|Carried on the Wind
Author: BleedingTwilight PM
The healer and the personal guard of an Irish chieftain are being hunted, but what will become of them after meeting Arthur and his knights? Will they be handed over to those who they have been trying to escape from?Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,000 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 10 - Updated: 09-15-07 - Published: 09-04-07 - id: 3768471
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from King Arthur, but everything else is mine.
Arthur nearly fell out of the saddle when Tristan mysteriously appeared in the middle of the path, just ahead of them. He was only topped by Galahad who actually did slip in the saddle which startled his horse. The others laughed at the youngest knight's edginess. "What news do you bring us, Tristan," Arthur called as they approached their tired brother.
"The warriors are just north of us, only about an hour or two," Tristan informed his commander respectfully. Arthur nodded gratefully and motioned for Tristan to fall into line. Tristan did so and took his place at the rear of the column. It would be only a short while before meeting the strangers, but Tristan hoped it would be enough time to rest and regain some of his strength. However, he knew that rest would not come. This part of the forest was unsettled, and Tristan could feel the danger from where he sat atop his grey charger.
It was almost as though the woods were hiding something that could prove very dangerous. Tristan just hoped that the forest would protect him as it had so many times before. It wasn't Woads that Tristan feared now, but the unsettled nature of the silent wood.
The knights rode without incidence to a bend in the path, just before where the soldiers marched. They were a bedraggled assortment of men that looked more dead than alive. Each one bore the scars of battle upon their rugged faces and bodies. They wear fierce, but their posture made them look all the more human.
Arthur called Tristan ahead once again, in order to scout while he spoke with the warriors. Tristan simply nodded as he maneuvered around the group. The Roman warriors watched him warily as he passed them, only to disappear into the surrounding foliage. Tristan's only hope was that he would see the unsettling threat before it saw him. It was already well on its way to being night. The sun had finished its descent just minutes earlier, and the forest was even eerier as twilight set in.
Tristan could feel a presence, could feel eyes watching him again, but he couldn't place it. He hoped it was only his frayed nerves.
It was that damn horse again, Lyra cursed to herself as she watched mount and rider slip through the trees. She was far enough away from the camp, not to fear him finding her brother and the children, but she knew she would have to dissuade him from going any further. Lyra crouched on the branch that carried her entire weight as she continued to follow the imposing figure with her tired eyes.
It was definitely a man which rode atop the fine stallion she had noticed earlier. She had no doubt of his skill, simply based upon the way he rode. His back was straight yet relaxed, and his weapons were all well within reach. The sturdy bow attached to his horse's flank indicated to her that he was most likely a scout. Very few Romans carried bows when swords or spears were much more "fun." This man looked to be something other than Roman, but Lyra's lack of worldly knowledge prevented her from being able to discern his origin.
As his horse passed beneath where Lyra perched herself, she studied the man more closely. He wore no hood, but his cloak covered most of his form only revealing his breast plate for scrutiny. She could discern several hidden weapons tucked into his armor, and made note that he would be more dangerous than even the assassins that hunted her. His hair was long and pulled into several braids which proved to make him look more wild than civilized.
Lyra's breath hitched as he looked up, seemingly right at her. However, he simply raised his left wrist and whistled. Before Lyra understood what he was doing, a large hawk darted through the trees to rest itself on his gloved hand. Lyra once again took note of the dark tattoos adorning his high cheekbones. What kind of creature was this that she watched so carefully? If he was not Roman, which she was certain he was not, was he still a great threat? Lyra did not have the luxury to believe him to be anything but a threat, so she moved quickly from her perch in order to follow the stranger.
Tristan had seen him in the trees. The man was very good at camouflaging himself, but Tristan had years of practice at seeing what was invisible. The scout could have shot him out of the tree then, but he was fascinated by the man's passive watchfulness. Tristan could tell that the stranger was dangerous simply by the presence of the two strong blades attached to his back, but Tristan did not yet feel threatened by the man. Perhaps it was curiosity, but Tristan wanted to know more about this man before he killed him.
Lyra followed closely as the scout wandered through the dense woodland. She could now feel the difference in his alertness. He knew she was there, and that put them all in danger. Lyra quickly pulled herself up into the nearest tree, and quickly fled the area. There was no use in getting caught now when they were so close to their destination.
Tristan couldn't help but feel a bit disappointed when he no longer sensed the presence of another. His hawk instantly became more relaxed on his arm, and Tristan knew that it was only the two of them that wandered the forest now. He should have felt worried that the warrior would alert or bring others, but there was a solitude to the man that Tristan often felt himself.
Arthur soon found himself standing before a fierce looking Roman. Many scars marred the olive skin of his face and arms. His rich brown hair was covered in sweat and mud, and he looked tired beyond reason. He had a pleasant enough smile, and Arthur decided that perhaps he was not as heartless as the rumors said.
Reaching out a strong arm the strange warrior spoke, "Artorius, it is a pleasure to finally meet the man who has put fear in the hearts of the rebels." Arthur was shocked by the admiration and camaraderie that shown brightly in the soldier's eyes. It was an uncommon if not unheard of thing for a Roman commander to approve of Arthur's command. When Arthur did not return the greeting, the other man stepped forward. "Forgive me. I have been among that which is wild for so long that I have forgotten my manners. I am Demetrius, and these are my men," he said by way of introduction flashing his bright smile.
"Welcome, Demetrius. We have come to escort you back to the fort," Arthur finally greeted as he took the other man's forearm in a strong embrace.
"Sir, if you are not in a great hurry, our horses would appreciate it if we were permitted to walk part of the way," Demetrius asked as he glanced form knight to knight, giving each a once over.
Arthur was further shocked by not only the man's bowing to a man of equal if not lower rank, but by his respect for the horses that carried his men. When Arthur found his voice, he quickly answered, "We are in no hurry. The winter months give us plenty of free time. You may walk if it pleases you to do so," Arthur spoke quickly. "My scout is keeping a close eye to our surroundings, so you need not fear an ambush," Arthur said as he returned the man's smile.
"Very well then, I believe we should continue moving before my men are no longer able to," Demetrius returned as he moved to his own horse, lifting several weapons from its back. "Hurry brothers, dismount. We still have much ground to cover before we can rest." Demetrius' men were dismounted even before he finished his speech. Each one patted or stroked his own horse's flank, as he began to guide the beast to follow Arthur's men.
As they commenced their slow progress toward the fort, Lancelot reclaimed his place beside Arthur. "That man cannot possibly be Roman," Lancelot said as he glanced back at the group of men guiding their mounts without complaint. The knights had taken positions around them so that if they were attacked, the strange men would have a chance to mount or prepare before battle seized them.
"Not all Romans are pigs, Lancelot. I would have hoped you had learned that by now," Arthur said in a whisper, since Demetrius and his second walked only feet behind them. However, both soldiers had heard the exchange clearly.
"I cannot blame your men for despising Rome," Demetrius' second spoke casually.
Both Arthur and Lancelot spun in their seats to stare at the pair behind them. The two Romans released their horses' reins and walked up between the mounted pair. The lone horses followed easily without guidance, showing their superb training. "Do not look so shocked. We have been in the silent forest for longer than I care to recall. I can hear what your youngest knight at the back of the column is telling the blonde one, that is if you care to hear it," Demetrius said with a smirk.
"Forgive Lancelot. His tongue is sharper than his brain," Arthur replied, praying that Demetrius would not insist on punishing his second.
"There is nothing to forgive. His statement was correct," Demetrius dismissed the plea. "I am not Roman, or at least not entirely Roman," he explained with an easy smile. "My mother was of Greece. My father used her for his fun while stationed there. I was raised with my mother in Greece, but when she died I was sent to Rome to find my father or make something of myself. So here I am, a soldier, no better than scum that bred me," Demetrius spat with disgust. "My men are of mix origins, but you will find they speak no love for Rome. We serve because we must, not because we take pleasure in defending or representing such an empire."
"See Arthur, why do you always question my judgment," Lancelot asked with a smile.
"You were not entirely right, my friend," Demetrius addressed Lancelot. "I am still half Roman, even if I try to forget it," he smiled broadly as he turned to his second. "Do you do your own introductions or are you choosing to be rude today," he asked the younger man beside him.
"Pantheras, my mother was cruel in naming me," the second said with a calm smirk as he addressed the two knights. Pantheras was quite a bit shorter than his leader, but no less lethal in his appearance. Pantheras' hair was shorn very close to his head, only enhancing his well angled features. He probably could have given Lancelot a run for his money with the tavern wenches if he wished to. However, Pantheras did not radiate the cockiness that Lancelot was known for. He seemed much calmer, but Arthur could tell that he had a sharp wit about him.
"I am Arthur and this is my second, Lancelot," Arthur said with a nod.
"As my commander said before, it is good to finally meet you all," Pantheras said as he reached up his arm to grasp Arthur's.
"It is good to finally meet soldiers who know how to smile," Lancelot joked as he too grasped Pantheras' arm. He received a short laugh from the pair before Demetrius spoke to Arthur.
"I realize you have probably heard many rumors about my men. I would like to put them to rest once we make camp, if you would listen," he spoke sincerely, as he continued to march at a strong pace to keep up with the stallions.
"You do not need to explain yourself, you are a commander just as I am," Arthur reassured him, but Demetrius would have none of it.
"I wish to tell you of who you deal with before another has the chance to darken my already tarnished image," Demetrius said gravely. Arthur nodded and informed the commander that they would find a place to camp just after dusk. Demetrius was grateful for the kindness bestowed upon his ragged warriors, and Arthur was grateful that these men seemed just as human as his own, unlike most of the Roman legions.
Tristan dismounted along a narrow stream. His horse needed water, and he was in need of rest. He had seen neither hide nor hair of the mysterious man since the tree, and he hoped that it was safe enough to relax for a couple minutes before mounting up again. Arthur would be making camp soon, so Tristan did not have to worry about being left behind. Not that that would matter anyway, he would probably still find the fort before them if he were left behind.
Now Tristan sat at the edge of the near frozen stream. The wet snow was soaking into his cloak, but he was too tired to care. He hadn't let himself rest for any significant period of time in over a fortnight. He was running off of pure instinct at this point, and he knew that even that was beginning to dull with exhaustion.
Lyra watched the scout sit in the snow, letting his horse drink from the stream. His shoulders were slumped in exhaustion, and Lyra realized that he was not an immediate threat. If he had been one of the hunters, he would have known that her group would be near by. This man, however, either did not care or did not know. Either way, she still refused to put her charges in danger. She would need to be rid of him.
Tristan hadn't realized that he had drifted off to a light slumber until he was startled by rustling from across the stream. On the opposite side of the water stood the cloaked stranger. Tristan would have kicked himself had he not been so caught off guard. All he had on him was his sword, which would do little good at such a distance. The figure was covered mostly in shadow, but from what Tristan could see he was holding a bow at his side.
"Go back to your commander. There is nothing for you here," the whisper was carried to his ears only by the grace of the strong wind. "I wish you no harm, if you do not come to hunt me," it continued. The words were thickly accented, but Tristan understood them which only confused him further. The figure had not moved and inch since he woke but its voice seemed to materialize on the wind.
"Why should I be hunting you," Tristan found himself asking before he could stop himself.
"Go back to your commander," was all that the voice said before disappearing completely into the shadows in the blink of an eye. Tristan shook his head, believing that he was beginning to see things in his state of exhaustion. However, before Tristan could talk himself out of this dream, an arrow came flying straight toward him. The razor sharp edge of the arrowhead skimmed across the scout's tattooed cheek before embedding itself in a tree behind him. The man could have easily killed the scout but had obviously not wanted him dead.
Thank you to those of you who have read and reviewed this story. I hope you continue to enjoy it, and please let me know what you think.