UNIT 20 Knight's Honor PartⅡ
It was clear from the beginning that
They were from two different worlds.
Although Robert had grown into a strong,
intelligent and handsome young man,
his blood was not that of the royalty.
This meant he could not woo Janine openly.
Janine's father was a shrewd man.
He recognized and comprehended
that Robert would be a fine mate for his daughter,
but the lack of good ancestry
didn't warrant the alliance between them.
Lord Stafford was not vacant
of feelings for the lad,
and showed this when he entitled Robert
to enter into the realm of knights.
Lacking noble blood anchored his chances
of becoming a knight, but if he
verified the potential Lord Stafford recognized in him,
he would discharge himself well,
and possibly rise above his station.
Robert showed perpetual zeal in his studies
and loyalty to his alliances.
He never evaded responsibility,
was never late, was quick and skillful
in the use of weapons including sword,
dagger and spear,ect.
He also showed keenness in his shrewdness,
was brave in battle, and famous for his honesty.
A favorite among leaders and peers,
he rose through the ranks to become the apprentice
of the most famous and successful knight
in the northern provinces.
Unable, still, to wed Janine, he entreated her
to run away with him.
Janine admitted that she wished to be with him,
but the violation to the taboo of a secret marriage
would bring disgrace upon her father
and contaminate their good name.
Robert was desolate and returned to his detachment,
hoping she would change her mind and not abandon him.
Now he was deeply sorry.
Janine had been kidnapped from her father's estate
by the Earl of Morley and was being held
as a hostage for ransom in one of his many jails.
Lord Stafford had called upon Robert to come to his aid
and to bring with him as many knights as possible
to fulfill Janine's release.
Robert's main objective was to rescue Janine
and reclaiming her honor.
He prayed he could do this
before the conspiring kidnapper further hurt her.
Janine's courage had thus far kept her from being bedded
by the Earl of Morley;
she reproached each time he approached.
Her raging temper and threats to hideously wrench
and tramp him should he attempt to touch her
were met with pretentious laughter.
Besides, the Earl was involved in an enfeoffment confrontation
of his own family.
He didn't have time to try to win her over
by being scheming.
It was Janine's plan to maintain a climate
of vicious contempt in her refusal of the Earl.
Every time she thought of Robert,
she became increasingly silent.
"Why did I have to be such an idiot?"
she asked herself.
"If I had run off with him,
none of this would have happened.
My father's estates would not have been butchered.
I would not be in peril. And if Robert finds me,
I will have endangered his life
by exposing him to this devil."
Inner annoyance troubled her every waking moment,
even when she was sleeping it was restless.
She began to lose hope.
If someone didn't come soon,
she would have to become the wife
of the notorious nobleman.
There was no point in asking him
to release her. She knew inwardly
that he would refuse her request.
During the night she sensed a change.
She thought she had become accustomed
to her misfortune, accepting
that her liberty would not be achieved
before the Earl forced her to submit to him.
Suddenly alert, she approached the window of her bed chamber.
Through the window,
in the distance she could see
an orange glow reflected from the clouds
and the odor of smoke drifted in the chill night air.
"The village is on fire!
Why would the Earl want to harm the peasants?
He must be crazy! I have to get out
of here before he returns!"
At that moment she started to prompt her own escape.
She began to groan, softly at first,
then mounting in frequency and volume.
She quivered on the bed,
alternately clutching her stomach
and wringing her hands in a simulation of extreme discomfort.
Her guard, thinking his charge was in distress,
entered the room hastily, neglectful
of the danger he was now in.
As soon as he was close enough,
Janine hoisted her club, improvised
from a piece of firewood,
striking him so hard that he fell unconsciously on the floor.
she made her way down the staircase
and out of the Earl's domain, surprised to find
that she saw no one as she left.
Bounced from his illusions by a sudden grumble
from the colonel, Robert returned
to the reality of their dilemma.
He heaved himself up from the floor of the cave
and patted the colonel into full wakefulness.
"I think we must take stock of the wreckage
your stupidity has caused to us,"
he shouted at him crankily.
"If we follow the creek, and enter the village deviously,
it is possible that we might be able
to take some of it back through the element of surprise."
The colonel, reproached by his underling,
refused at the idea of taking orders from Robert.
"If you do as I say, I will not ridicule you
in public and you may, just possibly,
be able to rejoice victory and flee from reproach!"
Robert told him forcefully.
It took the colonel a moment to
decide to abide by Robert's conditions.
"Tell me what you want me to do,"
he said in agitation.
He wasn't intelligent,
but he was shrewd enough to know his career
as a knight would end if he disputes.
He would willingly become Robert's collaborator
because he could not afford to
be found reproachable for yesterday's disaster,
leading his soldiers into the Earl's surprise attack.
"We must discover Janine's exact whereabouts
and extricate her without creating further trouble.
Put on your helmet, pick up your canteen,
and we'll be on our way. I warn you, though,
abstain from meddling in my plan.
You are to follow my orders without questions.
You needn't be elaborately worried
that I will rumor you, if you obey me,"
Robert told him.
And so they set out on their quest
to rescue Janine and suppress the fires of war.
The edge of the creek water was coated
with newly formed ice,
glossy and golden in the early morning sun.
As beautiful as it was, it was risky
when it slit beneath their feet, making so much noise
to alert the enemy of their approach.
They left the concealment of the overgrown bank
of the stream as they drew nearer
to the village. Going into the open
was filled with danger as well,
but with any luck, they would be able
to see it before they were seen.
It was manifest that the village
had suffered significantly from the Earl's strike.
Robert was stabbed with anger
when he saw the acute damage to the small farms
on the frontiers. "I swear I will impair
that beast on my sword should I be fortunate enough
to ferret him out of his lair! It is my conjecture
that he will pay gravely for this!"
The perishable roofs of the small stone cottages
had been easily caught fire and smoke fumes
filled the air. Here and there,
tiny wavering of flames was still licking the walls burnt
by the earlier fire.
Wooden doors hung crippled from their heat-warped hinges.
Windows were black with grease and smoke.
They needed no precaution
as they entered the town.
It had been deserted.
"I see no signs of butchery.
Our men must have made it to safety with the wounded.
I pray the villagers also found safe refuge,"
Robert was thinking aloud.
"Are you all right, dear?"
Robert wheeled at the sound of his love's voice.
"Janine, how did you get here?
How did you get that contemptible man to release you?
Did he harm you?"
He threw his arms around her, drawing her to him and embracing
her. She melted into the safety of his presence,
rejoicing in the knowledge that she
would never leave his side again.
"I'm fine, Robert.
I am in confusion, though.
Where is that greedy man?
I thought he would be near the village,
but I saw no sign of him as I came here."
"We have not seen him either,
but you can rest assured he will be punished
when the king learns what he had done. Come!
I'll take you to your father.
Colonel, see if you can find where the villagers are hiding,
and send them to Lord Stafford.
I am sure he will be more than generous
in rewarding them for their attempted resistance."
Lord Stafford was overjoyed to see his daughter
and Robert approaching the mansion.
He greeted them triumphantly. "
I have news for you.
When Morley discovered you were gone,
he feared for his life,
vacated his position and attempted
to cross the border to save himself.
The King was in the radius and had heard of his conspiracy
and betrayal. He had his men positioned,
rather accidentally, at the exact site Morley
had chosen for his escape, and intercepted him.
You acquitted yourself well, Robert.
The King has heard of your exploits.
He will tell you himself how you are to be rewarded.
It is no secret, though;
you will be granted Morley's lands and holdings,
as well as his title. Under his sponsorship,
and with my blessings, you two will be free to wed."
And so it came to be, that Robert and Janine
paid respects to the King, had alavish wedding,
and settled into a life of calm wedded happiness,
surrounded by Lord Stafford's grandchildren.