Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 169

the stones in the circle, stealing glances at the knight as he worked unloading the packs and preparing camp for the night. She walked to the center of the circle and looked cautiously over the crumbling rim into the darkness below. A damp breeze exhaled softly from the cavern. She breathed it in deeply, closing her eyes, taking the coolness and slight tang of sulfur into her lungs and holding it there, rolling like smoke inside her. “Careful!” She huffed her breath out in surprise, opening her eyes to see the knight directly by her side. He caught her off guard with his sudden closeness and she started to flush. He put his hand lightly on her waist and led her away from the opening, and his touch coupled with his proximity made a heat rise in her chest and gooseflesh on her skin. Slightly breathless and annoyed at herself, Rhiannon felt like she did as an awkward smitten adolescent in Gwydion’s presence those many years ago. Dressed in one of her very best gowns, which she had agonized hours over and then sent her chambermaid into a tizzy over the way she would wear her hair, Rhiannon would sit stiffly next to her father and watch intently for the blue and gold shield and trappings. Each time she would feel the thunder of his horse’s hooves through the lists and the lightning crack of the breaking lance thrumming through her very bones. At the tournament’s completion, her father would allow her to award him his prize, a fine new sword or pouch of coins from the castle’s seemingly bottomless treasury, which Sir Gwydion would accept with a bow and a courtly kiss on her hand, and she would float on air and romantic dreams for days. Rhiannon broke away from him as they neared the camp he had made, and she sat on a blanket he had laid on the grass for her. He handed her hunks of bread and cheese and a flask of water from a pack, and then took some himself. The knight had taken off his breastplate and several pieces of his plate mail for comfort and ease of movement, but kept the lighter chain mail on with his blue surcoat over it. He looked at her for a long moment as she kept her head down and she tried not to choke on the dry bread, still shaken by her feelings. PAGE 168 Sir Gwydion began to talk about his companions at arms, some issues with his father’s vassals, and the construction of a wall around the village on his father’s lands. He talked about mundane matters until she lifted her head up and could lo