KIND EYES AND A LION’S HEART
The tournament had barely begun when two young men made their way to the tent for the wounded. The older, shorter and broader of the two, clad in mail and a muddy surcoat, had his arm under the shoulder of his companion, who was obviously a squire. The lad was unsteady on his feet, and he had a bloody nose.
“I’m sorry I made you fall, Sir Melvin,” the squire said mournfully. “If I hadn’t, maybe Lord Barengar --”
“Never mind, Alphonse,” the knight replied, his deep, rich voice full of compassion. “Could have happened to anybody. Been knocked down by a horse plenty of times myself and none the worse for it. I wouldn’t have lasted long anyway, so might as well have been captured by my cousin right at the start.”
“But now you’ll have to pay a ransom for your horse and --”
“I would have had to pay a ransom to somebody to get them back. In fact, you’ve done me a service. I was never going to best anyone, so the sooner I was out of the melee, the better, as far as I’m concerned. So let’s get that bloody nose seen to and say no more about it.”
Sir Melvin paused and looked around the inside of the tent where cots had been prepared for the injured. Most of them were empty at the moment, except for one where a young knight sat, pale and stiff-lipped, his shoulder obviously out of joint. A simply-dressed middle-aged man with an open medicinal chest on the table near him examined the injured man. Beside the physician stood a slender serving wench in plain gown and apron, her dark brown hair tied back in a long braid and she held a basket of bandages.
“Oh, dear heavens,” Melvin mumbled, swallowing hard and looking away.
The physician raised his head, saw Melvin and his squire, and gestured at a cot.
“Sit him there, sir knight,” he said before he went back to his task.
Melvin helped his squire to the nearest cot. Once Alphonse was safely seated, Melvin started to remove his helmet, which did not come off easily.
“Bother this cursed thing,” he muttered.
When he finally got it off, the lining tore, leaving bits of straw in his dark hair. Some also fell into his mouth and eyes, making him blink and splutter as he used the edge of his surcoat to wipe his sweaty face.
A yelp from the direction of the cot where the man with the dislocated shoulder lay made him wince, while Alphonse looked as sick as Melvin felt. Nevertheless Melvin put a smile on his face and clapped his hand on his squire’s shoulder.
“Buck up, lad!” he said, his jovial manner only somewhat strained. “Have to expect these things in a melee. People falling off horses or getting knocked off ‘em by a lance, and getting bashed about a bit. Nobody’s died, and that’s the main thing.”
“If only I’d stayed where you told me to, Sir Melvin --”
“My fault for not realizing you’d want to get a bit closer to see the fighting,” Melvin replied with a wave of his broad, gauntleted hand. “Did the same thing myself when I was a squire. Got stuck in a tree once, matter of fact. Easy enough getting up but thought I was going to have to fall out or spend the night in an oak. Damned embarrassing at the time. Nearly missed the whole feast before I figured out how to get down.”
“Is it just a bloody nose, or has your squire other injuries?”
At the sound of the woman’s voice, Melvin turned and immediately encountered the loveliest hazel eyes fringed with long dark lashes that he had ever seen.
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Note: This novella is PG13. With the exception of GWYNETH ANDTHE THIEF and THE WASTREL, my books are usually steamier.