A Dishonorable Knight
Author:Morrison, Michelle

Chapter 29

Gareth looked over his shoulder, fully expecting to see a contingent of armed men hot on his heels. He was pleasantly surprised to see nothing but hazy fields of wheat and flax dotted with an occasional serf or farmer finishing his tasks. The sun was just touching the horizon and when Gareth turned back to his course, its golden beams warmed his face and filled his eyes with their radiance. For all that it was a beautiful sight, he wished he were traveling any direction but west. The light in his eyes made it difficult for him to guide Isrid around obstacles. Shifting in the saddle, trying unsuccessfully to escape the blinding sunset, he trusted in his horse's ability to pick a safe path as they traveled through fields and forest. Luckily the sun would dip beneath the edge of the earth in just a few minutes. Then he would make quicker time until darkness forced caution on him again.

Unable to see exactly where he was going and therefore unable to concentrate on his path, Gareth's mind crept back to the image of Elena's face as she admitted her love. When she uttered those words, he could have cheerfully faced the executioner's blade, content that he had won what no man ever had. He lost all awareness of the hardness of the saddle, the discomfort of the sun in his eyes, even the worry that Richard's men where after him, prepared to present his head to their king as proof of Gareth's punishment. All those thoughts were lost as his lips tingled with remembrance of Elena's last kiss. She had offered to escape to France with him, leaving the comforts and wealth she had lived her whole life with. She had offered to travel with him, perhaps to certain death, across the country as he ran for Wales. Surely she had not made those assertions lightly. It had taken every once of strength he possessed not to agree to her mad plan. Even now his heart ached with regret that he had not done so.

Gareth pulled his mind from the recent past and looked to the distant future when the inevitable battle between Henry and Richard was over. If Henry won, Gareth meant to wed Elena. Since she had been dismissed from Richard's court and sent home, she would not be around when Henry took possession of all of Richard's castles, and Henry would not have the opportunity to bestow her upon one of his more powerful supporters as a reward, or marry her off to one of his adversaries in hopes of gaining an ally. Gareth was uncertain of what his position would be in Henry's new government, but if he was not granted means which would provide for Elena and himself, he would return to Wales where he could at least offer her the comforts of Eyri Keep which would one day be his. Elena seemed to have grown fond of the rambling manor and he would do everything in his power to make it profitable.

As the sun slid halfway behind the horizon, Gareth's fond daydreams were interrupted by two unsavory thoughts: the first was the memory of Elena's fury when he had told her he had lied to her about his plans in Richard's court. Suppose she talked herself out of love while he was gone? He wished he could have had more time to explain, to diffuse her anger, but he had to make good the escape she had granted him. He only prayed he would be granted the chance to see her again, to right the wrongs that had plagued them since their first meeting.

Of course, came his second concern, should Henry Tudor and his followers fail…Richard's superior troops, and if nothing else, Gareth had discovered that Richard had upwards of 10,000 troops he could rely upon, could easily make short work of Henry’s army. In their most hopeful estimates, Henry’s supporters had only come up with 7,000 troops. There was certainly a very good chance that they would not only be defeated, but decimated to the last man, in which he prayed that Elena' father would find her a husband worthy of her, one who would not try to curb her strong spirit.

Before Elena had uttered her love for him, Gareth had resigned himself to watching her wed another man. He figured that she had only viewed their affair as a tryst to be forgotten once she married a man of rank. Now that he had her love, however, he could not bear the thought of another man with her.

The last rays of the sun finally sank beneath the horizon and Gareth found himself able to see where he was going. He spurred Isrid to a faster pace, grateful to have something to think of now besides losing Elena.