There was a sudden pouding at the castle door. Isi and Enna both jumped. Tusken whined in Geric's arms. He had only just fallen asleep and now some fool had gone and woken him up again. They all looked at each other nervously. It was so late and they certainly were not expecting any company. Geric sighed and kissed Tusken before placing him in Isi's arms. As Geric began to make his way to the door, a small maid beat him to it.
A young man was standing there, soaking wet from the rain. His face was pale, except for his cheeks which were flaming red. He was breathing heavily and his eyes held an look of desperation. Mud caked his boots and streaked his cheeks. He had leaves clinging to his tunic and stuck in his hair. An even younger female was in his arms. Her head was flopped back over his elbow, obviously having passed out some time ago. Her plain, tan dress had bright red blood spots seeping through it, and they were growing larger by the minute.
"Please, help me," he rasped.
The young maid had seemed frightened. She turned to look at Geric, then realizing that the king knew this boy, she curtisied and went off to her other duties. Geric let Razo inside and Isi and Enna rushed to him. They were shocked to see him out, and even more surprised to see him in the company of a female.
Their good friend Lady Dasha had finally achieved her goal of becoming the new ambassador. She had been so excited and was waiting for Razo to ask her hand in marriage. Her parents, unfortuantely, sorely disapproved of her relationship with him. Dasha was not too old to be promised to somebody, and pulling the betrothal trick that Isi's mother had used, gave their daughter to a man they found more suitable.
Dasha had been appalled at first, but upon meeting him found that he was quite handsome and extremely kind. Before she knew it, she found her heart torn between the new lord and Razo. Razo, however, decided that he could take a hint. He was only forest born and had to face the cold fact that he could never be anything more then a close friend to someone of Dasha's social standing. He returened to Bayern with his heart in tatters.
He had been staying at home. Rin had come to tell them that he hardly ever left. He hadn't even left his bed for the first week of his return. Enna had gone to visit him and he would not even smile at her. He repeated that he would never love again and would rather die alone, and this time they were all afraid that he meant it.
"Razo, what on earth happened to you? More importantly, what happened to her?"
"I'm not quite sure what she went through. I found her in the woods while I was out riding."
"The woods?" Isi gasped. "But surely you had doctors closer to you! How did you get all this way so quickly?"
"Not the forest where I live," he corrected. "I was in the woods on the other side of the meadow where you took the geese to. I do believe they said hello, by the way."
She smiled. That was the first attempt at humor he had made in months.
"Anyway, that isn't so important right now. She's in bad need of help. She wasn't bleeding half so bad when I found her. I think the ride may have irritated her injuries."
"Of course we can help her. Enna, would you get some of the physicians for us? Isi and I will get her set up in that large guest room," Geric said.
She nodded and hurried off to wake the castle's doctors. Geric and Isi helped Razo up the stairs. Isi pulled the sheets back from the massive, plush bed once they were in the room and Razo carefully set the young maiden down. He petted the hair out of her face, then attempted to ring the water from it. Enna soon returned with three male physicians and a nurse. The medics shoo'd everyone out of the room so that they could work on the girl without an audience.
Once they were all settled out in the hall, Enna asked, "Now will you tell us what happened?"
"I suppose I can, but to be honest, there isn't much to tell," Razo replied. "I started to get very bored at home so I decided to come to town and see if Ideca had anyone that needed some help. She told me no and I was actually going to come and see all of you tomorrow. I guess I'm several hours early.
"In any case, I went out for a ride on my horse and the sun set faster then I had expected it to. I admit I got a bit turned around. When I finally found the trail again, I realized that I was much farther out then I had meant to go. I began to make my way back and I started hearing a sound of crying. I thought perhaps it was an animal or some such thing. The farther I went, the louder it got. I suppose she heard me coming because she started to call for help.
"I found her huddled under some large tree roots. I helped her out and I got her up onto my horse. She laid down on him and fell asleep. She's been out ever since."
"The poor little dear," Isi frowned. "Did she tell you her name or where she came from? She doesn't look to be from around here."
"Neither do you," Razo winked. "She was very delirious by then and very hard to understand. She has an accent I've never heard before. She never said where she was from but she did tell me that her name is Alicia."
"Oh my, she really is forgein! You couldn't get out of her what happened?" Enna asked.
Razo shook his head. "She did mumble a few things. I believe she said something about being on the run from someone who abused her. She also seemed very concerned about her brother, but she didn't say why."
They were all quiet for a long time then, each imagining what sort of trials Alicia could have gone through. Finally, Geric patted Razo on the shoulder.
"Are you feeling any better?"
Razo sighed deeply. "Slightly. I'm glad I could make some use of myself, though I'm not sure how I'll occupy my time now."
"Take care of her, of course!" Isi grinned. "I bet that she will remember you when she wakes up. I know she would appreciate a familiar face, even if she doesn't really know you."
He nodded. "I can find that brother of hers, too. Then he can take care of her and all will be well in the world again. And then what will I do?"
"Oh, come off it, man! We'll find you something to do," Geric smiled. "Life is hardly pointless, after all. I think you should really get to know that girl. She's quite pretty, after all. I've found it pays to become familiar with women you randomly come across." He put his arm around Isi's waist and she laughed.
"Yes, it has a point for those of you who are madly in love, but this will hardly end romantically, I'm sure. I'm through with women, I tell you. I would much rather be alone then go through that again. It's so much more trouble then it's worth. I'm perfectly alright by myself. At least, I will be once I can find some decent work."
"Oh Razo, you know that isn't true. You were so happy with Dasha! You know it's worth the effort. If I had decided to give up on Finn when things got a bit rough, I would be miserable now. Someone will come along... maybe she just did. You need to keep your heart open. You're so special to all of us. If you let that go to waste, so help me Razo, I'll beat you good!"
All of them laughed, even Razo. He didn't say anything more about the subject, but he was resolved that he was not going to pursue another girl. Not unless one decided to go after him.