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Rated: 13+ · Assignment · Educational · #2180031
Week One Assignment Part 2 for Exploratory Writing Workshop.
Vignette One
Placid Waters


Once upon a time there lived a princess, named Pandora. She was tall with thick red hair and her face resonated with character. She had an impish nose, pointed ears and sensuous lips, however, it was her eyes that were spellbinding. They would hang on spoken words and make them a bridge into the speaker's soul. She was her mother's daughter and the power of her persona, illuminated a room.

Her body had curves that would be the envy of any woman; an ample bust, but not to excess. Her hips were tight like cantaloupes, firm and round. Her legs were long and stretched giving her a willowy grace. These feminine attributes often went unnoticed so taken were those around her by the disarming effects of her personality.

She dwelt with her family in the ancient fortress of Magnifico, a great walled estate. She wanted for nothing and had only to snap her fingers to have her every need provided. She did, however, occasionally experience unfamiliar longings. A dark spirit resided inside and oft, as she lay in bed, in deepest night, a voice from her soul whispered intimate suggestions and her imagination painted seductive images of the secrets a man and a woman might share behind closed doors—You know–that duty to provide an heir to the throne. The princess knew she'd one day marry and learn those secrets for herself. "If the King and Queen managed it, so can I." She grinned wickedly encouraged by the dark side and from her innocence a soft blush colored her cheeks.

Naturally, like any young woman, the young princess dreamed of a loving husband who'd appreciate her fine qualities, be her knight in shining armor, be the sire of many stalwart sons and beautiful daughters. Oft' when romanced by such notions she'd spin around the room in a dreamy dance. That certain someone who'll be the love of my life and man of my dreams. Her eyes misted. Despite this tender adolescence, strange hints and flashing images troubled her. Since coming of age, lascivious whispers and inexplicable desires haunted her dreams. At times they offered fanciful and serene delights and at other times, glimpses that were disconcerting.

Her parents, the King and Queen, doted on their beautiful daughter. The Queen, a Witch of great beauty, had earned the deference and respect of her subjects. Even so, dread might better describe the awe that Millicent inspired. Merlin, renowned for his wisdom and power ruled with benevolent kindness. One and all considered him the Philosopher King.

Pandora's education consisted of languages, mathematics, science and astrology as well as elocution, dance, musical instruments and needle craft. In addition she received training in all aspects of spell making, elixirs, and potions, yet was unable to apply what she practiced. The motive force of her powers had yet to be awakened and in her training she drew vicariously on those of her father. While a grand master of all things magical, Merlin often told her, "The Dark Arts are no substitute for a keen wit and the exercise of good judgement. Until you marry, any use of magic will remain beyond your means."

In her mind she had fond memories of him pacing back and forth in the library. "One day you'll be queen." The King's gesture encompassed not only the palace, but also his entire kingdom. "You must therefore learn everything a great sovereign must know to rule wisely. There are many who wish you ill. You must understand how to read and ferret out the characters of our nobles and ladies and all those who attend the Court."

The princess only half-listened to her father. Hmmmm, Is that like reading a book? She giggled under her breath. If he's told me once, he's told me a thousand times, "Think before you act!" The familiar lecture rolled over her yet again. "Beyond these walls are dangers you cannot yet imagine," the King continued. "While you may venture anywhere inside and onto the grounds and gardens beyond the drawbridge, you must never go further than yonder high hedge. Beyond the hedge row, lurk dangers I can't protect you from."

Even within these guidelines the Princess had a huge world at her feet. Inside the Fortress, Pandora explored all the rooms, corridors, staircases, ands battlements, as well as the lower levels where the cisterns collected water and the storerooms with their barrels and vases of provisions. The Palace had a long history, dating to when Elves ruled the earth and man had yet to venture from the dark forests and behold the Ican Sea. It was a place that had known both great deeds and the worst life has to offer. The evil which once lurked the dark passageways was still evidenced in the dungeons, which in her times, never had any prisoners. Still the rusting chains bore mute testament to terrible events of a distant past.

The torture chamber bore a particular fascination. The rack, iron maiden, and forge teased her mind with ancient memories of the agony and the screams of the poor, tormented souls once detained for questioning. An oppressive fear still permeated the walls and lingered in the air, even after long years of disuse. Drawn by a compulsion she couldn't explain, Pandora experienced something inexplicable, a dark resonance in her soul, when she went there to do her embroidery. The skylight high above provided abundant sunlight and made the stitching easy on her eyes. When she paused and gazed at the tools adorning the walls, strange sensations washed over her. She could almost feel an oily specter rear inside her head and stir with an evil malevolence. "It's only my imagination, of course!" She'd toss her hair as if to loosen the cobwebs of dark images. "How could anybody treat a fellow human being with such cruelty?"

In clear weather the Princess loved to walk about the gardens and enjoy the scent of the roses. She strolled down the well manicured hedges that gave a sense of symmetry, balance, and order that contrasted to the wild forest and gnarled trees in the distance. Sometimes she rode her pony, Merilot, in the uncultivated zone between the gardens and the distant hedge. It represented a no-an's land between her world and one ruled by nature.

One day, as Pandora rode Merilot around the grounds, she discovered a unicorn grazing with her foal. Surprised delight filled her and she urged her mount forward. Upon seeing the young princess the magnificent creature and her colt bolted for the hedge row. Over the top the horned beast leapt. Unable to match his mother's stride, the foal stopped, looked back, and stared a long moment, before picking his way through the barrier of foliage. Pandora rode up, dismounted, and stuck her head through the opening. An irresistible urge to follow washed over her, yet the warnings of her parents echoed in her ears. In an instant she decided. They only told me that to make sure I was home in time for dinner, It was a rationalization she'd soon regret. Throwing caution to the wind she picked her way through the twisting briars. Pandora soon emerged on the other side. In the distance the magical beasts entered the forest. Again the colt paused and looked back before the two unicorns disappeared from sight.


Kindred’s PoV


Once upon a time there lived a handsome Prince named Kindred. His inky black hair was once soft and well kept. As a part of his disguise the ends that brushed his collars were split. It was frizzy and unclean. His smooth complexion was now covered with a few days of beard growth. He was able to use a knife to keep it trimmed but nothing was available for removing the course hair. His Valette would cringe at the sight of his grisly appearance. His usual silk and satin attire was replaced by a woolen rough spun shirt and trousers. Rather than shined leather boots, his feet were clad in mud caked work boots. His slate grey-eyed gaze surveyed the shore line of the river as he used the ores to navigate his small fisherman’s boat down the river.

The roads and villages of his kingdom gave way to farm land. As he continued on his journey the domesticated rural countryside gave way to untamed wilderness. He recalled his father’s instructions as his boat scraped along the bottom of the opposite bank.

“The Magic Kingdom is on the other side of the forest.” His father explained. “It is bespelled so everything inside the hedgerow is invisible.”

“Then how do you know it’s there?” Kindred asked.

“When I was a boy,” his father said. “I got lost in the woods. I was lead out the other side by a unicorn.”

A unicorn? Kindred shook his head in disbelief. He indulged his father by listening.

“As I emerged from the forest, I spotted the hedgerow.” His father continued. The horse leaped over it and disappeared.”

Because it was never there.

“I made my way through the brambles.” His father paused and smiled. “Though I knew each tear in my clothes would earn me an extra thrashing on top of the one I would get for wondering away, my curiosity urged me on.”

His father’s description of what he saw on the other side of the hedge was something Kindred could not get out of his mind. While their kingdom was an industrialized land of steel and technology, the Magic Kingdom was something out of a fairy tale. Rather than a stone mansion with symmetrical walls and a roof top garden, the Magic Kingdom was built around and ivory white castle with multiple spired towers. His father found himself in the palace garden. Though the trees of the forest and the outside of the hedge were bare of leaves and greenery, the foliage and flowers on the inside were in full bloom.

Kindred pulled his boat onto the shore and set the oars inside. Ever since his father told him of the adventure, he couldn’t sleep a night without dreaming of the place. In his dreams there was a feature his father didn’t mention. A beautiful young woman with spellbinding eyes. As he came of age and the time to choose a bride drew near, he described her to his father.

“You’ll never find a woman like that around here.” His father said. “I believe it is time for you to repeat the journey I took at your age.”

“Why?” Kindred was still certain his father’s Magic Kingdom was a delusion brought on by fear, and lack of sustenance. “Very well, father.” Just to prove to you there is no such place.

So here I am. He stared at the tree line of the forest. The sun was drawing close to the horizon. I guess I’ll have to find a place to spend the night. He scanned the area for fallen branches to use for fire and shelter. Spotting a bolder he stepped behind it to see if there was a good spot for camping.



Vignette Two
Caught in the Current


Pandora measured the distance to the tree line. It isn't all that far . . . not really. I'll just take a peek into the forest. Maybe I'll see them. So, she set off, crossed the bordering field, and in short order stepped beneath the bowers of an ancient forest. She faintly heard a whinny and snorting. That must be them. They aren't too far away. If I just go a little further, surely I'll see them again.

The sound of distant hoofs and the calling of the mare to her foal drifted back toward the Princess. I'm getting closer! Yet, as she went deeper and deeper into the forest, the elusive sounds of the magical creatures drifted further and further beyond her senses. Pandora started to run. "If I don't hurry I'll never catch up." Her jogging accelerated. For more than half an hour she chased her elusive quarry. Finally, a bit winded, the princess paused. Her chest pounded from the exertion. She scanned the forest and listened but to no avail. "I'd better go home." An uneasy feeling began to settled. "This is getting me nowhere." Suddenly, her heart clutched and a chill raced down her spine. From up the trail, she'd just walked, there came the barking and howling of wolves. A cold chill raced down her spine. The princess gave her head the stupid slap. "OMG! What have I done now?"

Now Pandora began running in earnest, driven by the terror of being devoured by a pack of ferocious animals. "How did I ever get myself into this terrible predicament? I was warned and paid no heed. Now I'm really in the soup." Sprinting down the pathway she held the hem of her dress in each hand to keep from tripping. One slipper flew off and then the next. At length she broke suddenly out of the dark woods and into an open glade. A river shimmered and sparkled in the distance. The barking was loud and close upon her heels. Pandora darted to the river bank, and there spotted a small skiff. Wasting no time she pushed off into the water and stumbled aboard. "Just in time!" She sighed with relief as the pack paced the bank, snarling at the boat. One lunged biting at the wood on the bow. The little boat was rocked and buffeted as the beast shook his head back and forth. Rather than fearful, Pandora was overtaken by an inexplicable anger. The wolf's snarling and aggressiveness made her mad! With balled fist she leaned forward and socked him hard on the snout. The beast yelped, turned loose, and backed off in disbelief. "Close call, whew!" She wiggled her fingers, shaking off the pain and began calming down as the boat drifted out into the current.

Seating herself, she heard a sudden cry and noticed a man atop a bolder, frantically waving his hands. "Oh dear!" she muttered. "This must be his boat. I've taken the poor man's row boat." She sighed What choice did I have?

The snarling wolves wheeled and bolted toward the sound of his voice. He jumped off the rock and ran towards the river. The pack closed in hot pursuit. The current swept her around a bend and she lost sight of the drama. "Ummm . . . these waters do seem to be moving rather quickly!" She clutched the sides of the boat as water splashed up and soaked her skirts. Something whipped around and thumbed her back. She jerked away "What's this?" She grabbed at the strange handle. "Oh! the tiller!" She wriggled around and pointed the bow down stream. Then she heard it.

The rushing of rapids and the thunder of a distant falls echoed between the riverbanks "So that's what the frantic man was trying to warn me about." Panic churned in her belly "What do I do now?"

As the boat bobbed and jumped in the building current. Something smacked up against her ankle with a sharp crack. "OWWW! What!" Laying loose in the bottom of the boat, a pair of oars rattled and bumped against her feet. "Of course. Oars. I need to row. NOW!" Without hesitation Pandora wrestled the oars into their locks. She leaned in and rowed with all her might. Awkward and uncoordinated, since she'd never rowed more than time or two around the moat, the unskilled Princess heave-hoed and managed to turn the little vessel upstream.

Water's moving too fast! The craft bobbed and twisted through the turbulent rapids. Pandora's arms ached and her muscles burned. Steer toward the riverbank, she ordered herself. Her efforts were to no avail. The stream rose as the stern bobbled closer and closer to the precipice. The Princess rowed harder and harder until at length, having spent her last drop of energy, the little boat flew over the edge.

Somehow it stayed upright and smacked into the turbulent waters below with a mighty fountaining splash. Pandora tumbled forward, stunned when her head struck the boat rail. Drenched she sputtered and righted an oar, then grabbed the other before it floated away. Sweeping with all her might, she pulled clear of the deluge. "I don't believe it! I'm still alive and the boat didn't fly to pieces." A cry of terror split the air. The Princess looked up and saw a figure plunge over the falls. Like a rag doll with limbs spread, it pirouetted in space and lanced into the waters below. He must be the guy who tried to warn me. I guess the wolves didn't catch him after all. Feeling a twinge of guilt, Pandora turned the skiff about and rowed to the man floating face down. She ported the oars and dragged him over the side. Spitting and coughing, he flopped into the bottom of the boat like a half dead fish.


Kindred’s PoV


Kindred sat before the small fire he managed to build. He turned a stick with two small fish skewered on it over the flames. The smell of cooking meat mixed with the charred wood. Saliva pooled in his mouth and his stomach clenched in hunger.

The sound of distant hoofs and the calling of a horse drifted from the forest. What could that be? sounds of the creature drifted closer. He set down his perspective dinner and moved toward the trees. He scanned the forest and listened but to no avail. An uneasy feeling began to settle. Barking and howling of wolves emanated from deeper in. A cold chill raced down his spine.

Kindred retreated to his camp behind the bolder and kicked dirt over the fire. He discarded the partially cooked fish. I can catch more when I am nolonger at risk of being something else’s dinner. He peared around the large rock as something broke out of the dark woods. A woman? The barking was loud and close. She darted to the river bank. Wasting no time, she pushed off into the water and stumbled aboard. The pack paced the bank, snarling at the boat. One lunged biting at the wood on the bow. The little boat was rocked and buffeted as the beast shook his head back and forth. Unsure how he would, Kindred climbed on to the bold intending to help her. With balled fist she leaned forward and socked the wolf hard on the snout. The beast yelped, turned loose, and backed off in disbelief. Kindred couldn’t help but laugh at the sight. She wiggled her fingers, shaking off the pain as the boat drifted out into the current. His boat!

“Hey!” Forgetting the wolves he cried out and frantically waved his hands.

The snarling wolves wheeled and bolted toward the sound of his voice. He jumped off the rock and ran towards the river. The pack closed in hot pursuit. He lost sight of her in his attempt to elude the beasts. The rushing of rapids and the thunder of a distant falls echoed between the riverbanks. Panic churned with him as he caught sight of the rough water ahead and his boat. He hoped she could find and use the oars.

The boat bobbed and jumped in the building current. She wrestled the oars into their locks. She leaned in and rowed with all her might. Awkward and uncoordinated, as though she'd never rowed before, the unskilled woman heave-hoed and managed to turn the little vessel upstream.

Water's moving too fast! The craft bobbed and twisted through the turbulent rapids. Steer toward the riverbank, he prayed. Her efforts were to no avail. The stream rose as the stern bobbled closer and closer to the precipice. She rowed harder and harder until the little boat flew over the edge.

Somehow it stayed upright and smacked into the turbulent waters below with a mighty fountaining splash. She tumbled forward. She sputtered and righted an oar, then grabbed the other before it floated away. Sweeping with all her might, she pulled clear of the deluge.

Watching the boat and his passenger distracted Kindred from the pursuit of the wolves. They trapped him on a cliff overlooking the water fall. With a cry of terror, he jumped. His body plunged over the falls. Like a rag doll with limbs spread, he pirouetted in space and lanced into the waters below. His body rose to the surface and floated face down. This is it. He was about to give up when someone dragged him out of the water. Spitting and coughing, he flopped into the bottom of the boat like a half dead fish.


Vignette Three
Life Changing Event (LCE)


The gasping lad waved toward the small beach of an inlet that formed a backwater behind the falls. The sheltered cove blocked the wind and the sun warmed a gravely mixture of small stones and sand. Pandora rowed over and leapt into the shallows. She fought with her wet skirt as she tugged the boat onto the bank. The young man retched over the side, gasping, coughing and spitting up water. Pandora helped him ashore. Three steps up the little bank he stumbled and dropped to his knees. She assessed his improving condition, and noted her own soggy gartments. Her blouse had ripped at the shoulder but still clung to her body.

After a time, the young man seemed to have cleared his lungs. He glanced up, his jaw dropped open and he stared in dismay at the young girl. A long pause stretched between them, until Pandora decided to take charge.

"Sorry about your boat." She shuffled her feet as a look of guilt came over her face. "The wolves made me do it."

"Don't apologize." The lad answered, "I'd have done the same thing."

She sighed and looked around. "I suppose that things could have gone worse?"

He shook his head. "I thought we were both goners."

"Do you know where we are?"

It started to sprinkle.

"Not exactly." He scanned the area and looked out across the rushing river. "I've never gone this far down stream before. Everyone hereabout knows the Great Falls border an Enchanted Forest, and a ruler who doesn't take kindly to strangers."

"Fancy that." The Princess twisted at her soggy dress and squeezed water out through her fingers. "What's your name?"

A pause ensued. "Kindred."

Pandora wrinkled her forehead. Is he being evasive?

He countered, "And yours?"

She wondered how her mother would handle the situation. The answer was self evident. "My Lady!" She replied with a condescending arrogance she'd seen her mom use on many occasions. It was designed to put people in their place. Donning her "Princess" persona like a full suit of armor, she continued, "Once you win my trust, I might allow you to address me informally, if no one else is present." With that she looked away.

"Well . . ." Kindred had the amused look of someone whose identity has been mistaken, however he quickly wiped it from his face. "You certainly have the dress and demeanor of a highborn."

"See you don't forget it." She answered looking up. "And you?"

Again he paused. "My father's a grower."

Ahh-ha! A farmer's son, trying to hide his low birth. She knew now where they stood and threw him a bone. "Farming's honest work."

The lad seemed to welcome the opportunity offered by her words. "Indeed it is. Would that I was back there this very instant, plowing the fields and slopping the hogs." He swiped his wet hair back from his face.

"Well, Kindred, you're a farmer no more." She looked down her nose. "You serve me now, and Fate has written you a different destiny."

Kindred shook his head as if trying to figure out this new relationship. Understanding came slowly.

'''Tis true You saved my life..." Kindred focused, his elbows resting upon his knees

"I did, didn't I?" Puzzlement clouded her face. "This isn't the way it's supposed to happen."

"Huh?"

"You do know a knight is supposed to save his lady? " She shot him a quizzical look. "And I wound up saving you. That's rather backwards, don't you think?"

Kindred shrugged. "You'll have to ask a Knight."

"It was a rhetorical question," she explained, exhasperated.

"What?"

"Duh... Call me MY LADY!"

It was harsh sounding and louder than she intended and Pandora reminded herself to remain calm. Princesses do not berate the peasantry. Her governess's frequent admonition came to mind.

"Henceforth you shall address me properly." She scowled.

He flashed a mischievous grin. "You're quite a sight in that soggy dress, MY LADY." He eyed the womanly curves revealed by her clinging attire.

"And further you need to stop that obscene gawking." I need to nip this in the bud. "It's rude for a anyone to so openly display his . . ." she fumbled for a appropriate word. "Desire." She said finally.

He looked away, face flushed in embarrassment. "Forgive me." His words sounded genuine.

"Forgive me what?" She emphasized the "What."

"Forgive me, MY LADY." He blurted it out, as if cowered by the exchange.

"You're forgiven... Just see it doesn't happen again." Pointing her finger and shaking it, Pandora made one last point, "...And don't forget that you owe me."

"Yes, My Lady." A note of playfullness crept into his voice.

He might have said more but noticed she was shivering. The wind was picking up and there was a chill in the air. He got up and strode to the boat. He popped open a small hatch. Inside the water-tight compartment he found a small assortment of essentials. He took out a bundle of dry clothing, trousers, a shirt, sandals, and half a bar of soap, tossing them at her feet.

"Put these on. You make me cold just watching you. When you get changed, perhaps you'd be so good as to gather some firewood. I'll see if there's some fish to be had." He stepped off and then paused, glancing back over his shoulder. "By your leave of course, My Lady."

She nodded her approval with an aloof air, but his disengenous tone was not totally lost. Did I detect a note of sarcasm? Under normal circumstances Pandora had an excellent ear for nuances, but the chill was distracting and the flannel shirt and cotton trousers, beckoned to her shivering body No, of course not, she chided herself. That would require sophistication. What we have here is a simple country bumpkin.

The clothes looked like a close enough fit, and she relished the promise of something dry. When Kindred disappeared Pandora darted behind a rock and pulled them on. They were rough-hewn, but clean. A luxurious warmth spread though her. While they fit a bit loose, that could be remedied when they found a seamstress. Why the soap, she wondered, surely he doesn't think I smell like he does? With that she put it in her pocket, stepped into the sandals and set out to find some wood. An hour later when Kindred ambled back there was a nice pile on the bank. He carried a stringer with three nice trout.

"I did my part, for all the good it does. We've no fire, or do you intend eating them raw?" She looked askanse at the fish.

"Peasants are trained to perform many low tasks. . . My Lady" He added, avoiding eye contact, "fire-making is one of them."

He took out the packet of dried tinder, and the starting bow. In short order he'd spitted the fish over a small camp fire. He brought a packet of salt and dried herbs and a loaf of bread from somewhere in the boat's compartment. He mixed a paste and brushed it over the fish with his fingertips. The fish proved to be delicious and the Princess ravenous. The bread was surprisingly fresh. The food was simple fare but tasted good, and turned out as fine a meal as she could ever recall.

Twilight settled. The music of croaking frogs resonated in the air. A southern breeze warmed their skin and teased through their hair. She pulled the girding lace from her blouse. The binding had a glitter of metal and texture of soft chord. It had been a gift from her mother... on her eighteenth birthday. She wrapped it around the waist of her new tunic and tossed the ruined dress aside.

Pandora stared a long moment at the young man, before clearing her throat and saying. "... And what do you suppose the morrow bodes?"

He looked her in the eye. "Are you asking what we need to do, My Lady?"

She waved her hand in a wide arc. "This is a situation suited to a man's knowledge." She paused. "Yes, some advice would not be deemed inappropriate."

"We cannot go back." He stroked his jaw,. "We're hemmed in by the forest and we can't row up those falls. It seems down the river is our best course, MY LADY."

"My assessment as well." She nodded in his direction. "Your manners are improving. I'll sleep in the boat. You can fend for yourself." Pandora stood.

In the distance a wolf howled.

She stiffened.

Kindred reassured her. "We'll be safe here 'til morning... My Lady. Beyond that, we'll simply have to go with the flow."


Kindred’s PoV


He waved toward the small beach of an inlet that formed a backwater behind the falls. The sheltered cove blocked the wind and the sun warmed a gravely mixture of small stones and sand. The boat thief rowed over and leapt into the shallows. She fought with her wet skirt as she tugged the boat onto the bank. Kindred retched over the side, gasping, coughing and spitting up water. She helped him ashore. Three steps up the little bank he stumbled and dropped to his knees. He noted her soggy garments. Her blouse had ripped at the shoulder but still clung to her body.

After a time, he cleared his lungs. He glanced up, his jaw dropped open and he stared in dismay at the young girl. A long pause stretched between them, until she decided to take charge.

"Sorry about your boat." She shuffled her feet as a look of guilt came over her face. "The wolves made me do it."

"Don't apologize." Kindred answered, "I'd have done the same thing."

She sighed and looked around. "I suppose that things could have gone worse?"

He shook his head. "I thought we were both goners."

"Do you know where we are?"

It started to sprinkle.

"Not exactly." He scanned the area and looked out across the rushing river. "I've never gone this far down stream before. Everyone hereabout knows the Great Falls border an Enchanted Forest, and a ruler who doesn't take kindly to strangers."

"Fancy that." She twisted at her soggy dress and squeezed water out through her fingers. "What's your name?"

A pause ensued. "Kindred."

She wrinkled her forehead.

He countered, "And yours?"

"My Lady!" She replied with a condescending arrogance. It was designed to put people in their place. She continued, "Once you win my trust, I might allow you to address me informally, if no one else is present." With that she looked away.

"Well . . ." He smirked before stopping himself then quickly returned to a serious look. "You certainly have the dress and demeanor of a highborn."

"See you don't forget it." She answered looking up. "And you?"

Again he paused. "My father's a grower."

"Farming's honest work."

“Indeed it is. Would that I was back there this very instant, plowing the fields and slopping the hogs." He swiped his wet hair back from his face.

"Well, Kindred, you're a farmer no more." She looked down her nose. "You serve me now, and Fate has written you a different destiny."

Kindred shook his head as if trying to figure out this new relationship. Understanding came slowly.

'''Tis true You saved my life..." Kindred focused, his elbows resting upon his knees

"I did, didn't I?" Puzzlement clouded her face. "This isn't the way it's supposed to happen."

"Huh?"

"You do know a knight is supposed to save his lady? " She shot him a quizzical look. "And I wound up saving you. That's rather backwards, don't you think?"

Kindred shrugged. "You'll have to ask a Knight."

"It was a rhetorical question," she explained.

"What?"

"Duh... Call me MY LADY!" She took a breath to collect herself. "Henceforth you shall address me properly." She scowled.

He flashed a mischievous grin. "You're quite a sight in that soggy dress, MY LADY." He eyed the womanly curves revealed by her clinging attire. Her red hair, impish nose, and pointed ears resembled those of the woman in his dreams. Could she be from the Magic Kingdom?

"And further you need to stop that obscene gawking." She chided. "It's rude for a anyone to so openly display his . . ." she fumbled for a appropriate word. "Desire." She said finally.

He looked away, face flushed in embarrassment. "Forgive me."

"Forgive me what?" She emphasized the "What."

"Forgive me, MY LADY."

"You're forgiven... Just see it doesn't happen again." Pointing her finger and shaking it, she made one last point, "...And don't forget that you owe me."

"Yes, My Lady." A note of playfulness crept into his voice.

He might have said more but noticed she was shivering. The wind was picking up and there was a chill in the air. He got up and strode to the boat. He popped open a small hatch. Inside the water-tight compartment he found a small assortment of essentials. He took out a bundle of dry clothing, trousers, a shirt, sandals, and half a bar of soap, tossing them at her feet.

"Put these on. You make me cold just watching you. When you get changed, perhaps you'd be so good as to gather some firewood. I'll see if there's some fish to be had." He stepped off and then paused, glancing back over his shoulder. "By your leave of course, My Lady."

She nodded her approval with an aloof air, but his tone was disingenuous.

Kindred moved back to the boat to give her privacy. An hour later Kindred ambled back to find a nice pile on the bank. He carried a stringer with three nice trout.

"I did my part, for all the good it does. We've no fire, or do you intend eating them raw?" She looked askance at the fish.

"Peasants are trained to perform many low tasks. . . My Lady." He added, avoiding eye contact, "fire-making is one of them."

He took out the packet of dried tinder, and the starting bow. In short order he'd spitted the fish over a small camp fire. He brought a packet of salt and dried herbs and a loaf of bread from somewhere in the boat's compartment. He mixed a paste and brushed it over the fish with his fingertips. The fish proved to be delicious. The bread was fresh. The food was simple fare but tasted good.

Twilight settled. The music of croaking frogs resonated in the air. A southern breeze warmed their skin and teased through their hair. She pulled the girding lace from her blouse. The binding had a glitter of metal and texture of soft chord. She wrapped it around the waist of her new tunic and tossed the ruined dress aside.

She stared a long moment at him, before clearing her throat and saying. "... And what do you suppose the morrow bodes?"

He looked her in the eye. "Are you asking what we need to do, My Lady?"

She waved her hand in a wide arc. "This is a situation suited to a man's knowledge." She paused. "Yes, some advice would not be deemed inappropriate."

"We cannot go back." He stroked his jaw, "We're hemmed in by the forest and we can't row up those falls. It seems down the river is our best course, MY LADY."

"My assessment as well." She nodded in his direction. "Your manners are improving. I'll sleep in the boat. You can fend for yourself." She stood.

In the distance a wolf howled.

She stiffened.

Kindred reassured her. "We'll be safe here 'til morning... My Lady. Beyond that, we'll simply have to go with the flow."

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