A Wandering Warrior IV

The lady and her rescuer sit staring into the fire
in silence. Finally, she speaks, “You are most truly
a great warrior and a noble man. Many men aspire
to attain your reputation. You blame yourself unduly

“for what has transpired. Throughout all the land, none
other was known to love the late king more…and he
loved and trusted no man over his champion. You’ve won
the hearts of all loyal to the king. The man that I see

“before me is well renown for his bravery and goodness.
So, why does the king’s champion, Sir Aldric Chadwyk,
now pretend to be some cold-hearted brute that bitterness
has consumed, devouring his chivalry, leaving him heartsick?

“I am Gwendolyn of the house of Bainbrydge. My father
and my brothers spoke of you in reverent terms as the finest
man in all the land. You may fool yourself, but don’t bother
trying to convince me that you are uncaring, lacking kindness.”

“Bainbrydge? Ah, I knew your father and brothers quite well.
They died a hero’s death close to their king. A death denied
to me! Heaven has cursed me to wander in earthbound Hell.
I should have died a courageous champion’s death. My pride

“has been stripped away – a champion alive while his king lies
rotting in his grave. In the climax of battle I was struck a wound,
knocking me from my horse and my senses. Before my very eyes,
the king and all I held dear was lost, as I lay helpless in a swoon.

“Unconscious I was carried away to safety by our retreating troops
to live in a world turned black and empty. I care not for life nor the
living. I am a hunted man. I must wander, avoiding public groups,
not tarrying long in any place, lest I be recognized. Can’t you see

“there is no future, no happiness left in this new world for me?
Death is my only friend. I shall wander, destroying evil as I go
until evil destroys me.” Gwendolyn says, “ Henceforth, you’ll be
my champion. I entrust my life, my safety to the noblest man I know.”

“My lady, all these many months I have wandered without purpose.
I shall not abandon you to your fate. Delivering you to safety I shall
do to honor to the debt owed your family. Pursuers will hunt us,
but I will defend you with my life until I carry you to a safe locale.

“Now best to sleep. We must be away with the dawn. We have far
to travel before our journey is done.” Gwendolyn lies down beside
the fire and smiles as she falls asleep. Aldric sees a shooting star
blaze across the sky. “A good omen! We’ll need Heaven on our side

before this is done,” he thinks. Yet, inside he feels a warmth he’s not
felt for many, many months, as though a tiny fire’s been rekindled.
A small smile crosses his face. He thinks, “Gwendolyn has rather a lot
of spunk! Too bad we didn’t meet when my passion could go unbridled.”

Awake at dawn, they are finishing packing the horses when the sound
of distant hoof beats from a large contingent of riders reaches their ears.
“Ride! They must have ridden throughout the night. We cannot be found
on open ground.” They gallop off…to a future where he’ll bring her tears.

Harry Edward Gilleland      10.24.04