Arthur sighed in contentment as he brought his horse to a stop on the crest of a hill not too far from the fort. Lancelot was beside him on his own steed and the other knights soon joined beside them looking down upon the grassy green valley. The fog had burned off in the bright morning sun and the sky that rarely showed its face was a bright, clear blue. It was a beautiful summer day, indeed, and Arthur had taken his knights out to enjoy the rare weather that God had blessed them with.
Arthur scanned the horizon, his eyes falling upon a lone rider peeking over the next hill across the valley. The lone rider was followed by a caravan of wagons bearing the Roman emblem. The five wagons were trailed by a man on foot and four cavalry soldiers. Arthur waited for more soldiers to crest the hill but none came.
"Only six soldiers?" Galahad asked in astonishment.
Tristan smirked, "Seems they have a death wish." Bors let out a low laugh hearing who the comment came from. The other knights smiled.
Arthur suddenly drew his sword, a dark demeanor coming over him, and rode to meet the party. Lancelot kicked his horse into a gallop after getting over the surprise of the sudden change in mood. He caught up with Arthur and as they drew closer he saw the foot soldier was actually a woman. Her hands were bound in front of her and a rope ran from her binds to the back end of the last cart. She had been forced to jog in wake of the cart as the soldiers behind her taunted her. The girl looking up suddenly, startled by the vision of Arthur, Excalibur unsheathed, charging at her with the rest of the knights not far behind. She lost her footing and stumbled to the ground, not being able to get back on her feet while the cart dragged her flailing body. The soldiers, not having spotted Arthur or his knights, burst into uncontrollable laughter at the sight of the girl before them.
The wagons came to a sudden halt and the soldiers quieted as the leader spotted four knights blocking their path and three more riding up to meet them. "What is the meaning of this?" he yelled, angry that their entertainment for the journey was disrupted.
Arthur came to a stop beside the panting girl, Dagonet and Lancelot blocked the other soldiers from their commander with their horses. "I am Artorius Castus, commander of these knights, stationed by Rome at Hadrian's Wall." He spoke to a man that came forward on horseback, seemingly the leader of the group.
"I am Remus Caius, captain of the Roman ship that brought you these fresh supplies, courtesy of the Pope and the Holy Roman Church," the man replied.
"And this girl?" Arthur inquired, getting off his horse, sword in hand, "what has she done to deserve such harsh treatment?" He went over to the girl lay gasping for air.
"She's a stowaway and a thief!" Remus stated arrogantly. Galahad and Gowain rode up to keep an eye on the other soldiers as the tensions rose. Remus backed away slightly, "She was caught stealing from your supplies in the cargo hold."
"Thief or not, she is no animal," Arthur stated, easily cutting through the lead line between the girl's bound hands and the cart as if it were silk thread. The girl sat back on her heels, using her sleeve to wipe the dirt and sweat from her brow.
"She is a prisoner of Rome, Commander, not of Britain!" Remus yelled, furious that he had released his prisoner. He dismounted his horse and took hold of the girl's hair, hauling her to her feet, preventing her from running off.
"You are mistaken, Captain," Arthur corrected in a low, harsh voice, "If she was in fact stealing from my supplies, which you have yet to prove, she is my prisoner and indebted to me."
Tristan observed the spectical with attentiveness. The woman was full of anger and hatred. Her jaw was clenched, nostrils flared, and green eyes squinted with fire in them. Her breath came in ragged intervals but he could not tell if that was from the physical exhaustion or rage.
Most of her anger was reserved for the Romans that had dragged her here, Remus in particular. But he continued to watch he closely for she lacked that look of awe and respect he often received to those he played hero to. Arthur felt it was his sacred responsibility to liberate anyone in need of resue, though he could not ensure the freedom of those he cared for the most. It was this same obligation that got him and his knights into countless, otherwise unnecessary dangerous situations, the same obligation that irritated Lancelot to no end.
Lancelot sat back in his saddle watching with amusement as the two leaders fought over the thief. He was making his own observations of the mysterious woman. She wore a weathered green robe that would have matched her eyes perfectly if it weren't covered in dirt. The color of her hair entangled in the Roman captain's hand was an unidentifiable color and resembled something close to a rats nest. She was tall and he imagined she was if fit shape, although much too skinny for his likes, to have walked this far from the nearest port, which was nearly a half day's trip on horseback.
"She will be returned to Rome where the courts will sentence her in the name of God!" Remus argued.
The girl's bound hands flashed out and before anyone could blink she held Arthur's dagger to Remus' throat. "I will not go back to Rome," she said through clenched teeth. All the men froze in shock.
The spell was finally broken after a few moments of silence by Lancelot's amused chuckles. "I believe that's your answer," he said smiling smugly at the Roman captain who had let go of the girl's hair.
She stepped away and Lancelot maneuvered his horse between the girl and her former captors. Green eyes darted from her former captors to the knights in turn, weighing her options. Finding no avenue of escape, she dropped to back down to the ground. Gripping the hilt of the dagger between her knees, she sawed at the rope binding her wrists carefully but quickly. She stood and turned to Arthur, giving him his dagger back. "I apologize for taking what I needed to stay alive aboard the ship. I only hoped for passage away from Rome. If you will not send me back, I will work off the debt which I owe you."
Arthur nodded his consent and turned to the leader once more, "Deliver my supplies to the fort, then head back to your ship. I wish not to see your face again." He sheathed his sword and called upon Lancelot.
"A ride, milady?" He held his hand out to her. She raised an eyebrow at his choice of words but took his hand nonetheless and he pulled her up onto his horse behind him. He couldn't help but like a woman who put the Romans in their place.