Clarise loved that horse, so kind, so honest. It made her think of home, a place she more than likely would never see again. Did she miss it? Sometimes, other times she was too busy helping in the castle’s infirmary. Disease had struck recently, influenza. A handful still lay ill and two children died from the fever. Even her vet school training had not prepared her for the heaviness she felt in her heart that day when she lost the two small little children, a boy and a girl. She wanted to do more to help them, but the supplies she needed, she just couldn’t find. Her mind drifted else was, then back to focusing on the steps she heard coming down the stone floor of the halls.
She would have never thought she would have grown to love Rowan. He seemed so hard at times, so stern, so strong but at the same time kind. He was one of the best warriors the king had, and the village. She could see why he was a favorite among many of the local lords to choose and have as a commander. The few days she was able to get a way from her duties, she had watched him train. He danced with a sword like he was born with it. She loved looking at his back when he did. Sculpted, smooth, and strong. Then there were his eyes. They were the first thing she saw back in the house the night of the full moon. He looked at her for help after he flew through the stupid kitchen door. How it must have hurt. The blue depths just shone, deep into her heart. She had not been able to get him out of her head since.
Perhaps fate brought them together in a weird way. The house, the obviously magical door. She laughed to herself thinking of the night when she woke up to the stupid horse staring down at her in her bed. God, did he give her a fright. He almost looked like a demon. He was asking for her to help. She was so glad she did.
The footsteps paused in the hall for a few minutes and she could hear soft whispers and some banter and chatter. She stared briefly at the ring on her finger it was beautiful. They had been barely been wed for a week before he left for battle. All she asked was that he came back to her alive. The door slowly pushed open, it was him. Rowan was home. Her heart skipped for joy, she loved him so much.
“Clairy, my love!” He said as he smiled and tossed the door closed behind him, dumping his sword belt, sword, and hilt on the floor and walked towards her.
“Rowan, I am so glad you are back. I cannot tell you how much I have missed you.” She started, eyes welling with tears of joy.
“Shush love, I am here now, and we can start where we left off.” He said now holding her hands kissing them softly.
She loved his smell, leather, horses, and spice. She could loose herself in it for days. In her mind that’s all she wanted to do. Stay in with him and love him. It was something she never felt before with anyone. It was an odd bond that just kept drawing them close no matter what, and at the same time strangely familiar. He started to pull off his armor as he kissed her down her neck softly. Through the corner of her eye, she watched him pull off the chain mail and all of the layers he of clothing he had with it. He was as beautiful, as he was before he traveled to battle. A scratch or two on his chest caught her eye, and she traced a finger down it.
He stood before her only trousers left, and pulled her to his arms. Her hair was soft and smelled like spring air. She loved the tightness of his embrace, she felt safe ridiculously safe. He gently pulled her chin up and kissed her softly on the lips.
“God, how I missed you.” He kissed her long and hard again. Oh how she had missed him as he drew her to the bed that was waiting for them both.
Clarise awoke with a strange feeling. A sudden sense of worry and loneliness robbed her of her sleep. Her eyes fluttered open, as she realized she was alone. Clothes were scattered throughout the bedchamber she noticed as she grabbed her night shift and a woolen shawl. Where was Rowen, she wondered, as she made her way to the large heavy oak door to their chambers. Her mind still a bit scattered from the night before, but she remembered the most blissful parts of how they made love till the candles burned low. Sweet, passionate, and wanting, she was for him and oh how he desired her the minute he walked in the door. Wanting for months her sweet embrace and warmth. She smiled to herself as she began up the hall still lingering on her thoughts of the night before.
She heard a rumbling from the great hall. It was Rowan’s father. Lord Mortimer and he did not sound pleased. Clarise had great respect for the man. Yet at first glance, he would make just about any person tremble, but he did have a kind heart. Standing at almost six foot, to medieval standards Lord Mortimer was a giant. His rusty beard and hair still bright despite his age, and piercing blue eyes like Rowan’s but his son’s had more warmth in their gaze than his fathers. Lady Mortimer, Marie was fine boned and probably about the most beautiful woman Clarise had ever met. She looked like a fairy, at times she reminded her of what Tennyson’s Lady of Shallot might have looked like. Her presence was stunning yet peaceful at the same time. Both Lord and Lady were always in a state of harmony. Even the peasants and household servants remarked as such. For they loved their Lord and Lady of the keep. The first crusade mission that Rowan was first called to, was heart wrenching to his parents and even to Clarise. Even back home her experience with seeing men off to war, was non-existent. His mother worried nonstop and Lord Mortimer refused to leave his quarters for a day for he deeply feared the worst, and for his son to return on his shield.
Clarise pushed open the door to the great hall. The morning light flickered in through the wall of stain glass that lined the west wall, dancing on the smooth stone floor, making it look almost like water. She loved this room, so magical. Lord Mortimer was bent over the head table grasping a goblet of wine. Rowan was at his side, disheveled, and strangely quiet stressed. Lady Mortimer saw Clarise and dashed to her side.
“My Dear! The Pope has called the men again to go on Crusade. They say the King has been captured. They want Rowan to go assist them in freeing him from Saladin forces…” She wept. Wasn’t one mission enough, Clarise thought frustrated that her husband was again going to be taken away from her. Frustrated, she put her arm around Rowan’s mother and made her way to Rowan and his father.
“My Lord… Rowan, Do you have to go? Have you not served enough in his Holiness’s army?” She pleaded glancing at Rowan and then at his father. He took a long drink of his wine, something she still had not entirely grown accustomed to, even now after being here for a little more than a year or so. Wine or medieval wine was very much an acquired taste and there was really no other options to it. Water had to be boiled as she was teaching the cooks so they could drink it. But it was something they still were not used to doing.
“Lassie, it is the word from God. Yes. I am angry. I do not wish these crusades continue. My men leave, my workers, farmers, they all leave.. they don’t come back. I have people to get through the winter in the next months, and a crop supply to harvest.” He stressed as he looked to Rowan. His mother was whirling her hands and pacing. Rowan leaving was perhaps the hardest on her. She loved him dearly. She had a daughter once, Rowan’s sister Eloise. She was 11 “when the angels took her” as Clarise was told. A fever. Since then any departure of any of the family from the castle always weighed greatly on her heart. Clarise always worried about her.
“Father, I will only take the men I need, I promise. I won’t let other’s follow this time. Just Brie, Fitz-Simmons and two more I know for certs can come. Hunter’s wife wants him gone, as she is with child again, and Flynn has been so bored, he has been shooting squirrels with arrows again. We will all come back alive, I swear to it.” Rowan promised, as he grasped his father’s hand, ensuring him of his word.
Clarise was frustrated, but she knew her words and pleading wouldn’t work against the commands of the Pope. She had an idea. She had heard stories and had read back in her own time the adventures and stories about the Dowager Queen, Eleanore of Aquitaine King Richard’s mother. She was fearless, as the word was already across the land that confirmed that. She too had been on pilgrimage and well “crusade” but on her terms. She had even at one point in time been to Acre, where she over saw Richard’s marriage. If she could manage to survive a journey, and a person with no medical expertise, Clarise thought she might as well give it a try.
“Rowan, my Lord... I wish to go with them.” She said asserting herself, staring straight at Lord Mortimer, searching his face for an answer. She heard a gasp from Lady Mortimer, Rowan dropped his goblet which was now and obviously empty. It seemed that no one really knew what to say as you could hear a pin drop with the sudden veil of silence that fell across the hall.