After a terrifying long time, the chestnut horse slowed to a trot. Aaralyn let out a ragged breath, turning back to glance over the broad shoulders of the knight behind her. The black knights were nowhere to be seen. She had been concentrating so hard on trying not to fall off that she had no idea when they had lost their pursuers. She slumped in her precarious seat in the saddle, exhausted.

In one agile move despite the burden of his armor, the knight dismounted. She stared at him, but couldn't tell what he looked like beneath the lowered visor of his helm. He took the reins and led his tired horse over to a gently babbling brook through the trees. While the horse drank gratefully, he helped Aaralyn down. "What be thy name lad?" he enquired.

Aaralyn bristled at being mistaken for a guy. She gazed down at her jeans and blue T-shirt, realizing she was wearing quite boyish clothes for this time period. And her short hair didn't help the image she was a girl much either. "Aar.....ron. My name's Aaron." She said lamely. There were certain advantages to being a guy, she thought, especially in this male dominated period.

"Aaron..." the knight repeated, testing the name out on his tongue. "And from whence dost thou hail, Aaron?"

"Chicago," Aaralyn replied without thinking. Then she bit her lip. Stupid! She wanted to swallow her words.

"I have not heard of this 'Chicago'," the knight mused.

"Its somewhere far away," Aaralyn quickly cut in. "Like, really far away."

"Aye, that would explain thine outlandish garb and strange tongue," he nodded. "Tell me, young Aaron of Chicago, what brings thee here? These art ill times to wander the woods alone."

"I'm lost," she answered truthfully, gazing down at the brook. The sinking sun cast a wavering orange reflection over the water. It was going to get dark soon. The wind picked up then, rustling the leaves around them. She raised her eyes to the sky – forbidding grey clouds gathered overhead. It looked like it was going to rain as well. "Thanks for helping me back there," she told the knight.

He inclined his head. "I could not let them cut thee down as they did to those villagers." There was a note of anger in his tone. He reached up with both hands and removed his helm to reveal a handsome chiseled face beneath wavy auburn hair. Aaralyn stared, not expecting him to look so young. He seemed to be only a few years older than her and Ethan. The knight smiled down at her and handed her the helm. "I have need of a new squire," he remarked. "Mayhaps thou wouldst like to fill that post?"

Aaralyn blinked. "Um, what happened to your old squire?"

"He died. Killed in the ambush that also took the rest of my men's lives." Regret and anger crossed his face as his blue eyes narrowed in recollection. Then he straightened. "But come, enough of such talk. We must find shelter before this storm breaks."

And, taking the horse's reins, he proceeded ahead through the forest. Aaralyn stared after him, not knowing what to do. He paused when he noticed she wasn't following. "Come lad, thou dost not want to be caught out here in the open when darkness falls."

Aaralyn frowned. Did she trust this stranger? He didn't seem to mean her any harm...yet. Until she knew more about where she was and what exactly she had gotten herself into, she decided she would stick close to this man. After all, he had saved her life. Shrugging, she hurried after him.