Hannah and Haley sat in the food court of Mall St. Matthews, people watching and sipping their diet sodas. They had had a successful day of shopping, having spent hours in clothing boutique and purchasing about 2 pairs of jeans and a cute top each (matching of course) after long and considered deliberation.
“What about him?” asked Haley, indicating a tall young man walking through the mall with a Nike bag in his arms.
“Too skinny,” concluded Hannah and Haley together in unison. They looked at each other, giggled and made the “owie-owie jinx” symbol. One after another they looked at prospective love interests only to find a major flaw (either evident or just made up for fun) in each one. They had come to the mall that day to see a special event. An author of a medieval fantasy/fiction called “The Victor” was supposed to appear at the Barnes & Noble later that day to do a book signing. They were saving the rest of their cash for later when they would get an autographed copy of the book. The mall had gone all out and had decorated the area in front of the bookstore with medieval banners. Their attention was suddenly drawn to the opposite end of the mall where they saw the crowds of shoppers hurriedly parting like the red sea before Moses to make way for what had to be the last thing they ever expected to see coming down the mall corridor. A man on a runaway horse…in a full suit of armor!
“What the….?” exclaimed Hannah and Haley together, eyebrows on the rise. The horse was coming at them full speed and it too wore armor and had gold and scarlet trappings that hung from the reins and which flew behind it. It whinnied loudly but instead of feeling terrified, Hannah felt a thrill go up her spine. Her breath caught in her chest.
“Boy whoever manages the mall must really like this book to hire someone to do this!” yelled Haley, springing up to get out of the way of the charging horse. Hannah remained rooted where she stood, a strange feeling coming over her. The mall about her began to spin and she felt herself becoming increasingly dizzy and disconcerted. Just as her knees buckled and gave way, she found herself scooped up into the saddle by the knight. His charger wheeled around and she held on for dear life as it reared and let out a loud neigh. At that moment, everything disappeared. The mall, the shops, even her friend Haley and she found herself clinging with all her might to the back of a mail clad knight on the back of a white horse that was now galloping on sod under a canopy of arched trees to a distant hill upon which stood a lofty castle.
What did they put in my diet coke? She wondered. She looked down at herself and instead of blue jeans and a t-shirt found herself in a gorgeous, dusty lavender gown of velvet, with a silk chemise that streamed back in the wind. Her hair flowed out behind her but she didn’t dare let go her grip to touch what surely must have been a circlet with attached veil upon her head for fear of falling off. The white horse snorted and the knight slowed down to give the animal a rest.
“Easy, easy…Glimraith” soothed the male voice inside the helmet. It was deeply masculine if albeit tunnel-ish sounding. He patted the magnificent beast and twisted about in the saddle, lifting the visor to reveal a pair of striking blue eyes. Hannah blinked, her mouth dropping open. If the eyes alone were any indication of what he looked like (they were fringed by jet black lashes) she was in for quite a treat when he took off the rest of the plumed helmet.
“Are you injured, milady?” he said, his black brows knitting together in concern. Hannah shook her head and shut her mouth so as not to look like an idiot by still gaping.
“Forgive the manner of my coming to fetch thee,” he continued in a gentle baritone. “But my quest was in earnest. We must make the keep before sunset and the day is already far gone.”
“Keep?” replied Hannah, puzzled, still trying to figure out where the mall had gone.
“The Court of St. Matthews…” clarified the knight, dismounting with ease. “Since you have naught but your gown and eventide is fast descending, you shall no doubt be warmer if thou ridest before me.”
With his assistance, Hannah scooted forward until she was sitting in the saddle. The knight remounted with ease behind her, drew his large cloak about both of them and urged the horse onwards into a fast cantor towards the magnificent castle which grew larger with every league they covered. Cottage fires in the surrounding village began to light as a deep purple dusk settled about them. Hannah closed her eyes, thoroughly confused but strangely at ease. The strong arms of the knight were about her and his body heat and cloak kept her warm. She had no clue what or how this was happening but instead of feeling panicked she had a strange sense of déjà vu and anticipation. She glanced down at her clothes and marveled at the gorgeous silver stitching all over the front of her bodice and the pearls which glimmered here and there. They arrived at the castle, now lit from within by torch and candlelight. The white horse clattered over the cobblestones, across the drawbridge and into the main courtyard. The knight (whose name she still didn’t know) dismounted and before she could blink had grasped her about the waist and gently lifted her down. To Hannah it seemed like the entire process was in slow motion. She felt his strong hands about her waist and was unable to tear her eyes away from his as she slowly slid down and finally landed on her feet. She swayed for a moment, a wave of dizziness coming over her again. Apparently time travel made her seasick. Her knees buckled but he was attentive to her every need and without a word scooped her up in his arms and carried her into the castle. He seemed to know his way around without even looking. His eyes never left hers the entire time until the moment he carried her into a gorgeous chamber room and set her carefully upon her feet, keeping his hands about her waist until he was sure she would not tip over again.
“Milady,” he said, bowing over her hand and kissing it gently. “I will attend thee later, in the meantime, make thyself ready for a feast is to be held in thy honor,” he said. Hannah finally found her voice.
“My honor?” she repeated. “Please,” she said, grasping his arm as he turned to go. “How did I get here? Where did the mall go and my friend Haley? My mom and dad are going to freak if they don’t hear from me soon! And…and… what is your name anyway?!!” Her voice began rising in near hysteria. At first she thought she was just daydreaming but now it was looking like she had actually gone through some kind of time domain transference of some kind with no clue of how to get back to her real life.
The knight paused, regarding her with deep concern. He removed his plumed helm and Hannah gasped at the sight of his handsome face. His eyes were the deepest blue she had ever seen and his hair, whiskers and brows ebony. His finely chiseled face was both beautiful and incredibly masculine at the same time. The kind understanding smile he bestowed upon her made her heart feel like it was melting into a molten hot puddle of mush. He took both of her tiny hands into his and held them both up to his lips.
“Fear not, beloved,” he said, his voice soft and very reassuring. “All will be well. Tonight is for thee but on the morrow all will return to what has been. Can you not be content to simply enjoy what has been given thee and let tomorrow worry about itself?”
Hannah nodded, falling under the spell of his eyes and his voice once again. A smile creased his face making her heart skip a beat.
“I shall leave thee to thy maid servant and return for thee later,” he said, gently brushing her cheek with his fingers. The heavy oaken door closed slowly behind him and Hannah sighed…finally turning around to take in her room.
“O..M…G!!!!” she squealed out loud. It was the most exquisite room she had ever seen in her life. The stone walls were covered with gorgeous tapestries all in shades of dusty blue, lavender and moss green. The canopied bed was covered in a deep midnight blue velvet coverlet embroidered with silver thread, pearls and gemstones with curtains that matched but what really caught her attention was the multitude of vases filled with flowers in complimentary colors and the candles which glowed on every available surface. It looked like an enormous valentine in jewel tone colors. If only Haley were here!
“OMG, HANNAH!” screeched a familiar voice. Hannah whirled about and found herself facing her best friend, similarly attired in an emerald green velvet gown and matching headdress, her hair longer, thicker and curling all the way past her waist. “Can you believe all this??!” The girls grasped hands and jumped up and down for joy.
“Did you see him?” Hannah asked, meaning the knight.
“Only a glimpse but ohhhhhhhhhhhhh boy, Hannah!” Haley giggled, her eyes alight. “An honest to goodness knight in shining armor!”
“He told me to get ready…ready for what?”
“Birthday celebration?” Haley guessed, taking her friend over to a gorgeous dressing table where brushes and beautiful bejeweled combs awaited her. Hannah sat down and allowed Haley to comb out her long tresses. The girls then changed into their banquet clothes, red for Haley and a gorgeous pale pink for Hannah with matching veil that drifted down almost to the floor like a cotton candy cloud.
A knock came upon the door and with a wink, Haley went to answer it like a good lady-in-waiting. Hannah could hear her gasp of awe even from where she stood on tip toe, trying to get a glimpse of the knight whose name she still did not know. He entered the room and it took her breath away. He wore a dark blue tunic edged in gold with knee high kid-skin boots and a black cape clasped at the throat with a golden chain. From his waist hung a magnificent sword but what really caught her attention was his face and eyes. He had eyes for no one but her and he walked forward bearing a bouquet of reddish/black roses wrapped with a red organza ribbon. Their sweet smell filled the room.
He went down on one knee before her and presented the roses to her. Hannah took them, trembling then gave them to a waiting Haley who put them into a nearby pewter vase. The knight arose and tucked her arm through his.
“Shall we?” He said, with a deliciously handsome smile. Hannah nodded and allowed him to accompany her through numerous hallways and corridors with Haley right behind grinning like a Cheshire cat. When they got to the main ballroom both girls almost (almost) screamed with excitement. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty had nothing on this castle. The ballroom stretched up above their heads four stories high with large leaded glass windows that let in the full moon and stars. Candles and torches flickered everywhere and the room was filled with Lords and Ladies in the most gorgeous clothing and jewels they had ever seen. Upon their entrance everyone turned around and welcomed Hannah, Haley and her knight with warm applause. Then the music started.
The knight put his arms about Hannah, prepared to lead her into a waltz. Hannah froze, terror seizing her heart.
“Wait!” she hissed, “I don’t know how to waltz!” The knight grinned at her and pulled her closely against him.
“Trust me.” He smiled. The music began and Hannah found herself being swept about the room as if she had grown wings. She closed her eyes and let the music and her handsome knight take her away. She was barely aware of the other couples spinning about them on the floor except for every now and then when Haley would come flying by in the arms of a good looking young courtier. The evening passed swiftly. Hannah and her knight waltzed together and also with the other couples in group dances. They broke for a late dinner and sat side by side at a long table, sharing a trencher while acrobats, jugglers and jesters performed for their pleasure. The food was nothing like the fast food Hannah and Haley were used to at all but was rich, flavorful and creatively presented. Not sure what to do, Hannah allowed him to select morsels for her and had to stifle an embarrassed giggle as he even peeled a large purple grape for her with his fingers and popped it into her mouth with a grin. She never wanted the evening to end but found herself yawning with exhaustion.
“Come,” said her knight, standing to his feet and offering his hand. Hannah stood up and put her hand back into his. His fingers closed about hers gently and possessively. They felt so warm as they wrapped about her own. They walked together and soon she felt his arm slip about her waist and draw her close to his side. She leaned her weary head upon his breast and stumbled suddenly with exhaustion. It had, after all, been quite a day. She felt his arms go under her legs and he lifted her effortlessly into his arms to carry her the remaining distance back to her bedchamber. He carried her through the door and laid her gently upon the bed, covering her and removing her slippers.
Just before he left the chamber, he lifted her palm up to his lips and kissed it gently, his eyes looking deeply into her own which were heavy with sleep.
“Fare thee well, my love,” he whispered, a hint of sadness in his eyes.
“Wait!” said Hannah, struggling to remain awake for one more moment. “You never told me your name!” She saw his lips move in reply but could hear no sound. Sleep overwhelmed her like a wave at sea, sweeping her away from him upon its’ irresistible tide.
She awoke the next morning back in her own bed with the sun streaming in her window and birds singing outside. She sat up on her elbows and wondered to herself if it had all just been a dream or some kind of magic spell. She shook her head…it must have just been a dream… she concluded with a sinking sad feeling and then she froze. Upon her dresser sat a pewter vase and in it was the gorgeous dark red rose bouquet the knight had brought to her the night before. She flew out of bed and gazed at them, blinking in wonder and disbelief. Sitting propped up next to them was an elegant piece of parchment paper with script flowing across it.
“Dearest beloved…” it read. “…wait for me!” And below this he had written his name…