourir, than to marry a man like Lord Bordeaux’s son,” Kathleen muttered. Still, Maria was her senior and she had to obey. Quickly plaiting her hair into a long thick braid, Kathleen got up and left the room.
“Ah, Mademoiselle Kathleen!” Lord Bordeaux smiled as she entered the room. His teeth, yellow with age gleamed at her.
“Bonjour Monsieur,” Kathleen replied, curtsying deeply while cursing Lord Bordeaux.
“Milady,” Lord Bordeaux’s son bowed. A man of 20, he had a bigger potbelly than his father. He was so fat, his eyes to squinty, his face covered in zits, the sight made Kathleen want to vomit.
“Monsieur,” she murmured.
“We are here on an important matter Kathleen. My son would like to ask for your hand in marriage.” Lord Bordeaux smiled at her, “Having you for a daughter-in-law would be such a treat. A true beauty you are.” Kathleen bowed her head while fuming. “Your aunt has agreed to the proposal and being the gentleman that I am, I would like to hear your approval before I commission the wedding. My son is a decent young man, no woman in Luxembourg could ask for less.”
“Je suis honorée,’’ Kathleen replied, ‘’But I cannot accept the kind offer.’’
Lord Bordeaux’s face darkened, “And why is that?”
“You see, I’m already betrothed.” Kathleen smiled, watching the thunder clouds race against Lord Bordeaux’s face.
“To whom,” his voice pitched dangerously low.
“To me,” a young voice rang through the room. Sir Claude walked into the room.
“A knight? She can do better than that!” Lord Bordeaux sneered.
“Too bad for you, I asked first without the aunt’s permission of course. Kathy is old enough to make her own choices,” Sir Claude stared at the lord. Kathleen cast him a grateful look, Claude smiled back. They loved each other, but not as a couple, but as sister and brother and that love ran deep.
“It is a disappointment,” Lord Bordeaux finally ground out. “I am certainly upset that my son cannot have the hand of Mademoiselle Kathleen, but I wish you the best.” Lord Bordeaux and his son stood left the room.
“How dare you!” Madame Mariana slapped Claude across the face. For years I nurtured you, welcomes you into the house and this is how you repay me?”
Claude smiled, the blow not changing his carefree mood, “What makes you think that I was serious?” Maria shrieked in fury. “Chill Madame, it’s not like he’s going to kill us.”
“You don’t know Lord Bordeaux, he gets whatever he wants no matter the price. You have to get Kathleen out of France now. You have to get out of France.”
“Maria what are you talking about,” Kathleen spoke.
“He’ll kill for you. And once you’re his possession, he’ll kill you too,” Maria shouted. Kathleen raised an eyebrow. “Just get out, pack your bags, bring as little as possible and get as far away from Luxembourg as possible. Go.” Kathleen was ushered out of the room by Claude.
Casting one glance back at her pale aunt she whispered, “Good bye Tante Mariana.”
Mariana paced the floor in her bed chamber. She heard the horses under her window and glanced out. Two shadowy figures got onto the horses with light packages. “Godspeed,” Marianna whispered. She turned to glance at the picture of her husband, “Marc, I was wrong to condemn you.” The picture beside her husband was that of Kareigh. The beautiful sister of her husband had been her mortal enemy. Now both were dead and all because of her.
“Kareigh, sister can you hear me? I know you hate me, but please, for the sake of the child we both love, protect Kathleen.”
Silence answered her prayers.
They are rode the horses to the ground. Both were panting. “How much longer?” Kathleen asked.
“We should reach the inn in about 15 minutes,” Claude replied.
“Mercury can’t take it much longer,” Kathleen pointed to the roan stallion that was panting hard.
“I’m not that fat am I?” Claude patted the stallion. Mercury snorted at him and Claude grinned. “Venus isn’t doing much better,” he looked worriedly at the beautiful gray that Kathleen was riding. “You sure you haven’t gained any weight recently?”
“You dolt,” Kathleen glared at him, grinning. They continued to ride, finally coming to the Emerald Inn. “Are you sure that they are open?” Kathleen peered through a dusty window. “It looks pretty dark inside to me…”
“Bien sûr, Mariana told us to come here. We just wait here until our guide comes.” Claude answered.
“So we aren’t staying here?” Kathleen frowned. Claude shook his head at her.
“We are going to be switching horses, our guide will lead us to England. We should be there in a few days.”
“Talk about torture. Oh mon Dieu,” Kathleen muttered. “We can’t just leave Mercury and Venus with strangers.”
“You aren’t leaving them with strangers.” A voice rang through the clearing. Claude drew out his sword on instinct, “Sheath your sword mon amie, I bring you no harm. Sur mon honneur.” A figure dressed in a light chainmail walked out.
“Who are you?” Claude asked, not sheathing his sword.
“Julian Kane, Lord of Roseland.” The man bowed down. “Mistress Mariana sent for me.” He turned to Kathleen who just stared at the stranger, “Your uncle, Lord Marc, was a good friend of my father.”
“Lord Kane,” Kathleen nodded.
“Come with me, we must get on out way as quickly as possible.”As if just trusting him, Claude lowered his shield. A bad choice. A soft whistle and an arrow was deep in his arm. Claude cursed under his breath and flung a sword to Julian. The English lord caught it with ease. Carefully, he made his way toward Kathleen, deflecting any arrows aimed at him.
Claude slid off from his horse, weakened by the blood loss. Kathleen steadied Venus as she pawed the ground nervously. She glanced at the ground, not so far away. Taking a deep breath, Kathleen shifted to slide off the horse. “Mon Dieu.” She couldn’t do it. A curse, her fear of heights. She felt strong arms around waist gently guiding her down. She closed her eyes and opened them to see the handsome face of Julian Kane.
“Come on,” Julian handed her a sword, which Kathleen accepted, noting his astonished look that the heavy metal did not make her hand quiver. Julian slipped an arm around Claude’s neck. “Defend us,” he commanded. Kathleen nodded solemnly, her eyes on the danger around them, her mind on her wounded friend.
Later in the woods, when the enemy could no longer find them
Claude’s face was pale. “He might catch a fever, we have to reach England as soon as possible.”
“We can’t kill the animals, riding them to the ground,” Kathleen protested.
“It’s him or the animals,” Julian replied gravely. Kathleen stared at the Englishman and then turned to face her shivering companion.
“Kathy, Kathy,” Claude moaned. He opened his eyes and turned his head. When he caught sight of Julian has groaned, “Kathy, is she okay? Is she safe? God, tell me she’s alive.”
“She’s fine my friend, rest,” Julian assured him.
Claude smiled faintly and closed his eyes, “Kathy…” he murmured as he drifted off. He didn’t wake up the next morning.
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