by Erin Griffin
Rating: Strong R
Pairing: You'll figure it out soon enough
Summery: In order to live out her dream of becoming a knight, Gabrielle Andrews chops off her hair and becomes Gabriel Andrew, a mysterious man with two first names and no last name...
Author's Note: This story is completely AU, obviously. There will be some characters that you will not recognize, therefore they are mine. Everyone else is from the show, even though I scattered them about in different roles throughout the fic mostly for humor purposes.
Disclaimer: Yup, The WB accepted my offer of 2 Twinkies and my Erin Beanie Baby this morning over the phone... No, damn that was my dream last night... *sigh* I own maybe 5 characters throughout this whole fic. Everyone else belongs to... well, all those that aren't me... and that are rich by now, damn them...
Warning: There is a lot of violence, a little bit of torture, some cussing, and other things like that in this fic, as the medieval period was not a very pretty time. Also, I would like to apologies to Dinah in advance. What else... Oh, if you are a Detective Reece (spelled in here as Rhyse) fan, don't read this fic, lol.
*Dedicated as always to Angel and Dallas, whom have both helped me throughout this fic (and my real life) by telling me about the medieval time period (Dallas, who knows what she'd talking about and I don't, lol) or just by being there for me (Angel, love ya lots). Thank you both so much. This is for you.
Voices shouted above one another, drowning out the flute music that played in the background. The dining hall wasn't always this rowdy, but tonight there is a reason for raised voices and the noisy clatter of toasted cups of ale and wine. That very afternoon a man had been knighted. A very well liked man at that. "Congrats Gabe, Laddy!" A voice shouted over all, or perhaps it seemed that way since the voice was raised and blaring right into the ear of the man being spoken to. Thadius Manx, a man with greying hair, dark brown eyes (and even darker long brown hair in areas it wasn't greying), stared at the celebrated man. Or at least, to Thadius, he was a celebrated man. No one at that table (or the rest of the kingdom for that matter) knew that the one whom had been knighted that afternoon was actually a woman named Gabrielle Andrews from a neighboring kingdom. To them, she was known as of that afternoon as Sir Gabriel Andrew, a man with two first names, but no last name. He was a mysterious man, and Gabrielle (Gabby to those who didn't want any broken limbs when she was a child) liked it that way. Gabby always wanted to become a knight, and if she wasn't a woman, she would have had no troubles becoming one, for she knew that had she been a man, she would have proven herself just the same and might have been one faster. She was 19 or so winters old when she cut off her golden locks and left home. Gabby knew that if she stayed in her home pretending to be a boy, not only would she get in trouble, but her parents would as well. She couldn't bare to see that happen. She could hardly bare to leave home, but the life that awaited her wasn't the life for her. To marry a man that she could never love even if she wanted to...
"Thanks, Thadius my man!" the new knight said to the burly man to her right. Gabby owed her new success to this man. When she'd arrived at the Pennyworth kingdom, this man had given her a place to stay and train. He was like a second father to her, bringing her up like the son he never had. Thadius was a married man, with a beautiful wife Irene and a couple of daughters, and together they were a nice family for 7 years. Time had come to prove herself when a war broke out the year before. Gabby thought she'd die herself from the shock of killing another man. She'd killed 9, in fact (she counted, praying for each one to have a safe passing and for her own forgiveness). Not understanding why, Gabby had seen King Alfred on the battle field and was one of the four men guarding him. The other men died, and Gabby had no choice but to kill the 9 men that were trying to kill her king. The war ended many nights ago, but the king had scrolls to sign before he could come back to the kingdom. It was then that Gabby- er- Gabriel Andrew was knighted. Gabby smiled widely at the man to her left , to which the large man smiled back before returning to his ale and plate of meats and bread. Gabby also returned to her plate, half filled with fruits, cheese, and a couple of carrots for her horse, Nix. Thadius looked over at Gabby's plate in disgust.
"Y'know, you've got to be the only knight in all of Europe that doesn't eat meat, Gabriel." he pointed out yet again. This was the start of banter between them that occurs at almost all meal times, even on nights when the two combined couldn't catch any game. Gabby rolled her eyes as she always does. "Look at ye'; Yer a scrawny thing. That ain't good for a man your age. What are your sons going to look like? They'd get beaten by the village maidens, that's what's to come of them, and all because their sire was a skeleton." he said, sure of himself.
"You know I can't stomach the carcass of a forest beast, Thadius. Besides, who said my sons -or daughters for that matter- won't grow strong without the consumption of meat?" The older knight snorted into his cup, now refilled for the 4th time.
"I doubt it." Thadius said.
"My daughters as tykes would easily beat any of your full grown grandchildren," Gabby said, and grinned at the thought.
Well, in order to have any improper daughters, you have to find yourself a lass and marry. It's hard to believe that a lad your age hasn't even courted a woman. You've got the look, I mean, women love the soft look you've got." Thadius was rambling more now, but he still stuck to the same argument that they'd always gotten into.
"Not this again, old man!" Gabby groaned. "It's not too late. I'm 26 summers old. I have time." Gabby was expecting a reply along the lines of 'All of the good women of breeding will be taken by the time you get around to them. All that will be left are the improper women and the king's whores.' Thadius opened his mouth and was probably about to say just that when a shout brought their attention away from their argument.
“SEER! Do you have good news for our knights going off to Wayne kingdom for the tournament?" King Alfred asked. Everyone turned to the entrance of the dining hall. There stood a common looking young woman with hair a lighter blonde than Gabby's hair was, for her hair was a golden blonde, as this girl's hair was more of a white/ blonde. Her dress was a simple blue dress, one you would see the children wear as they went outside to play. This girl's name is Dinah Redmond. Gabby rolled her eyes as the men rushed to seat this young woman. It wasn't that Gabby disliked Dinah; Gabby just pretended not to like her so she didn't have to go near her. She was afraid of the woman's powers. That's right, powers. Everyone in the kingdom knew of Dinah Redmond and what she could see. Since she was 9 years old and dreamt of the poisoning of the king (Alfred's father), Dinah has been known as a seer, a witch who sees the future... But Dinah was different. Seers see only the future, and if this is so, then how can she know things about one's life by a brief touch? She can see anyone's past, present, or future with the slightest touch, which is why Gabby always kept her distance from the younger blonde. The young knight watched as Dinah sat down, then looked at King Alfred. The king was very fond of Dinah, for that night when she saw the king's poisoning, she also dreamt of the prince's poisoning as well, and had stopped it from happening. True, it was in the only way she knew how (which was running in screaming madly, then knocking the goblet of wine from the young man's royal hands), but it had saved him.
"Your Highness, I fear that there will be injuries, but also a few victories as well." King Alfred seemed pleased to hear it. Dinah was never wrong with her 'predictions', so no one ever questioned her readings.
"And what of our newest knight?"
"Sir Gabriel..." She started to say, looking the new knight in the eyes. "Well, you know my readings, sir. I cannot see much of what's to come for them unless I have come into contact with him." In seconds, Gabby's skin turned pale. Everything she's ever known could be revealed and destroyed if Dinah ever saw within her like she had for so many men and women before her.
"Later. You'll give him his reading another time." All of the superstitious men who were curious to see what was to come of the young knight groaned in disappointment as the seer started to eat some of the duck that was set in front of her. The whole room continued its chatter.
"This tournament should be the perfect chance, lad."
"Excuse me?" Gabby asked Thadius.
“The tournament. King Bruce said that if there are a lot of unmarried men in this tournament, he'd give up half of his kingdom, his daughter's hand in marriage, and a large dowry to the victor." He lowered his voice some, "We all know how skilled you are at hunting, sword fighting, and jousting... though I think your jousting could use a little work... You are better than any of the men here and just as good as me. There are, o' course gonna be married knights there to make themselves even more known, and I s'pose they'd earn some money if one o' them wins, but I think you... You are gonna win it. Talk to King Bruce when you get there, and you can compete for the princess' hand." Thadius said.
"I'll think on it, but for now I'm just competing for the same reason the other men are. Mostly, it is just for the sport of it." Gabby said. She knows that she's not going to give it a second thought. Even if she wanted to, the princess would never, never love her. Princess Helena Wayne didn't love other women as Gabby did. Even if she did, what use would she be as a 'husband'? She couldn't physically give her any children. She couldn't be anyone's sire. But Thadius didn't know all this, so she pretended that she just wasn't ready to settle her life with a family just yet.
" 'Ey, Gabriel, are you alright? Gabriel Andrew?" Thadius punched Gabby's arm, and she glared at him, threatening to hit him back, but they both knew that she never would at the dining table. She respected him too much, and hitting him like that in front of other men made her look almost savage. "You don't look too good." That was just one of the reasons why Gabby respected the older knight so. He was always looking out for her as well as his family, even if he was drunk.
"Yeah, I reckon I should go to my bed chambers after I feed Nix." Thadius nodded, and Gabby stood up. She bowed to the king who raised his glass as a departure. She walked slowly to the stables where her horse stood, staring at her carefully, expecting something from her. "Hi." She whispered to the horse. In there, she wasn't Gabriel. She was a normal girl. To Nix, she was Gabby. She didn't have to deepen her voice for him. He wouldn't have bought it anyway. She handed him one of the carrots, which he took graciously. She slowly petted his head and side as he ate. Nix knew everything about who she was and who she never will be. "Men don't usually say this to other men, but you are beautiful." She said in a mocked tough voice. Nix snorted as if to laugh at her, and Gabby softly giggled as well. Nix was a beautiful horse though, dark brown with a black mane. The young knight spent the next 10-15 minutes in the stables in silence with Nix, just watching him as he watched her. It was almost as if the beloved horse was expecting her to say something. After another minute of silence, Gabby patted the horse one more time before hurrying out of the stables. She let herself wander around outside for a while before she went towards her room.
Gabby was almost to her temporary bed chambers (which was a surprise she knew her way to it since her head was down and she was watching the stone floors) when she ran into someone. "Ooph!!" grunted a feminine voice. The knight grabbed onto the hand that was struggling to get up, and helped the fallen body to get to her feet.
"Oh dear. I'm so sor-" Gabby stopped abruptly and let go of the hand when she had seen whom she'd run into. “So- My apologies, Miss Redmond." A chill ran down her spine as she found she couldn't meet the seer's eyes.
"Ga- Ga- you're-"
"Shh!" Gabby quickly grabbed the young blonde by the wrist, and after making sure no one else was in the corridor, pulled Dinah into her room and shut the door behind them.
"This is absurd! I'm not one of the king's whores, impostor! Let me out this instant!" Gabby put a finger to her lips to try and shush the woman, but she kept going on. Gabby was desperate. Her life was in this woman's hands and Dinah Redmond knew it.
"Please! Don't tell anyone what you saw within me just now. I-I just wanted to become a knight. It's all I ever wanted and this... It was the only way." Gabby found tears falling from her eyes. She went to her knees and her hands covered her face, so the seer couldn't see the tears fall from her eyes. "Please..." She begged the 18 or 19 year old young woman standing before her. It was silent for a little while as if the seer didn't know what to say or do.
Finally, she said "Look at me, Gabrielle Andrews." The young knight obeyed, not even attempting to correct her, saying as a young girl she was known as Gabby. "I won’t tell... on one condition." Gabby stood up and regained herself as she dried her eyes. If you weren't looking closely, you wouldn't have known that she'd cried.
"Please, I'll do anything."
"Tell me, when are you leaving for the tournament in the Wayne kingdom?" The knight looked up at Dinah, eyes slightly reddened, but also filled with curiosity. She tried to think. The men: Thadius, his friend Cashius and his twin sons, and a man who was knighted just before the war were all going to leave the next morning at dawn. Gabby traveled separately, so she planned to leave at midday and she would try to catch up to them right before they entered the kingdom.
"Well, I will be leaving tomorrow by midday. For obvious reasons, I travel alone. The men just think I am antisocial when it comes to long trips." Gabby shrugged.
"I want to go with you." Dinah said bluntly.
"Not that I wont take you, but won't you be missed here?"
"I am not going to spend the rest of my life as some fortune-teller, Gabriel. I am only known here as Seer. I have a name. I want to be known by that name, if only for a couple of days at this tournament." Gabby thought it over.
"Alright then, Dinah." She made sure she added in her name. "Get your things together tonight, and meet me in the stables at midday. Have you a horse?"
"That I do." the seer said, and Gabby nodded.
"Alright then," She repeated. Gabby opened the door to her room and bowed quickly to Dinah as she left the chambers. "I will see you tomorrow." Dinah said nothing as she started to walk down the corridors towards her own chambers. "Thank you." Gabby said softly, but it was still loud enough to echo far enough to reach the seer's ears. The younger blonde stopped in her tracks for a second, then continued her walk.
"My father says I am going to be the greatest knight ever." Johnny Boy, as everyone in his family called him, was sitting on a rock next to Gabby, his feet hanging over it as he spoke, and Gabby was sitting on the grass next to him, looking up at the boy. He was thin, but strong, and at first sight no one would ever believe that he COULD become a knight. His father was a knight though, so he could easily become one if he trained hard when he became a man. The two were sharing their midday meals as they always did since they were tykes. They were now older, Gabby being 13 and Johnny Boy being 12, but they never faltered in this tradition. The only thing that has changed from then is the fact that Johnny Boy would sometimes speak of a girl in the marketplace that he liked to watch, not knowing that sometimes Gabby liked to watch her too. Sometimes, Johnny Boy's younger sister Beth came out if it suited her, but mostly it was just them, discussing what the knights were rumored to be doing at that point.
"I want to be a knight too." Gabby decided. This was no new decision, nor was the conversation to come a new thing between the pair.
"You can't be a knight, silly." Johnny Boy said, taking a bite of his apple. Gabby wiped her own apple on her dress skirt, then stared at it, deciding she wasn't hungry anymore.
"And why not?! I bet I'd whoop you in any sword fight, and when we play Dragonhunt, our swordfights were always my victory." she protested in a tired tone. Gabby was tired of being told that no, she couldn't be a knight because she was to be a woman in a few years. She didn't want to be a housewife. That just didn't feel right to her.
"Girls can't be knights, Gabby, I'm sorry. That is just the way it is." Johnny Boy responded.
"Why is it the way it is? Why can't a woman put on that armor and participate in a joust?!"
"You're being silly. You've always known. I didn't make the rules. Someone from hundreds and hundreds of years ago did."
"I'll be a better knight than you will ever be. I'll show you!" she growled.
"If they let women become knights, I know you will be." Johnny Boy defended himself. "You know that if I could I would change the rules so that you and me can have a real joust with horses and everything." he said in a softened voice. He sighed.
"I know. And the crowd would be screaming our names because they aren't sure which knight would win, but they wouldn't care either way because they'd be promised a good match no matter what." Johnny Boy grinned.
"If there was ever a knightly team, we'd be it! And we'd be the best. You and me." Gabby returned her best friend's grin.
"Yeah!" she agreed.
"I'm tired." Dinah whined. She was sitting on top of her nameless horse as Gabby walked along-side Nix, deciding long ago that carrying a wagon behind him, plus her weight would be too much for him. They were at that point going through a grassy area and that was slowing them down, for Gabby was sure she would have been way past this point of the journey come nightfall. The sun was threatening to set within minutes, yet Gabby needed to get them out into a more open area before she can allow them to stop and make a camp.
"How can you be tired? You haven't walked or got off of that horse since you got on it. " the knight said distractedly. To be honest, Dinah hadn't been very social throughout the whole trip thus far, and Gabby wouldn't care if she'd continued in her own world within her thoughts. She felt it was unfair though, that Dinah knew more about her in a fraction of a second than the knight would probably ever care to learn in the duration of the trip, and this made her a little bitter towards the seer. Dinah muttered words under her breath that weren't caught by the knight. "Excuse me?" Gabby asked, looking back at the young girl.
"I said 'My buttocks are getting sore'!" Dinah shouted in a manner that suggested that Gabby was dimwitted.
"You wanted to come along. A sore rear is to be expected." Gabby said with a shrug, figuratively shaking off the seer's insult. She lead Nix away from a hole in the ground that would break an axel or worse, one of Nix's legs.
"You wanted me to keep your secret, so whining's to be expected," Dinah responded, mimicking the knight. Gabby stopped walking for a minute before she turned around, letting go of Nix's reigns, and marched over to the younger blonde. She looked up at her figure, which was slumped over the back of the horse, her head laying lazily on the horse's mane and her feet dangling at the horse's side. Gabby briefly wondered if the seer was uncomfortable in such a position, but the fact that she'd been like that for several hours suggested that she wasn't. The knight grabbed Dinah's feet, tugging them hard enough to yank the girl from the horse and she slid easily into her arms. Gabby helped the girl to the ground, then turned and walked on, grabbing Nix's reigns once again. Dinah's horse seemed content to just follow slowly behind Nix. Dinah's horse was mostly white with black speckles everywhere. As far as Gabby could tell, the sex of the seer's horse was female. Gabby once or twice wondered why the horse didn't have a name, but she never could summon the courage to talk to the seer, for in her own ways, she intimidated the knight.
"Your sore backside will disappear after you walk it off. I dare you to complain about that." she responded. Not the most witty of things to say, and Gabby was sure that given time she'd be able to come up with many responses to that in which she would have said instead, had she the ability to reverse time.
Her empty threat worked none the less, and after a murmur of "Well, I suppose I should be the first to admit I deserved that..." in which then knight heard, they were off again in another silence, this time not as comfortable. Gabby wasn't sure how long they were walking when the grass seemed to get shorter and they had reached flatter grounds.
"I will set up camp here." the blonde knight muttered, working from the wagon, trying to haul out the tent. Dinah came up and helped her set up the tent in silence.
"So, what do you think the Wayne kingdom is like?" Dinah asked as she watched Gabby build a fire many minutes later. Gabby thought this through, then looked up at the seer.
"I don't know much, just what Thadius has told me from when he went there, but he said it is a large and wondrous sight." Gabby responded. "There is a large jousting field right next to the castle, almost as if it was built as the king's playing grounds. 'Heard it was bigger than King Alfred's. King Bruce sounds like a nice man. Thadius said that he has a corridor in his castle just for his guests that I s'pose we'd be using for the tournament. Which is a blessing, since it looks as if the skies will fall on us, and rain is to come in the next few days." Dinah nodded.
"I hope to make a friend there. You are the only one I will know other than as a passing glance, and when you are off on your tasks for the tournament, then what am I to do?"
"Well, I believe you will fit in with the other maidens, Dinah." Gabby said. She was sure that Dinah would become fast friends with a maiden or two while she was there. In this new place, no one will know of the seer's power, and therefore no one would be afraid of her. If people looked past the power that the girl was born with, then she had an endearing face that was more than easy to trust, which could have been a good thing or a bad thing, Gabby had yet to figure out which.
The fire crackled in it's place as Dinah bid Gabby a good night after a meal of bread, apples, and water. Gabby'd set up the tent just for the seer. She herself preferred to sleep under the stars while the weather allowed it. The moon was but a sliver now, and the next night Gabby knew there would be no moon at all, which was a thought that slightly disappointed her. There was nothing in the knight's eyes more enchanting than the site of the moon and the stars as they gathered around in a place higher than she'd ever reach. Gabby often wondered if there were other worlds out there where women and men were equal, or even (she thought with a giggle) a place where men took care of the children and cooked and cleaned while women earned the daily bread. Of course she knew there was no such place, and she doubted that this world even hundreds of years in the future would ever be that equal, but it was a nice thought to entertain her mind with at night.
Gabby sat on her bedding of linens and frowned at the nothingness ahead of her as her father tried to explain to her the reasons for his actions. He'd brought home another potential. This one's name is Manuel, a child still himself, yet shy, polite, and well mannered. Everything she'd ever want in a husband. That is, if she'd wanted a husband, a fact that her father and mother hadn't even considered. To them, of course she wanted a husband. That was ever girls' dream, was it not? If Gabby could, she'd definitely say 'not'. She didn't want this. She never wanted this. After a long lecture about her behavior towards Manuel when she'd met him, her parents both left for the market, leaving Gabby to clean as a punishment for her rudeness, for Casper Andrews raised a more proper daughter than that. There was an absurd thought that churned in Gabby's mind for many days now, but did she have the courage to do it ? Yes, she decided. Today is the day. She threw down the linens she'd been folding and went on a search. She looked about her sleeping area, kicking wooden dolls to the side, moving around her homemade arrows that would never in any life time work with even the most crafted of bows, and picking up her wooden sword for a second as she remembered the way she used to play with it constantly with Johnny Boy. As of late, her father said to put it up and to never play with it again, for she is a woman now, a full 19 years of age. Finally, she came across what she was looking for, a small dagger that Johnny Boy had given her before he left when he'd become a man to peruse his dream of being a knight. It had been a present... kind of. "You can't keep this, Gabby, because you know it is my favorite... but you must keep it with you as a way to know that I will come back to see you." he'd said.
"I promise you that I will return it to you." She vowed to him then.
By now it had gone dull from the many times he slashed at trees and grass with it, foolishly forgetting to ask his father how to sharpen it. Gabby knew that she had to resharpen it herself, and the only way she knew how was by taking a rock to it. 'Oh how much I miss you Johnny Boy.' Gabby thought as she took a deep breath and went to find a rock that will be suitable for sharpening the dagger. The one thing that concerned the girl was how she was to keep that promise to Johnny Boy if she was to go through with what she had planned. Gabby picked up the rock she felt would best do the job, and got to work. Deep in thought, Gabby let the rock slide down the blade many times, testing it with her own fingers to see how sharp it was. Finally, when her finger bled, she took the dagger to her throat grabbing some of her hair, and sliced. She watched as her long golden hair fell to the ground before her. She knew that if her hair stayed the way it was, it would make her look feminine, but if she put it in a ponytail, she wouldn't look as so. Gabby didn't know when to expect her parents back from the market this time, so she hurriedly packed some food, changed into a set of her father's clothes and rushed off. Where she was going, she didn't know. If she died tomorrow, at least she knew she wouldn't die a miserable death.
"Would you mind if I joined you?" The soft voice made the knight jump. She had been deep into her thoughts, turning over the dagger that she'd never let go of even if her life itself depended on it. It was the only thing besides her memories she had of her old life before the Manx's and she didn't ever want to lose it. Gabby turned to look at Dinah, whom had her blanket wrapped around her shoulders. "This sounds absolutely juvenile, but I had a dream... It wasn't... It wasn't something that scared me, but it was filled with so much emotion that it felt odd to lay in the tent alone." the girl felt a need to explain.
"Please, sit..." Gabby said, gesturing to the seer. She then looked at the fire, which was only a soft glow of embers now. "Would you like to tell me of this dream?" the knight asked in a low voice. "My mother... When I was a child and had dreams, she would listen to them, and even if they were the silliest of things to dream of, she still listened. Her ears helped me in more ways than she will ever know." the knight said.
"It was just so bizarre. It felt real, only, the things that happened within this dream can't possibly happen. I am in this dream, with a red haired woman and a brown haired woman standing by my side. I can't see their faces, for they are wearing masks of some sort, but I trust them. I trust them with my whole existence. We were family, us three, and we lived inside a giant sundial... and it didn't seem odd to us that we lived there. It was as if we were hiding from the world, even though none of us were disfigured. I felt... I felt like a hero, but everyone knew my name... never my face. My powers were the same as they are now as far as I can tell, but the woman with brown hair... there was... a beast within her... and when I touched this woman... So much pain, Gabriel... So much loneliness."
"Hey," Gabby said softly, touching the woman to send her out of her trance. "It was all a dream, remember? You are safe now."
"Of course." Dinah agreed, pulling the blanket around her a little more.
"Are you still cold?" the knight asked the seer, seeing her shiver. "I reckon I have another blanket in the wagon."
"Yes, I am a little bit." Dinah admitted sheepishly, as if afraid to be of any trouble to the knight. Gabby got up and went to the wagon that she'd unhitched from Nix long ago, and searched in the dark for the last blanket, which she'd packed in case the ground that she'd lie upon was wet. She wrapped the blanket over Dinah and then sat down on her bedding again. " It is nights like these that I miss my parents also." the younger blonde whispered.
"What happened to them?" Gabby blurted before she could hold her tongue. "No, that was impolite of me-"
"I don't know what happened to them. I was about 8 years of age, and I had started to have weird dreams of the king's death. Everyone seems to know that story."
"Aye." Gabby agreed, settling in so that she was comfortable to hear Dinah's side of this well known story.
"The dreams got more frequent and more urgent until it seemed as if my dreams were saying to me 'What are you waiting for?! He needs you, and you are the only one who can save him.' I ran all the way to the castle and demanded to see the king. He was of course in the banquet hall eating... I didn't make it to him in time. He had already fallen over, dead from this sweetened poison. King Alfred at the time was just sitting down to his meal. I had to save him somehow, and that was the only way I could think of to do it, for my voice was too small to warn him. You know the rest, he was saved, became king that night... But he wouldn't let me go home. I told him I had to get back to bed or my mother would have a fit." Dinah stopped talking for a minute as if to hide the crack in her voice. "Gabriel, I slept in the castle from then on, not knowing what truly happened that night. There was a woman there, Miss Sandy, or sometimes Shiva depending on who you were to her, and she showed me around the castle, telling me where I could go and where I couldn't. I walked those corridors hearing rumors that I was sold to King Alfred, my parents given the things they only dreamed of having. I don't know... I can't complain, though. King Alfred has said to me many times over the years that I am free to leave whenever I wanted and that I am not a prisoner.... and that he'd always keep a space available in his castle for me, which is a sweet gesture."
"You did, after all, save his life." Gabby said softly.
"Did you not, in the heat of a war, Gabriel?" Dinah asked.
"That I did, but to him I am not a woman, and we all know that Alfred is weakened only by a giggle from a woman's lips." Dinah smiled, knowing that this was true.
"Tell me... about how you decided to become a knight." the seer requested softly.
"I thought you'd seen that in my mind." Gabby said, her body tensing up as it went into a defensive state.
"No. I see and feel only what the person is thinking at the time." Dinah explained. "You were thinking on your fears about the future and of what you cannot physically have when leading the life you now live. You were thinking on what your sons would look like had they taken on your features."
"Well... Part of my running away was a way for me to act out against my parents' wishes, but another part of my running away was to protect them. My best friend then had a sister that I had come to admire. There were many times when urges became strong, wanting to kiss her and such. I didn't want to get out of line, and I didn't want my parents shunned and talked about for having an improper daughter. They would have been accused of teaching me some sort of craft... I just couldn't risk all that." Gabby said. "I ran for a while, not sure where exactly I was going, and soon made it to the Pennworth kingdom after many days of walking . Finally, I reached King Alfred's jousting field where I watched the knights practice and train, for there was an event going on that very day. I stayed for the events, watching swordfights with great intensity. I found that all of the knights had a squire except for one. After the match, in which this knight won, I ran after him, asking if he needed a squire. Of course he didn't, but I was desperate to start somewhere. Somehow I persuaded him to give me a fraction of a chance, and that was all I needed."
"So you proved yourself to Thadius Manx and you two have been almost inseparable since."
"Almost, yes." Gabby agreed. "I think he took pity on my thin and frail form, not having eaten in days at that time." The young knight chuckled, and Dinah joined in. They stayed in a comfortable silence, thinking things over, Dinah connecting the images from what she saw of Gabby cutting her hair to the thought of Gabby pleading with Thadius to give her a chance. Gabby thought about what it must have felt like to almost grow up in a castle without many people her age to talk to. At least Gabby had Johnny Boy. After a while she looked at Dinah, whom was asleep. Gabby smiled, hoping that the seer's sleep would go undisturbed this time.
Gabby and Dinah a woke early the next morning, packed up the tent, rehitched the wagon, and slowly made their way to the Wayne Kingdom. Both woman ate while they walked, and after having a little bit of food within them, seemed in a better mood for chatting. They spoke of the little things, neither of them willing to give up too much about their pasts, but also not wanting to walk in silence as they had the day before. To Gabby's relief, she saw the Wayne castle by midday, which was the biggest and most beautiful of the castles she'd ever seen. She was surprised to see that Thadius had his tent set up right outside the castle, his flag waving madly in the winds that had picked up a bit, and was obviously waiting for her. "Gabriel! Boy, I was getting worried. Damn, you always do that. I don't understand why you have to travel alone all the time. Your family is here, y'know. There is no need to take an extra day when you could easily get there on time for once." The older knight lectured, and Gabby let him say what he had to say to get it out of his mind, having obviously been running around in it for quite a few hours from the way he spoke.
"Forgive me old man, but I had a traveling companion, and I had to remember my manners." Gabby said, pointing her left thumb behind her. Thadius just seemed to see Dinah, and looked from the younger blonde to Gabby.
"You've brought the seer." he stated.
"She's told me that she'd seen herself at this tournament." Gabby said slowly. Thadius watched as Gabby helped the girl off of her horse. When she gently let her to the ground, Gabby grabbed Thadius in a headlock which he'd quickly gotten out of. "Didn't reckon there's be a problem with her presence."
"There's a slight... sleeping arrangement that will be a problem. You see, all of the rooms are now taken. I was just barely able to get you your own quarters for the duration of the tournament."
"It is fine. If Gabriel doesn't mind, I will sleep in his quarters. I trust that we could share a room without complications. I will just need to find some extra linens for the floor if need be." Dinah spoke up.
"Out of the question!" Gabby said in a loud voice, making both Dinah and Thadius' head whip to look at her. "A lady never sleeps on the floor. You will have the bed. I will take care of getting extra linens for the bedding on the floor of our quarters." she continued, shrugging.
"You can't be thinking of going through with this, Gabriel. Sharing a room with a woman? Do you know what they are going to think?" he asked.
"Yes. I am aware of it, Thadius, but she'd have no where to sleep otherwise. If it bothers people that much, I will set up a tent here and I can sleep out here."
"Don't. The rain will fall and the wind will rip that tent apart. I'd rather you be inside the castle." Thadius rubbed his eyes. "If you're sure this will work, then have at it. Come, Boy. Help me with my things and we'll get the two of you settled in." Gabby did as she was told, handing her reigns to Dinah to hold and forcefully ripping the Pennyworth Kingdom's flag, white and green, from it's place in the ground.
"Rumor has it that there is a knight that has yet to arrive, so you aren't the only one who is late. Sir Rhyse Hawk from the Hawk Kingdom has sent a messenger to the king last night saying that he will be late. There are bad weather conditions in his kingdom, and it may take a couple of days. Which would be just as well, since it would give us some time to practice your jousting skills." Gabby nodded, and they worked in silence from then on.
Once Thadius' tent was packed up, they all entered the castle's perimeters. Slowly they made their way to the stables, where a boy of about 16 years of age was washing down one of the horses. When he saw the three walk in, he stopped what he was doing and greeted them. "Welcome." he said shyly. "I will take care of things from here." he said. He took Nix's reigns from Gabby and lead him to an area in the back, where there were other wagons. The three watched as the boy lead the horse to his own stall, fed him some grain and then started to do the same with Dinah's horse and Thadius' horse. Thadius's horse was purely black, and she was a stubborn thing, giving the stable boy some troubles. Finally, he went back to the three of them after whispering to the horse. Thadius handed the boy six golden coins.
"Take good care of them, for if you don't, I am not sure what Gabe here would do."
"I will, sir. No need to worry about that." the boy reassured.
"Well, that being said, I will show you to the quarters. I had a look around last night, but I wanted to wait for you to make sure you arrived safely." Thadius said. Gabby reached out her elbow to the seer and Dinah took it, allowing the younger knight to escort her to their quarters. They entered the castle, and ran in to Cashius and his twin sons Brian and Charles. The twins both had light brown hair that was longer than Gabby's, put up in a black ribbon to keep it out of their eyes. It was quite difficult to tell the two apart, except for the fact that Charles had a scar on his left hand from the war. They all said their hello's to the seer and the two knights before continuing out to the jousting field where the twins had planned to practice their sword fighting skills. After Thadius showed them to their quarters, he left to go to the great hall for his midday meal.
"I'll go get the bedding and some of your garments from the wagon, Dinah. If you wish to go eat, I will meet you there."
"I don't know my way there. I think I will wait here and we can go together." Gabby nodded . She was told before Thadius left where the dining hall was, but she knew she'd have a little troubles finding it. The knight walked out of the room and back out the way in which she'd come. She saw the stable boy sitting on a large pile of hay, looking through his pockets. Upon seeing her, he stood up.
"Is there anything I can help you with, Sir?" he asked, sounding eager to please all of the knights.
"No, I am just getting some blankets from my wagon." Gabby said, petting Nix.
"What did you name him, sir? I know he has a name, but he has many secrets to keep, and his name is one of them." he said softly. Gabby looked at the boy, and he seemed a little embarrassed for saying what he had.
"You speak as though you can talk to them." Gabby said with an amused grin.
"Don't speak to them, but I feel as if sometimes I can understand them, which is why I am here. I know what they need before they know they need it. Been told that I am the best stable hand ever known to the king." He stated this as a fact recited, not as a brag.
"What is your name?"
"K-Kafka sir. I don't like to use my father's last name, so I am just known as Kafka." Gabby looked at Nix.
"What do you think my horse is saying or thinking now?" Kafka looked at Nix and then smiled.
"He's wondering where 'is carrot is, sir." Gabby laughed.
"Is that all I am good for, Nix?" She asked, patting him.
"Nix... Quite a unique name."
"Yeah. I don't remember what made me think of it, but it seemed as unique as him." Gabby moved to get the blankets from the wagon, then went to Nix. "I will be back at dusk with your carrots, boy. I promise." Nix lazily flicked his tail to the side. She looked up at Kafka and frowned when she saw the look on the boy's face.
"He's warning you about something..." he started to say. "He won't tell me what, but he's making me feel as if he's warning you about that girl."
"I know, and he knows... but I think it is what she knows that will eventually hurt you."
"I'll be fine." Gabby said, frowning. Why would Dinah's knowledge of her secret hurt her? She wouldn't tell anyone, she'd promised.
"He trusts you more than his other owner before you, and he doesn't want you to get hurt." Kafka added, taking a brush and starting to groom him.
"Thanks, Kafka. Bye Nix."
"Goodbye." Gabby hurried back to the castle, trying to remember where her quarters were. When she had found it, she knocked on the door to make sure that Dinah wasn't indecent. Of course she wouldn't be, but she had to make sure. She could have been adjusting some form of her dress.
"Who's there?" She called through the door.
"It's Gabriel." Gabby called.
"You may enter. It is your quarters, too you know." Dinah answered. Gabby opened the door and grinned sheepishly at the seer. She shrugged.
"I was just being cautious."
"I understand." Dinah said. Gabby looked around the room for the first time since she got there. Right inside the room was a small fire pit to her right, but the fire wasn't going in it at that point. She looked in front of her and saw the bed that Dinah was now laying on.
"It's a bit dark in here." Gabby observed that there was a small window on the left wall, but it was to small to let much light into the room. There was a small table with an oil lamp and candle on it, but there was no flame to light the room.
"Yes, it is. Sort of eerie in here as well."
"I will be quick, then we can leave." Gabby said, watching as Dinah had a look of fear on her face. "Are you alright?"
"I am fine. I am just uncomfortable in darkness sometimes. Some of the things I have seen... It is a wonder some people sleep at night, or maybe they don't..." Dinah trailed off as Gabby stared at her.
"It's a cruel place, but I believe that you will be alright." Gabby said. When the seer didn't answer her, Gabby started to make her bedding and then she straightened up. "Whenever you are ready, Dinah." Gabby said. Dinah slowly got up and then joined the knight, who again held out her elbow for the seer to grab onto. They walked down the corridor slowly, neither knowing where they were going, and both knowing they were lost. Finally, Gabby caught sight of a couple of other knights from the Hawk kingdom, speaking amongst themselves about how hungry they were. Dinah and Gabby looked at each other and then followed casually behind them. "Would you be comfortable sitting next to Cachius and his sons while I go meet the royal family?" Dinah nodded and Gabby led her to a seat next to the twin boys, then when Dinah was seated, caught Thadius' eye and walked over to him. He was sitting down on the other side of Cachius, but then got up when Gabby motioned for him to." Come with me Thadius... You know how I am when it comes to meeting new people."
"That I do." Gabby looked towards the far end of the room where the royal family was. Sitting in the very middle was a man that has short brown hair and darkened eyes from where Gabby stood. On his right sat his wife, Queen Selina Wayne, whom was blonde (her hair longer than both Gabby and Dinah's), and her skin was the color of porcelain. Gabby wondered of her health at that moment, but the way she spoke to her husband suggested that she was just fine. On the king's left was a beautiful woman, her hair long in a braid, and the same color as her father's, her eyes light like her mother's. This was Princess Helena Wayne, the one many knights were here to win over. "Your Highness, this is Sir Gabriel Andrew. I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to meet him last night when I had arrived. He performs better after he'd go traveling alone, and sometimes he's a few days late in arriving. We were lucky he arrived when he did, he'd space out and forget where he was going, isn't that right, Boy?" King Bruce laughed.
"It is quite alright. If it helps him to perform better at this tournament, I suppose it wouldn't hurt us to wait another day for him. As you probably do or don't know, Sir Rhyse of the Hawk kingdom will take a few days longer as well. His son isn't feeling well, and he wants to make sure that he has fully recovered before he comes. As soon as Sir Rhyse gets here, we will have a day of rest, and then the first task will begin." Gabby nodded, then bowed.
"I kept hearing that he was delayed by weather, but that just shows that not everything you hear through gossip is true." Thadius said to the king. King Bruce looked Gabby up and down quickly.
"Of all of the men competing for my daughter's hand, I must say, I hope you win. You seem the best of the lot."
"Excuse me?" Gabby sputtered. She started to go pale. The king looked as if he was confused. Thadius cleared his throat and patted Gabby roughly on the back.
"What the boy means is that he'd be honored to have such a prized gem for his wife." He said, hitting her again in a way that painfully told her to play along. King Bruce seemed pleased to hear this. Gabby nodded to be polite and to stop Thadius' abuse. The older knight grabbed Gabby firmly by the shoulders. "If you'll excuse us, Your Highness. Gabriel here has had a long journey and his mind is hazy at this point. Let me go get him some bread and ale. He should be fine in the morning." The king nodded and lifted his glass to dismiss the two knights. Gabby was taken outside of the great hall, and Gabby, in her anger, shoved Thadius against the wall roughly, which was saying something about her strength.
"I didn't sign up to win the princess' hand, Thadius." she hissed.
"I did it for you, you stubborn ox!" Thadius hissed back.
"I don't want to win the princess." Gabby responded in a low tone.
"Settling down will be good for you. Take a wife, Gabriel, have children." the older knight insisted, easily breaking from Gabby's hold.
"Not all men want that Thad-"
"But most men who don't want it need it. I can see that you need that, Gabe."
"You can't back out now, that is what you can't do, Boy. How can you not want to win a prize as lovely as Princess Helena? There shouldn't be a problem here." Thadius said in a tone that clearly stated he didn't understand.
"I don't care. I know she is lovely, but I don't want to win the princess."
"I don't give a damn, Boy! You have to at least try." Gabby cursed many times and punched Thadius, knowing it wouldn't hurt him. She then went to join Dinah inside the hall as she fumed over what she must do. 'There is a problem, Thadius, you ass!' she thought, then felt guilty for cursing at him in her head and tried to take it back. 'A very big problem.'
Sir Rhyse arrived about three days later, holding his red and purple flag of the Hawk kingdom. What Gabby knew about the knight was whatever was told through stories and gossip. Nothing more, nothing less, and for all she knows most of it could be stretched truths and almost lies that the knight didn't really care to figure out. The way the story is told, Sir Rhyse was King Albert Hawk's insignifacant son from when he'd impregnated one of his whores. The woman was financially helped out, but was other than that not aknowledged by King Albert until an illness threatened the life of his son with his wife and the Queen, Winnifred Hawk. The king summoned the boy and told him of who his father was, and lived in the castle for many months while Prince Jesse lay bedridden. Many times, the Hawk family was sure that Jesse would die, making Rhyse the only known heir to the Hawk Kingdom. Prince Jesse Hawk recovered a few seasons later and Rhyse was given one thing in return for the months he was there. Rhyse decided he wanted to be knighted, so that he was. It was told about the Pennyworth kingdom that Rhyse had a son, Alexander, whom was the result of a marriage that ended when his wife died 5 years ago from childbirth. If Rhyse were to win, Helena would be an adopted mother to this little boy.
Gabby, so far had been enjoying her stay at the castle, and from the looks of it, Dinah was as well. The knight hadn't seen the younger blonde in the daytime while she trained, and she assumed she was making friends with the women she had met the night they got there. Not long after Gabby had re-entered the great hall after Thadius told her that she was there to compete for what she knew she couldn't win, Dinah had gotten to talking to a redhaired woman and a very pregnant young woman the knight's own age. Gabby never got their names, but she was sure that by the time the tournament was over, she'd be meeting them. While Dinah was off to her own devices, Gabby was having a good time training in jousting, which was a good way to excersise Nix, take much desurved aggressions out on Thadius , and make her look good to the royal family all at the same time. When she didn't train, she tried to find the seer, only to see that she wasn't to be found. The day of Sir Rhyse's arrival was one such occasion. In the midst of her search, she'd run into Princess Helena and her guard Guy in the corridors. She'd invited the knight to go on a horseback ride. Guy had just gotten Helena onto her horse when Sir Rhyse Hawk had arrived. Immediately after, Guy had to let her back down. "I have to go greet him. Perhaps another time, Sir Gabriel?" the princess asked apologetically.
"I understand, Princess." Gabby said, bowing to her. Princess Helena took Guy's elbow, and if Gabby hadn't known that the guard was there to protect her, she would have thought that they made a wonderful pair with how well they talked and got on together. "You're not getting out of this ride, Nix. I am not about to let you get fat." Nix only stared at her as if she was insane, but made no movement or sound otherwise as Gabby continued to prepare him for the trails.
"Gabriel!" Gabby turned at the sound of her name. She saw Dinah, whom had picked up her pace and was trying to get to the knight. "I have been looking everywhere for you."
"Everywhere but here, Dinah, which is where you would have found me if you hadn't been looking everywhere first." the knight said to her.
"Haha, don't be smart." Gabby couldn't help but laugh at Dinah's sarcasm.
"What is it then, that requires you to search for me so?" Gabby asked, leaning against Nix.
"Dinah?" the knight asked, silently encouraging her to finish her sentence.
"I hope you aren't preoccupied, but I actually just wanted to speak with you, seeing as you are my travel companion for this tournament." Gabby stared at her.
"Well, I was about to go for a ride. Would you care to join me? We can talk and not be overheard." Dinah nodded, and Gabby went to prepare Dinah's horse.
Minutes later, Gabby and Dinah were riding aimlessly around the outskirts of the castle. They'd entered a man-made horse trail and let Dinah's horse and Nix walk along it. "Are you enjoying your stay at the castle, Dinah?" Gabby asked after a while when she felt the seer wasn't going to be the one to start the conversation.
"Oh yes." The younger blonde said, and Gabby could feel a little bit of excitement roll off of her as she spoke. "I did a little wandering around, and there is a large garden that Queen Selina really enjoys. I only got to see her for a minute, but she is always out there, covered in her royal robes and watching as the earth whispers to her. Sometimes it is as if she is a part of that natural surrounding." She said.
"And what of your new friends? Where have they run off to?" At the mention of Dinah's new friends, Gabby hadn't meant to sound so... jealous.
"Well, Carolyn Lance, the pregnant woman, was feeling a little bit ill, so Barbara had to go help her to bed. Remember when I told you of the dream about the large sundial and the three masked women?" Dinah suddenly asked. "Well, two others besides myself."
"Yes, I remember." Gabby said slowly as if to wonder where Dinah was going with her question.
"I think Barbara was the red haired woman that was there... only... In my dream... the red haired woman sat in a chair that had wheels on them, and she maneuvered these wheels with her hands." Dinah said, breaking off her sentence as she let her mind wander to the dream and what it actually was.
"You believe that God let's us die and then become reborn again?" Gabby asked.
"Yes, a little bit." Dinah responded, completely confused. "Though how that is relevant-"
"Maybe this is the future. You know, maybe you meet again in the future, and we all know each other. You know? Maybe everyone we know now we will meet in the future. Perhaps in that life, you ARE heroes, known by a name but never by the face... And- And maybe even you know Sir Rhyse and he helps you out."
"Yeah, and King Bruce will run around this future dressed as a deranged rodent and Queen Selina of a disfigured house beast..." Dinah said sarcastically.
"I wasn't trying to be smart that time. You told me that this dream was real to you, and I assumed that when you dream a dream that is real like that, then it is one of the future. Perhaps you were having a premonition."
"There were horseless carriages, Gabriel."
"That's right..." Gabby trailed off, wondering what horseless carriages looked like in this dream. She had forgotten that part of the seer's dream, and felt a little stupid for suggesting it.
"If this is some future, then it must be further than I would ever expect to dream." Dinah whispered. Gabby nodded, not sure what to say to that. The two women rode on, both thinking about the possibilities of Gabby's theory, Gabby thinking it made more sense than anything, and Dinah thinking it was rubbish, but saying or showing nothing in fear of offending her riding companion. "So, tell me about the tournament. Do you know what is to come and what to expect?" the seer asked when she was no longer comfortable with the silence.
"There will be three tasks to this tournament. One hunting, one sword fighting, and one jousting. King Bruce will eliminate each knight from the tournament if they are the weakest in the task. I think the main elimination task will be the sword fighting. I heard that half of the knights will be eliminated after the first task, and then there were be sword fights eliminating all the rest until there are only two. These two will joust. Best of 5, I believe. Whomever wins that joust will be awarded the prize money of 500 gold coins or the princess' hand if they talked with King Bruce ahead of time about it." Gabby rattled off, feeling herself become less and less sure of her abilities. She'd seen over the last few days the strength and agility in these men who were larger than herself, and even if she'd wanted to win the princess, she felt she had no chance against them.
"Sounds exciting. I will be cheering for you in the arena." Dinah said with great sincerity, and Gabby smiled warmly, glad that someone was on her side. "Sir Gabriel? What is on your mind?" Dinah asked suddenly.
"I feel insecurities rise within me now, Dinah." Gabby said, surprised that she was able to speak out about how she felt to the seer, when she was so used to holding everything within her mind and her heart. She silently wondered why she didn't seem intimidated by the younger blonde anymore, but she pushed it all aside.
"Do explain... please."
"You know that I was only in this tournament for fun. For a sport. Thadius changed all that. Now I am competing for the princess' hand. You and I both know that can't happen, but if I purposely fail the first task, I know I will be failing Thadius." the blonde knight admitted. "I am just afraid."
"I understand. You are unsure when to purposely fail that would bring you the most glory, right?"
"I don't want Thadius to look at me with that look of failure and almost regret. I don't want him to regret taking me in because I am not the greatest knight."
"Listen to yourself. You were knighted only 5 nights ago, Gabby. How can he expect that from you when it has taken years before Thadius became the man he is?" The knight knew the younger blonde was right. She nodded and she felt a little bit better, but that didn't resolve her problem. 'I reckon that is for me to decide alone.' There was a loud silence between them. Gabby noticed as they went along that Dinah pet her horse now and then, whispering to it in encouragement.
"How come you have yet to name your horse?" Gabby asked, more out of curiosity than as a way to break yet another silence. Naming a horse was usually the first thing a woman did upon receiving one as a gift, and the fact that hers remained unnamed seemed a little odd to the knight.
"It was a gift from King Alfred. During the season of giving, he'd wanted to take me riding and teach me to ride a horse, so he gave me her, only this is the 4th time since I had gotten her that I had actually ridden."
"That doesn't tell me why she's gone unnamed for this long." Gabby said. Dinah shrugged.
"I can't think of a good one for her."
"I see." Gabby responded slowly, making the girl look at her.
"Do you have any suggestions, Gabriel? Perhaps you can come up with another unique name like Nix for my horse."
"Perhaps, but I'd rather you came up with it on your own. She is, after all, in your possession. You should name her, otherwise she will go on feeling as if you do not love her."
"I s'pose you're right. I bet if you loved men, Kafka would be the perfect husband for you." Dinah said, grinning at the disgust on Gabby's face.
"That has got to be the weirdest thing you've ever said." Dinah laughed, and after a few seconds, Gabby joined in the laughter, both of them sounding like they were back into their childhood mischief's and troublemaking. They joked on in such manner, and all tension that ever was between the pair melted as they bonded. As the sun started to set, Gabby and Dinah headed back to the Wayne castle, and were inside the stables by the time it had become fully dark. As Gabby hopped down to help Dinah from her horse, Kafka returned Nix to his stall and started to take off his saddle.
"Carrah." the boy suddenly said after petting Dinah's horse.
"Excuse me?" Dinah asked when the stable boy turned her way.
"Your horse. She wishes to be called Carrah." Dinah looked at him with an odd expression on her face, partially of curiosity and mostly of confusion.
"He can talk to the horses, so to speak." Gabby grinned at her pun, but no one else got the joke, so she said nothing further for a minute. "Hello Carrah." the young knight said, petting the horse. "You know, the other knights, Thadius and them think I am mad because I talk to Nix all the time." Gabby said conversationally. "One time I was drunken and I was talkin' to him. Thadius found me and started to make funna me for it. I'll never live it down according to Cashius." Dinah smiled, trying to hide her laughter. Gabby grinned, glad to have gotten a smile from her riding companion. Over her shoulder, she saw a large man approach them.
"Hi, I am Sir Rhyse of the Hawk kingdom. I have heard a lot about you from the gossip around the castle and thought I would come and say 'Hello' and good luck on the tournament." Dinah turned around and both blondes looked the man. Sir Rhyse was a large man, easily 6 feet tall. He had long black hair that went to his broad shoulders. At the moment it was put into a tie. His skin was darker than any man Gabby's ever seen, almost the color of his brown eyes.
"Hello. Nice to meet you at last. I am Sir Gabriel Andrew, and this is Dinah Redmond." Rhyse took Dinah's hand and placed a small kiss upon the top.
"A pleasure to meet the two of you. Princess Helena told me about you while you were out riding."
"I hope these things she told you were good things." Gabby said, not sure why the princess would say anything good or mean about her since they hadn't really gotten a chance to know each other.
"Don't worry about mean spirited words, lad. I heard nothing but good things about you from her. She seems to like you, which is a rarity. I know I'll have my work cut out for me." There was something in the man's voice that seemed a little odd, but Gabby pushed it aside, telling herself that it was just her competitive nature boiling within her.
"I have heard many things about you as well. I'm sure this will turn out to be at least an interesting tournament, in which I wish you good luck." Gabby said. They nodded to each other in their goodbye, and Sir Rhyse was off again, back into the castle.
"Something's not right about him." Dinah muttered, turning around to face Gabby for the first time since Sir Rhyse's arrival.
"I don't know. Something feels not right about him. He likes to cheat. I wouldn't make a bet with him ever." Dinah said. Gabby nodded. "Just watch out for him, okay? He frankly scares me."
"I will. Come on, I believe it is about time to eat." Gabby said, rubbing her stomach to show she was starving.
"I could use a little food." Dinah admitted, and Gabby escorted her to the great hall.
The morning birds had yet to call for the sunrise two mornings later, yet Gabby was awake, slowly getting dressed so she wouldn't make any noise that would wake the seer, whom lay peacefully all evening for the first night since they had shared nights in the same presence. The knight's movements around the room weren't helping her any, yet still she tried to move around as quietly as she could, hoping to make an almost silent exit. In the end, Gabby had awaken the girl. "I'm sorry, Dinah." Gabby said, crossing the room quickly and gently running her fingers through the seer's hair. It was a quick movement, one of comfort and friendship, and it made the seer softly smile.
"No worries, Gabriel." she said, slowly sitting up, revealing her nightdress. Gabby quickly turned around.
"I-I'll see you in the dining hall for breakfast." Gabby stuttered, moving to the door.
"Wait!" Gabby was almost at the door, her hand reaching out to it when she stopped at Dinah's request. "Are you going to be alright? You are quite jumpy this morning."
"It is nerves, Dinah. I just need some time to walk around and stretch my legs. Er- Maybe I'll feel better afterwards." Gabby said, turning towards the seer.
"I know talking is different from training, but maybe telling me your problem will help a little bit."
"I will keep that in mind." Gabby said. Then she turned and left the room. As she walked down the barely lit corridors and out of the castle, Gabby wondered how this day was going to go. That morning King Bruce was going to announce that the first task will begin that day, but when, she wasn't sure. The young knight found a nice place to sit and she watched as the castle woke up with the sun.
The marketplace of the Pennyworth kingdom was never known as a place to be crowded, yet it was that day, for it was a day for games. Gabby watched in awe as the knights played in these competitions, winning prize after prize. A Mr. Cashius had just won a new horse, and a Mr. Thadius Manx had won 25 gold coins in a paired sword fighting match. Alone they were good, but united, the two knights were unbeatable. Gabby wondered if that was how Johnny Boy and she would have been like as a team. It seemed just as the two had always imagined as children. The girl watched as the two men celebrated their win, Gabby figuring that Thadius Manx was more like her, and that Cashius was like Johnny Boy. Then, Thadius Manx walked her way, grunted his apologies as he bumped roughly past her, then continued to his horse. "Excuse me?!" Gabby called, but the knight didn't hear her. She ran after him, calling him. Finally, he turned around. He was then where he'd left his horse.
"Aye?" he asked suspiciously.
"I-I was wondering if... if you needed a squire, sir." Gabby said in a lower voice. She tried not to blush at her nervous stutter.
"No, I don't need a squire, lad. Go on home."
"I can't do that." Gabby said slowly, looking anywhere but the knight. 'This is useless.' She thought. 'I'm only wasting his time... but I can't just quit. I can't go back now.' "Please, if you give me a chance... less than that, I can prove that I will be a hard worker and I will train hard and all that." Gabby said. Thadius looked over at her, then pet his horse absently as he thought it over.
"I'm sorry son." The girl sighed, feeling her heart start to ache, then she nodded.
"Thank you for your time, kind sir." She turned to leave.
"WAIT! Rule number one to being a knight: We don't quit. You won't get a chance. You get less than that. Mess up but once, I will reconsider this, you hear me boy? Come on, I'm going to get you a decent hair cut. Whomever cut your hair should be hug." Gabby blushed, but nodded anyway, her head buzzing. "Give me a few minutes, as I must ask Cashius if I can borrow his horse he just won." Gabby nodded and watched as the two knights started talking, Cashius looking over at her every few seconds, then bursting out into a howl of laughter as he was told that his best friend was taking in a new squire. "How can I say no to someone who reminds me so much of Alexis?" Thadius defended himself. "If you met a boy that looked like your twins, I bet you wouldn't think twice before letting him in."
"He's a bit soft lookin'."
"Yeah, I know, but I can tell he's got a good heart. I know he will work hard." Thadius said.
"Yeah, you can borrow my horse. I know I will see it tomorrow. Good luck with the boy." The burliest of the two men looked behind him and watched Gabby as she pet his horse and spoke to it.
"Something tells me I won't need it." Thadius said with unexpected confidence.
Gabby entered the great hall and saw that it was filled with voices and laughter as it became obvious that most all the men had slept well the night before. Instantly, Gabby spotted Dinah, but she was with her friends, so she squeezed in between Charles and Brian, and then reached for an apple and a few berries. She slowly ate while she listened to the men wonder what they'd have to go hunt today. The young knight didn't care really, as long as Thadius was there with her, but knowing Thadius, he'd leave her saying that she had to do this on her own, and Gabby would know that he was right. "Well, I hope it isn't something too big. Gabe here won't be able to hold anything bigger than a calf with those grapes under the skin he calls muscles." Charles joked.
"Well at least I can catch something bigger than a calf, so maybe we should be a team, I do the hunting and you can carry it back to the castle for me." Gabby said, not even looking up from her apple.
"Oooh." Thadius said from his place at the far end of the table, "Play with fire, be sure to get burned." Gabby grinned at her mentor and then laughed with the other men, listening to their bets on the first task and just having a good time. It helped ease her jitters as she ate. King Bruce, who was on the other side of the room, stood up and demanded silence. The room quieted immediately.
"ATTENTION!" He called. "Are all of the competitors in the room?" he asked, looking around the room. All of the knights, including Gabby looked around the room as well before joining in the chorus of 'Aye'. "Good. As you know, the tournament begins today at midday. The first task requires great archery skills. Get your bows and horses ready, men. It's time to hunt." A murmur spread throughout the hall.
"This should be easy. Archery is my best skill." boasted a man from a the Kingdom of Bludhaven. Gabby remembered meeting him her second day there, but it was hazy within her mind then. It seemed grey... Grayson. His name was Dick Grayson. Gabby liked Dick when she met the man. He was there only to heighten his status, and Gabby was sure that even if he didn't win this tournament he'd quickly rise in status in another tournament. Gabby rose with the rest of the knights from her kingdom, grabbed an apple and walked over to where Dinah was sitting with her new friends, Carolyn and Barbara.
"Dinah, I will be in the stables with Nix, so if you need me for anything, don't be afraid to look for me there."
"I won't be." she said. She stood up and gave her a small hug and said, "Good luck. I wanted to say that now in case I didn't get a chance to before the first task." She said. The younger knight stole a quick glance at the redhead, Barbara, whom had an eyebrow raised in interest.
"Thank you." Gabby said before she left the great hall and went to the stables. Many other men were getting their horses ready for the hunt as well. She walked to Nix. "Hey boy. I know you hate this, but we are going for a hunt today." Nix snorted. "Don't give me that. You knew that one of the tasks was going to involve a hunt." Gabby said defensively. Nix snorted again. "Oh shush and eat your apple." Gabby ordered, holding the apple on her flattened palm for the horse to grab. "I promise you that it won't be so bad." She watched him devour the apple and smiled as she went to her wagon and started to unload her things.
Fanfair was heard as the knights lined up in front of the king, who sat with his wife and daughter. Gabby looked down at the ground, staring at Nix's hooves. She noticed that Kafka had replaced his horse shoes with ones that seemed to fit him better. 'Maybe that is why he hates hunting and standing for so long on those roads. His shoes were a little too small.' Gabby thought. "Men, the first task for this tournament shouldn't be too difficult. You all will be taken to a large closed off area where you will capture the creatures within. Rabbits. Today you will be catching rabbits. They are all brown with the exception of 5. Catch one of those 5 rabbits, it will count as 5 rabbits caught. You have until the sun sets. I wish you all good luck." King Bruce paused. "Sixteen of you, those with the least amount caught, will be eliminated in this round." Gabby looked around and saw a joker and a harlequin performing for a few of the children who were there, and would probably entertain the adults later on as well.
After King Bruce dismissed the knights, the men and Gabby were lead to an area that must have been a couple of hundred acres in perimeter. There was a lot of tall grass in this area, and Gabby knew it was going to be quite difficult to see them, let alone catch them. The king's assistant, something Ketterly, looked at all of the knights in what had to be nothing more or less than disgust. "I will be back when the sun begins to set. You have until then." Then he was gone. All of the men scattered to begin the hunt. Gabby was left with Nix, walking around slowly. She had her bow in one hand and Nix's reigns in the other, and she looked at the large empty sack connected to the side of her beloved horse's saddle.
"Okay, I can do this." Gabby said to herself as she walked around a little more, not sure where she wanted to begin the hunt. "I guess here is the best place for it." the young knight muttered. She let go of Nix's reigns and slowly took an arrow from the holder on her back. She had her arrow poised and ready as she walked slowly and quietly as to not spook her prey. Suddenly, she saw it. A small brown streak ran past her. As it slowed, Gabby eyed it carefully as she took careful aim. Smaller prey usually meant faster prey, which made this hunt more exciting for the other knights. The arrow missed as it started to run again, but Gabby grabbed another arrow and aimed once more. Then she let the arrow go. It was a hit. Unfortunately for the knight, the rabbit was still alive with the arrow sticking out of it's left side. As Gabby approached it, she saw the small creature struggle for breath before it lost it's struggle, and all life left the small body. Gabby hated hunting, but it was a skill required for her knighthood, and it was a skill Thadius had insisted on teaching her first before he taught her about mannerisms, the jousting or the sword fighting. Gabby sighed as she took the arrow from the fallen body, put the body into the sack, and continued to hunt.
Hours later, Gabby had repeated the process at least a couple dozen times, having lost count after her 6th or 7th guilt trip. It had been many moments since she'd caught a rabbit at all, and she was certain that there were none left to catch when she caught sight of a white one. This surprised the knight, since she was sure that all of the white rabbits had been caught by then. She was by then weary, and so tired of killing. 'Perhaps I can find a way to present it to the royal family without killing it. Perhaps I can present it as a gift to Princess Helena.' she thought. She put her bow down and took off her overshirt. She had had another thinner shirt underneath it, and she was glad that no one was around as she crouched, holding her shirt in both hands so that it would cover the rabbit and make it blind momentarily. "What are you doing Gabriel?" came a voice a few moments later.
"Silence Rhyse. I'm trying to catch this one. I want this one alive so I can give it to the princess as a gift, and right now you're spooking it!" Gabby hissed. Rhyse looked at Gabby with an odd look, silently wondering if this knight was mad to be running around in his underclothing while trying to catch a white rabbit by hand.
"Wel, I wish you luck, man. I caught one o' them me-self, and they are damned hard to catch with a bow, lemme tell ya'."
"Thanks Rhyse." Gabby said, feeling her humiliation grow as she felt in the back of her mind that she won't ever catch this one, but would be seen running around in her under clothes and be laughed at. As the larger knight retreated, Gabby looked back at the white rabbit, which had amazingly not moved an inch since she had last seen it. All concentration was on the rabbit, a pure white coated body with demon eyes. She inched closer and closer to the rabbit. Suddenly, she reached out, but came up empty handed. The blonde knight cursed. "He was right, damn that man." she growled. She looked up to see that the sun was almost set. She had a little time, but not very much. "Come on..." She stayed extra quiet as she crept closer to the rabbit. They were only inches apart once more, then Gabby sat and she waited. The rabbit, up until then, was watching her closely. Then a moment came when the rabbit had turned it's back on her (trusting that the figure next to it was harmless), and Gabby sprang out and grabbed it. The small creature gave up quite a fight, almost forcing the blonde knight to drop it on a couple of different occasions. After many minutes of struggle, the rabbit stilled, and Gabby hoped she didn't kill it with her bare hands. She slowly opened the shirt, afraid of what she'd see, but the rabbit's eyes were open and it was just trying to catch it's breath. It was still alive, and that made Gabby both relieved and happy as she stared into it's blood colored eyes with her own blue ones. "Shh..." She whispered to it. She found that the rabbit was calmer in her arms when portions of the shirt loosely covered it's eyes and it didn't see anything. She carefully unwrapped the cloth and looked briefly between the legs to determine the sex of the rabbit to find that it was male. She rewrapped him and felt the struggle once more.
Just when the rabbit had calmed down in her arms, a horn was to be heard, and Gabby shifted the small body so that it was held in only one arm as she also held Nix's reigns. She hurried to the entrance of this field and she saw Thadius instantly, feeling better now that the hunt was over and she can rest. Thadius put a large hand on her shoulder and Gabby smiled. "You do alright, Gabriel?" he asked, seeing her exhaustion.
"I can only hope so." The Ketterly man did a head count, then he lead the way back to the jousting field. Thadius and Gabby walked slowly, bringing up the rear of the line as they listened to the men ahead of them brag about how many they'd caught or how difficult some of their catches were, yet they were still successful. Gabby held back her laughter.
"I caught me a good 23, I did." she faintly heard one of Cashius' twin sons say to the other. (Not seeing the scarred hand, she wasn't able to tell which one spoke.)
"Oh yeah? I almost caught me a white one. Buggers are small, but fast."
"I caught 5 within an hour." The first twin continue to brag some more, competing with his twin, who didn't seem to do as well.
"Ah, you are both armatures. Us older knights have you all beat. I caught 32 rabbits without the help of a white one, and Thadius caught more than 35." Gabby looked at her mentor with awe.
"That true?" she asked, almost breathlessly.
"Thirty-six." Thadius said, shrugging it off, but Gabby knew he was boasting inside. "What about you, Gabe?" he asked, turning her way.
"I d-didn't count." Gabby said in a stammer as she tried to keep the rabbit still in her arms. It's slight squirming was what had caused the small break in her speech.
"You didn't count? Why not?" he asked, looking at her incredulously
"I don't know. I didn't want to concentrate on how many I got until the very end." Gabby lied. She listened in to more people talking of their hunt.
"I caught a white rabbit not long after this task started." This caught Gabby's attention briefly. 'I have one, Rhyse has one, he has one, and one of the twins has one... That means one wasn't caught. Or perhaps one has been caught, but someone isn't bragging about it... just as I am not.'
"What about you, Rhyse? You look like you found buried treasure." said a knight from the Wayne kingdom that had befriended the darker knight the evening before over ale.
"Perhaps I did, or perhaps I am just in a good mood."
"On another day I would believe that, but I am not stupid."
"I know a couple of maidens who say otherwise." Rhyse said in a teasing manner.
"Aw, come on. That was low. Real low, Rhyse..." A few men laughed around him, and he joined in, feeling good natured. 'I hope I have caught enough to advance me to the next task.' Gabby thought when they entered the jousting field where a bard was telling tales of the war that had just past. When King Bruce saw the knights, however, he cut the bard off and stood as the storyteller sulked as he walked away. He motioned for everyone to step forward as a group of men took the sacks off of the knights' horses and lowered them to the ground. Gabby searched the crowd for Dinah and their eyes met. It seemed that she was saying that things were alright, and Gabby felt better instantly. 'It is amazing how just knowing you have friends helps make life so much easier,' the blonde knight thought.
"Your Highness, I was wondering if I could do one last thing before you go on with the counting." Sir Rhyse spoke up. He was loud, clear, and confident in his speech, and Gabby couldn't help but be a little bit envious of this trait. King Bruce looked curious, so he waved for him to continue and do what he wanted to do. Rhyse, Gabby realized, wasn't wearing his over shirt either, only on him it didn't seem as awkward. He loved his body and didn't mind showing his arms, filled with muscles. Gabby had some muscle, enough to hold her own in a fight and to wrestle Thadius with, but it wasn't much to brag about in the long run. Sir Rhyse walked slowly, deliberately towards Helena after taking out a bundle from his sack and handed her what was in his arms. Gabby realized that it was a white rabbit, very much alive. She watched as Rhyse took the rabbit by the scruff of it's neck and handed it to Helena. The blonde knight sighed in defeat, wondering what she was going to do with t he rabbit in her own arms now. She didn't want the princess to think that she was copying the older knight's idea. It was apparent that Helena liked the gift, and that brought a large smile to both her and Sir Rhyse's face.
"Alright then, Rhyse, we will start with you first. Bring forth his sack." King Bruce commanded. Gabby stood in silence, close to Nix, and felt him nuzzle her shoulder. She fought the urge to turn and just ignore everything but the horse at that moment. She didn't want to seem disrespectful to either the royal family or their tournament, so she stayed at attention, watching as they counted his many dead rabbits. "Twenty-nine brown rabbits and 2 white rabbits. Good job, Rhyse. You have caught 39 rabbits." Gabby almost fell to her knees with how weak they felt from fear. 'There is no way anyone can beat that.' she thought. She watched as the other knights had their rabbits counted. Some doing very well, like Thadius, Cashious, and Sir Dick Grayson, but others doing very poorly like a couple of knights from an unknown kingdom (she knew the kingdom in which they all came from, but she just didn't know which one the knights belonged to) whom had gotten below twenty. Finally, they got to her, and she held in a breath. "Why do you not have your over shirt on, Gabriel?" King Bruce asked, frowning in his confusion. She exhaled quickly to answer the king, though for almost half of a minute, she didn't know what to say.
"I am sorry for my indecency, I had started to sweat uncontrollably, a-and I needed to take it off until it got cooler out." Gabby said. She felt Thadius' stares because she knew that the older knight saw through her fib, but he just couldn't figure out why she was lying.
"Well, let's see how many you've got then." He counted out how many she'd gotten. From the looks of it, she'd need to have a minimum of 25 rabbits to advance to the next task. "... twenty-three, twenty-four, twenty-five, twenty-six rabbits. No white rabbit. Well done." King Bruce said. He straightened up and called off the names of the men who were eliminated from the first task. Gabby felt sorry for Brian, whom had less than Gabby, and he was eliminated. He grinned at his brother though, anyway, making fun of him silently. Gabby was sure it was an inside joke between the two, and she smiled as she wondered briefly what it could have been. She felt the rabbit she'd caught wiggle a little bit. Gabby wasn't sure, but she thought that the rabbit had fallen asleep before, but he had started to get a little restless.
"It will be over soon, Little One." Gabby whispered, more for herself than for the small creature.
"I think my chef will have an easy time deciding what to feed the castle tomorrow. It appears that rabbit stew is on the menu." A lot of the men laughed at the king's joke, though Gabby felt the bile in her stomach as she thought of the creature in her arms getting slaughtered, and she felt even worse for the blood she still felt on her hands. "You men need to rest. Tomorrow, the second task begins." It was then that he had dismissed them to go get rest and food. Gabby walked with Nix towards the stables as the other knights had their squires take their horses and followed Gabby, while the knights themselves went to do Lord knows what. Kafka had his work cut out for him. Gabby felt bad for him, even though she had a feeling he loved his work.
"If you have a cage I can put a rabbit in, I will be glad to help you out." Gabby said.
"I think I can find you one." Kafka said, turning to look at the blonde knight.
"Here in the stables?" she wondered. Kafka shook his head.
"No, I don't think, but I can find you one." Kafka started to look in a small shed that had the brushes and buckets and other supplies to take care of horses. He picked up a small barred cage that was just big enough for the rabbit. "Will this do? I just found it there, but later I will find a larger one for one. This one will get quite cramped."
"Yes. Thank you." Kafka nodded. Gabby kept her end of her bargain and helped Kafka take care of the horses, starting with Nix, of course, but then she took care of 4 others before she felt completely tired out.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Kafka asked after he whispered into one of the horses' ears to get her to stop shifting about so much.
"About what?" Gabby asked, pretending to be dimwitted.
"The white rabbit. I thought you didn't catch one." She looked accusingly at Nix, who stared at her and didn't seem to care about the evil look he was receiving from the knight.
"I didn't." Gabby said with a sigh as she washed down a pure white horse. "Well, according to them, I didn't." she muttered.
"So what happened? Why didn't you just say you had one as well, but decided to keep it for your very own?"
"Because I-" She stopped talking when she saw Sir Rhyse approach them.
"Hey Gabriel. I didn't see you in the great hall so I thought I'd come here and say that was a nice idea you had. The princess loved it." He grinned in a menacing manner, then he walked off laughing.
"Snake." Kafka said. "That was your idea, wasn't it? And he stole it from you... I knew he was a bully, but this is just mean." Kafka said.
"Who's a snake?" Both of them looked up at Dinah, whom was just coming into the stables. "I was looking for you at dinner. Why didn't you come inside and eat?" she asked the knight, who was surprised that she had waited to dine with her.
"I should have gone in and gotten something for Nix and Little One." Gabby said in a murmur.
"I have some carrots for the rabbit if you like." Kafka looked over at the cage where the creature sat. "The chef always sends a few my way fresh from the gardens and the market before he goes to the kitchens. I can save a few here, and if you choose to keep the rabbit in your quarters, I can save a couple for Nix and the rabbit." Kafka offered.
"Thank you. I would appreciate that."
"Now, why do you have a rabbit, and what was all that with Rhyse?" Dinah asked. Gabby took a hold of Dinah's hand, then nodded. Dinah frowned, then when she got the silent message to read her thoughts she closed her eyes and saw everything that Gabby did that day. "That was mean." was all she said as she distractedly let go of the knight's hand. Gabby shrugged and then stood up, grabbing the cage.
"I need sleep. I shall fall over if I do not get some soon. Will you be okay on your own, or do you need me to escort you anywhere?" She asked the seer.
"I will be fine. Have a good sleep." Gabby nodded and walked away from the stables and numbly through the corridors where she saw Helena walking with Rhyse, laughing and smiling as she held onto her own rabbit's cage, naturally larger than the borrowed one. It was a good thing that Gabby was too tired to eat, because after that display, she was sure she'd lost her appetite. She threw her over shirt (which she never put back on) over the cage, and the rabbit was hidden once again.
When she reached their quarters, Gabby put the cage on the floor then opened it, feeling bad for trapping him in there. "Tomorrow I will let you free, but tonight I am just too tired, you hear me? You're just going to have to stay with us for the night." The small creature's nose twitched, and Gabby gently picked him up and set him on the bed. "Oh, it won't be that bad!" The nose continued to twitch. "Yeah, I s'pose you're right about that, but I haven't the patience to argue with you on it." she said. Gabby yawned to prove her point, then she lay on the bed watching the rabbit.
Gabby woke up a couple of hours later to movement in the room. "I must have fallen asleep." she muttered. She saw that Dinah was also there moving about. "Dinah?" she asked uncertainly. What was she doing? The knight watched her for a second, then repeated the seer's name.
"Oh!" She seemed really startled. "I was hoping I hadn't awakened you. Um- Do you think there are anymore linens around?"
"I am not sure. What's going on?"
"There's no time to explain."
"You can use mine if need be. I'm sorry I fell asleep-"
"It's fine. I won't be using the bed tonight, anyway. If you must, you can continue to use it tonight and get some sleep for tomorrow's sword fights." Dinah interrupted her. Gabby stood up and stretched slowly, even more curious than before.
"Dinah?" She grabbed her arm to still the hurried movements around the room. "Tell me what is the hurry and rush."
My friend Carolyn has gone into labor. She's about to have the baby."
|Section 2||Erin Griffin||Birds Of Prey||Main Index|