Disclaimer: I don't own "Don Quixote" or any of these characters, who could?

A/N: I just started reading "Don Quixote" for English and really loved his first adventure at the inn/castle. On my study questions sheet, the last one was "Why do you think the innkeeper and the prostitutes help and humor Don Quixote so much despite the fact that he is clearly insane?" Well, here's my answer, from the p.o.v of Lady Tolosa. Enjoy!

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Molinera tilted her head back as she reclined against the steps leaning into the inn, her burnished, curly hair tumbling down her back. I was so jealous of that hair, it put my straight, brown locks to shame and, though she never rubbed it in my face, I knew she got better business for it. Neither of us had gotten any business today from our traveling companions, though that was not much of a shock considering the blistering weather. Who would want to do something that would make one all the more hot and sweaty? "There is always tomorrow, Tolosa," Molinera had declared, "Maybe we shall have a storm."

I tried to take her optimistic point of view and took a deep breath of the still-warm night air. I sat on the third step and let my tired rear end soak up the heat trapped in the stone. As I sat I couldn't stop thoughts of home from flooding my mind. I suddenly didn't want to go to Seville; I wanted to run as fast as I could back to Toledo, to my poor as dirt cobbler of a father. I wanted to cry as the familiar disappointment sank in; I would never go home. It wasn't the first time I'd come to that conclusion, Molinera promised I'd get over it, eventually. Eventually couldn't come soon enough for me. Just as I'd gotten over my fit of homesickness, I heard a noise from down the road, "Do you hear that, Molinera?"

"Hear what?"

"That noise there, it sounded much like a horse, and a tired one at that," I stood up and took a few steps away from the inn, straining to hear the faint sounds of hoof beats. I didn't have to wait long, and this time Molinera heard it too.

"It is a horse, Tolosa!" she said excitedly and came to stand with me. I could read her mind in a heartbeat; this traveler could be more business. She went back to the steps, leaning against the wall in a seductive pose. I wanted to stay and see whoever was coming crest the hill in the fading light, like one of those knights I'd heard of from storytellers at fairs, but Molinera had the right idea. We'd had no business that day, which meant we'd have little money to spend the next. We had to take what we could get. I went to stand by Molinera.

I studied her face, trying to emulate her suggestive pout, when I saw said-pout drop into an open gape at the sight of the traveler. I whipped back around and stifled a shocked cry as the gaunt, armored man on the half- starved horse approached with grim purpose. The sunset lit him from behind, casting the whole of his body and steed in shadow. The armor was very old and rusty, and it creaked horribly at any movement made by the looming figure. The obviously homemade visor on the man's helmet hid his face, and he held a dangerous-looking lance and a buckler before him.

Molinera shrieked and grabbed my arm to run from this creature of the dark, before it spoke, "I beseech your ladyships, do not flee, nor fear the least offence. The order of chivalry which I profess, doth not permit me to do injury to any one, and least of all to such noble maidens as your presences denote you to be."

This stopped Molinera and me in our tracks. We stared at this strange, mad man as he slowly entered the light coming from the inn, his face still hidden by the visor. Behind me I heard a giggle from Molinera.

"Maidens?" she whispered to me, her voice bubbling with laughter.

"Noble?" I whispered back as giggles overtook me and the two of us burst into boisterous chuckles.

This seemed to upset the well-spoken, if misinformed, man, "Remember that modesty is becoming in beautiful ladies, whereas laughter without cause denotes much folly. However," he added in between our guffaws, "I do not say this to offend you or incur your displeasure, for my one desire is to do you honor and service."

"Who IS this man?!" Molinera wheezed when she was able.

"I don't know," I replied in the same manner, "But I fear don't understand a word he is saying!" I turned back to the mounted man and tried to stifle my mirth because, even if I couldn't see his face, I could tell when a man was getting angry, and this man was getting furious.

At that moment the innkeeper emerged from inside and, taking in the scene and tamping down his own amusement, said, "Sir Knight, if you are seeking for a lodging, you'll find an abundance here, with the exception of a bed, for there are none in this inn."

The man ("A knight?" I giggled.) studied the innkeeper for a beat then said, with the greatest humility, "Anything, Sir Castellan suffices me: my ornaments are arms, my pastime is in war."

The innkeeper was taken aback at the knight's flowery response, not sure to be insulted or complimented. He continued with a more determined face, as if he'd made up his mind about something, "If so, your worship's beds must be hard rocks and your sleep an everlasting watch: wherefore you may boldly dismount and I can assure you that you can hardly miss being kept awake all year long in this house, much less one single night." That said, the innkeeper approached the knight and helped him climb off the skeletal horse. Molinera and I stood in silence, thunderstruck by the innkeeper's speech. He sounded just like an actor at the fair, and I suddenly felt as if I wasn't as far from the lady the knight had spoken of as I thought.

"Come, Tolosa," Molinera was again pulling me by the arm. The knight stood watching his steed being led away by the innkeeper, "Er, Sir Knight?" she said to him.

The man turned to us, "Yes, fair damsels?"

Molinera fluttered her eyes and spoke in her sultry, on the job voice, "Do you need assistance in removing your armor, good Sir Knight?"

I felt rather than saw him smile from behind the visor, "Yes, beauteous maidens, I suppose that would be best."

Molinera beamed at him and instantly went to work on the buckles holding on the knight's back- and breast-plates on his left side. She nudged me over to the right side to fend for myself. The knight turned his hidden face to me and again I felt his welcoming smile. I returned it with a small one of my own, I suppose I wasn't quite as enterprising as Molinera, and began undoing the armor's buckles.

As we worked, the knight introduced himself, in a way, "There never was on earth a knight/ so waited on by ladies fair/ as once was he, Don Quixote hight,/ when first he left his village dear:/ damsels to serve him ran with speed/ and princesses to dress his steed,/ or Rozinante- for that, ladies, is the name of my horse and Don Quixote of La Mancha my own. I never intended to discover myself until deeds performed in your service should have proclaimed me, but the need of adapting to my present purpose the old ballad of Sir Launcelot has made my right name known to you before the season. But the day will come when your ladyships shall command and I obey, and the valor of my arm make plain my desire to serve you."

The innkeeper returned as we worked, and when we got to it, all four of us discovered we could not untie the green ribbons holding his helmet on his head. The innkeeper went to fetch a knife to cut them, but the knight firmly stated he would keep his helmet on. That decided, I asked if he would eat anything.

"Fain would I break my fast," he answered, "for I think a little food would be of great service to me." I couldn't help but smile, the feeling of being a noble lady steadily growing as we entered the inn.

He was served a nasty piece of codfish and some moldy, black bread, but he ate it as if it were the finest salmon and white bread, extolling in his peculiar fashion on the meal's delectable taste. Actually, the knight didn't eat the food himself. Because of his helmet he couldn't feed himself. It was up to Molinera and me to feed him. He couldn't drink either, so the innkeeper dutifully created a funnel of sorts to pour wine into his mouth. Don Quixote endured all this with no mention of removing his helmet. It was then that I decided this Don Quixote was quite mad indeed. He finished quickly and left with the innkeeper.

"He seemed troubled by something," I remarked, watching him leave.

Molinera glanced at me as she finished the wine the knight had left. Once done, she said, "Yes, probably if his 'noble steed' is being properly cared for." She dissolved into another fit of slightly-drunken giggles. I didn't join her mirth this time, and even felt a defense of Don Quixote rising in my throat. I stifled it, Molinera could be a mean drunk, and feigned sleepiness, saying we had better rest for tomorrow's journey to Seville.

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I was awakened a few hours later by the sound of barely muffled laughter from the rooms on either side of ours. I nudged Molinera awake.

"Huh?" she grumbled," What, Tolosa?"

I shushed her and crept out of bed to the window in our room which overlooked a large field adjoined to the inn, "Oh my God," I whispered when I saw what was transpiring below.

"What is it, Tolosa?" Molinera asked again as she too got out of bed.

"Tis that knight," I replied, "He's, I don't know, watching his armor." I peered into the moonlit night at the stork-like figure that paced back and forth in front of a mule trough, upon which his armor (except for his helmet) lay.

"He is what?" Molinera said incredulously.

"Watching over his armor," I repeated and moved a little to the side to allow her access to the window.

As she moved into her spot, another man entered the field, drawing a team of mules. He obviously was a muleteer who wished to water his herd. I groaned inwardly, feeling a great swell of pity for the hapless man as he approached the mad knight.

"O thou, whosoever thou art," Don Quixote called anxiously as the muleteer came closer, "rash knight that dost prepare to lay hands upon the arms of the most valiant knight-errant who ever girded a sword, take heed and touch them not, if thou wouldst not leave thy life in guerdon for thy temerity." The muleteer paid no attention to Don Quixote's eloquent warning, however, and roughly tossed the armor aside. I watched the knight utter something I couldn't quite hear and in one motion soundly cracked his lance across the unfortunate man's head. The muleteer fell to the ground and didn't move, and, satisfied, Don Quixote went back to watching his armor.

"Ohhh," Molinera whispered, "The innkeeper won't let him get away with that, no matter HOW mad he is!"

"He warned him," I reasoned. Molinera rolled her eyes at me and we continued to watch.

A short time later, another muleteer entered the field with the same intention as the first. He too met the fate of the mad knight's lance. At this, many people rushed into the field, the innkeeper, Molinera, and I included. The muleteers' companions were raining rocks upon Don Quixote in vengeance as the innkeeper shouted for them to stop, the man was mad, and would not be punished if he killed every last one of them. Molinera and I cowered against a wall from the shower of missiles.

"I would make thee understand," Don Quixote was shouting at his assailants, "what a traitorous scoundrel thou art had I but been dubbed a knight. But as for you, ye vile and base rabble, I care not a fig for you: fire on, advance, drew near and hurt me as much as you dare: soon ye shall receive the reward for your folly and presumption." This display of mad bravery stunned the band of muleteers enough for the innkeeper to calm them down enough to stop throwing stones and collect their wounded.

The knight had gone back to his vigil with the same silent gravity as before. The innkeeper approached him warily and spoke with him for several minutes in hushed tones. Don Quixote listened as he gazed at his armor, nodding once the innkeeper was finished. The pair began to walk out of the field, and just before they were gone, the innkeeper gestured to Molinera and me to follow them.

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The moon lit the field so brightly the candle in the boy's hand seemed almost redundant. The innkeeper intoned an improvised prayer out of an account book of stray and barley from the muleteers before a kneeling Don Quixote. Molinera and I stood at the knight's side, watching the proceedings. The feeling I'd been fighting was very strong now and if I closed my eyes I could almost feel the silk of a fine dress around my figure, hear the truly sacred prayer swirl in the air, feel the solemnity of the whole scene as thick as a blanket wrapped around every one of us. I was a noble woman witnessing the knighting of a valiant gentleman, I was sure of it.

Molinera giggled at my side. The delicate fantasy that played behind my eyelids shattered, and I opened my now-stinging eyes to see the innkeeper reading out of an account book, a madman kneeling before him, two prostitutes and a boy by his side. I didn't want to laugh, I wanted to cry.

The innkeeper delivered the royal thwacks across Don Quixote's neck and shoulders, then motioned for me to put on his sword. The urge to weep dissipated as I picked up the weapon. The fantasy rose from the dead and again I was a noble woman, a princess, as I attached the sword to the knight's belt. Caught up in the moment, the noble woman I was said, "God make you a fortunate knight and give you success in your contests."

Don Quixote turned his reverent gaze on me, "I demand to know how you are called, that I might henceforward know to whom I am beholden for the favor received, for I am resolved to give you a share in the honor which my valor shall obtain."

Now I was not only caught in the moment, but in his beseeching eyes and his flowery words, "I- I am called La Tolosa and I am a cobbler's daughter from Toledo, who lived near the stalls of Sancho Beinaya Square, and I will always serve you and consider you my lord wherever I happen to be."

"Please," the knight requested, "For my sake call yourself henceforth Lady Tolosa."

"I promise," I whispered to him, feeling for all the world that I deserved such a title.

Molinera was then instructed to put on his spur. Don Quixote asked her what her name was as well, "I am called La Molinera and am the daughter of an honest miller in Antequera." The knight told her also to refer to herself as Lady Molinera from now on and offered his services.

Once the hasty and peculiar ritual had been completed, the newly- dubbed Sir Knight rode out on his steed, only taking the time to thank the innkeeper in such flowery and extravagant terms I could never speak them again. The innkeeper returned each one in a less time-consuming manner and sent Don Quixote on his way.

I stood at the side of the road, watching the mad Knight, my lord, gallop on his valiant steed into the distance. I wondered if I'd ever see him again, to remind him I was in his service. I doubted it. No, not unless he was headed for Seville. The thought struck me with such a heavy blow I felt on the verge of tears for the third time in the past few hours.

"Lady Tolosa," a voice said behind me. I turned to see Molinera walking towards me. I looked away, truly wanting to be alone, and especially not wanting to be subjected to her cruel jokes about Don Quixote. But she didn't take the hint, and in moments had an arm around my shoulders, "That was some fun, wasn't it? Too bad we didn't get paid." She chuckled a bit and, when I didn't laugh, nudged me slightly. I cracked a smile at her dry wit.

We stood silently for a minute or two, staring out at the road even when we'd lost sight of the Knight, "It almost felt real for a moment, though, didn't it?" Molinera said.

I glanced at her in surprise, "I thought you just thought it was foolish."

Molinera didn't look at me, just continued to watch the road, "In this life," she said wearily then looked at me with equally weary eyes. She seemed about ten years older and half as pretty as she really was at that moment, "You must take what magic you can find. If God wills it to be in the form of a mad knight wandering the countryside, so be it." She again moved to look out at the road for another minute, then heaved a great sigh, "Come, Lady Tolosa, we need rest for the trip."

"Yes," I replied, now not feeling so bad about going to Seville with a group of men I'd never met before, "you are right, Lady Molinera. We cannot appear before the Lord of Seville without our beauty rest, now can we?"

Molinera smiled wryly at me as we turned to walk into the inn, "No, of course not. You remember, dear, that ball the Duchess of Cordoba wishes us to attend? We will go shopping for gowns when we get to Seville, for no there is no better place under God's gracious sun for shopping." The two of us, common prostitutes, laughed heartily as two fine ladies, if only for a moment.

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A/N: So, what do you think? You know, it was a pain in the ass copying all Don Quixote's and the innkeeper's and even, to a point, Tolosa's and Molinera's speeches from the book, but I did it, by God. So be grateful that I took so much effort to copy as flawlessly as I could every word. Oh, and while you're at that gratefulness, review please ^^!