The Lady of Harwood
by Beth Heart
aka Nick Winter
All Rights Reserved
Do Not Archive
She sat bolt upright, green eyes dancing with angry fire. Long red hair framed her face and drew back into a braid that disappeared under the thick royal blue cloak. Ermine from her hood brushed against flawless cheeks. She glared down at the man reaching for her reigns. “Do not dare,” she commanded. “I will see your commander or no one.”
The man arched an eyebrow. “We lay siege to your castle, Mistress. We can not allow you to pass.”
“I am Lady Harwood and I will see your Commander, Sir.” She danced her mount a step away from him, while glaring down at him.
He crossed his arms, lifted his chin stubbornly. He wore only dark fabric pants that tucked into black knee high boots. A phoenix lined his right shoulder, black ink tattooed into his skin. His hair touched the same shoulder, the pony tail resting, clinging to firm muscle. “Lady Harwood have you come to sue for terms?”
“I will speak only to the Commander.”
Amusement colored his pale blue eyes. “Very well, My Lady. Gaius!”
Another man moved forward at a quick jog, from where he'd been holding back. He bowed quickly. “Yes, My Lord!”
“Fetch the Commander. He is obviously working at something other than his job.”
“My Lord,” Gaius said again, bowing a couple more times before he scurried off.
Another solider brought a thickly woven towel to the man and a bucket of water. He set about washing his face, chest. Water ran over hard muscle.
She turned her head to look away. Nervous gloved fingers stroked her mount's mane.
“Your Majesty,” a rumbly voice growled. “Ohhh! At arms!”
“Do not be ridiculous,” the blond man said, waving his hand at the soldiers rising at the commander's orders. “She is unharmed. There are no warriors hidden. My team would have found them if there had been. This is why there has been little progress!” Now clean, he held a hand out to the Lady Hargrove. “My Lady.”
Much paler, she took his hand and dismounted into his strong hands, as he lifted her down to her feet. “You are King Roland.”
“I am,” he said firmly. “What terms does My Lady wish for?”
“I wish,” she said, recovering her nerve as she stepped back from him slightly. She lifted her chin and stared right into his eyes. “I wish that all my people are allowed to live and to be given governorship of my lands. For this, I will faithfully pay reasonable tithes and be loyal only to Your Majesty.”
“What I require, Lady Hargrove, is your unconditional surrender. I will unite all of Alish. All people will be one people.”
“What of my people?”
He reached out, a strong hand brushing red hair back from her face. “I want you. Will you serve me to protect your people?”
“Do I have your word?”
“You have my word.”
“Then, Your Majesty, I surrender and I give you my loyalty and service.”