Excerpt from “Gypsy Knight”

Published March 2, 2012 by patricialogan

Merry sounds of music drifted upward to Bree’s ears.

She sat at her dressing table, looking into the polished

oval mirror hanging above it. Reflected back to her was

a young woman in her prime, an extraordinary beauty

with gentle grace. She studied her face for a long

moment. Not bad, she thought, though too skinny. She

frowned.

 

“Why do ya look at yerself that way, milady?”

Honoria, her maid, asked. “Yer such a lovely wee lass.

And see how that fine handsome Sir Gavin has noticed

ya.” At Bree’s gasp, Honoria continued. “Why, he

could’nae take his eyes from ya today in the hall.”

 

“No, Honoria, don’t say such things,” Bree chided. “I

never did anything to gain his notice. The Holy Sisters

would have had me scrubbing stone floors for a month if

ever a man thought to look at me.”

Honoria chuckled but rushed to reassure her young

charge.

 

“Oh, I’m not saying ya had’nae done anything to

make him take notice of ya. Yer only too pretty a lass ta

ignore,” Honoria stated flatly in her lilting brogue.

“Now, up with ya.” She pinched both of Bree’s cheeks,

bringing color to them. “Go join in the party to celebrate

yer safe return home to yer clan.”

 

Bree loved the older woman like a mother. She rose

from the dressing table and ran small hands down her

long sleeved, yellow woolen gunna overdress. Under it

was a buck colored kirtle softly outlining her petite form

and over it, an intricate golden girdle set with pearls

completed her wardrobe. She wore an intricate necklace

of the finest woven gold with pearls around her narrow

shoulders. Her hair hung in gentle scented waves around

her.

 

Honoria padded up to her. “Here ya are, milady.” She

reached up and placed a wreath of violets and yellow

wild flowers on Bree’s head. Tears glistened in the

maid’s doe-like eyes. “Oh, milady, yer blessed mama

would be so proud of ya today.” She sniffed and wiped

her nose on her sleeve.

 

Bree, a smile touching her lips, leaned in and

squeezed the maid in a hug. As she left the chamber, the

smell of roasting quail, pheasant, and boar rose to her

nostrils. As she descended the stairs, she felt the eyes of

the hall on her. She looked up as she reached the bottom

landing, and Thomas rushed to her side. Bree hugged

him.

 

“Bree, listen to the minstrel. We’ve never had one

before.” The boy’s happy face gazed at her. The hall was

filled with people of every persuasion. Not only the

traveling minstrel troupe, but it seemed as though the

whole of the shire of Sheffield had turned out to

celebrate their lady’s return. In addition to the minstrels

filling the hall with music and merriment, there were

peasants, young and old, side by side with the bravest of

knights, tradesmen, shopkeepers and serving wenches

joining in the gaiety. Casks of ale were broken open and

skins of wine were freely dispersed amongst the crowd.

Bree hugged her brother again and laughed. She

couldn’t help but feel that a great weight had lifted from

her shoulders now that she was home.

 

As she made her way through the hall, she noticed

Gavin standing beside Malik near one of the long tables

in the hall. She took a moment to admire the man from

the curly top of his dark head to the twinkling golden

eyes as they traced her movements from the shadows

cast by the firelight. He was taller than she remembered,

with amazingly broad shoulders that tapered down to a

lean waist. He was clothed in a brown tunic which

tightly fit his muscled torso, closed with cross strings of

soft leather. Beneath the tunic were buck colored

chausses, the stockings snugly fitting along his hard

thighs. The fit that stretched across the hard maleness of

him was exquisite.

 

His sculpted face and his square jaw were closely

shaven, and his nose tapered perfectly between thick

black slashing eyebrows. She noticed that his eyelashes

were so long, that they curled at the ends. He was a

magnificent looking man.

 

Sir Robert swaggered up to her and, grasping her

around the waist, spun her into a drunken dance. She

gasped in surprise as she was passed down a row of

knights, each in turn spinning her into a short merry

dance in time with the music. She laughed heartily and

tried to keep up with their revelry. Finally, panting, she

bent and, placing her hands on her stomach, she

attempted to quit laughing long enough to catch her

breath. Thomas appeared before Bree and, taking up her

hand, spun her into another disjointed dance. She

laughed merrily at her brother’s antics.

 

Before long, more serving wenches appeared, bearing

trenchers laden with every kind of delicious food. There

were platters of roasted meats, eels, and fish in rich

sauces. In addition, trays of ripe fruits and steaming

loaves of newly-baked bread topped with freshly

churned butter joined the crocks of honey and filled the

long table. Everyone ate heartily.

 

***

Malik sat down at the long table and beckoned Gavin

with a wave of his hand and a broad grin.” Come, Gavin.

You drool as though you are a starving man; come and

feed on this.” Malik held out a small fruit to Gavin.

Breaking his own private reverie, Gavin tore his gaze

away from Bree’s pretty form. He stepped forward,

taking the fruit from Malik, and frowned at him.

 

“I should have left you where I found you, my painted

friend.” Gavin’s eyes twinkled as he chewed. He

referred to Malik’s smiling face, which was covered

with an intricate pattern of permanent marks in the

tradition of his ancestors.

 

“In my homeland, all men coming of age in my

village are tattooed with these marks. It is a tradition that

goes back to my father’s father.”

 

Gavin understood that this meant many, many more

generations, probably thousands of years.

 

“It gives a man vigor and potency with a woman,”

Malik boasted. He winked and grinned again, popping a

plump fruit into his mouth. “I have thirteen children,”

the giant said.

 

Gavin could well attest to Malik’s vigor. He laughed

out loud this time, a hearty rumble.

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