Dawn was born the head knights daughter. Her father Draven served the king and queen in battle while she served them by collecting bounties. She spent her life chasing after wanted criminals to drag them to their cells. She was skilled with her arrow and dagger. Her horse Winter was pure white with dark blue eyes. Her horse was well fed and taken care of in the royal stables when she was home. The king and queen were so grateful for all Dawns services that she had a small home near the castle. She was welcome to all the amenities of the castle but she rarely used them.
She was currently out hunting a man named Saul who had proved himself to be the most slippery man she ever went after. Almost every time she thought she had him he’d escape or be out of town by the time she knew where he was staying. She was over a month into the hunt and getting frustrated. She deeply hated this man. He apparently tried to force himself on a duchess. He denied it animatly and somtimes she felt like he was telling the truth but he was known to be a charmer with words.
She wouldn’t allow him to deceive her and he’d pay for his crime. She felt she may be easily swayed by his words because he was so handsome. His short orange hair the same shade as her own. He had a tone body that made her quiver at times. The fact she was attracted to the man only pissed her off more. She couldn’t stand him and wanted him locked up before he could try to force himself on another duchess or unaware girl.
Dawn saw smoke curling above the trees, a camp fire. She didn’t think he was that stupid, but it had been getting colder. Autumn was starting to move into the cold bite of Winter time, reddening her cheeks and nose. She slid out of her saddle and led her horse to a tree and tied off the reigns. She gave Winter a sugar cube then moved deeper into the woods, stepping around the dry leaves that blanketed the ground. She could smell meat cooking and it made her stomach growl. She couldn’t remember the last time she had ate. She had been hounding Saul for so long she had lost track. She pressed herself against a tree, peeking around the side. She could see the fire and a tent. She didn’t see him though and it struck her as odd. He had food so why was he gone? She thought as she moved around the tree and slowly into his camp.
She looked cautiously around, her ears listening for any sound of an ambush. She stepped on a twig and froze. The sound of something sliding caught her attention. She saw a rope being pulled and before she knew it her leg was jerked out from under her, her head was slammed against the ground, and she was dangling upside down.
“That plan never seems to fail.” She heard a voice say and Saul stepped out from behind a tree. He looked amused and it pissed her off.
“Let me down you son of a bitch.” She screamed.
“Now, now lets not bring mothers into this. Mine was a real angel, sweet as can be.” He moved closer and she swung at him. “Whoa, calm down Hell cat. How’s your head?”
“No thanks, wouldn’t want to further tarnish my reputation. Well, at least the one I’ve so unfairly acquired.” He sat down, his unusual violet eyes watching her. His father had been a desert nomad. All of his people had those eyes. “How’s your head?”
“It hurts you jerk.” She tried getting to her foot, but gravity was against her. She pulled out her dagger and tried again, slashing at the rope as she raised up. She missed and screamed in frustration. All the blood running to her head was making her more dizzy than she had been before.
“If I let you down will you give me your word you’ll hear me out? You can eat with me as you listen to what really happened. As crazy as you are I can see you are a good and noble woman. I trust you will keep your word if you give it to me so please. I’m not asking you to believe me I’m simply asking you to listen.” Dawn struggled awhile longer then huffed “fine, I’ll listen but I wont be swayed by your lies. When the story is finished I’m apprehending you.”
“Thank you” as he started to get her down he said “I wish I could’ve gotten this reason sooner. Every time I try to explain you ignore me and keep fighting.”
“Youre a criminal. I’d be a fool to trust you” He sighed and quickly flipped her into his arms so she wouldn’t hit the ground. “put me down you disgusting rapist!” He did looking hurt “please stop calling me that. Come sit by the fire and I’ll finish cooking. When I’m done my story will begin. ” Dawn was a woman of her word so she followed reluctantly and sat beside him. The glow of the fire in his eyes making him even more alluring. She wished she wasn’t attracted to such a bad person.
He turned the meat feeling very sad. Saul hated how he was seen now because that horrible woman wouldn’t take no for an answer. She started ripping at his clothes and when he ran away she started screaming he tried to rape her as vengeance for being refused. Now he had this beautiful creature hunting him that looked at him as though he slaughtered children for a living. He could tolerate however painful the looks of others but Dawn looking at him like that stung the most.
Dawn watched him impatiently. The back of her head throbbed. She reached up and rubbed it, her fingers coming away with a little bit of blood. “Let me have a look at it.” Saul said as he walked around the fire.
“I’m fine, just a little cut.” She tried waving him off.
“It could be a lot worse than you think, let me look at it. I don’t want you getting an infection.” She sighed and tipped her head forward for him. His fingers parted her hair and she heard air hiss out from between his teeth. He walked over to his tent and came back with a small bag. He opened it, pulling out a water skin and a jar. He rinsed the back of her head, picking at pieces of debris that had imbedded themselves in her scalp. He grabbed the jar and took the top off, dipping his fingers in some yellowish cream and rubbing it on the cut. She felt instant relief. “All better.” He said and went back to turning the meat. She wasn’t going to thank him, she couldn’t even though she wanted to.
“Is it done yet?” She asked, trying to sound cool and unemotional.
“Yes.” He sliced of a few pieces and dropped it in a bowl next to the fire he held it out to her and she eyed it suspiciously. He rolled his eyes, tore off a little and stuck it in his mouth. “It’s not poisoned.” She took the bowl and he cut some off for himself. “To my story. The woman who accused me is named Ivana. Believe it or not she’s willing to open her legs to the vilest of men, very promiscuous. She decided one night that I was on her to do list. I said no, she tried ripping my clothes off of me. I shoved her, not hard and ran. She of course started screaming. I tried reasoning with the men who came after me, but they wouldn’t listen. Then they hired you, which I should thank them for since you’re so damn gorgeous with that ready to kill attitude.”
“I’m not always ready to kill something.” She snapped.
“Could have fooled me. Our last little wrestling match left me with quite the scar.” He lifted his shirt to show her a white line that started at his right shoulder and arced down to his left hip. He put his shirt back down, leaving her blushing.
“So do you believe me or am I still destined for jail?”
“You don’t really seem that bad but all the most horrific people seem normal” Saul sighed. “It’s just hard, I’m sorry. It’s your word against a duchess and you are only a commoner really. I am leaning towards believing you but it’ll be a hard sell to the king and queen. They are bent on making an example of you. Ivana has made a big fuss over it and how horrible it’s been since your attack. The king and queen may grow wroth with me for even suggesting you’re innocent of then crime you’re accused of”
“But you are leaning the way of beliving me?”
“I hate to admit it but yes I guess. I’d like to observe you more. We can spend tomorrow together and you can tell me more about yourself.”
“If I dont believe you fully after tomorrow I’m taking your ass to prison do you understand me?”
“I’ve got to get my horse. She’ll be scared alone and I cant have anything eating her.”
“want me to go with you”
“No, stay here” Saul was a little hurt but what more could he expect. She still suspected he was a rapist. It was amazing she was finally willing to give him a chance instead of stabbing and shooting at him. Saul couldn’t help but watch her butt move as she walked away. Saul averted his gaze before she noticed and bludgeoned him. Dawn walked to her horse not believing she just agreed to a day with this criminal. His words did seem sincere and true though.
When Dawn returned he was gone. His tent and food were still there and she thought she had been duped. “Hey, up here.” His voice said from above, making her jump. She looked up and glared at him. He was sitting in a tree, looking relaxed.
“What are you doing?” She asked as she tied Winter up again.
“Sitting in a tree. Want to come up?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Chicken.” She picked up a rock and threw it at him, missing in her frustration. “Come on Hell cat, it’s fun.”
“Stop calling me that.” He dangled upside down and offered her his hands. She sighed and took them, planting her feet in the tree and let him pull her off the ground. She grabbed onto a low hanging branch and swung herself onto it. He pulled himself back up and leaned his back against the tree.
“Isn’t this nicer than being on the ground. The higher you go the more you see and if you close your eyes it almost feels like you’re flying.” He closed his eyes and inhaled the fresh air.
“I wouldn’t know, I’m not really a big fan of heights.” She replied, looking down nervously.
He gave a soft laugh and she swatted at him, almost toppling out of the tree. He grabbed her shoulders and righted her. “That explains why you didn’t follow me off that waterfall. I’ll have to remember that for tomorrow in case you decide I’m worth arresting.” He stood and went higher, holding onto a branch while he held his hand out to her. She shook her head. “Come on, you’ll be perfectly safe I promise.”
“That means nothing coming from you.” The look of hurt that flashed in his eyes made her feel guilty. He frowned then shrugged before dropping out of the tree and sitting next to the fire, his back to her. She managed to get down without falling on her face.
“The sun is starting to go down, you should get some rest if you want to be able to chase me tomorrow.” He said, his eyes staring into the flames.
“Where should I sleep?” He pointed to the tent. “What about you?”
“I’ll sleep right here. I have to go down to the river to bathe. If you need anything just come on down.” He stood and walked away, leaving her feeling like a bad person.
He walked away feeling more sadness than he thought he was capable of feeling. She hurt him deeply with the way she’d look at him and speak to him. Almost all his hope of changing her mind was gone. He would just leave her alone and pray that their day tomorrow would go a bit better. The water was unreasonably cold. He half expected to find ice in it. He just bathed anyway as he batted away any thoughts that would flow through his mind about how pretty Dawn was or how much he loved the fire in her.
Dawn just sat there feeling terrible. She wanted to apologize but she couldn’t apologize to a criminal. Her father would slap her hard in the jaw if he found out. He’d probably slap her anyway for even giving this man a chance. She sighed thinking “well what chance am I really giving him acting the way I have. I’ll say sorry and deal with my fathers anger if I must. I’ve taken a few good hits before I can take more” She started making her way down to the river to apologize for her behaviour and words.
When she got there he was just finishing and putting his clothes on. His eyes still looked at her as if his heart was breaking. She sighed “I’m sorry, my comment before was uncalled for. I’ll stop and give you a real chance to show me you aren’t some perverted rapist.” He smiled, his eyes lost their sadness. “I’m glad. It’s ok, you’ve heard horribel things about me but I will prove it wrong”
“I’ll do my best to open my heart and mind to the concept of you being a good man. That’s all I can do.” She held out her hand and he took it.
“And I’ll try not to put you in anymore traps unless I have to.” He shook her hand.
“That’s oddly comforting.” He laughed. “Come on, we better get some rest. Tomorrow is going to be a long day for both of us, especially if there is going to be running.”
Saul felt a little better. He gestured for her to go first and she looked at him apprehensively for a moment. He knew one of the knight’s rules was never give your back to your enemy. She finally headed back to the camp, leaving herself vulnerable. He lay down next to the fire, propping his head up on his bag and staring up at the now dark sky. A half moon hovered into view, lighting the night.
Dawn crawled into the tent and curled up, her dagger in her hand in case anything happened. She watched him, afraid to fall asleep while he was still awake. Chasing him for so long had taken so much of her energy that her eyelids finally grew heavy and closed. She woke to the sound of heavy breathing. She sat up, her fingers gripping her dagger. She stuck her head out of the tent, a blush creeping up her neck when she saw him doing handstand push-ups with no shirt on. He pushed himself up harder and landed on his feet. He stretched his arms then his legs and started spinning and kicking and punching at the air. She had fought him hand to hand before. He was quick and agile.
She had never seen someone move like him. The style of fighting is something he would have learned from his father. They used their bodies as weapons. Things like swords and bows were used only for show in their culture. When she thought back on it, he had had her pinned beneath him on the ground and had made no move to force himself on her. That day he had tied her up and left her dagger sticking in a tree so she could get herself loose after he was gone. He noticed she was watching and waved. She looked away, embarrassed.
He noticed as she walked to him “No need to be embarrassed. Who could resist looking at a body like this” He immediately regretted joking hoping he wouldn’t upset her. “I was just thinking. Don’t go and get a big head.”
“About my innocence I hope.”
“Sort of. You have had me pinned down on the ground before. You made no attempt then to force yourself on me. Nor did you try when you tied me to a tree.”
“see? I don’t go about raping woman. That’s horrible and barbaric and it shames me greatly that people think I’ve done it.” His face was full of sincerity. She could not see any hint of lies or feel them in his words. He had even proved he wasn’t like that before when he had her pinned. Last night he didn’t try anything either when he easily could have. She was staring into his eyes. He could tell she didn’t notice she was doing it and was in deep thought. His heart stammered as he looked back into her beautiful green eyes.
Dawn sighed “I really don’t think you did it.” Saul had to resist the urge to hug her. “really? You fully believe me?”
“Yes I do. I can’t find any hint you’re lieing and you’ve proven yourself many times now that I’ve allowed myself to think. I just don’t know what to do now. The king and queen will be hard to sway and my father.” she stopped and he could tell she wanted to say more. She looked a little afraid which concerned him. “You look scared.”
“I’m alright. I just need to go back to the castle. Hopefully they’ll believe your innocence too and see that Ivana is a spiteful liar.”
“why does it matter to your father?”
“He’s the king and queen head knight”
“He takes it very seriously and will be very angry with me when I get back. He’s never been big on understanding. Whatever the king and queen decide he will agree with them. So depending on how they react when I tell them what I think will gauge how my father acts. Lets just pray they aren’t angry at me”
“I’m coming with you right?”
“They might imprison you on the spot if they don’t believe me. You should run and get as far away as you can.”
“I want to come with you. I would like to talk to them myself. I also don’t like how afraid you seem. You are nice enough to forgive me and I like you so I will accompany you back to the castle.”
“You will huh?”
“Yes I will” He was glad when Dawn smiled. He had never seen it before and found himself enjoying it quite a bit. “well we better get going. It’s a long journey back. I’ve been chasing you a long time.”
She helped him pack up camp and tied everything to Winter. He rubbed the horses nose. “She likes you.” Dawn said.
“I like her too, what a gorgeous girl. I’ve never seen a horse like you.” He patted her neck and Winter whinnied. Dawn climbed into the saddle and scooted forward for Saul to get on. “Are you sure you want me that close?”
“I don’t think you’ll do anything.” He shrugged and got on behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist so her back was pressed tightly against his chest. Goosebumps crawled over her arms and her face turned red.
“Everything okay?” He asked softly and she looked up at him. He smiled down at her and she had the sudden urge to kiss him.
“Yes, everything’s fine.” She faced forward, clicking her tongue and making Winter walk. She let the horse go at a leisurely pace. They exited the woods and she kicked the horse into a run. They would go until the sun went down and it would be to dangerous to travel. Bandits, rapists and murders came out at night along with predators like mountain lions. Saul held tightly to her, not used to being on horseback. Like his father, he walked everywhere. He knew he didn’t have to, his mother had raised horses, but he had the heart of a nomad. He had found it hard to stay in any one place for to long. He watched the world moving by, waving at farmers in their fields. The sun fell passed its halfway point, moving toward the horizon. Dark clouds began to move in, promising snow.
Dawn pushed Winter until it was almost night. She reigned in her horse and they jumped down from the saddle. They walked into the woods, finding a nice clearing and she made a fire while Saul set up the tent and blankets. They sat down together, eating some of the meat he had packed. Snow began to fall around them in thick sheets. She made sure Winter was beneath a tree and had a blanket draped over her. “Why don’t you stay in the tent with me tonight Saul. It’s snowing.” She said.
“Are you sure because I can sleep out here.” He replied, patting the ground.
“I’m sure, please. You’ll freeze.”
“Only if you’re sure”
“You don’t have to be so worried. I trust you.”
“I just dont want you hunting me again and looking at me the way you did before.”
“I wont now come on” He followed her into the tent. He didn’t know how he was supposed to sleep so he stood there. She laughed when she laid down “come by me. It’s going to get very cold.” Saul felt nervous. He wanted to kiss and hold Dawn badly. He worried he might do it and she would get upset since the first thing she heard about him was that he was a rapist. “Come on” she said again and ge laid down with a few inches between them. “Goodnight”
“Night” Dawn fell asleep fairly quickly making Saul smile. That told him she really did trust him. If she was afraid it would’ve taken her a long time to sleep. He found himself not wanting to sleep. Dawn was breathtaking even in slumber. He sighed then forced his eyes shut. Dawn woke a few hours later shivering due to the snow. Winter was the only time she preferred her home to the outdoors. The cold didn’t seem to bother Saul in the slightest. She hoped he wouldn’t mind but she really needed his warmth. She got close to him and then gently wrapped her arms around his body.
Saul woke up used to being alone in the wild but did not move realizing it was Dawn. With all he had he kept himself from smiling as she went back to sleep. When her breaths were even he wrapped his arms around her aswell then drifted off happily. He woke first in the morning keeping very still so he wouldn’t wake her. When she opened her eyes he said “I wouldn’t have pegged you for the cuddly type.”
“I was really cold. I’m sorry”
“Don’t be sorry, I didn’t mind. You could’ve asked before you went to sleep.”
“I didn’t realize I would get so cold.”
“well tomorrow night I’ll be happy to do that again.”
He pulled open his bag and handed her an apple then grabbed one for himself. They ate happily, talking about how beautiful it was when it snowed. White covered the ground, just a couple of inches. The fire had died during the night and they didn’t bother making a new one since they would be moving off soon. They threw their apple cores away and she went over to Winter and brushed the snow off the horses head. She took the blanket off and shook it before folding it. Saul broke down the tent and rolled it up with the blankets. They strapped it to Winter and once again mounted her.
“How are you so warm?” She asked as they moved slowly through the woods.
“I don’t know. I’ve always been this way. I’ve had a lot of people tell me it was odd that the weather doesn’t bother me. It’s probably from spending so much time outside.” He replied.
“I’m jealous. I have to bundle up to keep warm. I might have to keep you around.”
“Assuming I don’t get arrested.”
She frowned. “I’m going to keep you out of jail Saul, even if I have to buy you passage on a ship to somewhere else.”
He hugged her tighter and decided to be bold enough to kiss her cheek. It was just her cheek, nothing weird. “Thank you Dawn.” She blushed and allowed herself to relax into him. Even when they were on the road she let Winter walk at her own pace. She was enjoying being close to Saul. The sun finally broke through the clouds and warmed her skin. She closed her eyes and before she knew it she was sleeping. Saul grabbed the reigns in one hand and guided the horse while he held her with his free arm. He had took her on quite a chase. He wondered how many sleepless nights she had had looking for him. It made him feel guilty, but he had not been willing to turn himself in.
Saul was nervous guiding the horse on his own since he hadn’t done it before but he was not willing to wake Dawn. She looked so beautiful and peaceful. He knew how much she must have needed rest. The horse was easy going too. Not only had he never seen a horse that looked like winter but he had never seen one so easy going. It was odd to him since she was the horse of someone who hunted criminals for a living.
He sighed and looked down at Dawn “but I guess who wouldn’t be peaceful always remaining in your presence. I hope that you’ll want to always be in mine.” A few hours passed and Dawn woke up. “Morning sleepy.” Saul said much softer than he intended. “I’m so sorry, I’ve barely got any sleep tracking and chasing you. I’ll try not to do that again”
“It was alright. I wouldn’t mind if you needed more sleep. I know the way to the castle.” Dawn took the reigns from Saul so he wrapped his arms tightly around her again. He was very happy to be traveling by horse so that he could keep Dawn close in his embrace. Dawn sighed “you are such a nice man. I am so sorry this happened to you and I refused to listen sooner.”
“I’m sure they all claim innocence. I understand.”
“Yeah but part of me doubted for most of this chase you were guilty but I wouldn’t allow myself to listen.”
“You really did?”
“Yes, something about you from the first time I caught up to you was nagging at me. Maybe aside from your amazing skill part of why I couldn’t catch you was because I didn’t want to put you in jail.” Saul smiled “amazing skill?”
“I’ve never met a man so nimble. It was fun and challenging every time we fought. Most men I capture and put in jail easily. Have no skill whatsoever or atleast any I’d notice.”
“My father, wherever he may be, was a sword dancer. I don’t know if you have ever seen the way they move, but it’s the way they defy the rules of the universe. They are incredibly fast and strong. He taught me a few things. I have amazing stamina. I can go days without rest.”
“Maybe I’ll have to make a trip to the desert and ask the emperor to show me.”
He shook his head. “You don’t want to watch the royal dancers. You want the ones who dance in the streets. They are the ones who have real passion for the art. You can go to the emperor’s castles, but I promise you will be disappointed with the performance.”
“I guess you can take me then.”
“I guess I can.”
Since she had slept most of the day away it was soon night and the air was becoming chilly again. They found a nice place in the woods and set up camp. She was beginning to enjoy this routine. They gathered wood and made a fire then ate together. Saul told her stories about his father’s homeland and how beautiful and deadly it was. She had heard that the desert was an unforgiving place, that one could die if they did not bring enough water. When they were done eating they crawled into the tent and he pulled her into his arms, stopping her shivering. She relaxed into his warms and allowed herself to fall asleep. The sound of a twig snapping woke her. She was alone. The fire was starting to die down. She decided to put more woods on it to help keep predators away. She crawled out of the tent and walked sleepily over to the pile of wood they had collected. She put more on the fire and it flared up, revealing three men standing across from her.
“Hello young lady. What are you doing out here all alone?” The man in the middle asked.
“Hunting, at least I was.” She looked around, wondering where Saul was.
“You’re very pretty.”
“So I’ve heard.” They moved around the fire and she backed up. Her dagger was in the tent and her bow was with Winter.
“don’t be afraid Gorgeous.” Dawn didn’t know what to do. She cursed herself for exiting the tent without her weapon. She didn’t want to go in for it and make it easier for the three men to overcome her in a confined space. Dawn knew she had to decide fast because they were crowding her. She didn’t like hand to hand combat and knew it would be hard against three men but she had to try for it so she could get past them to her bow. She swung at one man who was inches from her slamming right in nose causing it to bleed badly “you fucking bitch” He said as she tangled with him. The other man grabbed her and groped her breast as he pulled her off.
She kicked him with all her might in the balls then punched the third man as he came at her. She used the seconds that gave her to run past them to her horse. Just as she had hope of reaching her bow one man grabbed her ankle making her fall to the ground. He crawled over top of her as Winter began to panic. She tried ripping herself from the tree as she whinnied to help her rider. Dawn worried she’d break her neck trying to get away from the tree.
The crys of the horse carried through the still woods reaching Saul who began to run back quickly to see what the commotion was. His heart hammered as he worried for Dawn. He could feel the horses distress in its cries. He wasn’t very far and hoped the horse was simply spooked and nothing bad had befallen Dawn just as they were getting close. He wasn’t used to such concern over another person.
“Get off if me you pigs.” She screamed as two of then pinned her arms to the ground. “I will gut you and string you up in a tree.” The man she had punched in the nose slapped her hard and she spit in his face.
The scene Saul came upon sent rage coursing through him. He picked up a flaming piece of wood and smashed it into the back of the head of the man who was on top of Dawn. He swung it quickly to the right, hitting another man in the face so he was knocked back. Dawn punched the last man in the throat hen in the face. He fell back, gasping for air. He pulled her to her feet. “Go take care of your horse.” He ordered as he got between her and the three men who were all groaning in pain.
Dawn calmed winter then grabbed some rope. She walked over the the man with the bleeding nose and kicked him in the ribs before tying his arms behind his back. “Please help me with these monsters.” She said and Saul threw the wood back in the fire. He dragged the other two over to her and she tied them to their friend.
“Are you alright?” Saul asked as he pulled her into his arms and tipped her head up to look at her face.
“Yes thank you. Where were you?”
“I was just out walking, not far. I couldn’t sleep. I’m so sorry I left, I should have been here.”
“It’s okay, you were able to take them by surprise. I’m really alright.” He frowned and hugged her tighter, his nose in her hair. He had almost lost her. It was strange how much that terrified him. He pulled back and kissed her, his tongue dueling with hers. He moaned into her mouth, his hands moving down to grip her bottom. She pulled back with a gasp. “We can’t.” She whispered.
“I know, I’m sorry.” He replied.
“Don’t be sorry. I’m just a little conflicted. I want you very much, but I need more time to think. I also don’t want to have sex with those pigs close. There’s a village a mile from here we can take them to tomorrow.”
He smiled and kissed her again. “You get some sleep Dawn and I’ll watch this lot.”
“Okay, thank you.” She crawled into his tent and he sat down on the other side of the fire, glaring at the men who had tried to rape her. It took every ounce of self control he possessed not to slit their throats.
Dawn laid there with her whole body tingling from kissing Saul. It was hard for her to tell him to stop out there but they really needed to wait. They especially couldn’t for those perverts to hear and get enjoyment from it. She smiled as she drifted off. The whole night, even when he thought about Dawn his expression never changed from a glare at the men. It was almost daring them to speak so he could hit them more. The three of them looked angrily back until they also fell asleep.
Even when Saul knew they were resting he didn’t dare take his eyes off them. He wasn’t willing to chance them getting a hold of Dawn again. The sun began to rise making Saul start getting excited about Dawn waking up and being with him again. He hoped all these new powerful emotions he was feeling were ones he could get used to. He hoped they’d never part. She talked of going to see the dancers with him and kissed him but he wasn’t fully certain she’d stay by his side like he wanted her to.
He worried they’d get to the castle and they’d convince her he really had done it. Her beautiful eyes would once again look at him like he was revolting. He wished they didn’t have to go back but they’d just send another after him if they didn’t convince the king and queen of his innocence. He coudln’t ask her to live a life on the run.
Dawn woke as the sun made its way over the horizon. Her fingers cramped from holding her dagger so tight in her sleep. She sat up and pushed her hair out of her face. She crawled out of the tent, surprised that Saul was still sitting in the same position and glaring angrily at the would be rapists. She wondered how many innocent women they had victimized before her. They would pay for what they had done. She would see them executed.
“You didn’t have to watch them all night.” She said as she sat down next to him.
“Yes I did. If they got loose I had to make sure they didn’t hurt you. I wasn’t willing to drop my guard for a moment. If you had not been here I would have killed them.” He replied and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
“Thank you for protecting me. I should have been able to do it myself, but I’m glad you were here when I could not.”
“I would never let you be intentionally harmed. You hitting your head was an accident, a miscalculation on my part.”
He kissed her cheek and she leaned into him, a smile playing across her lips. How he wished they had met under different circumstances. The other men began to stir and groaned in agony at being forced to stay in the same position all night. Neither Saul nor Dawn were hungry, the prior nights events had tampered down their appetite. Saul broke down camp while Dawn watched the thugs. They just sat there staring at her, giving her looks of hate and the promise of retaliation. When Saul had the tent and blankets tied to Winter he grabbed the end of the rope and tied it to the saddle horn. She put out the fore, making sure every ember was gone. Dawn climbed up in the saddle and he got behind her. They started through the woods, forcing the men to walk.
They grumbled as they walked on. Even though they were the aggressors the men felt extreme hate and anger towards Dawn and Saul. Saul was enjoying holding Dawn but was very tense. He was ready at any second to put them in their place if they tried anything. Dawn felt Sauls tension but didn’t say anything. She thought it was sweet how he stayed up all night to make sure they didn’t hurt her again. She really enjoyed his good morning kiss on the cheek too.
The king and queen had to see that Saul was good. Hopefully her father would see it even if the king and queen couldn’t. It was doubtful since his brain seemed to belong to them but she hoped because she felt very strong feelings forming for Saul. Stronger than she wanted in a situation like this. They soon were arriving at the town. She halted at the gate pulling out her papers then telling them what she was there for. The guards bowed which had Saul confused. They handed her back the papers and let her pass “Safe travels my lady”
“Thank you kind sir” One of the men walking behind asked nastily “why were they bowing to you wench?”
“My father is the king and queens head knight. I also work directly for them. I bring in criminals the regular guard can’t seem to handle. I work directly for them and am at there every call. It says all of that in my papers.” Two of the mens anger was now replaced with fear learning of who the girl was they tried to assault. The one that had been in the middle last night was unwavering in his rage for he knew her father well and hated him. “explains why you’re such a bitch. I know your father. A nasty man. Real stiff when it comes to rules. Quick to a beating too. I hope he’s thrown you around a good bit”
“shut up” Dawn said angrily. Only giving the man pleasure that he got a rise. Dawn knew it would but she didn’t like people talking about her father like that. He had beaten her a few times but things were mostly good between them. He had a good side that nobody else saw. He just firmly believed in everyone following rules and swift punishment if you strayed from what the king and queen said was right. She also didn’t want Saul having the wrong impression of her dad.
She took the criminals straight to the prison and handed them off to the commanding officer. His eyes jumped to the three men, his gaze a venomous promise of retribution. No one assaulted one of their own and lived tell the tale. She nodded to the man and they rode away, exiting through the back gate. The castle was still another day away. She grew more nervous at the thought of her father calling her a traitor, but she would willingly give up her station to prove a point, even take Sauls place at the gallows if she had to. She kicked Winter into a trot, wanting to cover as much distance as possible before the sun went down. Saul fished an apple out of his bag and took a bite as they rode. Held it up to her lips and she took a bite, thanking him.
“You look pale Dawn.” He said, concern etched on his face.
“Just nervous. My father can be swift in his judgement and quick to carry out punishment. He is a hard man, always has been. My mother was the softest person, all love and understanding. Where he would slap she would speak. She was the only one who could tell him what to do.” She replied and took another bite of apple.
“I won’t let him punish you, I’ll take a beating for you if I have to.”
“Please don’t do that. My father loves me, he just loves his job more.”
Saul wasn’t going to let her father touch her like that. He didn’t care if he wound up with several broken bones. He had fallen hard for her and she didn’t deserve to be harmed because of him. The sun started to go down and they finally had to stop because Winter was becoming exhausted. The road here was well traveled so they just made camp off to the side instead of going into the woods. Bandits were not stupid enough to attack here because they were so close to the castle. They set up the tent, made a fire and then ate the rest of the meat. They lay on the grass and stared up at the moon. Dawn had never known such peace. She was always chasing someone. Saul shifted onto his side and propped his head up, looking into her eyes.
“I have to tell you something before whatever happens tomorrow happens.” He said nervously.
“Tell me.” She replied, just as nervous.
“I love you and I want you to remember that if I am to be executed. This last month, being chased by you and then spending the night with you have been the happiest days of my life. I had a good time leading you in circles.”
Dawn smiled then hugged him. “it’s been the happiest times of my life too. I’m glad you made me listen to you.”
“I just wish I hadn’t hurt your head in order to do it.”
“Its fine, It didn’t hurt for that long.” She didn’t say I love you too and it made him sad “You do love me too right?”
She pulled back from the hug and grabbed his face in her hands. “Very very much. I really hope they believe you tomorrow. If we have to run we have to. I’ll run away with you and abandon my post. If the king and queen disapprove of me then my father wont speak to me again anyway.”
“You’d really want to?”
“I want to be with you however I can.” Dawn kissed him and he kissed back. He felt happier than he knew was possible. He wanted to make love to her but didn’t want to try again so soon after the last time. Their lips parted slowly “lets go into the tent.”
“To sleep?” He asked then she bit his bottom lip “Not to sleep”
“are you sure?”
“Come on before I change my mind sexy” Saul followed her into the tent zipping it shut then they undressed eachother. He marveled at her gorgeous body. He slowly moved his hands across it taking in every sumptuous curve and freckle. He made love to her slowly, passionately, wanted her to always remember this if he died. He would happily spend the rest of his life making love to Dawn. He hoped he’d have it to do so. When they both finished they breathed heavily while holding eachother “How was I?” He asked even though her moans had told him how good it was. “You’re amazing, you must ahve sex often.” she teased. “No, it’s actually been quite a long time.” He said kissing her head. “I hope I have many more opportunities to express my love that way.”
She curled up close to him, her head on his chest. She waited until she was sure he was sleeping and started crying. She didn’t want him to die. She knew the moment he stepped foot into the throne room they would try to arrest him. She wasn’t going to let it happen. She cried until she was exhausted and had no choice but to fall asleep, terrified of what would happen the following day.
Saul woke first in the morning and looked down at her beautiful face. He frowned when he realized she had been crying. He hoped that wasn’t his fault, but he knew deep down that it was. He had caused her so much trouble. She deserved peace, not having to worry about him and his life. He was no angel, not even close, but he loved her with everything that he was. He would give every breath and every drop of blood if it meant her happiness. He brushed her hair out of her face and kissed her cheek. She stirred and smiled when she looked up at him.
“It’s time.” He said softly and she frowned. They dressed quickly and broke down camp. Dawn pushed Winter into a full run once they were in the saddle. Her heart was beating so fast, but she had to be brave. They slowed at the front gate and it slid quickly open. She took winter to the stable and started for the castle, Saul close behind. They went to the throne room and waited patiently for the King and Queen to be arrive. When their steward announced them both Dawn and Saul bowed. The King told them to rise. Her father stood to the right of the King’s throne.
“Who is this that you have with you Dawn?” The King asked.
“This is Saul, the man accused of raping the Duchess Ivana Prisma.” She answered.
“Why is he not in irons?” Her father growled.
“Because I believe he is innocent.”
“That is not your call daughter.” He moved toward her, raising his hand when he was close. Saul stepped in between them, staring into her father’s eyes. Her father punched him in the jaw, but Saul stayed on his feet. “Get out of my way criminal.”
“No, I won’t let you hurt her.”
“Enough.” The Queen said and her father backed off. “Do you have proof child?”
“No, but I know how we can get some. Put him in the dungeon, chain him to the wall and have her come in to talk to him, to identify him. We will let her think she’s alone and she will spill her guts to him. She seems like the gloating type. Please or I give up my position.”
“Why would you do this for a wanted man?” The King asked.
“Because I love him sir.”
Her father looked repulsed. She could feel his stinging anger and disapproval. She could also feel how ashamed he was in this moment and it threatened to bring her to tears. “This is a wise idea. Not surprising since you’ve always shown such wisdom Dawn. Amahr you shouldn’t be so impatient with her. Regardless I’ve told you many times to not strike your daughter in my presence. You must reprimand her and punish her how you see fit in private.”
“I’m sorry sir” His voice still growling. Saul did his best to keep himself from glaring at Dawns father. The king continued “You brought him Dawn you take him to the dungeon and lock him up. We will send for Ivana with haste. She will be here in no longer than two days time. Hopefully we can have her by tomorrow but she doesn’t rush for a soul and we wouldn’t ask her to because then she’ll go slower. Please take him away my dear.”
“Yes sir” she bowed and walked out with Saul. “Your dad was actually going to hit you. Is he going to hurt you while I’m locked up?”
“I’ll be fine. I told you my father loves me. He has to stay with the king and queen a few more hours so he has time to cool down. Hopefully I will just get yelled at for bringing him such shame. This is the first time he’s been ashamed of me.” Saul could hear her fighting tears back and gave her a quick hug. They reached the dungeon and gave Saul his own cell. She chained him to the wall and gave him a long kiss before leaving. “I love you”
“I love you too” Dawn walked out allowing herself to cry. It was hard to chain him up, it was more heartbreaking than she thought it would be for her father to look at her like that. She walked back to the throne room. “He’s imprisoned. Please send for her.”
“Its already been done Dawn. Thank you for your service to us. I hope you are right about him. I will be forced to treat you as a traitor if I find you fell for lies.”
“I know sire, thank you for agreeing to this.”
“You’ve served us well and faithfully over the years. You’ve never once vouched for a prisoner. I think I owe this to you.”
“You are a very nice king sir”
“I try to be fair is all. I do feel he’s tricked you but I pray because I like you so much I and your father are wrong. Please go now. I will tell you when Ivana arrives.”
Dawn would stay in the castle until Ivana arrived. She went to one of the rooms and lay down on the bed, crying until her head hurt and she felt like throwing up. She wanted Saul with her, not chained up like an animal in some cold stone dungeon. It wasn’t fair for him to be treated like something she knew he was not. She wasn’t an idiot, had never let an evil man sway her. She had spent a month chasing Saul, had heard him beg her to let him talk many times. If he had not caught her in his trap, she would have dragged him back as a criminal instead of an innocent man. Her door suddenly burst open and she came to her feet. It was her father, his eyes burning with rage. He slapped her before she could say anything.
“How dare you tell our masters that you are in love with a rapist. You’ll be lucky if I’ll be able to convince them not to execute you.” He yelled.
“I don’t care.” She yelled back. She was so tired of him acting like her superior rather than her father. “Go ahead and beat me until I can’t move, I don’t care anymore. You’re such a pig headed, cold hearted asshole. I could less if I’m thrown in there with him or hung at the gallows. It’s not like you need me anyway. You do just fine on your own without a disappointment of a daughter always at your heels.” She held back her tears, forced herself to look him in the eye. “All I’ve ever wanted is you to be is a father. I don’t care about your rank or how many of whatever you get for being number one. I only joined the guard because I wanted so desperately to make you proud, to have you look at me and tell me I was worth something.”
He stared at her in wide eyed shock. She had never talked back to him, never in her life. She had looked up to him, gone hunting and riding with him. Even when he hit her for doing something stupid or chilling she had admired him. He had always been her hero, through thick and thin she had counted on him to guide her. He sat down on the bed and looked at his hands as if they were blood covered weapons that he had used to slay an innocent child. Maybe he had, her childhood. He had forged her into a dangerous weapon, taught her that you had to grow up fast of you wanted to survive long enough to do anything. She sat down next to him and grabbed his hands in hers.
“I love you daddy no matter what, no matter how many times you hit me. You have always been my hero. I’m sorry that I have disappointed you and maybe that means you can’t love me anymore because I’m not perfect, but at least I broke your heart for a good cause. I’m not wrong about Saul. He saved my life father.”
He looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“while we were trying to get back three men attacked me and tried to force themselves on me. Saul saved me from them.”
“Yes would a rapist protect a girl from being raped?”
“Probably not” her father said looking at the ground “I’m sorry Dawn. I truly am.” Dawn was speechless. She didn’t know her father possessed sorry in his vocabulary for anybody but the king and queen. “It’s forgiven dad.” She hugged her father “I just hope he’s truly innocent.” Amhr said then stood to walk out “goodnight Dawn.”
“Goodnight dad” Dawn was amazed by what just happened. She should’ve stood up for herself a long time ago. She never did because she expected to be beaten worse for it but her talking back actually seemed to wake her father up. She was still taken back by him appologizing. She wondered if maybe she cried herself to sleep and that didn’t just happen. Dawn sighed and then decided to go to sleep. If she was in a dream she’d wake up and if not sleeping would bring her to the next day.
She hoped Ivana would hurry and get here and clear Saul. She didn’t want him in a cell any longer than he had to be. With everything that happend Dawn faded quickly into a restful sleep to prepare herself for what would come tomorrow. She hoped Saul would find a little rest.
Saul sat staring at the stone wall as the sun fell and rose. He closed his eyes, letting the night he had made love to Dawn fill his head. He had loved the feel and smell of her, the way she moaned and ran her fingers over his skin. It had brought him so much joy being that close to her. He wanted to hold her again, to have her pressed against him and kiss her.
Dawn woke to someone knocking on her door. She sat up, realizing she was still in the devious days clothes. She brushed her hair into some semblance of control and then opened the door. It was her father. “The Duchess is here, she came alone.” He said.
“Good, we should get her down to the dungeon.” Dawn followed her father to the throne room where they both bowed to Ivana. “Would you please follow me Duchess.” She said and the woman glared at her as if following someone else was an insult.
“Fine just hurry would you.” Dawn walked out of the throne room, Ivana following close behind with her nose in the air. They went down into the dungeon and Dawn ordered the guard to unlock Saul’s cell. Saul go to his feet the minute they entered the cell and couldn’t stop himself from glaring at Ivana.
“We need you to identify this man as your attacker.”
“Yes, that’s the monster who raped me.”
Dawn bowed again. “I shall inform the King and Queen at once. Please wait here and do not be afraid, he cannot get to you.” Dawn hurried from the room, hiding down the hall. She saw Ivana peek out then stick her head back in. She moved back toward the cell, her father and the King coming up behind her to listen.
“Look at you all chained up like a dog. I bet you wish you had done what I asked.” Ivana said, her smile reminding him of a viper.
“Go to Hell.” He snapped.
“This is what happens when you refuse to have sex with a Duchess.” She moved closer, just out of reach. “Maybe I can get you out of here if you change your mind. I can be very forgiving.”
“No, I’d rather not catch something and besides, I’m committed to someone already.”
“Oh really? Who would want a rapist?”
“I would.” Dawn said and Ivana spun around, shocked. Her father and the asking stood behind her, glaring at the Duchess. “Framing an innocent man is a crime punishable by twenty lashes and ten years in prison.”
Ivana was speechless and horrified anybody heard her. Amhr and another knight grabbed Ivana to take her to her own cell. The king looked at Dawn “I see you were not deceived then. I hope you’ll remain at my service Dawn.”
“I will sir”
“Very good, you may release the man you love now” She smiled and unchained Saul who immediately kissed her. Dawn smiled against his lips “You should always wait until the kings leaves the room to kiss me Saul” Saul turned to the king “I’m sorry”
“Forgiven sir, you’ve been through a lot due to Ivanas lies. I’m glad Dawn had the wisdom to listen to you. Who knows how many men she would’ve done the same to in the future. You two run along now. I of course will inform you Dawn if another criminal is beyond the capability of my regular guard to capture. You’ve made me honored to have you at my service yet again.”
“Thank you sir.” The king walked out with Dawn and Saul following. Dawns dad appeared behind them. Saul got protectively in front of Dawn again. She gently nudged him to the side “It’s ok Saul” Her father still looked just as wounded as he did last night. “I see you were not being manipulated. Do you forgive me Dawn?”
“Of course I do dad” she hugged him tightly. Amhr held out a hand to Saul “I hope we can get along better now. I promise not to hit Dawn any longer.” Saul reluctantly shook his hand. He only did it atall for Dawn. He was still angry at Amhrs attempt to hit Dawn in the throne room. “Could I have you two for dinner?” Amhr asked “Yes, we will see you tonight dad”
They followed her father out of the dungeon. Dawn had a real dislike for the place now that Saul had had to spend the night in the cold loneliness with nothing but a small window to bring in fresh air. Ivana would be lashed here, have her rank stripped and be carted off the following morning to where she had dropped off the three rapists. From there she would be stuck with the other women of ill repute. She was lucky Dawn had not been alone with her in that cell.
“What’s on your mind?” Saul asked as he laced his fingers through hers.
“I’m still mad that you were falsely accused. It’s not right it had to come to this. It has me doubting myself.” She answered as they walked through the castle.
“I just wonder how many other innocent men I have hunted.”
“Did any of them try to make you listen like I did?” She shook her head. “Then don’t worry about it. I took you on a month long run and every time we came together I tried making you listen. If those men said nothing and tried to kill you then I believe they were guilty. By the way, what did you say to your father to make him all lovable? He’s acting like a cute fuzzy teddy bear.”
“I stood up for myself and please don’t let him hear you say that.” She laughed even when she was trying to be serious. “Come on, let me give you a proper tour of this place.”
“You’re allowed to just wander around here?” He asked.
“The King and Queen treat me like I’m their own. They have a son named Jarren, but he’s away somewhere and a pig. He kind of likes me I guess. He’s flirtatious lets just leave it at that. His parents admire my intelligence and stubbornness.”
She took Saul inside the castle showing him every room. “Only one family lives here?”
“Well the servants live here and any of the Knights are welcome to stay if they want. You need to see the library now”
“Alright” Saul said giving her hand a light and loving squeeze. “wow” he said as he turned in circels. “yep, I somtimes get a book from here to read when I have a little time on my hands.”
“I doubt anybody could ever read all these books, even if they had all day every day”
“I know, it’s amazing”
“want to see the other horses? There’s some very beautiful mares and stallions where Winter is kept.”
“Anything you want to show me.” Saul kissed her cheek. Dawn giggled while she smiled “I wouldn’t have guessed you were so affectionate.”
“This is new to me too. I’ve never cared about sombody so much” Dawn smiled as she lead him to the stable. Saul admired every horse. He found beauty in each one but he liked Dawns the best. “Yours is the most beautiful but I like all these horses.”
“They have lions, tiger and leopards too. Want to see?”
“Of course” Saul hugged Dawn then they went on their way. “i don’t like they keep these guys but they are really somthing aren’t they.”
“yeah” Dawn guided him to see everything else she could think of until dinner time was approaching. “we should make out way to my fathers small home. It’s not far, he lives on the king and queens land aswell.”
“after you my love” They arrived at Amhrs and Dawn knocked. Her father answered and the two walked in. “Can I help you with dinner dad?”
“Saul sit down” Dawn commanded with a quick kiss. Saul supported his head on his hand while he watched Dawn cook with her father. Whatever they were making smelled absolutely delicious and he couldn’t wait to eat it. About half an hour later everything was done. Saul got up to help them put the food on the table and set dishes out. He didn’t recognize the food but took a bite. He soon regretted he hadn’t had this before “this is amazing.” Dawn and her father smiled “we made it up ourselves. Its somthing special between the two of us so we can’t tell you how to make it” Saul smiled glad to see smthing nice about her father.
“So, do you plan on marrying my daughter?” Amhr asked, his face a mask of seriousness.
“Father please. He shouldn’t feel obligated to do something like that.” Dawn jumped in.
“Yes I do, if she’ll have me.” Saul answered and Dawn’s eyes jumped to his face. “We spent a month in the woods and surrounding villages quite literally fighting and somewhere between dodging arrows and tying her up I decided I wanted to spend every moment with her. I know that sounds strange, but it’s the truth.”
“You’re probably the first man to fall for a woman who threatens to gut you.” Her said and laughed. “She is quite the hellion. She’s got a mouth on her that scares some of the men in the guard.”
“I know exactly what you’re talking about. You should have heard the way she cussed when I wrestled her down and took her dagger from her. It was enough to make the devil cover his ears.”
“I like this one Dawn. Mind you she hasn’t had many men come around here. That’s probably my fault. None of them were ever good enough for my little warrior. I’m glad she has finally found someone who can keep up with her and isn’t afraid of me.”
Dawn rolled her eyes then yawned without meaning to. She was exhausted emotionally and physically. Saul grabbed her hand and she smiled at him. “You look tired beautiful, want me to take you home?” She yawned again and nodded.
“Sorry dad, but it has been a long month. Today was especially stressful.” She said and rested her head on Saul’s shoulder.
“I understand. Her house is down the hill in the middle of the valley. It’s dark out so watch your step. If you trip you’ll roll all the way down.”
“Yes sir.” They stood and Dawn gave her father a kiss on the cheek before they walked outside. Saul lifted her into his arms and carried her. She sighed happily and rubbed her cheek against his chest, falling asleep as he started down the hill.
Saul smiled down at Dawn when he noticed her sleeping. He woke her up when they got to her door “You’ll need to unlock your home sleepy head”
“sorry” she said then dug her keys out of her pocket. She unlocked the door then they went upstairs to her bed. Saul laid Dawn down the crawled in beside her “I’m holding you to your word you’ll marry me” Saul said softly. “I am a woman of my word as you know. Nothing would make me happier than to be yours forever” They looked into eachothers eyes until Dawn just couldn’t keep herself up any longer. She fell asleep with Saul holding her close. He wasn’t ready for rest yet. He was far too happy, far too excited. He didn’t think she’d marry him. Saul was glad her father brought it up. From the moment he figured out he loved her he wanted to marry Dawn. He thought happily about their life and their future children until sleep claimed him aswell.
~ The End ~