The market place was busy in the afternoon, but the maiden and the knight were able to walk through it uninterrupted. The watched each other faces as they walked, so occupied on their conversation that they paid no mind to what was going on within the market. The knight having a respectable local reputation, people parted the way to accompany the two, so they did not have to pay mind to running into other citizens.
“The man they put you up against— his shoulders must have been thrice the size of yours!” The maiden exclaimed, speaking of a joust from earlier in the day. Her arms went up with hysteria as she walked, the cape she wore bouncing with the same enthusiasm. “How could you have been expected to win against him?”
“He may have been bigger,” the knight chuckled, “But size does not necessarily mean control. My opponent had no finesse to his movements, and did not show restraint when needed. He tired himself out.”
“But what if he had gotten a lucky shot—“ the maiden protested.
“He wouldn’t have,” the knight corrected, trying to make his face serious. But he could not when talking to her, a smile was fixed on his mouth. “I knew he couldn’t control it as much as I could. That is why he fought so angrily. He knew I was more practiced, and just tried to overpower me. Swordfighting is much more than that. He wanted to win, but did not know how.”
“You did well, regardless,” the maiden complimented. She gestured down to the knight’s belt. “But your duel is over, are you not tired with your sword still at your hip?”
“Only as tired as you might be wearing that heavy cape,” he answered.
“It is a formality that my father makes me wear,” she said, referencing the coat of arms incorporated into the center of the cape.
“What I am weary now is of this talk of battle,” the knight said.
“What will you do now, with your match over?” the maiden asked. The knight stroked his beard as if in deep thought.
A series of quiet pergolas were up ahead, a public resting place where he knew they could relax. He pointed to them. “Let us cease the discussion of this fight and retreat to the shade… to where I can enjoy your presence.” The maiden’s eyebrows raised in surprise at his words, but her eyes were fully aware of his words.
“You have coin reward from what you have done today,” she noted. “Do you not wish to go drink wine with your comrades?”
“I can drink to celebrate later,” the knight affirmed. “But right now, I’d rather enjoy what luck and grace God Almighty has rewarded me with, for those gifts do not last.”
“Oh now,” she asked, her voice most interested. “You consider yourself that lucky, Sir?”
“Perhaps,” he nodded with a smile. He pet her head of short blond hair, and led her hand in hand off the streets to where the pergolas waited. “Perhaps.”
The pergolas were a quiet sector off the cobblestone street, a place where all noise and annoyance of the marketplace vanished. Silence seemed to fall as soon as they entered. The plants weaving through the top of their pillars caught sound like a net, seeking to preserve the peaceful aura of the area.
The knight and maiden wandered through a few occupied sections, where commoners and homeless slept away from the criticism of the public. Though lower classes were currently there, the pergolas were enjoyed by all walks of the city. The couple walked until they were in the rear of the alcove, where only a peasant seemed to be sleeping. They thought they were shuffling quietly, hoping to sit down undisturbed, but the peasant’s eyes flew open at the sound of other people. He fleeted to them before the knight had time to sigh.
“Sir,” he started politely. “word is that you won today.Could you spare some of your winnings for a man who has no winnings to support himself?”
The knight frowned. “You are asking me to spare you some of my hard earned wine and food. I know you are,” he spat, disgusted at the peasant to beg. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the maiden face repulsed at his words. “But perhaps I am mistaken. Take a coin, and fill your belly. Find yourself a place to sleep for the knight.”
“Thank you good sir!” the peasant said, excited at such a sudden change of heart. “This is much appreciated!”
The knight turned to the maiden, who was smirking. “How very kind of you,” she remarked.
“I must keep favor with God Above somehow,” he sighed.
“I am sure you already have favor,” she told him. She pointed toward a chair a few rows from where the peasant had been sitting. “Perhaps we could sit down over there? This cape must come off.” The knight made a grand swooping motion, stepping out of her path.
“Lead the way, fair maiden.”
As they strode, the knight’s eyes wandered from the back of the maiden’s head of gorgeous hair to above, where the plants wove through the pergolas. On some columns were carved wooden angels, a sort of gargoyle watching over those sleeping. He looked into the blank eyes of one, its wings fully spread, and shuddered. “What are those things?” he pointed the one out to the maiden. “They seem a bit frightening.”
“They are spirits of good fortune! Sent from God above!” she quietly exclaimed. “Protectors to watch over us as we rest!”
As she turned her back, the knight heard a rustle. He turned, to see the vines from the roof of the pergola shaking. To his horror, the gargoyle he had pointed out was coming to life, freeing its wings from the column. It flew fast at him, palms outstretched. Something froze in the knight as he saw its eyes become alive, and angry.
“Do not turn your back to him, child,” a hollow voice came from its sealed mouth. “He has no intentions of God with him.”
It was going for the maiden, the knight thought, not understanding its words. It was going to harm her. Reacting out of habit, the knight drew his sword and slashed at the creature as it flew by. He did not realize, in his fear, he was throwing his blade in the direction of the maiden’s head. Hearing the sword become unsheathed, she looked over her shoulder, letting out a frightened scream. As she saw the knight’s sword, the angel-gargoyle ascended into the trees, disappearing from view.
“Help!” she screamed, her shrill voice ringing alongside metal clanging on cobblestone. The knight’s sword hit the ground, and he shook his head,
“No!” he protested, pushing her down onto a chair. “Away from her! Back, you foul creature!”
“What are you talking about?” the maiden cried. “What are you doing? Somebody, please help!”
Footsteps could be heard rushing toward them. Those who had been sleeping nearby jolted up in alarm. The knight looked around in shock as a crowd appeared. His arms were at his side, unsure of what just happened.
“Drawing a sword on a poor girl?” a voice boomed from the mass of people. “Murdering bastard!”
“That’s not what happened!” he shouted at the people, trying to defend himself. He spun toward the maiden. “Did you not see that?”
“You tried to kill me!” she sobbed, her face red and wet with tears. She was backing away from him. “Why would you do that?”
“No! Something was coming to attack you!” he insisted. “The gargoyle! It came to life and flew towards us! It was going to harm you!”
“He paid me to leave!” came the accusatory voice of the peasant. “He paid me to leave, so they could be alone and he could axe her!”
“You should have your head cut off!” another person exclaimed.
“Damn you!” the maiden cried, slapping him as hard as she could before she ran into the crowd. “God Almighty damn you!”
The sting of the slap mattered none to the Knight, for he could not feel a thing. He did not know what to say. His jaw was slack as he watched the people advance on him, no doubt gong to carry out a citizen’s arrest on him.