As soon as Luneta heard her father come in the side door from the fields, she
hurried to the upstairs sitting room. She had discovered just recently that if
she closed her eyes and listened very intently at the chimney in this room,
she could hear everything that was said in her mother's parlor, which was
directly below. Today not having gone well, she suspected that her mother
would have some things to say.
Sure enough, seconds after directing her ears toward the fireplace, Luneta
heard her mother say sharply, "It's going to be either her or me, Gary. I don't
know if I can take it any longer. You're going to come back some evening
and find yourself childless."
"Wait a moment," Luneta's father drawled in his calm voice. "I'm sensing
something. An aura of some sort. I see . . . I see . . . wait, it's coming . . .
you and Luneta have been having a row."
"Shut up, Gary," Luneta's mother replied, but her voice was less strident.
Luneta grinned to herself. It was hard for anyone, even her mother, to
maintain a snit in the face of her father's unruffled good humor. "Your
daughter is willful, stubborn, disrespectful of her elders, and rebellious."
"Very disturbing," Luneta's father replied placidly. "I can't imagine where
children pick these things up."
"Gary," Luneta's mother said in a silken voice, "if you're implying something
about your beloved wife—"
"Oh, no, not that one. I was thinking of you."
There was a brief pause. Then Luneta's mother sighedloudly and said, "You
are very annoying and not at all funny, but thank you anyway. I'm over the
worst of it now. But I still don't know what I'm going to do with her. I know
that I never spoke to my mother as she speaks to me."
"My dear Lynet, the cases are hardly the same. Luneta's sixteen years old.
Your mother died when you were tiny and never had the pleasure of
encountering you at that age."
"Perhaps, but I wouldn't have—"
"Less of it, my love! Remember that I met you when you were exactly
Luneta's age, and I remember nothing demure about you. As I recall, you
took my sword away from me and stole my supper."
"It was burned anyway, and at least I never called you names. Gary, what
does porcella mean?"
There was a slight pause. Luneta hunched her shoulders slightly, waiting for
her father's response. "Did Luneta call you porcella?"
"How . . . how gratifying that she's keeping up her Latin studies. I thought
that she had abandoned them."
"Don't change the subject. What does porcella mean?"
"I believe it means 'woman with shining eyes.'"
"Gary, you are the worst liar I have ever heard."
"Well, it's better than being a good liar, isn't it?" Luneta's father continued, a
bit hurriedly. "Look, Lynet, I don't know a whole lot about mothers and their
nearly grown-up daughters. My only sister died when she was thirteen, and
my own mother wasn't all that typical anyway—"
"You might say that," Luneta's mother interjected dryly. "And while you're at
it, you might include your grandmother and your aunt. You don't have a
normal female in your family."
"Yes, I've often thought that," Luneta's father agreed. "But as I was about to
say, I have sometimes noticed in other families that a certain amount of
friction is to be expected between mothers and daughters."
"I might expect it, but that doesn't mean I have to accept it," she said
sharply. "And I won't. Gary, if you could hear the way she speaks to me . . ."
She trailed off with an angry sigh.
"I believe you, Lynet. And I even agree that it's unacceptable. I'll go talk to
her, but I can't imagine that it will help for me just to tell her that she ought to
be a good girl. We need to have a plan."
"What do you mean?"
"It's your own idea, actually. Your very first words to me this evening
were 'It's her or me.' By the way, that wasn't strictly correct. What you
should have said was 'It is she or I," since one uses the nominative case
following the verb of existence."
"You learn these things when you study Latin."
Luneta's mother's voice was dangerously calm. "What plan, Gary?"
"Send Luneta away."
There was a long pause from downstairs, and upstairs Luneta sank slowly to
her knees before the fireplace. She could hardly believe her father's words.
Neither could her mother.
"You can't mean that, Gary. She may be the most irritating little wench alive,
"I don't mean drop her off at the foundling hospital, Lynet. I just wonder if she
needs to get away from you, ah, from her parents for a while. Go for a visit.
I've already been wondering about sending her to visit family, but I couldn't
think of any suitable family members. All of my brothers live bachelors' lives,
except for Gareth, who's married to your sister—"
"And my sister's an idiot."
"Yes. There's Morgan, but I can't really think she's suitable."
"And that's as far as I've gotten. I believe it would do our lovely daughter good
to get away and see the rest of the world a bit, but I can't think where. Do
you have any friends who might be interested in having a young houseguest?
Not someone too old, but someone we could trust?"
Luneta was hardly able to believe what she was hearing, as her initial feelings
of dismay changed to a growing excitement. For more than a year she had
been yearning to get away from her family's estate, which—as noble and
honorable as it was—was at the far northern edge of civilized society.
Actually, her dream had been to go to King Arthur's court at Camelot, but
any court where there were ladies-in-waiting and courtiers and balls and
banquets would be better than Orkney Hall, where her father rode over the
estate wearing a plain leather jerkin just like the field hands and where her
mother drove out nearly every day in a shabby cart pulled by a fat pony to
visit one or another of their tenants. You would never guess, looking at the
simple life that her parents led, that they were both of noble blood. Indeed,
her father was himself a knight of King Arthur's Round Table—Sir Gaheris of
Orkney—and brother to the famous Sir Gawain, but neither her father or
mother had ever shown the slightest interest in court life. They had visited
Camelot rarely and never stayed long. Luneta held her breath, waiting for her
"Maybe," Luneta's mother said at last. Her voice was not encouraging,
though. "Don't think I'm convinced, though. She's very young to be off on her
own, yet." There was a brief pause. "Don't say it."
"I didn't say anything," Luneta's father replied mildly.
"You were about to say that I left my home at the same age, but that was
different. And, anyway, it's just because I've done it myself that I know how
dangerous it is."
"My love, I wasn't suggesting that she go off alone. We would escort her with
all due decorum, of course."
Luneta wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. The thought of being escorted
by her parents "with all due decorum" seemed very tame and stifling, but she
felt that she could put up with anything that would get her away from Orkney
Hall. She fell into deep thought, imagining life at a real castle, and ceased
listening to her parents' conversation, with the result that she didn't notice
when their voices stopped, and barely had time to leap up from the fireplace
to a chair when her father rapped twice on the door and entered.
"Oh, hello, Father," Luneta said, smiling innocently.
Her father's lips twitched. "Good evening, Luneta. How very guilty you look, to
"Guilty?" Luneta repeated, smiling even more brightly.
Her father lowered himself into a chair opposite Luneta and said, "I hope you
haven't been trying to listen to our conversation downstairs?"
"What do you mean, Father?"
"Because it won't work. Remember that I grew up in this castle, too. My
brothers and I used to listen at that fireplace, trying to hear what my parents
were fighting about, but we could never hear more than a few choice phrases.
So you're wasting your time. By the way, you should dust the soot from your
Luneta had heard her parents' every word as clearly as if she were in the
room with them, but she decided not to mention that. She brushed off her
Her father plunged in at once. "How would you like to go away?"
"Away?" Luneta asked, feigning surprise. Luneta's father nodded, and Luneta
said, "I'd like it. I want to see the rest of the world. Do you think I could go to
King Arthur's court? The last time you took me, I was only twelve."
"Has it really been that long?" her father asked ruefully.
Luneta nodded. "I was too young to go to the ball, but I sneaked into the
minstrel's gallery and watched."
"You did what?"
"Sir Dinadan helped me. Then, when you and Mother started to leave the ball
he stopped you at the door and held you up long enough for me to get back
to bed and pretend to be asleep."
"He did, did he? And, may I ask, was this my friend Dinadan's idea?"
"Oh no, it was my own plan."
"And how did you compel poor Dinadan to follow your instructions, I wonder."
Luneta only smiled, and her father's eyes grew slightly wary. "I begin to think
that in sending you away, we may be letting a lioness loose among the
"So can I go to Camelot?"
"Not for the whole visit, but we can certainly stop there on the way. Your
mother is writing a letter to a friend of hers, a lady only a few years older than
you who has recently married the lord of a great castle in Salisbury. She
thinks that Lady Laudine might like to have a noble young guest."
"Then Mother has agreed to this?" Luneta hadn't heard that part.
"She has agreed to write to Lady Laudine, anyway."
"But that's wonderful! I didn't think she would ever let me go off on my own!
Oh, I have so many plans to make!"
Her father raised one eyebrow. "It is when you make plans that I fear you the
most, my child."
Luneta smiled again. "When do we leave?"
"Ah," he replied. "There's the sticking point, I'm afraid. It's just about time for
the planting, and Murdock and I are trying some new crops this year. I won't
be free for at least six weeks, maybe two months."
"Two months!" Luneta's heart sank. "Can't Murdock do this himself? He's
your steward, after all."
"Normally, yes, but this year I need to be here. I'm afraid you'll have to wait."
"I hate waiting!"
Her father's good humor disappeared. "Then I suggest you learn to hate it
quietly, and learn quickly, too. I perhaps should have mentioned at the start
that this visit we have planned depends entirely on whether you can get along
with your mother between now and then."
Luneta looked at her feet. "Yes, Father."
Her father sighed. "You also frighten me when you're demure." The smile was
back in his voice. He rose to his feet and walked back to the door. At the
threshold, though, he stopped and looked over his shoulder. "But I'm quite
serious. This means, my dear, that for the next few weeks you will oblige me
very much if you will refrain from calling your mother 'little piggy', even in
Luneta dimpled. "Can I tell her that she's a woman with shining eyes?"
Her father raised one eyebrow and gazed at her for a moment. Then he
said, "Certainly not," and left.
Luneta had no intention of waiting longer in Orkney than she had to, and she
immediately began making plans to speed her departure. She had found that
when she put her mind to it, she could almost always get people to do what
she wanted, and she began at once to work on Murdock, her father's
steward, to convince him that he could manage the spring planting without
her father this year. The dour highlander was unusually resistant to
persuasion, though, and while she didn't doubt she could sway him, it looked
as though it would take a long time. Weaving plans kept her mind busy,
however, and Luneta managed to brush through three whole weeks without
having a row with her mother. Luneta's mother even commented on the
change in her daughter's attitude. "If you keep this up," she said, her eyes
wrinkling at the corners with wry humor, "I'll almost be sorry to see you go."
Luneta's mother got a reply from her friend, the Lady Laudine, inviting Luneta
to come for a visit as soon as she was able and to stay as long as she
wished, so all was set, but still Luneta was stuck at Orkney Hall. At the end
of the third week, though, something happened that changed their plans. Her
father returned from the fields early one day, and with him rode a young
knight. Luneta, who had been crossing the castle courtyard when they
arrived, could only stop and stare, because this knight was unquestionably
the most handsome young man she had ever seen. He had long reddish-
blond hair tied behind his head, and a firm, smooth chin. His eyes were a
piercing blue, and he wore his armor with assurance and grace. He was
smiling at something that Luneta's father had said as they approached, and
his smile only improved his looks. Luneta's mouth opened, but she caught
herself and closed it again before the two men looked at her.
"Ah, Luneta," her father said. "Allow me to present to you your cousin."
"My cousin?" Luneta said, with surprise and a trace of disappointment.
"Isn't that a bit vague, Cousin Gaheris?" the young knight said, still smiling. "I
mean, shouldn't we specify second or third cousin, twice removed, or
Luneta's father grinned. "Maybe, but I've forgotten how to do it. Let's see
now, your grandfather Uriens was my father's first cousin, which makes you
my . . ."
They looked at each other for a moment, frowning. Then the young knight
said, "Cousin. Good enough." He turned to Luneta and said, "My name is
"Oh, I've heard of you!" Luneta exclaimed. Then she frowned. "But I thought
you were older."
"Older than what?" Luneta's father asked, dismounting.
"Older than he is," Luneta said.
Luneta's father said, "But you see he isn't. In fact, he is exactly as old as he
"You know what I mean. Wasn't Sir Ywain one of King Arthur's earliest
"That was my father," Ywain said, lowering himself from his horse. "I have the
same name, which is no fun at all, let me tell you."
"I know just what you mean," Luneta said. "It's a sad trial to be named for a
"How would you know?" Luneta's father said. "Why don't you run inside and
tell your mother that we have a guest for the evening?"
"I do too know," Luneta snapped. "You named me for my mother, even if you
did change a few letters." Luneta looked at Ywain and explained, "My mother
is named Lynet, and I'm Luneta."
"Don't be ridiculous, child," Luneta's father said, a lofty expression on his
face. "The similarity of your names is a mere coincidence. In fact, I named
you for a dog I had when I was a child." He smiled reminiscently. "Sweetest
little brachet I ever owned."
"You named me for a dog?" Luneta gasped.
"Yes, but it didn't work," her father replied with a sigh. "The dog used to do
what I told her to."
Luneta caught the slight tremor in his voice and knew that he was teasing
her, and she scowled at him. She didn't mind teasing—much—but not in
front of strangers. With a toss of her head, she stalked inside to tell her
mother about their guest.
Ywain, Luneta discovered at dinner that night, had only dropped by for a short
visit before leaving for Camelot. His father had retired from court life some
years before and taken up residence at the family estate in Scotland. Young
Ywain had grown up there, nearly as far away from the center of civilization
as Luneta herself, and his feelings about his childhood in exile were exactly
like Luneta's. "I couldn't take it anymore," he admitted. "Trotting around the
fields on great chargers that ought to be leading the way in battle, polishing
armor that never gets used."
"Don't you have any tournaments in Scotland now?" Luneta's father asked.
Ywain shrugged. "Oh, a few. But they're so far away from court that no one
famous ever competes in them, and after you've won them all three years in a
row, they don't seem like much anymore." He broke off abruptly, and his face
turned scarlet. "Oh, dear," he said. "I sounded like a terrible coxcomb just
then, didn't I? I really didn't mean to."
"Ay, you did, that," Luneta's father drawled pleasantly, "but I don't doubt you.
I'm not much for the knightly arts myself, but I've spent enough time around
great warriors to know when someone has the gift. I'd say you do."
Ywain flushed again, but he looked gratified. "Well, that's what Cousin
Gawain said. He stopped by to visit last time he came up to see you, and we
sparred a bit. He said . . . he said I wasn't so bad. Anyway, that's why I'm off
to Camelot. I want to find out just how good I really am, to measure myself
against real knights."
Luneta's mother rolled her eyes very, very slightly, but her father only smiled
tolerantly and said, "Well, I hope you find what you're looking for at court."
"But that's it!" Luneta said suddenly.
"What's what?" Luneta's mother asked.
"Ywain can escort me to Camelot!" Luneta said quickly. "Then you won't have
to leave during the planting—"
"I wasn't planning to," Luneta's father reminded her.
"—or even after the planting's done! Ywain can take me as far as Camelot,
and you can write a letter to send along with me to Uncle Gawain, and he
can take me to Salisbury to your friend's home when he's able to get away."
Part of Luneta's mind was already weaving plans for extending her time at
Camelot once she arrived, but with the rest of her attention she was watching
her parents' faces.
Before either could speak, Ywain said, "But that sounds delightful! Were you
already planning a trip to court? I would be honored to take you with me!"
Luneta's mother looked grim, but Luneta could tell that her father was turning
the idea over in his mind, and her hopes rose.
"I don't like it, Gary," Luneta's mother said. "It isn't seemly for a girl that
young to travel so far alone with a young man."
"He's my cousin, Mother," Luneta said. "How could that be unseemly?"
"A very distant cousin, my dear."
Luneta changed her tactics. Allowing her face to fall, she said, "I see. You
don't trust Cousin Ywain."
"Now, Luneta, that's not what I meant!" her mother said hastily.
"Then what do you mean, Mother?" Luneta asked, making her eyes as wide
and innocent as she could.
Luneta's mother stared at her for a moment, but then the little wrinkles at the
corners of her eyes appeared, and she looked at Luneta's father. "She's
good, isn't she?"
"Best I've seen," her father admitted.
"And if I say that I don't think it's safe for her to travel with only one
knight . . ."
"She'll remind us of all those tournaments that Ywain has won," her father
said. Luneta kept her eyes wide, forcing herself not to smile. In fact, that was
exactly the reply that she had planned to use.
Her father said, "She might even manage to remind us that I'm not so handy
with a sword myself and hint that she would be safer traveling with Ywain
than with us. And, in truth, she would be right. In the unlikely event of danger
on the road, I feel sure that Ywain would be much more protection than I
At this point, Ywain spoke up. "I would take the very best care of my cousin.
That I promise you both."
"And you don't think she would be a nuisance?" Luneta's mother asked.
Ywain grinned impishly. "To be honest, I would very much like to have her
along. I'm sure it's childish, but I can't help thinking that with a lady at my
side I'll look like a knight on a quest and not like any other untried knight
going off to try his mettle."
Luneta's mother chuckled suddenly and said to her husband, "I' faith, Gary, I
like this cousin of yours." She looked back at Ywain. "Your frankness does
you credit, Ywain. All right. Take her along with you, but even if she makes
you feel like a questing knight, no questing along the way, do you hear?"
"You have my word," Ywain said, and Luneta gave him her brightest, most
All in all, Luneta had gotten her way much more easily than she had
expected. She was especially surprised at how easily her mother had
agreed. Knowing that her mother was a dictatorial, controlling woman who
never liked any idea that Luneta had, her acquiescence seemed strangely
out of character. All Luneta could imagine was that her mother hadn't wanted
to show her real self before a guest. Whatever the reason, though, it had all
worked beautifully, and Luneta could not help congratulating herself on how
well she had managed everyone.
That evening was spent packing, which was a horrible experience, since her
mother's notions of what colors and styles were acceptable for a young girl at
court were positively antiquated. Several times Luneta had to bite back angry
comments. Only the reflection that her mother could very easily withdraw her
permission for this journey enabled Luneta to endure in silence the sight of all
her most insipid clothes being folded and packed. She could always get rid of
those whites and pale blues once she was there. Maybe Lady Laudine's
dressmaker could make her a bright red silk dress.
Luneta and Ywain set off the next morning. The parting was awkward. Luneta
was angry to discover a lump in her throat and to feel the ominous presence
of tears just out of sight. She set her face in a severe expression so as to
maintain control of her emotions and mounted her horse beside
Ywain. "Well?" she asked gruffly. "Are we leaving today or not?"
"Let your escort get mounted, my dear," Luneta's mother said in an abrupt
voice. Luneta allowed herself to glance at her mother, whose face was
austere. Ywain mounted and took courteous leave of his host and hostess
while Luneta tightened her jaw and looked at her parents.
Luneta's father glanced from mother to daughter, then sighed and said, "I'll
miss you, lass. Try not to turn Lady Laudine's castle upside down. Perhaps
we'll drop by for a visit some day soon."
Then they rode off—a knight, a lady, and a packhorse for Luneta's gear.
Ywain didn't speak for nearly half an hour, for which Luneta was grateful,
because by the time he made his first comment—a polite gambit about the
scenery—she was fully in control of herself. They made good time, riding at
an easy pace but stopping seldom. Ywain was a courteous and thoughtful
companion, and if his conversation was rather heavily concerned with
tournaments and feats of arms, he was not self-absorbed. Twice he broke off
and, laughing ruefully at himself, apologized for prattling about arms and
armor. They camped that night nearly forty miles from Orkney Hall, and
Ywain told Luneta before they went to sleep that now that he'd seen that she
was a fine horsewoman, they could go a bit faster the next day.
On the second day, just as Luneta's stiffness from riding all the day before
was easing, she and Ywain came upon a large pavilion set up in a field.
There were horses tied at one side, marking this as a knight's encampment,
and servants hurried about on evidently urgent errands. At the center of the
bustle, under the main tent, a knight lay on a pile of pillows, surrounded by
attendants. At his left was a sniffling lady, wearing a dress of the most
dashing shade of pink and holding a handkerchief in one hand and a
vinaigrette in the other. On the knight's right, a tall man in multicolored
clothes was tossing a small ball up in the air and catching it in one hand.
"Of course it's juggling," the man in motley was saying as Ywain and Luneta
approached. "You know what your problem is, Sir Grenall? You've been
seduced by the lure of spectacle. Sure, I could juggle three or four balls and
use two hands, and that would be very impressive, but then what would I do
after that? Five balls? Three hands? You see how it goes? Now me, I'm an
artist, trying to recapture the original purity of the art form. This"—the man
nodded at the ball he was tossing up and down—"this is the essence of
"Yes, yes," the knight said absently, his attention focused on the approach of
Ywain and Luneta. "Good morrow, Sir Knight," he called.
"Is it morrow already?" the man in motley exclaimed. "I wasn't even done with
"With what?" the knight asked, his brow creased. Luneta suppressed a smile.
"Good day, Sir Knight," Ywain said, inclining his head courteously.
"Forgive me for not rising to meet you," the knight said from his pillows,
turning away from the juggler. "You see, I have been grievously wounded."
At these words, the lady at the man's right burst into gusty sobs and buried
her face in her handkerchief.
The man in motley glanced at her, then tossed his ball up and caught it in his
other hand. "There," he said. "See what I did, my lady? To cheer you up I
juggled with two hands. I just compromised my artistic principles for your
sake. I hope you will applaud now. I couldn't bear to have made such a
sacrifice for nothing."
The lady ignored him. "Oh, poor Sir Grenall."
"No, no, my lady," the man said earnestly. "You've gotten them confused. It
was Sir Lorigan who was poor. Sir Grenall is very rich."
"Silence, fool," said Sir Grenall from his pillows. Now that they were near,
Luneta could see the knight and the lady more clearly. The lady was very
young, perhaps only a year or two older than Luneta herself, and the knight
was at least forty. The fool—who looked to be in his early twenties—caught
the ball and stowed it in a pouch at his side.
"I know when I'm not appreciated. I'll have you know that when I performed in
York, I had them all in tears of laughter, even the old men." He smiled
pleasantly at the lady, who was still weeping quietly into her
handkerchief. "You'd have liked it, my lady—all those old men, I mean."
"Silence, fool," Sir Grenall said, an edge to his voice.
Ywain finally spoke. "I am sorry that you have been injured, Sir . . . Grenall,
"Sir Grenall of the Firth," the knight said jovially, settling himself more
comfortably on the cushions. He didn't sound like someone who had been
grievously injured, Luneta thought.
Ywain must have been thinking the same thing, because he said, "Er . . .
how exactly are you injured, Sir Grenall?"
"Ah," said the fool, "you've been misled by my master's courage. You were
wondering how someone who seemed so comfortable could be injured, but I
tell you that it is all an act. Sir Grenall is so brave that he will not let his pain
Sir Grenall smiled modestly and murmured, "Yes, well, code of honor and all
"You are too modest, sir!" the fool cried. He looked back at Ywain and
Luneta, his face solemn and inspired. "Does Sir Grenall want to lie on pillows
all day? Of course he doesn't! Only the need to hide his injury forces him to
do something so repugnant! Does he want to drink wine and eat sweetmeats
through the morning? Don't be silly! It's all an act! Sir Grenall is bravely trying
to hide his pain."
Sir Grenall smiled again, but with less pleasure.
"Indeed, his courage goes beyond even this," the fool added. "Sir Grenall is
so brave that even the doctors themselves can't find his wound!"
"There, there, that's enough, fool," Sir Grenall interposed hastily, but not
before Luneta, taken by surprise, had allowed a giggle to escape. The knight
glanced at her, but she quickly assumed an expression of sympathy, and he
looked away. Her eyes met those of the fool, who winked at her then turned
toward Sir Grenall again. Luneta blinked with surprise at the fool's effrontery,
but decided not to be offended. She was enjoying him too much.
"If I must speak of it," Sir Grenall was saying, "then I must. I am Sir Grenall of
the Firth—but I've told you that, haven't I?"
"Most excellently well, Sir Grenall," the fool said, applauding politely.
"And this is my lady, the Lady Golina. Not three days ago, a villainous
recreant knight struck me down in this very field, seeking to steal my lady
from me. Naturally, I should have defeated him, but Sir Lorigan fought like a
villain and struck me from behind. I was left lying senseless on the field."
"Then why is your lady still here?" Luneta asked. It seemed a reasonable
question, but it appeared to annoy the knight, and even the lady shot her a
nasty look over the handkerchief.
The fool stepped into the awkward silence, saying, "Perhaps Sir Lorigan,
having seen the fury of Sir Grenall's sword, knew that he could never defeat
him a second time and so chose not to steal the fair lady, after all."
"Yes, that might be," Sir Grenall said, his face brightening.
"I wouldn't bet on it, myself," the fool added thoughtfully, "but it's at least—"
Sir Grenall continued, "I lie here until I am restored, but someone must stop
this knight before he attempts to steal another fair lady."
"Oh, I doubt he will try that," the fool said. The light tone had left his
voice. "Remember the fury of your sword."
"He must be stopped and slain," Sir Grenall said, "before he ravages more fair
damsels! If only . . . but I cannot ask. I do not even know your name."
"I am Ywain, son of Ywain, grandson of King Uriens," Ywain said
grandly, "and I would consider it an honor to take on this quest. I shall leave
"Bravo!" Sir Grenall cried.
"Ywain?" Luneta said.
"Er, didn't you promise not to start any quests until after we'd gotten to
Ywain's face froze, then fell. "I did, didn't I?" He looked apologetically at Sir
Grenall. "I'm sorry, Sir Grenall, but I've a prior promise to keep. Perhaps after
I've taken my cousin to court, I could come back and—"
"That sounds like a coward's excuse!" Sir Grenall said with a sneer.
Ywain stiffened, but before he could speak, the fool said, "Don't try to argue
with him, Sir Ywain. If any man in England knows cowards' excuses, it's Sir
Sir Grenall turned and glared balefully at the fool. "And what do you mean by
The fool replied, "It means that I'll be leaving you now, Sir Grenall. I'm afraid
that I no longer find you amusing."
"You find me amusing!" Sir Grenall said. "I'm not the fool."
The fool shook his head, then glanced at Ywain and Luneta. "See what I
mean? Far too obvious to be funny. Did I hear you say that you were going to
"Yes, we are," Luneta said.
"Would you mind having another companion? I've my own horse."
"Yes, of course," said Ywain, who was still looking back and forth between
the fool and the knight, a bemused expression on his face.
"I'll be with you shortly," the fool said, disappearing behind the tent.
Ywain looked back at Sir Grenall, whose brow was stormy and who had
raised himself up on his elbows. "I will bid you good day, then," Sir Ywain
"Or good morrow," Luneta murmured.
"Are you indeed stealing my fool?" Sir Grenall said, his eyes blazing.
Ywain blushed and looked uncomfortable, but Luneta answered, "Actually it
feels more as if your fool is stealing us." She smiled brightly at the
knight. "It's a pity you can't stop us, what with your injury and all."
"Good . . . good day," Ywain said again, and then they were trotting away,
leaving Sir Grenall sputtering impotently behind them. They rode toward the
horse enclosure, where the fool was saddling a large, strong-looking white
"That's your horse, fool?" Ywain said.
"My name's Rhience," the fool said over his shoulder. "And yes, this is my
"What a fine animal!" Ywain said admiringly. "He looks like a knight's charger!"
Rhience sighed. "Yes, he does. Pity that he's so stupid." He tightened the
girth with a sure hand.
"Stupid?" Ywain asked.
Rhience swung into the saddle. "He lets a fool ride him, doesn't he? How
could any proud warhorse allow such a thing unless he was a bit of an ass?"
He settled into the saddle, then turned to Luneta. "I heard Sir Ywain's name,
but I'm afraid I missed yours, my lady."
"I'm Lune—ah, the Lady Luneta," Luneta said.
"I'm charmed, my lady," Rhience said. He smiled and nodded to
Ywain. "Shall we go, before Sir Grenall forgets that he's grievously wounded?"
"I'm not afraid of him," Ywain said, but he kicked his mount into a trot anyway.
"Nobody's afraid of Sir Grenall," Rhience said. "At least not in that way. His
only strength is the power of too much money. I doubt he could hurt you with
a sword if he came on you asleep, but if you're an impoverished knight
betrothed to a young lady who dreams of riches, he's very dangerous indeed."
The light dawned for Luneta. "Sir Lorigan?" she asked.
Rhience nodded approvingly. "Very good, my lady. Yes, Sir Grenall stole
Lady Golina from young Lorigan with promises of fine clothes and jewels.
Lorigan found them in the fields on a hunting excursion, bashed Grenall about
for a bit, then left Golina with him. Bad luck for both of them."
Luneta giggled. "And you were their fool?"
"Fool, yes, my lady, but not theirs. I'm a wandering fool, and I'd already
decided that I'd been with those two for long enough. When he tried to use
Sir Ywain here to get revenge on Lorigan, that was enough." He glanced at
Ywain. "It's none of my business, of course, but if I were you I'd be a little
less quick to volunteer."
Ywain nodded thoughtfully, and they pressed on to the south.
Copyright © 2005 by Gerald Morris.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.