Two months later
At the Palais de la Cite, Evelyn found herself immersed in a strange new world. She had always been familiar with the customs of soldiers, and she had spent considerable time watching them in practice and at tourneys. But to see them, every day, coming and going at a hurried pace...to see the wounds they returned with, and to experience the loss of men she had known, it opened her eyes to a whole new experience of life.
She thanked God that the men she was closest to always returned safely from their campaigns, although they were gone for weeks at a time. During their absence, she and the other women busied themselves with preparing bandages and salves, and caring for the wounded. It was overwhelming to be among men who were in such sad condition, some of them with wounds so grave they had no chance of survival. But not a single soldier expressed regret about his sacrifice, and when they expressed such valiant words to her, it always moved her to tears.
Her knowledge of war tactics grew. She learned of the Greek fire, and the strategies of a siege. Late one night, Simon quietly explained the quest his men were set to take early the next morning. Sleeping space was at a minimum, and they shared a narrow bed in an upper tower of the castle. Evelyn did not mind the close quarters, as it gave her a perfect reason to be close to Simon. With her eyes closed, she listened to the comforting sound of his voice. He spoke with a hint of excitement as he told her of his coming mission.
“Our men will breach the walls. We will attack from many directions, with foot soldiers and archers. Our miners will undermine the walls. We will suffer losses, of course, but we will take the outer bailey. And then, with our enemy not suspecting it, we will sneak through the garderobe and into the chapel. Before they have learned of our presence, we will have the upper hand. The Château Gaillard will be ours, and it will be a grand victory for our king.”
It sounded like such a miserable existance. Evelyn snuggled closer to him, wishing there was some way she could aid him beyond emotional comfort.
“It must be so very difficult out there, in the fields. Not just in the battle. But at night, sleeping on the cold, hard ground. Having little food, and no manner of even the smallest comfort.”
“That is why I return to you,” he smiled. “I must confess, I am happy to know that you are not so far away.”
It pleased her to know that at last, he had accepted her presence. After her mother’s bold announcement, that night at the supper table, none of the men had been of good mood. They had all fumed and grumbled about the idea of bringing women with them to the castle. They complained bitterly about the dangers of the road, and how it was improper for women to be involved, even in the smallest way, in a military campaign. But eventually, they all accepted the idea, and gradually came to embrace it. Evelyn smiled at the thought of it.
“I would follow you anywhere, Simon. We are destined to be together, always. Much like Orpheus and Eurydice.”
His grin was full of amusement. “You compare us to creatures of mythology?”
She shrugged, smiling sheepishly. “I admit, it sounds fanciful and absurd. But what good is life if it is all seriousness?” She leaned her head against his shoulder, sighing. She wished they were at home, where they could be alone. In the two months they had been here, they had rarely been without company. She understood that everything was for the good of the crown. But still, she longed for the intimacy and sweetness of their marriage. Simon must have sensed what she was thinking. He spoke soothingly, kissing the top of her head.
“Victory is within our grasp, my love. We will return home soon, and together, we will reap the rewards of a glorious triumph.”
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My Lady Gisborne - A Love Story (The Gisbornes, Book 2)Historical Fiction
*Set in Medieval France, from 1203 onward. This is the second in the Gisborne series, and a sequel to "The Tempest." * Lady Evelyn Gisborne desires to be a proper young noblewoman. But independence runs strong in her blood. She is torn between the d...